Today our passages are 1 Samuel 26:1–28:25; John 11:1-53; Psalm 117:1-2; and Proverbs 15:22-23. The readings are from The Message by Eugene H. Peterson. If you missed a day, you can find all the readings at our blog, The Bible in a Year. If you find these readings helpful, please consider sending an offering directly to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal.
1 Samuel 26-28:25 (The Message)
1 Samuel 26
Obsessed with a Single Flea1-3 Some Ziphites came to Saul at Gibeah and said, "Did you know that David is hiding out on the Hakilah Hill just opposite Jeshimon?" Saul was on his feet in a minute and on his way to the wilderness of Ziph, taking three thousand of his best men, the pick of the crop, to hunt for David in that wild desert. He camped just off the road at the Hakilah Hill, opposite Jeshimon. 3-5 David, still out in the backcountry, knew Saul had come after him. He sent scouts to determine his precise location. Then David set out and came to the place where Saul had set up camp and saw for himself where Saul and Abner, son of Ner, his general, were staying. Saul was safely inside the camp, encircled by the army.
6 Taking charge, David spoke to Ahimelech the Hittite and to Abishai son of Zeruiah, Joab's brother: "Who will go down with me and enter Saul's camp?"
Abishai whispered, "I'll go with you."
7 So David and Abishai entered the encampment by night, and there he was—Saul, stretched out asleep at the center of the camp, his spear stuck in the ground near his head, with Abner and the troops sound asleep on all sides.
8 Abishai said, "This is the moment! God has put your enemy in your grasp. Let me nail him to the ground with his spear. One hit will do it, believe me; I won't need a second!"
9 But David said to Abishai, "Don't you dare hurt him! Who could lay a hand on God's anointed and even think of getting away with it?"
10-11 He went on, "As God lives, either God will strike him, or his time will come and he'll die in bed, or he'll fall in battle, but God forbid that I should lay a finger on God's anointed. Now, grab the spear at his head and the water jug and let's get out of here."
12 David took the spear and water jug that were right beside Saul's head, and they slipped away. Not a soul saw. Not a soul knew. No one woke up! They all slept through the whole thing. A blanket of deep sleep from God had fallen on them.
13-14 Then David went across to the opposite hill and stood far away on the top of the mountain. With this safe distance between them, he shouted across to the army and Abner son of Ner, "Hey, Abner! How long do I have to wait for you to wake up and answer me?"
Abner said, "Who's calling?"
15-16 "Aren't you in charge there?" said David. "Why aren't you minding the store? Why weren't you standing guard over your master the king, when a soldier came to kill the king your master? Bad form! As God lives, your life should be forfeit, you and the entire bodyguard. Look what I have—the king's spear and water jug that were right beside his head!"
17-20 By now, Saul had recognized David's voice and said, "Is that you, my son David?"
David said, "Yes, it's me, O King, my master. Why are you after me, hunting me down? What have I done? What crime have I committed? Oh, my master, my king, listen to this from your servant: If God has stirred you up against me, then I gladly offer my life as a sacrifice. But if it's men who have done it, let them be banished from God's presence! They've expelled me from my rightful place in God's heritage, sneering, 'Out of here! Go get a job with some other god!' But you're not getting rid of me that easily; you'll not separate me from God in life or death. The absurdity! The king of Israel obsessed with a single flea! Hunting me down—a mere partridge—out in the hills!"
21 Saul confessed, "I've sinned! Oh, come back, my dear son David! I won't hurt you anymore. You've honored me this day, treating my life as most precious. And I've acted the fool—a moral dunce, a real clown."
22-24 David answered, "See what I have here? The king's spear. Let one of your servants come and get it. It's God's business to decide what to do with each of us in regard to what's right and who's loyal. God put your life in my hands today, but I wasn't willing to lift a finger against God's anointed. Just as I honored your life today, may God honor my life and rescue me from all trouble."
25 Saul said to David, "Bless you, dear son David! Yes, do what you have to do! And, yes, succeed in all you attempt!"
Then David went on his way, and Saul went home.
1 Samuel 271 David thought to himself, "Sooner or later, Saul's going to get me. The best thing I can do is escape to Philistine country. Saul will count me a lost cause and quit hunting me down in every nook and cranny of Israel. I'll be out of his reach for good." 2-4 So David left; he and his six hundred men went to Achish son of Maoch, king of Gath. They moved in and settled down in Gath, with Achish. Each man brought his household; David brought his two wives, Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail, widow of Nabal of Carmel. When Saul was told that David had escaped to Gath, he called off the hunt.
5 Then David said to Achish, "If it's agreeable to you, assign me a place in one of the rural villages. It doesn't seem right that I, your mere servant, should be taking up space in the royal city."
6-7 So Achish assigned him Ziklag. (This is how Ziklag got to be what it is now, a city of the kings of Judah.) David lived in Philistine country a year and four months.
8-9 From time to time David and his men raided the Geshurites, the Girzites, and the Amalekites—these people were longtime inhabitants of the land stretching toward Shur and on to Egypt. When David raided an area he left no one alive, neither man nor woman, but took everything else: sheep, cattle, donkeys, camels, clothing—the works. Then he'd return to Achish.
10-11 Achish would ask, "And whom did you raid today?"
David would tell him, "Oh, the Negev of Judah," or "The Negev of Jerahmeel," or "The Negev of the Kenites." He never left a single person alive lest one show up in Gath and report what David had really been doing. This is the way David operated all the time he lived in Philistine country.
12 Achish came to trust David completely. He thought, "He's made himself so repugnant to his people that he'll be in my camp forever."
1 Samuel 281 During this time the Philistines mustered their troops to make war on Israel. Achish said to David, "You can count on this: You're marching with my troops, you and your men." 2 And David said, "Good! Now you'll see for yourself what I can do!"
"Great!" said Achish. "I'm making you my personal bodyguard—for life!"
Saul Prayed, but God Didn't Answer3 Samuel was now dead. All Israel had mourned his death and buried him in Ramah, his hometown. Saul had long since cleaned out all those who held séances with the dead. 4-5 The Philistines had mustered their troops and camped at Shunem. Saul had assembled all Israel and camped at Gilboa. But when Saul saw the Philistine troops, he shook in his boots, scared to death.
6 Saul prayed to God, but God didn't answer—neither by dream nor by sign nor by prophet.
7 So Saul ordered his officials, "Find me someone who can call up spirits so I may go and seek counsel from those spirits."
His servants said, "There's a witch at Endor."
8 Saul disguised himself by putting on different clothes. Then, taking two men with him, he went under the cover of night to the woman and said, "I want you to consult a ghost for me. Call up the person I name."
9 The woman said, "Just hold on now! You know what Saul did, how he swept the country clean of mediums. Why are you trying to trap me and get me killed?"
10 Saul swore solemnly, "As God lives, you won't get in any trouble for this."
11 The woman said, "So whom do you want me to bring up?"
"Samuel. Bring me Samuel."
12 When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out loudly to Saul, "Why did you lie to me? You're Saul!"
13 The king told her, "You have nothing to fear ...but what do you see?"
"I see a spirit ascending from the underground."
14 "And what does he look like?" Saul asked.
"An old man ascending, robed like a priest."
Saul knew it was Samuel. He fell down, face to the ground, and worshiped.
15 Samuel said to Saul, "Why have you disturbed me by calling me up?"
"Because I'm in deep trouble," said Saul. "The Philistines are making war against me and God has deserted me—he doesn't answer me any more, either by prophet or by dream. And so I'm calling on you to tell me what to do."
16-19 "Why ask me?" said Samuel. "God has turned away from you and is now on the side of your neighbor. God has done exactly what he told you through me—ripped the kingdom right out of your hands and given it to your neighbor. It's because you did not obey God, refused to carry out his seething judgment on Amalek, that God does to you what he is doing today. Worse yet, God is turning Israel, along with you, over to the Philistines. Tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. And, yes, indeed, God is giving Israel's army up to the Philistines."
20-22 Saul dropped to the ground, felled like a tree, terrified by Samuel's words. There wasn't an ounce of strength left in him—he'd eaten nothing all day and all night. The woman, realizing that he was in deep shock, said to him, "Listen to me. I did what you asked me to do, put my life in your hands in doing it, carried out your instructions to the letter. It's your turn to do what I tell you: Let me give you some food. Eat it. It will give you strength so you can get on your way."
23-25 He refused. "I'm not eating anything."
But when his servants joined the woman in urging him, he gave in to their pleas, picked himself up off the ground, and sat on the bed. The woman moved swiftly. She butchered a grain-fed calf she had, and took some flour, kneaded it, and baked some flat bread. Then she served it all up for Saul and his servants. After dining handsomely, they got up from the table and were on their way that same night.
John 11:1-53 (The Message)
The Death of Lazarus
1-3Aman was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. This was the same Mary who massaged the Lord's feet with aromatic oils and then wiped them with her hair. It was her brother Lazarus who was sick. So the sisters sent word to Jesus, "Master, the one you love so very much is sick."
4When Jesus got the message, he said, "This sickness is not fatal. It will become an occasion to show God's glory by glorifying God's Son."
5-7Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, but oddly, when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed on where he was for two more days. After the two days, he said to his disciples, "Let's go back to Judea."
8They said, "Rabbi, you can't do that. The Jews are out to kill you, and you're going back?"
9-10Jesus replied, "Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in daylight doesn't stumble because there's plenty of light from the sun. Walking at night, he might very well stumble because he can't see where he's going."
11He said these things, and then announced, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep. I'm going to wake him up."
12-13The disciples said, "Master, if he's gone to sleep, he'll get a good rest and wake up feeling fine." Jesus was talking about death, while his disciples thought he was talking about taking a nap.
14-15Then Jesus became explicit: "Lazarus died. And I am glad for your sakes that I wasn't there. You're about to be given new grounds for believing. Now let's go to him."
16That's when Thomas, the one called the Twin, said to his companions, "Come along. We might as well die with him."
17-20When Jesus finally got there, he found Lazarus already four days dead. Bethany was near Jerusalem, only a couple of miles away, and many of the Jews were visiting Martha and Mary, sympathizing with them over their brother. Martha heard Jesus was coming and went out to meet him. Mary remained in the house.
21-22Martha said, "Master, if you'd been here, my brother wouldn't have died. Even now, I know that whatever you ask God he will give you."
23Jesus said, "Your brother will be raised up."
24Martha replied, "I know that he will be raised up in the resurrection at the end of time."
25-26"You don't have to wait for the End. I am, right now, Resurrection and Life. The one who believes in me, even though he or she dies, will live. And everyone who lives believing in me does not ultimately die at all. Do you believe this?"
27"Yes, Master. All along I have believed that you are the Messiah, the Son of God who comes into the world."
28After saying this, she went to her sister Mary and whispered in her ear, "The Teacher is here and is asking for you."
29-32The moment she heard that, she jumped up and ran out to him. Jesus had not yet entered the town but was still at the place where Martha had met him. When her sympathizing Jewish friends saw Mary run off, they followed her, thinking she was on her way to the tomb to weep there. Mary came to where Jesus was waiting and fell at his feet, saying, "Master, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died."
33-34When Jesus saw her sobbing and the Jews with her sobbing, a deep anger welled up within him. He said, "Where did you put him?"
34-35"Master, come and see," they said. Now Jesus wept.
36The Jews said, "Look how deeply he loved him."
37Others among them said, "Well, if he loved him so much, why didn't he do something to keep him from dying? After all, he opened the eyes of a blind man."
38-39Then Jesus, the anger again welling up within him, arrived at the tomb. It was a simple cave in the hillside with a slab of stone laid against it. Jesus said, "Remove the stone."
The sister of the dead man, Martha, said, "Master, by this time there's a stench. He's been dead four days!"
40Jesus looked her in the eye. "Didn't I tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?"
41-42Then, to the others, "Go ahead, take away the stone."
They removed the stone. Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and prayed, "Father, I'm grateful that you have listened to me. I know you always do listen, but on account of this crowd standing here I've spoken so that they might believe that you sent me."
43-44Then he shouted, "Lazarus, come out!" And he came out, a cadaver, wrapped from head to toe, and with a kerchief over his face.
Jesus told them, "Unwrap him and let him loose."
The Man Who Creates God-Signs
45-48That was a turnaround for many of the Jews who were with Mary. They saw what Jesus did, and believed in him. But some went back to the Pharisees and told on Jesus. The high priests and Pharisees called a meeting of the Jewish ruling body. "What do we do now?" they asked. "This man keeps on doing things, creating God-signs. If we let him go on, pretty soon everyone will be believing in him and the Romans will come and remove what little power and privilege we still have."
49-52Then one of them—it was Caiaphas, the designated Chief Priest that year—spoke up, "Don't you know anything? Can't you see that it's to our advantage that one man dies for the people rather than the whole nation be destroyed?" He didn't say this of his own accord, but as Chief Priest that year he unwittingly prophesied that Jesus was about to die sacrificially for the nation, and not only for the nation but so that all God's exile-scattered children might be gathered together into one people.
53-54From that day on, they plotted to kill him. So Jesus no longer went out in public among the Jews. He withdrew into the country bordering the desert to a town called Ephraim and secluded himself there with his disciples.
Psalm 117:1-2 (The Message)
His love has taken over our lives;
God's faithful ways are eternal.
Proverbs 15:22-23 (The Message)
22 Refuse good advice and watch your plans fail;
take good counsel and watch them succeed.
23 Congenial conversation—what a pleasure!
The right word at the right time—beautiful!
Verse of the Day
“God is the one who makes us patient and cheerful. I pray that he will help you live at peace with each other, as you follow Christ. Then all of you together will praise God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” - Romans 15:5-6
Today's passage is from the Contemporary English Version.
Thought for the Day
English philosopher, political economist and civil servant, John Stuart Mill wrote, “When an opinion is true, it may be extinguished once, twice, or many times, but in the course of ages there will generally be found persons to rediscover it, until some one of its reappearances falls on a time when from favourable circumstances it escapes persecution until it has made such head as to withstand all subsequent attempts to suppress it.”