The reading from 1 Samuel 17 (1 Samuel 17:57-18:5, 10-16) arrested my attention. The case of Saul’s madness raises great theological issues that are relevant in every generation. The text says that “The next day an evil spirit from God rushed upon Saul, and he raved within his house, while David was playing the lyre, as he did day by day.” David’s irenic spirit, demonstrated by his musical expressions, is contrasted with the evil spirit causing Saul to have “raved within his house.” Samuel wrote that “Saul was afraid of David, because the LORD was with him but had departed from Saul.” Did the Spirit of the Lord depart from Saul and then the evil came? Did the evil spirit’s gruesome arrival signal the simeoultaneaous departure of the Spirit of the Lord? Now all of this, I say again, is not an esoteric exercise in textual review. There are mysterious here that we can see, but we cannot see through, yet if we can come to see them, can help us in this world in which we see so much evil. Consider some responses:
- The evil spirit came from God, yet God is not the author of evil and does not afflict the children of men (Lamentations 3:33). God cannot sin, cannot “produce” sin, but may “permit” sin for His greater good and glory;
- The Spirit of the Lord may livingly reside inside of a person and, yet, the indolent residue of morbid sin may continue to infect— “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (Romans 7:15 ESV); and more.
The readings for this Fourth Sunday after Pentecost provide Biblical responses:
- “The LORD will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in time of trouble” (Psalm 9:9);
- “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” (Job 38:1).
Yet, I think I would preach from the Gospel of Mark to respond to the questions:
“He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
For in this passage we have access to the One who stills the storms and we can place our increasingly complex lives, our darker questions, and our visceral longings before Him with childlike faith and serene confidence.
I pause to pray the Lord’s anointing on you who preach this coming Lord’s Day.
O Lord, make us have perpetual love and reverence for your holy Name, for you never fail to help and govern those whom you have set upon the sure foundation of your lovingkindness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
1 Samuel 17: (1a, 4-11, 19-23), 32-49
[Now the Philistines gathered their armies for battle. And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. He had a helmet of bronze on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail; the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of bronze. He had greaves of bronze on his legs and a javelin of bronze slung between his shoulders. The shaft of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron; and his shield-bearer went before him. He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “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.” And the Philistine said, “Today I defy the ranks of Israel! Give me a man, that we may fight together.” When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.
Now Saul, and they, and all the men of Israel, were in the valley of Elah, fighting with the Philistines. David rose early in the morning, left the sheep with a keeper, took the provisions, and went as Jesse had commanded him. He came to the encampment as the army was going forth to the battle line, shouting the war cry. Israel and the Philistines drew up for battle, army against army. David left the things in charge of the keeper of the baggage, ran to the ranks, and went and greeted his brothers. As he talked with them, the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, came up out of the ranks of the Philistines, and spoke the same words as before. And David heard him.]
David said to Saul, “Let no one’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are just a boy, and he has been a warrior from his youth.” But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father; and whenever a lion or a bear came, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after it and struck it down, rescuing the lamb from its mouth; and if it turned against me, I would catch it by the jaw, strike it down, and kill it. Your servant has killed both lions and bears; and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, since he has defied the armies of the living God.” David said, “The LORD, who saved me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will save me from the hand of this Philistine.” So Saul said to David, “Go, and may the LORD be with you!” Saul clothed David with his armor; he put a bronze helmet on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail. David strapped Saul’s sword over the armor, and he tried in vain to walk, for he was not used to them. Then David said to Saul, “I cannot walk with these; for I am not used to them.” So David removed them. Then he took his staff in his hand, and chose five smooth stones from the wadi, and put them in his shepherd’s bag, in the pouch; his sling was in his hand, and he drew near to the Philistine.
The Philistine came on and drew near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. When the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was only a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. The Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. The Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the field.” But David said to the Philistine, “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. This very day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head; and I will give the dead bodies of the Philistine army this very day to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the earth, so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the LORD does not save by sword and spear; for the battle is the LORD’s and he will give you into our hand.”
When the Philistine drew nearer to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. David put his hand in his bag, took out a stone, slung it, and struck the Philistine on his forehead; the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell face down on the ground.
Psalm 9:9-20 Page 593, BCP
- The LORD will be a refuge for the oppressed, *
a refuge in time of trouble.
- Those who know your Name will put their trust in you, *
for you never forsake those who seek you, O LORD.
- Sing praise to the LORD who dwells in Zion; *
proclaim to the peoples the things he has done.
- The Avenger of blood will remember them; *
he will not forget the cry of the afflicted.
- Have pity on me, O LORD; *
see the misery I suffer from those who hate me,
O you who lift me up from the gate of death;
- So that I may tell of all your praises
and rejoice in your salvation *
in the gates of the city of Zion.
- The ungodly have fallen into the pit they dug, *
and in the snare they set is their own foot caught.
- The LORD is known by his acts of justice; *
the wicked are trapped in the works of their own hands.
- The wicked shall be given over to the grave, *
and also all the peoples that forget God.
- For the needy shall not always be forgotten, *
and the hope of the poor shall not perish for ever.
- Rise up, O LORD, let not the ungodly have the upper hand; *
let them be judged before you.
- Put fear upon them, O LORD; *
let the ungodly know they are but mortal.
1 Samuel 17:57-18:5, 10-16
On David’s return from killing Goliath, the Philistine, Abner took him and brought him before Saul, with the head of the Philistine in his hand. Saul said to him, “Whose son are you, young man?” And David answered, “I am the son of your servant Jesse the Bethlehemite.”
When David had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was bound to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. Saul took him that day and would not let him return to his father’s house. Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul. Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that he was wearing, and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt. David went out and was successful wherever Saul sent him; as a result, Saul set him over the army. And all the people, even the servants of Saul, approved.
The next day an evil spirit from God rushed upon Saul, and he raved within his house, while David was playing the lyre, as he did day by day. Saul had his spear in his hand; and Saul threw the spear, for he thought, “I will pin David to the wall.” But David eluded him twice.
Saul was afraid of David, because the LORD was with him but had departed from Saul. So Saul removed him from his presence, and made him a commander of a thousand; and David marched out and came in, leading the army. David had success in all his undertakings; for the LORD was with him. When Saul saw that he had great success, he stood in awe of him. But all Israel and Judah loved David; for it was he who marched out and came in leading them.
Psalm 133 Page 787, BCP
Ecce, quam bonum!
- Oh, how good and pleasant it is, *
when brethren live together in unity!
- It is like fine oil upon the head *
that runs down upon the beard,
- Upon the beard of Aaron, *
and runs down upon the collar of his robe.
- It is like the dew of Hermon *
that falls upon the hills of Zion.
- For there the LORD has ordained the blessing: *
life for evermore.
Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind:
- “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
- Gird up your loins like a man,
- I will question you, and you shall declare to me.
- “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
- Tell me, if you have understanding.
- Who determined its measurements– surely you know!
- Or who stretched the line upon it?
- On what were its bases sunk,
- or who laid its cornerstone
- when the morning stars sang together
- and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?
- “Or who shut in the sea with doors
- when it burst out from the womb? —
- when I made the clouds its garment,
- and thick darkness its swaddling band,
- and prescribed bounds for it,
- and set bars and doors,
- and said, `Thus far shall you come, and no farther,
- and here shall your proud waves be stopped’?
Psalm 107:1-3, 23-32 Page 746, BCP
- Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, *
and his mercy endures for ever.
- Let all those whom the LORD has redeemed proclaim *
that he redeemed them from the hand of the foe.
- He gathered them out of the lands; *
from the east and from the west,
from the north and from the south.
- Some went down to the sea in ships *
and plied their trade in deep waters;
- They beheld the works of the LORD *
and his wonders in the deep.
- Then he spoke, and a stormy wind arose, *
which tossed high the waves of the sea.
- They mounted up to the heavens and fell back to the depths; *
their hearts melted because of their peril.
- They reeled and staggered like drunkards *
and were at their wits’ end.
- Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
- He stilled the storm to a whisper *
and quieted the waves of the sea.
- Then were they glad because of the calm, *
and he brought them to the harbor they were bound for.
- Let them give thanks to the LORD for his mercy *
and the wonders he does for his children.
- Let them exalt him in the congregation of the people *
and praise him in the council of the elders.
2 Corinthians 6:1-13
As we work together with Christ, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. For he says,
- “At an acceptable time I have listened to you,
- and on a day of salvation I have helped you.”
See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation! We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see– we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
We have spoken frankly to you Corinthians; our heart is wide open to you. There is no restriction in our affections, but only in yours. In return– I speak as to children– open wide your hearts also.
When evening had come, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
This meditation and reading guide is part of a series of devotional thoughts on the lectionary readings from the Revised Common Lectionary. Believing that a spiritual program that is built around the life of Jesus Christ as He is revealed in all of the Scriptures is a Biblically faithful, Christ-centered, and Great Commission-responsive method of discipleship we support the concept of a liturgical calendar. We are not slaves to a system, but bond-slaves to Christ. Yet, even as we see Jesus following the selected readings in the synagogue in His weekly worship and observance of a cyclical or seasonal approach to formation, we seek to imitate Him. We offer these meditations and readings to encourage the lives of believers in Christ to live out the Gospel in their personal lives and in the world. The central act of personal and corporate worship of the Church, shaped by the life of Jesus through the Scriptures and prayer, remains the single greatest God-given method for building up believers and enfolding lost mankind into His Church. We will seek to publish these during the week prior the respective liturgical date in order to offer these resources to those preparing for the coming Lord’s Day.