Sunday 19th November – Psalm 32
1 Blessed is the one
whose transgressions are forgiven,
whose sins are covered.
2 Blessed is the one
whose sin the Lord does not count against them
and in whose spirit is no deceit.
3 When I kept silent,
my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
4 For day and night
your hand was heavy on me;
my strength was sapped
as in the heat of summer.
5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you
and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess
my transgressions to the Lord.”
And you forgave
the guilt of my sin.
6 Therefore let all the faithful pray to you
while you may be found;
surely the rising of the mighty waters
will not reach them.
7 You are my hiding place;
you will protect me from trouble
and surround me with songs of deliverance.
8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.
9 Do not be like the horse or the mule,
which have no understanding
but must be controlled by bit and bridle
or they will not come to you.
10 Many are the woes of the wicked,
but the Lord’s unfailing love
surrounds the one who trusts in him.
11 Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous;
sing, all you who are upright in heart!
What a magnificent Psalm this is. It relates David’s acknowledgement of his sin and what he feels like when God’s hand is heavily upon him, but then his rejoicing and desire to instruct others when he knows God’s forgiveness. Philip Doddridge’s hymn “O Happy Day when Jesus washed my sins away” tells the truth of this experience of forgiveness – it also became an international hit with Edwin Hawkins gospel arrangement in 1969.
The opening verses of the Psalm speak of the blessedness of the one whose transgressions are forgiven and whose sin the Lord does not count against them. Many don’t really consider the seriousness and depths of sin the heart of which opposition to the will of God. How can God forgive that which is fundamentally against his rule and authority over creation? How can he just blink an eye at what constitutes the destruction of all his works? That propels us on to the New Testament and to the sacrifice of Jesus who takes the consequences of our sins in himself, on the cross and in his death, that we may go free. That is the root of Doddridge’s chorus “O happy day when Jesus washed my sins away”. There can be no greater happiness than that.
How this forgiveness is put into effect David tells us in v3 when, after the misery of keeping quiet about his sin, he speaks of the great liberty of acknowledging it and confessing it before God in v5. The cost of that forgiveness was still not known to him, it awaited the New Testament work of Jesus, but the reality and experience of it stretched back to David and beyond …. and stretches forward to us.
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 20:1-42
Jonathan at first doesn’t believe his father is planning to kill David but David says Saul knows the close friendship the two men have and he has kept his intentions secret from Jonathan. However, the truth becomes evident to Jonathan when, after covering for David’s absence at an important New Moon feast, Saul’s anger breaks out charging his son with an unreasonable opposition to him by siding with David and he flings a spear at him.
Sometimes hostility can be hidden until some cause or other makes it break out into the open and be seen. Sad to say, this often happens in families where one member of a family hides what may start as dislike but develops into jealousy and finally shows itself in hatred. Eventually there becomes no way back and the deep sin becomes entrenched in the personality of the offender. Such was the case with Saul.
Jonathan knowing the truth of his father’s evil intentions sends a secret message for David through the arrows he fires in the field telling him to flee for his father has indeed plans for his death.
Tuesday 1 Samuel 21:1-9
Where would David flee to? He went to the place where the Tent of Meeting was, the place where the Ark was kept at the time, and to Ahimelek the priest in charge of its care. In other words he went to the place of meeting with God. In times of stress and trouble that is always the place for us to go.
Ahimelek is wary because David is here on his own and it wouldn’t be expected that someone of his eminence would be wandering around the villages of Israel unaccompanied. He wouldn’t be aware of the breach between Saul and David and certainly not of Saul’s murderous intent. David says he will be meeting with his men at a certain place but then he lies that Saul has sent him on a secret mission which is why he is on his own. He asks Ahimelek to keep quiet about his presence there, but to provide him with some food. We shall see David being thrown off his balance a few times caused by stress, and this is a situation we can surely come to us all at times.
The ’bread of the presence’ as it was called was fresh bread baked and laid on the table in the tabernacle before the presence of God behind the curtain in the Holy of Holies. It was removed and replaced with fresh bread but the old bread was removed and given to the priests. It was this bread that the priest gave to David. It was an act Jesus referred to in Matthew 12:3-8. The refraining from sexual activity was a ceremonial requirement when in engaging with holy things and David assured Ahimelek that such was the case with him and his men.
David had no weapons with him and the priest gave him the sword of Goliath which had been kept there. However, another person was at the tabernacle that day which was going to prove disastrous in due course, it was Doeg the Edomite who was Saul’s chief Shepherd.
Wednesday 1 Samuel 21:10-22:5
David is now on the run and decides that he can no longer be safe if he stays in the country where Saul is King so the nearest place to go is Gath, the Philistine city! You would think because of his history fighting the Philistines he would avoid it but perhaps there was nowhere else to go and anyway as a single refugee, who would pick him out as the commander of Israelite forces?
But some did. He was in great danger and what he did was pretend he was insane when brought before Achish. His performance worked, in that Achish said he didn’t want madmen brought to him, and told his men to take him away. After this he escaped to the cave of Adullam where his brothers, parents and their families came to him for protection as well as “those in distress or in debt or discontented” and he became their commander (v2). A motley group of people gathered around this righteous man not King Saul because they knew where the truth lay but they weren’t the people who had the luxury of nice houses and palaces nor influence in the courts of the land. That is always the case when people stand up for the right against wickedness.
David went to the King of Moab and asked him if his parents could stay with him until the future became clear. It was probably there that he took them because his great grand-mother, Ruth, was a Moabitess. Care for one’s parents is always a high duty given in one of the ten commandments and David showed his respect not only for his parents but for God’s law.
After settling these family matters David and his men went to the forest of Hereth in Judah at the instruction of the prophet Gad, David being obviously careful to seek the word of God in his movements.
Thursday 1 Samuel 22:6-23
Now comes a tragic story. It begins with Saul hearing of David’s discovery and engaging in what can only be called a rant towards his officials because he feels that they must have known of David’s moves and yet kept it away from him. He charges them with conspiracy against him, failing to tell him of Jonathan’s relationship with David, and in the course of his rant reveals what really is the matter when he says, “None of you is concerned about me”. This is all Saul cares about. His men come mainly from the tribe of Benjamin (v7) while David came from the tribe of Judah and he leans on his men telling them that if they go along with David they won’t have the nice positions they will have under him because he is a Benjamite.
Whilst there Doeg the Edomite speaks up telling that he saw David at Nob where David was visiting Ahimelek to inquire of God and that Ahimelek gave him provisions and the sword of Goliath. Saul in rage sends for the priest and his family and charges him with conspiracy calling on his men to execute them which none of them is willing to do and so he calls on Doeg, the non-Jew, the Edomite to do the vile work.
Only one escapes, Abiathar, who flees to David and he becomes David’s priest. All the blackness of Saul has come out by now but the situation with David is not over.
Friday 1 Samuel 23:1-14
Although David is a hunted man he is not merely thinking about himself and when he hears that one of the Israelite towns, Keilah, is being looted by the Philistines he is concerned and wants to help but before he does anything he enquires of the Lord through Abiathar. Verse 6 tells us that Abiathar had brought with him the ephod which was the holy apron the priest had to discern the will of God. There are different suggestions as to how the ephod was used, it was a linen garment with a breastplate was attached in which were the Urim and Thumim, two objects fastened there which were used to give guidance for the priest.
David enquired of God first whether he should go down and attack the Philistines to save Keilah and the Lord answered, yes, but his men were fearful and hesitant so David asked God again for the sake of his men and God replied that he would be successful and they were when they did as David said. Caution is a good thing but if the Lord says, Go, then we should go.
So far so good but Saul heard that David and his men were in Keilah, a town with walls which could hold David and his men, now 600 in number and thought he had him trapped. Once again David consults God as to whether the citizens of Keilah will hand him over if he stays and God says they will which shows how ungrateful the people of the town were. David has to be on the move again and stays in the wilderness strongholds of the desert of Ziph. Sometimes the only thing to do is to move on from trying situations – after prayer of course.
Saturday 1 Samuel 23:15-27
David was a hunted man now and moved from place to place. In his wilderness wanderings, how would he feel? He had been given a promise that he would be King but now he was just an outlaw with a company of others. What was he to think? At Horesh, Jonathan went out to him and in v16 it says, “Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God”. What a wonderful and courageous friend. Notice, the verse says that he helped David, ‘find strength in God’, he was a spiritual helper, pointing him and encouraging him to seek his help nowhere else but in the Lord himself. We all need friends and counsellors like this or like Barnabas in the New Testament who helped the new convert, Saul of Tarsus, and is well described as “son of encouragement”.
Jonathan could well have sided with his father in the hope that he would succeed to the Kingship when Saul died but he knew what God had planned, that David would be King one day, and he was happy to take second place.
We come after this to Ziphites. Who were they? They belonged to the tribe of Judah, thus the same tribe as David, yet, like the people of Keilah, they were prepared to hand him over to Saul. David and his men had to flee and as they fled, Saul and his army nearly caught up with them, David being on one side of a mountain and Saul and his men on the other, however when told that the Philistines were raiding the land Saul left to go off and defend the land. If you want to see how David felt about this period, read Psalm 54 for it was written about it.