Psalm 109:21-31; 1 Samuel 16:14-17:31; John 3:16-26

Psalm 109:21-31: This psalm of supplication continues as David asks God to “act on my behalf for the sake of Your name, / for Your kindness is good. O save me!” (22)  He has been praying to God for a long time, “My knees falter from fasting / and my flesh is stripped of fat.” Yet God remains silent to the point that he has become laughing stock to his enemies who laugh at the futility of the prayer: “I become a reproach to them. / They see me, they shake their heads.” (26)

Could I pray while others laugh at me? In today’s self-reliant culture, where everything is supposed to come from within us, many scoffers see that some people’s reliance on a supposed deity they cannot see is indeed laughable.

But David knows that the scoffers will become the object of God’s scorn and that will be a sweet moment indeed: “Let them curse, and You, You will bless. / They will rise and be shamed, and Your servant will rejoice.” (29). [“Bless” here is used in the sense that the enemies will be “blessed” with shame.] There is assurance that “my accusers [will] don disgrace, and [they will] wrap round like a robe their shame.” (30)

In the end, we pray to God for rescue with not only the assurance that we will be rescued, but that our enemies will get their just desserts–always remembering it is God who delivers that justice, not our own actions.

1 Samuel 16:14-17:31: King Saul is now mentally ill: “Now the spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him.” (16:14). David’s lute playing skill is well know and he is brought into court. So, “David took the lyre and played it with his hand, and Saul would be relieved and feel better, and the evil spirit would depart from him.” (16:23) There is nothing fanciful or romantic here: there’s good evidence that harp-playing calms desperately ill patients.

So, we meet David first as musician. But now there will be more. The Philistines have a new weapon: the giant Goliath, “whose height was six cubits and a span.” (4). Goliath boasts that in a mano a mano battle, “if he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants; but if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us.” (17:9) The musician David was never considered for the Goliath job, and when he shows up, his brother, Eliab, berates him for having abandoned his sheep: “I know your presumption and the evil of your heart; for you have come down just to see the battle.” (17:28) But David replies, “What have I done now? It was only a question.” (17:29)

David responds pretty much as any younger brother would, and it seems quite a natural answer to us. But in that culture, it is a mark of disrespect, and David answers the same way when others ask. This impertinent answer makes its way to Saul himself, who sends for David.

What are we to make of David’s answer? To me it is a sign of self confident strength, not of defensiveness. and it clearly establishes that there is something very unusual about David. That self confidence is as important as David’s slingshots skills.

John 3:16-26: Jesus famous dialog with Nicodemus of course centers 3:16 because Jesus is explaining the plan of the New Covenant to a man (and to all of us), who is the embodiment of the Old Covenant. What comes across in the verses that follow is not only God’s new plan of salvation, but the theme of light and dark of “with God” and “not with God” of chapter 1.

There is a clear boundary between good and evil; light and darkness. For Jesus, there is no middle ground: “For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed.” (20)

But what do we make of Jesus’ puzzling concluding remark with Nicodemus? “But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.” (21) I think it is Jesus’ final challenge to his interlocutor. In the end we are all faced with a choice: to stay in darkness or come to the light.

But what does “do what is true” mean in daily life? Just doing good works? Nicodemus was already doing those. Make a “decision for Christ?” Even though we don;t use that phrase very much in the Lutheran church, I think that’s what Jesus is getting at here. Even though Jesus has initially come to us in baptism, in the end, it’s our choice whether or not to follow Jesus into the light.

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