Archive for the ‘Goliath’ Tag

Wickedness   1 comment

Above:  The Stoning of Saint Stephen, 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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Genesis 6:1-8 or Acts 22:1-22

Psalm 125

Revelation 2:12-17

John 6:41-59

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The Humes lectionary divides Genesis 6 across two Sundays:  Today’s portion of Genesis 6 includes the debut of the Nephilim in the Bible.  This is an example of pagan folklore adapted for scriptural purposes.  And Richard Elliott Friedman, in his Commentary on the Torah (2001), describes stories of the Nephilim as being elements of a larger story

widely separated, distributed across great stretches of the narrative.

–33

According to Dr. Friedman, Genesis 6:1-5 links to Numbers 13:33, Joshua 11:21-22, and 1 Samuel 17:4.  Dr. Friedman describes Goliath of Gath as the last of the Nephilim, the final one to go down to defeat.

The big idea in Genesis 6:1-8 is the increasing wickedness of the human race.  “Wicked” and “wickedness” are words many use casually, with little or not thought about what they mean.  The Random House Dictionary of the English Language (1973) offers various definitions of “wicked.”  The most helpful one, in this context is:

evil or morally bad in principle or in practice; sinful; vicious; iniquitous.

In Jewish theology, wickedness (or one form of it) flows from the conviction that God does not care what we do, therefore we mere mortals are on our own.  The dictionary’s definition of wickedness as being evil in principle or practice is helpful and accurate.  Moustache-twirling villains exist in greater numbers in cartoons than in real life.  Most people who commit wickedness do not think of themselves as being wicked or or having committed wickedness.  Many of them think they have performed necessary yet dirty work, at worst.  And many others imagine that they are doing or have done God’s work.

One may point to Saul of Tarsus, who had the blood of Christians on his hands before he became St. Paul the Apostle.  One lesson to take away from St. Paul’s story is that the wicked are not beyond repentance and redemption.

On a prosaic level, each of us needs to watch his or her life for creeping wickedness.  One can be conventionally pious and orthodox yet be wicked.  One can affirm that God cares about how we treat others and be wicked.  One can sin while imagining that one is acting righteously.

Unfortunately, some of the references in Revelation 2:12-17 are vague.  Time has consumed details of the Nicolaitian heresy, for example.  And the text does not go into detail regarding what some members of the church at Pergamum were doing.  According to Ernest Lee Stoffel, The Dragon Bound:  The Revelation Speaks to Our Time (1981), the offense was probably a perceived license to sin, predicated on salvation by grace–cheap grace, in other words.  Grace is cheap yet never cheap.

Moral compartmentalization is an ancient and contemporary spiritual ailment.  The challenge to be holy on Sunday and on Monday remains a topic on the minds of many pastors.  Related to this matter is another one:  the frequent disconnect between private morality and public morality.  Without creating or maintaining a theocracy, people can apply their ethics and morals in public life.  The main caveat is that some methods of application may not work, may be of limited effectiveness, and/or may have negative, unintended consequences.  I feel confident, O reader, in stating that the idealistic aspects of the movement that gave birth to Prohibition in the United States of America did not not include aiding and abetting organized crime.  But they had that effect.

By grace, may we seek to avoid wickedness and succeed in avoiding it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 16, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROBERTO DE NOBOLI, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY IN INDIA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BERARD AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS IN MOROCCO, 1220

THE FEAST OF EDMUND HAMILTON SEARS, U.S. UNITARIAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF GUSTAVE WEIGEL, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF RICHARD MEUX BENSON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND COFOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY OF SAINT JOHN THE EVANGELIST; CHARLES CHAPMAN GRAFTON, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, COFOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY OF SAINT JOHN THE EVANGELIST, AND BISHOP OF FOND DU LAC; AND CHARLES GORE, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF WORCESTER, BIRMINGHAM, AND OXFORD; FOUNDER OF THE COMMUNITY OF THE RESURRECTION; AND ADVOCATE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE AND WORLD PEACE

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2021/01/16/devotion-for-proper-12-year-d-humes/

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The Beheading of Holofernes and the Defeat of the Assyrians   Leave a comment

Above:  Judith with the Head of Holofernes, by Simon Vouet

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JUDITH

PART VII

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Judith 13:1-15:14

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The Lord struck him down by the hand of a female!

–Judith 13:15c, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

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A very attentive reader of the Hebrew Bible may think of Jael (Judges 4:17-22; 5:24-27), who used a hammer to drive a tent peg through Sisera’s temple until the tent peg went into the ground.  One may also recall David beheading Goliath (1 Samuel 17:51).

The New English Bible (1970), The Revised English Bible (1989), and The New Revised Standard Version (1989) capture the original Greek text well.  Those translations tell us that Holofernes was

dead drunk.

Renderings in other translations include the following:

  1. overcome with wine;
  2. drunk with wine;
  3. wine-sodden;
  4. overcharged with wine;
  5. drunk; and
  6. unconscious from the wine.

In a conservative, patriarchal culture, a man dying by the hand of a woman was especially disgraceful, from a certain point of view.  The dismay of male chauvinists was great.

Furthermore, sexual innuendo pervades the story.  Without delving into the depths of Freudian excesses, I point to the following elements:

  1. The decapitation of Holofernes is a form of decapitation.
  2. “Bethulia” means “virgin.”
  3. “Bagoas” means “eunuch.”

At the end of Chapter 15, the Assyrian army, without its head (and its former leader without his head), fled in panic.  Judith’s strategy was effective.  All she had to do was to kill the commander to throw the army into confusion.

And, as Judith and the people of Bethulia readily acknowledged, God was the real victor.  God had worked through Judith.

When God works through us, may we acknowledge that readily.  May we do the same when we realize that God has worked or is working through others.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 12, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM LLOYD GARRISON, ABOLITIONIST AND FEMINIST; AND MARIA STEWART, ABOLITIONIST, FEMINIST, AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINTS BARTHOLOMEW BUONPEDONI AND VIVALDUS, MINISTERS AMONG LEPERS

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM LOUIS POTEAT, PRESIDENT OF WAKE FOREST COLLEGE, AND BIOLOGIST; HIS BROTHER, EDWIN MCNEILL POTEAT, SR., SOUTHERN AND NORTHERN BAPTIST MINISTER, SCHOLAR, AND PRESIDENT OF FURMAN UNIVERSITY; HIS SON, EDWIN MCNEILL POTEAT, JR., SOUTHERN BAPTIST MINISTER, MISSIONARY, MUSICIAN, HYMN WRITER, AND SOCIAL REFORMER; HIS BROTHER, GORDON MCNEILL POTEAT, SOUTHERN AND NORTHERN BAPTIST AND CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND MISSIONARY; AND HIS COUSIN, HUBERT MCNEILL POTEAT, SOUTHERN BAPTIST ACADEMIC AND MUSICIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT LUDWIK BARTOSIK, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1941

THE FEAST OF THOMAS CANNING, U.S. COMPOSER AND MUSIC EDUCATOR

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King David Versus the Ammonites, the Arameans, and the Philistines   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of 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 XXXVII

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2 Samuel 10:1-19 and 12:26-31

1 Chronicles 19:1-20:8

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“Let us be strong and resolute for the sake of our people and the land of our God; and the LORD will do what He deems right.”

–Joab, in 2 Samuel 10:12, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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King David’s Ammonite war frames the story of Uriah and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11 and 12), absent from 1 Chronicles.

Ammonite court politics caused the Ammonite war.  Nahash, King of Ammon, had died.  Hanun, listening to bad advice, mistook David’s official condolences for a spy mission then humiliated his envoys.  David’s forces won battles, though.  They did so against superior Ammonite-Aramean forces.  The author meant for us to understand that God was on the side of Israel in this war.

1 Chronicles 20:4-8 tells of another war against Philistines.  It seems that keeping Philistines down was difficult.  This passage mentions Elhanan, who slew the brother of Goliath.  This passage contradicts 2 Samuel 21:19, which says that Elhanan slew Goliath.  This language in 2 Samuel 21:19 is very similar to that in 1 Chronicles 20:5.  2 Samuel 21:19, of course, also contradicts 1 Samuel 17, which tells us that David slew Goliath.  If I were a Biblical literalist, this matter would bother me.

Back to the beginning of the Ammonite war….

David had kept faith/kindness (hesed) with King Nahash of Ammon, just as he did with Mephibosheth in 2 Samuel 9.  The text makes the connection between those two chapters.  We readers are to think positively of David in his dealings, with Mephibosheth and his treaty partner, the King of Ammon, according to the text.

One translation of hesed is “kindness.”  Kindness is absent from the end of the story; the forced labor of prisoners of war, although common in the region at the time, indicates the opposite of kindness.  Kindness is also absent toward Uriah the Hittite in 2 Samuel 11.

David, in these and other cases, practices hesed selectively.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 31, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICODEMUS, DISCIPLE OF JESUS

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David on the Run, Part I   1 comment

Above:  Ahimelech Giving the Sword of Goliath to David, by Aert de Gelder

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 XX

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1 Samuel 21:1-22:23

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They go to and fro in the evening;

they snarl like dogs and run about the city.

They forage for good,

and if they are not filled, they howl.

For my part, I will sing of your strength;

I will celebrate your love in the morning;

For you have become my stronghold,

a refuge in the day of my trouble.

To you, O my Strength, will I sing;

for you, O God, are my stronghold and my merciful God.

–Psalm 59:16-20, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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David was in open rebellion against King Saul.  Why not?  King Saul had forced the issue by trying to kill David and to have David terminated with extreme prejudice.  There was no indication of David being disloyal to King Saul before the monarch forced fugitive-rebel status upon him.  David, therefore, remained alive the best ways he knew.  The future king, in mortal peril, lied to Ahimelich, great-grandson of Eli, and feigned insanity before Achish, the King of Gath.  According to the text, Achish knew who David, carrying the sword with which he had beheaded Goliath, was.  David’s lie to Ahimelech led to the execution of all but one of the priests at Nob.  Abiathar son of Ahimelech survived, though (1 Samuel 2:33).

The narrative emphasizes the contrast between the characters of Saul and David.  Saul ordered the deaths of innocents–priests, the inhabitants of Nob, and livestock.  When David realized the role he played leading up to those murders, he accepted personal responsibility.  Saul also passed the buck before finally admitting error in 1 Samuel 15.  But was he sincere when he confessed?

You, O reader, may know or know of someone who seldom or never accepts responsibility for his or her actions.  This person may be a neighbor, a boss, a relative, a politician, et cetera.  Such people blame others for their errors, frequently in the manner of projecting their failings onto others.

Those of us who have read the story of David know he was deeply flawed.  We may not like him.  That is fine.  But, if we are honest, we must admit that, according to the story, David admitted errors more than once.  David admitted errors more than once.  I count such honesty as a virtue.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 21, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRUNO ZEMBOL, POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC FRIAR AND MARTYR, 1942

THE FEAST OF SAINTS CAMERIUS, CISELLUS, AND LUXORIUS OF SARDINIA, MARTYRS, 303

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF EDESSA, CIRCA 304

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAXIMILIAN OF ANTIOCH; MARTYR, CIRCA 353; AND SAINTS BONOSUS AND MAXIMIANUS THE SOLDIER, MARTYRS, 362

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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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Psalm 151   1 comment

Above:  David and Goliath, by Ilya Repin

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 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 226

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1 I was small among my brothers,

and the youngest in my father’s house;

I tended my father’s sheep.

2 My hands made a harp;

my fingers fashioned a lyre.

3 And who will tell my Lord?

The Lord himself; it is he who hears.

4 It was he who sent his messenger

and took me from my father’s sheep,

and anointed me with his anointing oil.

5 My brothers were handsome and tall,

but the Lord was not pleased with them.

6 I went out to meet the Philistine,

and he cursed me by his idols.

7 But I drew his own sword;

I beheaded him, and took away

disgrace from the people of Israel.

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

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Psalm 151, allegedly by David, is the combination of two texts, which Geza Vermes labels Psalm 151A and Psalm 151B in The Dead Sea Scrolls in English (Third Edition, 1987).  Psalm 151A (translated by Vermes), slightly longer than its counterpart in the final Greek text, follows:

1  I was smaller than my brothers,

and younger than the sons of my father.

He made me a shepherd of his flock,

and a ruler of over his kids.

2  My hands have made a pipe and my fingers a lyre.

I have rendered glory to the Lord;

I have said so in my soul.

3  The mountains do not testify to him,

and the hills do not tell (of him).

The trees praise my words and the flocks my deeds.

4  For who can tell and speak of,

and recount the works of the Lord?

God has seen all, he has heard all, and he listens to all.

5  He sent his prophet to anoint me,

Samuel to magnify me.

My brothers went out to meet him,

beautiful of figure, beautiful of appearance.

6  They were tall of stature with beautiful hair,

yet the Lord did not choose them.

7  He sent and took me from behind the flock,

and anointed me with holy oil

as a prince of his people,

and as a ruler among the sons of his Covenant.

Psalm 151B, according the Vermes translation from Cave 11 at Qumran, follows:

1Then I saw the Philistine taunting [from the enemy lines]….

Variations of Psalm 151 exist in Old Latin, Arabic, and Ethiopic psalters.  One version of Psalm 151 continues:

And I slung three stones at him in the middle of his forehead,

and laid him low by the might of the Lord.

In Psalm 151, as we have it in composite form, we read of the anointing of David, of his arrival in the court of King Saul, and of the slaying of Goliath.  Psalm 151A draws from 1 Samuel 16 and Psalm 151B from 1 Samuel 17.  In 1 Samuel 16 and 17 an observant reader might notice that, although Saul knows David in the last half of chapter 16, the monarch is not familiar with him in chapter 17.  The Sources Hypothesis explains this discrepancy.

A Bible nerd or geek might also know of Elhanan, a warrior under King David.  2 Samuel 21:19 states that

Elhanan son of Jaareoregim, the Bethlehemite, killed Goliath the Gittite, the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

To complicate matters, 1 Chronicles 20:5 informs us that

Elhanan son of Jair killed Lahmi, the brother of Goliath the Gittite; his spear had a shaft like a weaver’s beam.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

One attempt to reconcile these discrepancies is arguing that David and Elhanan were the same person in 2 Samuel 21:19.  This ignores the fact they are indisputably separate in 1 Chronicles 20:5, the text of which is corrupt.  In that verse, miscopying the letters that spell Bethlehem gives rise to “Lahmi, the brother of.”  Scripture does contain conflicting accounts of many events.  Why should the slaying of Goliath be different?

Regardless of the truth of the identity of the slayer of Goliath and the reality of certain events in the life of David, one can draw spiritual lessons from those stories and from Psalm 151.  God chooses those He will; human standards to not apply.  Also, when God calls us, we might be among those most surprised by the vocation.  We need not worry, though; God qualifies the called.  Also, as a note in The Orthodox Study Bible (2008) offers,

Goliath stands for the sinful passions of arrogance and vainglory (see also Ps. 143 [144 in the Hebrew psalter]).  Thus, with the Lord’s help, we slay these giants with humility.

–Page 778

Aside:  I added the brackets and the contents thereof.

According to 1 Samuel 17, Goliath was an imposing figure.  He stood about nine feet tall.  His bronze breastplate weighed about 130 pounds.  The shaft of his spear was like a weaver’s bar.  The iron head of that spear weighed about 15 pounds.  He was indeed intimidating.  Yet he had a weak spot and God was on the side of David and Elhanan, depending on the text one prefers.

Even the mightiest foes have weaknesses, this story reminds us.  And, if one trusts in God, one can exploit that fact, to the benefit of one’s group, the narrative teaches.  But who will allow God to work through us, or will we shrink back in fear?  Will we, by the help of God, slay proverbial giants or will they slay us?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 23, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MARTIN DE PORRES AND JUAN MACIAS, HUMANITARIANS AND DOMINICAN LAY BROTHERS; SAINT ROSE OF LIMA, HUMANITARIAN AND DOMINICAN SISTER; AND SAINT TURIBIUS OF MOGROVEJO, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF LIMA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM JOHN COPELAND, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

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Unexpected Agents of Grace   1 comment

Goliath Laughs at David

Above:  Goliath Laughs at David, by Ilya Repin

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God of life, you reach out to us amid our fears

with the wounded hands of your risen Son.

By your Spirit’s breath revive our faith in your mercy,

and strengthen us to be the body of your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 33

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 17:1-23 (Thursday)

1 Samuel 17:19-32 (Friday)

1 Samuel 17:32-51 (Saturday)

Psalm 150 (All Days)

Acts 5:12-16 (Thursday)

Acts 5:17-26 (Friday)

Luke 24:36-40 (Saturday)

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Hallelujah!

Praise God in his holy temple;

praise him in the firmament of his power.

Praise him for his mighty acts;

praise him for his excellent greatness.

Praise him with the blast of the ram’s horn;

praise him with the lyre and harp.

Praise him with timbrel and dance;

praise him with strings and pipe.

Praise him with resounding cymbals;

praise him with loud-clanging cymbals.

Let everything that has breath

praise the LORD.

Hallelujah!

–Psalm 150, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The reasons to praise God are myriad, beyond any human capacity to count.  One of those reasons is that God frequently works via people some of us (at best) consider unlikely agents of grace.

Consider David, O reader.  Yes, I know that 2 Samuel 21:19 has Elhanan, son of Jair from Bethlehem kill Goliath of Gath, and that 1 Chronicles 20:5 has the same Elhanan kill Lahmi, brother Goliath.  If that is not sufficiently confusing, David plays the lyre for King Saul in 1 Samuel 16 yet has not gone to work for the monarch yet in chapter 17.  These contradictions result from the combining of differing traditions in the canon of scripture.  Such contradictions are commonplace in the Old Testament, starting in the early chapters of Genesis.  One needs merely to read the texts with great attention to detail to detect them.

I use 1 Samuel 17, in which David, not Elhanan, kills Goliath, for that is the version the framers of the lectionary I am following chose.

In 1 Samuel 17 young David seemed to be the least likely person to rid Israel of the menace Goliath posed.  A crucified troublemaker from the Galilee seemed to be an unlikely candidate for an inspiring and timeless religious figure.  Apostles hiding in fear after the crucifixion of Jesus seemed to be unlikely candidates for leaders in a movement to change the world.  They faced persecution; most of them died as martyrs.  As Jesus said,

Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man.  Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.

–Luke 6:22-23, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

The theme of seemingly unlikely agents of grace occurs in the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).  It is easy to overlook the fact that many in the original audience found the idea of a good Samaritan shocking, even beyond improbable.

The real question I address is not the identities of agents of grace but human biases regarding who is more or less likely to be one.  We mere mortals need to learn theological humility, especially regarding how we evaluate each other.  Do we even attempt to look upon each other as God perceives us?

The composite pericope from Acts 5 reminds us that functioning as an agent of grace might lead one to harm.  Sometimes people suffer for the sake of righteousness because the light exposes darkness for what it is.

…the light shines in the darkness,

and the darkness has not overcome it.

–John 1:5, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2010)

Perhaps we do not recognize agents of grace sometimes because we are caught up in the darkness and are oblivious to that fact.  Mustache-twirling villains, commonplace in simplistic morality plays, are rare in real life.  Most “bad guys” imagine themselves to be good, or at least engaged in necessary, if unpleasant work.

Another reason for failing to recognize agents of grace is functional fixedness.  We simply do not expect something, so we do not look for it.  We seek agents of grace as we know them and miss those agents of grace who do not fit our preconceptions.

How might God surprise you, O reader, with unexpected (to you) agents of grace?  And what will that grace cost you?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 18, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARC BOEGNER, ECUMENIST

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2015/12/18/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-the-second-sunday-of-easter-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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1 Samuel and Acts, Part VII: The Triumph of Faith Over Physical Strength   1 comment

david-and-goliath-gustave-dore

Above:  David and Goliath, by Gustave Dore

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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 16:1-23 (July 31)

1 Samuel 17:1-19 (August 1)

1 Samuel 17:20-47 (August 2)

Psalm 65 (Morning–July 31)

Psalm 143 (Morning–August 1)

Psalm 86 (Morning–August 2)

Psalms 125 and 4 (Evening–July 31)

Psalms 81 and 116 (Evening–August 1)

Psalms 6 and 19 (Evening–August 2)

Acts 25:13-27 (July 31)

Acts 26:1-23 (August 1)

Acts 26:24-27:8 (August 2)

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Some Related Posts:

1 Samuel 16-17:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/07/week-of-2-epiphany-tuesday-year-2/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/08/week-of-2-epiphany-wednesday-year-2/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/fourth-sunday-in-lent-year-a/

Acts 25-27:

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

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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 hands made a harp;

my fingers fashioned a lyre.

And who will tell my Lord?

The Lord himself; it is he who hears.

It was he who sent his messenger

and took me from my father’s sheep,

and anointed me with his anointing oil.

My brothers were handsome and tall,

but the Lord was not pleased with them.

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, New Revised Standard Version

Saul knows David at the end of 1 Samuel 16 yet has not met him at the beginning of Chapter 17.  This is a major narrative discrepancy, evidence of the weaving together of different documents.  That is a scholarly matter, and I like such things.  But this is a devotional blog, so I focus my attentions in that direction.

A note on page 592 of The Jewish Study Bible (2004) begins

The story of David and Goliath demonstrates the triumph of faith over physical strength.

That excellent sentence provides a means for understanding not only 1 Samuel 17 but the life of St. Paul as a Christian.  One man proved crucial to Christian and world history.  The might of the Roman Empire, which executed him, proved powerless to quash Christianity.

As for St. Paul in Acts 25:13-26:32, he stood before Herod Agrippa II, the last of the Herodian Dynasty and a client ruler for the Roman Empire.  Herod Agrippa II’s realm shifted according to Roman imperial decisions, but he did reign from 50 to 100 CE.  He, considered a religious leader, appointed the High Priest yet carried on an incestuous relationship with Bernice, his sister.  Yet this was the man who noted that St. Paul, if he had not appealed to the Emperor, could have gone free.  Unfortunately, the Emperor was Nero.

Yet, as Psalm 125:3 (The New Jerusalem Bible) reads,

The sceptre of the wicked will not come to rest

over the heritage of the upright….

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 5, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE SAINTS AND MARTYRS OF ASIA

THE FEAST OF HARRY EMERSON FOSDICK, NORTHERN BAPTIST PASTOR

THE FEAST OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE UNITED REFORMED CHURCH, 1972 

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/10/05/devotion-for-july-31-august-1-and-august-2-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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David and Goliath   1 comment

Above:  Gustave Dore’s Depiction of David Holding Goliath’s Head

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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1 Samuel 17:32-51 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

And David said to Saul,

Let no man’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with the Philistine.

And Saul said to David,

You are not able to against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are but a youth, and he has been a man of war from his youth.

But David said to Saul,

Your servant used to keep sheep for his father; and when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth; and if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and struck him and killed him.  Your servant has killed both lions and bears; and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, seeing that he has defied the armies of the living God.

And David said,

The LORD delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.

And Saul said to David,

Go, and the LORD be with you!

Then Saul clothed David with his armor; he put a helmet of bronze on his head, and clothed him with a coat of mail.  And David belted on his sword over his armor, and he tried in vain to go, for he was not used to them.  Then David said to Saul,

I cannot go with these; for I am not used to them.

And David put them off.  Then he took his staff in his hand, and chose five smooth stones from the brook, and put them in his shepherd’s bag or wallet; his sling was in his hand, and he drew near to the Philistine.

And the Philistine came on and drew near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him.  And when the Philistine looked, and saw David, he disdained him; for he was but a youth, ruddy and comely in appearance.  And 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 beasts of the field.

Then David said to the Philistine,

You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a 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 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 host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the LORD saves not with the sword and spear; for the battle is the LORD’s and he will give you into our hand.

When the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine.  And David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone, and slung it, and struck the Philistine on his forehead; the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the ground.

So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and struck the Philistine, and killed him; there was no sword in the hand of David.  Then David ran and stood over the Philistine, and took his sword and drew it out of his sheath, and killed him, and cut off his head with it. When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled.

Psalm 144:1-10 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Blessed be the LORD my rock!

who trains my hands to fight and my fingers to battle;

2  My help and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer,

my shield in whom I trust,

who subdues the peoples under me.

3  O LORD, what are we that you should care for us?

mere mortals that you should think of us?

4  We are like a puff of wind;

our days like a passing shadow.

5  Bow your heavens, O LORD, and come down;

touch the mountains, and they shall smoke.

6  Hurl the lightning and scatter them;

shoot out your arrows and rout them.

7  Stretch out your hand from on high;

rescue me and deliver me from the great waters,

from the hand of foreign peoples,

8  Whose mouths speak deceitfully

and whose right hand is raised in falsehood.

9  O God, I will sing to you a new song;

I will play to you on a ten-stringed lyre.

10  You give victory to kings

and have rescued David your servant.

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The Collect:

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

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Here we have the familiar story of David and Goliath.  But read it again.  Read it very carefully.  We have two sources edited together.  If you, O reader, look carefully, you can see some or all of the seams.  (Hint:  Focus on the use of “God” versus the use of “the LORD.”)  Follow the bouncing ball with me.  David plays the lyre to soothe Saul’s mind in 1 Samuel 16, and even becomes the king’s armor-bearer.  Yet Saul does not know David in 1 Samuel 17.  And then there is the case of Elhanan, one of King David’s warriors, who, according to 2 Samuel 21:19, slew Goliath.  In 1 Chronicles 20:5, however, Elhanan slew Goliath’s brother.  Make of all this what you will.

But may none of this detract from the story and what we learn from it.  There is something inherently unlikely about a slightly built young man, armed only with some stones and a slingshot, defeating a mighty warrior nearly ten feet tall.  Goliath’s height is plausible, given the variety of manifestations of genetic mutations.  Some have suggested that he suffered from Marfan’s Syndrome, for example.  And, as scary as this sounds and is, there are people who know how to kill others with just one well-placed blow or cut.  So a devastating blow to the center of the forehead is also plausible.  Most important of all in the story is that David was able to get the stone to Goliath’s weak spot, and therefore deliver his people from an immediate threat.

The unlikely optics of the confrontation made clear that David did not win because of the armor he could not wear well or the standard military armaments he did not use.  No, the circumstances made plain that this victory belonged to God.

When we feel helpless we tend to forget that we have God.  I write from experience.  And I detect another lesson, one I have missed every previous time I  have read this account from 1 Samuel 17.  David’s experience as a shepherd protecting the sheep prepared him for the confrontation with Goliath.  So, when we feel helpless, might we be better equipped than we think?  Maybe we need to think creatively about prior experiences and how they have prepared us for our current circumstances.

Anyhow, in all our daily challenges, great and small, mundane and extraordinary, may God guide our hands and direct our thoughts so that we, trusting in grace, may act for the good–individual and collective–and the glory of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 8, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ROLAND ALLEN, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/08/week-of-2-epiphany-wednesday-year-2/

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