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February 2020

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Books for the Journey:

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Apparently Saul laid his robe to the side when he entered the cave to relieve himself and later felt genuinely sorry for the way he treated David, but during this temporary moment of sanity he should have repented, made a guilt offering, and put people and procedures into place to protect himself from any returning evil influences. There will always be times when we are overcome by ego (or evil forces) but there will also always be lucid moments when we’ve realize what we’ve done and what we should do. During these times we will be fully judged. David also teaches us today that an important time to resist the temptation to do wrong is when it’s most difficult and that a man of faith never seeks revenge. The referenced old proverb says that only a wicked man would do evil against any other person in any situation. David was not honoring Saul but respecting his position and God’s anointing. He gave and kept his word even to a person he knew could not be trusted. One of the core problems in America is that we have forgotten the difference between honor and respect (my youngest son’s school is littered with foolish posters reading, “Honor means respect” and “You cannot get respect unless you give it”). Saul deserved and received respect even though he was not honorable and very disrespectful himself. David dedicates the matter of his relationship with Saul to the Lord, for God alone could settle the matter and bring about justice (fair is what you deserve while just is what you need).

Jewish tradition has it that Samuel wrote the books of Judges and Samuel (v 10:25 verifies that he wrote something) with the prophets Gad and Nathan adding the information concerning the years following Samuel’s death (starting today). Compare Nabal’s wealth (with 3,000 sheep) with Job, the richest of his time (with 7,000 sheep), in Job 1:2. Sheering season was traditionally a time of open hospitality (2 Sam 13:23-24), which Nabal violated. In the previous chapter, David diffused Saul’s anger by first diffusing his own. In this chapter, it takes Abigail’s sensitivity to calm David by not only asking for forgiveness but also attempting to correct her husband’s blunder (atonement is that which can bring two parties back to being “at one”). Moreover, she reminds David to leave vengeance in God’s hands (clearly it is not at all easy to remember life’s lessons from one day to the next). And God does take care of the matter (“becomes like a stone” is a common Aramaic idiom meaning Nabal had a heart attack or stroke and became paralyzed). Some commentators note a similarity between Nabal and Saul. Each is hostile to David, against advice of family, and eventually struck down by God (not David), being condemned by their own evil actions.

The Feast of Dedication (or renovation) was celebrated for eight days in December and thus about two months have pasted since yesterday’s last line. This festival celebrates the Maccabean restoration of the temple 3 years after Antioshus Epiphaces desecrated it in 167BC (as prophesized in Daniel 11:31) and it is know today as the Feast of Lights or Hanukkah. Jesus once more clearly states that he is the Messiah AND that He and God are one. The Jews yet again try to stone Jesus for being a false prophet (as per Lev 24:14-16). Many have interpreted the line “You are Gods” to suggest that we were intended to be equal with God in power and authority, but this verse is only using OT terminology that judges are to exercise judicial sovereignty. Jesus is making the point by quoting Psalm 82:6 about judges who violate the law that if divine authority had been applied by God to mere men administering his law and word, there could be neither blasphemy nor folly in its application to the incarnate Son of God himself (making the legitimacy of His case again rest on the trustworthiness of scripture). John 10:35 and Psalm 82:6 provide that all who “are sons of the Most High” (“to whom the word of God came”) are appointed for the unique task of administering His law and word to the people. Jesus again escapes (as in v 8:59).

The use of the Hebrew word elohim in Psalm 82:6 is simply describing authority. Many have provided extensive explanations for the origin of the word, but the etymology of the word Elohim is prehistoric and therefore unknown. Much can be determined, however, from its usage. For example, many have also hinted that since it is spelled in the pural that there must be many gods, but the word in some 2000 cases is always used with singular adjectives and verbs (except for polytheistic pagans like the Philistines in 1 Samuel 4:8). Moreover, while Genesis often refers to God as elohim, it quickly changes to using Yahweh Elohim (that is, “Lord God”). Dr. Jean Astruc suggested back in the eighteenth century that this meant that Moses had used two sources to compose Genesis. Others have suggested our God is merely one of many that blessed Abraham for choosing Him. Astruc (et al.) failed to notice, however, a clear pattern that the Bible uses Yahweh whenever stressing a personal relationship with God and Elohim to denote creator or authority. Jethro, for example, uses Yahweh to describe how much greater a (Yahweh) God that loves and cares for His people is over an impersonal (elohim) creator without feeling. Elohim conveys the more philosophically oriented concept while Yahweh describes a more personal and ethically oriented view. Exodus 6:3 notes God saying, “I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty, but by my name the Lord I did not make myself known to them.” The resolution to this seeming contradiction of some 150 uses of the name Yahweh during the patriarchal period is to be found in a technical point of Hebrew grammar, known as beth essentiae, in the phrase “by my name.” This phrase meant that while Abraham, Isaac and Jacob heard and used the name Yahweh, it was only in Moses’ day that the realization of the character, nature and essence of what that name meant became clear. “By the name” is better translated “in the character [or nature] of Yahweh [was I not known].”

Our Psalm today tells about deliverance from the brink of death (from being ignorant or “simple” in v 6) and a vow and payment for praising the Lord audibly before the people of faith. These words seem to point prophetically to how we are to die and give up earthy limitations (Matthew 10:38-39; Mark 8:34-35; and, Luke 17:27, 33). The Psalm is read after the third cup of wine, which brings to mind God’s cup of salvation. “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.” Physical death is when the body is carried to the cemetery to await bodily resurrection at the time of Rapture (1 Thess 4:14-17) and the soul is carried to “Abraham’s Bosom” (Luke 16:22 and 23:43) as opposed to a spiritual death of separation from God in this life (Ephesians 2:1) as well as the “second death” of being thrown into the lake of fire with death and hell after the second resurrection (Rev 20:14).

1 Samuel 24:1-25:44
When we are in sin we become illogical, irrational and unreasonable. Here we see a picture of a man who marshals all the resources available too him and channels all his energy to pursue a personal grudge. The pursuit of David in reality is a fight against God. Saul’s response to David after David shows him that he had the ability to take his life, lets us know that Saul knew just like God had anointed him king, God had removed the kingship from him and given it to David.

Saul had a “beef” with God. I believe no matter what our excuse or justification we put forth when we rebel against rightful leadership, spiritual or political, we are fighting against God. The lawlessness and crime committed against people, family friends or foe, is are puny attempt to fight against God.

There are clear contrasts between David’s response to Saul’s physical pursuit against him to take his life, and Nabal’s insult: one wanted to harm his body, the other harmed his feelings. Saul pursued David for years; Nabal’s insult came by way of messenger and probably took a couple of minutes to convey. How do we respond to a “slight?” Do we muster up a greater desire to carry out revenge and retaliate when we are insulted then when confronted with the possibility of direct physical harm? Thank God for the people who are placed in our paths to speak reason into our lives. If David had been allowed to continue on his path to destroy Nabal and all of his servants, he would have become as corrupted as Saul. That thought gives me great pause to think as well as give me a greater understand of, “There but for the grace of God go I.”

John 10:22-42
It annoys me to no end when people ask me a question, pretending to want information, then turn and challenge the answer given. I’m not talking about a test situation but people pretending that they don’t know something but in reality they are setting you up. Jesus went thought this experience daily, religious leaders asking only to try and trick Him but never could. I don’t know about you but I think I would give up doing that after the first year, and surly after the second, or would I?

Jesus had already told them previously that they were like their father, the Devil and he never gives up. The trickery didn’t work and not only could they not trap Him, they couldn’t even arrest Him because it wasn’t His time.

I love the last two verses of this reading because it shows that there is a “remnant” that adhered to and clung to Jesus because they honestly took the words of the Prophets, the words of John the Baptist and measured Jesus by them and found He measured up.

Psalm 116:1-19
1 I love the LORD because he hears
and answers my prayers.

In the book of First John the writer pens this statement, 19 We love Him, because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19) For me that is a true statement not based on theology but based on my own experience. When I first came to faith it wasn’t because someone had dragged me to church. Like Saul I was in deep rebellion of God. I hated anything and everything that smacked of Church, Jesus, God and any and every religion. Church folk had so scarred me that by the time I was sixteen I had pronounced God dead. It is a good thing that God didn’t take orders from me.

Almost twenty years latter I found myself in total despair but that didn’t change my mind it only opened it to a challenge I received, “You can spend all day debating whether or not there is a God. The only way you are going to really find out is to try some of His commands and see if they work. If they don’t throw everything out in the trash, if they do then keep it.” I tried and I kept. I love God because I know deep down in the very fiber of my being that He loves Me.

Psalm 34
3 Oh, magnify the LORD with me,
And let us exalt His name together.
4I sought the LORD, and He heard me,
And delivered me from all my fears.
Proverbs 15:20-21
We try to justify, quantify and rationalize unacceptable behavior, but the writer of Proverbs lays all that raunchy disrespectful rebellious behavior on “sin” and the "i" that is in the middle of it all.

Grace and peace,

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