Sunday 18th June – Psalm 10
1 Why, Lord, do you stand far off?
Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?
2 In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak,
who are caught in the schemes he devises.
3 He boasts about the cravings of his heart;
he blesses the greedy and reviles the Lord.
4 In his pride the wicked man does not seek him;
in all his thoughts there is no room for God.
5 His ways are always prosperous;
your laws are rejected by[b] him;
he sneers at all his enemies.
6 He says to himself, “Nothing will ever shake me.”
He swears, “No one will ever do me harm.”
7 His mouth is full of lies and threats;
trouble and evil are under his tongue.
8 He lies in wait near the villages;
from ambush he murders the innocent.
His eyes watch in secret for his victims;
9 like a lion in cover he lies in wait.
He lies in wait to catch the helpless;
he catches the helpless and drags them off in his net.
10 His victims are crushed, they collapse;
they fall under his strength.
11 He says to himself, “God will never notice;
he covers his face and never sees.”
12 Arise, Lord! Lift up your hand, O God.
Do not forget the helpless.
13 Why does the wicked man revile God?
Why does he say to himself,
“He won’t call me to account”?
14 But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted;
you consider their grief and take it in hand.
The victims commit themselves to you;
you are the helper of the fatherless.
15 Break the arm of the wicked man;
call the evildoer to account for his wickedness
that would not otherwise be found out.
16 The Lord is King for ever and ever;
the nations will perish from his land.
17 You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted;
you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,
18 defending the fatherless and the oppressed,
so that mere earthly mortals
will never again strike terror.
There is no doubt that our minds have many questions we want answered about life in general. We often want to know things that we don’t understand. Some of those questions may be ones driven just by curiosity but others may be driven out of pain, desperation or annoyance. We know where to go with ordinary, run of the mill questions – Google, Siri or Alexa, maybe even CHATgpt. There are questions however that those internet services can’t answer, the most pressing personal questions that fly into our lives: why did Granda die? Why am I ill? Why is there so much trouble in the world? What have I to do with my life? where have I to go?
In this Psalm David wants to know why God wasn’t acting against the wicked. “Why do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” and he describes the wicked, the greedy, the dishonest, the liars, the violent to name but a few and wants to know why they seem to get away with it. He knows that God sees everything and sees the trouble of the afflicted (v14) and he prays “lift up your hand, do not forget the helpless” (v12) and he calls for vengeance “break the arm of the wicked man, call the evildoer to account” (v15) In saying all of this he is demonstrating that he is a righteous man at heart who cares not just about his fellow man but about God and his honour – but he still has questions.
David doesn’t leave the Psalm that way however, he declares what he knows about God. He knows that he does care and that he is Lord and King and that the wicked will perish from the land and that earthly mortals will never again strike terror. He declares this as the truth though how it fits with his questions he doesn’t know, just as our life situations often puzzle us though we trust in God. Someone once said that God doesn’t always answer our questions, but He answers us, meaning that while God deals with our needs, our questions are often left waiting. Corrie Ten Boom was a little Dutch girl who joined her father, a clock maker, when he regularly took his case of clocks into Amsterdam. She wanted to help him carry the case onto the train but it was too heavy for her so her father carried it on. Later whilst travelling she suddenly saw a newspaper headline someone was reading and asked her father : “What is sex crime?”
Her father paused and said “Corrie, do you know how my suitcase was too heavy for you? Yes, she replied, well this is like that, leave it for me to carry just now, sometime we’ll deal with that.” She was quite happy to do that as later in Ravensbruck concentration camp she learned to leave some desperate questions in her Heavenly Father’s hands.
A Prayer: O God, help me to trust you when I don’t understand. Amen.
READINGS FOR THE WEEK AHEAD
If you don’t have a bible at home you can find the readings on a website such as www.biblegateway.com or an app such as YouVersion
MONDAY Acts 2:1-13
“I’ll have to go – see you online!” That’s kind of like Jesus’ message when he was about to leave the disciples telling them to wait in Jerusalem for he would meet them “online”. Yes, I know it’s an illustration that only makes sense in the 21st Century but allow me it for now. In physical person Jesus was going but in spiritual presence he was coming. He told his disciples that he had to go (physically) but he would send the Holy Spirit reminding them that he had told them this before. He said he wouldn’t leave them as orphans (John 14:18). So here we come to the establishment of this ‘online’ presence of Jesus with his disciples. We have to leave any modern illustration behind of course for the Day of Pentecost was not the establishment of some 5g connection with the Godhead, it was the GRAND CONNECTION, it came with a sound and a wind and a flame and with a result that the wonders of God came praising out of the mouths of the disciples to be heard by all manner of peoples in Jerusalem at that great feast.
This was the exact opposite of the tower of Babel when the peoples were scattered and their languages confused by God because of their rebellious spirits, here God was spreading His Word to different peoples to hear Him and receive fellowship with Him through the Holy Spirit. Some of course felt it was a joke when they said, “these people haven’t got a link with God, they are just drunk” (v13) but others wanted to know “what does this mean?” (v12).
TUESDAY Acts 2:14-39
Peter began to explain that this was no new flash in the pan it had been told about in the Old Testament and he quotes from the book of Joel finishing with, “everyone who calls on the Name of the Lord will be saved” (Joel 2:32)
He goes on to outline the truth about Jesus that although they – his Jewish hearers – had handed him over to be crucified, it was God’s deliberate plan that this should be so. He was put to death being nailed to the cross but God raised him from the dead, quoting from David in the Old Testament. David was the King par excellence that they all looked back on but as Peter said, David is dead, but he had spoken of one of his descendants who would be raised from the dead and indicated Jesus saying, “God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ”
This struck them to the heart for they realised this meant they had crucified their Messiah. “Were you there when they crucified my Lord” says the old Negro spiritual adding “sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble, were you there when they hung him on the tree?”. The hearers were not only perplexed but horrified if they had done this and asked “What shall we do?” to which Peter replied, “Repent and be baptised in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins”. Jesus’ death upon the cross was paying the penalty for their murderous action as indeed he was for all our sins, the right and proper response being that of penitence and faith. The astonishing thing was that they too would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit because the promise was for them and all who would follow (Acts 2:39)
A Prayer: “Almighty God who laid my sins on the shoulders of Jesus, in your mercy forgive me, and renew me by your Holy Spirit, that becoming your child I may reflect your glory. In Jesus Christ. Amen”
WEDNESDAY Acts 2:40-47
Repenting and being baptised was not just a little action Peter told the crowds to do. Repentance meant a change of direction away from the ways of the world, it was in effect a death, for Peter would remember Jesus saying that any who would follow him must “take up their cross”. It is always important to note that the salvation Jesus promises is NOT the result of actions but the free GIFT of God for undeserving sinners, however having believed and received, it would lead on to right and worthy actions. Paul said, “We are saved by grace through faith NOT of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph 2:8,9). To give a silly illustration, you only learn to ride once you’ve been given a bike! You can only live the Christian life once you have it but having received it you now must learn to live in the ways of the kingdom.
By the end of the day there were 3000 added to their number. The door was opened to Jesus and that door is still open today! Amen!
What they did next was attend to the Apostles’ teaching, shared with each other according to their needs and enjoyed the new life they had in Christ. When we come to Christ we enter a new family, we learn the family rules and love and care for each other. Paul’s Epistles tell of how this is done in mutuality and prayer.
THURSDAY Acts 3:1-10
In chapter 3 we find something that could have come out of the gospels but the person who heals the crippled man at the gate of the temple is not Jesus but Peter and John. The crippled man took up what appears to have been a regular spot near the temple and did what he would normally do – asked for money from those who passed by but what happened next astounded him and not only him but later the people in the temple when they saw him a changed man.
There is something about the ‘looking’ in verses 4,5 that seems to be important. When we look at someone it expresses an openness to take in all that they are. Usually when people pass by a beggar they don’t want to make eye contact. Why? Usually because they don’t want to make a connection at that time, perhaps they are in a hurry or if money is sought, they don’t have any on them. Peter and John however looked straight at the man. What were they thinking? What would Jesus do?? Jesus may have passed this man before on one of his visits to the temple but didn’t do anything but this day the Spirit of Jesus in the Apostles may have prompted them to look because this was the day for something different. It can be the case that particular things come together that make something right. We are bombarded with all manner of pleas for support, financial or in other ways today so that we can feel overwhelmed with the world’s need. We know we can’t do everything but we should not close off the doors to everything but rather heed the spirit’s prompting which may at times be to direct us in a particular way.
The man looked up and heard the message of God for him that day – rise and walk!
A Prayer. Lord help me to be awake to your Spirit’s prompting at any time. Amen.
FRIDAY Acts 3: 11-26
When the people in the temple courts saw the crippled man who had been healed leaping and jumping with joy they gathered round the apostles and Peter gave another mini-sermon telling the crowd they should not be surprised. He started by telling them that it wasn’t by their own power or godliness that they made the man walk and then told them about Jesus. Tom Allan the minister of the Tron Kirk in Glasgow in the 1950s and who was very involved in the Tell Scotland Movement at the time spoke to one of the workers who had delivered some material support to one of the poor families in the area. He asked, “and did you tell them why the gift was given, that it was because of Jesus who we are sharing with everyone?” It is very easy to accept praise for ourselves for every kind thing done but it is so important to reflect any praise up to Jesus.
Peter then told them that they had disowned the Holy and Righteous one of God and had him crucified but God had raised him from the dead and that it was through his name (in his authority and power) that this man had been healed. He finishes with the same call as at Pentecost for the hearers to repent and turn to God so that their sins might be forgiven and so that a season of refreshing might come. Ha adds that Jesus will come again to restore everything but they need to repent now because anyone who doesn’t listen will eventually be cut off completely. This was the message that the apostles pressed upon everyone at every opportunity – “See what God has done; this is what you need to do in response!”
SATURDAY Acts 4:1-22
We are very familiar with people being ‘de-platformed’ today in what has been called the ‘cancel culture’ where people who are thought to be holding the wrong views (according to some) are shut down with every attempt being made to keep them off the public platform. Here in Acts we find the same attempt to shut the Apostles down from proclaiming that Jesus was risen from the dead and it was through his power that the crippled man was healed.
If we look at the first two ‘preachings’ in the book of Acts we find that they are both given after an event happened – in the Day of Pentecost it was the speaking in tongues, in Chapter 3 it was the healing of a crippled man. Both were things about the Christian community that caught the attention of people and that then opened the door to preach the gospel. Something about the Church’s life has to catch the attention of people outside if they are to listen to the Church’s message otherwise we are just like talking heads that nobody is interested in.
Some listened and responded such that 3000 became 5000 believers (Acts 4:4), but then the High Priestly family and rulers didn’t want to receive the message the Apostles declared probably because being the chief instigators of Jesus crucifixion they wanted the evidence suppressed in case the people revolted against them. The Apostles were steadfast however declaring “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12). Not only were they not going to stop, they wanted everyone to know that this message was not just one amongst many but was the only message. In the plethora of “faiths” that fly around today, the Christian proclamation has always been singular, sometimes called the scandal of particularity, that is we believe in one particular God, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and He alone is Saviour. No other.