Psalm 112; 1 Samuel 18:1–19:7; John 4:1–26

Psalm 112: Like the previous psalm, this one is also a “short acrostic” consisting of 10 verses and 22 lines—one each for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet in order. The previous psalm was a catalog of God’s qualities; this one catalogs the attributes of a virtuous man.

Interestingly, this psalm begins with “Hallelujah,” and then states, “Happy the man who fears the Lord./ His commands he keenly desires.” (1) So, it’s clear to the psalmist that a virtuous life begins with fearing and obeying God.

That virtuous person will enjoy many rewards, not least of which is that he will have progeny, who will be “great” and who will remember him: “A great figure in the land his seed shall be, / the generation of the upright shall be blessed.” (2) Not to mention physical blessings as well: “Abundance and wealth in his home,/ and his righteousness stands forever.” (3)

Our poet expands his view to include the community, and that the response of men so blessed: “Light dawns in darkness for the upright,/ gracious and merciful  and just.” (4) However, that blessing is contingent on a man following God’s example of generosity and truth-telling: “Good is the man who shows grace and lends,/ he sustains his words with justice.” (5) But perhaps a bit of hyperbole here: “For he shall never stumble,/ an eternal remembrance the just man shall be.” (6)

Never stumble, really?  Of course we need to bear in mind that the poet is describing the ideal man. And we can see where there Pharisees may have started out emulating the precepts of this psalm. But righteousness too often morphs into self-righteousness.

Even when confronted by enemies who seek to do him harm, “From evil rumor he shall not fear./ His heart is firm, he trusts in the Lord.” (7) It is this faithfulness and trust that sustains one: “His heart is staunch, he shall not fear,/ till he sees the defeat of his foes.” (8)

Perhaps the greatest quality that the righteous man can emulate is God’s concern for the poor and needy—the overriding theme of the Psalms: “He disperses, he gives to the needy,/ his righteousness stands forever.” (9a) And his reward will be great: “His horn will be raised in glory.” (9b). The psalmist concludes by drawing a sharp contrast with the fate of the wicked: “The wicked man sees and is vexed,/ he gnashes his teeth and he quails.” (10) As far as the psalmist is concerned, evildoers come to a dead end in both senses of the word: “The desire of the wicked shall perish,” (10b)

1 Samuel 18:1–19:7: Upon hearing David’s story, “the soul of Jonathan was bound to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.” (18:1). Jonathan gives his robe, sword, and armor to David. In our modern era, the temptation is to see this as a homosexual relationship, but I prefer to think of it as a strong male friendship—the like of which seems not to be allowed in today’s over-sensitive culture.

David went out and was successful wherever Saul sent him” (5) and shortly becomes commander of the army. He is also a celebrity and the women come out to greet the army, singing, Saul has killed his thousands,/ and David his ten thousands.” (7) Unsurprisingly, this makes Saul jealous of David. Ever unstable, at one point Saul hurls his spear at David as the young man plays the lyre in court. 

Our authors point out that “Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was with him but had departed from Saul.” (12) and Saul banishes David from court. But the Spirit of the Lord was with David and he continues to enjoy great success. We assume that by this time the population would much rather see David as king than Saul.

In a rather bizarre twist, Saul offers his daughter Michal, who loves David, to become David’s wife, but first Saul insists that David kill 100 Philistines and bring their foreskins(!) to him. David does this and Saul reluctantly gives David Michal as his new wife.

The authors continue to draw the stark contrast between Saul and David: “Saul realized that the Lord was with David, and that Saul’s daughter Michal loved him, Saul was still more afraid of David.” (28, 29a) Tragically, Saul’s jealousy makes him “David’s enemy from that time forward.” (29b)

Saul wants to plot to assassinate David, but Jonathan intercedes, pointing out that “has not sinned against you, and because his deeds have been of good service to you.” (19:4) Saul relents, and “heeded the voice of Jonathan; Saul swore, “As the Lord lives, he shall not be put to death.” (6)

If we ever needed a biblical case history of the internal and external destructive power of jealousy, Saul is our man.

John 4:1–26: What more can be written about Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well? Jesus is breaking social taboos all over the place: conversing with a Samaritan; speaking to a woman; accusing her truthfully of adultery.

But more than that, John’ symbolism is hard at work here. Jesus says rather mysteriously, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” (10) The woman rather naturally assumes Jesus is speaking of physical water, but Jesus adds that “those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty.” (14) Needless to say, the woman would be happy never having to go to the well again.

Jesus goes on and tells the woman her current marital status and history. The woman observes that Jesus is a prophet and then at first glance, rather oddly that “Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you [i.e., the Jews]  say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” (20) Then in what would have been heresy to other Jews, but a wish to be hoped for to a Samaritan, Jesus says, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.” (21)

If we’re not careful, we could read Jesus’ next line the wrong way when he says, “salvation is from the Jews.” (22) But what he’s saying is that salvation is through one Jew, himself. This means that it is not only Jews, but Samaritans and all mankind that will find salvation through this man who came to earth as a Jew. The woman concludes that Jesus is the Messiah and Jesus confirms her suspicions: “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.” (26)

Once again, John puts it out there clearly and directly for everyone to see and understand: This Jesus is indeed the long-awaited Messiah. But in this encounter with the Samaritan woman, we learn that the Messiah is for all people, not just the Jews.


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