Showing posts with label 1 Samuel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1 Samuel. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

What Does Your Proof Text Prove? (19)

I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.”

Do the souls of aborted babies go to heaven? Do babies and children go to heaven when they die? These are questions of deep concern both to believers and even to the occasional agnostic, who might be willing to risk finding him- or herself before the great white throne one day, but not their children.

And yes, people like this do exist. I know one.

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Sword, Self and Salvation

If you know the story of David’s life in any detail, you will probably remember that he had quite the collection of wives, as did most kings in those days. 1 Samuel 25 records the story of how Abigail came into David’s orbit. She was David’s second wife (or maybe third, depending on how you read some of the later historical comments about his family), and from the limited data given us in scripture, by far the shrewdest of the bunch.

Abigail’s remarkable discretion warrants an entire chapter of holy writ, which should be enough to merit a little consideration from the reader.

Sunday, February 09, 2020

Authority and Example

Those of you who have been reading here for a long time may remember that I have struggled with the idea of Bible history being authoritative. Many things were done by many people during the roughly 4,000-year period during which the history of mankind is explored in scripture, some of them good and some of them bad. We can learn from all of those stories, but that doesn’t mean we ought to imitate the conduct of everyone we find in them. Abraham makes a better role model than Ahab, but even Abraham was far from perfect.

Accurate history simply records what happened. Telling you what you should conclude about it — or, much more importantly, what you should do about it — generally requires some sort of editorial comment or authorial aside. As Hume famously put it, you can’t get ‘ought’ from ‘is’.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Women in the Old Testament

Why were the lives of Old Testament women so wildly different from those of women today?

If you have never studied history in any serious depth, you might be forgiven for thinking that some of things that went on ancient Israelite households were absolutely barbaric, that wives and daughters were horribly oppressed, lacked agency, were regarded as mere chattel, and lived lives of virtual slavery.

Careful attention to the text of the Old Testament shows this was rarely the case.

Sunday, December 01, 2019

The Perils of Family Ties

Most books of the Bible have themes. Commentators generally do a decent job of teasing out the more blatant ones and turning them into book titles or pithy summaries. Thus Psalms is “the hymnbook of the remnant”, Hebrews is concerned with “an unshakeable kingdom” and Mark’s is said to be the “gospel of the Servant King”. To their credit, in many cases these diligent students of God’s word also identify and share with us less obvious recurring patterns that could easily be missed by first, second and even third time readers.

In the books of Samuel, one of these recurring patterns is nepotism. It might not rate the subtitle of a commentary, but it’s there all the same, threading its way through the stories of Samuel, Saul and David, chronicling the perils of family ties that are just a wee bit too tight, and their potentially injurious effects on the people of God.

Once you see it, you can’t stop seeing it.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Inbox: Qualified Omniscience

Qman points out that we have a pachyderm on the premises:

“The word of the Lord came to Samuel: ‘I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following me and has not performed my commandments.’ ”

It is apparent this type of statement does not present a problem to you but it might to the newcomer. It seems to contradict or at least not explain the presumption or notion of God’s omniscience. How can God regret something that he is, by definition, aware of from the beginning?”

Q’s email arrived just as I was sitting down to pick out a topic for today’s post. We may have to change his name to “On-Cue Man”. There’s more to his missive, including thoughts-in-progress about how such a conundrum might be resolved, which you can find here, at the original post.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Grace to the Undeserving

“May the Lord be with you, as he has been with my father.”

Jonathan, son of Israel’s first king, said these words to David, who would become Israel’s second king. If you know the story, it may initially appear he was laying on the irony so thick it required a backhoe, or at least a team of oxen. His father Saul had a history we might optimistically describe as checkered: initially anointed and blessed by God, but characterized by rebellion and self-will. Told that he was to be rejected from being king, he fought God all the way.

He never seemed to realize he was fighting a losing battle. That tells you everything you need to know about Saul.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Order in Disorder

The book of Judges records some of the most distasteful tales in all of scripture, and does so unflinchingly and without a great deal of unnecessary editorializing. There is much we can learn about human nature from the first few hundred years of Israel’s possession of the land God had promised to Abraham, almost all of it predictably bad. Few would dispute that the book ends on the lowest of low notes, with the oft-repeated declaration that “In those days there was no king in Israel” and the rare editorial conclusion, “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”

As we might expect, everyone’s “right” turned out to be spectacularly wrong.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

The Point of the Exercise

It is God who confers authority, but he doesn’t do it for its own sake.

Sure, a position of authority often comes with side helpings: popularity, riches, dignity, power, a (usually temporary) legacy ... and (in Old Testament times at least) a bunch of wives. But these are baubles. They are not the point of the exercise. Other things come with authority too: abuse, rebellion, heckling and a horrible, frequently harrowing level of responsibility — but let’s not get into those.

My point is that it is always and only the WORK that matters to God, not the status or other benefits that authority confers.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Semi-Random Musings (17)

How many significant lessons have you absorbed from the history of neighboring provinces or states back in the 1640s, and how often do you reference them when making important decisions today? My guess would be not too many, and not very often.

At the Red Sea, shortly after the final vanquishing of the Egyptian army, Moses and the people of Israel sang these words to the Lord: “The peoples have heard; they tremble; pangs have seized the inhabitants of Philistia.” Perhaps at the time that was more anticipatory than precisely accurate: Philistia was all the way across the Sinai Peninsula. It seems unlikely the news of Pharaoh’s stunning defeat could have traveled so far so fast.

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

They Did Not Know

“Now the sons of Eli were worthless men. They did not know the Lord.”

“Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.”

The first of these two editorial comments from the writer of 1 Samuel sheds a little light on an otherwise inexplicable feature of Christendom: that a non-trivial number of people who make their living from full-time religious service are vile human beings. They care only for themselves, and in catering to their own desires do great evil to their fellow men and women, even casting doubt on the reality of Christ and the salvation he offers.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Kings and Functionaries

One must be careful what one wishes for, not to mention one’s choice of words.

Israel said to the prophet Samuel, “Appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.” They were looking for a judge and a defender, someone who would grant them justice against their domestic enemies and take up arms against foreign enemies on their behalf. Instead, in Saul, after an initial honeymoon period, they got a king who judged them arbitrarily, oppressively, selfishly and moodily, and who fought on their behalf with only limited success.

Exactly like all the nations.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Desultory Spiritual Noises

I wrote recently about the subject of Christian confession in connection with Peter Ditzel’s comments on 1 John 1. Confession is how believers deal with disruptions in our fellowship with God that come from our tendency to sin.

Repentance is another part of that process.

Ideally the two go together, but they are not identical. As Ditzel demonstrates, like repentance, confession has both an attitudinal and an active aspect. Both involve changes of heart and life. But while genuine repentance gives rise to confession (where confession is appropriate), not every confession demonstrates real repentance, as we will shortly observe.

Thankfully, the Bible doesn’t just tell us what these things are, it also shows us what they aren’t.

Monday, December 26, 2016

It May Be the Armor

“Then David said to Saul, ‘I cannot go with these, for I have not tested them.’ So David put them off.”

There was nothing wrong with Saul’s helmet and coat of mail; they worked just fine for Saul.

There was nothing wrong with Saul’s intentions; at the time he thought well of David. He had no desire to sabotage David’s efforts and every reason to hope he might succeed against Goliath.

And there was definitely nothing wrong with David; Saul’s armor just didn’t suit him.

Sometimes other people’s methods don’t work for us.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Any Story But Their Own

“ ‘Will any more harm come to her by what I did?’

‘Child,’ said the Lion, ‘I am telling you your story, not hers. No one is told any story but their own.’ ”

— C.S. Lewis, The Horse and His Boy

I’ve always liked that last line.

Aravis asks the Lion about the fate of the slave she drugged in order to make her escape. Lewis does not tell us whether her question is prompted by guilt, compassion, fear or curiosity. All are possible.

But the Lion’s answer is simply, “No one is told any story but their own”.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Doubling Down

KFC makes the single best sandwich in the history of the world, in my humble opinion.

If you haven’t heard this, prepare to be appalled: A Double Down is 541 calories of pure brilliance: bacon, two different kinds of melted cheese and the Colonel’s secret sauce in between (here’s the best part) two KFC Original Recipe chicken fillets. No bun. Just an artery-clogging, heart-stopping quantity of tasty deep-fried meat.

Fortunately the sandwich only shows up erratically on the KFC menu, usually for four weeks every year-and-a-half or so. If you need to justify consuming one, I recommend fasting the day before. And the day after. Or maybe for a week.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Enemy Within

In modern English usage, the difference between jealousy and envy is not clear-cut, as this Merriam-Webster article helpfully points out. In fact, the two terms have become so muddled that three major language guides from the mid-20th century disagree about their respective meanings.

For convenience and to avoid making the confusion worse, I’ll use “jealous” to describe the anticipative emotions that arise over losing something you have, and “envious” to describe the desire to possess what belongs to someone else.

But I won’t pretend to have the final word on the subject.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Omission (Im)Possible

It’s Star Trek time again.

Relax, I’m into the third season of the original series; my fascination with this particular retro-pop culture diversion will wane shortly. In the meantime, I found this exchange instructive:

Claudius Marcus: I believe you all swear you’d die before you’d violate that directive. Am I right?

Spock: Quite correct.*

Dr. McCoy: Must you always be so blasted honest?

Ah, honesty. It’s one of the Ten Commandments. Sort of.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

I Got Your Back — For What It’s Worth

“What a great idea!”
“Sure, run with it.”
“I trust your judgment.”

Some people need approval more than others. Some don’t really care one way or another. But nobody — and I mean NOBODY — is truly averse to hearing others enthuse about their ideas, even if the humbler ones among us sometimes find it a little embarrassing.

Three times in 1 Samuel 14 somebody gives positive feedback about the plans of another. In one case the approver is clearly right; in another the approvers are clearly wrong; and in the third instance it doesn’t seem to matter much either way.

It’s a good reminder that over-reliance on the encouragement of others is pretty dubious practice for the follower of God.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

The Point of the Exercise

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Everybody, Take a Holiday

Unless the political process degenerates even further (and we certainly can’t rule that out given the revelations of the last few days), by Tuesday we MAY have some idea who will serve as the next president of the United States.

Many commentators have expressed concern that even if, against all odds, Donald Trump should somehow win the presidency, he will be unable to deliver on the numerous promises he has made on the campaign trail — the “big, beautiful wall” comes to mind — because even if the House and Senate retain Republican majorities (which is by no means guaranteed), neither legislative branch will agree to forward a Trump agenda.

To which I reply, “Uh ... so what?”

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Rare In These Days

Northern hairy-nosed wombats are rare.
What was ubiquitous at one time and in one place may be exceedingly rare in others. This may be a bad thing, or a good thing ... or just a thing.

The writer of 1 Samuel notes that in the days before Samuel was called, “the word of the Lord was rare ... there was no frequent vision”.

Now, the Holy Spirit is not for a moment suggesting that the people of Israel lacked necessary direction from God for their lives, or that it was impossible to please God because nobody had the slightest idea what he wanted.

Not at all.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

From the Ash Heap

I love this line:

“Then the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.”

Hannah, who would become Samuel’s mother, is deeply grieved that she is unable to conceive. She has gone up with her husband to the house of God in Shiloh, and she has prayed for a son, vowing that if her prayer is answered, she will raise him as a Nazirite and give him wholly to the service of God. Then she gets up, relieved of her distress, and goes her way — not yet having received an answer to her prayer.

Seems a bit counterintuitive, doesn’t it?

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Someone Else’s Stuff

Erick Erickson wants to give away your stuff. [Caution: language in linked post]

Technically, I suppose, he wants YOU to give it away. But he would also like you to give away your wife’s stuff, your neighbour’s stuff, your co-worker’s stuff and your children’s and grandchildren’s stuff. So it amounts to the same thing, right?

As a Christian, I have to draw the line at such extravagant generosity.