Sunday 24th December – Psalm 96
1 Sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth.
2 Sing to the Lord, praise his name;
proclaim his salvation day after day.
3 Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous deeds among all peoples.
4 For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
he is to be feared above all gods.
5 For all the gods of the nations are idols,
but the Lord made the heavens.
6 Splendor and majesty are before him;
strength and glory are in his sanctuary.
7 Ascribe to the Lord, all you families of nations,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
8 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
bring an offering and come into his courts.
9 Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness;
tremble before him, all the earth.
10 Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns.”
The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved;
he will judge the peoples with equity.
11 Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;
let the sea resound, and all that is in it.
12 Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them;
let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.
13 Let all creation rejoice before the Lord, for he comes,
he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
and the peoples in his faithfulness.
We jump ahead again in our Sunday morning readings in Psalms to number 96 where the Psalmist encourages us to “Sing a New Song to the Lord” (v1) and what could be more fitting for Christmas time. I’m sure he doesn’t mean us to ignore all the old ones because at this time we rejoice in the great Carols we have sung since childhood. They bring great memories and when we look at the words of them, they preach Christmas sermons in themselves.
What Psalm 96 does is to make praise of God a part of our lives and to do so in such a way that others will notice and come to share with us in what we have learned of God.
David Wilkerson who wrote the book “The Cross and the Switchblade” told of his grandfather coming to visit his father’s church and telling him he needed to fling the windows of the Church open so that people in their neighbourhood could hear the praise of the people. In like vein Pope John XXlll said, “I want to throw open the windows of the Church so that we can see out and the people can see in”. What a great statement for the Church in any age. Just as it was the praise of the Angels that caught the attention of the Shepherds, so the world around us will come to Jesus when they see and know Him through our praise of Him in both life and word. O come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.
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 9:1-13
The kindliness of David shows through in this episode especially now that he was King for he hasn’t forgotten the needs of his people and in this case the family of Saul who had been killed along with most of his family. He asks if there were any left of Saul’s family to whom he could show kindness and he found out that his close cherished friend, Jonathan had a disabled son. After the death of Saul and Jonathan at the Mount Gilboa battle, his nurse picked him up as she fled and he fell becoming crippled in both legs (2 Samuel 4:4).
One of Saul’s servant’s, Ziba, told David of this boy called Mephibosheth and David summoned him and promised to restore land that his grandfather had lost and that he would look after him saying, “you will always eat at my table”. He commanded Ziba and his family, to look after the land and to farm it so that Mephibosheth would be supported.
David exhibits a life and attitude which Christian people should heed and copy in the sense of not waiting for situations to come in front of us but to seek them out so that we could make a difference.
Tuesday 2 Samuel 10:1-19
A lot of the history of the peoples in the middle east around this time is scanty and so we do not know everything that was going on. For example this story of Hanun King of the Amorites who was the son of Nahash. It appears that Nahash, despite being an enemy of the Israelites, had done David some favour, possibly to do with his family but we do not know for sure. When his son came to the throne David thought of sending some of his men to express sympathy on the death of his father. Far from being well received they were treated shamefully and sent away half naked and ashamed all because Hanun’s commanders didn’t believe David had sent the men in good faith. We need always to reserve our judgement on people’s motives or our relationships will become strained as they did here
The outcome was surely going to be obvious; if the Ammonites had only paused to consider they would have realised that this would only cause trouble. When they realised that David’s army under Joab was coming out to execute judgement on them for their disgraceful behaviour they tried to gather other troops from surrounding nations and what follows is a description of a campaign of battles all of which David won.
From a New Testament point of view we have to remember that the Christian life is a campaign of struggles against the Enemy of our souls in which patience and steadfastness are required at all times. James starts his letter in the New Testament with, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything”. (James 1:2-4). Remember the battles of David and take courage even when the enemy forces of your soul seem too great.
Wednesday 2 Samuel 11:1-27
At this point we come to the great sin in David’s life, the Bathsheba episode. We ought to note how it all starts namely with Joab and the army going out to war with the Ammonites whilst David stayed at home. Why was David not with his men on the battlefield, he was the King and he was a great commander? The old saying comes true here that the Devil finds things for idle hands to do and one that we ought to remember whenever we are tempted.
There are too many things to pick out of this chapter for a short Daily Bible study but what we do see is a lustful David taking Bathsheba for a night of his pleasure resulting in her pregnancy and then his complicated plans to escape the consequences. We see an innocent man wronged not only in the taking of his wife but in the taking of his life through subterfuge. Of course Joab was complicit in it too. It is a disgraceful mess and it forms a stain on David’s character for the rest of his life.
When the dirty deed is done, David takes Bathsheba as his wife and the child of the illicit coupling is born. We find the last sentence of the chapter dark, “But the thing David had done displeased the Lord” (v27). Nothing could be worse for a person’s than to hear that being said of them by Almighty God. Let us pray that we are kept safe from all that displeases the Lord.
Thursday 2 Samuel 12:1-14
Jesus told parables which were designed to be pertinent to the people listening to them and in this chapter we see God sending the prophet Nathan to David with a story. It must have been at least a year after the episode with Bathsheba. The story was one which aroused David’s anger for it was about a man who had what he needed yet stole from a poor man. “As surely as the Lord lives”, said David, “the man who did this must die” because he had no pity.
Picture the meeting; David listens, becomes aroused and waiting for Nathan to pinpoint the pitiless man, he hears, “YOU are the man!”. Nathan then spells out the gracious dealings of God with David over the years and yet asks him why he despised the word of the Lord by doing what was evil in his eyes (v9). There are going to be consequences; because he killed Uriah, God’s judgement was that the sword would not depart from David’s household, secondly, he slept with Uriah’s wife in secret, but David’s wives would be taken from him and slept with not in secret but in broad daylight by another (which we will come to in 2 Samuel 16:22) and lastly, the baby conceived in this liaison would not live.
Though God may not take away his love for us – and David is an example of that (v13) – yet our sins can have earthly consequences that we cannot escape from. Having our sins forgiven doesn’t mean that they won’t catch up with us. When confronted in such a shocking way by Nathan David breaks down in grief, sorrow and repentance but Nathan says to him, “The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die” (v13) which is an astounding thing in itself but he knows that his sin will have life lasting consequences.
Friday 2 Samuel 12:15-25
In the aftermath of Nathan’s visit to David we see David beside himself with grief and sorrow. Nathan had said to him that the child born to Bathsheba wouldn’t live but David pleads with God, he fasts and spends nights lying in sackcloth (a sign of mourning) and the elders of his household cannot persuade him to get up. When news comes seven days later that the baby had died they are afraid to tell him in case he does something desperate however he hears something and asks deliberately whether the boy is alive or dead.
Grief is a terrible thing, it tears at families, it strikes the heart and causes sorrow like nothing else especially when it comes linked to certain circumstances, e.g. accident, death in war, but here it is linked with guilt, David feeling the death of this poor little one was caused by his godless acts. He arranged the death of Uriah but here the judgement on him meant an innocent life was lost. How he prayed that God would relent and that this life, the result of his illegitimate liaison with Bathsheba would be spared, but it was not to be.
The shock of his attendants was that after the news of the death he gave up his grieving posture, washed and dressed and took food. It was not that his grief went away but he got back to his daily life for, as he said, his death is past, I will go to him but he will not come back to me. There is something coldly true about this as with every death. There comes a time when life must get back to a new normal after a loss; Queen Victoria struggled with this after the death of Prince Albert and left a picture of what people want to avoid, but it is difficult and requires deliberate acts.
Subsequent to the loss of this child David and Bathsheba have another child who would become well known in the future, Solomon, derived from the Hebrew word for peace, “Shalom”, or Jedidiah meaning ‘loved of Jahweh’. His story only starts after David dies. We see here the goodness of God in that he does not hold anger for ever and his covenant with David and his family continues.
Saturday 2 Samuel 12:26-31
We saw after the death of Bathsheba’s son that David started trying to live his life again though it would be difficult however he had those around him who would help. Everyone who suffers bereavements need people around them who will care and offer support. This is a word for all who love the Lord to love his people too most especially when they are in the pit of loss.
Joab, David’s commander, probably thought he could help in the King’s military work by pausing in his fight against the Ammonites whose capital, Rabah, he had surrounded. Remember David’s fall came when he lingered at home on the roof of his palace when the army was out fighting. He should have been there and he would never have spotted Bathsheba. Here Joab sends for David summoning him out to lead the army in the final capture of the citadel, “otherwise I will take the city, and it will be named after me” (v28). It was a thoughtful and wise invitation and David did come out from his capital and led the army in their capture of the town.
Sometimes if people invite us to join them in something, instead of just staying put in our present situation, we should just get up and do it and we will find things get better along the way.