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The Bible In A Year: Day 121

1 Samuel 14-15
Psalm 121
Acts 7

1 Samuel 14-15

We read today more of the story of Saul and Johnathan’s opening campaign against the Philistines and their eventual victory. But it’s not without its hiccups. First we read yesterday about Saul disobeying Samuel and offering the sacrifice himself because he was impatient. Today we see his son going on a mission with just his armor bearer, and they score a psychological victory that puts the Philistines into a panic. But Saul then mucks things up by swearing a curse on anyone that eats before their victory is complete, and Johnathan hadn’t heard this so he snacks on some honey and brings his father’s curse upon himself. Eventually this gets smoothed over, but it shows how Saul constantly takes two steps forward and one step back.

This is glaringly evident in the next episode where Saul is ordered to go to war with the Amalikites and to completely destroy them and all their possessions. But when they went to war they beat them on the battlefield but did not destroy them completely and Samuel receives a message from God in the night that Saul has disobeyed again and is now rejected by God as king of Israel.

Samuel confronts Saul and he claims that they took the livestock to sacrifice to God when they returned back to Israel, and Samuel responded with a often quoted line that “obedience is better than sacrifice”

Samuel wasn’t saying that sacrificing to God had no value, he was on,y saying that obeying God is the highest honor we can show him. Assuming Saul was telling the truth, and they did intend to offer all these spoils as sacrifices (not entirely clear if that was really their intention), it was still not what God asked him to do and was his final strike.

Acts 7

Saint Stephen mounts his defense, and in doing so he recounts salvation history from the time of Abraham all the way to the present. He makes several allusions between the actions of the ancient Israelites and the modern Jews, those who rebelled against Moses in the desert and those who rebelled against Christ in Jerusalem. He even makes a comparison between the rejection of Joseph and Jesus.

Stephen also points to lands outside of Israel where God was acting directly for the people, and that this land had no monopoly on him.

The thing Stephen stands accused of is blasphemy against the temple because they misinterpreted his preaching about Jesus as meaning Jesus was going to destroy the temple. And they reckon that as blasphemy, even though it’s just a building. The charges are very important to remember when he brings his speech to its climax.

Going through all the stories of the patriarchs and the repeated sin of idolatry by the people, he finally finished with Solomon building this temple but he reminds them that God doesn’t live inside a house “made with human hands” and that was a very charged description for the temple because every use of that phrase in the Old Testament references idols. He’s building to his final point.

He calls them a stiff necked people, this being the same thing that they were called in the desert wandering. Centuries of worship in the temple had built a false impression of God as being contained and only able to act in this single place, and the building had taken on a divine aura so that saying something negative about it was considered the same as blaspheming God.

Just like when we today get called out personally, they had two choices on how to react. They could accept the rebuke and repent, or the could choose door number two and lash out at the person who called them out. They chose violence.

During the murder of Saint Stephen we are introduced to a new villain. A young man named Saul is there and he holds the coats of the men who wanted to have the freedom of movement to throw some stones at Stephen’s head.

Saul of Tarsus will be one of the main characters of Acts from this point forward.

Tomorrow’s Readings:
1 Samuel 16-18
Psalm 122
Acts 8

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