Sunday, August 11, 2013

Daily Old Testament and Early Christian Writings: 1 Samuel 17, Proverbs 19-20 and Augustine's Confessions 24

1 Samuel 17 – The battles with the Philistines continue, this time at Socoh in Judah.  Saul gathers the Israelites against them.  Now a Philistine “champion named Goliath, of Gath” comes forward; he is over nine feet tall. He is armed in bronze mail. 

Over a period of forty days, this huge foe shouts into the ranks of Israelites “Why have you come out to draw up for battle?  Am I not a Philistine, and are you not servants of Saul?  Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me.  If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants; but if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us” (17:9). He scares people to death.

The three eldest sons of Jesse are there with the army.  David also is among Saul’s men, but he goes back and forth—tending the sheep his father has and being with the army.  Jesse sends David to the front with food for his brothers.  While there he hears Goliath’s challenge and hears talk amongst the Israelites that Saul has said he will give whoever takes up Goliath’s challenge one of his daughters in marriage (17:25). David is upset that the man freely scorns “the armies of the living God” (17:26) as he does. David’s brothers are put off by David in the same way, it seems, that Joseph’s brothers were put off by his dreams and apparent pride.

Saul hears of David’s offer to meet the Philistine in battle and accepts it.  He clothes him in his own armor and gives him his sword, but David cannot walk with all this on (17:38). David removes them and picks up five smooth stones from the wadi to use with his sling.  Goliath is insulted at the sight of David, but David calls out, “You come to me with sword and spear and javelin; but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied” (17:45). David’s first stone hits Goliath in the forehead and he falls. He takes Goliath’s sword and kills him, cutting off his head.  The feat scares the Philistines and they flee.  Saul inquires into who the young man is, whose son he is, and Abner brings him before the king.

Proverbs 19 – Today’s best:
“Where reflection is wanting, zeal is not good; he who goes too quickly misses his way” (Jerusalem Bible 19:2).

“People ruin their lives by their own foolishness and then are angry at the Lord” (19:3).

“Many seek favors from a ruler; everyone is the friend of a person who gives gifts” (19:6).

“Sensible people control their temper; they earn respect by overlooking wrongs” (19:11).

“A quarrelsome wife is as annoying as constant dripping” (19:13).

“If you help the poor, you are lending to the Lord – and he will repay you” (19:17).

Proverbs 20 – Today’s best:
“Though good advice lies deep within the heart, a person with understanding will draw it out” (20:5).

“False weights and unequal measures – the Lord detests double standards of every kind” (20:10).

“The buyer haggles over the price, saying ‘It’s worthless,’ then brags about getting a bargain” (20:14).

“Stolen bread tastes sweet, but it turns to gravel in the mouth” (20:17).

“The glory of the young is their strength; the gray hair of experience is the splendor of the old” (20:29).

Augustine (354-439)
24 - Hear my prayer, O Lord; let not my soul faint under Your discipline, nor let me faint in confessing unto you your mercies, whereby you have saved me from all my most mischievous ways, that you might become sweet to me beyond all the seductions which I used to follow; and that I may love you entirely, and grasp your hand with my whole heart, and that you may deliver me from every temptation, even unto the end. For lo, O Lord, my King and my God, for your service be whatever useful thing I learned as a boy— for your service what I speak, and write, and count. For when I learned vain things, you granted me your discipline; and my sin in taking delight in those vanities, you have forgiven me. I learned, indeed, in them many useful words; but these may be learned in things not vain, and that is the safe way for youths to walk in.

The mistakes we make as children or “youth” (18 to mid-20s) are easier to look back on and see as forgiven. We are so easily mislead by false promises, the false promises of people who might mislead us and the false promise of ideas we think are “cool” but which do not stand the test of time.

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