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1 Samuel 29-31; John 11:55-12:19; Psalm 118:1-18; Proverbs 15:24-26 (The Voice)

1 Samuel 29-31

The medium reveals herself to be a woman of compassion; when the king collapses in fear and hunger, she feeds him—a last meal, prepared and served with kindness, for a condemned man. And Saul, knowing his fate beforehand, is ready to die in battle.

29 The Philistines gathered for battle at Aphek, while the armies of Israel camped near the spring of Jezreel. The armies of the Philistines were marching forward by hundreds and by thousands, and David and his men were marching in the rear with King Achish.

Philistine Generals: What are these Hebrews doing here?

King Achish: Isn’t this David, who used to be the servant of King Saul of Israel? He has been with me for days, for years; and since he came over to our side and my service, I have never had a problem with him.

Philistine Generals (angry): Send David back to the place you have appointed for him. Don’t let him go into battle with us—we might find him an enemy instead of an ally. Do you know how he could be reconciled with his former master? By handing him our heads!

Isn’t this the same David about whom the Israelites sang war songs while they danced and celebrated?

    Saul has slain his thousands
        and David, his tens of thousands.

Achish (calling to David): As the Eternal One lives, you have been honest with me, and I wish you could march into battle and back at my side. I have found no fault in you before. But the generals—the leaders of my troops—will not have you go with us. Go home now, and go in peace. Don’t do anything to upset them further.

This decision is certainly in David’s favor—could he really have gone to battle against Israel?—but he acts as though he is offended.

David: What have I done to deserve this? Has your servant done anything since he entered your service to prevent him going out and fighting against my lord the king’s enemies?

Achish: As I see it, you are no more to blame than a messenger of God, but the commanders of my troops have said they will not allow you to go into battle with us.

10 Get up early tomorrow morning with your lord’s servants, and return to the home I have given you in Ziklag. Rise early tomorrow, and go as soon as it is light.

11 So the next morning, David and his men got up early and traveled south to the land of the Philistines, but the Philistine army went north to Jezreel.

30 When David and his men reached Ziklag three days later, they discovered that the Amalekites had raided the desert hill country. They had attacked Ziklag in David’s absence, burned it, and carried away the women and all the other inhabitants whom David had left behind. None of them were killed, but they were taken captive and carried back toward Amalek.

So David and his men arrived in the burned city and found their wives, daughters, and sons gone, taken captive by the Amalekite raiders. And when they saw this, they cried out and wept aloud until they could weep no more. David’s wives, Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail, the widow of Nabal of Carmel, were among those carried off.

David, too, was in anguish. Some of his men talked about stoning him because they were so bitter about their families being taken. But David took comfort in the Eternal One, his True God.

He called for the priest, Abiathar, son of Ahimelech, and instructed him to bring the priestly vest, which he did.

David (to the Lord): Should we pursue these raiders? Can we catch them?

Eternal One: Go after them. You will catch them, and you will certainly rescue your families.

9-10 So David set out with his 600 men. They came to the wadi Besor, a dry creek bed where he left behind 200 men who were too exhausted to continue the pursuit.

11 In the open country beyond, some of his soldiers found an Egyptian. They took him to David, fed him, and gave him water. 12 They gave him some fig cake and two clusters of raisins. After the man had eaten, he regained his strength. He had not had food or water for three days and nights.

David: 13 Who are your people? Where are you from?

Egyptian: I am a young man of Egypt who served an Amalekite, but my master left me behind three days ago because I was sick. 14 We had gone raiding in the desert country, against the Cherethites and the territories of Judah and of Caleb, and we burned down the town of Ziklag.

David: 15 Can you lead me to this raiding party?

Egyptian: I will take you to them, if you will swear to me by the True God that you won’t kill me or give me back to my master.

16 He led David to where the Amalekites were spread out all over the place eating and drinking and dancing, because they had taken such great spoils in their raids against Philistia and Judah. 17 David fought against them from one twilight to the next, and he killed all of them except for 400 young men who escaped on camels.

18 So David recovered everything that had been taken, including his two wives. 19 Nothing was missing—from the smallest thing to the greatest treasure, none of the sons or daughters, no property of any kind. David brought everything home. 20 David also captured their flocks and herds, which they were driving ahead of other livestock, and the people agreed this would be David’s share of the Amalekites’ property.

21 David and his people returned to the wadi Besor, where the 200 had remained behind, and those men went out to meet David and all those with him. As David approached, he greeted them. 22 But some of the wicked and greedy ones who had fought alongside David spoke out.

Wicked Men: Because these men didn’t go with us, why should we give them back the things we recovered for them? Sure, let them take back their wives and their children. But that’s all. We’ll keep the rest, and they must leave.

David: 23 My brothers, this is not how we’re going to treat what the Eternal One has returned to us. He saved us and gave us success over the raiding party that sacked our city. 24 Why would anyone agree with you about this matter? The share of the one who fights is the same as the share of the one who looks after the supplies. We all share equally.

25 In fact, he made this a law and an ordinance, and it remains so in Israel today.

26 And after David returned to Ziklag, he gave part of the spoil he had taken to his friends who ruled over Judah, with the message, “This is a present for you taken from the enemies of the Eternal.”

27 These gifts were sent to Bethel, to Ramoth in the desert south, to Jattir, 28 to Aroer, to Siphmoth, to Eshtemoa, 29 to Racal, to the towns of the Jerahmeelites, to the towns of the Kenites, 30 to Hormah, to Bor-ashan, to Athach, 31 and to Hebron—all places where David and his men had lived and traveled.

31 Meanwhile the Philistine and Israelite armies had clashed. The men of Israel ran away, but many of them were killed on the heights of Gilboa. The Philistines even followed Saul and his sons and closed in on them; there they killed his sons, Jonathan (the beloved friend of David), Abinadab, and Malchi-shua.

Notice that David does not participate in the battle against his own people, and that even while he lives among the Philistines hiding from Saul, he doesn’t serve them. This expedition against the raiding Amalekites offers a powerful explanation both for why David doesn’t fight for the Philistine king and why he doesn’t fight to preserve the armies of Israel. Because David is far away with his own desperate battles to fight, no shame falls on him for any oaths he might have broken.

The battle closed in around Saul, and he was shot with arrows and badly wounded.

Saul (to his armor-bearer): Please take out your sword and thrust it through me. Don’t let these uncircumcised dogs come and put their swords and spears into me for their sport.

But his armor-bearer was afraid and would not do it. Saul drew his own sword and fell upon it. When the armor-bearer saw this, he also drew his sword and fell upon it and died. So Saul, his three sons, his armor-bearer, and all his men died together on the same day.

That looks like the end of the story, but it isn’t. It is a tragedy, though a necessary one for Israel. At the beginning of his reign, Saul gathers a huge army to fight the Ammonites, who threaten to blind the men of Jabesh-gilead. Many years later, the people of the country hear what has happened. They raise an army of their own, march all night into the Philistine town of Beth-shan, and without regard to the danger, take down the bodies and return to their own country to give Saul and his family a decent and respectful burial.

Saul is many things—a brute, a coward, a prince, a warrior, a faithful follower, a faithless wallower—and now he is dead. Some might celebrate; others mourn him. The king the people asked for has been dethroned, and the kingdom lies open to invasion, but God’s plan is still operating. In the Second Book of Samuel, it is evident this is part of a larger order. The people’s king has been defeated, but God’s king is on his way.

The deaths of Saul and his sons conclude the First Book of Samuel. God’s anointed dies, and the armies of Israel are defeated. Some commentators, even though they may condemn suicide, do not fault Saul for falling on his own sword. Remembering how the Philistines blinded and tormented the hero and judge Samson, Saul knows his fate is torture and abuse. Not only does he not want to suffer that as a man, but also as God’s anointed king, he does not want these “uncircumcised dogs”—that is, followers of other gods—to claim such an advantage over the Lord. So he falls on his sword, and the Philistines, prevented from their torture, behead Saul’s body, strip him, and exhibit his and his sons’ corpses in public.

When the people of Israel who were on the other side of the valley, and even those beyond the Jordan River, learned that the Israelite army had been defeated and heard that Saul and his sons were dead, they left their cities and fled. Then the Philistines came and lived in them.

The next day, as the Philistine army was looting the bodies of the fallen Israelites, they found Saul and his three sons dead on the heights of Gilboa. They cut off Saul’s head, stripped his body of his weapons, and sent messengers with the good news to the temples and to the people throughout Philistia. 10 They put Saul’s armor in the temple of Astarte and nailed his body to the wall at Beth-shan.

11 But when the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead heard about this indignity done to Saul by the Philistines, 12 the brave men among them rose up and traveled through the night. When they arrived, they took down the bodies of Saul and his sons from the wall at Beth-shan. They returned to Jabesh and burned them there. 13 Then they took their bones and buried them in Jabesh beneath the tamarisk tree, like the one where Saul had held court in Gibeah, and for seven days they fasted and mourned.

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John 11:55-12:19

55 The Passover was approaching, and Jews everywhere traveled to Jerusalem early so they could purify themselves and prepare for Passover. 56 People were looking for Jesus, hoping to catch a glimpse of Him in the city. All the while, some Jews were discussing Him in the temple.

Some Jews: Do you think He will decide not to come to Jerusalem this year for the feast?

57 In the midst of this confusion, the Pharisees and the chief priests ordered that if anyone knew the whereabouts of Jesus of Nazareth, it must be reported immediately so they could arrest Him.

12 Six days before the Passover feast, Jesus journeyed to the village of Bethany, to the home of Lazarus who had recently been raised from the dead, where they hosted Him for dinner. Martha was busy serving as the hostess, Lazarus reclined at the table with Him, and Mary took a pound of fine ointment, pure nard (which is both rare and expensive), and anointed Jesus’ feet with it; and then she wiped them with her hair. As the pleasant fragrance of this extravagant ointment filled the entire house, Judas Iscariot, one of His disciples (who was plotting to betray Jesus), began to speak.

Judas Iscariot: How could she pour out this vast amount of fine oil? Why didn’t she sell it? It is worth nearly a year’s wages;[a] the money could have been given to the poor.

This had nothing to do with Judas’s desire to help the poor. The truth is he served as the treasurer, and he helped himself to the money from the common pot at every opportunity.

Jesus: Leave her alone. She has observed this custom in anticipation of the day of My burial. The poor are ever present, but I will be leaving.

Word spread of Jesus’ presence, and a large crowd was gathering to see Jesus and the formerly deceased Lazarus, whom He had brought back from the dead. 10 The chief priests were secretly plotting Lazarus’s murder since, 11 because of him, many Jews were leaving their teachings and believing in Jesus.

12 The next day, a great crowd of people who had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem; 13 so they gathered branches of palm trees to wave as they celebrated His arrival.

Crowds (shouting): Hosanna!

    He who comes in the name of the Lord is truly blessed[b]
        and is King of all Israel.

14 Jesus found a young donkey, sat on it, and rode through the crowds mounted on this small beast. The Scriptures foretold of this day:

15     Daughter of Zion, do not be afraid.
        Watch! Your King is coming.
        You will find Him seated on the colt of a donkey.[c]

16 The disciples did not understand any of this at the time; these truths did not sink in until Jesus had been glorified. As they reflected on their memories of Jesus, they realized these things happened just as they were written. 17 Those who witnessed the resurrection of Lazarus enthusiastically spoke of Jesus to all who would listen, 18 and that is why the crowd went out to meet Him. They had heard of the miraculous sign He had done.

His followers may suspect during their time with Jesus that He is more than a man, but it takes the power and glory of the resurrection to convince them completely that Jesus is divine. When they see Him, touch Him, and hear the sound of His voice thunder in their souls, the disciples know they are face-to-face with God’s immense glory, the unique Son of God. Reading and rereading the Scriptures in light of their experiences of Him, it becomes clear that Jesus’ life and story are the climax of God’s covenants with His people.

Pharisees (to one another): 19 Our efforts to squelch Him have not worked, but now is not the time for action. Look, the world is following after Him.

Footnotes:

  1. 12:5 Literally, 300 denarii, Roman coins
  2. 12:13 Psalm 118:26
  3. 12:15 Zechariah 9:9
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Psalm 118:1-18

Psalm 118

Give thanks to the Eternal because He is always good.
    He never ceases to be loving and kind.

Let the people of Israel proclaim:
    “He never ceases to be loving and kind.”
Let the priests of Aaron’s line proclaim:
    “He never ceases to be loving and kind.”
Let the people who fear the Eternal proclaim:
    “He never ceases to be loving and kind.”

When trouble surrounded me, I cried out to the Eternal;
    He answered me and brought me to a wide, open space.
The Eternal is with me,
    so I will not be afraid of anything.
    If God is on my side, how can anyone hurt me?
The Eternal is on my side, a champion for my cause;
    so when I look at those who hate me, victory will be in sight.
It is better to put your faith in the Eternal for your security
    than to trust in people.
It is better to put your faith in Him for your security
    than to trust in princes.

10 All these nations surround me, squeezing me from all sides;
    with the name of the Eternal, I will destroy them.
11 They rose up against me, squeezed me from all sides, yes, from all sides;
    with the name of the Eternal, I will destroy them.
12 They surrounded me like a swarm of bees;
    they were destroyed quickly and thoroughly—
Flaring up like a pile of thorns—
    with the name of the Eternal, I will destroy them.
13 I was pushed back, attacked so that I was about to fall,
    but the Eternal was there to help me keep my balance.
14 He is my strength, and He is the reason I sing;
    He has been there to save me in every situation.

15 In the tents of the righteous soldiers of God,
    there are shouts of joy and victory. They sing:
    “The right hand of the Eternal has shown His power.
16 The mighty arm of the Eternal is raised in victory;
    the right hand of His has shown His power.”
17 I will not die. I will live.
    I will live to tell about all the Eternal has done.
18 The Eternal has taught me many lessons;
    He has been strict and severe,
    but even in His discipline, He has not allowed me to die.

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Proverbs 15:24-26

24 For the wise the road of life climbs up steep grades
    in order to avoid the slide down to the grave.
25 The Eternal splinters the house of the haughty,
    but He secures the property of widows.

It is ironic that we may have more to fear from the proud and powerful than from the poor and needy. Those who have want more, and so they take it. Oh, maybe they won’t pick your pocket or break into your home. Their ways are more subtle and more effective. As James, Jesus’ brother, wrote, “Isn’t it the rich who step on you while climbing the ladder of success? And isn’t it the rich who take advantage of you and drag you into court?” (James 2:6b). James isn’t describing all the rich, of course, but many have made their fortunes off the backs of others. God is the One who can protect the poor, the One who can reduce the grand houses of the haughty to splinters.

26 The thoughts of the wrongdoers repulse the Eternal,
    but kind words are pure pleasure for Him.

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The Voice (VOICE)

The Voice Bible Copyright © 2012 Thomas Nelson, Inc. The Voice™ translation © 2012 Ecclesia Bible Society All rights reserved.

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