Psalm 108:6-13; 1 Samuel 14:1-40; John 2:1-11

Psalm 108:6-13: The second half of this psalm is one of supplication, what Alter calls “national supplication,” since it refers to Israel’s needed rescue as a whole: “that Your beloved ones be saved, /rescue with Your right hand, answer me.” (6) As is often the case, the psalmist reminds God what he once did; how he reigned over all Israel, putting words into God’s mouth, “Mine is Gilead, Mine Manasseh, and Ephraim /My foremost stronghold, Judah My scepter.” (8)

To intensify the sense of how God once favored Israel over other nations, the poet speaks of how God once denigrated Israel’s enemies: “Moab is My washbasin, / upon Edom I fling My sandal, over Philistia I shout exultant.”(9) First the rhetorical question: “Have You not, O God, abandoned us? / You do not sally forth, God, with our armies.” (11) Then the plea that acknowledges human effort is insufficient, “Give us help against the foe / when rescue by man is in vain. (12). And ending with assurance that God will indeed come to their collective aid: “Through God we shall gather strength,/ and He will stamp out our foes.” (13)

These verses are the pattern of supplication: wondering where God has gone, asking for help, and always ending on the assurance that God will indeed act on our behalf. For me, it’s the final step that I leave out. Too often, I end prayer on a note of uncertainty, reflecting on my own weakness and asking for God’s help, but too often forgetting to remember that God will indeed act, and that I should acknowledge God’s great goodness.

1 Samuel 14:1-40: We meet Saul’s son, Jonathan, who combines daring courage, thoughtfulness and discernment. With just his trusty unnamed armor-bearer, who has told Jonathan, “I am with you; as your mind is, so is mine.” (6), Jonathan says that when they shout to the Philistines below, if the Philistines invite them to come closer, that will be a sign that victory will be theirs. But if the Philistines do not invite them down, they will stand back. They are invited down and slaughter about 20 of the enemy. This is great encouragement to the rest of Israel, including those who have sided with the Philistines.

In stark contrast to the son, Saul makes another rash and puzzling vow, saying “Cursed be anyone who eats food before it is evening and I have been avenged on my enemies.” (24). Unaware of his father’s pronouncement, Jonathan dips the tip of his staff into honey and tastes it. When Jonathan is informed of his father’s oath, he replies, “My father has troubled the land; see how my eyes have brightened because I tasted a little of this honey. How much better if today the troops had eaten freely of the spoil taken from their enemies;” (29, 30). Jonathan knows that troops fight better on full stomachs. Instead, once the battle is over, the troops are so famished they eat even animal blood, which is forbidden. 

Saul’s rash words has imperiled his son and caused his troops to commit sin against God. The point, I think, is that thoughtful (“my mind is your mind”) discernment is an essential quality of leadership. Rash pronouncements and impulsive acts are not. Yet, even today, we too often see the latter on full display in those who claim to be our leaders.

John 2:1-11: Jesus’ action at the wedding at Cana–described only here in this gospel–is among his most famous miraculous acts. Here, Jesus reveals his true power and glory to his mother and as John notes, to his disciples. So, why is the water-to-wine Jesus’ first miracle? Surely there was someone at the wedding who needed healing of some sort.

I think that John has a much deeper meaning here for his listeners–and for us. In the Upper Room Jesus tells his disciples that the wine they are drinking is his blood. So, it seems that this miracle of water becoming wine overarches the story of Jesus in John’s telling: from the waters of Jesus’ baptism to the blood of his final sacrifice on the cross.

Water and wine, together with bread, are the essential material elements of our faith. Each is imbued with far deeper significance than just their physical qualities. Both water and wine are essential to our bodies–and to our faith: the water with which we were baptized and the wine we consume at the communion rail that somehow is intimately tied to Jesus’ blood.

That the wine was the best served at the wedding reminds us that with the shedding of Jesus’ blood, no greater gift that has been given us: As the old song reminds us, we are washed not just in water, but in the blood of the Lamb.

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