Sunday 5th November – Psalm 30
1 I will exalt you, Lord,
for you lifted me out of the depths
and did not let my enemies gloat over me.
2 Lord my God, I called to you for help,
and you healed me.
3 You, Lord, brought me up from the realm of the dead;
you spared me from going down to the pit.
4 Sing the praises of the Lord, you his faithful people;
praise his holy name.
5 For his anger lasts only a moment,
but his favor lasts a lifetime;
weeping may stay for the night,
but rejoicing comes in the morning.
6 When I felt secure, I said,
“I will never be shaken.”
7 Lord, when you favored me,
you made my royal mountain[c] stand firm;
but when you hid your face,
I was dismayed.
8 To you, Lord, I called;
to the Lord I cried for mercy:
9 “What is gained if I am silenced,
if I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise you?
Will it proclaim your faithfulness?
10 Hear, Lord, and be merciful to me;
Lord, be my help.”
11 You turned my wailing into dancing;
you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
12 that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.
Lord my God, I will praise you forever.
The title of this Psalm says that it was a song for the dedication of “the house”. It could mean either David’s Palace or the future Temple which was only built after David died. Perhaps there is a double reference and David wrote the Psalm with two things in mind because the place David loved to be was the place of the presence of God.
Where is home? One of the memorable songs of Fiddler on the Roof is when Hodel leaves her father, Tevye to take the train and join her future husband Perchik far away. She is leaving her childhood home but going to her new home with Perchik and she sings of its melancholy nature yet of her desire and certainty that, “there with my love, I’m home”. For the believer Home is where Jesus is. Do you know the old Negro spiritual, “This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through, if heaven’s not my home, then Lord what will I do. The Saviour beckons me from heaven’s open door and I can’t be at home in this world anymore” At any rate it is a personal song of praise in which David remembers the many ways God has delivered him from dark times and he rejoices in his relationship. It is also an invitation to others to join him in that praise (v4). This is what our worship on Sunday is all about, to praise and thank God for his love and care of us and invite others to join in. The song of praise will always be the fitting tune of our lives. As David says in conclusion, “Lord my God, I will praise you forever”.
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 1 Samuel 14:36-52
Saul thinks that having built his first altar, everything will be fine and wants to set off seeking a victory over the Philistines, however the priest suggests that they ought to enquire of God first. Through the priest Saul does this but there is no answer from God and Saul gathers all the leaders together because he wants to know who is responsible for this. He is always keen to lay the blame somewhere else. When the process of finding out who was responsible comes to a conclusion it is Jonathan who is selected who tells what he has done and if this is the sin then he must die. Saul is prepared to have Jonathan executed but the Israelite men immediately object saying that Jonathan has been responsible for leading the victories they had – and surely he did this with God’s help. Indeed it was and, as Jonathan had remarked earlier about Saul’s stupid fasting order, “my father has made trouble for the country” (v29). It was obvious to the people who was the superior man between Saul and Jonathan and it was not Jonathan but Saul who had sinned in making the stupid fasting oath in the first place.
The skirmishes between Israel and the Philistines ceased for a while but there was always continuing trouble between them and in the bitter struggle the last verse of the chapter tells us how Saul sought as much as possible to come out on top. Whenever he spotted a mighty or brave man he took him into his service. He sought others but wanted the glory for himself.
Using people for our own benefit is never the way of the godly, in fact it is the opposite of the Christlike way which is to serve so that others gain the benefit.
Tuesday 1 Samuel 15:1-35
We come to the Amalekites and to God’s command to Saul to move against them and completely finish them off. How are we to view this? We should first remember who they were and what history they had with the people of Israel. They came from Esau, Jacob’s brother, the one who cared not for God’s blessing and sold his birthright to Jacob for ‘a mess of pottage’ as the KJV puts it. His descendants, the Amalekites, appeared when the Israelites were crossing the wilderness after escaping from Egypt on their way to the Promised Land. The Amalekites attacked them and engaged in a genocidal attempt against them, and therefore against God, whose plan was to bring salvation for the world through this little group of chosen people. The Amalekites were an instrument of evil trying to bring about the death of the good. (Haman, in the Book of Esther, who sought the genocide of the Jews was an Agagite, linking him to the King of the Amalekites). If anything was to happen it must be that this group should not continue but be stopped and be judged and this was what this ban on them was for.
Some feel that the Old Testament is cruel in its judgemental attitude whereas the New Testament gives a different picture but this is to miss the point. Biblical scholar John Wenham says this, “It is fallacious to regard this as essentially an Old Testament problem, and to set the “bloodthirsty” Old Testament over against the “gentle” New Testament. Possibly the phenomenon is more crude in the Old Testament than in the New, but of the two the New Testament is the more terrible, for the Old Testament seldom speaks of anything beyond temporal judgments . . . whereas the Son of man in the Gospels pronounces eternal punishment”. Something often forgotten.
Saul tried to say that he had done what was required, which was plainly a lie, and we see his self-regarded nature once again in the setting up of a monument in his own honour (v12) and then blaming the soldiers (v21) for the greed and disobedience.
Samuel gives God’s decision on Saul which is to conclude his Kingship and sadly departs, never to visit him again.
Wednesday 1 Samuel 15
Perhaps we need to consider this episode again and Saul’s Kingship in general. The people’s request for a King was against God’s desire and Samuel told the people, being deeply aggrieved at their insistence, however God told him that the people’s rebellion was not against him, Samuel, but against his own Divine Sovereignty over Israel and to give what they requested.
The next episode was the choosing of Saul which begins with a story of searching; Saul searching for his Father’s lost donkeys and ending up at his servant’s suggestion with Samuel. In chapter 9:16 the narrative says that God indicated to Samuel that he must anoint Saul and that he would deliver the people from the Philistines. The reason given is not that Saul is a great man but that God has heard the cries of the people under the heel of the Philistines. Samuel is shown to want to know more about this man and spends time talking with him. There follows a gap in which Saul returns to his home in Gibeah and after this, at Mizpah, Samuel summons the people (with a warning of their intransigence before God) and anoints Saul as King
The subsequent chapters show us the unsettlement of this man which leads us to this chapter in which verse 10 says that God ‘regrets’ making Saul King (the Hebrew word Nacham has the sense of being sorry or moved to pity). It has the sense that God feels pain and anguish at the man and the consequences that will follow from his disobedience. Samuel also grieves at the loss of Saul and in the next Chapter God tells Samuel, ““How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel?” (1 Samuel 16:1).
Even though God may grant a man or woman opportunities to do good and to hear and obey God, if they will not do that, God who grieves over failure may change the path on which that person may go.
Thursday 1 Samuel 16:1-13
Samuel grieved deeply over the way Saul had turned out but God told him he had to move on. Sometimes there are things or issues in our lives that we feel down about but we have to move on because we cannot live in the past. God sends him to Bethlehem because God has another King to reign over Israel and he will show Samuel when he gets there.
The threat of Saul is seen when even Samuel who is a great figure in the land, is aware of Saul’s personality and power and becomes cautious in his movements. Samuel reasons that Saul would have his spies listening to what was going on in the land especially in the knowledge that God was going to replace him. Doesn’t he sound like Herod in the New Testament?
At Bethlehem Samuel has Jesse’s household gather for the sacrifice he will offer and then we have the well-known story of the sons of Jesse passing before him and it being the last that God chooses. , God tells him, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (16:7). Always a thing to remember when we make instant judgements about people or indeed about other things, God’s perspective is different from ours.
Eventually David, the youngest, the shepherd boy, is called and God intimates to Samuel, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.” (16:12). David is to grow and become the King par excellence of the people, remembered into the future until great David’s greater son is revealed.
Friday 1 Samuel 16:14-23
The terrible opening of Chapter 16 contains the words “the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul”. Of course this was obviously the case because the Spirit of God does not stay where disobedience and rebellion exist. It is what the apostle Paul teaches in the opening chapter of Romans where he speaks about the wrath of God being revealed against all the godlessness and wickedness of people who supress the truth by their wickedness. He speaks of God ‘giving them over to the sinful desires of their hearts’ which leads to depraved minds (Roman 1:24-32). When people walk away from God, other things come to take over and here, because all things only have their power through God, it says an evil spirit tormented him. It seems to be that what happened to him was an affliction of melancholy such that his servants were troubled and thought of what could get him out of his depressed state.
Music was the means of bringing Saul out of his this state – as it often does in anyone who becomes troubled and low in spirit. One of the servants knew that a young son of Jesse was an accomplished lyre player as well as a brave man and warrior; more important it says, “and the Lord is with him”. When he comes, Saul appreciates him, makes him one of his protection squad and his musical ministry relaxes and benefits the mood of Saul.
Saturday 1 Samuel 17:-32
There are some Bible stories that everyone knows and this chapter tells one of them; David and Goliath. Once again it is the Philistine threat that is unveiled though this time the apex of their threat is a giant, 9 feet 9 inches tall, and battle readied in his armour and weapons. The question is, who can be his match?
We might think that King Saul who was a tall man though not a giant would be the champion, but no, neither he nor any of the mighty men of his army, were ready to step up and challenge this giant. We must remember that none of the heroes in the Bible are heroes because of physical prowess, cleverness, wisdom or any earthly trait, no, they were heroes of faith – Hebrews 11 is the chapter to read about all these Old Testament Saints. It was through their faith that they were champions against all the enemies that faced them and here, in this story, young David exemplifies this.
David saw what was happening behind the outward challenge when he said, “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (v26). An attack against the people of God was an attack against God and he thought someone should be taking up the challenge. His older brother Eliab scolded him saying he had just come around to be a nosy spectator and he should go back to his sheep but David says that he will go out and fight Goliath. His words come to Saul who summons him and questions him about why he thinks he can win.
Faith is often met with mockery and it takes courage to hold fast to the belief that standing for the truth of God is the right thing to do even though others think it is foolish.