Sunday 12th November – Psalm 31
1 In you, Lord, I have taken refuge;
let me never be put to shame;
deliver me in your righteousness.
2 Turn your ear to me,
come quickly to my rescue;
be my rock of refuge,
a strong fortress to save me.
3 Since you are my rock and my fortress,
for the sake of your name lead and guide me.
4 Keep me free from the trap that is set for me,
for you are my refuge.
5 Into your hands I commit my spirit;
deliver me, Lord, my faithful God.
6 I hate those who cling to worthless idols;
as for me, I trust in the Lord.
7 I will be glad and rejoice in your love,
for you saw my affliction
and knew the anguish of my soul.
8 You have not given me into the hands of the enemy
but have set my feet in a spacious place.
9 Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress;
my eyes grow weak with sorrow,
my soul and body with grief.
10 My life is consumed by anguish
and my years by groaning;
my strength fails because of my affliction,
and my bones grow weak.
11 Because of all my enemies,
I am the utter contempt of my neighbors
and an object of dread to my closest friends—
those who see me on the street flee from me.
12 I am forgotten as though I were dead;
I have become like broken pottery.
13 For I hear many whispering,
“Terror on every side!”
They conspire against me
and plot to take my life.
14 But I trust in you, Lord;
I say, “You are my God.”
15 My times are in your hands;
deliver me from the hands of my enemies,
from those who pursue me.
16 Let your face shine on your servant;
save me in your unfailing love.
17 Let me not be put to shame, Lord,
for I have cried out to you;
but let the wicked be put to shame
and be silent in the realm of the dead.
18 Let their lying lips be silenced,
for with pride and contempt
they speak arrogantly against the righteous.
19 How abundant are the good things
that you have stored up for those who fear you,
that you bestow in the sight of all,
on those who take refuge in you.
20 In the shelter of your presence you hide them
from all human intrigues;
you keep them safe in your dwelling
from accusing tongues.
21 Praise be to the Lord,
for he showed me the wonders of his love
when I was in a city under siege.
22 In my alarm I said,
“I am cut off from your sight!”
Yet you heard my cry for mercy
when I called to you for help.
23 Love the Lord, all his faithful people!
The Lord preserves those who are true to him,
but the proud he pays back in full.
24 Be strong and take heart,
all you who hope in the Lord.
The theme of this Psalm is well summed up in the opening verse, “In you, LORD, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame”. David pleads with God to save him. He often doesn’t say what the distress is that he is feeling, but he mixes it with pleas that those who are his enemies may get their comeuppance, “let the wicked be put to shame and be silent in the realm of the dead. Let their lying lips be silenced” (v17,18).
Many of us don’t feel the hostility and angry contempt of others as David did (v11). Those who rise to positions of authority or leadership are the most targeted in this way and deserving of our prayers. The higher you go the more are the arrows that fly and David, who started as a Shepherd boy and rose to a position of eminence in the army before eventually becoming King, knew about the arrows of hostility against him, conspiracies within Israel and the forces of neighbouring countries.
Even if we are not the subject of such fierce opposition we do well to read and meditate on the Psalm because it shows us how David deals with his feelings of anguish and grief – he takes them to God who he knows he can trust, “But I trust in you, LORD; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hands” (v14,15). William Freeman Lloyd wrote his hymn on this verse:- https://hymnary.org/text/my_times_are_in_thy_hand_my_god_i_wish
If there ever was a time to pray for those in positions of high authority it is surely now when Paul’s words to Timothy are particularly requisite: – “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth”. (1 Timothy 2:1,2). Let us do so with particular reference to those in the Middle East today.
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 17:33-54
The story moves on to David being told by Saul that he won’t be able to do the job in hand because his qualifications aren’t good enough. He is young, Goliath is a seasoned warrior, how could he be able for this. I’m reminded of Gladys Aylward, missionary to China, who was told that she couldn’t go because she hadn’t passed the relative exams in Chinese at the China Inland Mission. She worked for two years saving enough money to travel on the trans-Siberian railway because she had faith that God had called her to this work. Her story can be read in “The Small Woman” by Alan Burgess or a brief sketch seen online – http://justus.anglican.org/resources/bio/73.html . Someone wrote to Newsweek Magazine which reviewed her story and the film based on her story (The Inn of the Sixth Happiness) and said, “In order for a movie to be good, the story should be believable!”. Well, well, I suppose the same could be said about David and Goliath.
Anyway, despite Saul’s attempt at dissuasion, David said he had fought a lion and a bear to protect his sheep, God would deliver him from the hand of this giant who has defied the armies of the living God. He tried on the armour Saul gave him but refused them and instead took his sling picked five smooth stones from a stream and with them brought Goliath down with a stone to his forehead and afterwards took his sword and beheaded him.
The result of his triumph gave great heart to the army who chased the retreating and demoralised Philistines and won a great battle. It is true that the courage of one can give great strength to many who may start weak and timid. If God is for us who can be against us?
Tuesday 1 Samuel 17:55-18:4
The narrative here is a bit confused and puzzling for after David has slain Goliath Saul asks Abner, the commander of the army, “Abner, whose son is that young man?” (v55) but didn’t he already have David as a harp player and musician? There appears to be two entrances of David into Saul’s life – which is right or which is first? We don’t know for sure but in this instance we see the start not of Saul’s ill-tempered nature being calmed by David’s presence but the beginning of an admiration for the young soldier although that will change in due course into jealousy.
The other thing about relationships brought out in Chapter 18 is that between David and Saul’s son, Jonathan. Jonathan bonded with David becoming one in spirit with him as verse 1 says and “he loved him as himself”. He made a covenant with David and gave his garb, his bow, sword and belt as tokens. It shows a powerful bonded love between the two men, what it doesn’t show is sexual behaviour. Unfortunately, whenever same sex love is mentioned today, sex is regularly inferred but the Bible doesn’t spell out love that way. The rejection of homosexuality is not a rejection of love but of sexual practice – Deuteronomy 20, often mentioned in this discussion, lists a whole number of sexual practices from incest to bestiality which are warned against in the middle of which is the statement that a man who lies with a man as with a woman has committed an abomination. The abomination is not about love (how could God think that an abomination?) but refers to sexual congress. The close love of the two men will be seen later in the story of David.
Wednesday 1 Samuel 18:5-30
David was a very competent warrior and Saul sent him on various missions all of which resulted in David’s star rising among the people. This was no problem to the troops, but it began to rankle Saul and it came to a head when he heard the women singing, “Saul has slain his thousands but David his tens of thousands” (v7,8). All he could see was David’s fame rising and feared for his position as King.
We read that an evil spirit from God came forcefully on Saul, he was taken up in the midst of an ecstatic period in the midst of which he threw his spear at David hoping to pin him to the wall but David eluded him twice. It didn’t stop there though. Saul held a carrot before David, the offer of marriage to his daughter, Merab, but on condition he go out more to fight ’the battles of the Lord’. His hidden thoughts however were that if he put David out to fight the Philistines, one day, he would fall to them and Saul would be rid of him. David kept his side but Merab was given to someone else. It didn’t stop his attempts because if he makes David a son-in-law it will restrict him in what he does and it will keep him close, knowing what he is doing. When he finds out that his younger daughter Michal was in love with David he offers her as a wife but once again with a challenge – a hundred foreskins of Philistines. This, David does, and the end of the chapter says he was more successful than any of the officers. Saul is frustrated in the success God grants David.
Thursday 1 Samuel 19:1-7
There are times when hidden animosities can stay hidden no longer and break out into the open. This is what we see in Chapter 19 with Saul telling his attendants and Jonathan to kill David. Undoubtedly this will seem strange to his top men but to Jonathan it appears downright dangerous and he seeks David out to warn him about this turn of events telling him to go into hiding the next day until he has talked to his father.
Beware hidden animosities because you cannot always keep them hidden, they will break out and show you for what you are before those who know you, so sort them out before God in prayer and confession. If that is one thing to learn from these verses, the other is to seek the wisdom of Jonathan. Jonathan not only warns David but he seeks his father out and reasons with him as to the senselessness of his attitude to David. He points him to what David has done which had been for the benefit of the people and that killing David would be killing an innocent man. If there is an opportunity to seek peace between annoyed and angry people then do it for Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God” (Matt 5:9). Saul is persuaded against his initial hostile intent and, after Jonathan tells David, he returns, though probably warily to his position at the royal court.
Friday 1 Samuel 19:8-18
Once more we see David exhibiting himself as a great commander before whom the Philistines fled (v8). Every time this happened Saul’s jealousy and hatred of him was stirred and, as v10 tells us, he made another crazy attempt on David’s life while he was playing the lyre. It is interesting to see the blend in the life of David, at one time successful commander in battle, the next the virtuous musician. People are not always ‘one trick ponies’ as the saying goes but can become accomplished at more than one thing. Whatever gifts God gives you, use them.
This time the attack of Saul makes David think it is no longer safe for him to be anywhere near Saul and so he heads home where Michal warns him he is no longer safe there and ought to flee which he does. Saul’s secret police come looking for him but Michal sets up a ruse to put them off by saying he is in bed whilst putting an idol under the covers with some hair at the top to misdirect the men. There are two things to say about Michal, the one is that she is to be commended in saving David but the other is to ask where she got the idol. Does this give us a glimpse into the family’s religious ethos? There is always a temptation to hold conflicting things in mind when it comes to religion. It is like taking an insurance if God doesn’t work out for us – it is the ‘touch wood’ of religious devotion. Perhaps coming from the family she came from the idea was to worship Yahweh but also keep an idol or two for occasions when it was needed.
Saul was not happy when he found out his daughter’s treachery but she twisted the story to say that David had threatened her making her do his will. Lying seems to have come easily with this family. Where is David going to go when he runs from Saul? It is to Samuel that he goes, his spiritual father and mentor. There are always people in this life who can be depended on to give support and council and we ought to make use of them whenever necessary.
Saturday 1 Samuel 19:19-20:2
After David escaped from Saul and went to Samuel, Samuel took him to Naioth where there seemed to be a community of prophets whom Samuel schooled. Saul sent men to go and capture David there but they met with a company of prophets prophesying with Samuel as their leader, Saul’s men were affected by this and began to prophesy themselves, Saul sent more men but the same thing happened.
The third time Saul no longer sent men but went to Ramah himself asking where Samuel and David were and was pointed to the nearby community of the prophets at Naioth. The next strange passage has the Spirit of God coming on Saul so that he “walked along prophesying” until he came to Naioth whereupon he stripped himself naked and lay before Samuel prophesying giving rise to the saying “Is Saul also among the prophets?”.
There are a number of questions here that are not easy to answer. What exactly does “prophesying” consist of but certainly applies to ecstatic utterance and it can apply to things both good and bad. Does the Spirit of God open a door in Saul’s psyche to allow his inner state to be revealed, at any rate he appears to be out of his mind.
David is not caught by Saul but flees to Jonathan complaining as to why he should be such a threat and why Saul has it in for him. Jonathan seeks to calm him and says he will find out from his father and let David know the state of play.