Monday, June 06, 2011

What we can learn from (the book of) Samuel

“Yahweh consistently raises up prophetic voices to confront Israel with its sin or to announce his judgment, whether this is Samuel confronting the people or its leaders (Eli, Saul) or Nathan and Gad confronting David. In this them prophecy is established early in the history of the monarchy as the conscience of the royal house and the conduit of Yahweh's revelation to it. These prophetic confrontations often encourage or result in a penitential response from their hearers, expressly described at times as verbal admission of Sin (1Sam 7:3-9; 12:1-25; 15:24-25, 30; 2 Sam 12:13; 24:10, 14, 17) and accompanying rites, sometimes with a description of change in behavior 1Sam 7:4). In the case of David in 2 Sam 24, it is the 'troubling' of the heart that leads to admission of sin. Yahweh's response is sometimes to forgive completely (1 Sam 7), at others to mitigate the punishment (1 Samuel 12; 2 Samuel 12, 24), and still others to reject the individual outright (1 Samuel 13, 15).

Mediation is an important theme in Samuel. Samuel serves in this role in the penitential liturgy of 1 Samuel 7, interceding on behalf of Israel. Similarly, in 1 Samuel 12 the people cry for Samuel's intercession (v. 19). He is willing to do so, but he also teaches them so that his intercession is not necessary (v. 23). David plays this role on his own and his people's behalf in the closing chapter of Samuel. His prayer and sacrifice related to the temple site in Jerusalem are essential to securing the grace of God for the nation.

“The book of Samuel does not hide the reality of sin, as Israel becomes a monarchical state. Already in Samuel, dysfunctions that will ultimately bring down the state can be discerned, but alongside them also the basic principle for remedying the sin that plagues the nation.”—A Severe Mercy, pages 163-164

<idle musing>
I've noticed over the years that the Bible is more realistic than we are. It faces our foibles and sins head-on; it doesn't sugar-coat that we need a savior. If only we were as honest with ourselves! We hope for complete forgiveness, but don't want to acknowledge we even need forgiveness! I, for one, am glad their is a mediator...
</idle musing>

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