Archive for the ‘Samuel’ Tag

Devotion for Wednesday After Proper 24, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Icon of Samuel

Above:  Icon of Samuel

Image in the Public Domain

Rejecting or Accepting God, Part II

OCTOBER 24, 2018

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The Collect:

Sovereign God, you turn your greatness into goodness for all the peoples on earth.

Shape us into willing servants of your kingdom,

and make us desire always and only your will,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 50

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 12:1-25

Psalm 37:23-40

John 13:1-17

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When your steps are guided by the Lord

and you delight in his way,

Though you stumble, you shall not fall headlong,

for the Lord holds you fast by the hand.

–Psalm 37:23-24, Common Worship (2000)

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This post flows naturally from its predecessor, in which Jesus identified the servant as the greatest person in the Kingdom of God.  He acted on that principle in John 13.  Long before then, elsewhere, the prophet Samuel never used his office to benefit himself.  Actually, sometimes he placed himself at risk while performing his duties.

In 1 Samuel 12, early in King Saul’s reign, the population (as a whole) had rejected God’s rule.  Yet God had not rejected the people:

For the sake of His great name, the LORD will never abandon His people, seeing that the LORD undertook to make you His people.

–1 Samuel 12:22, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Since God has remained faithful, so should we.  This is possible by grace.  One aspect of this fidelity to God in Christ is following our Lord and Savior’s example of service and humility daily.  Details will vary according to circumstances, but the principle is constant and timeless.  Recognizing the image of God in others and extending them the respect consistent with that ethic requires one to lay aside certain preconceptions and illusions of self-importance one might harbor.  That can prove to be difficult, but it is necessary and proper.  And, if one professes to follow Jesus, not to pursue that course of action increases one’s hypocrisy.

To be faithful in this way has long been a challenge for me.  Challenges, however, are possible to meet; they are difficult.  Fortunately, I have noticed much progress, for which I give thanks to God.  The room for improvement contains much potential for spiritual growth.  I welcome that growth.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 4, 2015 COMMON ERA

INDEPENDENCE DAY (U.S.A.)

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/07/04/rejecting-or-accepting-god-part-ii/

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Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After Proper 24, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Samuel Blesses Saul Gustave Dore

Above:  Samuel Blesses Saul, by Gustave Dore

Image in the Public Domain

Rejecting or Accepting God, Part I

OCTOBER 22 and 23, 2018

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The Collect:

Sovereign God, you turn your greatness into goodness for all the peoples on earth.

Shape us into willing servants of your kingdom,

and make us desire always and only your will,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 50

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 8:1-18 (Monday)

1 Samuel 10:17-25 (Tuesday)

Psalm 37:23-40 (Both Days)

Hebrews 6:1-12 (Monday)

Hebrews 6:13-20 (Tuesday)

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Keep innocence and heed the thing that is right,

for that will bring you peace at the last.

–Psalm 37:38, Common Worship (2000)

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The people of Israel asked for a king.  They had one already; God (Yahweh) was their monarch.  That arrangement proved unsatisfactory to a sufficient number of people for the petition for a human king to succeed.  The prophet Samuel warned against abuses of monarchy, to no avail.  Saul became the first in a line of kings, and Samuel proved to be correct.

The request for a human king constituted a rejection of God.  Rejecting God after having accepted God is committing apostasy, or falling away from God, which is what the author of the Letter to the Hebrews warned against doing.  Committing apostasy is possible via free will; grace is not irresistible for those not predestined to Heaven.  (There goes one-fifth of TULIP, the five points of Calvinism.)  Maintaining a healthy relationship with God requires both divine grace and human free will, which exists because of the former.  Thus everything goes back to grace, not that free will ceases to be relevant.  May we use our free will to cooperate with divine grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 4, 2015 COMMON ERA

INDEPENDENCE DAY (U.S.A.)

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/07/04/rejecting-or-accepting-god-part-i/

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Devotion for Thursday Before Proper 14, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Witch of Endor--Nikolai Ge

Above:  Witch of Endor, by Nikolai Ge

Image in the Public Domain

Building Up Our Neighbors, Part I

AUGUST 9, 2018

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The Collect:

Gracious God, your blessed Son came down from heaven

to be the true bread that gives life to the world.

Give us this bread always,

that he may live in us and we in him,

and that, strengthened by this food,

may live as his body in the world,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 44

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 28:20-25

Psalm 34:1-8

Romans 15:1-6

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I called in my affliction and the LORD heard me

and saved me from all my troubles.

–Psalm 23:6, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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That verse from Psalm 34 functions as a counterpoint to King Saul’s situation in 1 Samuel 28:20-25.

Saul was at the end of his reign and at war with Philistine forces.  He had, according to 1 Samuel 28, disguised himself and gone to a necromancer (some translations say “witch”) at Endor, so that she would summon Samuel, who had anointed the monarch then announced God’s rejection of him.  The necromancer was in a difficult situation, for Saul had outlawed her profession.  (So, according to the monarch’s own standards, by what right was he there?)

The story in 1 Samuel 28 reflects an old understanding of the afterlife in the Hebrew Bible.  Concepts of postmortem reward and punishment came later, by means of Zoroastrianism, for forces of the Persian Empire ended the Babylonian Exile.  (This does not mean, of course, that Heaven and Hell are figments of imagination, just that Zoroastrians had the concepts before Jews and, in time, Christians.  God’s agents come from many backgrounds.)  The understanding of the afterlife in 1 Samuel 28 is Sheol, the underworld.

In 1 Samuel 28 the necromancer, whose profession was, according to the Bible, forbidden due to its heathen nature, summoned Samuel successfully.  The prophet and judge, who was irritated with Saul, stated that the monarch had no more than a day left on the earth.  Saul took this badly, so he refused to eat for a while, until the necromancer and some countries convinced him to consume food.  The woman, who had risked her life to help Saul, cared about his well-being and fed him and his entourage.

God’s agents come from many backgrounds.  Sometimes they save us from our afflictions.  On other occasions, however, they simply provide aid and compassion until fate arrives.

Each of us must please our neighbor for the good purpose of building up the neighbor.

–Romans 15:2, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Our neighbors include those similar to us and different from us.  Some like us, others are hostile to us, and still others are neutral or apathetic.  We like some of our neighbors, despise others, and have little or no knowledge of the existence of still others.  Yet we are all in this life together; that which we do to others, we do to ourselves.  We are, in the ethics of the Law of Moses, responsible to and for each other as we stand side-by-side in a state of responsibility to and total dependence upon God.  Certain attitudes, therefore, fall outside the realm of righteousness.  These include greed, bigotry, rugged individualism, self-reliance, and Social Darwinism.  There is no divine law against compassion, however.  And, since whatever we do to others, we do to ourselves, caring for others effectively and selflessly (at least as much as we can) is to our benefit.  Whenever we build up our neighbors, we build up ourselves.

MAY 27, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALFRED ROOKER, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST PHILANTHROPIST AND HYMN WRITER; AND HIS SISTER, ELIZABETH ROOKER PARSON, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF CHARLES WILLIAM SCHAEFFER, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, HISTORIAN, THEOLOGIAN, AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF CLARENCE DICKINSON, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/05/28/building-up-our-neighbors-part-i/

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Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After Proper 17, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. OjŽda

Above:  David Entrusts a Letter to Uriah

Image in the Public Domain

Two Kingdoms

SEPTEMBER 4 and 5, 2017

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The Collect:

O God, we thank you for your Son,

who chose the path of suffering for the sake of the world.

Humble us by his example,

point us to the path of obedience,

and give us strength to follow your commands,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 46

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Samuel 11:2-26 (Monday)

2 Samuel 11:27b-12:15 (Tuesday)

Psalm 17 (Both Days)

Revelation 3:1-6 (Monday)

Revelation 3:7-13 (Tuesday)

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Hear my just cause, O Lord; consider my complaint;

listen to my prayer, which comes not from lying lips.

Let my vindication come forth from your presence;

let your eyes behold what is right.

Weigh my heart, examine me by night,

refine me, and you will find no impurity in me.

My mouth does not trespass for earthly rewards;

I have heeded the words of your lips.

My footsteps hold fast in the ways of your commandments;

my feet have not stumbled in your paths.

–Psalm 17:1-5, Common Worship (2000)

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Those words, in the context of the story of David and Bathsheba, have the hollow ring of irony.  They also belie the reputation of the Church at Sardis (Revelation 3:1-6) and fit the Church at Philadelphia (Revelation 3:7-13).  With that introduction I announce that this post focuses on the theme of two kingdoms–one of human origin and exploitative, the other of divine origin and just.  The Book of Revelation/Apocalypse of John is about, among other topics, God destroying the corrupt and exploitative status quo ante then establishing in its fullness the Kingdom of God.

Charles Harold (C. H.) Dodd wrote in his short book, The Founder of Christianity (1970), that, since God exists beyond time, the Kingdom of God is really never closer to or further away from us at any point in time than another.  He wrote, however, that, since we mere mortals experience time as we do, the Kingdom of God seems closer or further away at some times than at others.  And, he continued, certain events make the Kingdom of God more apparent than it was previously.  Among these was the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity as Jesus of Nazareth.

Other reading I have done has brought to my attention the concept of the Kingdom of God as being apparent in the person of Jesus and in his ministry yet not unveiled fully yet.  The Kingdom of God, it seems, has been unveiling for a long time, at least from a human perspective.

The Kingdom of God functions in the New Testament as, among other things, a scathing critique of the Roman Empire.  The Emperor Augustus, who had restored order out of the chaos of the demise of the Roman Republic, was, according to propaganda, the savior of the (Roman) world.  Coinage proclaimed him the “Son of God” (in Latin, of course).  Therefore claims that Jesus was the “Son of God” and the savior of the world attracted official Roman attention of the dangerous variety.  The foundations of the Roman Empire included violence, economic exploitation, and slavery.  In contrast, the foundations of the Kingdom of God are quite unlike those of the Roman Empire or any other tyrannical state of the past, present, or future.

This brings me to the Kingdom of Israel.  One does well to reread 1 Samuel 8:10-18, the text of which from the Revised English Bible (1989) follows:

Samuel reported to the people who were asking him for a king all that the LORD had said to him.  “This will be the sort of king who will rule over you,” he said.  “He will take your sons and make them serve in his chariots and with his cavalry, and they will run before his chariot.  Some he will appoint officers over units of a thousand and units of fifty.  Others will plough his fields and reap his harvest; others again will make weapons of war and equipment for chariots.  He will take your daughters for perfumers, cooks, and bakers.  He will seize the best of your fields, vineyards, and olive groves, and give them to his courtiers.  He will take a tenth of your grain and your vintage to give to his eunuchs and courtiers.  Your slaves, both men and women, and the best of your cattle and your donkeys he will take for his own use.  He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves.  There will come a day when you will cry out against the king whom you have chosen; but the LORD will not answer you on that day.”

And he will have the power to take your wives and arrange for you to die merely because you have become inconvenient.

God is a much better king.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 20, 2014 COMMON ERA

PROPER 11:  THE SIXTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL HANSON COX, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND ABOLITIONIST; AND HIS SON, ARTHUR CLEVELAND COXE, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF WESTERN NEW YORK, HYMN WRITER, AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANSEGIUS OF FONTANELLE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH CADY STANTON, AMELIA BLOOMER, SOJOURNER TRUTH, AND HARRIET ROSS TUBMAN, WITNESSES TO CIVIL RIGHTS FOR AFRICAN AMERICANS AND WOMEN

THE FEAST OF SAINTS FLAVIAN II OF ANTIOCH AND ELIAS OF JERUSALEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC PATRIARCHS

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/07/20/two-kingdoms/

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Devotion for August 8 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  Saul and David, by Rembrandt van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

1 Samuel and 1 Corinthians, Part II:  God’s Choices

THURSDAY, AUGUST 8, 2019

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 24:1-22

Psalm 116 (Morning)

Psalms 26 and 130 (Evening)

1 Corinthians 1:26-2:16

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The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod Daily Lectionary from the Lutheran Service Book (2006) skips over part of 1 Samuel.  A summary of that portion follows:  David, a fugitive from King Saul, becomes a rebel leader.  Saul, who knows that David will succeed him as monarch, kills some of those (excluding others, including Jonathan) who aid David.  Chapter 24 contains the famous story of David sparing the life of the monarch (his former father-in-law) who had tried more than once to kill him.

That content fits well with a part of 1 Corinthians 1:

No. God chose those who by human standards are fools to shame the wise; he chose those who by human standards are common and contemptible–indeed those who count for nothing–to reduce to nothing all those that do count for something, so that no human being might feel boastful before God.

–Verses 27-29, The New Jerusalem Bible

Saul was of less than “noble” origin.  His activity while chosen king as chasing runaway donkeys, after all.  But Saul was tall and handsome by the standards of the day.  And he was powerful relative to young David, who, in contrast, was the son his father left tending the sheep when Samuel met the other brothers.  The choice of David was an unlikely one by human standards.

Many of God’s choices will surprise us.  First we need to be sure that we have perceived correctly that x is God’s choice.  (This can be difficult.)  But, assuming that x is God’s choice, it might violate our sense of what ought to be.  Saul preferred to be the founder of a dynasty and for Jonathan to succeed him immediately.  Yet that was not what happened.  How will we respond to God’s choices?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 15, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL CHRISTIAN EDUCATORS AND INTELLECTUALS

THE FEAST OF ROBERT HERRICK, POET

THE FEAST OF SAINT TERESA OF AVILA, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/27/1-samuel-and-1-corinthians-part-ii-gods-choices/

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Devotion for July 24, 25, and 26 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

Above:  A Crown

Image Source = Library of Congress

1 Samuel and Acts, Part IV:  Positive and Negative Identity

WEDNESDAY, JULY 24, 2019

THURSDAY, JULY 25, 2019

FRIDAY, JULY 26, 2019

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 8:1-22 (July 24)

1 Samuel 9:1-27 (July 25)

1 Samuel 10:1-27 (July 26)

Psalm 15 (Morning–July 24)

Psalm 36 (Morning–July 25)

Psalm 130 (Morning–July 26)

Psalms 48 and 4 (Evening–July 24)

Psalms 80 and 27 (Evening–July 25)

Psalms 32 and 139 (Evening–July 26)

Acts 21:15-36 (July 24)

Acts 21:37-22:16 (July 25)

Acts 22:17-29 (July 26)

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Central to the narrative of 1 Samuel 8-10 is the idea that Israelites were properly different from other nations.  Their neighbors had human kings yet the Israelites had God as monarch; “judges,” or chieftains, provided human governance.  So the demand for a human king constituted a rejection of God.  The people got what they requested, although the beginning of Saul’s reign was promising.  In the long term, however, monarchy turned out as Samuel predicted it would.

In the Acts of the Apostles we read of the other, dark side of not being like other nations:  It can become a matter of hubris, that which goeth before the fall.  Paul worked among Gentiles, to whom he did not apply the Law of Moses.  Yet, contrary to rumor, he did not tell Jews to disobey that code, in particular relative to circumcision.  But objective reality did not prevent him from getting into trouble.

I propose that an element crucial to understanding the theme of being different is considering that the Jews were a minority population, heirs of a monotheistic tradition in a sea of polytheism.  How a member of a minority identifies oneself flows from that minority status.  So a certain element of negative identity (“I am not a/an _______.”) is inevitable.  But positive identity (“I am a/an ________.”) is preferable.

I, as a nonconformist, often by who the fact of who I am and frequently by choice, understand both forms of identity.   I am usually clueless regarding many popular culture-related topics of conversations, for

  1. I have other interests, and
  2. I choose not not to consume most popular media.  The “join the bandwagon” advertising approach has less of an effect on me than on many other people.  I tend to turn away unless I am already interested.

My favorite Fifties music comes from the 1750s and the 1850s, from the European classical tradition, unless one speaks of certain jazz of the 1950s.  I am an unapologetic musical snob; somebody has to be.  And, if many people go out of the way to be like others and to subsume their identities into the collective, somebody has to go out of his or her way to stand out.

But none of that justifies spreading rumors, threatening innocent people with violence, and rejecting God.  None of that makes right writing off most of the human race and contenting oneself with a “God-and-me” relationship.

Speaking of positive identity, each of us, regardless of labels, background, and circumstances, can claim one status with honesty:

I am a bearer of the image of God.

May we think of each other and ourselves accordingly.  As we think so we act and are.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 5, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MOTHER TERESA OF CALCUTTA, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF GREGORIO AGLIPAY, PHILIPPINE INDEPENDENT CHURCH BISHOP

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/03/1-samuel-and-acts-part-iv-positive-and-negative-identity/

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Devotion for July 21, 22, and 23 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  Air Views of Palestine.  Air Route Over Cana of Galilee, Nazareth, Plain of Sharon, etc.  Ashdod.  Home of Dagon.  Encroaching Sand Waves in Distance.  1932.

Image Source = Library of Congress

1 Samuel and Acts, Part III:  The Hand of God

SUNDAY, JULY 21, 2019

MONDAY, JULY 22, 2019

TUESDAY, JULY 23, 2019

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 4:1-22 (July 21)

1 Samuel 5:1-6:3, 10-16 (July 22)

1 Samuel 6:19-7:17 (July 23)

Psalm 19 (Morning–July 21)

Psalm 136 (Morning–July 22)

Psalm 123 (Morning–July 23)

Psalms 81 and 113 (Evening–July 21)

Psalms 97 and 112 (Evening–July 22)

Psalms 30 and 86 (Evening–July 23)

Acts 16:23-40 (July 21)

Acts 18:1-11, 23-28 (July 22)

Acts 19:1-22 (July 23)

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The Ark of the Covenant was a mysterious and fearsome object.  It was, in the minds of some Israelites, the presence of God made tangible.  So, of course, they reasoned, its presence at a battlefield would guarantee military victory against the Philistine forces.  Wrong!  Yet God was not defeated.  Humiliations befell an idol of Dagon.  And, according to the narrative, Bubonic Plague befell many Philistines.  Eventually the Philistines returned the Ark, but those who had looked into the sacred object died.

This story, which I have kept unified across The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod’s daily lectionary of 2006’s daily divisions, contains some troubling aspects.  Would a loving God give anyone Bubonic Plague?  (The internal evidence, down to tumors and rodents, indicates Bubonic Plague.)  And the element of death for looking into the Ark indicates a God concept foreign to me, a Christian.  God, for me, is approachable; what is more approachable than the Incarnation?  Chronology aside, I reject the idea that God had a personality transplant.  We are, I propose, dealing with changing human understandings.

Speaking of changing human understandings, I have caused some controversy in college classrooms in Georgia (U.S.A.) when teaching World Civilization I by pointing out that lived Judaism used to be polytheistic.  This fact of history should come as no surprise to anyone who has studied the Old Testament (including 1 Samuel 7) and/or biblical archaeology and/or ancient comparative religion.  But some people become irrational, defensive, and oblivious to facts relative to religion; this is an unfortunate tendency.  I have nothing to fear from a verified fact about ancient theology.  Anyhow, Samuel was correct in 1 Samuel 7:3:

If you mean to return to the LORD with all your heart, you must remove the alien gods and the Ashteroth from your midst and direct your heart to the LORD and serve him alone….

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

Paul, Silas, and Timothy served God alone.  Along the way they suffered beatings, imprisonments, and a lawsuit.  They also founded churches, converted people, and encountered fellow Christians who helped them.  The hand of God, which the Philistines could not defeat, also triumphed over the forces opposed to Paul and company.

Being on God’s side does not mean that no hardships will befall one.  Eli had to suffer the loss of his sons.  And Paul and company had to cope with the aforementioned difficulties, among others.  Also, not being on God’s side does not mean that one will face an unbroken series of hardships.  But, when one is on God’s side, one will never be alone in those difficulties; the hand of God will never be far away.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 11, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY THAUMATURGUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF NEOCAESAREA; AND SAINT ALEXANDER OF COMANA “THE CHARCOAL BURNER,” ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR AND BISHOP OF COMANA, PONTUS

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLARE OF ASSISI, FOUNDER OF THE POOR CLARES

THE FEAST OF JOHN HENRY NEWMAN, CARDINAL

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/03/1-samuel-and-acts-part-iii-the-hand-of-god/

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