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(Part 146)


January 15, 2016

Today’s readings:
1 Samuel 8:4-22
Psalm 89:16-19
Mark 2:1-12

How dumb or blinded can the people of God be? The Israelites wanted a king over them just like all the other nations around them (1 Sm 8:5). Since God had taken care of them since they left Egypt, through dire situations, providing miraculously many times, “Samuel was displeased when they said, ‘Give us a king to rule us.’” (1 Sm 8:6). Why was that? Well, God Himself explained. “You are not the one they are rejecting. They are rejecting me as their king.” (1 Sm 8:7b). In fact, God says this is how they have been acting from the very start! “They are acting toward you just as they have acted from the day I brought them up from Egypt to this very day, deserting me to serve other gods.” (1 Sm 8:8). We can see that God has been very patient, tolerant and forgiving.

Even at this point, with their proven track record of infidelity and idolatry, God wants to save them from their folly. He tells them through Samuel how a king would govern them (1 Sm 8:11-17a). In other words, “you will become his slaves.” (1 Sm 8:17b). Even then, they insisted.

Reminds me of when James and John, with their mother, asked Jesus for places of honor at his right and his left. Jesus said, “Can you drink the cup I will drink?” Now because they were dumb or blinded or just ambitious for glory, they said “yes”! Of course when the crunch came, they fled when Jesus was arrested, and Peter denied him three times.

In insisting on a human king when they had God to rule over them, in salivating for places of glory when Jesus intended them to be servants, they were rejecting or abandoning God’s way and God’s wisdom. How about us? How often do we see how people in the world are doing things, and seeing them successful at it, that we want to copy them? We look to become corporate or legalistic, we look to money before mission rather than the other way around, we blow our own trumpets about successes, we wield human rather than spiritual weapons, we consider as rebuke what is actually encouragement, and so on. So the Israelites insisted: “We too must be like all the nations, with a king to rule us, lead us in warfare, and fight our battles.” (1 Sm 8:20).

What rather should be our posture? Trust only in God! Spiritual warfare? “Blessed the people who know the war cry, who walk in the radiance of your face, Lord.” (Ps 89:16). Facing daunting challenges? “In your name they sing joyfully all the day; they rejoice in your righteousness.” (Ps 89:17). Experiencing setbacks? “You are their majestic strength; by your favor our horn is exalted.” (Ps 89:18). Being assaulted from all sides? “Truly the Lord is our shield, the Holy One of Israel, our king!” (Ps 89:19).

What should be our posture? Have faith only in God, and be persistent in that faith! We look at the incident of the healing of the paralytic. The place where Jesus was teaching was jam-packed and there was no room, even just outside the door (Mk 2:2). Did the four men carrying the paralytic give up? No. Rather, they were persistent and even became more audacious. “They opened up the roof above him” (Mk 2:4)! Imagine the scene. Pieces of roofing material were dropping on the floor just beside Jesus. They were causing a great disturbance. People were looking at them and getting distracted. Was Jesus offended? No. “When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Child, your sins are forgiven.’” (Mk 2:5). Mission accomplished!

The New Evangelization can only happen as we have greater trust and faith in Jesus, as we look to his miraculous interventions in our lives and service, as we reject the wisdom of the world. Let not Jesus our King say of us in our hardheartedness, “Listen to them! Appoint a king to rule over them.” (1 Sm 8:22a). That would be disastrous. Rather, let us move ahead with boldness and zeal, with complete confidence and trust in the God who leads us into battle and wins victories for us. What can we expect to happen? “They were all astounded and glorified God, saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this.’” (Mk 2:12b).

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