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February 2020

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Books for the Journey:

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Saul’s son Jonathan shows the faith his father lacks (waiting for a sign of God) when he attacks the Philistines (without trusting his father enough to tell him his plans) and confidence returns to those in hiding (as well as previous Hebrew traitors from v 20) as word from Saul’s spies spreads (isn’t it nice to finally read about a good son?). Saul tries to take Samuel’s place as priest again and foolishly forbids his men to eat (but Jonathan who hasn’t heard the order eats some honey). The Hebrew text has Saul asking for the ark to be moved while the ancient Greek reads “ephod.” Verse 7:2 confirms that the ark was not moved, until David brings it to Jerusalem, and “withdraw your hand” mostly likely refers to using the Urim and Thummim (which would be stored in the ephod, that I described in more detail on May 3). In essence saying Saul thinks there is no time to inquire of God (never a good idea). Saul concludes God’s silence when he gets around to considering God must be due to his son (forgetting his own sins and those of his men who ate the captured meat without first draining the blood in violation of Law) and commands Jonathan’s execution (but the people intervene – besides, there is no OT Law that demands death for an unintentional sin). Saul's humble nature is corrupted by the power of office and he continues to willfully sin (which brings more discipline – “A fool spurns his father's discipline”) and his failures drives him not to repentance but to insanity. He fights continuously with the Philistines for the next four decades drafting all the strong and brave into his army. The Amalekites were one of several descendants of Esau – these were nomads (no lands after Jacob stole the inheritance by lying to his father), the Edomites lived in the rocky lands of the mountains (same reason for no land). Both were jealous of Israel’s wealth.

The Isaiah 44:3 description of a future outpouring of God’s Spirit as pouring “water on the thirsty land” was clearly of the thirst and water that Christ discusses in verses 37-39. Moreover, the festival included a priest pouring a golden pitcher filled with water from the Pool of Siloam on the temple altar as a memorial for the water that flowed from the rock the Israelites traveled with through the wilderness, as the people march seven times around the altar in memory of the walls of Jericho. The people are impressed by Christ’s miracles for Isaiah 35:5-6 foretold that the Messiah would do so (punctuated by four to five centuries without miracles), but their admiration was not enough (also see verse Matt 23:39) because they sought a fictitious Messiah. The real living one had offered them protection and deliverance but instead they refuse and crucify Him. In failing in their community penitence, Jesus foretold that Israel would see their temple destroyed and a long and dreadful suffering before redemption would be offered again (while Jesus would wait in Heaven where the Jewish leaders could not follow). This is not about individual salvation, but national salvation – the Pharisees accused the people of believing too easily because they were ignorant, yet it was the Pharisees who were blinded by prideful ignorance. Nicodemus tried to speak up, but the Pharisees sarcastically belittling him (“are you also of Galilee”) and tried to prove Jesus could not be a prophet by claiming no prophet had ever come from Galilee (when actually Jonah, Hosea, Nahum, and perhaps even Elijah, Elisha, Malachi, and Amos were from Galilee or nearby).

Most Jew believed (and still do) that the prophet or teacher spoken of by Moses was one of the ancient OT heroes raised from the dead (most likely David). John 7:42 and 1 Samuel 16:1, 4 (which we will read tomorrow) refers to Bethlehem as the birth place of David (and Christ). We read today of the first formal attempt to take down Jesus (perhaps this is when the sinful apostles bought the two swords of Luke 22.38), but there will be another six months before the Sanhedrin is successful. Perhaps, they fail due to the restraint of those who believed (in v 7:43) as in Psalm 76:10. In addition, the officers found Jesus to be wholly different from the seditious false prophet they had been sent to arrest. Moreover, when they return to tell the Sanhedrin of their mistake, the officers are simply ridiculed with reminders that very few of the wealthy rulers had followed Jesus. The common Jews that did not follow all of the rabbinic interpretations were usually treated by the Pharisees with the most sovereign contempt (even unworthy of resurrection), much like how many are treated by today’s Christian leaders (I have often heard pastors suggest that people that don’t agree with their interpretations are not saved if at least without the Holy Spirit – including even Mother Teresa). Christ’s enemies are always opposed to reason. Psalm 109 is a harsh lament against the author’s enemies (who are lying, hateful, argumentative, and return hatred for love) for judgment and intervention (being in desperate circumstances and needing protection). Acts 1:20 says that Psalm 109:8 is what happened to Judas.

Speaking of prayers: becoming a Christian, getting baptized, going to church, and reading the Bible will not in any measurable way reduce your chance of divorce, while sharing a life-long habit of praying before bed with your spouse will reduce the likelihood by 1000%.

1 Samuel 14:1-52
I think I’m about to make a BIG leap by connecting Saul’s treatment of his son Jonathan to how we treat the Son of man, Jesus. When I sat down at my computer to type out my response to this reading I had plans to take this reading and my subsequent response in another direction. .

In my minds eye I saw Saul as a type of the world mistreating, rebuking, and persecuting the one God chose to deliver natural and spiritual Israel, Jesus. Saul is a type of Pharisee or religious leader of the day. Having no personal relationship with God (he was unaware that Samuel was a prophet let alone recognizing who he was), Saul put on the “cloak” of someone who did. This is a case of the mouse falling into the cookie jar then assuming it had become a cookie. All the mouse will do is eat up the cookies. All Saul could do was consume his own men for his own purposes and self-interest. In fact the warning Samuel gave to Israel about what a king would require of them was coming into fruition.

Saul made up a curse and then held it over his men’s head, including his son’s. Jesus accused the Pharisees of making up rules and placing them above God’s law. In the Book of Numbers we read that no one can curse what God has blessed when Balak hired Balaam to curse Israel (Numbers 23). The writer of Proverbs stats this, “Like a fluttering sparrow or a darting swallow, an undeserved curse does not come to rest. (26:2). Saul wanted to kill his son because he had violated his command, stupid as it was, but because of pride, he didn’t want to appear weak before his men. Ever notice how nasty we can become when we are in public and we are proven wrong about a comment we have made or something we thought was on sale, but isn’t? We attack the person bringing us the truth. So it was with Saul. Instead of repenting for the dumb command he made, he became obstinate and stuck to his ill-conceived words. However, unlike the crowds at Jesus’ crucifixion, the fighting men interceded for Jonathan.

John 7:31-53
Fast forward to Jesus. Here we have the accusers, the religious leaders, and we have a crowd that is caught between two, no three opinions, Messiah, Prophet or just some crazy man. Unlike Jonathan’s supporters, this crowd is not speaking in one accord. Here we have someone who walked in Righteousness being called a “sinner” by those walking in unrighteousness. Saul walked playing the part of a quasi-religious leader, called to lead but failing to pick up the mantel. In reality Saul and the religious establishment of Jesus’ day were weak leaders because they were afraid of the people they were called to lead. You can’t lead people you are afraid of.

Psalm 109:1-31
David in this Psalm picks up the theme of false persecution and accusation. I love how unrelated books and authors come together in the Bible picking up the same motif, that’s God! But what I like about this Psalm is the reminder in verse twenty-eight to carry oneself with dignity while waiting on God,
28 Then let them curse me if they like,
but you will bless me! When they attack me, they will be disgraced!
But I, your servant, will go right on rejoicing!

The Lord always comes to our rescue even when it seems to us that He isn’t.

Proverbs 15:5-7

Discipline (The word disciple is in discipline) is the only way we can establish any kind of self-control and according to Proverb 12:2, knowledge can only be acquired if one loves discipline. A disciplined person has knowledge and a person of knowledge has discipline

Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,
but he who hates correction is stupid.

Grace and peace,

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