1 Samuel 16:1-13 • Psalm 23 • Ephesians 5:8-14 • John 9:1-41
1 Samuel 16:1-13
It would appear that our old testament readings have been jumping all over the place these past couple of weeks. We were in Genesis where we saw God lead Abram to pick up his family, and possessions, and travel to another land – a land that God does not immediately reveal. Next we saw the Israelites as they were traveling to God’s promised land shortly after their miraculous, and dramatic, deliverance from slavery followed by a very quick parting of the seas to, once again, deliver them from Pharaoh’s soldiers, chariots, and death. This week we jump to first Samuel where we can see a common thread weaving throughout all three of these readings.
One of the things I love most about preaching through the Lectionary readings is the common existence of threads that consistently affirm and confirm the nature of God and humans. This thread is no different. In each of these readings we see the consistency of God as well as the timeless consistency of our own human nature.
Our disdain for change is the element of our human nature woven in the thread of these three passages. Abram, although he is quick to obey God’s call to move, reveals in the journey that the change he is confronted with is anything but easy and comfortable. You would think that the Israelites would have been excited about the change that was in front of them, but they knew nothing but living in slavery, their ancestors, possibly 17 generations back, only knew slavery. Adjusting to the new normal was not, and is not, easy for anyone.
Samuel has to adjust and, he too, is finding it difficult. Samuel had been the prophet leader of the Israelites before they demanded a King. This was a blow to the prophet as he took it as a rejection of him – God corrected Samuel’s thinking informing him that their rejection was of God. Now, after Samuel has accepted the new normal, a new King, he is, once again, having to face another new normal – another new King. It was a devastating blow, even though Samuel was thoroughly aware that a new King was a necessity for survival.
The book of Samuel does not just give us a detailed account and travelogue of the Israelites and their leaders. Instead, in the books of first and second Samuel, we see deep into the hearts and minds of the humans depicted. We see the emotional processes of Samuel, as well as the inner workings of other characters revealed later in these books.
It is a bit ironic that we would be looking at this thread of ‘adjusting to a new normal’ at this time. The events currently facing our world have not just thrust a new normal upon each of us, they have also revealed to us that we will probably never go back to our same ‘normal’ again, our normal that existed less than a month ago. It is okay. We can always know that God is consistent even if our circumstances and situations are not, we can be assured that God will never let us enter any ‘normal’ alone.
In a time where everything looks out of control, overwhelming us every time we hear the latest news, Psalm 23 takes us back the security of finding our stability, and peace, in God. In times like our ‘new normal’ it can be quite challenging to, not only grasp the comfort of this Psalm, but also as we attempt to accept the challenge ‘dwell’ in God’s peace.
In America, and possibly elsewhere, most believers make an odd choice when reading and remembering this passage – they return to the King James Version of the Bible. The King James remains the most common version of the Bible read by Christians in the United States with an estimated thirty-one percent usage. While that is the largest percentage of the Bible reading public – it still leaves sixty-nine percent who read the other translations. But when it comes to Psalm 23 (and possibly the Lord’s Prayer) the KJV choice balloons drastically. It is a very poetic and comforting version that seems to convey the message of the Psalm best.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
Psalm 23 (KJV)