1 Samuel 10:1-11:15; John 6:43-71; Psalm 107:1-43; Proverbs 15:1-3
Some really profound words throughout our reading today, moments of beauty and clarity and God's purposes triumphant.
Consider our Old Testament reading: "As Saul turned to leave Samuel, God changed Saul's heart" (I Sam. 10:9) and "the Spirit of God came upon him in power, and he joined in their prophesying" (vs. 10). Saul is fundamentally altered by his encounter with God (in this case, through his messenger, Samuel), and this change is demonstrated by his later activities in worship and in warfare. The response of those who observe Saul's prophesying clearly indicates that this is not a regular occurrence for Saul; he is overflowing with the poured-out Holy Spirit (vs. 11-12). Though he hides during the kingship selection (vs. 22), Saul later immediately reacts to a threat to his people (11:6-7). No longer afraid, he assumes his role as king and leads his people to victory. There's a clear before-and-after distinction in Saul, a distinction that occurs because he has met God.
Consider, too, our New Testament reading: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God" (Jn. 6:68-69). What a confession by Peter! No one else. No where else. No thing else. Only Jesus. Jesus alone. He offers life. It can be found in no other place and no other person (see also vs. 63). And Peter both believes and knows this. In Greek, these two words are in the perfect tense. For those of you who don't geek out on (or remember!) grammar, the perfect tense "indicates that an action or circumstance occurred earlier..., often focusing attention on the resulting state rather than on the occurrence itself" (from Wikipedia encyclopedia). Peter has believed, he has known that Jesus is the Messiah, and this knowing and believing makes all the difference. Because of this belief and knowledge, he could vow to continue as a disciple. He, like Saul, has been changed by his encounters with God.
And, lastly, consider our psalm. I love this psalm every time I read it. There's a recurring motif: people are in desperation; God hears and responds; the restored people praise him. Group after group are lost, suffering, alone, in need: "in desert wastelands,...hungry and thirsty" (Ps. 107:4, 5); "in darkness and the deepest gloom" (vs. 10); "fools through their rebellious ways and [suffering] affliction....[drawing] near the gates of death" (vs. 17); "on the sea in ships,....[reeling] and [staggering] like drunken men" (vs. 22). And in each case, they reach the point where no one but God will be able to help them. They echo Peter's words: where else can they go? God, so faithful, so responsive, reaches out to each group in their specific predicament, bringing safety and wholeness and straightness and hope. In each situation, though the outcome looks different, God "[lifts] the needy out of their affliction" (vs. 41). God meets them in their crisis, a provision which moves them to praise (see vs. 8, 15, 21, and 31) and the psalmist to exhort us to "consider the great love of the Lord" (vs. 43). Each of these men and women are changed by their encounter with God.
I'm thinking of various people in my life. They are in darkness and deepest gloom; they hunger and thirst; they are suffering affliction; they reel like drunken men under the weight of folly and depression and debt and the brokenness of the world and their choices. Their situations, to my human eyes, seem hopeless. But God is yet faithful! God is able. God is ready and willing to respond; they need only to ask. They must see that they have no where else to go. So that is what I pray for them. That they would meet God and be changed - like Saul, like Peter, like the characters in the psalm.
And that I would continue to meet God and continue to be changed.
Amen and amen. Let it be.
- Sarah Marsh
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