Tuesday, May 05, 2009

1 Sam 9-10; Acts 16:16-34

1 Samuel 9-10

Here we have the beginning of Saul's reign. He is privately anointed by Samuel as "captain over the Lord's inheritance" (10:1, KJV). Then he is shown to be one of the prophets, drawing the people's attention to him. These signs were to confirm to him that he was indeed the anointed of the Lord (10:9). Finally, he is publicly chosen by lot from among the tribes of Israel. Some have apparently compared this to the casting of lots regarding Achan, as if the very fact of Saul's being chosen by lot were a sign of judgment. I think that is erroneous. First, the comparison is not apt. In the case of Achan, the sin was not a general sin among the people. The casting of lots was to point out the guilty party, who had not come forward on his own, though his sin had brought disaster upon the whole people. Second, the selection of Saul is public confirmation of what Samuel had already done privately. Third, it seems to be the case that Saul was very humble in all of this. He did not go seeking to be anointed king. Even after he was anointed king, he did not mention it to his uncle (10:16). Then, when the casting of lots took place, Saul was hiding among the baggage (10:22), obviously not putting himself forward. No, the casting of lots was simply the standard method in the Old Testament of selecting persons for whatever reason, in such a way that God would clearly make his will known. Finally, note the last verse of ch 10. Even though Saul had been publicly selected by lot as king, there were those who were not impressed with the choice. That sets us up for tomorrow's reading.

Acts 16:16-34

By preaching in Philippi, Paul is, for the first time, proclaiming the gospel in what is essentially an entirely pagan city. In the verses leading up to today's reading, the implication is that there was no synagogue in the city, hence the small number of faithful Jews met for prayer by the river. Second, the girl with the divining spirit fits a more thoroughly pagan context. Thirdly, the response of the people (vs 20) focuses on their being Jews, in this case a little understood (to them) religion that strikes at the very foundations of their beliefs. Nonetheless, the suffering of Paul and Silas gives opportunity for the proclamation of the gospel, which continues to bear fruit in the midst of rank paganism.

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