Archive for the ‘1 Samuel 16’ Category

Possession, Physical Illness, Mental Illness, and Exorcism   Leave a comment

Above:  Christ Exorcising Demons

Image in the Public Domain

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The Roman Catholic Church has the proper attitude toward demonic possession.  That attitude is that demonic possession is real, but that not everything that looks like demonic possession is that.  This is why mental and psychological examinations precede exorcisms, and not every request for an exorcism results in one.  Sometimes, the problem is a matter for doctors and/or therapists, not exorcists and their assistants.  Someone may actually have a mental illness, for example.  

I have heard hints and stories of possessions.  I have heard them from people I know to be credible, lucid, grounded in reality, and not given to flights of fantastical thinking.  I am content to take their word for it when they have described what they witnessed.

I used to be in a relationship with a woman who suffered from mental illness.  I knew from my culture and education that her problems were treatable via medications.  Unfortunately, she did not always take her pills.  At the end, her figurative demons overpowered her, and she died violently.  Having been so close for a about decade to one afflicted with mental illness, I understand how someone whose education and culture do not contain the category of mental illness may misidentify it as demonic possession.

Other conditions, such as epilepsy, have allegedly been symptoms of demonic possession, in the Bible, folk belief, and historical documents.

A partial list of Biblical citations that include references to exorcism or possession follows:

  1. 1 Samuel 16:14-16; 18:10; 19:9;
  2. Tobit 6:7, 16-17; 8:3;
  3. Matthew 8:16; 10:1; 12:28
  4. Mark 1:25; 5:8; 6:7; 9:25, 38; 16:17;
  5. Acts 16:18; 19:13-14.

Sometimes I read one of these passages or another one that belongs on this list and quickly arrive at a non-demonic or non-ghostly explanation for the problem.  Someone may have been under too much stress, for example.  (In some cultures, ghostly possession is the understanding of what my culture calls too much stress.)   Or perhaps I just read a description of an epileptic seizure.  Maybe I read a description of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or multiple personalities disorder.  In Biblical times, of course, people ascribed these afflictions to possession, so the texts they wrote did, too.  

When I read such a text, I seek to understand what was really going on in that text.  I apply the cultural, medical, and psychiatric categories I have learned.  Doing so does not always yield a clear answer to my question, though.  I affirm that that the demonic exists.  I reject the label “supernatural” for it, for I reject that label, period.  That which we humans usually call “supernatural” is merely natural, but not in the same way as ponds, rocks, and kittens.  That which we mere mortals often label supernatural is part of God’s created order.  It is, therefore, natural.  That which is angelic or demonic is natural.  And I do not always know, when reading certain Biblical texts, what kind of natural phenomenon of which I read.  My categories are not those of the ancient authors of canonical books.  

However, sorting out what caused the predicament in a given Biblical story may not necessarily be the main point anyway.  If I read a story of Jesus exorcising/healing (whatever) someone, the main point may be that Christ restored him or her to health, wholeness, and his or her family and community.  Or the main point may be that the Kingdom of God was present in the activities of Jesus.  

So be it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 31, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF CHARLES FREDERICK MACKENZIE, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF NYASALAND, AND MARTYR, 1862

THE FEAST OF ANTHONY BÉNÉZET, FRENCH-AMERICAN QUAKER ABOLITIONIST

THE FEAST OF LANZA DEL VASTO, FOUNDER OF THE COMMUNITY OF THE ARK

THE FEAST OF MENNO SIMONS, MENNONITE LEADER

THE FEAST OF MARY EVELYN “MEV” PULEO, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC PHOTOJOURNALIST AND ADVOCATE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE

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Covenantal Nomism   Leave a comment

Above:  The Cover Page of Paul and Palestinian Judaism, by E. P. Sanders

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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For the Twelfth Sunday after Trinity, Year 2

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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Almighty and Merciful God, of whose only gift it cometh that

thy faithful people do unto thee true and laudable service;

grant, we beseech thee, that we may so faithfully serve thee in this life,

that we fail not to attain thy heavenly promises;

through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 206

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1 Samuel 16:1-13

Psalm 84

Acts 13:1-33

Matthew 12:31-42

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These readings cover a great deal of theological territory.

As I ponder the assigned readings, I notice that the old Congregational lectionary most recently assigned 1 Samuel 16:1-13 for the Fifth Sunday after Trinity.  That recently?

Psalm 84 is my favorite Psalm.  The soundtrack to it in my head comes courtesy of Johannes Brahms, from A German Requiem.  The text is one the spirit of which runs counter to one who commits the unpardonable sin.  That unpardonable sin is to be so spiritually oblivious as to attribute acts of God to Satan.

St. Paul the Apostle, in Acts 13:38-39, preached to the Jews:

You must know, my brothers, that through [Jesus] forgiveness of sins is being proclaimed to you, [and] in regard to everything from which you could not be justified under the Law of Moses, in him every believer is justified.

The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

Some Jews, somewhere, may have claimed that obeying the Law of Moses justified them before God.  Actually, that was not the teaching of Second Temple Judaism.  The actual teaching of Second Temple Judaism was Covenantal Nomism, by which salvation came via the covenant.  Jews, born into the covenant, remained within it by obeying the Law of Moses.  They dropped out of the covenant by habitually and unrepentantly violating the ethical obligations the Law of Moses imposed.

Acts 13:38-39 succinctly states St. Paul’s objection to Second Temple Judaism:  it lacked Jesus.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 19, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SARGENT SHRIVER AND EUNICE KENNEDY SHRIVER, U.S. HUMANITARIANS

THE FEAST OF SAINTS DEICOLA AND GALL, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS; AND SAINT OTHMAR, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AT SAINT GALLEN

THE FEAST OF ELMER G. HOMRIGHAUSEN, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, BIBLICAL SCHOLAR, AND PROFESSOR OF CHRISTIAN EDUCATION

THE FEAST OF HAROLD A. BOSLEY, UNITED METHODIST MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF HENRY TWELLS, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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God’s Surprises IV   Leave a comment

Above:  St. Simon Peter

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Fifth Sunday after Trinity, Year 2

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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O God, who hast prepared for them that love thee

such good things as pass man’s understanding;

pour into our hearts such love toward thee,

that we, loving thee above all things,

may obtain thy promises,

which exceed all that we can desire;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 192

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1 Samuel 16:1-13

Psalm 62

Acts 8:26-40

Matthew 16:13-20

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God is faithful.  God also works in unexpected ways sometimes.  1 Samuel 16:1-13 makes plain that David, by human standards, was an unlikely choice is to be the King of Israel.  Acts 8:26-40 depicts St. Philip the Evangelist (the deacon, not the Apostle) finding foreshadowing of the Incarnation in the Hebrew Bible.  I feel confident, however, stating that he did not read certain texts that way before following Jesus.

Who do I say Jesus is?  Who do you, O reader, say Jesus is?  You cannot answer on my behalf, just as I cannot answer on your behalf.  My answer, dated October 18, 2011, is:

I trust that the historical figure known as Jesus of Nazareth was God incarnate.  We have atonement through his Incarnation, gracious life, execution, and resurrection.

That answer, according to some, is inadequate, especially for what it does not contain.  So be it.  I do not answer spiritually and doctrinally to any human being.  And the God of my faith does not mandate a canonical examination at the gates of Heaven.

A spiritual issue each of us needs to address daily is, how is God acting in ways we do not recognize?  Our obliviousness may not be malevolent.  No, it may merely come down to busyness or cultural conditioning.  Furthermore, recognizing God at work in us may be easier with the benefit of hindsight.  I have lost track of the number of times I have reflected on my past, connected the dots, and discovered another reason to thank God.

So, O reader, how is God at work in unexpected ways around you?  How is God active in people in unexpected ways around you?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 13, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT HILARY OF POITIERS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF POITIERS, “ATHANASIUS OF THE WEST,” AND HYMN WRITER; AND HIS PROTÉGÉ, SAINT MARTIN OF TOURS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF TOURS

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN KEIMANN, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF GEORGE FOX, FOUNDER OF THE RELIGIOUS SOCIETY OF FRIENDS

THE FEAST OF MARY SLESSOR, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MISSIONARY IN WEST AFRICA

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL PREISWERK, SWISS REFORMED MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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King David and Mephibosheth   1 comment

Above:  Mephibosheth Kneels Before King David

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART XXXVI

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2 Samuel 21:1-14

2 Samuel 9:1-13

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David asked, “Is there anyone belonging to Saul’s family left, to whom I might show faithful love for Jonathan’s sake?”

–2 Samuel 9:1, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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Consistent chronology is not the organizing principle in the books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles.  Neither is it the organizing principle in this blogging project.  Thematic considerations override chronology sometimes.

Remnants of the House of Saul remained alive and constituted potential political threats to King David.  Mephibosheth, born Meribbaal, was a son of Jonathan.  (Recall, O reader, that “bosheth” means “shame.”)  David and Jonathan had made a pact (1 Samuel 18:3 and 23:18).  David honored that pact by keeping Mephibosheth alive, in the royal court, and at a place of honor, the king’s dining table.  Also, David could always watch Mephibosheth.

Mentions of Mephibosheth also occur in 2 Samuel 16 and 19.

Mephibosheth was not all that was left of the House of Saul.  There was Michal, of course.  And Saul had at least seven surviving sons.  Seven sons of Saul, despite being innocent of any offense other than being sons of Saul, died.  They died, Chapter 21 tells us, to satisfy Saul’s blood guilt and to end a three-year-long drought.  In an incident recorded nowhere else in the Bible, Saul had attempted the genocide of the Gibeonites.  Seven sons of Saul died horribly–via impaling–for their father’s sin.

I, citing Ezekiel 18, reject holding children accountable for the sins of their parents.

These two passages portray King David as a complicated figure.  We read of a man–a monarch–who kept faith/kindness/faithful love (hesed) with Jonathan’s son and simultaneously reined him in.  Mixed motives are old news; human nature is a constant factor.  One may also reasonable argue that David should have kept hesed with Michal and those seven unfortunate sons of Saul.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 30, 2020 COMMON ERA

PROPER 17:  THE THIRTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT JEANNE JUGAN, FOUNDRESS OF THE LITTLE SISTERS OF THE POOR

THE FEAST OF JOHN LEARY, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC SOCIAL ACTIVIST AND ADVOCATE FOR THE POOR AND THE MARGINALIZED

THE FEAST OF KARL OTTO EBERHARDT, GERMAN MORAVIAN ORGANIST, MUSIC, EDUCATOR, AND COMPOSER

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This is post #2300 of BLOGA THEOLOGICA.

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David, Goliath, and Elhanan, Too   Leave a comment

Above:  David With the Head of Goliath, by Nicolas Tournier

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART XVI

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1 Samuel 17:1-18:5

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I went out to meet the Philistine,

and he cursed me by his idols.

But I drew my own sword;

I beheaded him, and took away disgrace from the people of Israel.

–Psalm 151:6-7, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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One can learn much by consulting an unabridged concordance of the Bible.

2 Samuel 21:18-22, set during the reign of King David, begins:

After this, fighting broke out again with the Philistines, at Gob; that was when Sibbecai the Hushathite killed Saph, a descendant of the Raphah.  Again there was fighting with the Philistines at Gob; and Elhanan son of Jaare-oregim the Bethlehmite killed Goliath the Gittite, whose spear had a shaft like a weaver’s bar.

–2 Samuel 21:18-19, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

1 Chronicles 20:15, also set during David’s reign, mentions Elhanan the Benjaminite, too.  The Chronicler altered 2 Samuel 21:19, though.

Again there was fighting with the Philistines, and Elhanan son of Jair killed Lahmi, the brother of Goliath the Gittite; his spear had a shaft like a weaver’s beam.

–1 Chronicles 20:5, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

One Elhanan son of Dodo the Bethlehemite receives a brief mention in 2 Samuel 23:24 and 1 Chronicles 11:26.  Whether Elhanan son of Jair/Jaare-oregim was Elhanan son of Dodo is uncertain.  According to Hans Wilhelm Herzberg, I and II Samuel:  A Commentary (1964), the son of Jair/Jaare-oregim being the son of Dodo is “questionable.”

According to 1 Samuel 17:7, the shaft of Goliath’s spear

was like a weaver’s bar,

just like the spear shaft in 2 Samuel 21:19 and 1 Chronicles 20:5.

If I were a Biblical literalist, the questions of who slew Goliath and who Elhanan killed would bother me.  I am not a Biblical literalist, though.  I agree with the scholarly opinion that Elhanan slew Goliath and that someone altered 1 Samuel 17 to relabel “the Philistine” occasionally as Goliath.  Besides, I know of the tendency to credit kings for the deeds of their warriors.  One may recall reading of Saul receiving credit in 1 Samuel 13:4 for what Jonathan had done in 13:3.

If I were a Biblical literalist, I would also seek to reconcile 1 Samuel 16:18-23 (in which Saul, having learned who Jesse and David were, took David into the royal court) with 1 Samuel 17, in which David had not yet entered royal service (verses 12-15) and Saul did not know who Jesse and David were (verses 55-58) until David told him in verse 58.  I would also try to reconcile 1 Samuel 16:18-23 with 1 Samuel 18:2, in which David entered royal service after slaying Goliath.

The Biblical stories one needs to read the most closely are the tales one thinks one knows.  One may not know those stories as well as one thinks.

“David and Goliath” has become shorthand for being an underdog.  That theme does exist in the story.  However, I choose to focus on another theme, that of the consequences of mocking God.  1 Samuel 17 drives home that the uncircumcised Philistines (verse 26) were mocking the “ranks of the living God.”  Some translations use “disgrace” instead of “mock.”  Everett Fox, in Volume II of The Schocken Bible, points to the Philistine champion falling face-down (verse 49) as if in a posture of worship after David found the Philistine warrior’s weak spot and killed him.  Fox also refers to another Biblical example of mocking God in the presence of Hebrew soldiers.  He mentions the Assyrian mocking of God in 2 Kings 18, during the reign of King Hezekiah.  One may remember that, in 2 Kings 19, an angel slew the Assyrian army.

Mocking God is a bad idea.  So is shutting down one’s critical faculties.  I refuse to check my brain at the threshold of a church building and at the cover of a Bible.  I also try not to mock God.

Anyway, for the rest of the story…

David went on to forge a friendship with crown prince Jonathan, win battles, and make a name for himself, according to 1 Samuel 18:1-5.  The author presented David as possessing excellent royal qualities.  David was becoming a political threat to King Saul, in that monarch’s unsettled mind.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 15, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY OF NAZARETH, MOTHER OF GOD

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David in the Court of King Saul   Leave a comment

Above: Saul and David, by Rembrandt Van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART XV

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1 Samuel 16:14-23

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My hands made a harp;

my fingers fashioned a lyre.

–Psalm 151:2, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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This story flows directly from 16:1-13.  Remember this detail, O reader, when we get to Chapter 17 (the familiar story of David Goliath), in which Saul supposedly met David for the first time.  The explanation for such inconsistencies in 1 Samuel is the editing of different sources into a composite narrative.  I have no idea what really happened, which version is accurate or closer to objective reality when these inconsistencies (plain when comparing texts) present themselves.  I focus, however, on spiritual lessons I can derive from the story.

Another matter I notice on this re-reading of 1 Samuel is the question of the passage of time.  In-universe, how long had Saul been the King of Israel by the time of 1 Samuel 16:14-23?  And how long had he reigned whenever (depending on the version of the rejection by God in which one chooses to place more trust–Chapter 13 or Chapter 15) God rejected him?  And how long did Saul reign after that?  Saul reigned for about two decades, study Bibles and other reference works tell me.  The Jewish Study Bible defines the reign of Saul as 1025-1005 B.C.E.  The New Interpreter’s Study Bible prefers 1020-c. 1000 B.C.E.

1 Samuel 16:14-23 flows directly from 16:1-13, which flows directly from the end of Chapter 15.  1 Samuel 16:14-23, therefore, comes from the same source as the second rejection story, the one in Chapter 15.  The Spirit of God gripped David in 16:13.  The Spirit departed from Saul in 16:14.  Saul seemed never to be comfortable as the King of Israel.  He became unhinged after 16:14.  Saul, aware of who David and Jesse were, made David a royal arms-bearer.  David’s main reason for being in the court was to make Saul feel better with music.  Saul, unaware of Samuel’s secret anointing of David, welcomed the former shepherd’s presence.

I wonder how we, using modern psychiatric and psychological categories, would define King Saul’s mental state after 16:14.  We have categories of which ancients knew nothing, after all.  The description in the text depends upon the traditional, spirit-based belief.  (Spirits are real, I affirm, but so are organic, genetic, and psychological causes.)  Keep in mind, O reader, that, according to the Bible, demonic possession causes epilepsy and mental illnesses.  Also consider that future generations may have different categories than we do.  I believe that Saul suffered from excessive stress, at least.  I also accept that he may have had some form of mental illness.  I suppose that, if Saul were alive today, a doctor would prescribe medication and a long vacation.  I also guess that Saul, if alive today, would undergo therapy.  These are only guesses.  I, as a student of history, know that reading the minds of dead people is difficult and frequently impossible.

Speculation about modern labels and the applicability to the mental state of the first King of Israel in interesting.  It is not, however, the territory into which the author of 1 Samuel 16:14-23 went.  No, the author’s point was that God had rejected Saul (who was suffering the consequences) and chosen David instead.  David was ascendant.  Saul was on the decline.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 15, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY OF NAZARETH, MOTHER OF GOD

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Posted August 15, 2020 by neatnik2009 in 1 Samuel 13, 1 Samuel 15, 1 Samuel 16, 1 Samuel 17, Psalm 151

Tagged with , , ,

The Anointing of David   2 comments

Above: Samuel Anointing David

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART XIV

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1 Samuel 16:1-13

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I was small among my brothers,

and the youngest in my father’s house;

I tended my father’s sheep.

My brothers were handsome and tall,

but the Lord was not pleased with them.

–Psalm 151:1, 5, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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This story flows directly from 1 Samuel 15:1-35, the second version of God’s rejection of Saul in the composite narrative.

  1. 1 Samuel 16:1-13 contains various elements.  I will write about some of them.
  2. Samuel was on a subversive mission from God.  He was going out to anoint the next King of Israel in secret.  Israel already had a monarch.
  3. The arrival of a prophet created fear in some people.
  4. Saul was a head taller than most other Israelites (1 Samuel 9:2).  He was also handsome.  Good looks counted as a qualification for being a monarch.  David was also handsome (1 Samuel 16:12).  He was also shorter than Saul.
  5. God told Samuel to pay no attention to the conventional standards of appearance and height.
  6. David, the youngest of eight sons of Jesse, was God’s choice.  Seven was the number of completion; eight was one better.  Also, the Biblical motif of the youngest or a younger son being the chosen one recurred.
  7. As after the anointing of Saul (1 Samuel 10:9-13), the Spirit of God gripped the newly anointed (1 Samuel 16:13).
  8. David was a shepherd.  Moses had been a shepherd, too (Exodus 3:1).  Kings in the ancient Near East were often shepherds, figuratively.  Elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible, texts referred to Israelite monarchs as shepherds.

What standards do we look for in rulers?  I, as a student of United States history, think immediately of two very different Presidents of the United States who perpetually occupy the lower rungs of historians’ rankings of Presidents.  I think of Franklin Pierce (in office 1853-1857), who signed the Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854) into law, made Kansas “Bleeding Kansas,” and hastened the coming of the Civil War.  I also know that, according to tradition, he may have been the most handsome President.  I also think of the distinguished-looking Warren G. Harding (in office 1921-1923), the President from central casting.  I know, however, that he pursued nativistic policies and, even immediately after a briefing on an issue, admitted that he did not understand that issue.  Furthermore, I remember reading a candid admission Harding made in private:

I am not fit for this office and should never have been here.

Leadership involves matters more substantial than stature and good looks.  These matters are readily evident.  Some are intangible.  Being a leader also requires having followers.  One who has no followers merely takes a walk, so to speak.

Ezekiel 34 refers to Israelite kings as shepherds–bad ones.  All people have the right to live under good rulers–attentive shepherds who build up the common good.  The price of having bad shepherds is high, often measured in death tolls and economic carnage, and in other forms of injustice.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 15, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY OF NAZARETH, MOTHER OF GOD

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Regarding King Saul   1 comment

Above:  Saul and David, by Rembrandt van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

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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 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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1 Samuel 17:57-18:16 or Jeremiah 32:36-41

Psalm 111

Romans 12:1-8

Luke 17:1-19

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The Books of Samuel, in the final form (probably edited by Ezra; this is an ancient theory with contemporary academic champions), consist of various sources.  If one knows this, one can notice many of the seams.  Inconsistencies become obvious.  For example, one may notice that King Saul knew that David was a son of Jesse in 1 Samuel 16:20 and that David played the lyre for the monarch in 16:23.  One may also notice that Saul did not recognize David in 17:33 or whose son he was in 17:56.  One may notice, furthermore, that David had to identify himself to Saul in 17:58.

I know too much to affirm spiritual inerrancy or infallibility.

I also know that King Saul was similar to many potentates in many lands and at many times.  I read in the composite text that Saul was a terrible public servant.  (So were almost all of his successors in Israel and Judah.)  Truth and justice should prosper under a good ruler.  A good ruler should try, at least.  A good ruler knows that he or she is a servant holding a temporary job.  A good ruler seeks to make responsible decisions and does not mistake events as being about himself or herself.  A good ruler thinks about the long-term common good.  Consequences of short-sighted leaders are frequently disastrous, as in Jeremiah 32:36-41.

What passes for a psychiatric or psychological diagnosis of King Saul comes from 1 Samuel 16:23–an evil spirit.  Cultural anthropology tells us that they, in modern times, can mean anything from severe stress to a mental illness.  Either way, the description of Saul is that of a man unfit to rule.  After all, those who govern are still servants.  God is really the king.

Despite all the bad press about King Saul, I feel somewhat sympathetic for him.  I read about him and remember that he never sought the job (1 Samuel 12).  I recall that Saul seems not so bad, compared to Solomon.  I think of Saul, doing his best yet failing.  I know the feeling of working hard yet failing.  I ask myself how Saul may have succeeded in life.  He seems to have needed counseling, at least.

Tragedy, in the Greek sense, has a particular definition.  A good person tries to make good decisions (most of the time, anyway) and fails spectacularly, dooming himself or herself.  The accounts of King Saul do not fit that definition exactly, but Greek tragedy does help me understand the first Israelite monarch.  I read stories while making a combination of good and bad decisions and often trying to decide wisely.  I read of a man with defective judgment.  I read of a man whose demise was not inevitable when he became the first King of Israel.

I, like David, mourn for Saul (2 Samuel 1).

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 29, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CATHERINE OF SIENA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC AND RELIGIOUS

THE FEAST OF SAINTS BOSA OF YORK, JOHN OF BEVERLEY, WILFRID THE YOUNGER, AND ACCA OF HEXHAM, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

THE FEAST OF JAMES EDWARD WALSH, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY BISHOP AND POLITICAL PRISONER IN CHINA

THE FEAST OF SIMON B. PARKER, UNITED METHODIST BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF TIMOTHY REES, WELSH ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER AND BISHOP OF LLANDAFF

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2020/04/29/devotion-for-proper-25-year-c-humes/

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Seeing Others as God Sees Them   1 comment

Above:  The Anointing of David

Image in the Public Domain

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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 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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1 Samuel 16:1-13 or Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7

Psalm 108:1-6, 13

Romans 10:5-15

Luke 14:1-14

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Seeing other people as God sees them can be challenging.  First, we must see past our blindness, erroneous attitudes we have learned and affirmed.  We like our categories, do we not?  Second, we are not God.  We know much less than God does.  How can we look upon the heart of someone we do not know?  We cannot know the hearts of many other people.

We can and must reserve judgments not rooted in sufficient evidence.  We can do this by grace.  We can properly arrive at some conclusions.  Some people, for example, are stone-cold serial killers.  Extreme examples are easy and safe ones.  Most of life occupies the vast grayness and ambiguity that defies black-and-white simplicity.

Some of the advice in today’s readings may seem odd, counter-intuitive, or wrong.  Why should exiles not resist their captors?  If one is going to be in exile for a long time, one should hope to prosper, actually, according to Jeremiah.  When we turn to the Gospel of Luke, we enter the territory of reversal of fortune.  The first will be last and the last will be first in Luke.  That Gospel also says that blessed are the poor and woe to the rich.  In that line of thought we read a commandment to be kind to those who cannot repay one.  Do not seek to exalt oneself, we read.  When one is kind, one should be genuinely kind.  Jeremiah and Luke offer advice and commandments that contradict conventional wisdom.

Related to that seeming folly is the theme of of not judging prematurely.  The wealthy and prominent are not necessarily better than the poor and the the marginalized.  Social status and character are separate matters.  I guarantee that each person is facing struggles of which others may not know.  Each of us may know well someone who is frequently a cause of stress and frustration.  That person may be doing the best he or she can, given circumstances.  Seeing others as God sees them is a spiritual feat possible only by grace.

Perfection (as we usually understand that word) is an impossible moral and spiritual standard.  We can, however, improve morally and spiritually, by grace.  We can be more patient with and forgiving of each other, by grace.  We can reserve judgments properly and more often, by grace.  May we do so, by grace.  Perfection, in the Biblical sense, is being suited for one’s purpose.  We can also do that only by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 26, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM COWPER, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT ADELARD OF CORBIE, FRANKISH ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK AND ABBOT; AND HIS PROTÉGÉ, SAINT PASCHASIUS RADBERTUS, FRANKISH ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ABBOT, AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF ROBERT HUNT, FIRST ANGLICAN CHAPLAIN IN JAMESTOWN, VIRGINIA

THE FEAST OF RUTH BYLLESBY, EPISCOPAL DEACONESS IN GEORGIA

THE FEAST OF SAINT STANISLAW KUBISTA, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1940; AND SAINT WLADYSLAW GORAL, POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP AND MARTYR, 1945

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2020/04/26/devotion-for-proper-22-year-c-humes/

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The Appalling Strangeness of the Mercy of God   1 comment

Above:  Christ Healing an Infirm Woman, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

The Appalling Strangeness of the Mercy of God

SEPTEMBER 26, 2021

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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 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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1 Samuel 15:34-16:13 or Jeremiah 23:23-29

Psalm 107:1-3, 170-32

Romans 9:1-6, 16

Luke 13:10-17

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The twin themes of divine judgment and mercy dominate these five readings, O reader.

I know, O reader, that, if you have paid attention to and read this weblog for a while, you can probably guess what I will write next.  The Bible is repetitive.  Lectionaries keep taking me into repetitive territory.  The Bible repeats itself because people missed a given message the first many times.

You cannot conceive, nor can I, of the appalling strangeness of the mercy of God.

–Graham Greene, Brighton Rock (1938)

The mercy of God present in Jesus, healing on the Sabbath, appalled one synagogue official in Luke 13:10-17.  This mercy should have filled that man with joy on behalf of the formerly afflicted woman.  No, he stood of conventional piety, according to which Christ’s actions were inappropriate–even sinful–on the Sabbath.  Jesus did not provide first aid; that would have been fine, according to conventional piety.  Neither did he provide emergency relief that saved her life; that also would have been fine, according to conventional piety.  Had he healed her on any of the other six days of the week, that would have been fine, according to conventional piety.  So much for that version of conventional piety!

The easy way out is to stand on one’s perceived moral superiority to that synagogue official.  The easy way out is to denounce him and stop there.  However, I know myself well enough to affirm that I have my own version of conventional piety–the rules of the spiritual road, as I understand them, so to speak.  If Jesus were to stand in front of me and transgress any of those rules, I would probably take offense at him.  That would be my problem and sin, not his.

You, O reader, probably resemble that remark.  Who among us is a spiritual superhero, greater than mere mortals?

May God forgive all of us our spiritual blindness and fixations that prevent us from responding as we should.  And may we follow divine leading in repenting of those sins.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 25, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARK THE EVANGELIST, MARTYR, 68

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2020/04/25/devotion-for-proper-21-year-c-humes/

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