Sunday 30th July – Psalm 16
Protect me, O God; I trust in you for safety.
2 I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
all the good things I have come from you.”
3 How excellent are the Lord’s faithful people!
My greatest pleasure is to be with them.
4 Those who rush to other gods
bring many troubles on themselves.[b]
I will not take part in their sacrifices;
I will not worship their gods.
5 You, Lord, are all I have,
and you give me all I need;
my future is in your hands.
6 How wonderful are your gifts to me;
how good they are!
7 I praise the Lord, because he guides me,
and in the night my conscience warns me.
8 I am always aware of the Lord’s presence;
he is near, and nothing can shake me.
9 And so I am thankful and glad,
and I feel completely secure,
10 because you protect me from the power of death.
I have served you faithfully,
and you will not abandon me to the world of the dead.
11 You will show me the path that leads to life;
your presence fills me with joy
and brings me pleasure forever.
This Psalm begins and ends with statements about having safety in or taking refuge in God therefore a good Psalm for us to read again and again to encourage us to do the same. It is one of David’s psalms, the middle verses speaking of the good things he has received from God, all the more reason for him to trust God, and very much in the spirit of the old chorus, “Count your blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done”. But it is more than just about him, it is a Messianic Psalm, that is it is one of those Psalms that points forward to the Messiah, the special anointed one who would be a descendant of his and would be the King of Kings and the one who would fulfil everything which this David couldn’t.
To show how the New Testament disciples saw it’s application to Jesus we should look at Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2 where he quotes this Psalm and refers its words to the resurrection of Jesus:-
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest in hope,
27 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
you will not let your holy one see decay.
28 You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence.’[e] (Acts 2:26-28 quoting Psalm 16:9-11))
Peter goes on to say, “Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. 30 But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne” (Acts 2:29-30).
In other words it is a Psalm about David but its centre is about Jesus but more than that it is also about his faithful people, past and present – remember Jesus said “before Abraham was, I am”. Three things come together in the Bible – Old Testament characters and promises are fulfilled in Jesus and extended to us in the present. The Bible tells us that believers are ‘in Christ’ and ‘He in us’ so everything that is revealed about Him has reference to us as well.
Read the Psalm and when you come to the word ‘I’ don’t just think about David, or stop at Christ, think about yourself. Soren Kierkegaard said, “When you read God’s Word, you must constantly be saying to yourself, “It is talking to me and about me”. It is a good practice to start a reading with prayer and to end it that way too.
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 Proverbs 7:1-27
This chapter continues the warnings about sexual infidelity that Chapter 5 brought to the fore and a vivid story is drawn of the night-time wandering of the young simpleton. I can hear some saying “Why is it always the adulterous woman who is ill-spoken of, what about the man?” To reply to that we have to understand that the situation of our culture and the culture of the time is quite different. Unless a society is prepared to give an equal position to men and women, women are bound to come off worse by nature of the sheer physicality of men. If headship and domination are decided by strength, men are hands-down winners, and such was the case in early societies. Women needed shielded either by a father or a husband. We ought to note that such a situation of power play always lies in the background if men are not controlled by a power greater than their animal instincts as the #metoo generation has brilliantly brought to light. As quoted in our studies in Thessalonians, Prof. William Barclay remarked, “Chastity was the one completely new virtue which Christianity brought into the world”; but our present society is not an example of that.
A woman did not have the liberty at this time to step out into the world to do her own thing but the power she could exercise was a sexual one, a power epitomised in the story of Samson and Delilah in the Book of Judges. In this chapter a young man is warned to steer clear of sexual misbehaviour because going down that route would end in disaster. He could bring down the ire of the husband of an adulteress for one thing but should he have children with his paramour they could set up a rivalry with any of his own children and the Old Testament is full of instances of this. A whole bundle of reasons are available in the Old Testament as to why sexual infidelity can damage generations to come, causing many troubles.
As the last verse says, “Her house is a highway to the grave, leading down to the chambers of death”, in other words, “young man, don’t go there!”
Tuesday Proverbs 8:1-31
Wisdom is often personalised in Proverbs and here we find an instance of that in one of the most exalted passages in the Old Testament with Wisdom calling out to the whole of society to heed here words. The apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:30 referring to wisdom declares that Christ Jesus “has become for us wisdom from God”. Do we want to know what Wisdom says? Then listen to Jesus. In vs 6,7&8 we hear wisdom speaking and again we are cast forward to Jesus who says, “The words that I speak are full of the Spirit and life” (John 6:63). The Chapter opens with wisdom calling out at the gate of the city to all who would pass by even to the simple and the foolish (v5) for God’s Word is not for the elevated, the clever, or the high born but it is for the ordinary man or woman – it’s for you and me.
One of the important things about regular reading and meditating on the words of scripture is that it shapes our minds, because it inoculates us against folly. Prudence, knowledge and discretion dwell with wisdom (v12) and protect us from the pride and arrogance of the evil man.
In vs 22-31 we are introduced to the understanding of God as diversity in unity for these verses blend into the later Church’s understanding of the doctrine of the Trinity; here we are seeing divine Wisdom as being with God from the beginning, comparable with what the writer to the Hebrews says when he speaks of the Word of God being in the beginning with God (Hebrews 1;1). It is not as though Wisdom is created but is there at the beginning of all things, the only begotten Son of the Father, for through Wisdom “he set the heavens in place” (v27). The fellowship of the Father and the Son are beautifully seen in v30 where rejoicing in the Father and delighting in mankind are like the two aspects of the love of Jesus the incarnate Son whose wisdom brings atonement for sinners and reconciliation between God and Man.
Wednesday Proverbs 8:32-9:18
The conclusion of Chapter 8 sees Wisdom speaking to her children telling them to watch daily the pathway of their life because those who fail to find wisdom harm themselves, all who hate wisdom love death.
Chapter 9 sees Wisdom building her house, setting her table and sending out her servant to summon the simple to come and eat. Ring any bells? Jesus parable of the master sending out his servants to the highways and byways to bring people in to share the banquet? Our thoughts also turn to Him sending his disciples out with the command to go into all the world, preach the gospel and make disciples of all nations. The provision set out on the table is that of Himself, the Bread of life. Wisdom for Christians is that they have a message to share, it isn’t merely for themselves.
The command is not without its difficulties though because we know that the invitation to come will be rejected by many – the mockers and the wicked (v7) – nevertheless the task is not to be abandoned for some will come. This should be a word to us all to keep on being faithful and sharing the Good News of the gospel encouraging others to heed its wisdom, the beginning of which is the awe and reverence (fear) of God (v10).
The house of Holy Wisdom is compared to the House of Folly which also calls those who pass by but what she offers is not good sustenance leading to eternal life but stolen water and food – those things which she hasn’t prepared but are taken from others. Folly is not receiving the life we have from God but snatching the life we want from others. The difference between the appeals is that the appeal of Holy Wisdom is to the mind and reason whereas the appeal of Folly is to the emotions and the senses. Those who listen to her call and enter her house are oblivious to the fact that they are entering the realm of the dead.
We are going to leave Proverbs here just before the start of a new series of readings in the New Testament but do flip through the book from time to time and I recommend having a look at the Good News Translation for a modern flavour of what Holy Wisdom teaches in Proverbs.
Thursday Acts 17:1-9
We are going to have a look at Paul’s letter to the Thessalonian Church but before we do we should read the story of the birth of the Church as it is given to us in Acts 17. Luke, the writer of Acts tells us that when Paul, Silas and Timothy arrived in Thessalonika in Greece the first thing they did was visit the synagogue where for three Sabbath days running Paul reasoned with them from the scriptures. Starting with those who had some kind of knowledge or background in the scriptures was a good place to start.
What he did in his speaking was to explain from the scriptures that the Christ (the Messiah) had to suffer and rise from the dead and that it was Jesus who was that Christ. If we were to ask what is the good news of the gospel that the Church has to share anywhere it is this. Whatever else we have to say it grows out of this which is why we return to it year after year at Easter. Christ is risen: He is risen indeed.
What was the result? It was twofold. The first was that a number of Jews, along with Gentiles who were referred to as God-fearing including not a few prominent women believed, quite an eclectic band. The second thing however was that some Jews were jealous and stirred up a rabble intent on getting them charged by the civil authorities (v6), the charge being that they were making Christ the top authority who men and women were to obey –another King (v7). Indeed they were and the resistance to the apostles came from a resistance to Jesus being the top authority in the life of the community.
All around the world those same two results follow the preaching of the gospel. Some receive the message with gladness and some resent the intrusion into their self-regarding lives, the new Church at Thessalonika belonged to the former.
Friday 1 Thessalonians 1: 1- 10
Having looked at the early chapters of Acts and the beginning of the Church’s life, the reason for looking at this letter is that scholars generally agree it was possibly the earliest of the Apostle Paul’s letters, written around 50/51 A.D., only about 17 or 18 years after the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus so it is going to give us a glimpse into early Church life.
Paul starts with complimentary remarks about the Church mentioning their faith, their love and their hope in Jesus and how they copied the apostles’ lifestyle. Discipleship, if it means anything, is about learning and copying. Christian faith isn’t about inner thoughts and beliefs only it is about outward acts and behaviour and if there is no evidence of similarity with Jesus and his Godly followers we must question whether the same Spirit is at work.
What Paul says next is interesting in that it tells us something of what they did as they responded to Paul’s preaching of the gospel – they turned away from the common beliefs that were false to the one and only true God to wait for Jesus who had been raised from the dead and who would return, rescuing them from coming wrath. Following the truth at all times is absolutely important for if we don’t there is an awful price to pay. When we say ‘yes’ to Jesus we also find we have to say ‘no’ to the beliefs and ways of the world about us for we can’t have two masters. Jesus said, “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets” (Luke 6:26)
Saturday 1Thessalonians 2:1-16
I’ve just deleted a text offering me £300 an hour if I clicked on a link for a great new job. Was I a fool to miss out on a great opportunity? I think not. In the second chapter of 1 Thessalonians Paul is intent on showing that neither he nor his fellow colleagues engaged in trickery or false promises when they declared the gospel for it would appear that some who were beginning to make inroads into the Church were implying that to draw the new believers away. As far as the apostles were concerned neither flattery nor greed entered their gospel proclamations nor were they seeking praise as he reminds them how they treated the Thessalonians in a caring and loving manner (V7,8). If we receive criticism, we need to look at ourselves and check our consciences with God to see whether it is justified or not.
As well as asking the believers at Thessalonica to remember when Paul and his companions were with them he asks them to think back on their own conversion when they received the word of God as true and how it affected their own lives (v13). They too had received the brickbats of criticism just as Paul is now. If we wonder who these false teachers were we get a glimpse of them in vs 15,16 – it was people of a Jewish background who didn’t want Paul to speak to the Gentiles. As long as we keep everything to ourselves the enemies of the gospel are happy but step out of our little garden of closed church life and watch out, there is a world which doesn’t want to hear the challenge of the Christian gospel and life.