Sunday 17th December – Psalm 89
1 I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever;
with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known
through all generations.
2 I will declare that your love stands firm forever,
that you have established your faithfulness in heaven itself.
3 You said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one,
I have sworn to David my servant,
4 ‘I will establish your line forever
and make your throne firm through all generations.’”
5 The heavens praise your wonders, Lord,
your faithfulness too, in the assembly of the holy ones.
6 For who in the skies above can compare with the Lord?
Who is like the Lord among the heavenly beings?
7 In the council of the holy ones God is greatly feared;
he is more awesome than all who surround him.
8 Who is like you, Lord God Almighty?
You, Lord, are mighty, and your faithfulness surrounds you.
9 You rule over the surging sea;
when its waves mount up, you still them.
10 You crushed Rahab like one of the slain;
with your strong arm you scattered your enemies.
11 The heavens are yours, and yours also the earth;
you founded the world and all that is in it.
12 You created the north and the south;
Tabor and Hermon sing for joy at your name.
13 Your arm is endowed with power;
your hand is strong, your right hand exalted.
14 Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne;
love and faithfulness go before you.
15 Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you,
who walk in the light of your presence, Lord.
16 They rejoice in your name all day long;
they celebrate your righteousness.
17 For you are their glory and strength,
and by your favor you exalt our horn.
18 Indeed, our shield belongs to the Lord,
our king to the Holy One of Israel.
19 Once you spoke in a vision,
to your faithful people you said:
“I have bestowed strength on a warrior;
I have raised up a young man from among the people.
20 I have found David my servant;
with my sacred oil I have anointed him.
21 My hand will sustain him;
surely my arm will strengthen him.
22 The enemy will not get the better of him;
the wicked will not oppress him.
23 I will crush his foes before him
and strike down his adversaries.
24 My faithful love will be with him,
and through my name his horn will be exalted.
25 I will set his hand over the sea,
his right hand over the rivers.
26 He will call out to me, ‘You are my Father,
my God, the Rock my Savior.’
27 And I will appoint him to be my firstborn,
the most exalted of the kings of the earth.
28 I will maintain my love to him forever,
and my covenant with him will never fail.
29 I will establish his line forever,
his throne as long as the heavens endure.
30 “If his sons forsake my law
and do not follow my statutes,
31 if they violate my decrees
and fail to keep my commands,
32 I will punish their sin with the rod,
their iniquity with flogging;
33 but I will not take my love from him,
nor will I ever betray my faithfulness.
34 I will not violate my covenant
or alter what my lips have uttered.
35 Once for all, I have sworn by my holiness—
and I will not lie to David—
36 that his line will continue forever
and his throne endure before me like the sun;
37 it will be established forever like the moon,
the faithful witness in the sky.”
38 But you have rejected, you have spurned,
you have been very angry with your anointed one.
39 You have renounced the covenant with your servant
and have defiled his crown in the dust.
40 You have broken through all his walls
and reduced his strongholds to ruins.
41 All who pass by have plundered him;
he has become the scorn of his neighbors.
42 You have exalted the right hand of his foes;
you have made all his enemies rejoice.
43 Indeed, you have turned back the edge of his sword
and have not supported him in battle.
44 You have put an end to his splendor
and cast his throne to the ground.
45 You have cut short the days of his youth;
you have covered him with a mantle of shame.
46 How long, Lord? Will you hide yourself forever?
How long will your wrath burn like fire?
47 Remember how fleeting is my life.
For what futility you have created all humanity!
48 Who can live and not see death,
or who can escape the power of the grave?
49 Lord, where is your former great love,
which in your faithfulness you swore to David?
50 Remember, Lord, how your servant has been mocked,
how I bear in my heart the taunts of all the nations,
51 the taunts with which your enemies, Lord, have mocked,
with which they have mocked every step of your anointed one.
52 Praise be to the Lord forever!
Amen and Amen.
This morning let us jump ahead to look at a Psalm often read at Christmas. It is not one of David’s but from Ethan the Ezrahite, one of Solomon’s wise men and it begins with a great shout of praise, “I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations” (v1). Singing about the great love of God is so much a part of Christmas we couldn’t do without it.
The reason the Psalm is read at Christmas is because it remembers God’s promises about his future plan of salvation for men and women through his Son, linked to the person of David. The Psalmist reminds God, “You said, ‘I have made a covenant with my chosen one, I have sworn to David my servant, ‘I will establish your line forever and make your throne firm through all generations’” (v3-4). The words are spoken of David’s greater son who was to come.
However, if we read to the end of the Psalm, we find it changes to a lament, because it speaks of God having rejected and spurned his people, it speaks of the crown being defiled in the dust, it speaks of plunder by those who pass by and the scorn of neighbours. Does that ring a bell? It reminds us that the King who was to come would find himself mocked and abandoned by God (seemingly) and by men. The light of Bethlehem would become the darkness of Calvary. Christmas is a mixture of darkness and light, the darkness of the fall of man is always with us and summons the judgement of God, but turning to him, seeking him, we find the light of his face in the risen Jesus who bears the judgement, the mocking and the shame that we might have light, that is why with the Psalmist we can sing, “Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, Lord. They rejoice in your name all day long; they celebrate your righteousness” (v 15,16). This is our truth for we are Christmas and Easter people, rejoicing always, knowing the dark but rising in his light today and every day. Hallelujah and Amen.
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 5:17-25
Now that David was anointed King over all Israel were things going to get easier? Not at all. The Philistines wanted to get rid of this troublesome foe and gathered in full force to march against him. Eventually Jerusalem was considered the stronghold of David but at this point some other stronghold is mentioned which David went to when he heard of the news.
The Philistines were spread out in the valley of Rephaim a valley between Jerusalem and Bethlehem
a modern view
Before David did anything it says that he inquired of the LORD, “Shall I go and attack the Philistines? Will you deliver them into my hands?” (v19). God tells him to go because he would deliver the Philistines into his hand and so David does this and his enemies are delivered over to him. We note also that his forces carried of the Philistine idols which they had abandoned as they fled, which gave a good indication that it was not the idols of the land but the God of Heaven and Earth who had won the battle for them.
However the Philistines were not put off by one loss, they regrouped a bit later and came again to attack Israel. This time God’s directions were for a circling round from the back and when the sound of the poplar trees sounded like marching they were to attack for “the LORD has gone out in front of you to strike the Philistine army” (v24).
If we learn one thing from this it will be not to relax when we are attacked by the enemy’s spiritual forces that come tempting us into defeat. As scripture tells us elsewhere “let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor 10:12). We don’t win our spiritual battles by ourselves but by the Spirit of God which we must always heed.
Tuesday 2 Samuel 6:1-11
Ever since the Philistines gave back the Ark of the Covenant to the people of Israel (1 Sam 6) it had been kept in Kiriath-Jearim in the house of Abinadab but David determined that it should be moved to his new Capital, Jerusalem. Well and good, but we come to a troubling episode.
The ark is put on a new cart. Probably the beginning of wrong moves – the only other time it had been put on a cart was by the Philistines who had sent it back behind two cows. The Ark however was designed to be carried via long poles through rings on either side of the Ark (Exodus 25:10-16); it was to be carried by the priests not trundled around on carts. It was a sign of respect that it was to be done this way.
Abinadab had two sons, Uzzah and Ahio, and it appears they would have had some involvement in the transportation of the Ark from their father’s premises. Along the way the oxen pulling the cart stumbled and Uzzah put out his hand to steady the ark and was struck down dead by the hand of God. Did he feel an overfamiliarity with the holy things because the Ark had been in his father’s house so long? At any rate, God had warned the people from the time of Moses that an easy or cosy relationship with him was not to be assumed (“the Kohathites shall come to carry these, but they must not touch the holy things, or they will die” – Numbers 4:15).
If this shocks us, it did David too, and he was angry with God (v8). Have you ever been angry with God? If so you will appreciate the follow-up in David’s emotions, “David was afraid of the LORD that day” (v9). If you have read “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” by C.S. Lewis (and if you haven’t, DO) you will be familiar with Lucy being told that she is going to meet Aslan the King and that he is a lion. She says she is nervous about meeting a lion and Mrs Beaver tells her, “If there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.” Lucy then says, “So he isn’t safe”, to which Mr Beaver replies, “Safe? Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ’Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” We must never become so casual with God that we forget who he is. We ought to have a holy fear of him and if we don’t, we are as Mrs Beaver says, just silly.
David is wary of the Ark coming back near him, “How can the ark of the LORD ever come to me?” (v9). The journey to Jerusalem was terminated and the Ark was moved to the house of Obed-Edom instead.
Wednesday 2 Samuel 6:12-23
After a period of time it was noticed that the house of Obed-Edom was blessed by the presence of the Ark and when it was told to David he decided that it was time for the Ark to be moved to Jerusalem. The spirit of rejoicing was across the people but none more so than David who striped of his royal robes and wearing a simple linen ephod danced before the Lord “with all his might” (v14) as the ark was brought into the city. Scots are often said to be wary of great emotional expression (except perhaps in the football ground!) which is a pity because surely the greatness God and his dealings with us are worthy of rejoicing. The story is told of the Scottish Catholic Bishop who was asked what the kiss of peace was supposed to mean in the communion service responded with, “I suppose it means someone has scored a goal!”. Well exactly for Christ’s resurrection means just that and it is surely worth rejoicing over.
However, someone was not happy about David’s cavorting amidst the common people through gladness over the Ark coming home, it was his wife Michal, the daughter of Saul. Her response was really that he was making a fool of himself, yet David said he would be glad to do so because of what God had done for him.
Thursday 2 Samuel 7:1-17
Sometimes wise people can make mistakes. Nathan was a faithful prophet of God and when David asked him the question of whether he should build a temple for the Ark of God Nathan said, “Yes, go ahead”, what an honourable thought. But he didn’t consult God first and that night the Word of God came to Nathan with another message for David. Sometimes we need to think more than once about courses of action which at first sight seem to be perfectly fine.
God said to tell David he was not to build a house for the Ark of the Covenant, the place of God’s presence with the people, in other words, reverse what you told David. The message instead is great with promise about God’s future for David’s (v8-11) but it contains a wonderful play on words. God says to David, you will not build a house (i.e. a stone temple) for me but I will build a house (i.e. a royal dynasty) for you (v11,12). We are introduced to the Messianic promise of God that he will bring forth a son of David from David’s descendants who would build a house for him and his kingdom would last forever. (v213). Some of David’s progeny would fail and God would punish them (v14) but the Messiah to come would not.
This promise adds to what God had said in Moses day (Deut 18:15-18) that he would send a prophet like Moses and God’s words would be in his mouth and the people must hear him. This is what the story of the Old Testament is all about, the coming of Jesus, God’s Prophet, God’s King. All the battles and aggression against this people are the Devil’s failed attempt to stop this happening but God will bring it about and tells and he tells David 1000 years beforehand, “Don’t build me a house, I am going to build you a House”.
Friday 2 Samuel 7:18-29
This passage is pure prayer and what wonderful prayer it is. David went in and sat before the Lord; he was going to spend some time with the Lord so sitting was the mode of his prayer. The Bible has many attitudes of prayer other than this, sometimes standing, sometimes prostrate, but here it is sitting. Christian Churches through the ages have had similar different ways of prayer. In Scotland the Free Church tradition was sitting to sing but standing to pray whereas we have been the opposite. Many Episcopal and Roman Catholic Churches have made kneeling the most common form but the most important thing is being in tune with God to whom we direct our prayers.
David’s prayer begins with “Who am I?” for he realises that he is no more special than multiple people in the world and yet what God has done and is doing through him is stupendous. He realises the specialness of the people he has been called to rule over, the Jews, and that they are God’s people par excellence whom he has redeemed from captivity in Egypt, driven out other nations before them and their false gods, and made promises about them that are eternal. How much he knows about his royal house we don’t know but through that house God would bring his whole plan for the salvation of the world into being. It would be through his descendant, the King of Kings, that God would bring this redemption into being. David of doesn’t realise everything but he knows that God is doing some astounding things through him. No wonder he says, “How great you are, Sovereign LORD! There is no one like you, and there is no God” (v22)
Saturday 2 Samuel 8:1-18
Chapter 8 details David’s victories over the surrounding enemies of Israel from North to South and to the sea. Reading the details, many find themselves decidedly unhappy at the violent conquests mentioned and ask why this kind of thing should be allowed by God, the passage even saying, “The Lord gave David victory wherever he went” (v14). This is not New Testament stuff is it?
On this we would have to agree, nowhere do we see the Church of the apostles engaging in violent conquest. It appears that battles in the Old Testament are physical whereas those in the New Testament are spiritual. Why the change?
The centre of the Bible, or the plot, you might say is Jesus. Ever since Genesis, after the fall of Man, God promised that a descendant of Man would “crush the head of the serpent” (Gen 3:15).. We know who that would be. Abraham was chosen by God to be the starter, the progenitor, from whose seed this Man would come but the Serpent, the Devil, Satan, did not wish to see God’s promise fulfilled and so from the time of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the children of Israel this Enemy has been intent on stamping this line out – and that meant physical intervention, I,e, physical force. The people of Israel had to fight, but the fight was not just for themselves (though they didn’t always see it that way) but for the Man would come from among them. So, before Jesus came physical fight was required to stop the extinction of the line from which the he would come but when he came something happened.
The Garden of Gethsemane was where things changed. When the enemies came to take Jesus, Peter drew his sword and was ready to physically defend Jesus but, at that point, Jesus said, ‘No’, and it was as though he stepped out from the fortress of protective cover over the years and said to Satan, “OK, here I am, you wanted me, do your worst”. He gave himself up leading to the trial, the lashes on his back, crucifixion on the cross and death.
This was the final conflict between God and Satan. The Enemy thought, If I kill him, I will win but far from winning this was the moment of his defeat as Jesus rose from the dead the victor.
The Kingdom of God advanced thereafter not through physical violence – there was nothing to protect now – but through the proclamation of the gospel; the Apostle Paul spelling it out saying, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.” (Romans 1:16,17). The battle we fight now is the spiritual one of declaring the gospel, persuading people everywhere that Jesus is victor, and to believe in him, heed his summons, and enter his glory now and in the life to come.