God, you have heard my voice
and my supplications.
You inclined your ear to me,
therefore I will call on you as long as I live.
(adapted from Psalm 116:1-2)
1 Samuel 24:1-25:44
Although Saul is leading a force to capture David, David passes up on the chance to kill him and wouldn't permit his followers to attack. David confronts Saul publicly, offering proof that he recognizes him as the Lord's anointed. He promises that he will not harm Saul. Saul asks that the Lord reward David and says that the reward will include the kingship.
David sent his men to seek alliance with a rich sheep-owner, Nabal. It was a feast day; so, they asked to be invited. Nabal responded by saying, "Who is David? My own people need what I have to offer. He's not important enough for me to give him and his men anything.
When he heard this, David prepared to go to battle with Nabal. When Nabal's wife, Abigail heard about this, she went to David, taking a feast that required ten donkeys to carry. She begged David not to take her husband's words seriously but, instead, to forgive him. When Nabal found out, he had a stroke. After Nabal died, David married Abigail--and sombeody else, too.
We Christians are now in the period we call Eastertide--those weeks between resurrection and Pentecost. We are reading about Jesus' final journey to Jerusalem.
He is in the temple. It's Hanukkah, a time for remembering the rededication of the temple after the Maccabeans' successful revolt about two hundred years earlier.
They would have heard about him--including how he had healed many and fed many. But they weren't sure who he was. Some believed he was the promised Messiah. Others did not.
"How long will you keep us in suspense," they asked him that day. "If you are the Messiah, say so."
He responded to them, "I've told you before, but my saying it didn't make you believe. You saw the work that I could not, but the evidence of your own eyes didn't make you believe."
They weren't the last witnesses who weren't able to believe. To paraphrase Chrysostom, it takes a sheep to recognize a shepherd.
When they asked him to tell them plainly whether he was the Messiah, he said that he had told them but they hadn't believed. Then rather than claim that he is the expected messiah, he shifts to identifying himself as the son of God:
"The work that I do in my Father's name...."They hadn't believed either what he had told them or even the works that they had witnessed. Only believers can believe.
"What my Father has given me...."
"The Father and I are one."
Membership in this flock is permanent, once in is always in--"I give them eternal life....No one will snatch them out of my hand."
How do they get to be believers? How do they get to be his sheep?
I can't remember my first prayer. I don't even remember who first told me about prayer or suggested words that might be used. I'm guessing that grace before meals and those bedtime prayers were the first. But, I don't remember who taught me about prayer in time of great difficulty. Somebody must have, because I have been praying that kind of prayer throughout the tough times in my life.
One source of instruction for all of us is, of course, the Psalter.
The psalm chosen we're reading today is a thanksgiving psalm. And, as a thanksgiving psalm, it also states the need for the prayer that the Lord has answered.
The psalmist remembers the time of distress and anguish and calling on the Lord for help. And, having received that help, the psalmist then gives thanks.
Notice that the psalmist is not being totally private, but is promising to be a witness to the care and support that the Lord gives.
I will pay my vows to the Lord
in the presence of all his people,
in the courts of the house of the Lord,
in your midst, O Jerusalem.
Praise the Lord!
A wise child makes a glad father,
but the fool despise their mothers.
Folly is a joy to the one who has no sense,
but a person of understanding walks straight ahead.
Prayer for Today: Choose a prayer from Joan Stott's website The Timeless Psalms.