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A new way of sharing Bible reading reflections...

Hi All!

From now on, instead of posting Bible reading reflections here we've created a group called 'Explore Bible Reflections' connected to the Chatswood Baptist Church Facebook page. 

I will continue to post regular reflections, but they will probably be shorter. And the big idea is for others to be sharing their thoughts and questions and highlighting key verses. So get involved!

I'm not sure if this link will work, but if you're interested, please feel free to join the group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1535623263264680/

Cheers, matt

High Hopes? (1 Sam 9:1-10:1)

Sometimes I think God just gives us what we want to show us we should have trusted him. This chapter  1 Sam 9) introducing us to Saul, the first King of Israel, feels like God giving the people what they want. At this stage there’s no obvious loud warning bells that it will all turn out terribly, but there are a few little indications that what the people are getting is what they wanted rather than what God himself desires.
The first little warning bell is v2, which tells us that Saul was “as handsome a young man as could be found anywhere in Israel, and he was a head taller than anyone else.” Saul fits the profile of a king ‘just like the other nations’… just what Israel wanted. Of course, being handsome and head taller won’t make him a good king - not in the way that a human king can ultimately fulfil God’s plans for establishing his kingdom. And the rest of the narrative presents Saul as quite passive - he doesn’t really know what’s going on, he doesn’t accomplish anything. It’s his servant, or Samuel, or even the donkeys!, who seem to be leading the plot more than him. God is certainly going to use this man to deliver his people from their enemies (v16), and the warning bells are only small at this stage. And yet, from the outset, it seems like Saul is clearly the king God gave Israel to show them they should have trusted him rather than demanded to have what they wanted. 
Much of the story of Israel is living proof (one way or another!) that it is far better to ‘trust the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding’ (Prov 3:5). It’s worth learning the lesson ourselves as we read. Can you see where God might be giving you want you begged for according to your own wisdom? Can you see how that might not actually be the best thing for you? Better to acknowledge that now and ask God to give you what he knows is best...

Help us be like everyone else! (1 Sam 7:13 - 8:22)

A few things have happened in 1 Samuel since my last reflection! And now, reflecting on today's reading (from chapters 7 and 8) the request for a king seems all the more ironic and sad in light of what happens in chapters 4-6. These chapters highlight that God is more than able to look after himself and his people, if only they will trust and honour him. Sadly though, the Israelites see the need for a human king so that they can be ‘just like the other nations’. In fact, the Philistines seem to acknowledge the unrivalled power of the LORD as Israel’s God more than the Israelites do (1 Sam 6:4-9)!
I can’t be too quick to judge though. As the notes for today’s reflection point out ‘we, too, have a tendency to look to what we can see rather than trusting in God.’ What I need to remember though, which is played out in the sad saga of King Saul’s life (and many of the kings to follow!) is that 'these things are tyrants by comparison with God.’ Christians are not supposed to be ‘just like everyone else’. We’re supposed to be different - to have something to offer the world. And it starts with trusting God to be more than what the world has to offer.

Matt 27:32-50

"My God, my god, why have you forsaken me?"
I think we’ve all thought, if not cried out, something along these lines. Confused and hurt that God seems to have abandoned us to our circumstances - to our pain and frustration. Some of us cry out like this at the drop of a hat!

But here Jesus cries out in acute awareness that God has indeed abandoned him - left him hanging, literally - when he of all people should have been spared such treatment. And Jesus experiences this so that we might never really know what it means to be forsaken by God. We think we do, but we don’t. And we never need to know, thanks to this moment when Jesus experienced it for us. Thank you Jesus! Help us remember what it cost you for us to be spared, that we might always be grateful for your loving sacrifice.

John 19:25-27

The past few days of readings in ‘explore’ have focused on short statements or ‘sayings’ from Jesus on the cross as we lead into Easter. What’s stood out to me from all three so far is, for want of a better word, the ‘poise’ of Jesus in the midst of his agony. Not poise for the sake of manners or appearance, but poise that is driven by trust in his father and concern for others.

Whilst the natural reaction in such excruciating and bitter circumstances would be uncontrolled desire to minimise your own suffering, or to lash out in fear and anger, Jesus seems able to focus on what other people need, even now - even as he hangs on a cross moments from death. He looks with pity on the soldiers who have just crucified him, praying that God might take into account their ignorance and forgive them. He consoles and encourages one of the criminals crucified with him, reassuring him that his faith will not go unrewarded. And in todays reading, he looks with compassion on his good friend and his own mother - thinking more of their loss than hiss, and points out to them that ultimately his death will mean gain, not loss. Through what he was suffering for them, they were becoming brother and sister, mother and son, in God’s new family.

Jesus is in deep distress. He has wept and agonised in prayer over what he was now enduring. He is about to cry out to God, overwhelmed by the reality of his abandonment. And yet, at the same time, he is in control, ultimately not driven by fear, but love for those around him. I’m glad the salvation of the world was on his shoulders and not mine.