bible blog 1093

This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline from world news:

Woman minister called “Orangutan” by opposition in Italy

Cecile Kyenge, minister for integration, insulted by racist bully

Cecile Kyenge, minister for integration, insulted by racist bully

1 Samuel 19:1-24

New English Translation (NET)

Saul Repeatedly Attempts to Take David’s Life

19 Then Saul told his son Jonathan and all his servants to kill David. But Saul’s son Jonathan liked David very much. So Jonathan told David, “My father Saul is trying to kill you. So be careful tomorrow morning. Find a hiding place and stay in seclusion. I will go out and stand beside my father in the field where you are. I will speak about you to my father. When I find out what the problem is, I will let you know.”

So Jonathan spoke on David’s behalf to his father Saul. He said to him, “The king should not sin against his servant David, for he has not sinned against you. On the contrary, his actions have been very beneficial for you. He risked his life when he struck down the Philistine and the Lord gave all Israel a great victory. When you saw it, you were happy. So why would you sin against innocent blood by putting David to death for no reason?”

Saul accepted Jonathan’s advice and took an oath, “As surely as the Lord lives, he will not be put to death.” Then Jonathan called David and told him all these things. Jonathan brought David to Saul, and he served him as he had done formerly.

Now once again there was war. So David went out to fight the Philistines. He defeated them thoroughly and they ran away from him. Then an evil spirit from the Lord came upon Saul. He was sitting in his house with his spear in his hand, while David was playing the lyre. 10 Saul tried to nail David to the wall with the spear, but he escaped from Saul’s presence and the spear drove into the wall. David escaped quickly that night.

11 Saul sent messengers to David’s house to guard it and to kill him in the morning. Then David’s wife Michal told him, “If you do not save yourself tonight, tomorrow you will be dead!” 12 So Michal lowered David through the window, and he ran away and escaped.

13 Then Michal took a household idol and put it on the bed. She put a quilt made of goat’s hair over its head and then covered the idol with a garment. 14 When Saul sent messengers to arrest David, she said, “He’s sick.”

15 Then Saul sent the messengers back to see David, saying, “Bring him up to me on his bed so I can kill him.” 16 When the messengers came, they found only the idol on the bed and the quilt made of goat’s hair at its head.

17 Saul said to Michal, “Why have you deceived me this way by sending my enemy away? Now he has escaped!” Michal replied to Saul, “He said to me, ‘Help me get away or else I will kill you!’”

18 Now David had run away and escaped. He went to Samuel in Ramah and told him everything that Saul had done to him. Then he and Samuel went and stayed at Naioth. 19 It was reported to Saul saying, “David is at Naioth in Ramah.” 20 So Saul sent messengers to capture David. When they saw a company of prophets prophesying with Samuel standing there as their leader, the spirit of God came upon Saul’s messengers, and they also prophesied. 21 When it was reported to Saul, he sent more messengers, but they prophesied too. So Saul sent messengers a third time, but they also prophesied. 22 Finally Saul himself went to Ramah. When he arrived at the large cistern that is in Secu, he asked, “Where are Samuel and David?” They said, “At Naioth in Ramah.”

23 So Saul went to Naioth in Ramah. The Spirit of God came upon him as well, and he walked along prophesying until he came to Naioth in Ramah. 24 He even stripped off his clothes and prophesied before Samuel. He lay there naked all that day and night. (For that reason it is asked, “Is Saul also among the prophets?”)

Saul among the prophets

Saul among the prophets

The story takes on the colours of comedy and farce. The figure of David shares some of the characteristics of Jacob, the patriarch, whose original name means trickster or cheat. David is full of tricks also, and in this passage others play their own games: Saul of course tries to kill his servant, Jonathan talks to his father while David lurks nearby, Michal warns David and tricks Saul’s killers into supposing he’s in his bed, and the Lord’s spirit falls on Saul’s agents and finally on Saul himself, reducing them to the sot of ecstatic gibbering expected of official prophets. Like Jacob, David is assisted by members of his enemies own family; like Jacob, he will find that the Lord’s favour is a more testing thing than he originally supposes.

What’s the moral of this story? It is that decent human beings and God himself conspire to thwart the plans of someone engaged in murderous folly. Saul’s intentions go against the grain of common justice, arousing opposition from those who dare not oppose him openly and finally from his own mind which refuses to do what he wants.

God permits us to do wrong, but there are some checks upon us: the ordinary decency of other men and women who like us are made in the image of God; and our own inability to exclude God completely from our minds. These can produce annoying delays and comic cock-ups for our worst intentions, that should be seen as providential warnings. We and the world are made for good not evil; evil goes against the grain of creation.  The tools for opposing evil always lie to hand. Even the most timid of us can act like Jonathan or Michal, using our relationships and native wit to prevent wrongdoing. Even the most powerful and determined of us should know that our powers may desert us if we try to use them for evil. 

Protest at Trayvon verdict

Protest at Trayvon verdict

We should hope that those bent on racial injustice in Italy (and maybe in the USA)  get their comeuppence from the majority of decent people.

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