Psalm 107:10-16; 1 Samuel 7:2-8:22; Luke 24:36-53

Psalm 107:10-16: This section of this psalm describes how Israel in the wilderness had abandoned God and become “dwellers in dark and death’s shadow,/ prisoners of tormenting iron.” (10). The reason behind their plight is starkly clear: “For they rebelled against / God’s sayings, the Most High’s counsel they despised.” (10). One more proof that human nature has not changed a whit in 3000+ years. In American society today we are surrounded by evidence stacked on top of evidence of how we have rebelled, not just against God’s “sayings,” or even “the Most High’s counsel” but against the very idea of God Himself.

In our hubris we have pronounced God not only dead, but the very idea of God irrelevant. We believe we are merely a complex collection of neurons, which evolved sufficiently to imagine God into existence. And now at our high level of self-awareness we think that that we will do very well on our own. What arrogance; what hubris.

The psalmist asserts, “He brought their heart low in troubles. /They stumbled with none to help.” (12) Exactly as we are stumbling, having rejected God’s help. Will we ever cry out “to the LORD from [our] straits, from [our] distress?” (13) What will it take for us to know that only God can rescue us, that only God can do for us, what he did for Israel: “He brought them out from the dark and death’s shadow and their bonds He sundered.” (14)

This is certainly what Jesus Christ did for us. The tragedy is that the world does not even realize how it is already in dark and death’s shadow. But that there is a means of rescue at hand–if it will only look.

1 Samuel 7:2-8:22: Samuel as judge shows great wisdom. He gathers all Israel at Mizpah, which the Philistines take as a terrific opportunity to invade. But Israel has put away its idols and turned back to God, saying, “We have sinned against the Lord” (7:6) and the Philistines “were subdued and did not again enter the territory of Israel; the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel.” (7:13). 

But Samuel grows old and appoints his sons as judges, but “his sons did not follow in his ways, but turned aside after gain; they took bribes and perverted justice.” (8:3). Their corruption as judges cause Israel to beg for a king. Samuel prays, and God replies, ““Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them.” (8:7)

This is a profound moment in Israel’s history. God makes it clear that Israel will be taking a critical, immutable step, seeking to replace God their King with a human king. One thing is clear: God is certainly still King; it is we who have rejected him as such. We’d rather have a human king. It just seems so much more attractive, so much more tangible, so much more secure.

Samuel gives one of history’s greatest speeches about the price to the people in having a human king (and in our day, the cost of a highly centralized government). In what we could call the “He will take” speech, Samuel outlines how the king will take the people’s sons into the army; their daughters into servanthood; their vineyards and fields; and even after that they will still have to pay taxes: “He will take one-tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and his courtiers. He will take your male and female slaves, and the best of your cattle and donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take one-tenth of your flocks (8:15-16) Worst of all, the people will give up their very freedom, “you shall be his slaves.” (8:17).

And it’s an immutable deal. Once the people take a human king they have declared that God is no longer their King, and even if they want God back, “the Lord will not answer you in that day.” (8:18)

The people refuse to listen, saying “that we also may be like other nations, and that our king may govern us and go out before us and fight our battles.” (8:20). As Israel will discover in its subsequent history, there are occasional advantages to having a king, but the cost–particularly under corrupt kings–is enormous, even to the point of eventually losing their entire nation to conquerors. And we are the same. We want someone to go out and fight our battles for us. But at what cost?

Luke 24:36-53: In this crucial story of Jesus appearing to the disciples, Luke establishes the all-important fact of the corporeality of the resurrected Jesus. In fact, he does it twice, first with Jesus’ statement, “Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” (39) But even then, there is skepticism, albeit happy skepticism: “in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering,” So, making it abundantly clear that he is not a ghost, he asks for food. “ They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence.” (42, 43) This seems to convince everyone present.  

Luke then turns to establishing quite specifically how Jesus was God’s fulfillment all Scripture, “that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled” (44) and as his last act on earth conducts a Bible study, elaborating on the events the disciples have just witnessed: “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day,” (46) His final instruction is for the disciples to hang around in Jerusalem, and wait 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). What’s interesting here is that it is Jesus who is sending the Holy Spirit. Jesus then heads out to Bethany and effectively disappears into heaven–a tantalizing preview of greater detail to come in Acts 1.

Luke ends his first book on a note of joy: “they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy;  and they were continually in the temple blessing God. (52,53) Which is exactly what Easter is about.

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