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1 Samuel 12-13

The historical books of the Hebrew Bible often have sections where great religious leaders make a final speech. This is a summing-up of their lives and often a prophetic warning about the future. Call it “foreshadowing,” if you will, because everyone who hears this story knows that everything Samuel predicts comes true. As long as the people and their king serve only the Lord, they prosper; but if they and their king turn away from that faith, they suffer. As those who read the books of Samuel know, the people of Israel turn away from God; and eventually, great empires come and lay waste to the land.

12 Samuel (to the Israelites): I have listened to your voice and all you have said, and I have given you a king to rule over you. He is now your ruler and will walk before you. I have grown old and gray, but my sons still live among you. I have led you since I was a young man, but those days are over.

Here I am. Speak up in front of the Eternal One and in front of His anointed king if you have the same grievances against me as you have against my sons. Have I ever taken an ox from you? A donkey? Have I ever cheated any of you? Threatened any of you? Have any of you given me a bribe to make me change my judgment? [If any of this is true, say so,] I will make it right.

Samuel asks his listeners to affirm that he has acted with integrity as their leader. Money has not swayed him, nor has personal emotion; he has done what is good in the sight of God. (Maybe, like Eli before him, his sons are a mess, but that’s another matter.) The people take seriously what he has to say next for two reasons: they trust Samuel, and they fear God.

Today some leaders taint religion by acting as Samuel’s sons did. Their personal greed, desire for political power, or unwillingness to put God first make some think that religion itself is a sham. Faithful leaders can still be found, but Samuel’s example suggests that it’s a good idea to question the actions of our leaders before we let them tell us what they think God wants from us.

People: No, you have never cheated us, you have never threatened us, and you have never taken anything from anyone.

Samuel: Then let the Eternal One, who witnesses against you, and His anointed king, who bears witness today, see that you have found me innocent of any wrongdoing against you.

People: He is our witness.

Samuel: The Eternal One is our witness, the One who first raised Moses and Aaron to be leaders of the people, the One who brought your ancestors here out of the oppression of Egypt. Now stand ready as I will present to you, before the Eternal One, a declaration of all the righteous acts the Eternal has done on behalf of you and your ancestors.

When Jacob went down into Egypt, your ancestors cried to the Eternal One for help, and the Eternal raised Moses and Aaron to lead your ancestors out of their bondage and bring them to this land. But once they were here, they forgot the Eternal One, their True God, so He allowed Sisera, the general of the armies of Hazor, and later the Philistines and then the king of Moab to subdue them. So the people had to fight for their survival. 10 Under this heavy oppression, the people cried out to the Eternal, confessing, “We have sinned. We have forsaken the Eternal to serve the local gods. But if You will save us now from the heavy hands of our enemies, we will serve You.” 11 Then the Eternal One raised up Jerubbaal, Bedan, Jephthah, and Samuel, who pulled you out of the grasp of your enemies and brought peace from warfare on every side so that you could live in safety. 12 But when you saw that King Nahash of the Ammonites was arrayed for battle against you, you ran to me, saying, “Give us a king to rule over us,” even though the Eternal One, your True God, has always been your king. 13 So now, look: here is the king you chose, the king for whom you asked. The Eternal has indeed set a king to rule over you.

14 If you will revere and serve the Eternal, if you listen to His voice and do not disobey His commands, then you and this king who rules over you will follow the Eternal One, your True God, and all will go well with you.

15 But if you ignore His voice, if you disobey the commands of the Eternal, then His mighty hand of judgment will be raised against you and against your ancestors.

16 Stand ready, for the Eternal One is going to show you a great sight. 17 It is the wheat harvest now, and is this not the time after the early rains? But I will call upon the Eternal to send thunder and rain so you will realize the depths of your sin before God because you demanded a king to rule over you.

18 Samuel prayed to the Eternal. He sent thunder and rain to pelt the fields that day, and the people were afraid of Him and of Samuel.

People (to Samuel): 19 Pray to the Eternal One your God on behalf of your servants so we will not die for adding to all the weight of our sin the evil of demanding our own king.

Samuel: 20 Don’t be frightened. It is true that you have done evil, but never stop following the Eternal One. Serve Him completely, 21 and do not follow empty things that do not have the power to benefit or save you. They are worthless. 22 For the sake of His reputation, He will not cast away His chosen people. Before you ever chose Him, the Eternal One chose you as His own because it pleased Him.

23 As for me, the last thing I would ever do is to stop praying for you. That would be a sin against the Eternal One on my part. I will always try to teach you to live and act in a way that is good and proper in His eyes. 24 Make this your one purpose: to revere Him and serve Him faithfully with complete devotion because He has done great things for you. 25 But if you continue in your evil ways against Him, you and your king will be swept off the face of the earth.

13 Saul was about 30 years old when he became king, and after he ruled for at least two years, Saul chose 3,000 men of Israel: 2,000 stayed with him in the hill country of Bethel at a place called Michmash, and the other 1,000 joined Saul’s son Jonathan at Gibeah in Benjamin. He sent all the rest home to their tents.

Jonathan crushed the Philistine regiment at Geba, and news of this slaughter reached the Philistines. Saul ordered that a trumpet be blown throughout Israel to announce Jonathan’s victory to the people.

Saul: Let the Hebrew people know about this!

When all Israel had heard the news of how Saul had defeated the Philistines, and when they learned that the Philistines were filled with hatred toward them, Saul called the people out to join him at Gilgal.

Now the Philistines had gathered their forces: 30,000 chariots, 6,000 horsemen, and so many foot soldiers they were like grains of sand on the beach. They made camp at Michmash, east of Beth-aven. When the people of Israel saw they were in danger, for their troops were seriously outnumbered, they hid in caves and in holes, among the rocks, tombs, and cisterns. Some of the Hebrews crossed over the Jordan River into Gad and Gilead. But Saul remained at Gilgal; the people continued to follow him, but they were terrified.

Saul waited for Samuel for seven days, the amount of time he had been told by Samuel to wait. But the prophet did not come to Gilgal, and the people began to slip away. A few more days and Saul would have no army left, so he decided to take matters into his own hands.

Saul: Bring me the animals for burnt offerings and the offerings of peace for the Lord.

10 Although Saul was not a priest, he offered the burnt offering himself without waiting for Samuel. Immediately after Saul finished the offering, when the aroma of the sacrifice lingered over the land, Samuel arrived, and Saul went out to greet him and to pay his respects. But Samuel knew Saul had overstepped his bounds.

Samuel: 11 What have you done?

Saul: The people were deserting me! You didn’t come when you promised, and the Philistines were gathering for war at Michmash. 12 I thought, “The Philistines are going to attack me here in Gilgal, and I haven’t even asked the Eternal One to favor us.” So I took matters into my own hands—I didn’t want to—but I offered the burnt offering myself.

Samuel: 13 That was a foolish thing, Saul. You have not kept the commandment that the Eternal, your True God, gave to you. He was willing to establish your kingdom over Israel for all time, 14 but now your kingdom, your dynasty, will not last. He has found a man who seeks His will and has appointed him king over all the people instead of you because you have not kept to what the Eternal One commanded.

15 Samuel left Gilgal then and went on his way to Gibeah in the land of Benjamin. When Saul counted his forces, they numbered about 600 men. 16 Saul, his son Jonathan, and the people who had remained with him camped at Geba in Benjamin, but the Philistines were camped at Michmash.

17 Philistine raiders left their camp in three divisions: one group went toward Ophrah, in the land of Shual. 18 Another group went toward Beth-horon, and another group went toward the borderland that looks down on the valley of Zeboim in the wilderness.

19 Now at that time there were no blacksmiths in all the land of Israel because the Philistines said, “Then the Hebrews will be capable of making swords or spears.” 20 That meant that the Israelites had to go to Philistine blacksmiths to have their farm implements and their axes sharpened. 21 They charged one-fourth of an ounce to sharpen picks and plow blades, and one-eighth of an ounce for axes and goads. 22 That meant that on the day of the battle, none of the forces of Israel owned swords or spears, except for Saul and his son Jonathan.

23 The garrison of Philistines left the camp and came to the pass of Michmash.

The Voice (VOICE)

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

John 7:1-30

7 After these events, it was time for Jesus to move on. He began a long walk through the Galilean countryside. He was purposefully avoiding Judea because of the violent threats made against Him by the Jews there who wanted to kill Him. It was fall, the time of year when the Jews celebrated the Festival of Booths.

On this holiday, everyone camps in temporary quarters, called booths, to remember that God was with their ancestors when they wandered for 40 years without a home.

Brothers of Jesus (to Jesus): Let’s get out of here and go south to Judea so You can show Your disciples there what You are capable of doing. No one who seeks the public eye is content to work in secret. If You want to perform these signs, then step forward on the world’s stage; don’t hide up here in the hills, Jesus.

Jesus’ own brothers were speaking contemptuously; they did not yet believe in Him, just as the people in His hometown did not see Him as anything more than Joseph’s son.

Jesus: My time has not yet arrived; but for you My brothers, by all means, it is always the right time. You have nothing to worry about because the world doesn’t hate you, but it despises Me because I am always exposing the dark evil in its works. Go on to the feast without Me; I am not going right now because My time is not yet at hand.

This conversation came to an abrupt end, and Jesus stayed in Galilee 10 until His brothers were gone. Then He, too, went up to Jerusalem. But He traveled in secret to avoid drawing any public attention. 11 Some Jewish leaders were searching for Him at the feast and asking the crowds where they could find Him. 12 The crowds would talk in groups: some favored Jesus and thought He was a good man; others disliked Him and thought He was leading people astray. 13 All of these conversations took place in whispers. No one was willing to speak openly about Jesus for fear of the religious leaders.

14 In the middle of the festival, Jesus marched directly into the temple and started to teach. 15 Some of the Jews who heard Him were amazed at Jesus’ ability, and people questioned repeatedly:

Jews: How can this man be so wise about the Hebrew Scriptures? He has never had a formal education.

Jesus: 16 I do not claim ownership of My words; they are a gift from the One who sent Me. 17 If anyone is willing to act according to His purposes and is open to hearing truth, he will know the source of My teaching. Does it come from God or from Me? 18 If a man speaks his own words, constantly quoting himself, he is after adulation. But I chase only after glory for the One who sent Me. My intention is authentic and true. You’ll find no wrong motives in Me.

19 Moses gave you the law, didn’t he? Then how can you blatantly ignore the law and look for an opportunity to murder Me?

Notice how Jesus changes in tone and subject. This shift seems abrupt because the Pharisees’ plotting is yet to be exposed.

Crowd: 20 You must be possessed with a demon! Who is trying to kill You?

Jesus: 21 Listen, all it took was for Me to do one thing, heal a crippled man, and you all were astonished. 22 Don’t you remember how Moses passed down circumcision as a tradition of our ancestors? When you pick up a knife to circumcise on the Sabbath, isn’t that work? 23 If a male is circumcised on the Sabbath to keep the law of Moses intact, how can making one man whole on the Sabbath be a cause for your violent rage? 24 You should not judge by outward appearance. When you judge, search for what is right and just.

Some People of Jerusalem: 25 There is the man they are seeking to kill; surely He must be the one. 26 But here He is, speaking out in the open to the crowd, while they have not spoken a word to stop or challenge Him. Do these leaders now believe He is the Anointed One? 27 But He can’t be; we know where this man comes from, but the true origin of the Anointed will be a mystery to all of us.

Jesus (speaking aloud as He teaches on the temple’s porch): 28 You think you know Me and where I have come from, but I have not come here on My own. I have been sent by the One who embodies truth. You do not know Him. 29 I know Him because I came from Him. He has sent Me.

30 Some were trying to seize Him because of His words, but no one laid as much as a finger on Him—His time had not yet arrived.

The Voice (VOICE)

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

Psalm 108

Psalm 108

A song of David.

My heart is committed, O God:
I will sing;
I will sing praises with great affection
and pledge my whole soul to the singing.
Wake up the harp and lyre, and strum the strings;
I will stir the sleepy dawn from slumber!
I will stand and offer You my thanks, Eternal One, in the presence of others;
I will sing of Your greatness among the nations no matter where I am.
For Your amazing love soars overhead far into the heavens;
Your truth rises up to the clouds
where passing light bends.

O God, that You would be lifted up above the heavens in the hearts of Your people
until the whole earth knows Your glory.
Reach down and rescue those whom You love;
pull us to safety by Your mighty right hand, and answer me.
God’s voice has been heard in His holy sanctuary:
“I will celebrate.
I will allocate Shechem and the Succoth Valley to My people.
Gilead belongs to Me, and so does Manasseh;
Ephraim is the helmet that protects My head;
Judah is the scepter through which I rule;
Moab is the washpot in which I clean Myself;
I will throw My shoe over Edom in conquest;
Philistia will soon hear My victory shout.”

10 But who will take me into the fortified city?
Who will lead me into Edom?
11 Have You not turned Your back on us, O God?
Will You stay away and not accompany our armies, O God?
12 Help us against our enemy; we need Your help!
It’s useless to trust in the hand of man for liberation.
13 Only through God can we be successful.
It is God alone who will defeat our enemies and bring us victory!

The Voice (VOICE)

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

Proverbs 15:4

A word of encouragement heals the one who receives it,
but a deceitful word breaks the spirit.

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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