Psalm 116:1–7; 1 Samuel 24:1–25:17; John 5:16–30

Psalm 116:1–7: It’s hard to top the personal joy expressed in the opening line of this psalm of thanksgiving: “I love the Lord, for He has heard/my voice, my supplications.” (1) This psalm is the mirror image of a psalm of supplication; it’s what is sung or spoken following the realization that God has indeed answered those often desperate prayers. God has heard my cries: “For He has inclined His ear to me/ when in my days I called.” (2)

There’s little question that when our psalmist prayed it was in a time of urgent need when he was near death—perhaps from illness or on the battlefield: “The cords of death encircled me—/ and the straits of Sheol found me—distress and sorrow did I find.” (3) Our psalmist describes those moments when he turned to God, perhaps as his last resort: “And in the name of the Lord I called./ ‘Lord, pray, save my life.'” (4) Notice how short that prayer is: just five words. God never requires a lengthy explanation of the circumstances. He already knows.

And God answered. In that answer, our poet realizes the marvelous qualities of the God to whom he prayed, especially his mercy: “Gracious the Lord and just,/ and our God shows mercy.” (5) The next verse reveals the psalmist’s deep humility in its image of a drowning man: “The Lord protects the simple./ I plunged down, but me He did rescue.” (6)

Storm-tossed by desperate circumstances, our poet has cried out to God, who has heard him and rescued him. And now, he returns to the inner peace that only God can bring as he addresses himself: “Return, my being, to your calm,/ for the Lord has requited you.” (7)

These verses describe each of us when we encounter illness, danger and potentially great loss. We can cry out in prayer and God will hear us. Even if our prayers are not answered in the way we may wish, an honest relationship with God will always bring us inner peace and tranquility—the calm harbor of God’s rest.

1 Samuel 24:1–25:17: Finished with the distraction of fighting off the Philistines, Saul quickly returns to his overriding obsession: killing David. David and his men are hiding in the back of a cave that Saul has selected as a good place to “relieve himself.”

David’s men urge their leader to kill Saul and get it over with: “Here is the day of which the Lord said to you, ‘I will give your enemy into your hand, and you shall do to him as it seems good to you.’” (24:4a) Rather than killing Saul, David “went and stealthily cut off a corner of Saul’s cloak.” (4b). David regrets even this action, realizing that despite everything Saul is still God’s anointed king.

Saul leaves the cave and David comes outside “and called after Saul, “My lord the king!” When Saul looked behind him, David bowed with his face to the ground, and did obeisance.” (24:8) David, showing Saul the piece of cut-off cloak tells Saul that while he could have killed the king, he promises “‘I will not raise my hand against my lord; for he is the Lord’s anointed.’” (10)

David gives an eloquent speech, concluding with “May the Lord therefore be judge, and give sentence between me and you. May he see to it, and plead my cause, and vindicate me against you.” (15) When Saul hears this promise he replies, “Is this your voice, my son David?” Saul lifted up his voice and wept.” (16) At this moment, Saul knows that David has done a merciful and great thing: “For who has ever found an enemy, and sent the enemy safely away? So may the Lord reward you with good for what you have done to me this day.” (19)

Saul comes to realize that David will be king and coming to his senses, asks but one thing: that David will spare Saul’s descendants: “you will not wipe out my name from my father’s house.” (21) As we’ve observed, when one king takes over from another, the predecessor’s family is executed.

David swears he will not kill Saul’s descendants. At this point of reconciliation, “Saul went home; but David and his men went up to the stronghold.” (22) Obviously everything isn’t exactly peaches and cream just yet. But David’s mercy is just one more way that our authors contrast David’s God-fearing nobility against Saul’s self-centeredness. Has Saul truly repented?

We then come the almost parenthetical comment that Samuel, who has led so wisely and done so many great things for Israel, dies and is buried at his home in Ramah.

We meet Nabal the very rich but very surly man in Carmel, who has a “clever and beautiful” wife named Abigail. David sends ten young men to tell Nabal that they have come on a feast day and to show hospitality. to David and his men.

Upon hearing this request, Nabal doesn’t believe them and responds snidely, “Who is David? Who is the son of Jesse? There are many servants today who are breaking away from their masters.” (25:10) Upon hearing this David instructs his men to “strap on his sword!” (25:13) and sets out for Nabal’s house accompanied by 400 men.

Meanwhile, one of Nabal’s shepherds tells Abigail that when “David sent messengers out of the wilderness to salute our master; and he shouted insults at them.” (25:14). The servant points out that David and his men were protecting Nabal’s shepherds “and we never missed anything when we were in the fields, as long as we were with them.” (15) This servant knows that an angry and insulted David is coming their way and pleads for Abigail to intercede with nabal since “he is so ill-natured that no one can speak to him.” (25:17)

Tune in tomorrow for the exciting conclusion of this story.

John 5:16–30: Jesus reaps the whirlwind for his effrontery in “doing such things on the sabbath.” (16) Moreover, he compounds matters by adding the heresy by “calling God his own Father, thereby making himself equal to God.” (18)

In response to these accusations, Jesus gives a lengthy philosophical discourse on the relationship between Father and Son. For me, there’s ambiguity here. Is Jesus talking about himself or is he describing a theological construct about Father and Son?  His statements must have blown the Pharisee’s minds when he tells them, “The Father judges no one but has given all judgment to the Son,”  (22) Is the Son the Messiah? If so, is the Messiah really the Son of God?

Our gospel writer once again raises this gospel’s underlying theme of belief being essential: “I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and does not come under judgment, but has passed from death to life.” (24)

Just to make things even more confusing, Jesus adds that “when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.” (25) Given that most Jews did not believe in an afterlife, is Jesus speaking of some sort of metaphorical death?

Then, in what just seems to muddy the waters even more, Jesus adds an eschatological note: “for the hour is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and will come out—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.” (28, 29)

This passage is puzzling on many fronts. We can see from our vantage point that Jesus is talking about himself since we know how the story comes out. But to his listeners he must have sounded like a theological lunatic.

Speak Your Mind