Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Don't Eat the Honey

For those who enjoy the weird and wonderful stories of the Old Testament, Monday's lectionary threw up a belter.

Saul's troops, led by his son Jonathan, are pursuing Philistines. Saul, who is going slowly bonkers, has commanded his men to do their work on empty stomachs and not to eat until sundown.

They are walking through a wood dripping with honey. The men resist. Somehow Jonathan does not know of his father's decree and takes up some honey with his staff. He guzzles the sweet stuff. He describes the experience as 'like brightness returning to my eyes'. He needed sugar.

Trouble is the men know the rules and tell him he is in deep trouble. Jonathan suggests otherwise and after another victory the exhausted men, following that example, eat Philistine-plundered meat, urgently 'with the blood still in it'.

Later, enquiring of the Lord as to how to proceed with the campaign, there is no answer all day (which reminds me much more of my prayer life). To find out why the Lord is displeased Saul casts lots. First between the men and the leaders (him and Jonathan). Then, when the lot falls on them, between the two of them. Two heads in a row (or equivalent) point the finger of blame at Jonathan.

Saul plans to do his son in - it's the rules - but the men dissuade him. The reputation you forge amongst those you lead, if you are a leader, will stand you in good stead on the occasions when you screw up.

It feels such an authentic tale. Why would the editors keep in the history books a tale in which the king (being bonkers) and God (being silent) are seen in such a bad light?

Truth is that the world may well be God's earth but it is in the stewardship of us idiots and we stumble along a lot of the time, seeking the will of a supreme being who is often strangely silent when we most feel we need to hear from him. Not because his word isn't available to us but because we don't listen.

The juxtaposition of a Luke passage, where Pilate throws Jesus on the mercy of the crowd and they choose against him, shows that the wisdom of crowds is not always super-smart. Even if Jesus had been found innocent Pilate would have had him whipped just for causing the inconvenience of being arrested and time-wasting.

Life is a heap of dung sometimes. You will not be judged by what you smell of but how you bear it.

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