Psalm 113; 1 Samuel 19:8–20:17; John 4:27–38

Psalm 113: This “praise psalm” opens with “Hallelujah,” which means “praise God,” followed immediately by the imperative command, “Praise, O servants of the Lord,/ praise arise the Lord’s name.” (1)

Praising God transcends time: “May the Lord’s name be blessed/ now and forevermore.” (2) Praising God also transcends space: “From the place where the sun rises to where it sets,/ praised be the name of the Lord.” (3)

NT Wright notwithstanding, this is one of those places where we get the impression that heaven is “up there” rather than right next to us in another dimension: “High over the nations, the Lord,/ over the heavens His glory.” (4) This “upthereness” is amplified in the next two verses as our psalmist asks rhetorically,
Who is like the Lord our God,
Who sits high above,
Who sees down below
in the heavens and on the earth?” (5,6)

But God does not just look down on earth, and as deists would have it, passively observe, God acts on his highest priority, the rescue of the poor and needy:
He raises the poor from the dust,
from the dungheap lifts the needy,
to seat him among the princes,
among the princes of his people.” (7, 8)

Notice how the act of lifting up the poor reflects this same verticality of God looking down from heaven. As God has lifted up the poor, and made men once again stand in honor among princes, so too, God acts domestically for women by eliminating her shame and bringing children into her life: “He seats the barren woman in her home/ a happy mother of sons.” (9) Yes, sons, since it was sons through which she would obtain honore. This is certainly to our culture but there was no greater honor in ancient cultures than for a mother to bear sons.

1 Samuel 19:8–20:17: Saul’s forbearance in agreeing not to kill David is short lived and he attempts to kill David with his spear as the younger man plays music. Sauk remains determined: “Saul sent messengers to David’s house to keep watch over him, planning to kill him in the morning.” (19:11) David’s loving wife, helps Michal him escape and then places an (apparently life-sized) idol in David’s bed to fool the messengers. Saul demands to know why his daughter allowed David to escape but she replies with the ruse that her own life was in danger: “Michal answered Saul, “He said to me, ‘Let me go; why should I kill you?’” (17). Clever woman.

David flees to Ramah and joins Samuel. Saul finds out and sends messengers to Ramah to capture David. However, “the spirit of God came upon the messengers of Saul, and they also fell into a prophetic frenzy.” (20) The prophetic frenzy happens again with the next set of messengers. Finally, Saul himself comes and “he too stripped off his clothes, and he too fell into a frenzy before Samuel. He lay naked all that day and all that night.” (24) For the moment we leave Saul lying naked in the dirt at Ramah.

David seeks out Jonathan and asks in desperation,“What have I done? What is my guilt? And what is my sin against your father that he is trying to take my life?” (20:1) Jonathan is unaware of his father’s plan even though he thinks Saul tells him everything. David arranges to fail to arrive at the mandatory ‘new moon dinner,’ at court. He tells Jonathan that he should tell his father when asked that David is missing from dinner because is in Bethlehem for a family gathering. If Saul reacts angrily, Jonathan will know that Saul is out to kill David.

David asks Jonathan, “Who will tell me if your father answers you harshly?” (11) Jonathan says that if David hasn’t heard anything from Jonathan after three days, the coast is clear. Regardless of whatever happens, Jonathan swears lifelong fealty to David, and begs, “never cut off your faithful love from my house, even if the Lord were to cut off every one of the enemies of David from the face of the earth.” (15) Jonathan’s vow is reciprocated when he “made David swear again by his love for him; for he loved him as he loved his own life.” (17) The story of david and Jonathan is the story of intense friendship and doubtless an origin of Jesus’ saying, “ No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13)

Nevertheless, this story is really getting operatic. No wonder Charpentier wrote a now obscure five-act  opera in 1688, “David et Jonathas.”

John 4:27–38: Jesus’ disciple arrive in the midst of Jesus’ discourse with the Samaritan woman but they (happily) hold their tongues. The woman returns home and famously says, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” (29) The crowd begins to return to where Jesus is.

In the meantime, the disciples plead with Jesus to eat something. In a reflection of his discourse on “living water,” our gospel writer amplifies Jesus simultaneous corporeality and spirituality when Jesus responds, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work.” (34) At this point we are to understand that while there is physical water and food to meet out needs, Jesus is our spiritual water and food, which is equally crucial as actual water and food to our existence.

Rather than having supper, Jesus extends his comments about metaphorical food to the metaphorical harvest: “But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting.” (35)  Jesus is the sower, but his disciples—and be extension, the church—are the reapers: “I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.” (38)

We need to remember that we are not the ones who labor for the harvesting of other souls. That is the work of the Holy Spirit. We are merely the essential catalyst for the Spirit’s work.



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