THis blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline from world news:
TURKEY MOVES TOWARDS ISLAMISM
2 Samuel 7:18-29
New English Translation (NET)
David Offers a Prayer to God
18 King David went in, sat before the Lord, and said, “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my family, that you should have brought me to this point? 19 And you didn’t stop there, O Lord God! You have also spoken about the future of your servant’s family. Is this your usual way of dealing with men, O Lord God? 20 What more can David say to you? You have given your servant special recognition, O Lord God! 21 For the sake of your promise and according to your purpose you have done this great thing in order to reveal it to your servant. 22 Therefore you are great, O Lord God, for there is none like you! There is no God besides you! What we have heard is true! 23 Who is like your people, Israel, a unique nation on the earth? Their God went to claim a nation for himself and to make a name for himself! You did great and awesome acts for your land, before your people whom you delivered for yourself from the Egyptian empire and its gods. 24 You made Israel your very own people for all time. You, O Lord, became their God. 25 So now, O Lord God, make this promise you have made about your servant and his family a permanent reality. Do as you promised, 26 so you may gain lasting fame, as people say, ‘The Lord of hosts is God over Israel!’ The dynasty of your servant David will be established before you, 27 for you, O Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, have told your servant, ‘I will build you a dynastic house.’ That is why your servant has had the courage to pray this prayer to you. 28 Now, O sovereign Lord, you are the true God! May your words prove to be true! You have made this good promise to your servant! 29 Now be willing to bless your servant’s dynasty so that it may stand permanently before you, for you, O sovereign Lord, have spoken. By your blessing may your servant’s dynasty be blessed on into the future!”
New English Translation (NET)
A Two-stage Healing
22 Then they came to Bethsaida. They brought a blind man to Jesus and asked him to touch him. 23 He took the blind man by the hand and brought him outside of the village. Then he spit on his eyes, placed his hands on his eyes and asked, “Do you see anything?” 24 Regaining his sight he said, “I see people, but they look like trees walking.” 25 Then Jesus placed his hands on the man’s eyes again. And he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. 26 Jesus sent him home, saying, “Do not even go into the village.”
27 Then Jesus and his disciples went to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” 28 They said, “John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and still others, one of the prophets.” 29 He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” 30 Then he warned them not to tell anyone about him.
First Prediction of Jesus’ Death and Resurrection
31 Then Jesus began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and experts in the law, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 He spoke openly about this. So Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But after turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan. You are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but on man’s.”
Generally I’m in favour of taking the bible text as it stands in its final form without searching for editorial decisions that may have contributed to it, but I find it impossible to do so in this case. Certainly the original text of Samuel, which may itself have been composed by several hands, has been edited by writers of the Jewish legal tradition, in the 4th and 3rd centuries BCE. The prayer we have here emphasises the Mosaic covenant and the promise to the Davidic dynasty in a way that belongs to that later era rather than that of the original text.
The rather inept translation shows how creepy the prayer is, and how unlike anything else attributed to David. Its repeated assertions of God’s favour a) to Israel and b) to the David dynasty, betray a deep uncertainty about God’s purpose. God has to be cajoled by fawning praise and grovelling humility into protecting Israel and its royal family. It reflects the crisis of a tradition that equated faithfulness to the Torah with national success; and unfaithfulness with national disaster. The very basis of the covenant was at stake (“If Israel is true to me, says God, I will be true to Israel and make it prosper”) because it began to look as if disaster might come even if the nation was faithful. There is a kind of hysterical messianic faith expressed in the prayer, which may have contributed to the heroic Maccabean struggle against the Greek conquerors and the unyielding Zealot opposition to the Romans in the 1st century CE. Almost certainly it fuelled the common messianic expectation of Jesus’ time, which gave rise to Peter’s mistaken view of Jesus’ destiny.
Mark’s narrative shows how faith in Jesus opposed the common expectation that the Messiah would restore by mighty force the freedom of Israel and rout its enemies.
The story of the blind man is placed by Mark as an interpretation of what follows. The man is healed in two stages. Peter’s initial expression of faith in Jesus as Messiah, shows that he is no longer blind but his rebuke to Jesus shows that his sight is still fuzzy. His initial healing (and that of the other disciples) has come through Jesus’ life; their full healing will come through Jesus’ death, which will reveal the true meaning of the term “Messiah” It is no accident that Mark places this incident in a place that bears the name of Caesar, who conquers the world by force. The true Messiah will conquer by suffering and those who belong to his kingdom may also be asked to suffer. This is such a reversal of ordinary messianic expectation that many Christian churches have refused to accept it. Believers in Jesus are not promised success in this world; indeed they are not even promised justice in this world. “What kind of faith is this, for God’s sake?” as Peter might have asked.