Oh, That My Ways Were Steadfast!

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2 SAMUEL 2:12-3:39 | JOHN 13:1-30 | PSALM 119:1-16 | PROVERBS 15:29-30

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Saul is no more, but his son Ish-Bosheth along with Saul’s commander of armies, Abner, have regrouped and are holding on to the position of ruling the majority of the kingdom of Israel.  And yet, there is tension and frequent conflict between the House of Saul and the House of David.  Also, there is infighting within Saul’s house, and soon Ish-Bosheth and Abner are not on the best of terms. This results in Abner changing horses in midstream to David’s side.  It was an amicable agreement to all concerned, even Ish-Bosheth, and we learn for the first time David’s kingship over all Israel—not just Judah—established in the land. 

But things don’t always go as planned, and sometimes they unfortunately go terribly wrong.  Abner is murdered by Joab, one of David’s men, in an act of revenge for Joab’s brother Asahel had been killed by Abner.  David is deeply saddened by this and laments Abner’s death.  But life does goes on.

Next, we learn about the passage of time by way of the number of wives and children that David has acquired over the years.  On last count, it is six wives, some perhaps the result of political alliances with the neighboring kingdoms.  But the time has come for David to assume the mantle of undisputed king over all of Israel. 

David’s first wife, Michal, Saul’s daughter, and perhaps David’s first love is returned to him after all these years.  This might seem like a strange thing, but perhaps there is something deeper to the renewal of this bond.  What was once lost has now been found. 

But there are always two sides to a coin, and the record also states that Michal’s second husband—the man that she spent all those years with when David was made to flee for his life and when her father gave her away in marriage to another man—it is this husband who is terribly distraught at the sight of his wife being taken away from him, and he follows her a great distance weeping all the way.  One can only imagine what Michal must have felt—David, her first love and first husband seeking her out after all these years, and now here is the second husband who obviously loves her so greatly that he cannot bear to let her go.  Would that this life were simpler!

Turning now to our reading in the book of John, we learn that we are rapidly approaching the end of Jesus’ ministry.  In this passage, Jesus is about to have a last meal with his disciples.  But this is no ordinary meal on several counts.  It is, of course, the feast of the Passover, and therefore a marked occasion for the Jewish people.  Jesus intends to observe this meal with his disciples, as he most likely has done in years past. 

But the bread and wine that is served at the table today is so much more than what it is:  it is the symbolic representation of the body and blood of Jesus himself who will give himself up to each of them, nay, to the entire world for all who believe that his bodily sacrifice is the Living Bread.  And all those who will receive this bread will also surely receive the free gift of eternal life with Jesus himself.

And beyond this great truth, there is yet another reason for this passover meal with Jesus to be like none other.  Before the meal is served, Jesus intends to do one thing:  despite all protests from Peter and perhaps even the others, Jesus insists on washing the feet of each of his disciples, even Judas, the one who betrays Jesus for thirty pieces of silver.  A greater act of humility cannot be found in the annals of history.  This is God incarnate come down to earth to witness his own creation put him to death, but before he allows that to take place, he wishes to wash the feet of mere mortals! 

And why all this?  John explains it like this: 12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

We turn now to the psalm of the day which happens to be a very long one, and from which a partial reading is ours for the day.  Some verses that are food for thought are as follows:

2 Blessed are those who keep his statutes
and seek him with all their heart—
5 Oh, that my ways were steadfast
   in obeying your decrees!
9 How can a young person stay on the path of purity?
By living according to your word.
12 Praise be to you, LORD;
teach me your decrees.

Finally, two verses from the book of Proverbs to meditate on:

29 The LORD is far from the wicked,
but he hears the prayer of the righteous.

30 Light in a messenger’s eyes brings joy to the heart,
   and good news gives health to the bones.

May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word.

5 thoughts on “Oh, That My Ways Were Steadfast!

  1. I remember learning that while the other gospels (and even Paul) tell the story of this final meal with Jesus offering the bread and wine as his body and blood, John’s does not. John tells of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. As you say: “A greater act of humility cannot be found in the annals of history.” And he tells us to do the same.

    1. Thank you so much for your thoughts, as always. Such a beautiful act indeed, and such an important reminder. It is said that mother Theresa used to do this to the poor and dying and homeless people in Calcutta. But beyond the literal meaning it may also be seen as an act of humility to be practiced in our everyday lives. GBY.

      1. Reflecting on this again a year later, I’m struck by how Jesus’ example is not some pie-in-the-sky ideal that is beyond our reach. As you say, “it may also be seen as an act of humility to be practiced in our everyday lives.” We know how to do this, whenever we give of ourselves in ways that come from the heart, that are tangible, that affirm the other person – then we are following Jesus’ command to do as he has done. Thank you again for your wonderful devo – the gift that keeps on giving! 🙂

  2. Thanks to you, I am able to reflect on my reflections! Many thanks for your thoughtful insights even a year later. It is you who keep on giving and adding to my understanding of scripture and life. The story of Michal in today’s devo is also one that brought fresh perspective to me today. Thank you for highlighting all this for me.

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