Archive for the ‘1 Samuel 4’ Category

David Versus the Philistines   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of 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 XXXII

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2 Samuel 5:17-25

1 Chronicles 14:1-17

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Save me, O God, by your Name;

in your might, defend my cause.

Hear my prayer, O God;

give ear to the words of my mouth.

–Psalm 54:1-2, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Saul became the King of Israel with a charge to defeat the Philistine threat.  He failed for nearly twenty years.  Some time after David became the undisputed King of Israel, he defeated Philistine forces and liberated Israel from that threat, for a while.  (2 Samuel 5:17 is vague regarding the passage of time.)  God was fighting for Israel and advising David, the texts emphasized.

These passages contain references to previous passages.  The Israelite capture of idols as war booty indicates the opposite of the Philistine capture of the Ark of the Covenant (1 Samuel 4).  Exodus 14:25 and Judges 5:20 also mention God taking a side and intervening.

Interestingly, “Baal” functions as a name of God in 2 Samuel 5:20.  This is not entirely surprising.  I know of other religious connections between the Israelites and their neighbors.  For example, some of the Psalms indicate Egyptian or Canaanite influences; the texts use extant hymns as models.  Also, “El” and “Elohim” are Jewish names of God.  A student of ancient comparative religion may know that El was the chief Canannite deity and the presiding officer of the divine council, the Elohim.  The use of “Baal” for YHWH in 2 Samuel 5:20 prompts me to wonder about Ishbaal, son of Saul.  I wonder of the “man of Baal” was the “man of YHWH,” literally.  “Baal” means “Lord” or “Master.”  Perhaps the most famous Baal is Baal Peor, the Canaanite storm god and one the Baals.

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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The Request for a King   Leave a comment

Above: The Statue of Samuel, Salisbury Cathedral

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 VIII

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1 Samuel 8:1-22

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Not to us, O LORD, not to us,

but to your Name give glory;

because of your love and because of your faithfulness.

Psalm 115:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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This reading reflects skepticism of the monarchy.  The source (probably E) differs from the Chronicler (see 1-2 Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah), who liked monarchy, especially David and his dynasty, although not most of the monarchs thereof.

Eli’s sons were not suitable successors (1 Samuel 2-4).  Neither were Samuel’s sons (1 Samuel 8:1-3).  Who would rule after Samuel?

Unlike as in Chapter 12 (where the desire for strong military leadership was the primary reason for wanting a king), the main reason for supporting the establishment of a monarchy in Chapter 8 was the desire to be like the neighboring peoples.  The desire to be like the Smiths and Joneses, so to speak, was a national failing of the Israelites.  It contributed to recurring idolatry.  This desire led to rejecting God as the proper King of Israel.  Despite Samuel’s warning, the desire to be like the neighbors remained.  The people got what they wanted.

One may think of divine judgment as giving us what we do not want.  It is that much of the time.  However, sometimes divine judgment takes the form of giving us what we desire.  We should be careful what we wish for; we may get it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 14, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM CROFT, ANGLICAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF JOHN BAJUS, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF JOHN HENRY HOPKINS, JR., EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND HYMNODIST; AND HIS NEPHEW, JOHN HENRY HOPKINS, III, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND MUSICIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAXIMILIAN KOLBE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1941; AND JONATHAN MYRICK DANIELS, EPISCOPAL SEMINARIAN AND MARTYR, 1965

THE FEAST OF SARAH FLOWER ADAMS, ENGLISH UNITARIAN HYMN WRITER; AND HER SISTER, ELIZA FLOWER, ENGLISH UNITARIAN COMPOSER

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Samuel as Judge   Leave a comment

Above: Samuel

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 VII

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1 Samuel 7:2-17

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Keep me as the apple of your eye;

hide me under the shadow of your wings,

From the wicked who assault me,

from my deadly enemies who surround me.

–Psalm 17:8-9, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Unlike as in Chapter 4, the link between fidelity to God and military victory is explicit in Chapter 7.

The problem with idolatry in Israel in the Old Testament was NOT that people were NOT worshiping YHWH.  They were.  No, the problem was that they were NOT worshiping only YHWH.  Polytheism was a difficult habit to unlearn.  Astarte (the Canaanite goddess of fertility and love) was allegedly YHWH’s consort.  Some Biblical authors likened idolatry to sexual infidelity, in fact.

Unfortunately, successive generations of Hebrews were serial idolaters.  This was a theme of which authors, their works later cut and pasted during the post-exilic period, wrote.

Idols are easy to find.  An idol can be anything–an object, an activity, an idea, a person, a pet, or an action.  The test is function.  Whatever or whoever functions as an idol, is an idol.  One can affirm the existence of just one deity and still commit idolatry.  Idols distract one from God.  They receive love one should give to God.  In Augustinian theology, sin is disordered love.  Many people, objects, etc., are worthy of love, but not as much as God.  To love x more than one should and God less than one should is to sin and to commit idolatry.

Loving God as one should does not prevent misfortune, of course.  It does not guarantee wealth and good health, either.  The rain falls on the just and the unjust.  Jesus and the plethora of Christian martyrs prove that suffering may result from proper piety.  However, worshiping only God is the best policy.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 14, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM CROFT, ANGLICAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF JOHN BAJUS, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF JOHN HENRY HOPKINS, JR., EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND HYMNODIST; AND HIS NEPHEW, JOHN HENRY HOPKINS, III, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND MUSICIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAXIMILIAN KOLBE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1941; AND JONATHAN MYRICK DANIELS, EPISCOPAL SEMINARIAN AND MARTYR, 1965

THE FEAST OF SARAH FLOWER ADAMS, ENGLISH UNITARIAN HYMN WRITER; AND HER SISTER, ELIZA FLOWER, ENGLISH UNITARIAN COMPOSER

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The Philistines Return the Ark of the Covenant   Leave a comment

Above: The Ark of the Covenant in the Temple of Dagon

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 VI

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1 Samuel 5:1-7:1

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Let God arise, and let his enemies be scattered;

let those who hate him flee before him.

–Psalm 68:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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After the Philistine army captured the Ark of the Covenant (1 Samuel 4)…

A pseudo-documentary on the so-called History Channel argued (without evidence, of course) that the Ark of the Covenant contained a nuclear reactor.  (Who knew?)  That explanation was absurd.  The Ark, however, was dangerous, according to Biblical texts.  Although young Samuel slept near to it (1 Samuel 3), touching the object (even by accident or to prevent it from falling) and looking into it was lethal.  The holiness of God was dangerous to mere mortals; people who acted wisely dared not get too close.

Another prominent theme in this story is the sovereignty of God.  Even a statue of Dagon, a fish-god associated with corn and grain, fell face-down before the Ark then lost its head and hands (5:3-4).

The affliction later in Chapter 5 varies according to translations.  TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985) renders the germane Hebrew word as “hemorrhoids.”  The New Revised Standard Version (1989), however, renders that Hebrew word as “tumors,” however.  The best academic guess seems to be Bubonic Plague.  Yet, based on archaeological evidence of phallic imagery at the site, venereal disease is another surmise.

A close reading of the Hebrew Bible reveals shifts in theology.  One may recall that, in Genesis 18, Abraham walked (literally) and haggled with God face-to-face.  One may also remember that, by the time of Exodus 19:23, Israelites were not supposed to get too close to Mount Sinai when Moses and God were on the mountain together.  God did not change; theology did.

I, as a Christian, affirm the accessibility of God.  I point to the Incarnation.

To return to the main point, the story emphasizes the sovereignty of God.  No human power or concept can contain God.  God disrupts that which God should disrupt.  People cannot tame God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 14, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM CROFT, ANGLICAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF JOHN BAJUS, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF JOHN HENRY HOPKINS, JR., EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND HYMNODIST; AND HIS NEPHEW, JOHN HENRY HOPKINS, III, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND MUSICIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAXIMILIAN KOLBE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1941; AND JONATHAN MYRICK DANIELS, EPISCOPAL SEMINARIAN AND MARTYR, 1965

THE FEAST OF SARAH FLOWER ADAMS, ENGLISH UNITARIAN HYMN WRITER; AND HER SISTER, ELIZA FLOWER, ENGLISH UNITARIAN COMPOSER

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The Philistine Army Captures the Ark of the Covenant   Leave a comment

Above:  The Ark of the Covenant, by James Tissot

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 V

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1 Samuel 4:1b-22

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O God, you have cast us off and broken us;

you have been angry;

oh, take us back to you again.

–Psalm 60:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Military defeat (which God allowed, according to the text) of the Israelite forces did not constitute the defeat of God.  Philistine capture of the Ark of the Covenant (in lieu of the statue of a deity, the conventional booty) did not constitute the defeat of God.  Military defeat of Israelite forces did, however, constitute a crisis.

The Ark of the Covenant symbolized the presence of God.  The Ark’s unprecedented presence on the battlefield indicated the belief that the Ark was a talisman.

The deaths of Hophni and Phinehas (per 1 Samuel 2:24) and of Eli (once he heard of the capture of the Ark of the Covenant, not the deaths of his wayward sons) added to the seriousness of the situation.  Had the glory of God departed from Israel?  The mother of Ichabod thought so.

I wonder how Ichabod felt going through life with a name meaning “no glory.”

This story, in context, contains no hint of pervasive national wickedness for which God punished Israel via the Philistines.  One must, therefore, wonder why the defeat occurred.  A prosaic answer would entail an explanation of military strategies, of course.  That, however, is not the point of this story.  No, the point relates to the sovereignty of God.

The defeat was ironic.  The Philistines were polytheists who misquoted the history of the plagues of Egypt (Exodus 7:8-11:10), placing them in the wilderness, oddly.  Yet, according to 1 Samuel 4, these Philistines were agents of God.  They were about to learn how little they understood about the God of the Israelites.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 14, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM CROFT, ANGLICAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF JOHN BAJUS, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF JOHN HENRY HOPKINS, JR., EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND HYMNODIST; AND HIS NEPHEW, JOHN HENRY HOPKINS, III, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND MUSICIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAXIMILIAN KOLBE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1941; AND JONATHAN MYRICK DANIELS, EPISCOPAL SEMINARIAN AND MARTYR, 1965

THE FEAST OF SARAH FLOWER ADAMS, ENGLISH UNITARIAN HYMN WRITER; AND HER SISTER, ELIZA FLOWER, ENGLISH UNITARIAN COMPOSER

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God’s First Revelation to Samuel   Leave a comment

Above:  Samuel Relating to Eli the Judgments of God Upon Eli’s House, by John Singleton Copley

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 IV

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1 Samuel 3:1-4:1a

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My soul is content, as with marrow and fatness,

and my mouth praises you with joyful lips,

When I remember you upon my bed,

and meditate on you in the night watches.

–Psalm 63:5-6, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Years ago, while I was perusing religious books in a thrift store in Athens, Georgia, I saw a volume entitled How to Find God.  The author was wrong.  Nobody finds God.  No, God finds us.  How we respond or react is crucial.

God found Samuel, who eventually, with Eli’s help, realized who was calling in the pre-dawn hours.  Samuel listened.  Eli insisted on hearing the truth about what God said.  Eli heard the difficult truth and replied,

He is the LORD; He will do what he deems right.

What one says can be at least as important as how one says it.  And how well one listens then responds or reacts is likewise crucial.  One can imagine, in this case, young Samuel’s discomfort in repeating the unpleasant prophecy.  And one can imagine Eli’s discomfort in hearing it.  If one is honest, one must admit that Samuel and Eli did well that day.

Indeed, Samuel was Eli’s legitimate immediate successor.  And the old man was better than his sons, Hophni and Phinehas.

I invite you, O reader, to put yourself in Samuel’s position then in Eli’s position, or visa versa.  How might you have behaved and felt in that circumstance?  Would your desire to spare feelings lead you to lie?  Would you have lashed out at Samuel after hearing the bad news?  Would you dismiss the truth as “fake news”?  Or would you have acted as Samuel and Eli did?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 14, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM CROFT, ANGLICAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF JOHN BAJUS, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF JOHN HENRY HOPKINS, JR., EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND HYMNODIST; AND HIS NEPHEW, JOHN HENRY HOPKINS, III, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND MUSICIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAXIMILIAN KOLBE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1941; AND JONATHAN MYRICK DANIELS, EPISCOPAL SEMINARIAN AND MARTYR, 1965

THE FEAST OF SARAH FLOWER ADAMS, ENGLISH UNITARIAN HYMN WRITER; AND HER SISTER, ELIZA FLOWER, ENGLISH UNITARIAN COMPOSER

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Posted August 14, 2020 by neatnik2009 in 1 Samuel 3, 1 Samuel 4, Psalm 63

Tagged with , , ,

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

aerial-view-of-ashdod-1932

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

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/mpc2010001379/PP/)

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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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Some Related Posts:

1 Samuel 4:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/06/week-of-1-epiphany-thursday-year-2/

Acts 16, 18-19:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirty-eighth-day-of-easter/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/21/forty-third-day-of-easter-seventh-sunday-of-easter-year-c/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/forty-first-day-of-easter/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/forty-second-day-of-easter/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/forty-fourth-day-of-easter/

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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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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/08/11/devotion-for-july-21-22-and-23-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Overconfidence and Misplaced Confidence   1 comment

Above:  Nazis and the Ark of the Covenant, in a screen capture from Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

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1 Samuel 4:1c-11 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

Now Israel went out to battle against the Philistines; they encamped at Ebenezer, and the Philistines encamped at Aphek.  The Philistines drew up in line against Israel, and when the battle spread, Israel was defeated by the Philistines, who slew about four thousand men on the field of battle.  And when the troops came to the camp, the elders of Israel said,

Why has the LORD put us to rout today before the Philistines?  Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the LORD here from Shiloh, that he may come among us from the power of our enemies.

So the people sent to Shiloh, and brought from there the ark of the covenant of the LORD of hosts, who is enthroned upon the cherubim; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God.

When the ark of the covenant of the LORD came into the camp, all Israel gave a mighty shout, so that the earth resounded.  And when the Philistines heard the noise of the shouting, they said,

What does this great shouting in the camp of the Hebrews mean?

And when they learned that the ark of the LORD had come to the camp, the Philistines were afraid; for they said,

A god has come into the camp.

And they said,

Woe to us!  For nothing like this has happened before.  Woe to us!  Who can deliver us from the power of these mighty gods?  These are the gods who struck the Egyptians with every sort of plague in the wilderness.  Take courage, and acquit yourselves like men, O Philistines, lest you become slaves to the Hebrews as they have been to you; acquit yourselves like men and flight.

So the Philistines fought, and Israel was defeated, and they fled, every man to his home; and there was a very great slaughter, for there fell of Israel thirty thousand foot soldiers.  And the ark of God was captured; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were slain.

Psalm 44:7-14, 23-26 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

7  Surely, you gave us victory over our adversaries

and put those who hate us to shame.

8  Every day we gloried in God,

and we will praise your Name for ever.

9  Nevertheless, we have rejected and humbled us

and do not go forth with our armies.

10  You have made us fall back before our adversary,

and our enemies have plundered us.

11  You have made us like sheep to be eaten

and have scattered us among the nations.

12  You are selling your people for a trifle

and are making no profit on the sale of them.

13  You have made us the scorn of our neighbors,

a mockery and derision to those around us.

14  You have made us a byword among the nations,

a laughing-stock among the peoples.

23  Awake, O Lord!  why are you sleeping?

Arise!  do not reject us for ever.

24  Why have you hidden your face

and forgotten our affliction and oppression?

25  We sink down into the dust;

our body cleaves to the ground.

26  Rise up, and help us,

and save us, for the sake of your steadfast love.

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The Collect:

Father in heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized into his Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

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1 Samuel 3:1b sets the stage for this day’s reading from Chapter 4.  Consider this short text:

And the word of the LORD was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision.

The Ark of the Covenant was powerful, mysterious, revered, and feared object.  Many Israelites believed that its presence at a battle made their army invincible, and the Philistines, who were accustomed to thinking in polytheistic terms, feared that this was true.  But the Philistines fought through their fear while the Israelites went into battle with misplaced confidence.

What happened next?

  1. The Philistines discovered the power of the ark for themselves, so they returned it.
  2. Eli died.
  3. Samuel succeeded him as priest, prophet, and judge.

That summarizes the portion of 1 Samuel we will skip over in the lectionary.

Back to the main idea now…

The narrative of much of the Old Testament, written in the historically-themed books with the benefit of hindsight, is that YHWH smiles upon worshiping him alone (not as part of a pantheon) and working for social justice, much of which is economic.  God, in the Bible, frowns upon polytheism and economic exploitation.  Consider the words of Hebrew prophets in relation to why a Hebrew nations rises or falls.  The Hebrews were supposed to be a light to the nations; they were not supposed to blend in with them.

Yet, as we read in 1 Samuel 3:1b,

And the word of the LORD was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision.

Many in the Confederate States of America believed honestly that God had ordained the institution of slavery.  So, they thought, those who argued from the Bible against the Peculiar Institution were heretics, and God would surely grant the Confederacy victory in the Civil War.  The Confederacy’s loss therefore left many of these partisans puzzled.  Surely, they told themselves, slavery was still ordained by God, so maybe they had carried it out in the wrong way.  They were not only overconfident; they also had misplaced confidence.

In my nation, the United States of America, income inequality has become much more pronounced in the last few decades.  Ironically, many of the most Social Darwinian defenders of those who have aided and abetted this transfer of wealth are would-be theocrats, self-appointed experts in morality.  Yes, they are quick to condemn sins of the flesh yet oblivious to the sin of economic exploitation.  These are false prophets.  When they speak, the word of the LORD is not heard in the land; their religion is one variety of what Karl Marx understood correctly as the opiate of the masses.  Yet there is a true religion, one which is a liberator, not an opiate, of the masses.  Eli, Samuel, John the Baptist, Jesus of Nazareth, Paul of Tarsus, Francis of Assisi, Menno Simons, and Walter Rauschenbusch were prophets of this religion.  May we hear, understand, and obey, for the common good.  May we neither place in confidence in the wrong places nor become complacent.  And may God save us from ourselves.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 6, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF INI KOPURIA, FOUNDER OF THE MELANESIAN BROTHERHOOD

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/06/week-of-1-epiphany-thursday-year-2/

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