Sunday 1st October – Psalm 25
1 In you, Lord my God,
I put my trust.
2 I trust in you;
do not let me be put to shame,
nor let my enemies triumph over me.
3 No one who hopes in you
will ever be put to shame,
but shame will come on those
who are treacherous without cause.
4 Show me your ways, Lord,
teach me your paths.
5 Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior,
and my hope is in you all day long.
6 Remember, Lord, your great mercy and love,
for they are from of old.
7 Do not remember the sins of my youth
and my rebellious ways;
according to your love remember me,
for you, Lord, are good.
8 Good and upright is the Lord;
therefore he instructs sinners in his ways.
9 He guides the humble in what is right
and teaches them his way.
10 All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful
toward those who keep the demands of his covenant.
11 For the sake of your name, Lord,
forgive my iniquity, though it is great.
12 Who, then, are those who fear the Lord?
He will instruct them in the ways they should choose.[b]
13 They will spend their days in prosperity,
and their descendants will inherit the land.
14 The Lord confides in those who fear him;
he makes his covenant known to them.
15 My eyes are ever on the Lord,
for only he will release my feet from the snare.
16 Turn to me and be gracious to me,
for I am lonely and afflicted.
17 Relieve the troubles of my heart
and free me from my anguish.
18 Look on my affliction and my distress
and take away all my sins.
19 See how numerous are my enemies
and how fiercely they hate me!
20 Guard my life and rescue me;
do not let me be put to shame,
for I take refuge in you.
21 May integrity and uprightness protect me,
because my hope, Lord,[c] is in you.
22 Deliver Israel, O God,
from all their troubles!
If you are online you may know Graham Kendrick and Matt Redman’s song based on this Psalm – “To You O Lord I lift up my soul, In you I trust O my God, Do not let me be put to shame Nor let my enemies triumph over me”.
The first thing David says in this Psalm is that he puts his trust in God and he asks not to be shamed – why might that happen? The tale is told of Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle who was known as a prankster sending a telegram to 12 well-known people that just said, ““Flee! All has been discovered.” Within 24 hours, the story goes, all 12 had fled the country. Well, true or just urban legend, how many would wish everything to be known about us? Would we be happy if all was revealed about us? David pleads, “Do not remember the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you, LORD, are good”. (v7). He knows his past is not a shining example of all that is good.
He speaks of God teaching, instructing and guiding those who fear him and for things to go well with us we need to heed his instruction (v13). However it is not just that he doesn’t want to be shamed before his enemies, he wants to be comforted by God almost as a child his mother. “Turn to me and be gracious to me” he says “for I am lonely and afflicted. Relieve the troubles of my heart and free me from my anguish” (v16,17). We might ask ourselves whether we have also experienced times like this and need the comfort and support of God despite our many sins of the past. This is why David writes this and pours out his need.
It is some of his Psalms such as this that teach us how to pray and, in the midst, also show us the kindness of God to his children. May we learn as David did to put our trust in God in whatever the trials and troubles that face us. A Prayer: Lord or God, when things upset and trouble us, past or present, have mercy on us, forgive us, and guide us in all our days. 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 Joshua 6:22-7:1
We come to the fulfilment of the promise made to Rahab by the two spies who were sent earlier, that she and everyone who gathered in her house would be spared in the conquest of Jericho. The good thing is that she did not merely think of herself but gathered as many of her extended family as she possible into her house. It is a good example of evangelism. The Church isn’t just for us it is for others, for all who would gather and join us in sheltering under the blood of Jesus as our appeal for salvation.
The mention of a curse on the one who undertook to rebuild the city is referred to in 1 Kings 16:34, around 600 years later, when a man from Bethel is cited as the man who made the attempt to rebuild. Jericho was certainly lived in in periods after this but the rebuilding of the walls and setting it up as a walled and fortified city was only done then.
If we think back to Sodom and Gomorrah and the deliverance of Lot and his family we see that even in situations of desperate evil, summoning judgement, God is able and gracious to deliver a remnant of people – a recurrent subject throughout the Bible.
Glorious victory as it was however, we see that some of the people disobeyed the command to ‘devote’ everything to God because they took some of the booty for themselves. We shall see what happens to Achan and the consequences for the whole people next.
Tuesday Joshua 7:2-26
When things go well with us we can be all smiles and happy but when things don’t work out how easy it is to turn to God and complain. This is what Joshua and the elders of Israel did when the battle for Ai didn’t work out as an easy victory like Jericho. Of course they were a bit too cocky to begin with when they said we don’t need everyone to take this smaller city, we can easily do it with just three thousand soldiers.
God tells Joshua that there is an issue to be attended to in the camp for the covenant has been broken; there are some in the camp who did not attend to the banning command but took things for themselves (v10). The fact is that a few disobeyed and they affected the whole body. In the New Testament we see a not dissimilar things at the beginning of the Book of Acts when Ananias and Sapphira lied about their finances and Peter announced to them that their sin was against the Holy Spirit and they would die for it. Paul highlighted the weakness within the Church at Corinth because of sexual depravity. It is a warning to us that sin in the Church can’t just be individual but affects the whole Church. When Joshua summons the tribes the guilty party, Achan, is found out and he says, “When I saw in the plunder a beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of silver and a bar of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them” (v21).
The punishment of stoning was an ancient means of capital punishments which kept the hands of the punishers free from touching (and thereby being contaminated by) the guilty parties. The sin of Achan would be remembered.
Wednesday Joshua 8:1-29
You can imagine Joshua would have been discouraged after the debacle at Ai caused by the covenant breaking of Achan. Isn’t it the case that when we have fallen away from God we become aware of it and can feel downcast? That was what Peter felt after his denial of Jesus around the fire at Jerusalem when some were wanting him to confess as one of Jesus’ followers. “No, he declared, I don’t know him”…. and the cock crowed! After the resurrection Jesus said “Go and tell the disciples and Peter” as though to emphasize the invitation to the man he knew would be feeling doubly guilty.
If you feel you have failed in anything, yes, confess it, but don’t sit in misery, get up, claim the promises of God for you and move on. That’s what Joshua did and God promised him that the city of Ai would not be the end of the campaign, they would win and they would become successful.
The manner of their tactic after this is well spelt out in the chapter telling of the use of an ambush. Some would lure the fighting men out of the city whilst others would wait in secret behind the city and the rout of the city would be accomplished.
I have spiritualised the issue to assist us in thinking how we might adapt this chapter to our own needs but the bloodthirsty nature of it still needs thought over. I offered one look at it last week in https://www.bethinking.org/bible/old-testament-mass-killings. We have to bear in mind that God’s decision to remove the Canaanites because of their depraved history is not dissimilar to his final judgement on Pharoah. In Deuteronomy he tells the people, “not because of your righteousness or your integrity that you are going in to take possession of their land; but on account of the wickedness of these nations…” ( Deuteronomy 9:5). There comes a time when enough is enough and God is not fearful of final action.
Thursday Joshua 8:30-35
When we were in Colchester, an elderly couple who had been married 50 years asked the Vicar if he would agree to having a renewal of their wedding vows in a simple ceremony in the Church. They invited any members of the Church to come and share with them in the service and arranged a simple reception tea in the hall afterwards. What an interesting and thoughtful event it was.
At the end of Chapter 8 in Joshua we have another renewal, God’s covenant with the people of Israel to whom he was giving the promised land and a special ceremony was designed between two mountains, Ebal and Gerizim, which would have been around the heart of the land at the time of the entry. The ceremony was specified by Moses whilst they were in the wilderness and it can be read in Deuteronomy Chapters 27-29. Basically the people were split between the two mountains and the blessings of God were spoken by those on Mount Gerizim and the curses on Mount Ebal. It’s a bit like the wedding vows which mention two parts, “forsaking all others” and “cleaving to …”, turning away from one course of action and promising another.
Joshua read all the words of the law (see those chapters in Deuteronomy) so that the people, all of them, women, children, and foreigners amongst them, could be aware of how God was commanding them to live in their new promised land. The whole Word of God for the whole people of God is the best idea for any modern day gathering of church and I hope these day to day readings will be of some help in accomplishing that task.
Friday Joshua 9:1-27
Everybody in the land didn’t just shrink back in fear of the Israelites, the Hivite people of Gibeon, a city to the Northeast of Jerusalem planned a deception to escape the wrath of the people. They got a deputation together and, loaded with goods, they sent them to Joshua and the leaders and made pretence of coming from far away wanting to make a peace treaty with the Israelites. Joshua and the leaders were taken in by them and agreed a treaty.
Lo and behold however, three days later they found out that they were not distant peoples but near neighbours. The problem was they had not sought God in their politics and were now hoist by their own petard. What they did because they knew they couldn’t break their oath was put the people under servitude as ‘woodcutters’ and ‘water carriers’.
The story does highlight something else however which we might almost miss in the passing – see v7 – “the whole assembly grumbled against the leaders”. Once again we see the tendency of the people to whine against the leaders. OK Joshua and the leaders got something wrong, but they had to live with it and it didn’t help for them to have the people round on them in complaint. The apostle Paul in writing to the Philippians says this, “Do everything without complaining or arguing so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God” without fault in a wicked and depraved generation among who you shine as the stars in the Universe as you hold out the word of truth” (Phil 2:14-15) Amen.
Saturday Joshua 10:1-15
When we read the word King in these chapters we mustn’t imagine we are talking about what we would know as Kings in later years, namely Kings over nations. Thes Kings were much more like Lord Provosts or Mayors of cities together with their surrounding economically dependant areas. After the victories of the Israelites at Jericho and Ai, Adoni-Zedek, King of Jerusalem, realising what he and others were facing, decided to create an alliance with four other Kings of nearby cities. They were annoyed at what they saw as the treachery of Gibeon in making an alliance with Israel and so they decided to march on Gibeon.
It didn’t go well. The Gibeonites pleaded with Joshua, reminding him of their agreement, to come and save them if they were in trouble. The whole Israelite army went out and won a serious victory after an all-night march from Gilgal. A couple of things are added whereby the text speaks of a divine intervention in nature, the first about a terrible downfall of hailstones which killed more than the battle but the second speaks of an alteration in the hours of either the day or night – Joshua commands the Sun and the Moon to ‘stand still’. There are all manner of interpretations of this from poetic to astronomic and none of them quite satisfies. I’m quite prepared to suspend judgement until more evidence is available and in the words of my friend Alex McLellan’s book, “A Jigsaw Guide to the Meaning of Life”, say that we don’t need to have all the pieces to get an idea of the big picture and the big picture here is that God steps in to make sure his people win the battle against their enemies.
When we are struggling all we need to know is that God is on our side and the conclusion of our victory is assured.