1Sm 15:16-23; Ps 50:16,17, 21, 23; Mk 2:18-22
Power, to the LORD, is always saving power. The Lord Jesus never used his power to do anything other than fulfill the Father’s will, plan, and purpose. The Holy Spirit is the power by which we share in the saving ministry and mission of the Lord Jesus. The more we grow in the Holy Spirit the closer our identity with the Christ the more we use every ounce of power and strength to praise The Father and do his will. Psalm fifty questions all that use power for any other purpose. “Why recite the Lord’s commands with your mouth and at the same time hate his commands or worse yet ignore them?” This kind of hypocritical lifestyle is challenged as the psalm continues to question. “When you do such things do you think I will not notice and not respond?” “Perhaps you think that I am like you?” Such is the sharp and painful word of the LORD cutting between the bone and marrow. Sooner or latter all of us must deal with this kind of a question from on high or from deep within. This was the shape of the conversation between King Saul and the prophet Samuel. This is the kind of response the Lord Jesus gave to his critics in today’s gospel, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?” This is the power of the Word Made Flesh and dwelling among us. This is the power of the Holy Spirit still searching out and purifying our hearts to the very core.
King Saul had what we would call an inferiority complex. As Samuel pointed out in his prophetic message for the King, “Though little in your own esteem, are you not leader of the tribes of Israel?” The King wanted his troops to be happy with him as their king, so he had them save the best of the spoil from the Amalekites. Now, to make them look good, it was (wink! wink!) to be used as a sacrifice to the LORD in Gilgal. Is he not the king? Can’t he modify the command of the other king, the true king of Israel, the LORD, in any manner he desires? King Saul as the leader of God’s People has a most important role to play in their lives; he is to reveal by his behavior the blessing of obedience. There is always a blessing in obedience. Even when obedience is most difficult, the blessing is even greater. The prophet provided the king with a painful question; one, we too, must answer. “Does the LORD so delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obedience to the command of the LORD?” The prophet went on to explain that when we use the rituals of religion to try to figure out the mystery of the future we rebel against the LORD who alone is worthy of all our trust. The king assumed that he could modify the LORD’s command and this placed his will in opposition to God’s will; this gives us over to worshiping our own plans, designs, and will. This is idolatry. Samuel had one more message, and he saved it till the end. “Because you have rejected the command of the LORD, he, too, has rejected you as ruler.” Such is the consequence of trying to fill your inferiority complex with anything other than the affirmation and delight in the LORD who alone is worthy of our constant praise and faithful obedience.
Fasting is nearly a universal religious expression. In the Old Testament it was thought to have power, or at least influence with the LORD. It was used by the faithful to let God know that they were serious about their requests or their desire to grow in relationship with the LORD. In the New Testament it is recommended by the Lord Jesus, not so much to have influence over the Father, because as the Lord explained the Father knows our needs even before we ask of him. Yet, we ask for the sake of growing in our faith. We fast for the same reason, so that we might influence deepest motivations, our desires and ourselves. Fasting helps us to take seriously our own efforts at prayer and growth in holiness. We fast so that our prayer isn’t just a head-trip or heartache. We fast so that our whole body and our entire personality are engaged in spiritual growth. While the disciples had day-to-day contact with the Incarnate Son, their senses were constantly bombarded with his love and truth. They grew steadily because the Lord Jesus was with them in a physical and constant manner. However, after the bridegroom has departed, they would fast. The disciples of John the Baptist and the Pharisees had a lot to learn about the Lord Jesus, and so do we. In the Spirit we will be taught when it’s time to feast and time to fast. The Lord Jesus goes on to teach with the two metaphors about sewing and wine making. These are common experiences, and everyone listening would have understood. Do we understand? There is something so new happening that we must be ready to grow and to change from glory to glory from one likeness to Christ into another likeness to Christ. It’s daily, and constant, and eternal. It’s the great adventure of holiness! It’s the most exciting way to live! Indeed, when we live this way there is no more boredom in our lives.