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David’s first encounter with Abigail is an archetypal male experience. By revealing this insight into politically incorrect and unfiltered male impulses, I am not wanting to fuel up the gender-debate. Just file it under spontaneous and honest first impressions upon reading a biblical text. The passage conjures a question often asked among men and much more often just pondered almost unconsciously: Why are the most beautiful and intelligent women married to complete morons (from Greek moros = stupid)?
Sometimes I ask my students to vote for the best candidate for king: Saul, Jonathan, or David. The results are mixed. At first glance, David gets all the good press. But the biblical perspective is much more nuanced. Admittedly, voting isn’t an Old Testament idea. God appointed the leaders; rebels were stoned. Israel would “hear and be afraid” and “not act presumptuously again” (Deut. 17:12-13, NRSV). Yet one senses the beginnings of democracy.
One of the most stalwart lines any Old Testament women speaks is when Hannah tells Eli: “Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation all this time” (NIV 1 Samuel 1:16). Hannah’s tale is one of self worth; she is not useless. Rather, she is a woman with a grave problem that she has brought before God. Hannah’s problem which results in the birth of Samuel does not take up much room in the first two chapters of First Samuel. Indeed, the evil sons of Eli become the main topic in chapter two.
“Background characters”: now let’s be honest, didn’t your heart sink, even just a little, when you opened the Adult Bible Study Guide for the fourth quarter of 2010? Well, I’ve got good news if you haven’t gone further than the title page yet, because the authors, Gerald and Chantal Klingbeil are really to be commended for this concept, which has huge potential for affording rich insights into God’s Word and into the way He works in human lives.
The title of this week’s lesson is terribly misleading. To say, “all the rest is commentary” implies that we have now finished the important parts of Romans and what remains is of secondary significance at best. That would be like saying, “We’ve finished four quarters of the Super Bowl, the score is tied, and the rest doesn’t mean very much. It’s just sudden death overtime. No big deal.”
At first glance, the term “living sacrifice” seems like an oxymoron. To sacrifice means to surrender, to renounce, to “permit injury or disadvantage to for the sake of something else.” In biblical terms we generally think of a sacrifice as something that is dead—perhaps a bull or a sheep or a pair of pigeons. But in Romans 12, Paul envisions a new kind of sacrifice that models not death, but rejuvenation.
I appeal to you… present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
Throughout the first eight chapters of Romans, Paul has repeatedly stressed the inclusiveness of the gospel. This emphasis is one that resonates with most of us. As tolerant, accepting, and open-minded readers of Paul’s letter, we rejoice in the announcement that the gospel is “the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Rom 1:16). Paul’s proclamation that “righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe” (Rom 3:22) rings beautifully in our sensitive ears.
We are about half way through the Book of Romans. I hope by now we are all realizing again, maybe for the first time, how central and clear Paul’s message is. Yet, we have also seen those issues where Christianity has split itself, even in Paul’s day down to ours! Something about Romans brings out the worse and best in us.