Sunday 21st January – Psalm 41
1 Blessed are those who have regard for the weak;
the Lord delivers them in times of trouble.
2 The Lord protects and preserves them—
they are counted among the blessed in the land—
he does not give them over to the desire of their foes.
3 The Lord sustains them on their sickbed
and restores them from their bed of illness.
4 I said, “Have mercy on me, Lord;
heal me, for I have sinned against you.”
5 My enemies say of me in malice,
“When will he die and his name perish?”
6 When one of them comes to see me,
he speaks falsely, while his heart gathers slander;
then he goes out and spreads it around.
7 All my enemies whisper together against me;
they imagine the worst for me, saying,
8 “A vile disease has afflicted him;
he will never get up from the place where he lies.”
9 Even my close friend,
someone I trusted,
one who shared my bread,
has turned against me.
10 But may you have mercy on me, Lord;
raise me up, that I may repay them.
11 I know that you are pleased with me,
for my enemy does not triumph over me.
12 Because of my integrity you uphold me
and set me in your presence forever.
13 Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
from everlasting to everlasting.
Amen and Amen.
This Psalm written by David has two themes, sickness and treacherous friends. Those with a love of detective stories often try to pick out the situations in David’s life which match the expressions of his feelings mentioned in the Psalms but it is often a fruitless task because his life stretched much more than the Bible tells us.
He asks forgiveness for his sin as it seems to be part of the cause of his ill health (v4) but then he goes on to speak of his enemies murmuring about him out of earshot, slandering him and saying, “A vile disease has afflicted him” and, “When will he die”. He bemoans the fact that “even my close friend, someone I trusted, one who shared my bread, has turned against me” (v9), a verse quoted in the New Testament with reference to Judas. He doesn’t have to look for his troubles. He copes with all of this by confessing his sin, praying for mercy from God but in sure hope that God would see him through. His opening verse surely refers to himself when he says “Blessed are those who have regard for the weak, the Lord delivers them in times of trouble”. Even though the consequences of his life bring him trouble and ill health yet he knows that God is a God who raises people up when they put their hope in him. What a great word for those who know they are not good but trust in God’s help as they make confession of their sins.
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 20:4-26
Having given Amasa the commander’s position over the whole Israelite army he told him to summon the men of Judah within three days because he intended to go after Sheba and put an end to another possible rebellion in the country. Whether he was wise to do this is a moot point, he obviously would be glad to get rid of the influence of Joab and his brother Abishai but perhaps imagining that this would be the way was wrong. Amasa was a son of a sister of David’s just as Joab and Abisha were sons of another sister so they were cousins and nephews of David and jealousy obviously swirled around.
For whatever reason Amasa was late and David tasked Abishai to pursue Sheba and his men and when they met with Amasa on the way Joab murdered him by stabbing him with his dagger. The bloody body was moved out of sight because many stopped and saw what had happened and they didn’t want this to become a cause of gossip. Once again we see how these two nephews of David, Joab and Abishai, were hard men. How difficult it is to live and worship with people of an unspiritual and dark streak yet we often can’t get rid of them, it is only on his death bed that David counsels Solomon to take action against Joab.
Eventually Sheba is caught, although it is at the intervention of a wise woman of the city of Abel Beth Maakah. He is given up to spare the city (or at least his head is given up!!). Are you glad you weren’t having to live in the time of David? When you read the Psalms remember this man’s life story.
Tuesday 2 Samuel 21:1-14
A famine in the land caused David to ‘seek the face of the Lord’ (v1. David felt that there was something about the natural events within the land that were saying something he had to listen to. God heard the pleas of a non-Jewish group called the Gibeonites who had been wrongly dealt with by Israel. If we recall the book of Joshua we remember that the Gibeonites were given a promise of security by Joshua (Joshua 9&10) however through his own greed and desire not to keep that promise Saul had tried to annihilate them (v5). As a result they wanted justice and recompense by the execution of seven of Saul’s male descendants. This request David granted by giving over seven sons of Saul (apart from Mephibosheth, son of Jonathan to whom he had guaranteed protection) showing that no descendant of Saul would ever have power over them again.
Two of the men were sons of Rizpah, a concubine of Saul, who showed an honourable care for the bodies of the dead, an act which touched David when he heard and had the bones of Saul and Jonathan brought and the executed men buried together with them in the tomb of Saul’s father, Kish. Though a hard man of war, David had a heart of compassion for the poor and those without power.
Wednesday 2 Samuel 21:15-22:51
Battles with the Philistines were regular events and at the close of Chapter 21 we are told of some of David’s mighty men who’s reputations were made through defeating certain giant foes. These foes were all descendants of Rapha in Gath, the name possibly being an eponym referring to Raphaites, significant for their giant stature.
David had many enemies to cope with both within and outwith his own people and he often refers to them in his Psalms. John Bunyan described one of the foes Pilgrim faced in Pilgrim’s Progress who was held captive in Doubting Castle by Giant Despair. Bunyan wanted his readers to understand that the Christian believer faces such opposition in their pilgrimage but that they ought not to be trapped in despair by the Giant circumstances that faced them. One Sunday morning Pilgrim realises that he has a key on a chain round his neck that he had forgotten about, it was called Promise and with it he could escape Castle Despair. The promises of God in his Word are for Christians to pick up and set themselves free from the giants that oppress them.
As a conclusion, move on to Chapter 22 and listen to David as he gives praise and thanks to God for all his protection and deliverance from enemies over the years and take it to yourself for whatever giant issues you face.
Thursday 2 Samuel 23:1-7
The first verse of chapter 23 says, “these are the last words of David” and we realise we are coming to the end of the life of David though there are still some things about his latter days to come. What the words of this chapter tell are what David thinks of his own life under God and that is surely a useful thing for us to ponder about our own lives under God and how things have gone.
The first things David says about his life is that it was born of the will of God; he sees that his advancement in Israel and his leadership in the battles against Israel’s enemies was through the hand of God. He was “the man anointed by the God of Jacob” (v1). If we are Christians, people who have faith in Jesus as their Saviour, we must come to realise that what we have come to is not a position exalted by our deeds and character, but one given us in Christ.
David not only tells of his position as King but also as a prophet of God in that he says ““The Spirit of the LORD spoke through me; his word was on my tongue” (v2) and he says that when rule over a people is done in righteousness, not only is God with him but he becomes like “the light of morning at sunrise”. Believing people not only find their own life illuminated by God’s Spirit but become beacons for others.
Friday 2 Samuel 23:8-39
Although the stories in these Old Testament books focus on the main characters, this is a reminder that there are a lot more involved in the birth, defence and growth of this people. The end of the chapter tells us about some of David’s important men and it is a reminder to us that in our lives we are not solitary fighters and strugglers in Christ’s kingdom, we are amongst others who fight along with us to bring Christ’s kingdom to birth in our lives and in this world.
One of the notable things that stands out is the passage in verses 13-17 which tells of the three who went down, at great risk to themselves, through Philistine lines to get some of the water from the well at the gate of Bethlehem for David. David had expressed a desire to drink some of that water not wanting or expecting any of his men to take such a desire at face value but they had. It was an expression of their great love and loyalty to David in the early years when he was still a wandering outlaw before his eventual Kingship. David is so taken with their act but realised that it had been obtained at the risk of their lives that he refused to drink it but poured it out before the Lord as a sacrificial gift representing the blood of the men who had acquired it. He didn’t want to personally benefit from the work of his men but wanted to express his thanksgiving to God in fasting from it. There are times when gifts to ourselves should be used for good purposes under God than in benefitting from them ourselves.
It is a fitting thing to do every so often to give thanks to God for all the people whose lives have brought benefit to us through the years. Perhaps today could be one of them.
Saturday 2 Samuel 24:1-9
The difficulty of this chapter lies in the first verse which says that the anger of the Lord was aroused against Israel and he incited David to go and take a census of the whole of the people (both Israel and Judah), an act for which he was later punished. How can this be? Chronicles adds to the confusion by saying of this event that Satan stood up against Israel and moved David to number the people (1 Chronicles 21:1). Who was responsible, was it God or Satan?.
If we leave aside the difficulty of the census for the moment, perhaps we can see that the anger of God against the Israelites is common to both passages. Do we have any idea why this might be? Look back over the history since before the time of Samuel and we see a people at the end of the book of Judges which are mired in godless self-centredness when we read at the close of Judges that “every man did that which was right in his own eyes”. When Samuel came a glimmer of light came although the people’s desire to have a king showed their persistent desire to be like everybody else. Saul’s leadership reflected that of the people and even when God’s new king, David, showed up, yet the character of the people did not seem to change. The census idea was an act of self-glorification glorifying in how great and powerful they had become. David was caught up in this and presumably at the suggestion of some, though not all (see Joab [v3]), he instituted it. Was it Satan or was it God? I suppose we could say the moving came from Satan but the Lord allowed it or ‘pressed the button’ for it. Remember, Judas was tempted by Satan to betray Jesus but at the last Supper Jesus commanded him to go and do the deed.