Sunday 14th May – Psalm 5
1 Listen to my words, Lord,
consider my lament.
2 Hear my cry for help,
my King and my God,
for to you I pray.
3 In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice;
in the morning I lay my requests before you
and wait expectantly.
4 For you are not a God who is pleased with wickedness;
with you, evil people are not welcome.
5 The arrogant cannot stand
in your presence.
You hate all who do wrong;
6 you destroy those who tell lies.
The bloodthirsty and deceitful
you, Lord, detest.
7 But I, by your great love,
can come into your house;
in reverence I bow down
toward your holy temple.
8 Lead me, Lord, in your righteousness
because of my enemies—
make your way straight before me.
9 Not a word from their mouth can be trusted;
their heart is filled with malice.
Their throat is an open grave;
with their tongues they tell lies.
10 Declare them guilty, O God!
Let their intrigues be their downfall.
Banish them for their many sins,
for they have rebelled against you.
11 But let all who take refuge in you be glad;
let them ever sing for joy.
Spread your protection over them,
that those who love your name may rejoice in you.
12 Surely, Lord, you bless the righteous;
you surround them with your favor as with a shield.
This Psalm is a morning one which sees David wakening up with issues on his mind and the first thing he does is to pray those issues out before God (v3). What a good idea that is. He recounts his prayers under different headings for he speaks of words, but he also uses the word lament (New International Version). The Hebrew word can mean sighing or groaning so we should note that prayers are not always neat little things written out on a piece of paper.
Prayer is about communication with God whether by words or by the unutterable sighing of the spiritual heart. Sometimes words may fail us but the direction of our communication should be Godward. For the believer, Paul the Holy Spirit, “helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” (Roms 8:26). If there are times that you are at the end of your tether, turn upwards to God even if you don’t know what to say. He hears, He knows.
When David does find words he reflects on what pleases God and what doesn’t. He knows that wickedness, arrogance, deceitfulness and violence do not please God (vs4,5,6) and he wants a comeuppance for such as practice those things (v10). Maybe he doesn’t see anything right away and frustrated – doesn’t that happen sometimes? Nevertheless, he does know that God protects his people and surrounds them with a shield.
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 Mark 9:14 – 29
This passage is another healing passage but one which is directed at the lack of faith of the people. It doesn’t appear to be the disciples that Jesus addresses his rebuke but at the people of the crowd some of whom were possibly pharisees hanging around looking for reasons to trip him up when he says “You unbelieving generation”.
Jesus is saying that already his works have shown who he is and yet despite that the people were resistant to receiving him as the Messiah of the Old Testament, the one who was to come. Even the father of the sick boy, though wanting to believe, is unsure that Jesus can do the miraculous and heal his son. His cry “I believe, help my unbelief” is something common to people of weak faith yet Jesus does not cast the man off. In that sense his dealing is similar to the Syrophoenician woman who pleaded that even the dogs were allowed to eat of the master’s plate.
His statement to the disciples at the end of the episode, “This kind can come out only by prayer”, I want to confess I’m not sure about. The subject of the demonic and evil spirits is a difficult one in the New Testament about which many books are written, and this is not the time to add to that. The only thing I would say is that we shouldn’t take this as teaching that some kinds of affliction require special prayer whilst others can be dealt with easily. For the purposes of these brief notes, like Forest Gump I would add, “that’s all I’ve go to say about that”
TUESDAY Mark 9:30-37
“Who is the greatest” – this was the discussion among the disciples of Jesus here and it comes after Jesus teaching them about the course that his life was going to take in the coming days. He told them again about his death at the hands of his opponents but also about his coming resurrection, but they didn’t understand that the way to Life was going to be through Death. The way Up was going to be after the way Down.
If they had understood this, they would have been better able to understand Jesus message to them at the end of the journey when he took the little child in his arms to teach them about the greatest and the least. It is the way of servanthood that makes for the greatest in the Kingdom of God. Do we really take this on board?
A Prayer: Lord Jesus as you graciously humbled yourself in bringing us to yourself, help us so to remember and reproduce that grace in our dealings with others. Amen.
WEDNESDAY Mark 9:38-50
Six words tell us all about this passage and they are in v38. John came to Jesus complaining that someone was driving out demons in his name but “he was not one of us” and so he wanted Jesus to tell him to stop. It highlights once again the self-regarding ethos that circled amongst the disciples. They argued amongst themselves as to who was top dog and then they wanted everyone else to get behind them when it came to being the best friends and confidants of Jesus.
Belonging to their party or group was more important to them than the healing and deliverance that people received in Jesus name at the hand of others. If the old Scottish “Here’s tae us, wha’s like us” spirit invades the Church then we are on a downward trend and not close to Christ at all.
The verses about not causing “one of these little ones” to stumble is often taken to refer to little children but it is much wider than that and is about causing a means of stumbling in others of any age so that they fail, and Jesus is particularly severe in his criticism. If we are the agents of people taking wrong paths then we are like salt that has lost its savour, in other words we are useless and serve no good purpose in life but to be cast out. Let us pray that we avoid such a path.
THURSDAY Mark 10:1-12
It is strange that a practice of care can, over time, gets twisted into a claim of individual right. Jesus teaching on marriage here is an early case in point. He told of the Genesis story of creation that man and wife be bound together and become as one flesh and in that situation no-one should separate. However his critics came at him with the law – and more, the law from Moses – that a man could divorce his wife and thus they would show that Jesus was against the law.
Jesus told them that the original institution was good and right, but Moses permitted divorce “because your hearts were hard”, in other words because sinful men would just go ahead and abandon their wives a measure of legal protection and governance was required.
It is not dissimilar to imaging that because the state to provide homes for abandoned children that parents were thereby granted a right to abandon their children. In other words caring provisions get turned into rights to be claimed. The permission of something in law doesn’t make it right and good.
A Prayer. Heavenly Father help lawmakers in granting permission for things to beware of giving encouragement to that which is harmful. Amen.
FRIDAY Mark 10:13-16
In these few verses Jesus gives the way of life for all. It is not that children are innocent – anyone who has had children will know that – but that they are receivers and know it. Every child knows its dependence just as the family dog knows where its food comes from (if that’s not too much of a jarring comparison!). Entering the Kingdom of God is not something that one conquers like a victorious army through one’s strength but through humility and acknowledgement of being on the receiving end from God. I have quoted the Shorter Catechism before and its statement about God’s saving grace – we, “receive and rest upon Christ alone”. That is the simple childlike faith that is required. Just as Jesus took the children in his arms and blessed them so we need to climb onto his knee to be blessed by him acknowledging our absolute dependence on his goodness and grace.
SATURDAY Mark 10:17-31
The Rich Young Ruler is a well known story where a devout (or so he thought) young man came to ask Jesus how he might inherit eternal life. That was a word which the rabbis often used to describe the meritorious acquisition of bliss in the future world. He doesn’t simply ask how and by what means he may receive eternal life but what he must do. He dreams of merits that he might do as a payment for which he would be owed eternal life”. Ring a bell? It is a very common assumption many make – it is the Santa Claus version of God – “Have you been a good boy/girl”? then you get the present. It is absolutely not good news.
As the conversation goes perhaps you may think that Jesus agrees with this man’s theology because he seems to give him an answer in similar vein, but we must see how this isn’t the same. Jesus does not give him another thing, another box to tick which could apply to us as well, he brings out what was really the issue with the young man which was that something was more important to him than hearing the call of God in Jesus. Not everyone is rich but everyone has a challenge – who is first in my life? Jesus challenges the man about his values and faces him up to what was most import to him. To give an illustration, it isn’t particular deeds but the overall relationship that makes for a good marriage. This was where the young man failed. Anything which gets in the way of our relationship with God blocks the pathway to eternal life. A Prayer. “Almighty God, who gives me life, breath and everything else, grant that I may never allow anything to come between us. Amen”