April 10, 2015

 I Samuel 13-15 - Saul was a young man when he began as king. He was king over Israel for many years....

Saul conscripted enough men for three companies of soldiers....Jonathan attacked and killed the Philistine governor stationed at Geba (Gibeah). When the Philistines heard the news, they raised the alarm: “The Hebrews are in revolt!” Saul ordered the reveille trumpets blown throughout the land. The word went out all over Israel, “Saul has killed the Philistine governor—drawn first blood! The Philistines are stirred up and mad as hornets!” Summoned, the army came to Saul at Gilgal.  The Philistines rallied their forces to fight Israel: three companies of chariots, six companies of cavalry, and so many infantry they looked like sand on the seashore... 

When the Israelites saw that they were way outnumbered and in deep trouble, they ran for cover, hiding in caves and pits, ravines and brambles and cisterns—wherever. They retreated across the Jordan River, refugees fleeing to the country of Gad and Gilead. But Saul held his ground in Gilgal, his soldiers still with him but scared to death.  He waited seven days, the time set by Samuel. Samuel failed to show up at Gilgal, and the soldiers were slipping away, right and left.

So Saul took charge: “Bring me the burnt offering and the peace offerings!” He went ahead and sacrificed the burnt offering. No sooner had he done it than Samuel showed up! Saul greeted him.  Samuel said, “What on earth are you doing?”  Saul answered, “When I saw I was losing my army from under me, and that you hadn’t come when you said you would, and that the Philistines were poised at Micmash, I said, ‘The Philistines are about to come down on me in Gilgal, and I haven’t yet come before God asking for his help.’ So I took things into my own hands, and sacrificed the burnt offering.”

“That was a fool thing to do,” Samuel said to Saul. “If you had kept the appointment that your God commanded, by now God would have set a firm and lasting foundation under your kingly rule over Israel. As it is, your kingly rule is already falling to pieces. God is out looking for your replacement right now. This time he’ll do the choosing. When he finds him, he’ll appoint him leader of his people. And all because you didn’t keep your appointment with God!”

At that, Samuel got up and left Gilgal. What army there was left followed Saul into battle... Saul, his son Jonathan, and the soldiers who had remained made camp at Geba (Gibeah) of Benjamin... Later that day, Jonathan, Saul’s son, said to his armor bearer, “Come on, let’s go over to the Philistine garrison patrol on the other side of the pass.” But he didn’t tell his father. Meanwhile, Saul was taking it easy under the pomegranate tree at the threshing floor on the edge of town at Geba (Gibeah).... 

Jonathan said to his armor bearer, “Come on now, let’s go across to these uncircumcised pagans. Maybe God will work for us. There’s no rule that says God can only deliver by using a big army. No one can stop God from saving when he sets his mind to it.”... Jonathan said, “Here’s what we’ll do. We’ll cross over the pass and let the men see we’re there. If they say, ‘Halt! Don’t move until we check you out,’ we’ll stay put and not go up. But if they say, ‘Come on up,’ we’ll go right up—and we’ll know God has given them to us. That will be our sign.”...  In this first bloody encounter, Jonathan and his armor bearer killed about twenty men. That set off a terrific upheaval in both camp and field, the soldiers in the garrison and the raiding squad badly shaken up, the ground itself shuddering—panic like you’ve never seen before!....

Saul immediately called his army together and they went straight to the battle. When they got there they found total confusion—Philistines swinging their swords wildly, killing each other. Hebrews who had earlier defected to the Philistine camp came back. They now wanted to be with Israel under Saul and Jonathan. Not only that, but when all the Israelites who had been hiding out in the backwoods of Ephraim heard that the Philistines were running for their lives, they came out and joined the chase. God saved Israel! What a day!...

Saul did something really foolish that day. He addressed the army: “A curse on the man who eats anything before evening, before I’ve wreaked vengeance on my enemies!” None of them ate a thing all day....But Jonathan hadn’t heard his father put the army under oath. He stuck the tip of his staff into some honey and ate it. Refreshed, his eyes lit up with renewed vigor.  A soldier spoke up, “Your father has put the army under solemn oath, saying, ‘A curse on the man who eats anything before evening!’ No wonder the soldiers are drooping!”  Jonathan said, “My father has imperiled the country. Just look how quickly my energy has returned since I ate a little of this honey! It would have been a lot better, believe me, if the soldiers had eaten their fill of whatever they took from the enemy. Who knows how much worse we could have whipped them!”...
Saul said, “Let’s go after the Philistines tonight! We can spend the night looting and plundering. We won’t leave a single live Philistine!” “Sounds good to us,” said the troops. “Let’s do it!” But the priest slowed them down: “Let’s find out what God thinks about this.”  So Saul prayed to God, “Shall I go after the Philistines? Will you put them in Israel’s hand?” God didn’t answer him on that occasion.  Saul then said, “All army officers, step forward. Some sin has been committed this day. We’re going to find out what it is and who did it! As God lives, Israel’s Savior God, whoever sinned will die, even if it should turn out to be Jonathan, my son!”

Then Saul prayed to God, “O God of Israel, why haven’t you answered me today? Show me the truth. If the sin is in me or Jonathan, then, O God, give the sign Urim. But if the sin is in the army of Israel, give the sign Thummim.” The Urim sign turned up and pointed to Saul and Jonathan. That cleared the army.

Next Saul said, “Cast the lots between me and Jonathan—and death to the one God points to!”  The soldiers protested, “No—this is not right. Stop this!” But Saul pushed on anyway. They cast the lots, Urim and Thummim, and the lot fell to Jonathan....Jonathan said, “I licked a bit of honey off the tip of the staff I was carrying. That’s it—and for that I’m to die?”
Saul said, “Yes. Jonathan most certainly will die. It’s out of my hands—I can’t go against God, can I?” The soldiers rose up: “Jonathan—die? Never! He’s just carried out this stunning salvation victory for Israel. As surely as God lives, not a hair on his head is going to be harmed. Why, he’s been working hand-in-hand with God all day!” The soldiers rescued Jonathan and he didn’t die.

Saul’s sons were Jonathan, Ishvi, and Malki-Shua. His daughters were Merab, the firstborn, and Michal, the younger. Saul’s wife was Ahinoam... All through Saul’s life there was war, bitter and relentless, with the Philistines. Saul conscripted every strong and brave man he laid eyes on.

Samuel said to Saul, “God sent me to anoint you king over his people, Israel. Now, listen again to what God says. This is the God-of-the-Angel-Armies speaking: “‘I’m about to get even with Amalek for ambushing Israel when Israel came up out of Egypt. Here’s what you are to do: Go to war against Amalek. Put everything connected with Amalek under a holy ban. And no exceptions! This is to be total destruction—men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys—the works.’”...

Then Saul went after Amalek, from the canyon all the way to Shur near the Egyptian border. He captured Agag, king of Amalek, alive. Everyone else was killed under the terms of the holy ban. Saul and the army made an exception for Agag, and for the choice sheep and cattle. They didn’t include them under the terms of the holy ban. But all the rest, which nobody wanted anyway, they destroyed as decreed by the holy ban.

Then God spoke to Samuel: “I’m sorry I ever made Saul king. He’s turned his back on me. He refuses to do what I tell him.”  Samuel was angry when he heard this. He prayed his anger and disappointment all through the night. He got up early in the morning to confront Saul but was told, “Saul’s gone....By the time Samuel caught up with him, Saul had just finished an act of worship, having used Amalekite plunder for the burnt offerings sacrificed to God.

As Samuel came close, Saul called out, “God’s blessings on you! I accomplished God’s plan to the letter!” Samuel said, “So what’s this I’m hearing—this bleating of sheep, this mooing of cattle?” “Only some Amalekite loot,” said Saul...  “Enough!” interrupted Samuel. “Let me tell you what God told me last night.” Saul said, “Go ahead. Tell me.”

And Samuel told him. “When you started out in this, you were nothing—and you knew it. Then God put you at the head of Israel—made you king over Israel. Then God sent you off to do a job for him, ordering you, ‘Go and put those sinners, the Amalekites, under a holy ban. Go to war against them until you have totally wiped them out.’ So why did you not obey God? Why did you grab all this loot? Why, with God’s eyes on you all the time, did you brazenly carry out this evil?”  Saul defended himself.... 

Then Samuel said, “Do you think all God wants are sacrifices— empty rituals just for show? He wants you to listen to him! Plain listening is the thing, not staging a lavish religious production.  Not doing what God tells you is far worse than fooling around in the occult.  Getting self-important around God is far worse than making deals with your dead ancestors. Because you said No to God’s command, he says No to your kingship.

Saul gave in and confessed, “I’ve sinned. I’ve trampled roughshod over God’s Word and your instructions. I cared more about pleasing the people. I let them tell me what to do. Oh, absolve me of my sin! Take my hand and lead me to the altar so I can worship God!”  But Samuel refused: “No, I can’t come alongside you in this. You rejected God’s command. Now God has rejected you as king over Israel.”

As Samuel turned to leave, Saul grabbed at his priestly robe and a piece tore off. Samuel said, “God has just now torn the kingdom from you, and handed it over to your neighbor, a better man than you are. Israel’s God-of-Glory doesn’t deceive and he doesn’t dither. He says what he means and means what he says.”  Saul tried again, “I have sinned. But don’t abandon me! Support me with your presence before the leaders and the people. Come alongside me as I go back to worship God.”...

Samuel had nothing to do with Saul from then on, though he grieved long and deeply over him. But God was sorry he had ever made Saul king in the first place.

Mark 16 - When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James and Salome bought  spices so they could embalm him...They worried out loud to each other, “Who will roll back the stone from the tomb for us?”  Then they looked up, saw that the stone had been rolled back...and walked right in.  They saw a young man sitting on the right side dressed all in white.  They were completely taken aback, astonished.  He said, “Don’t be afraid...Jesus has been raised up, he’s here no longer.  You can see for yourselves that the place is empty.  Now-- on your way.  Tell his disciples and Peter that he is going on ahead of you to Galilee.  You’ll see him there, exactly as he said.  The women got out as fast as they could, beside themselves, their heads swimming.  Stunned, they said nothing to anyone.

[After rising from the dead, Jesus appeared early on Sunday morning to Mary Magdalene, whom he had delivered from 7 demons.  She went to his former companions, now weeping and carrying on, and told them.  When they heard her report that she had seen him alive and well, they didn’t believe her.  Later, Jesus appeared, but in a different form, to two of them walking in the countryside.  They went back and told the rest, but they weren’t believed either.  
Still later, the 11 were eating supper, Jesus appeared and took them to task most severely for their stubborn unbelief, refusing to believe those who had seen him raised up.  Then he said, “Go into the world.  Go everywhere and announce the Message of God’s good news to one and all.  Whoever believes and is baptized is saved, whoever refuses to believe is damned.  These are the signs that will accompany believers.  They will throw out demons in my name, they will speak in new tongues, they will take snakes in their hands, they will drink poison and not be hurt, they will lay hands on the sick and make them well.”

Then the Master Jesus after briefing them, was taken up to heaven, and he sat down beside God in a place of honor.  And the disciples went everywhere preaching, the Master working right with them, validating the message with indisputable evidence. ]  

Mark 16:9-20 is contained only in later manuscripts.