Whew! This is my third post of the day (May 6) because I am going to be out of pocket all weekend without internet access. If my brain seems fried as you read, please forgive me!
OT: 1 Samuel 5:1-7:17
This reading brought back fond memories of my 5th and 6th graders in the Wednesday night class I recently taught; it was the first lesson of my quarter.
And let me tell you, it was hard to really pick out a 5th- and 6th-grade-appropriate theme, especially since I had to dive right in without having really studied the back story. I guess one theme I could have gone with is that God is sovereign. He will ultimately be exalted above all other gods, be they Dagon or Baal or money or pleasure or self. And even though God has been somewhat lax in disciplining Israel lately, you apparently do. not. mess. with. the ark of the covenant. (Though, I guess He hasn't really been lax, since He has been sending decades-long punishments to the wayward Israelites. I guess I am just referring to the small things, like today, when the people of Beth Shemesh built an altar and sacrificed to God when the cart came back. Wasn't that forbidden? Didn't that cause a huge brouhaha when the 2 1/2 did the same thing beside the Jordan?). Anyway, God let that go, though He did not overlook the fact that they looked into the ark. I guess God had made abundantly clear that the ark represented Him and was His physical dwelling place. You just can't get that close to God in the OT.
Moving on. So far, Samuel seems to be a great judge. Unlike the warriors of late, who are great at fighting but not so great at spiritual discernment, Samuel seems genuinely godly. It's funny--Eli raised him and all, but he really seems to take after his mom in that. Hannah was nothing if not dedicated and upright. I mean, to give your child to the Lord...wow. Clearly, though, it was a good choice. Sometimes as a parent, it is even hard to turn my child over to God in prayer. I mean, who knows what God's will is for them? It could be horrible and painful. So I tend to pray instead for my own heart's desires, such as safety and happiness for them (and godliness, yes, but godliness in addition to those other things). Hannah gave her child to God in a big way, and look how that turned out. If she had not have been willing to let go, how different Israel's history might have been!
Lastly, it's a little strange to me that Jerusalem does not seem to be a big player on the national scene. Today, all the action happened in Beth Shemesh, Kiriath Jearim, and Mizpah. In fact, I can't really remember hearing much about Jerusalem at all so far. I wonder when it will rise in prominence. I have a feeling it has something to do with the coming kingship.
NT: John 6:1-21
If memory serves, this is the only miracle recounted in all four gospels. It's funny how John gives everything a completely different spin. Scholars have said a bunch of smart things about that, I'm sure. My theory, though, is pretty simple: John is just including the stuff the other gospels didn't. His gospel came last, so he probably knew what the synoptics said. The synoptics were clearly based on a lot of research and used a lot of the same source material. I'm guessing that John just wrote from memory. (And guessing is such a good word. I have done zero research on this.) As he himself says at the end of his gospel, Jesus did and said a ton of stuff (21:25). Truly, John is just giving a second perspective.
That said, the feeding of the 5,000 was apparently just too good to pass up.
My favorite part today was Andrew's "dynamite drop-in" in verse 9, which I found to be oddly hilarious for some reason (I think it's the fact that my brain is fried). I've heard Andrew's comment cited in sermons as an example of bringing what you have to Jesus and letting Him turn it into something great. I think I even blogged along those lines after reading one of the earlier versions. Today, though, it just seemed so ridiculous to point out a boy with 5 loaves and 2 small fish in a brainstorming session about how to feed 5,000 people. Had I been there, I would have thought, "Thank you for that, Andrew! What a helpful observation! Like you can do anything for this crowd with seven pieces of food." And yet, of course, Jesus shows me that there are no dumb comments in a brainstorming session. Andrew's observation provided the basis for Jesus' miracle.
It is also funny to me how John conveniently leaves out Peter's walking on the water. Those two so clearly view each other as rivals, and it's funny to see how that viewpoint affects John's writings. Mark's gospel, theoretically informed by Peter, leaves out that John was with Peter at the crucifixion. John's account is quick to point out his presence and even notes that he was actually at the cross. He also later specifies that he outran Peter after hearing about Jesus' resurrection. So funny. It is clear to me that though the Bible is divinely inspired, God allows the humanity of the authors to affect their writings. (For another example of this, check out Matthew's version of Jesus' birth. Seriously, could the man care less about Mary? That whole story is about her, and yet, Matthew focuses stubbornly on Joseph the whole time. My theory is that he was such a product of his patriarchal culture.)
Psalm 106: 13-31
To me, the most powerful verse in this part of the psalm was verse 20: "They exchanged their Glory for an image of a bull, which eats grass." The Bible is quite effective at making idolatry look ridiculous. I think we do the same thing as the Israelites do when we exchange our glorious purpose for earthly pursuits.
Proverbs 14: 32-33
"When calamity comes, the wicked are brought down, but even in death the righteous have a refuge." Love it! So true!