April 7 2015

 I Samuel 6:19-9:27 - God struck some of the men of Beth Shemesh who, out of curiosity, irreverently peeked into the Chest of God. Seventy died... 

The men of Kiriath Jearim came and got the Chest of God and delivered it to the house of Abinadab on the hill. They ordained his son, Eleazar, to take responsibility for the Chest of God.  From the time that the Chest came to rest in Kiriath Jearim, a long time passed—twenty years it was—and throughout Israel there was a widespread, fearful movement toward God.

Then Samuel addressed the house of Israel: “If you are truly serious about coming back to God, clean house. Get rid of the foreign gods and fertility goddesses, ground yourselves firmly in God, worship him and him alone, and he’ll save you from Philistine oppression.”...Next Samuel said, “Get everybody together at Mizpah and I’ll pray for you.”...So Samuel prepared the Israelites for holy war there at Mizpah.

When the Philistines heard that Israel was meeting at Mizpah, the Philistine leaders went on the offensive. Israel got the report and became frightened...Samuel took a young lamb not yet weaned and offered it whole as a Whole-Burnt-Offering to God. He prayed fervently to God, interceding for Israel. And God answered.... Just then God thundered, a huge thunderclap exploding among the Philistines. They panicked—mass confusion!—and ran helter-skelter from Israel...

The Philistines learned their lesson and stayed home—no more border crossings. God was hard on the Philistines all through Samuel’s lifetime... 

Samuel gave solid leadership to Israel his entire life. Every year he went on a circuit from Bethel to Gilgal to Mizpah. He gave leadership to Israel in each of these places. But always he would return to Ramah, where he lived, and preside from there. That is where he built an altar to God.

When Samuel got to be an old man, he set his sons up as judges in Israel. His firstborn son was named Joel, the name of his second, Abijah...But his sons didn’t take after him; they were out for what they could get for themselves, taking bribes, corrupting justice.  Fed up, all the elders of Israel got together and confronted Samuel at Ramah...Here’s what we want you to do: Appoint a king to rule us, just like everybody else.”  When Samuel heard their demand—“Give us a king to rule us!”—he was crushed. How awful! Samuel prayed to God.

God answered Samuel, “Go ahead and do what they’re asking. They are not rejecting you. They’ve rejected me as their King. From the day I brought them out of Egypt until this very day they’ve been behaving like this, leaving me for other gods. And now they’re doing it to you. So let them have their own way. But warn them of what they’re in for. Tell them the way kings operate, just what they’re likely to get from a king.”

So Samuel told them, delivered God’s warning to the people who were asking him to give them a king....He said,... The day will come when you will cry in desperation because of this king you so much want for yourselves. But don’t expect God to answer.”  But the people wouldn’t listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We will have a king to rule us! Then we’ll be just like all the other nations. Our king will rule us and lead us and fight our battles.”  Samuel took in what they said and rehearsed it with God. God told Samuel, “Do what they say. Make them a king.”...

There was a man from the tribe of Benjamin named Kish...a Benjaminite of stalwart character. He had a son, Saul, a most handsome young man. There was none finer—he literally stood head and shoulders above the crowd!... Some of Kish’s donkeys got lost. Kish said to his son, “Saul, take one of the servants with you and go look for them... When they got to Zuph, Saul said to the young man with him, “Enough of this. Let’s go back. Soon my father is going to forget about the donkeys and start worrying about us.”  He replied, “Not so fast. There’s a holy man in this town. He carries a lot of weight around here. What he says is always right on the mark. Maybe he can tell us where to go.”... They continued their climb and entered the city. And then there he was—Samuel!—coming straight toward them on his way to the shrine!

The very day before, God had confided in Samuel, “This time tomorrow, I’m sending a man from the land of Benjamin to meet you. You’re to anoint him as prince over my people Israel... The moment Samuel laid eyes on Saul, God said, “He’s the one, the man I told you about. This is the one who will keep my people in check.”

Saul came up to Samuel in the street and said, “Pardon me, but can you tell me where the Seer lives?”  “I’m the Seer,” said Samuel. “Accompany me to the shrine and eat with me. In the morning I’ll tell you all about what’s on your mind, and send you on your way. And by the way, your lost donkeys—the ones you’ve been hunting for the last three days—have been found, so don’t worry about them. At this moment, Israel’s future is in your hands.”

Saul answered, “But I’m only a Benjaminite, from the smallest of Israel’s tribes, and from the most insignificant clan in the tribe at that. Why are you talking to me like this?”  Samuel took Saul and his servant and led them into the dining hall at the shrine and seated them at the head of the table. There were about thirty guests... Saul ate with Samuel—a memorable day!

Afterward they went down from the shrine into the city.  A bed was prepared for Saul on the breeze-cooled roof of Samuel’s house. They woke at the break of day. Samuel called to Saul on the roof, “Get up and I’ll send you off.” Saul got up and the two of them went out in the street.  As they approached the outskirts of town, Samuel said to Saul, “Tell your servant to go on ahead of us. You stay with me for a bit. I have a word of God to give you.”

Mark 14:32-14:72 - They came to an area called Gethsemane, Jesus told his disciples, Sit here while I pray.”  He took Peter, James and John with him.  He plunged into a sinkhole of dreadful agony.  He told them,” I feel bad enough right now to die.  Stay here and keep vigil with me.”  Going a little ahead, he fell to the ground and prayed for a way out:  “Papa, Father, you can--can’t you? --get me out of this.  Take this cup away from me.  But please, not what I want, what do you want?”  Jesus came back and found them sound asleep.  He said to Peter, “Simon, you went to sleep on me?  Can’t you stick it out with me a single hour?  Stay alert, be in prayer, so you don’t enter the danger zone without even knowing it.  Don’t be naive.  Part of you is eager, ready for anything in God;  but another part is as lazy as an old dog sleeping by the fire.”  He then went back and prayed the same prayer.  Returning, he again found them sound asleep.  They simply couldn’t keep their eyes open, and they didn’t have a plausible excuse.  He came back a third time and said, “Are you going to sleep all night?  No--you’ve slept long enough.  Time’s up.  The Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of sinners.  Get up.  Let’s get going.   My betrayer has arrived.

No sooner were the words out of Jesus’ mouth when Judas, the one out of the 12, showed up and with him a gang of ruffians, sent by the high priests, religious scholars, and leaders, brandishing swords and clubs...All the disciples cut and ran....

They led Jesus to the Chief Priest....Peter followed at a safe distance until he got to the Chief Priest’s courtyard, where he mingled with the servants and warmed himself by the fire.  

The high priests conspiring with the Jewish Council looked high and low for evidence against Jesus by which they could sentence him to death.  They found nothing.  Plenty of people were willing to bring in false charges, but nothing added up, and they ended up canceling each other out.  Then a few of them stood up and lied...but even they couldn’t agree exactly.  In the middle of this, the Chief Priest stood up and asked Jesus, “What do you have to say to the accusation?”  Jesus was silent.  He said nothing.  The Chief Priest tried again, this time asking, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed?”  Jesus said, “Yes, I am and you’ll see it yourself.”...The Chief Priest lost his temper.  Ripping his clothes, he yelled, “Did you hear that?  After that do we need witnesses?  You heard the blasphemy.  Are you going to stand for it?”  They condemned him, one and all.  The sentence, death.

While all this was going on, Peter was down in the courtyard.  One of the Chief Priest’s servant girl’s came in and seeing Peter warming himself there, looked hard at him and said, “ You were with the Nazarene, Jesus.”  He denied it....He went out on the porch.  A rooster crowed.  The girl spotted him and began telling the people standing around.  “He’s one of them.”  He denied it again.  After a little while, the bystanders brought it up again.  “You’ve got to be one of them.  You’ve got ‘Galilean written all over you.”  Now Peter got really nervous and swore, “I’ve never laid eyes on this man you’re talking about.”  Just then the rooster crowed a second time.  Peter remembered how Jesus had said, “Before a rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.”  He collapsed in tears.