Bible Reading Thoughts on the 2nd Sunday of Lent 2013

The book of First Samuel has three main characters, Samuel, King Saul, and David. Samuel becomes the last prophet to judge Israel, Saul becomes the first king of Israel, and David's path to his throne is cleared. Samuel's replacment of Eli the priest because of God's rejection of Eli's family parallels David's replacement of Saul and God's rejection of him.

In the previous book of Judges, the blame for the nation's frequent oppressions, and it's subsequent need for deliverers raised up by God, was laid at the lack of a king which left everyone to do what was right in their own eyes. Those ways usually turned to the sinful activities of the inhabitants of the land they invaded. The people ask Samuel to anoint them a king, just like all the other nations had, 1 Sam. 8. Partly, this request stems from the history Israel had with the sons of it's deliverers. They weren't like their dads. Eli's sons were stereotypical religious leaders who exploited their position as intermediaries to heaven who demanded physical rewards. While they were pointing other's eyes to the sky with one hand, they were removing wallets with the other (or collecting phone numbers of the young ladies). When Samuel replaced Eli, after the sudden deaths of father and sons due to God's judgment, he had boys as well, who weren't exemplary either. Samuel's argument with the people regarding a king ran along the lines of, "If you think this is bad, it will be much worse when you replace God as your king. A human king will conscript your sons and tax you for his pleasures. You will be enslaved all over again." They weren't dissuaded. God pointed out Saul, from the tribe of Benjamin to Samuel. Benjamin's tribe was nearly wiped out because of a civil war. It was gracious on God's part to exalt someone from the smallest tribe. The spirit of God came on Saul, like it did on the prophets, end enabled Saul to become a courageous warrior.

Saul is presented as a humble, but handsome guy, who was looking for his dad's donkeys, and came home with the anointing instead. He wasn't a very strong people leader though and he tried to compensate for that with some rash, tough-guy pronouncements. Although he was king for 42 years, one rash decision early on guaranteed he would not have a dynasty, 1 Sam. 13. He offered a pre-battle sacrifice before Samuel showed up, because his soldiers were itching to get to it, and Samuel's cell phone was dead. ;-) I don't get it. God let Aaron's sons continue in their job even though their father had made an idol for the nation to worship. I get that we can't presume on God's grace, but, in my reading, he's presented as fickle. Sometimes God is graceful and sometimes he's harsh. One guy gets away with murder, literally, another guy can't catch a break. After a big battle in ch. 15, Saul let's his army plunder the city and gets in trouble for that too. It was supposed to be a scorched earth battle.

Just as God raised up Samuel, from humble means, to serve under Eli, he raises up David to serve in Saul's house. Saul did not know that David was secretly anointed by Samuel to be the next king, but David is known as a good musician, who can quell Saul in his fits of rage. Then David kills Samson the giant with a stone and a sling. His praises make Saul insecure and prone to attempts to kill David. David is friends with Saul's son Jonathan, and married to Saul's daughter, so he gets the heads up to flee. When he does flee to the wilderness, he ends up like Robin Hood, surrounded with a band of riff raff. The future king and his riff-raff end up leading the nation into greatness.

David's band of riff-raff echoes the riff-raff that joined Israel in the exodus out of Egypt, and foreshadows the riff-raff that surround Jesus Christ, when he comes to establish his kingdom. Jesus surrounded himself with terrorists and government agents, lepers and prostitutes. Like David, Jesus colors outside the lines of Jew and Gentile relations. Both upstarts threaten the establishment. Both of their lives were at risk. David was recognized as king by only his own tribe for 7 years until the other tribes came around. Even other nations recognized his kingship. Unlike Jesus, David eventually cashes in on his power and accumulates wives and concubines, even killing a faithful soldier to get his wife. All that comes in 2nd Samuel, which I'll get to tomorrow.
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