Sun, 19 January 2020
(1Sm.15:16-23; Ps.50:8-9,16-17,21,23; Mk.2:18-22)
“Does the Lord so delight in holocausts and sacrifices
as in obedience to the command of the Lord?
The answer to the question Samuel puts to Saul is, in a word, “No.” “Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission than the fat of rams.” Nothing does the Lord deem greater than our hearing and heeding His Word, than our obedience to His will. And nothing will save us, nothing will preserve our place in His kingdom like our doing what He asks of us.
Saul loses his kingship for his disobedience to the command of the Lord. The Lord has told him to destroy the enemy he invades and all that belongs to them. Saul retains some of the animals to bring back for sacrifice to God. Why waste them? Why not honor God with them? Reasonable thoughts to the human mind, but not the will of God. And in heeding these thoughts is revealed the seed of Saul’s rebellion against God, which will lead to his attempts to destroy the king (David) the Lord has chosen to replace him, and end in his own suicide.
How prone the human mind is to favor its own counsels against those of God. How foolish seem submission and obedience, especially when they go against our own logic. But David will show the humility God desires in those He would bless. “To him that goes the right way I will show the salvation of God,” He promises us. David will be one who does not hate the discipline of the Lord or cast His words behind his back. When all justification is present for his killing Saul, who hunts down God’s chosen like an animal, he forgoes every opportunity, respecting his pursuer as God’s anointed. How different his attitude from Saul’s, he who “rejected the command of the Lord” by taking matters in his own soiled hands.
The blessing obedience is, the transcendent joy of joining oneself to the will of the Lord, is evident in our gospel as well, in Jesus’ teaching that “new wine is poured into new skins” and not old. Fasting is a blessed sacrifice provided by the law and by God. But as wholesome as this practice, or any other religious observance, can be, it does not supersede being present to the Lord. If we are not present to Him, all our works become empty. The disciples are so close to Jesus, so happy to be in His company, it is as if they have stepped into heaven – and so how can the law’s prescription for fasting touch them in a place where fasting is no longer necessary? Indeed, they shall fast upon His death, and we know our great saints have performed great fasts and sacrifices in the Name of the Lord and for His glory… but first the grace of God must be with us all, or all becomes empty show.
It is the new wine of which we drink now, brothers and sisters; it is the Word become whole which is ours. Let us now be obedient to the Lord’s command, and all we do will be joy for us and for our God.
O LORD, make of us new wineskins
that we might bear your Word within ourselves.
YHWH, let us not question your Word or your will but walk in your way, for only by such obedience will we find salvation. Let us not pull away from you or presume our thoughts above your own. For in such foolishness we shall surely die – how can we remain if rejected by you?
And surely shall our rejection come if we fail to listen to your command and do your bidding. For your command is life to us, O LORD, and following in your way our means to glory; thus we will be without hope if we turn from your discipline.
Let us listen to Jesus, Him whom you have sent as Bridegroom among us. In His presence our hearts rejoice, and apart from Him we can only fast. But in feasting and in sacrifice He is our treasure; Him do we love. And so, let us be obedient to His teaching, LORD, that your blessing we might ever find.