You Are My God, and I Will Exalt You

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2 SAMUEL 1:1-2:11 | JOHN 12:20-50 | PSALM 118:19-29 | PROVERBS 15:27-28

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Saul is dead, and the messenger who brings this news to David is also soon dead.  Why the messenger, you ask?  Because, it was the principle of it—twice David had opportunity to kill Saul, but both times he does not touch a hair on his head for he believes that Saul is still the anointed one of God and is king of Israel. 

But this Amalekite who happens upon Saul in the midst of battle thinks he is doing Saul a favor by putting him out of his misery when he finds that he is still alive almost impaled on his own spear—and proceeds to kill him.  But this young man does not find favor in the eyes of David when he brings the news of Saul’s death to him.

David mourns Saul’s death and records a lament on this occasion.  Jonathan was like a brother to him, after all, and David always viewed Saul as the anointed king of Israel—despite the great insecurity that Saul harbored ever since David slew the great Goliath.  And so, David sings this lament, paying tribute to both Saul and Jonathan:

23 Saul and Jonathan— in life they were loved and admired, and in death they were not parted. They were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions.

24 “Daughters of Israel, weep for Saul, who clothed you in scarlet and finery, who adorned your garments with ornaments of gold.

25 “How the mighty have fallen in battle! Jonathan lies slain on your heights.

26 I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother; you were very dear to me. Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women.

27 “How the mighty have fallen! The weapons of war have perished!”

An end of an era, but certainly the beginning of a new one.  We are now, incidentally, into a new book:  the second book of Samuel.  After the death of Saul, in due time, David inquires of the Lord and goes down to Hebron where he is established king of Judah.  However, Judah is one of many provinces in ancient Palestine.  One of Saul’s sons is appointed king of the rest of the tribes in succession.  There would have been conflict surely between the Houses of David and Saul.

Turning now to our reading in the book of John, Jesus foretells his death, and continues to exhort the people to believe in him as the long-awaited Messiah. 

He says quite plainly:  “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going. 36 Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.”

There are many who believe, and yet there are still many others who do not.  Jesus continues: “Whoever believes in me does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. 45 The one who looks at me is seeing the one who sent me. 46 I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.”

Our psalm for the day is a continuation of Psalm 118.  David is foretelling the great salvation that is to come with the coming of the Messiah who would be unfortunately rejected by his people.  It is Jesus himself who is that cornerstone that David speaks of:

22 The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone;

23 the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.

24 The LORD has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad.

David’s frequent litanies of praise are ones to be emulated.  It is never too much or too soon to raise our voices in praise to the Lord.  Like David, may we also say:

28 You are my God, and I will praise you;
you are my God, and I will exalt you.

29 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
his love endures forever.

Finally, two verses from the book of Proverbs that are good food for thought.  The first one is a straightforward instruction to flee from the giving or getting of bribes.  The second is one that reminds us to weigh our responses with care.  Solomon, wise king of Israel, says:

27 The greedy bring ruin to their households,
but the one who hates bribes will live.

28 The heart of the righteous weighs its answers,
but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil.

May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word.

The Lord Is With Me, I Will Not Be Afraid

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1 SAMUEL 29:1-31:13 | JOHN 11:55-12:19 | PSALM 118:1-18 | PROVERBS 15:24-26

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We continue with the story of David, the fugitive, and today we learn that despite being friends with Achish, the Philistine king, David is not so popular with the other Philistine kings in the area.  Achish is pressured by his peers to let David go, i.e., not allow him to fight alongside them.  David was after all, fighting on the wrong side, but he had been forced to do that since Saul, king of Israel was out to get him. 

But David acceeds to Achish’s wish, and takes his men and returns to Ziklag, the place where the rest of his men and family had camped.  Upon reaching, however, he finds that the entire encampment has been raided and his people have evidently been taken away as prisoners of war.  David and his men are devastated and it says “David and his men wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep.”

But David isn’t one to give up that easily.  After consulting with God and his high priest, Abiathar, David takes his men and heads out to the Amalekites—this he knows, because there is an Egyptian slave found in the desert who confirms that he served the Amalekites who came through earlier, and they had plundered and taken away the people and the loot back with them.  And so, it isn’t long before David reaches the Amalakites, destroys them, and returns with all his people and supplies.

In the meantime, we learn of Saul doing battle with some other Philistines.  Years of doing such battle with the Philistines has made him no less war-weary, but he knows that his end is near.  When he receives word that his three sons have died in battle and he himself is gravely wounded, he orders his armor-bearer to kill him, but when those orders go unheeded, Saul makes the choice to fall on his own sword and take his life. 

And such is the fate of the first king of Israel.  A man from the tribe of Benjamin anointed of God, and yet, one who couldn’t establish himself as a king who was truly loved by his people.  Having turned away from God in his latter years, and especially since the defeat of Goliath by a young shepherd boy called David, Saul’s life had changed for the worse, and what had begun to go bad had now gone rotten.  In Saul’s death, we see the end of another era.

Turning now to our reading in the book of John, we find that Jesus’ popularity has grown considerably since the Lazarus incident.  Remember Lazarus, the man raised from the dead?  Well, it isn’t surprising that word had spread like wildfire, and people from far and near were coming out to see this man called Jesus who could raise a man from the dead.  All this interest in Jesus was making the Pharisees even more nervous, and they began to think even more seriously about how to shut up this blasphemous man.  Especially at a time like this, during the feast of the Passover.

But Jesus can’t be bothered by the Pharisees, and continues to do what he does best:  engage with the people.  He returns to visit his friends, Martha, Mary and Lazarus.  Ever since Lazarus rose from the dead, there is obviously great rejoicing, and today, the sisters wish to give a dinner party in Jesus’ honor. 

So, Jesus comes as the guest of honor, and during the course of the evening, Mary takes out a most expensive perfume to pour it upon Jesus’ feet.  It is to demonstrate a great love and honor for their friend Jesus, and this is Mary’s way of showing it.  What’s more, she wipes Jesus’ feet with her own hair. 

But guess who isn’t too impressed with this show of love and devotion?  Judas Iscariot, one of Jesus’ disciples scolds Mary for her extravagance.  But Jesus will hear none of it.  Let her be, he says to Judas.  You will always have the poor with you, but you will not have me physically present with you forever.  Let her be.  What you see as an extravagance will be honored as a beautiful demonstration of love and devotion by a young woman whose heart is bursting with gratitude.

Later, we learn about Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem for the occasion of the Passover.  Jesus enters on a humble animal:  a colt.  And the people shout, Hosanna!  Hosanna in the Hebrew tongue is a word that literally means “save” but is synonymous for “praise”.  The people chant:  “Hosanna!”  “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the king of Israel!”  But Jesus has not come to be a king.  He has come to seek and to save the lost.

Turning now to our psalm for the day, we find David’s confidence and exuberance is unmatched in the Lord’s provision.  He says:

5 When hard pressed, I cried to the LORD;
he brought me into a spacious place.
6 The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?
7 The LORD is with me; he is my helper.
I look in triumph on my enemies.  
It is better to take refuge in the LORD
than to trust in humans.
9 It is better to take refuge in the LORD
than to trust in princes.

Finally, a verse from the book of Proverbs to serve as a reminder on the virtue of humility:

25 The LORD tears down the house of the proud,
   but he sets the widow’s boundary stones in place. 

May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word.

Do You Believe This?

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1 SAMUEL 26:1-28:25 | JOHN 11:1-54 | PSALM 117:1-2 | PROVERBS 15:22-23

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If Saul had an epiphany yesterday, it was indeed short-lived.  Today, he is hunting David again.  And yet again, the hunter becomes the hunted.  David comes upon Saul and his men in the dead of night, and yet again David spares Saul’s life. 

David says this to his companion who is prepared to use Saul’s own spear to kill him:  “Don’t destroy him! Who can lay a hand on the LORD’s anointed and be guiltless? 10 As surely as the LORD lives,” he said, “the LORD himself will strike him, or his time will come and he will die, or he will go into battle and perish. 11 But the LORD forbid that I should lay a hand on the LORD’s anointed. 

And once again, Saul is contrite about his intentions, and says to David, “I have sinned. Come back, David my son. Because you considered my life precious today, I will not try to harm you again. Surely I have acted like a fool and have been terribly wrong.”

But David has become wary of Saul, and where this is no trust, there is little respect.  David doesn’t wish to be a man on the run, and decides to leave the plains of Judah—traditional Israelite territory—and takes his men and goes over to Philistine territory, and it is there that he settles for a while.  The king of Gath thinks he has had a good deal with a strong warrior friend like David who can help him in his own battles.  He actually proposes that he will install David as his personal bodyguard for life!  Little does he know that he is addressing the future king of Israel.

In the meantime, Saul is yet again disturbed and has a premonition that his end is near.  So strong is this premonition that he insists that it be confirmed by a medium, although he himself has had banned all such mediums and the occult arts from the land—most likely in a wave of repentance and turning to God’s ways.  But his great fear and distress cause him to seek out a female medium whom he approaches incognito.  This woman invokes the spirit of Samuel, who in turn tells Saul that his end is near, very near.

Turning now to our reading in the gospel according to John, we encounter the story of Lazarus and his sisters Martha and Mary.  These three siblings must have been around Jesus’ age, and evidently enjoyed a close friendship with Jesus.  When Lazarus falls ill and suddenly dies, his two sisters are devastated and send word to Jesus.  Jesus is moved by their faith, and goes to them at once. 

When Martha comes out to meet Jesus, who still quite far off from the house, Jesus assures her that her brother will rise again.  But Martha says plainly to Jesus that yes, of course, she knows that he will rise again on the day of resurrection.  But Jesus is speaking of an instant resurrection!  He says to Martha:   “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

Yes, says Martha, yes, I do!  And so, Jesus accompanied by Martha, Mary, his own disciples, and perhaps many other neighbors and lookers-on, go to the tomb where Lazarus has been buried for four days now.  And what happens next is nothing short of incredible.  It is one of those scenes that may only be described as surreal. 

Imagine the reaction of the people when they hear Jesus call out:  “Lazarus, come out!” and they see Lazarus walk out from the tomb toward them!  Imagine the horror, the fright, the amazement, the hysteria!  This was a man who had been dead for four days, and whose body was placed in the tomb, but today, he is walking toward them.  Lazarus is alive!  Can you imagine what a story Lazarus must have had to tell for the rest of his life.

And yet, despite even this supernatural act, the leaders in the Temple are wary of Jesus, and believe him to be a blasphemer possessed with powers from the evil one.  They have been plotting to put him to death, and soon we shall see how they band together to accomplish this.  Woe is to them!

Turning now to our reading of the psalms, we find a very short one in Psalm 117, a short and sweet psalm of praise:

1 Praise the LORD, all you nations;
extol him, all you peoples.

2 For great is his love toward us,
and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever.

   Praise the LORD.

And finally, two verses from our reading in the book of Proverbs.  Unrelated to each other, these two are as follows:

22 Plans fail for lack of counsel,
but with many advisers they succeed.

23 A person finds joy in giving an apt reply—
   and how good is a timely word!

May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word.

I Will Call On Him as Long as I Live

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1 SAMUEL 24:1-25:44 | JOHN 10:22-42 | PSALM 116:1-19 | PROVERBS 15:20-21

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Why did Saul wish David dead?  Fear of losing power?  Fear that the people loved David more than him?  Yes, those were Saul’s primary reasons for wishing David dead.  It wasn’t because David had done him any harm.  In spite of being anointed king of Israel by Samuel (possibly a few years before all this), David was a humble young man who had served Saul—first as the young son of Jesse who takes up the challenge to fight the giant Goliath and is victorious in that mission, then as the lyre-player to soothe the troubled mind of Saul. 

Further still, he commands Saul’s armies to do battle with the Philistines and others and is victorious each time.  He even becomes best friends with Saul’s son, Jonathan, and further still, he is a respectful son-in-law marrying Saul’s daughter, Michal.  And for all this, how is David treated?  He is treated badly—very badly!  Saul is determined to kill David whom he views as his rival.  And so, David has no choice but to flee.  And it has been possibly months, perhaps even years since he began his flight, and over time, David has regrouped in several places, and now has a small following of men to his name.

Today, we find that Saul has come very close to capturing and killing David.  With an army of three thousand men, he has finally come upon the place where David is known to be found.  But wouldn’t you know it—the hunter becomes the hunted.  It is David who comes upon Saul who is in a most vulnerable position, and it would have only been a matter of seconds for David to have struck him down.  Had David truly been an evil man, he would most certainly have done so.  But David had nothing to hide, and certainly nothing to fear.  And so, David approaches Saul in a most respectful manner to ask why it is that the king of Israel is out to kill him.

And right then and there, there is an epiphany that takes place in Saul’s head and heart.  He is a transformed man!  This is what the record tells us; he says this to David:  “Is that your voice, David my son?” And he wept aloud. 17 “You are more righteous than I,” he said. “You have treated me well, but I have treated you badly. 18 You have just now told me about the good you did to me; the LORD delivered me into your hands, but you did not kill me. 19 When a man finds his enemy, does he let him get away unharmed? May the LORD reward you well for the way you treated me today. 20 I know that you will surely be king and that the kingdom of Israel will be established in your hands. 21 Now swear to me by the LORD that you will not kill off my descendants or wipe out my name from my father’s family.”

Continuing with David’s story, we find a curious account of a man named Nabal and his wife Abigail.  While Nabal is haughty and refuses to cooperate with David and his men, it is Abigail who takes matters into her own hands in order to prevent death and destruction from befalling her household.  And as the story goes, it is not long before circumstances so arrange themselves that Abigail becomes a widow and a wife again—this time to David.

Earlier in this passage, we also learn about the passing away of Samuel in his old age.  The end of another era…

Turning now to our reading in the book of John, we find that Jesus continues to baffle and incense some people who question his identity and his claims to Messiahship.  No matter how straightforward or even how many times Jesus unequivocally states that he is indeed the Messiah, i.e., the Son of God, there are those who refuse to believe.  There have been of course, many amazing miracles that Jesus has performed to which the reaction of the people is two-fold:  some believe, and others do not. 

The ones who do not believe are the ones who believe that Jesus is committing the sin of blasphemy by claiming to be the Messiah.  And every so often, things begin to get out of hand and these self-righteous people begin to stone Jesus.  Doing evil to the one who does good!  How much more depraved could the people get! 

But Jesus says to them:  “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?”   And the people say: “We are not stoning you for any good work, but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”

Turning now to our psalm for the day, we find Psalm 116 to be one written in the most heartfelt and intimate way.  The emotions are raw and unadulterated.  This is one person’s open and honest account of his experience with his God.  And what an amazing thing it is that several millenia later, these very same feelings are still so similar and strong in many of us who share David’s views.  The entire psalm is reproduced here for a full meditation:

1 I love the LORD, for he heard my voice;
he heard my cry for mercy.
2 Because he turned his ear to me,
I will call on him as long as I live.

3 The cords of death entangled me,
the anguish of the grave came over me;
I was overcome by distress and sorrow.
4 Then I called on the name of the LORD:
“LORD, save me!”

5 The LORD is gracious and righteous;
our God is full of compassion.
6 The LORD protects the unwary;
when I was brought low, he saved me.

7 Return to your rest, my soul,
for the LORD has been good to you.

8 For you, LORD, have delivered me from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling,
9 that I may walk before the LORD
in the land of the living.

10 I trusted in the LORD when I said,
“I am greatly afflicted”;
11 in my alarm I said,
“Everyone is a liar.”

12 What shall I return to the LORD
for all his goodness to me?

13 I will lift up the cup of salvation
and call on the name of the LORD.
14 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD
in the presence of all his people.

15 Precious in the sight of the LORD
is the death of his faithful servants.
16 Truly I am your servant, LORD;
I serve you just as my mother did;
you have freed me from my chains.

17 I will sacrifice a thank offering to you
and call on the name of the LORD.
18 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD
in the presence of all his people,
19 in the courts of the house of the LORD—
in your midst, Jerusalem.

   Praise the LORD.

Finally, a verse from the book of Proverbs that may serve as food for thought:

21 Folly brings joy to one who has no sense,
but whoever has understanding keeps a straight course.

May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word.

I Am The Good Shepherd

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1 SAMUEL 22:1-23:29 | JOHN 10:1-21 | PSALM 115:1-18 | PROVERBS 15:18-19

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Saul has gone berserk.  Outraged as he is about his son Jonathan’s giving aid and comfort to David, he is even more outraged when he learns that Ahimelek, the priest at Nob had also received David well—and why wouldn’t he—David was after all, the king’s son-in-law!  But Saul is a man possessed and cannot see reason.  He orders the priests from Nob—there were 85 in all—to be killed on the spot.

In the meantime, David is living the life of a fugitive.  But even then, he has built up a slow following, primarily his own brothers and family, and others like the one priest Abiathar, who escapes from the slaughtering that fateful day.  With this band of men, David does battle with the Philistines to save a town called Keilah, and following that, he moves from one place to another even as he is pursued by Saul.  One can imagine that it must have been this phase in David’s life that must have been the inspiration for many a psalm in which he beseeches the Lord for help.  Hiding in caves, the hill country, and in the desert, David manages to continue to escape the hand of Saul who is still determined to kill him.

In the midst of all this, there is a sweet account of Jonathan—Saul’s son and David’s best friend—who comes out to meet him.  The text says this:  16 And Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God. 17 “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “My father Saul will not lay a hand on you. You will be king over Israel, and I will be second to you. Even my father Saul knows this.” 18 The two of them made a covenant before the LORD. Then Jonathan went home, but David remained at Horesh.

Turning to our reading in the book of John, we find that the Pharisees are saying this about Jesus:  “He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?”  And what is it that prompts them to say this?  Surely, it couldn’t be for the miracle of healing the blind man that Jesus performed the other day?  Or maybe it was that and everything else. 

Maybe it were these words of Jesus in particular that enraged them so when Jesus said:  14I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”

Turning now to our psalm for the day, we find David reiterating the power and might of a living God.  David, the psalmist, is making a point about the difference between the worship of an idol and that of a living God.  He says of those who worship idols—their many neighbors in ancient Palestine:

4 But their idols are silver and gold,
made by human hands.
5 They have mouths, but cannot speak,
eyes, but cannot see.
6 They have ears, but cannot hear,
noses, but cannot smell.
7 They have hands, but cannot feel,
feet, but cannot walk,
nor can they utter a sound with their throats.
8 Those who make them will be like them,
and so will all who trust in them.

Finally, two verses from the book of Proverbs that serve as food for thought:

18 A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict,
but the one who is patient calms a quarrel.

19 The way of the sluggard is blocked with thorns,
but the path of the upright is a highway.

May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word.

Do You Want to Become His Disciples Too?

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1 SAMUEL 20:1-21:15 | JOHN 9:1-41 | PSALM 113:1-114:8 | PROVERBS 15:15-17

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“Go in peace, for we have sworn friendship with each other in the name of the LORD, saying, ‘The LORD is witness between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants forever.’”  These are Jonathan’s words to David as he bids him flee for his life.  Because Jonathan’s father Saul, king of Israel, is determined to kill David.  But the great love of friendship that Jonathan has for David makes him forewarn David so as to confirm Saul’s evil intentions toward David. 

And what a madman Saul has truly become!  When he learns that David was excused to take leave, Saul is outraged at Jonathan and throws his spear at him—his very own son!  This was one spear-loving king!

We now begin to learn of David’s journey of flight.  He goes first to the Temple at Nob and gets something to eat.  Being without a weapon, he accepts the sword that the priest gives to him—it is Goliath’s sword that David had used to kill the giant himself.  His next stop is Gath, where he intends to most likely petition the king for assistance, but changes his mind when he realizes that everyone recognizes him there.  It is to be seen what will come next.

Turning now to our reading in the book of John, we find Jesus engaged in his ministry of teaching, preaching, and healing.  There is the story of the blind beggar who is healed.  “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.” If that’s not a miracle, I don’t know what is! 

And the people know it, all of them, including the skeptical Pharisees, but they keep asking the blind man and his parents as to what exactly happened, over and again, when finally exasperated, the blind man says to them, “I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples too?”

There is an obvious tinge of sarcasm to these words, but they may also be taken in the most sincere way—do you want to become his disciple?  If you do, pay heed, take note, listen up!

But woe is to the Pharisees who are unable to see despite their good eyesight. And Jesus speaks to the spiritual blindness that has beset them.  He says: “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”

Turning to our reading of the psalms, we find two today:  Psalm 113 and 114.  While the first one is an unequivocal rendering of praise, the second is a recounting of the great and marvelous history of the children of Israel.  David, the psalmist, never tires of doing these two things:  singing the praises of the Lord, and recounting the great mercies and blessings received from the hand of the Almighty through the ages.  May it be that we also might do the same!

From Psalm 113, here are some verses of praise that would behoove us to also repeat, or at the very least inspire us raise up similar songs of praise.  David says this:

2 Let the name of the LORD be praised,
both now and forevermore.
3 From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets,
the name of the LORD is to be praised.

7 He raises the poor from the dust
and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
8 he seats them with princes,
with the princes of his people.
9 He settles the childless woman in her home
as a happy mother of children.

  Praise the LORD.

Finally, a few verses from the book of Proverbs that may serve as food for thought for the day:

15 All the days of the oppressed are wretched,
but the cheerful heart has a continual feast.

16 Better a little with the fear of the LORD
than great wealth with turmoil.

17 Better a small serving of vegetables with love
   than a fattened calf with hatred.

May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word.

Even In Darkness Light Dawns for the Upright

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1 SAMUEL 18:5-19:24 | JOHN 8:31-59 | PSALM 112:1-10 | PROVERBS 15:12-14

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Saul is fast becoming a madman.  Envy of David’s popularity with the people, his own daughter’s love of David, his son Jonathan’s friendship with David, and David’s excellent warrior-skills have made Saul begin to detest David to the point of wanting to take his life.  Gone are the days when David’s playing the lyre soothed him; all Saul wants now is that David either be killed in battle or he will take care of it himself!  Which Saul tries to do—not once but twice—in hurling his spear at David with the clear purpose of impaling him to death, but each time David escapes. 

After the last such episode, David’s wife, Michal, Saul’s own daughter, arranges for David to escape from their bedroom window.  David goes to seek Samuel’s counsel, and when Saul is made aware of David’s whereabouts, he sends his men to either capture or kill David.

But strange are the ways and means of the Almighty.  All the men sent on this mission end up a different man than what he was when he had set out to hunt David.  It is said that the spirit of the Lord descended upon each of them, and they appeared to have become godly men prophesying in the presence of Samuel and the others, most likely David included! 

Three times does Saul send a band of men on this mission of killing David, and the same outcome takes places all three times.  Finally, Saul himself rises to go and get the job done in person, and wouldn’t you know it—he himself is transformed into a man possessed by the Spirit of the Lord, and the people marvel at this sight to wonder if Saul was also among the prophets!

Turning now to our reading in the book of John, we encounter Jesus talking with the people, especially those who have believed in his words and teachings.  Jesus says to them, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 

But these words seem to evoke more confusion than clarity, and the questions about Jesus’ identity and authority continue unabated.  Who is this man who claims to have come from God, nay, claims to be God’s son, i.e., God himself?  Who is this man who claims that those who believe in him will never taste death? 

The people are outraged yet again and see this as nothing short of blasphemy, sacrilege, madness!  They know their own history, they know who their prophets were, they know that they are the descendants of Abraham, and here’s this man telling them he knows better, and that he might be greater than Abraham?!  This calls for immediate action. 

The people say to Jesus: “Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that whoever obeys your word will never taste death. 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?” 

And Jesus simply says to them, Very truly I tell you, before Abraham was born, I am!”

Turning now to our psalm of the day, we find Psalm 112 to be a psalm of praise.  David, the poet-king of Israel offers up these praises to the Almighty with the quiet confidence of one who has seen many ups and downs in his lifetime.  These verses are a testament to his own experience of God’s goodness, and serve as a reminder of God’s great faithfulness that transcends time and people.  David says:

4 Even in darkness light dawns for the upright,
for those who are gracious and compassionate and righteous.
5 Good will come to those who are generous and lend freely,
who conduct their affairs with justice.

Surely the righteous will never be shaken;
they will be remembered forever.

They will have no fear of bad news;
their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the LORD.

Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear;
in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.

They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor,
their righteousness endures forever;
their horn will be lifted high in honor.

Finally, a few verses from the book of Proverbs:

12 Mockers resent correction, so they avoid the wise.

13 A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit.

14 The discerning heart seeks knowledge, but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly.

May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word.

The Fear of the Lord Is the Beginning Of Wisdom

Click Here For Today’s Reading

1 SAMUEL 17:1-18:4 | JOHN 8:21-30 | PSALM 111:1-10 | PROVERBS 15:11

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“You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the LORD will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. 47 All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.” 

These are David’s words to the giant Philistine called Goliath, a terror to the armies of Israel.  But what no army could do, a youngster with a sling and a stone accomplishes.  Such are the ways of the Almighty—we imagine our strengths to lie in our weaponry or even our intellect, but God has his own ways of doing things.  May it be that this story of David and Goliath is one that will always reiterate this truth to us.

After the slaying of Goliath, David gains even more favor in the court of King Saul, so much so, that Saul’s own son Jonathan becomes close friends with David, and Saul makes further inquiries about David’s family and arranges for David to stay in the palace permanently.  The winds of change are slowly beginning to blow, and even Saul begins to sense this.  Only, he also has a sense of foreboding which we shall soon see as to whether it proves true or not.

Turning now to our reading in the book of John, we find Jesus continuing to preach to the people.  The elders of the Temple continue to remain puzzled at Jesus’ words.  Jesus now says to them “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. 29 The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” 

Much as I feel for the intelligenstia of the day, I wonder about how it was just as easy and simple to believe in this man Jesus like many other ordinary folks did.  The text tells us that.  However, the learned scholars and elders in the community and the temple over-thought and over-analyzed Jesus’ words and did not allow themselves the simple act of belief.  They would know soon enough that this man’s words were indeed ones to be reckoned with.

Our psalm for the day is Psalm 111, and the very last verse is one that is worthy of memorization.  The word ‘fear’ is not to be understood in its conventional meaning; rather, it signifies a type of deep respect that stems from love, the kind akin to the fear we feel for our parents.  Such is the great love and respect that one need cultivate toward God, our heavenly father.  The psalmist says:

10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom;
   all who follow his precepts have good understanding.
To him belongs eternal praise.

Finally, our one verse for the day from the book of Proverbs is as follows:

11 Death and Destruction lie open before the LORD—
how much more do human hearts!

The meaning of that, of course, is that when the Lord is able to see through all destruction and even death, i.e., the most complex and unknown of things, what is our human heart that he cannot understand? There is indeed nothing in our hearts that may be hidden before the Lord.

May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word.