April 6, 2015

I Samuel 3:1 - 6:18  - The boy Samuel was serving God under Eli’s direction. This was at a time when the revelation of God was rarely heard or seen. ..

One night, Eli was sound asleep... Samuel was still in bed in the Temple of God, where the Chest of God rested.

Then God called out, “Samuel, Samuel!” Samuel answered, “Yes? I’m here.” Then he ran to Eli saying, “I heard you call. Here I am.” Eli said, “I didn’t call you. Go back to bed.” And so he did. God called again, “Samuel, Samuel!”

Samuel got up and went to Eli, “I heard you call. Here I am.”  Again Eli said, “Son, I didn’t call you. Go back to bed.” (This all happened before Samuel knew God for himself. It was before the revelation of God had been given to him personally.)  God called again, “Samuel!”—the third time! Yet again Samuel got up and went to Eli, “Yes? I heard you call me. Here I am.” That’s when it dawned on Eli that God was calling the boy. So Eli directed Samuel, “Go back and lie down. If the voice calls again, say, ‘Speak, God. I’m your servant, ready to listen.’” Samuel returned to his bed.

Then God came and stood before him exactly as before, calling out, “Samuel! Samuel!” Samuel answered, “Speak. I’m your servant, ready to listen.”God said to Samuel, “Listen carefully...  Eli knew what was going on, that his sons were desecrating God’s name and God’s place, and he did nothing to stop them... 

Samuel stayed in bed until morning, then rose early and went about his duties...but he dreaded having to tell the vision to Eli. But then Eli summoned Samuel: “Samuel, my son!”...“What did he say? Tell it to me, all of it. Don’t suppress or soften one word, as God is your judge! I want it all, word for word as he said it to you.”So Samuel told him, word for word. He held back nothing.

Samuel grew up. God was with him, and Samuel’s prophetic record was flawless. Everyone in Israel, from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south, recognized that Samuel was the real thing—a true prophet of God. God continued to show up at Shiloh, revealed through his word to Samuel at Shiloh...

Israel went to war against the Philistines....and Israel was badly beaten...When the troops returned to camp, Israel’s elders said, “Why has God given us such a beating today by the Philistines? Let’s go to Shiloh and get the Chest of God’s Covenant. It will accompany us and save us from the grip of our enemies.”...  

Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, accompanied the Chest of the Covenant of God. When the Chest of the Covenant of God was brought into camp, everyone gave a huge cheer.... The Philistines panicked:... On your feet, Philistines! Courage! We’re about to become slaves to the Hebrews, just as they have been slaves to us. Show what you’re made of! Fight for your lives!”  And did they ever fight! It turned into a rout. They thrashed Israel... As if that wasn’t bad enough, the Chest of God was taken and the two sons of Eli—Hophni and Phinehas—were killed....

Eli was sitting on his stool beside the road keeping vigil, for he was extremely worried about the Chest of God... Eli was ninety-eight years old then, and blind... A messenger informed him, “Israel scattered before the Philistines. The defeat was catastrophic, with enormous losses. Your sons Hophni and Phinehas died, and the Chest of God was taken.”  At the words, “Chest of God,” Eli fell backward off his stool where he sat next to the gate. Eli was an old man, and very fat. When he fell, he broke his neck and died. He had led Israel forty years.

His daughter-in-law, the wife of Phinehas, was pregnant and ready to deliver....  As she was about to die, her midwife said, “Don’t be afraid. You’ve given birth to a son!” But she gave no sign that she had heard.  The Chest of God gone, father-in-law dead, husband dead, she named the boy Ichabod (Glory’s-Gone), saying, “Glory is exiled from Israel since the Chest of God was taken.”

Once the Philistines had seized the Chest of God, they took it from Ebenezer to Ashdod, brought it into the shrine of Dagon, and placed it alongside the idol of Dagon.  Next morning when the citizens of Ashdod got up, they were shocked to find Dagon toppled from his place, flat on his face before the Chest of God. They picked him up and put him back where he belonged. First thing the next morning they found him again, toppled and flat on his face before the Chest of God. Dagon’s head and arms were broken off, strewn across the entrance... 

God was hard on the citizens of Ashdod.... When the leaders of Ashdod saw what was going on, they decided, “The chest of the god of Israel has got to go... The leaders agreed: “Move it to Gath.” So they moved the Chest of the God of Israel to Gath.  But as soon as they moved it there, God came down hard on that city, too...So they sent the Chest of God on to Ekron, but as the Chest was being brought into town, the people shouted in protest,.. They called the Philistine leaders together and demanded, “Get it out of here, this Chest of the God of Israel. Send it back where it came from. 

After the Chest of God had been among the Philistine people for seven months, the Philistine leaders called together their religious professionals, the priests, and experts on the supernatural for consultation:... “If you’re going to send the Chest of the God of Israel back, don’t just dump it on them. Pay compensation. Then you will be healed.”...“And what exactly would make for adequate compensation?” “Five gold tumors and five gold rats,” they said, “to match the number of Philistine leaders... 

So that’s what they did: .... The Philistine leaders followed them to the outskirts of Beth Shemesh.  The people of Beth Shemesh were harvesting wheat in the valley. They looked up and saw the Chest. Jubilant, they ran to meet The cart came into the field of Joshua, a Beth Shemeshite, and stopped there beside a huge boulder. The harvesters tore the cart to pieces, then chopped up the wood and sacrificed the cows as a burnt offering to God. The Levites took charge of the Chest of God and the sack containing the gold offerings, placing them on the boulder. Offering the sacrifices, everyone in Beth Shemesh worshiped God most heartily that day.... The big boulder on which they placed the Chest of God is still there in the field of Joshua of Beth Shemesh, a landmark.

 

Mark 14:1-14:31 - In only 2 days, the 8 day Feast of Passover would begin.  The high priest and religion scholars were looking for a way they could seize Jesus by stealth and kill him.  They agreed it should not be during Passover week....

Jesus was at Bethany, a guest of Simon the Leper.  While he was eating dinner, a woman came up carrying  bottle of very expensive perfume.  Opening the bottle, she poured it on his head.  Some of the guests became furious among themselves...They swelled up in anger, nearly bursting with indignation over her.  But Jesus said, “Let her alone.  Why are you giving her a hard time?  She had just done something wonderfully significant for me.  You will have the poor with you every day for the rest of your lives.  Whenever you feel like it, you can do something for them.  Not so with me.  She did what she could when she could- she pre-anointed my body for burial.  And you can be sure that wherever in the whole world the message is preached, what she just did is going to be talked about admiringly.  Judas Iscariot, one of the 12, went to the cabel of high priests, determined to betray him.  They couldn’t believe their ears and promised to pay him well.  He started looking for just the right moment to hand him over.  

On the first day of the days of Unleavened Bread, Jesus directed two of his disciples, “Go into the city.  A man carrying a jug of water will meet you.  Follow him.  Ask the owner of whichever house he enters, “The teacher wants to know.  Where is my guest room where I can eat the Passover meal with my disciples...The disciples found everything just as he had told them and prepared the Passover meal.  After sunset, he came with the 12.  As they were eating, Jesus said, “I have something hard but important to say to you:  One of you is going to hand me over to the conspirators, one who is at this very moment eating with me.”  Stunned, they started asking, one after another, “It isn’t me, is it?”

Jesus said, “...In one sense, it turns out that the Son of Man is entering into a way of treachery well-marked by the Scriptures---no surprises here.  In another sense, the man who turns him in, turns traitor to the Son of Man--better never to have been born than do this!”  Then Jesus proceeded to partake in the Last Supper.

Jesus told them following the meal, “You’re all going to feel that your world is falling apart and that it’s my fault.  There is a Scripture that says, “I will strike the Shepherd;  the sheep will go helter-skelter.” But after I am raised up, I will go ahead of you, leading the way to Galilee.”  Peter blurted out, “Even if everyone else is ashamed of you when things fall to pieces, I won’t be.”  Jesus said, “Don’t be so sure.  Today, this very night in fact, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.”  Peter blustered in protest, “Even if I have to die with you.  I will never deny you.”  All the others said the same thing.