Psalm 116:15-19; 1 Samuel 28,29; John 6:16-24

Psalm 116:15-19: This section of the psalm is about the psalmist’s goal to come to the Temple at Jerusalem and to complete the act of gratitude he promised he would do if God would rescue him: “My vows to the LORD I shall pay / in the sight of all His people.” (14)

God rescued him and now he is here to fulfill his vow in public. The next verse–“Precious in the eyes of the LORD / is the death of His faithful ones.”–suggests that he may have been the only survivor among a group of people, and he is here to give thanksgiving not only for his personal rescue, but also to remember those who perished.

In addition to the psalmist’s gratitude and generosity in remembering others, there is great humility as well: “I am Your servant, Your handmaiden’s son./ You have loosed my bonds.” This is no proud king, but he has the humility of the poor man praying off in the corner whom Jesus compared to the prideful Pharisee praying in public.

Nevertheless, this is a highly public act of thanksgiving, as he reiterates, “My vows to the LORD I shall pay / in the sight of all His people.” (18) Because when there is thanksgiving, it is good for everyone to be able to rejoice. Just as the father celebrated in the story of the Prodigal Son when his son was restored to him.

In sum, this is a description of our attitude when we pray in thankfulness: gratitude, generosity, humility–all leading to a party! As the last line of this psalm puts so well: “Hallelujah!”

1 Samuel 28,29: The Philistines gather for another battle with Israel. Saul tries to get God’s word on what to do butSamuel is dead and unavailable for consultation. Also, “the Lord did not answer him, not by dreams, or by Urim, or by prophets” and Saul had already done away with the mediums in Israel (which actually sounds like one of Saul’s few good ideas). But now he’s desperate and his servants bring him word about the medium of Endor (I always liked the King James here: “the witch of Endor”). After some difficulty getting her to cooperate, the dead Samuel delivers really bad news: Saul and his sons will die in battle.

Saul is rightly terrified, “Saul fell full length on the ground, filled with fear because of the words of Samuel; and there was no strength in him,” (28:20). I suspect that Saul knows in his heart that having rejected God, God has now rejected him. These stories in the OT definitely have the non-grace side of God on full display. (And I wonder what inerrantists do with this passage since in the main, they are not terribly open to witchcraft, calling up spirits of the dead and the like…)

Meanwhile, David is spotted by the marching Philistines with his protector King Achish. Achish plans to send David to fight Israel on the Philistine side, but the generals of the Philistine army soundly reject David on the grounds that he is a famous Philistine slayer and could easily turn against them. Achish tells David to “go back now; and go peaceably; do nothing to displease the lords of the Philistines.” (29:7) But David wants to fight on the Philistine side and argues with Achish using his now famous line,”But what have I done?” Eventually, though, David agrees and returns to Philistia.

So, what on earth are the authors thinking here? Why show David–Israel’s greatest hero– eager to fight for Israel’s enemy? One reason is that it shows David’s warrior spirit. But another may be that in some ways David transcends the boundaries of Israel. If we read this story through the lens of Jesus Christ, then David being larger, even greater than just Israel is a precursor of Jesus having come for everyone, not just the Jewish people.

John 6:16-24: John tells the story of Jesus walking on the water in the sparsest possible terms. No Peter walking on water, no lesson about looking at Jesus. Just that the disciples were understandably terrified of seeing Jesus strolling along on the stormy waters. The only words we hear Jesus speak are, “It is I; do not be afraid.” (20). Period. Amen. They pull Jesus into the boat and “immediately” arrive at Capernaum.

John tells us the crowd is desperate to find Jesus, “they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus.” (24) Why this detail? Well, knowing John, he has a greater purpose here. Jesus seems to have disappeared, but so great is his attraction that people naturally search for him. Just as we are naturally attracted to Jesus even though his is unlike anyone we have ever encountered before in our lives. But his differentness is no reason to fear him. He has simply said to his disciples and to us, “It is I; do not be afraid.”

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