Psalm 113; 1 Samuel 20:18-21:9; John 4:39-42

Psalm 113: This praise psalm celebrates God’s omnipresence across all time and all space: “May the LORD’s name be blessed / now and forevermore./ From the place the sun rises to where it sets,” (2,3) That God occupies all creation is emphasized in the verticality of heaven being above earth (which is where we get that sense of heaven being “up there.”): “Who is like the LORD our God, / Who sits high above, / Who sees down below in the heavens and on the earth?” In fact the sense here is that God is even above heaven as he peers down through it to earth.

Height, of course, connotes great power. That’s why kings sit on thrones on a dais (and preachers used to preach from pulpits up in the air). By contrast it is the poor and lowly who are the lowest of the low, but God “raises the poor from the dust, from the dungheap lifts the needy,”  And God doesn’t simply raise up the poor and needy but they are to be “seated among princes.” We should reflect on this verse when a homeless person enters a church and sits in the back.

Once again, we have the focus on God’s care for those who are on the lowest rungs of society; indeed, even in the “dungheap” or the garbage dumps, where even today in some countries, children are living. God never forgets those most in need–and the message to us is obvious.

1 Samuel 20:18-21:9: David and Jonathan are uncertain as to whether or not Saul wants to kill David, so they devise an elaborate plan so signal David when Jonathan determines his father’s intentions. David is missed at the meal; Jonathan makes an excuse for David’s absence and Saul curses his own son, heir to his throne, ““You son of a perverse, rebellious woman! Do I not know that you have chosen the son of Jesse to your own shame,” (20:30) and vows to kill David. Jonathan then has the courageous temerity to ask his father, ““Why should he be put to death? What has he done?” (20:32). Saul, more angry than ever, throws his spear at Jonathan, barely missing him.

Jonathan arranges for the signal that indicates David must flee. Risking everything, David and Jonathan meet one last time, knowing they will never see each other again, “and they kissed each other, and wept with each other; David wept the more.” (20:41) Here we encounter one of the deepest, most poignant scenes in the OT. Those final four words tell us that David loved Jonathan as deeply as his friend loved him. And now they Would any of us be willing to risk the curse of our father for the love of a friend?

David is now on the run, alone and hungry. He encounters the priest Ahimelech, who wonders why he is alone. David gives an excuse and asks for bread. The only bread available is the Bread of the Presence, holy and available only to young men who have not been with women. But David says, “the vessels of the young men are holy even when it is a common journey; how much more today will their vessels be holy?” and the priest gives him the bread. Nothing happens. David is not struck dead for the sins of blasphemy or desecration. Here we have a sign that as Jesus puts it hundreds of years later, the Sabbath is for man, not the other way around.

In a happy coincidence, the priest happens to have Golaith’s sword, which he gives to David. I’m left with the feeling that the writers of 1st Samuel may have allowed themselves a bit of editorial license here, but at least David is now armed.

John 4:39-42: John reveals that because of this single encounter with the Samaritan woman and her passionate belief that he is the Messiah, Jesus stays for two days in Samaria and many come to believe, saying to the unnamed woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.” (42). (I’m sure that hanging out in Samaria for two days must have driven the Jewish disciples crazy.)

To John, Samaria represents the non-Jewish world, and he makes this obvious by recording what the Samaritans said, “this is truly the Savior of the world.” So, just four chapters into his gospel, John is not keeping us in any suspense, but is making it clear that Jesus is for everyone. Not just for Israel, but for everyone; not just Israel’s Messiah, but everyone’s Savior. John has transformed the Jewish Messiah into world’s Savior. The rest of the Gospel basically plays out this theme as John lays out the terms of the New Covenant that is for the world, not just for Israel.

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