Monday, May 28, 2018

READ IT! - Introduction to Psalms 92-98

Readings for this week

Monday: Psalm 92
Tuesday: Psalm 93
Wednesday: Psalm 94
Thursday: Psalm 95
Friday: Psalm 96
Saturday: Psalm 97
Sunday: Psalm 98

Introduction to Psalms 92-98

Psalm 92 

The introduction to this psalm indicates that it was to be sung on Sabbath days.

The writer says, “It is good to give thanks to the LORD. How great are your works! Your enemies shall perish. The righteous flourish in your courts.” 

Psalm 93 

Psalm 93 is the first of the “Royal Psalms” (Psalms 93-99), praising God as the King of His people. 

The writer says, “The LORD reigns! Your throne is established from of old. The LORD is mightier than the sea. Holiness adorns your house forever.” 

Psalm 94 

The psalmist writes, “O LORD, God of vengeance, shine forth! How long will the wicked exult? The LORD will not reject his people. He will repay the corrupt.”

Psalm 95 

Psalm 95 is one of the “Royal Psalms” (Psalm 93-99) praising God as the King of His people. Psalm 95 identifies no author, but Hebrews 4:7 attributes it to David. 

The writer says, “Oh come, let us sing to the LORD! He is the King above all gods. Oh come, let us worship and bow down! Do not harden your hearts.” 

The ancient Near Eastern world had different gods for different peoples, different geographical areas, different cosmic regions (heaven, Earth, the netherworld) and different aspects of life (e.g., war, fertility, crafts). But Israel was to praise the Lord because he is above all other gods; there is no corner of the universe that is beyond the scope of his control. 

Psalm 96 

The psalmist writes, “Sing to the LORD! Declare his glory among the nations. Worship the LORD in holy splendor. He will judge the world in righteousness.”

The Old Testament writers viewed the world order as one, embracing both its physical and moral aspects because both were established by God as components of his one kingdom, and both are upheld by his one rule. Therefore God’s rule over creation and over the affairs of humankind is often spoken of in one breath. 

Psalm 97

The psalmist says, “The LORD reigns, let the earth rejoice! Fire goes before him. The heavens declare his righteousness. Give thanks to his holy name!” 

Psalm 98 

The psalmist says, “Sing to the LORD! He has remembered his steadfast love. Make a joyful noise before the King. He will judge the world in righteousness.”

Psalm 98 instructs worshipers to offer joyful praise music to the Lord, using not only their voices but also various instruments. The Hebrew word translated “ram’s horn” here is shofar. This instrument belongs to a class known as aerophones, which produce a sound when air is passed through them. 

The shofar was blown in several contexts: 

The blast of the horn summoned warriors to battle and signaled the beginning of an attack. When the Israelites marched around Jericho for the seventh time, they were instructed to blow ram’s horns. 
Te shofar summoned worshipers to Jerusalem. 
It was blown by watchmen to announce important news, whether celebratory or disastrous. 
It was used during coronation ceremonies, such as Solomon’s and Jehu’s. 

Te shofar was sounded on holy occasions such as: 

The Day of Atonement during the Year of Jubilee. 
David’s return of the ark to Jerusalem. 
The covenant renewal ceremony during Asa’s religious reforms. 
Regular temple worship.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

READ IT! - Introduction to Psalms 90-91

Introduction to Psalms 90-91

Book IV 

Psalm 90 

This psalm is introduced as “A prayer of Moses the man of God.” 

Unique among the Psalms, it is attributed to Moses, thus making it the first Psalm to be written chronologically. The Psalm is well known for its reference to human life expectancy being 70 or 80 years, although the Psalm's attributed author, Moses, lived to 120 years, according to Biblical tradition. 

The writer says, “Lord, you have been our dwelling place. All our days pass away under your wrath. Return, O LORD! Have compassion on your servants!”

Psalm 90 illustrates the pattern of a lament. It is congregational in nature in that it speaks to the situation of all people, not to that of any one individual. This psalm opens with an assertion that God is Israel’s refuge as the basis for an appeal of mercy. It laments the mortality and sinfulness of humans. It includes a short appeal for wisdom, recalling the wisdom psalms. It closes with an appeal for God’s compassion. 

Psalm 91 

Psalm 91 is known as the Psalm of Protection, commonly invoked in times of hardship. Though the author of this psalm is unknown, and no author is mentioned in the Hebrew text of this Psalm, the Greek Septuagint translation of the Old Testament attributes the Psalm to David. 

The writer says, “I will say of the LORD, ‘My refuge and my fortress.’ His faithfulness will be your shield. He will command his angels to guard you.” 

The devil quotes verses 11 and 12 of this psalm during the temptation of Christ in Matthew 4:6 and Luke 4:10-11.

Monday, May 21, 2018

READ IT! - Introduction to 1st Samuel 27-31

Readings for this week

Monday: 1st Samuel 27
Tuesday: 1st Samuel 28
Wednesday: 1st Samuel 29
Thursday: 1st Samuel 30
Friday: 1st Samuel 31
Saturday: Psalm 90
Sunday: Psalm 91

Introduction to 1st Samuel 27-31

Chapter 27

David and his men go to Ziklag, and David goes to Achish of the Philistines, hoping Saul will leave him alone. David takes two wives with him, Abigail and Ahinoam (which is, strangely, the name of Saul’s wife).

David and his men become sort of a personal army for Achish, however, they makes several raids in the south within Philistine-allied territory. But David tricks Achish, saying he was actually raiding Judah while he was out and about.

Later, the Philistines move their army north against Saul, but they don’t let David come with them.

Chapter 28-29

Saul and his army gathered at Gilboa to face the Philistine invasion force. The text says that Saul was “filled with terror” and that he “inquired of Urim and Thummin and prophet” but got no answer from God. Saul then asked his men where he could find a “medium.”

Saul and two of his men disguised themselves, and at night they went to Endor to consult the medium. The medium suspected they were on a witch-hunt. Saul swore by the LORD that he would not harm her. Saul told her to call up the prophet Samuel, and the text says that a “a ghostly figure came up out of the earth.” When the woman saw Samuel, she shrieked and pointed at Saul and recognized him as king. Saul told her to not be afraid. Samuel is described as an old man with a robe, and he says, “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?” Saul told him about the Philistines and how God wouldn't speak to him anymore, so he didn't know what to do.

The text then presents Samuel’s message... a prophet from boyhood… and even from the grave, and the message he gives refers to “the LORD” seven times. He says:

“Why do you consult me?”
“You have become the LORD’s enemy”
“The LORD has rejected you”
“Your kingdom will be given to David”
“Tomorrow you and your sons will join me in Sheol”

After Samuel’s spirit left, Saul and his men shared a covenant meal with the witch before leaving, further solidifying his alignment with evil.

Chapter 30

Meanwhile, down south, the Amalekites raid David’s family, and David takes revenge on them. And David gains favor with the clans/families of Judah by giving them the loot leftover from his revenge on the Amalekites. Later, these same people declare David king.

Chapter 31

The book concludes with the death of Saul. The battle with the Philistines takes place at Mt. Gilboa. Saul’s sons are killed, including Jonathan. Later, we learn that Ish-bosheth was the only son who survived. Saul is eventually surrounded and he commits suicide. He tells his servant-boy to stab him, but the boy is afraid, so Saul falls on his own sword. The Philistines humiliate Saul. They behead him and hang his body on a wall. Later, Saul's cousins from Jabesh-Gilead recover Saul’s body.

Monday, May 14, 2018

READ IT! - Introduction to 1st Samuel 20-26

Readings for this week

Monday: 1st Samuel 20
Tuesday: 1st Samuel 21
Wednesday: 1st Samuel 22
Thursday: 1st Samuel 23
Friday: 1st Samuel 24
Saturday: 1st Samuel 25
Sunday: 1st Samuel 26

Introduction to 1st Samuel 20-26

Chapter 20

Jonathan saves David’s life during a festival. They use coded messages with bows and arrows, and David flees. Saul wonders why David didn't show up to the festival, and when he finds out that Jonathan let him go, he throws his spear at Jonathan, calling him a “son of a b****”, or as more polite but less literal translations put it, "the son of a perverse and rebellious woman."

Chapter 21

After David and Jonathan’s final separation, we then read about David on the run in the wilderness from Saul. He takes refuge at Nob. Nob is near Gibeah, which is Saul’s home-base… so he’s hiding right under his nose. David receives the support of Ahimelech the priest who gifts David with the sword of Goliath. A man named Doeg tells Saul where David is, and Saul gets revenge on Ahimelech. Doeg himself kills the priests of Nob after Saul’s servants refuse to obey Saul’s wicked command. Previously, Saul failed to kill every enemy, but he has no trouble killing all but one of God’s priests at Nob. The priest Abiathar escapes death and joins David.

David then seeks refuge among the Philistines (enemies) at Gath. He pretends to be insane to avoid being considered a threat. Later, he escapes to the cave of Adullam. Also, David’s family visits him, and thugs and outcasts join his cause - a group of 400 men.

Chapter 22

Later, David takes refuge in Moab and makes allies with the Moabites (remember, his great grandmother Ruth was from Moab). The prophet Gad shows up and tells David to go back to Judah. David goes back and hides in the forest of Hereth.

Chapter 23

After this, we read a story about David saving Keilah from the Philistines. David is successful in battle against the Philistines, and we read that Yawheh also protects David from Saul. God tells David that Keilah will betray him to Saul, so David flees to the wilderness of Ziph.

Saul can’t find David, but Jonathan does. Jonathan and David renew their covenant together. Jonathan says, “You will be king and my father knows this.”

David later eludes Saul in the wilderness of Maon, but we read that Saul is breathing down David’s neck. David is cornered, but suddenly a messenger arrives with news for Saul about a new Philistine invasion and Saul leaves immediately and David is saved.

Chapter 24

David and his men then hide out at En-Gedi. En Gedi has many high cliffs and is full of caves in which David and his men hide. We then read about how David spares Saul’s life. David hides in a cave when Saul and his men come to the area. Saul goes into the cave in which David happens to be hiding and takes a dump. David's men want him to kill Saul while his pants are down, but David refuses. After Saul is done pooping, David appears and pleads his cause to Saul. He tells Saul that he could have killed him just now but he refused because of his great respect for him. Saul then declares, “You are more righteous than I am.” And he confesses, “I know you will be king.” David swears that he will not kill Saul’s family when he becomes king, and they go their separate ways.

Chapter 25

We then read about how David later goes to the area of Maon and of his encounter with Nabal. This chapter opens by mentioning the death of Samuel.

David makes his request – he offers Nabal “protection.” But Nabal’s response is, “Who is David? ...He’s just some guy breaking off from his master!” “Nabal” means “fool.” David and his men strap on their swords and go off to kill every person with Nabal who “pisses against the wall,” (the males) saying, “How dare ‘he piss’ on ‘our wall’ of protection.”

However, Nabal’s wife Abigail intercepts David and his men and offers them gifts of food, apologizes for Nabal's foolishness, and pleads with David to not play God by seeking revenge. David relents, and the text says, “God has prevented David from taking vengeance.” And, “God will establish David’s dynasty.” It then states that “The LORD strikes Nabal dead.” And we learn that Nabal was having a drunken party this whole time, and that in the morning, Abigail tells him what David almost did. Nabal drops dead while he is “pissing out the wine” from the night before.

Abigail then takes over Nabal’s wealth and marries David.

Chapter 26

David later travels to Jeshimon and we learn that when given the opportunity David refuses to kill Saul…again. David and Joab sneak into Saul’s camp and steal some of his personal belongings, but David won’t let Joab kill Saul. Later, David confronts Abner, saying, "Where were you, Abner? You're the king's bodyguard, but you were fast asleep when someone came to destroy your master!"

Saul then issues another confession, saying, “I have done wrong… I have been a fool (or nabal) …Blessed are you, my son, David. You will do many great things.” And they part in peace again… but it doesn’t last.

Monday, May 7, 2018

READ IT! - Introduction to 1st Samuel 13-19

Readings for this week

Monday: 1st Samuel 13
Tuesday: 1st Samuel 14
Wednesday: 1st Samuel 15
Thursday: 1st Samuel 16
Friday: 1st Samuel 17
Saturday: 1st Samuel 18
Sunday: 1st Samuel 19

Introduction to 1st Samuel 13-19

Chapter 13

Saul’s son Jonathan fought a successful battle against the Philistines. Saul took credit for the battle.

The Philistines mustered their armies to attack Israel again and the people fled and hid in caves. Saul and his army waited seven days for Samuel to show up and give them God’s instructions. Samuel did not show up right away, so Saul took on Samuel’s role and made sacrifices to God in order to figure out what to do next. Just as Saul had finished making the offerings, Samuel showed up. Saul made excuses. Samuel told him he had done a foolish thing and that his dynasty would not last forever because of his unfaithfulness.

Chapter 14

After Saul’s first failure, he took his 600 men back to Gibeah. Saul and Jonathan were the only people with weapons as the Philistines were preparing to attack. Saul just sat around “under a pomegranate tree.”

Jonathan and his armor-bearer sneaked away from Saul and crossed over a canyon to where the Philistines were at. The Philistines attacked them, but Jonathan and his armor-bearer began slaughtering them. The text says that God caused the Philistines to panic, and that the ground began to shake.

Meanwhile, Saul had made a rash vow, forbidding the people to eat any food under penalty of death. Saul was caught off guard by the sound of battle, but joined in as well only to find the Philistines killing themselves in confusion. After the battle, Jonathan ate some honey because he did not know about his father’s vow. The people told Jonathan about the vow, and Jonathan told them that what his father had told them was stupid. The people refused to let Saul kill his son Jonathan for breaking the fast. This is similar to Jephthah’s vow... but with a different outcome.

Chapter 15

Later, Samuel told Saul to go completely destroy the Amalekites. Saul was victorious in battle, but he failed to destroy everything. He kept the livestock for himself. He kept King Agag alive. God said to Samuel, “I regret that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions.” Samuel cried bitter tears before he went to confront Saul.

When Saul saw Samuel approaching, he said, “Look! I did what God said!” Samuel asked him about the livestock. Saul blamed the soldiers. He said they were actually planning on making a sacrifice later. He said they had completely destroyed everything else. Samuel stopped him and rebuked him for “pouncing on the plunder.” Saul again tried to say that they would eventually get around to sacrificing to God.

Samuel's response:

“To obey is better than sacrifice.”
“For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.”
“Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has rejected you as king.”

Saul begged for forgiveness and grabbed ahold of Samuel’s robe and tore it as Samuel was turning to leave. Samuel said, “The LORD has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to one of your neighbors—to one better than you.” Samuel had to go kill Agag himself.

Chapters 16-19

The narrative then tells us the story of David’s anointing, which takes place in Bethlehem of Judah. God tells Samuel to not look at David's brothers who are tall and strong and handsome, because can see into their hearts. David is the youngest of Jesse’s seven sons. David is a shepherd – God’s greatest leaders are shepherds. David is called in from tending the sheep and God tells Samuel to anoint him as king. The text says that from that day forward the LORD’s spirit comes upon David and departs from Saul.

We then read about David working at Saul’s Court as a musician. When David would play his harp, the evil spirit would leave Saul.

After this, we read about the battle against Goliath. Saul does not engage the Philistines, and there is a stalemate between the Philistines and the Israelites for forty days. Jesse sends David to the battle field with some food for the soldiers. When David sees Goliath mocking Israel's God, David does the will of God.

King Saul attempts to dress David in his own armor, but David takes it off because it is awkward. David gathers five smooth stones from a brook and uses his sling to shoot a stone into Goliath's skull as Goliath is mocking him. Goliath's armor is described as looking like scales, and the numbers associated with his armor and weapons are all connected to the number six, so the text is attempting to show through this imagery that Goliath is aligned with evil. Even his height is reported as "six cubits tall." David cuts off Goliath's head and takes it to Jerusalem. He also leads the army in routing the Philistines.

When then read about David as a commander in Saul’s service. The people love David, but Saul is jealous and hates David. Saul throws his spear at David and tries to kill him while he is playing his harp, but David escapes.
We also learn about David and his relationship with Saul’s family. Saul's Son Jonathan loved David. David and Jonathan make covenant, and Jonathan gives the throne to David.

We also learn that Saul's daughter Michal loved David as well. David had defeated the Philistines and married Saul’s daughter as Saul's reward for bringing him back 200 Philistine foreskins... what a dowry. Later, Michal saves David’s life by making a dummy out of a “household god,” placing it in David's bed, and then lowering David out the back window, and telling Saul's soldiers at the front door that David was sick in bed. We’re not sure why David had an idol in his house though…

Before David and Jonathan parted ways, David fled to Samuel. Saul sent men to get them, but the spirit of God possessed them and all they could do was prophesy. Saul sent two more detachments, but the same thing happened. Finally, Saul himself went but he too became possessed by God’s spirit when he entered Samuel’s presence. Saul stripped naked and lay on the ground prophesying all day and all night. Once again the text points to this event as one of the reasons there is the saying in Israel: “Is Saul also among the prophets?”