Saturday, May 20, 2017

May 20

1 Samuel 26:1-28:25; John 11:1-54; Psalm 117:1-2; Proverbs 15:22-23

Man, did I hit the jackpot with today's reading or what?  This post can practically write itself, between David-Saul-Samuel and Jesus-Martha-Mary, with a little bit of Caiaphas thrown in.

It's so deeply moving to me to read of David's continued protection of "the Lord's anointed" (I Sam. 26:9).  David deliberately puts himself into dangerous positions to prove to Saul that he is not a threat to his kingship, to show that he's had all the opportunities and never taken them.  Even though Saul seeks David's very life, David never moves against Saul.  (Did you notice yesterday that David was "conscience-striken" for even cutting off a piece of Saul's robe [I Sam. 24:5]?)  Such integrity, such honesty, such confidence in God.  Not in Saul, mind you - David is quite certain that death will remain Saul's goal, regardless of Saul's conciliatory words.  Though Saul has blessed David for the second time in three chapters (see I Sam. 24:17-21 and 26:25), David is no fool; he knows that Saul is unchanged (see I Sam. 27:1).

Saul, on the other hand, has become a fool and a desperate one at that.  Exhibit A: consulting the medium in Endor.  Chapter 28 is such a curious chapter, raising all sorts of questions for me: Why does Saul disguise himself (vs. 8)?  Does the woman really have the power to call up anyone (see vs. 11)?  What is it about the appearance of Samuel that terrifies the woman and reveals Saul's true identity to her (vs. 12)?  What form does Samuel take - he seems both visible to the woman yet invisible (but audible) to Saul?  Why does Samuel give Saul the information he has gone to such evil lengths to acquire (vs. 19)?  Where did the woman go (vs. 21)?  Is Saul the only one who hears Samuel's words of disaster?

As Esther has exhorted us again and again, when we don't understand something in Scripture, look in a commentary!  In this case, however, there's some general uncertainty and mystery.  Clearly, God doesn't approve of necromancy/spiritism - he's forbidden it for the nation.  And yet, God allows truth to be spoken to Saul.  Also apparent is the unexpectedness of Samuel's appearance - the medium is startled and shocked!  She did not anticipate this outcome, but God uses her to move his own purpose forward.  God will prevail.

And then there's Martha's encounter with Jesus.  I've always felt sympathetic toward Martha.  I think she's gotten a bit of the short stick when it comes to the perception by the church: a busy woman who begrudges her sister time at the feet of Jesus, who complains to him about her sister's indolence, who is chastised by the Lord for not understanding the most important thing.  Those are all true (at least mostly).  But what a picture we see of Martha here.  She's proactive (sending word to Jesus about Lazarus' illness [Jn. 11:3]) and well-known-and-regarded in the community (notice that "many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother" [Jn. 11:19]).  She desires to understand and she goes to Jesus for that need (vs. 20).  Her statements of belief rival Peter's declarations: "my brother would not have died" (vs. 21); "even now God will give you whatever you ask" (vs. 22); and, most amazingly, "You are the Christ, the Son of God," the fulfillment of all the Scripture's prophecies (vs. 27).  Incredible!  At this great moment of crisis and grief, to turn to Jesus in such confidence and faith.  That's a woman I want to be like.  Mary reiterates Martha's first statement, but not the profound last one (see vs. 32).

All this leads us to Caiaphas, who is violently opposed to Jesus and yet speaks the words of God about him.  Though he proposes a course of action that ultimately leads to Jesus' death, Caiaphas is used to prophesy about the Messiah: "Better...that one man die for the people than that the whole [world] perish" (Jn. 11: 50).  How true his words were/are.  It is better for me that Jesus died; that death and resurrection prevent the loss of the whole world to sin and destruction.  Hallelujah!

A man of upright conduct contrasted with a faithless man, but both are used by God and encounter God directly.  A woman of great strength and belief contrasted with a fierce, unbelieving man, but both speak words of great truth and power.  Isn't Scripture amazing?

- Sarah Marsh

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you. 

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