Monday, August 5, 2013

Daily Old Testament and Early Christian Writings: 1 Samuel 11-12, Proverbs 8-9 and Augustine's Confessions 18

1 Samuel 11 – Nahash besieges Jabesh-gilead.  They plead to make a treaty with him, and he agrees—if they will permit him to gash out their right eyes (right!). 

They ask for a week to see if they can come up with a savior amongst the tribes of Israel.  Saul gets the request, and “the spirit of God came upon Saul in power when he heard these words, and his anger was greatly kindled” (11:6).  He cuts a yoke of oxen in pieces and sends the pieces throughout the country, threatening to do the like to anyone’s oxen that will not come to the aid of Jabesh-gilead.  They muster at Bezek—300,000 from Israel and 70,000 from Judah.  They send word to the town.  The town in turn deceives Nahash, saying they will give themselves up the next day. The next day, Saul defeats the enemy. 

The people now want to punish those who went against the idea of making Saul king, but Saul sets himself against that, saying now is just time to celebrate Israel’s victory.  But Samuel suggests they go to Gilgal and renew the appointment of Saul as king, and the people do it.

1 Samuel 12 – Samuel is now an old man.  He has maintained his integrity all his life. So, one last time, he recounts for the people all the saving deeds the Lord has done for the people over the years, but particularly the deeds performed during the age of the judges, ending with appointment of a king to rule over them.

“If you will fear the Lord and serve him and heed his voice and not rebel against the commandment of the Lord, and if both you and the king who reigns over you will follow the Lord you God, it will be well; but if you will not heed the voice of the Lord, but rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then the hand of the Lord will be against you and your king” (11:14-15).

He still insists, though, that the asking for a king is a “wickedness” that the Lord does not favor but that He will countenance.  Samuel comforts them by saying, “Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil, yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart; and do not turn aside after useless things that cannot profit or save, for they are useless.  For the Lord will not cast away his people, for his great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for himself” (11:20-22). Though the king has been set above them at their request, he will be held to the same standard as the people.

Proverbs 8 – Wisdom and Discernment also call. “Accept [her] discipline rather than silver, knowledge in preference to pure gold” (8:10).

Wisdom is the “inventor of lucidity of thought” (8:12). “Fearing” the Lord means hating evil (8:15). By Wisdom “rulers govern, and the great impose justice on the world” (8:16).

Wisdom was with God in the creation of the world. “I was by his side, a master craftsman, delighting him day after day, ever at play in his presence, at play everywhere in his world, delighting to be with the sons of men” (8:30-31).

Happy the man who keeps my ways, “For the man who finds me finds life, . . .but he who does injury to me does hurt to his own soul, all who hate me are in love with death” (8:35-36).

Proverbs 9 – “Wisdom has . . . prepared a great banquet, mixed the wines, and set the table. She has sent her servants to invite everyone to come. . . . ‘Come in with me,’ she urges the simple. To those who lack good judgment, she says, ‘Come, eat my food, and drink the wine I have mixed” (9:2-5). But those who “mock” her will not respond.

This reminds me immediately of the parable Luke tells in his gospel (Luke 14:21) about the man who invites guests to eat with him, but they do not respond, and he responds by rejecting them and inviting only the “rejects,” the people no one dreams of having as their intimates – the poor, the blind, the crippled and the lame.

“The fear of the Lord is the foundation of wisdom. Knowledge of the Holy One results in good judgment” (9:10).

“The woman named Folly is brash. She is ignorant and doesn’t know it. She sits in her doorway on the heights overlooking the city. She calls out to men going by who are minding their own business. ‘Come in with me,’ she urges the simple. To those who lack good judgment, she says, ‘Stolen water is refreshing; food eaten in secret tastes the best.’ But little do they know that the dead are there. Her guests are in the depths of the grave” (9:13-18).

Augustine (354-439)
18 - I beseech You, my God, I would gladly know, if it be Your will, to what end my baptism was then deferred? Was it for my good that the reins were slackened, as it were, upon me for me to sin? Or were they not slackened? If not, whence comes it that it is still dinned into our ears on all sides, "Let him alone, let him act as he likes, for he is not yet baptized"? But as regards bodily health, no one exclaims, "Let him be more seriously wounded, for he is not yet cured!" How much better, then, had it been for me to have been cured at once; and then, by my own and my friends' diligence, my soul's restored health had been kept safe in Your keeping, who gavest it! Better, in truth. But how numerous and great waves of temptation appeared to hang over me after my childhood! These were foreseen by my mother; and she preferred that the unformed clay should be exposed to them rather than the image itself.

Irony of how NOT following the pattern might be good – not pushing it.

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