Sunday 14th January – Psalm 40
1 I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
3 He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
and put their trust in him.
4 Blessed is the one
who trusts in the Lord,
who does not look to the proud,
to those who turn aside to false gods.
5 Many, Lord my God,
are the wonders you have done,
the things you planned for us.
None can compare with you;
were I to speak and tell of your deeds,
they would be too many to declare.
6 Sacrifice and offering you did not desire—
but my ears you have opened—
burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require.
7 Then I said, “Here I am, I have come—
it is written about me in the scroll.
8 I desire to do your will, my God;
your law is within my heart.”
9 I proclaim your saving acts in the great assembly;
I do not seal my lips, Lord,
as you know.
10 I do not hide your righteousness in my heart;
I speak of your faithfulness and your saving help.
I do not conceal your love and your faithfulness
from the great assembly.
11 Do not withhold your mercy from me, Lord;
may your love and faithfulness always protect me.
12 For troubles without number surround me;
my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see.
They are more than the hairs of my head,
and my heart fails within me.
13 Be pleased to save me, Lord;
come quickly, Lord, to help me.
14 May all who want to take my life
be put to shame and confusion;
may all who desire my ruin
be turned back in disgrace.
15 May those who say to me, “Aha! Aha!”
be appalled at their own shame.
16 But may all who seek you
rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who long for your saving help always say,
“The Lord is great!”
17 But as for me, I am poor and needy;
may the Lord think of me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
you are my God, do not delay.
There are more than a few hymns and spiritual songs that have found their origin in this Psalm – read it and you will see. It is written by David struggling with the present, though thankful for the past and hopeful for the future. It’s a mixture of emotions that can often be found in the hearts of believers at any time.
Thinking about his own life he says, “troubles without number surround me; my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see” (12) and he asks for God’s mercy and protection. But he isn’t buried in the mire of his faults and failings, on the contrary he says that, waiting patiently for the Lord, he was lifted out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire and had his feet placed on a firm rock (V2). The B.B. hymn rejoices in being stedfast and sure, grounded on the rock which is Christ.
It is a Psalm which rejoices in faith in God, “Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods” (v4) Notice it is always faith in God that Davids puts his trust in, it isn’t a blank use of the word faith which many people use today. Faith in humanity or faith in oneself or anything else isn’t what the Bible means by faith. Saving faith is always faith in Jesus Christ and what he has done for us. That is the faith that counts. People have recognised that vs 6-8 in the Psalm are Messianic, quoted word for word in the Book of Hebrews chapter 10, referring to Jesus because behind many Psalms, although David is the first reference of some of the verses, behind them is the figure of Jesus.
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 2 Samuel 18:6-18
We see Joab’s character coming out again in this passage, his ‘wisdom’ consisted of shrewd worldliness. When the battle was going on the side of David’s men while the Israelite army under Absalom were fleeing, Absalom got caught by his hair under a tree branch while his mule carried on leaving him dangling. When the first man who came across Absalom’s predicament told Joab, he was reprimanded for not finishing him off. Absalom said he would have rewarded the man richly for doing the task, but the man honourably said he would do no such thing for he had heard David tell the commanders to protect Absalom. He told Joab also that if he had done the deed and was found out Joab would have stood back claiming it was nothing to do with him – “you would have kept your distance from me”. (v13) The man knew the character of Joab.
The battle finished after Joab and some of his armour-bearers did the dastardly deed in killing Absalom. They buried Absalom in the forest under a heap of rocks but the writer tells of another heap of rocks – or rather a monument Absalom had made for himself – “During his lifetime Absalom had taken a pillar and erected it in the King’s Valley as a monument to himself, for he thought, “I have no son to carry on the memory of my name.” He named the pillar after himself” (v18). What a sad end. Surely our legacy should be one that says much of our Lord and less of ourselves.
Tuesday 2 Samuel 18:19-33
The battle was won, how to tell the King? Ahimaaz, the sone of Zadok the priest said he would run and take the news to David but Joab holds him back because he knows the news of Absalom’s death would not be good news for David and so he sends a Cushite, possibly a slave of Joab to bear the news. The two men would have a different take on the result if Ahimaaz knew of Absalom’s death although his words in v29 just show a confusing mix. Did he know and was he covering up although giving enough information that would let David know who was responsible, or was he telling the truth about what he knew? The Cushite wasn’t concerned about Absalom only telling the king about the result of the battle?
Some of this is conjecture and we don’t really know but what is made plain to us at the close is the great grief of David at Absalom’s loss. We see him going up to his room weeping “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you – O Absalom my son, my son!”.
All the interactions he had had with his son were pouring out, in some ways similar to his grief over the death of Bathsheba’s baby after his affair with her. It surely tells us to sort things out with all our relationships before the end of life comes.
Wednesday 2 Samuel 19:1-8
The aftermath. After the battle which David’s men won against the Israelites who followed Absalom, the men returned but heard that David was in mourning for his son. His mourning was so deep he was becoming like Queen Victoria after Albert’s death and Joab was annoyed that if this inconsolable mourning was going to continue, he was going to lose support among the men who had followed him into his mini exile. Joab tells him he seemed to have more care for the son he had lost than for those who had saved his life.
As with his grieving after Bathsheba, he listened to the advice of Joab and drying his eyes took his seat in the gate, the place where Kings would sit showing they were back in control of the seat of government and justice.
It’s a hard thing to say in times of loss but Joab’s counsel was true that if we just show that all our attention is on the departed then those who are still alive and can be part of our future life will feel uncared for. God who continues to give us life after the loss of loved ones has reason and purpose for us which we need to find and use the remaining time we have for the benefit of those we still have the opportunity to serve.
Thursday 2 Samuel 19:9-23
Now that the rebellion was defeated there was discussion going on throughout the land as to where to go next. Absalom was dead, after Ishbosheth’s murder there didn’t seem any of Saul’s family ready to take the throne, so Israel was temporarily leaderless though David was recognised and accepted as King in exile by many. David sent a message to Zadok and Abiathar to ask the elders of Judah why they were not inviting him back and in addition to say to Amasa whom Absalom had made his commander that he would receive him back and whatsmore make him commander of the reunited army instead of Joab. This is the second time David has tried to replace Joab (the first offering Abner the post after the death of Saul), he obviously felt the character of Joab and didn’t want him as his right hand man. We shall see shortly what Joab’s reaction was.
The country was won over to David so that “they were all of one mind” and he was invited back to Jerusalem. But there was some jockeying for influence and forgiveness. The men of Jordan headed down to be the first to bring the King back over the Jordan but Shimei the Benjamite hurried down with a company of Benjamites (remember that was Saul’s tribe) and he was anxious to avoid the scaffold after his stone throwing episode when David and his company were fleeing Jerusalem. He pleads for mercy from the King however some were not ready to forgive – Abishai, Joab’s brother, wanted to put him to death for his treasonous behaviour, David however sweeps Abishai and Joab aside with, “What does this have to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah? What right do you have to interfere? Should anyone be put to death in Israel today? (v22 ) and he promises Shimei he shall not die. The graciousness of David shines through.
Friday 2 Samuel 19:24-39
We come to another character from the time of David’s flight, it is Mephibosheth, Jonathan’s crippled son who was given a place at David’s table while he was reigning in Jerusalem, David asks him why he did not come with him when he fled Jerusalem. Ziba, his servant, had told David that Mephibosheth had stayed in the unlikely event that he might be crowned King but here Mephibosheth claims that his servant had slandered him and that he had wanted to follow David. Who was the liar in this dispute? David decides to split the land between the two and be done with this fight between the two of them. Sometimes it is difficult to get at the real truth behind things especially when there is something to gain by each opposing party. David’s son, Solomon, was going to be faced with two competing women over a baby leading to his decision to half the baby (1 Kings 3).
Barzillai was the next character from the flight to appear. He was the elderly man who had provided for David during his time in Mahanaim. David tells him to come to Jerusalem where he will take care of him but Barzillai says he would just be a burden to David and offers his servant Kimham to go in his stead which David accepts and takes his final leave of Barzillai, kissing him farewell, before crossing over to Gilgal on the way home. Sometimes it is the elderly who are our greatest supporters and helpers and who deserve our thanks. We should do it whilst they are living.
Saturday 2 Samuel 19:40-20:3
The troubles aren’t over a we shall see. David is escorted and welcomed back as he crosses the Jordan accompanied by all the troops of Judah and those Israelite troops who had followed him into Exile. Who should be waiting on the other side but the main body of the troops of Israel and they weren’t happy. They complained about the men of Judah being the first to welcome David back when in fact it was the men of Israel who had been first in saying that he should be welcomed back. The men of Judah said it was because he belonged to their tribe but the Israelites answered that there were ten tribes of them so they should have the more prominent place and there was a big argument.
In the Church when people argue for prominent places they aren’t behaving in the manner of Jesus who always took the lowly place – he took the towel and washed the disciples feet and said, “I have given you an example”.
The argumentation led to a troublemaker called Sheba son of Bikri who jumped up and taking his lead from the grumbles of the Israelites shouted for them to separate from the Judahites with, “We have no share in David, … every man to his tent” (v1), a call that would come back to haunt the people after Solomon’s death. Slapping people on the back and pumping up grievances is not the way of Christlike service in the Church. We must beware of those who do that.
The concluding part about the Concubines gives mixed signals. On the one hand concubines or wives of a King could not in ancient practice be given to anyone else (thus the sin of Absalom with them) but David accepted a responsibility for them and so he made a secure provision for them. The celibacy thereafter was to hold off the possibility of other claims to the throne coming through the children of any of these concubines. The position of women in the ancient world was not what we would expect today because when status depended on the physical strength of the arm, women were always going to be at a disadvantage.