Psalm 119:17-24; 2 Samuel 8,9; John 7:45-52

Psalm 119:17-24: Verse 18 certainly summarizes why I value Bible study so highly: “Unveil my eyes that I may look / upon the wonders of Your teaching.” I’m sure this verse is also a silent prayer that every theology student in the land has prayed one time or the other.

The “wonders of Your teaching” is also why each time I come across the same passage—such as this one—that there is always something new, a different angle, a fresh perspective on Scripture. For me, that is what “inspired by the Holy Spirit” means. It’s not that the words themselves are somehow sacred or inerrant, but that the Holy Spirit speaks fresh thoughts and gives new insights each time we read and ponder Scripture. In my personal experience this does not happen with any other book.

However, I’m not sure I go as far as the psalmist here: “I pine away desiring / Your laws in every hour.” Do I pine away in desire? Probably not, but there’s no question at this point that the mornings when I do not settle down with the Moravian readings, read, reflect and write are emptier. 

2 Samuel 8,9: David goes about the business of conquering neighboring lands—Philistia, Moab, even up to Damascus—and building what would become the empire over which his son Solomon would reign. The authors make it clear who deserves credit for David’s victories: “The Lord gave victory to David wherever he went. “ (8:6) David continues to acknowledge God as the author of his victories as he brings home the “articles of silver, gold, and bronze; [which] these also King David dedicated to the Lord, together with the silver and gold that he dedicated from all the nations he subdued.” (8:10, 11)

Unlike Saul, who began to believe his victories were his and not God’s, David never forgets the source of his strength and his victories. It would have been very easy for him to go the way of Saul. After all, “David won a name for himself.” (13). But he remains humble and a man of God.

The lesson for us is that whatever victories we may enjoy in life are not ours alone, and we must never forget Who is the source of our strength or our intellect.

The heartwarming story of David’s great mercy and generosity to Jonathan’s crippled son, Mephibosheth, shows the other side of David’s greatness. The authors make sure we understand that David is far more than a military genius and a fierce warrior, “for I will show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan; I will restore to you all the land of your grandfather Saul, and you yourself shall eat at my table always.” (9:7) David is equally generous to Saul’s servant Ziba, as well. Mercy and generosity are as important a quality of leadership as intellect, courage, and strategic cunning. 

One wonders why the bookstore shelves groan with books on leadership when all the lessons are right here.

John 7:45-52: The Temple police, who were sent to arrest Jesus, come back empty-handed, angering the authorities who accuse them, “Surely you have not been deceived too, have you?” (47). The Pharisees then self-righteously ask themselves, “Has any one of the authorities or of the Pharisees believed in him?” (48) John does not answer their rhetorical question, but we can see their noses up in the air as they dismiss the hoi polloi, who do not know the law as well as they do. To them, Jesus is simply an unwashed rabble-rouser from the outback of Galilee.

But then one of their own, the unacknowledged hero of John’s gospel, Nicodemus, steps forward  and asks, “Our law does not judge people without first giving them a hearing to find out what they are doing, does it?” (51) In many ways, Nicodemus is the narrative voice of John, who is always there to ask the pointed question, and give John the opportunity to create insightful dialog. Here, the Pharisees sidestep Nicodemus’s theological insight by saying nowhere is it written in the Scripture that a prophet will arise out of Galilee. End of discussion.

Yet we—and John’s readers—know that’s exactly what happened. Neither Jesus nor God followed the script the Pharisees had assigned to them. There is always the unexpected—God’s surprise.

And I think this is a warning to those, who like the Pharisees, over-interpret the Bible and assert that “the Bible says this” or “that can’t happen because the Bible says it won’t.” One thinks of the people who keep predicting the precise date of Jesus’ return. The pHarisees are the perfect example of trying to fit God into the small box of their own design. We need to always let God be God, Jesus be Jesus, and be prepared for a surprise.

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