Psalm 107:17–22; 1 Samuel 7:2–8:22; Luke 24:36–53

Originally published 9/16/2016. revised and updated 9/17/2018.

Psalm 107:17–22: Our psalmist reminds us that as sinners we humans are foolish people and we reap the consequences of our stupid, sinful actions:
Fools because of their sinful way,
because of their misdeed they were afflicted.
 (17)

Clearly, Israel’s captivity was one of the consequences and apparently the food they were given was inedible (or more likely, ritually unclean) that it is rejected even to the point of starvation:
All food their throat rejected,
they came to the gates of death
. (18)

Once again, God hears their desperate prayers and responds:
And they cried to the Lord from their straits,
from their distress He rescued them.
 (19)

And once again, we are reassured that God will always rescue us if we turn to him: Foxhole prayers do indeed work. What’s interesting here is that the means of rescue is God speaking. In other words, prayer, even desperate prayer is a conversation:
He sent forth His word and healed them,
and delivered them from their pit.
” (20)

As always, our response to God’s rescue must first be worship:
Let them acclaim to the Lord His kindness,
and His wonders to humankind
. (21)

Here, there is the obvious sense of worship also being evangelical: it’s our responsibility to sing and tell God’s praises—not just to ourselves, but to our neighbors and culture as well. Indeed, to all humankind.

In a direct reference to the fact that this psalm was sung at the temple, our psalmist concludes this passage by reminding us that worship then included sacrifices given in gratitude:
And offer thanksgiving sacrifices
and recount His deed in glad song
. (22)

Today, the nature of our sacrifices may be quite different. But we respond to the fact of our salvation with joy and yes, with our sacrificial offerings out of the bounty God has so generously given us.

1 Samuel 7:2–8:22: The Ark has been rescued from the Philistines although trouble seems to follow it everywhere. In any event, “the ark was lodged at Kiriath-jearim, a long time passed, some twenty years,” (7:2) This becomes the catalyst for Israel’s repentance—at least for a time: “So Israel put away the Baals and the Astartes, and they served the Lord only.” (4) This time, when the Philistines try to attack Israel, Israel turns to God. As Samuel is offering a sacrifice, the Philistines show up, ready to attack. “But the Lord thundered with a mighty voice that day against the Philistines and threw them into confusion; and they were routed before Israel.” (10) This time God is on their side and “the towns that the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored to Israel,” (14a) Plus, a bonus: peace “between Israel and the Amorites.” (14b)

Samuel is the paragon of a good judge as “he administered justice there to Israel, and built there an altar to the Lord” (7:17) at Ramah.

Samuel grows old and like his mentor Eli, he has two sons, whom he places in priestly positions. Alas, just like the sons of Eli, they “did not follow in his [Samuel’s] ways, but turned aside after gain; they took bribes and perverted justice.” (8:3) So in frustration, the leaders of Israel come to Samuel and tell him, “Give us a king to govern us.” (8:6) Samuel is none too pleased, but he prays to God about the matter. God answers, telling Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people,” noting that it is not Samuel whom they have rejected, “but they have rejected me from being king over them.” (8:7) The system of God as king and God-appointed judges as God’s administrators has broken down completely.

God tells Samuel that “you shall solemnly warn them, and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.” (8:9) A passage describing the downsides of kingly rule follows, obviously based on the all too real experience of our priestly authors. The king “will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots…He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his courtiers.. . . He will take your male and female slaves, and the best of your cattle and donkeys, and put them to his work.” (12-16). Worst of all, “he will take one-tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves.” (17) Finally the ominous threat from God: “In that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves; but the Lord will not answer you in that day.” (18) I have to admit that God sounds a little jealous and peevish here.

This passage has tremendous resonance for me two years into the present administration in Washington DC. The president was elected as many cried out—and voted for— “strong leadership.”  But like the Israelites they have failed to consider the cost of that strong leadership. We would do well to reflect on the poor choice Israel is about to make. They are determined and “the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel; they said, “No! but we are determined to have a king over us, so that we also may be like other nations, and that our king may govern us and go out before us and fight our battles.” (8:19, 20) Substitute ‘president’ for ‘king,’ and this line is eerily apropos today.

Luke 24:36–53: Jesus finally makes his appearance before the inner circle of disciples with the simple greeting, “Peace be with you.” (36). Even though they had all heard about the resurrection, his surprising appearance caused them to be “startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost.” (37) But terror quickly turns to joy. Jesus proves his corporeality by asking them to touch him, and then asks as if nothing is at all unusual,“Have you anything here to eat?” (41)  and then proceeds to eat a fish.

I think this passage is here because it’s likely that in Luke’s community the heresy that the resurrected Jesus was merely spirit had already arisen and Luke wishes to put these doubts firmly to rest.

Jesus resumes his role as rabbi and “he opened their minds to understand the scriptures,” (45) explaining that the Hebrew scriptures predicted exactly the event occurred: “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day.” (46) Moreover, resurrection is accompanied by “repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” (47), which is Luke’s brief summary of the Great Commission to go into all the world and preach the gospel.

Jesus instructs them all to remain in Jerusalem because “I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” (49) He proceeds out to Bethany, offers a final blessing and “he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven.” (50) Jesus’ resurrected appearance has transformed the disciples from a frightened band hiding from the authorities to men and women “continually in the temple blessing God.” (52) Jesus doesn’t merely save us, he transforms us.

Luke ends his Part I on this joyous note and he will circle back around to Jesus’ ascension in the first chapter of Part II, the book of Acts. However, whoever determined the order of the Canon is requiring us to read the Gospel of John before we come back to Luke.

 

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