Sunday 15th October – Psalm 27
1 The Lord is my light and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid?
2 When the wicked advance against me
to devour[a] me,
it is my enemies and my foes
who will stumble and fall.
3 Though an army besiege me,
my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me,
even then I will be confident.
4 One thing I ask from the Lord,
this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
and to seek him in his temple.
5 For in the day of trouble
he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent
and set me high upon a rock.
6 Then my head will be exalted
above the enemies who surround me;
at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make music to the Lord.
7 Hear my voice when I call, Lord;
be merciful to me and answer me.
8 My heart says of you, “Seek his face!”
Your face, Lord, I will seek.
9 Do not hide your face from me,
do not turn your servant away in anger;
you have been my helper.
Do not reject me or forsake me,
God my Savior.
10 Though my father and mother forsake me,
the Lord will receive me.
11 Teach me your way, Lord;
lead me in a straight path
because of my oppressors.
12 Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes,
for false witnesses rise up against me,
spouting malicious accusations.
13 I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
14 Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.
The LORD is my light and my salvation —
whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid?
The opening of this Psalm says it all. If God is for us who can be against us? David had many times in his life when he was hard pressed by enemies and in situations that were dire but nevertheless, he writes the words of this Psalm confidant of God’s overarching protection and care.
Most have smart phones now with access to the internet, go and google Psalm 27, regardless of the situations you are in as you come to worship this morning, sit quietly, and let the words roll over in your mind. The close is:-
I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the LORD.
A Prayer: Almighty God for your great and precious promises, I thank you with all my heart. Grant me peace and aid me in all my life to seek you and find rest in your presence. In Christ your Son. Amen.
Having reached the end of the book of Joshua we will skip over the book of Judges and look at the book of 1 Samuel and the developing life of this new people.
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 1:1-20
The book of Judges tells of the years following the settlement of the people in their new promised land and of the frequent decline in the people only saved by the intervention of certain leaders called Judges. It is an interesting book but we will skip over it because we want to ask, “Is there a rescue from their decline?”. After the Exodus, ‘they lived happily ever after’, is not the Bible’s message because we are not in the realm of the fairy tale. The last words of the book of Judges are, “everyone did what was right in their own eyes”. What an epitaph. So, what next?
Birth or childlessness in the Bible is an important issue because it is about hope and a future … or none. Remember Abraham, God made a promise of an amazing and wonderful future yet he and Sarah were childless. Following that, when God granted them Isaac, and in each succeeding generation, the son in the chosen line had difficulty – that’s to put it mildly! When the children grew to become important Pharaoh tried to stifle the growth, the Amalekites tried genocide, and the people of the land of Canaan tried weaning them off Jehovah.
The next stage in God’s interaction with the people begins with a woman called Hannah who in her desperation and deep sadness prays to God. Not only is her childlessness a tragic societal blot but she also has to endure the mocking of her rival Peninnah, her husband Elkanah’s other wife. If people needed a reason for marriage to be between one man and a woman as Jesus taught (Matt 19:5,6) all they need do is read the Old Testament and mark every place where this didn’t hold good.
Her praying is deep and painful and is also linked with a vow of sacrifice – if God grants her plea she will not live in a selfish and self-regarding way, she will offer her son for God’s service. The son she gives birth to is destined in God’s plan to become a fulcrum in the history of the people becoming the root of prophetic life and the King maker in due course.
We ought always to remember that even in the deep dark times of life God is there and can cause, almost imperceptibly, a change in the pattern of our life and maybe many others too.
Tuesday 1 Samuel 1:21 –2:11
Though we could pass by we oughtn’t to miss the close relationship husband and wife had here. In vs5&8 we see Elkanah’s love for Hannah expressed in word but also, when the family go to Shiloh for the annual act of worship, he doesn’t dominate her life but acknowledges her vowed decision saying, “do what seems best to you and may the Lord make good his word”. Husbands and wives need to honour the special relationship each has with the Lord. As the writer of Ecclesiastes says “a cord with three strands is not easily broken” (Eccles 4:22), when husband and wife seek the third strong cord with God their relationship with each other is held fast.
Hannah does what she promised and gave young Samuel to be a helper to old Eli in the duties of his priesthood and the care of the tabernacle at Shiloh. Chapter 2 opens with a magnificent prayer of praise, thanksgiving and glory. Reading this I am bound to ask, do we pray like this? The words tumble out from her and, we can imagine, accompanied by tears of sheer joy and gladness. It is not just a prayer of thanksgiving for her own situation but a praise of the greatness of God himself. Read it over and seek to bring your prayers alongside hers.
Wednesday 1 Samuel 2:12-21
We are introduced to what was going on in Shiloh where the Ark of the Covenant was placed in the tabernacle the focus of God’s presence and where all the acts of worship took place. Eli was the priest but it was his sons, Hophni and Phineas, who were a wicked pair. What they were doing was living the high life through their priestly roles; they took the best of the offerings that the people brought and if anyone complained they were threatened. They acted like mafia bosses.
The fat of animals (the helev) was considered the best part. It was the fat surrounding the loins, the kidneys, of beef or lamb, and is a dense, energy rich food with essential nutrients and calories which is why in the winter we hang balls of it out for the birds. The word was used for ‘the best’ thats why Pharoah told Jacob to bring his family down to Egypt during the famine that they could have the best (helev) of the land.
In the sacrificial system the helev was not to be eaten by the offerers but was set apart as God’s portion and burned with the smoke ascending up for God. The robbery by Eli’s sons and their living off the fat of the people’s sacrifices was not just a greedy theft from the people but an act of contempt for God.
Meanwhile in all of this, young Samuel was growing up and his mother made a little robe for him each year when the family came to worship and God blessed Elkanah and Hannah with more children – an indicator that God was no man’s (or woman’s) debtor. Hallelujah. When we give the best to God he gives it back in spades!
Thursday 1 Samuel 2:22-36
We hear of Eli’s grief about his sons’ behaviour, not only stealing and bullying in the service of the tabernacle, but also engaging in sexual activity with women who seemed to hang around the tabernacle making the whole scene seem like a reflection of the pagan rites of the people round about. Eli is old but we probably have to ask what was the discipline and leadership that he gave his sons in early years? By now the water had flowed under the bridge because the sons paid no attention to him.
During this time young Samuel grew in stature and in favour with the Lord and with the people (v26) and he had godly parents in Elkanah and Hannah. At some time, a nameless man of God came to Eli with a message from God about him and his family. He condemns Eli and his sons for failing to follow in the footsteps of their ancestors who were chosen to be priests and tells him that that honour will be taken away from him and his family.
“The wheels of God grind exceeding slow but they grind exceeding small” Longfellow said in a quotation repeated by Churchill during the war. Sometimes it may appear that the wicked get away with horrendous things but God notes them all and in due course, as Deut 32:35 says, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay”. Evil never pays. Whether Samuel knew of this visit from the unnamed prophet we don’t know but we will hear of Samuels’ position in the next chapter.
Friday 1 Samuel 3:1-4:1
This is a passage many have heard about as it is often told to children. Samuel was lying down in the tabernacle where the Ark of the Covenant was, whether he was asleep or just lying quietly we don’t know but he hears his name being called. When we read of God calling people in scripture we hear them being summoned by name – Abraham, Moses, Mary, Saul (Paul). What would you feel if in the middle of the night God spoke your name? We need to know that He knows us by name, we are not one of a multitude.
Samuel at first is unaware of the call and runs to Eli who eventually recognises that it is the voice of God calling the young lad and tells him what to say which the Authorised version puts it as, “Speak Lord, for your servant heareth (is listening)”. If and when we know that God is saying something to us in whatever way, that response needs to be ours as well.
What he hears is something that makes him nervous because it is a repetition of God’s judgement on Eli and when Eli asks him next morning what God told him he doesn’t want to say. It is difficult to tell someone something they don’t want to hear but Samuel’s trepidation is assuaged by Eli’s response which is “It is the Lord; let him do what is good in his eyes”.
We find that from then on, God continues to speak to Samuel and all Israel recognises tht he is a prophet. God continues a cleansing work in the children of Israel.
Saturday 1 Samuel 4:1-22
The Philistines appear often in the Old Testament, they dwell in Gaza and are a constant threat to Israel. After their first defeat the Israelites ask “Why?” displaying once again the failure to recognise that their wellbeing was entirely dependant upon God and whenever they turned away from him things went down The trouble was they thought God could be summoned to fight for them by the simple means of pulling the Ark of the Covenant out of the tabernacle in Shiloh and sticking it in front of their forces because surely then they would win the battle. But a relationship with God can’t be pulled out of a hat whenever required even if the ‘hat’ be a religious one.
The result on the battlefield was a disastrous one despite the great shout and the hubris of the people. The Philistines might have been afraid at first, feeling that these Israelites had great and powerful gods – little did they know that they did have a great God but that he had left them to their own devices because of their utter failure to truly honour and follow him. The battle was a rout and not only were they defeated, Eli’s sons Hophni and Phineas were killed and worst of all, the Ark was stolen by these heathen forces.
When news of the defeat came home Eli was sitting at the edge of the road and fell backwards breaking his neck when he heard of the loss of the Ark. Verse 18 tells us he had led Israel 40 years but the disaster, on top of God’s message to him, was an awful comment on his leadership. Phineas’s wife gave premature birth at the news but the name she gave her son told the whole story of the people at that time – “Ichabod”, the glory has departed. When a people depart from God there is no other word for them than Ichabod. How terrible. Is there any light? We shall see.