Sunday 26th November – Psalm 33
1 Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous;
it is fitting for the upright to praise him.
2 Praise the Lord with the harp;
make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre.
3 Sing to him a new song;
play skillfully, and shout for joy.
4 For the word of the Lord is right and true;
he is faithful in all he does.
5 The Lord loves righteousness and justice;
the earth is full of his unfailing love.
6 By the word of the Lord the heavens were made,
their starry host by the breath of his mouth.
7 He gathers the waters of the sea into jars;
he puts the deep into storehouses.
8 Let all the earth fear the Lord;
let all the people of the world revere him.
9 For he spoke, and it came to be;
he commanded, and it stood firm.
10 The Lord foils the plans of the nations;
he thwarts the purposes of the peoples.
11 But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever,
the purposes of his heart through all generations.
12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,
the people he chose for his inheritance.
13 From heaven the Lord looks down
and sees all mankind;
14 from his dwelling place he watches
all who live on earth—
15 he who forms the hearts of all,
who considers everything they do.
16 No king is saved by the size of his army;
no warrior escapes by his great strength.
17 A horse is a vain hope for deliverance;
despite all its great strength it cannot save.
18 But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him,
on those whose hope is in his unfailing love,
19 to deliver them from death
and keep them alive in famine.
20 We wait in hope for the Lord;
he is our help and our shield.
21 In him our hearts rejoice,
for we trust in his holy name.
22 May your unfailing love be with us, Lord,
even as we put our hope in you.
It’s always good for a service of worship to begin with praise, regardless of the time or circumstances, because as verse 1 says, it is fitting, and that means fitting to the person of God. David begins by saying this and adding the instruments of praise that he would be familiar with, the harp and the ten stringed lyre, with which the praise of God would be accompanied.
Why it is fitting, David says, is because, “the word of the LORD is right and true; he is faithful in all he does”. (v4) He goes on to describe the creation of God and summons all the people of the world to revere him (v8). Worship of God is always something that invites and encourages others to join in, it can’t just be selfish, it says, “Come on, join in!”.
He speaks of God looking down from heaven to see all mankind and the places where they dwell and because of this they should know that he will thwart the plans of nations who do not honour him but bless those who hold him as Lord. This is his hope knowing that God is a help and shield to those who do. However much things might seem dark we always need to remember that the darkness will not win for, “the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear Him” (v18)
If our worship begins in praise it will finish as the Psalmist does saying, “In him our hearts rejoice, we trust in his holy name.”
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 24:1-24
This chapter begins by telling of the persistence of Saul’s aggression against David in that, after dealing with the Philistines as mentioned in the previous chapter, he returns to his quest seeking David whom he has been told is now in the desert of En Gedi.
An opportunity arises for David to be rid of Saul at night when Saul takes refuge in a large cave unaware that David and his men are hiding in the depths at the back of the cave. David’s men encourage him saying that now was his chance. It is interesting to note that his men knew that they were not just following a successful outlaw but a future King when they say, ““This is the day the LORD spoke of when he said to you, ‘I will give your enemy into your hands for you to deal with as you wish.’” They knew that God had told David of his future role.
David, encouraged by his men steals forward when Saul is sleeping but does not murder him but cuts off a part of his garment but he is conscience stricken about it later and it leads to his revealing of himself at a distance to Saul next morning as he makes a great plea for Saul to leave off his pursuit declaring his innocence. Saul accepts the truth of what he says and makes great play of it in tears also asking David to be kind to his family and not seek revenge in days to come (a thing which David does in future years – see 2 Samuel 9)
The lesson it tells us is not to seek revenge against those who are against us – a message backed up by Jesus and the apostles in the New Testament (Deut 32:35, Matt 5:39 & Romans 12:19-21). David was in the right and Saul was decidedly in the wrong but until God sees to it, David will not be the one at whose hand vengeance will be sought.
Tuesday 1 Samuel 25:1-11
When we come to the end of Samuel’s life it is worth taking a moment to consider his place in the history of Israel. At the close of the book of Judges we find Israel in a poor state where it says that “every man did that which was right in his own eyes” and at the beginning of the book of Samuel we are told “In those days the Word of the Lord was rare; there were no frequent visions”. The priesthood was corrupt, Eli’s sons were living godless and disreputable lives but into the middle of this we find a godly woman, Hannah, praying. Things change when people pray.
Young Samuel grew up in the middle of priestly life even though it had declined but behind the national scene, he was growing a band of prophets, teaching them like himself to have a ready ear for God. He is also the King maker, anointing both Saul and David and telling Saul when his time has been closed by God. Samuel is a key figure in the early Old Testament.
Whilst there were men of godly character in the land like Samuel, David and Jonathan, there were also mean and godless people like Doeg, the Edomite, who betrayed David to Saul as well as the likes of the residents of Keilah who were going to give David up to Saul. Here we see another glimpse of one of their kind, his name was Nabal, a wealthy sheep farmer in Carmel, whom David sent some of his men to ask for supplies in view of their protective role in the country (v7,8). Nabal is churlish in the extreme refusing David support saying, “Who is this David? Who is this son of Jesse? Many servants are breaking away from their masters these days. Why should I take my bread and water, and the meat I have slaughtered for my shearers, and give it to men coming from who knows where?” (v10,11). These were amongst the people David would rule over in due course. What would he do – be gracious like he was with Saul in the cave? We shall see tomorrow.
Wednesday 1 Samuel 25:12-44
When David heard of the ungratefulness and churlishness of Nabal, he became angry and started to get his men pick up their weapons because he was going to teach this man a lesson. While he was preparing his men one of Nabal’s servants who had been privy to what he had said to David’s men told Nabal’s wife, Abigail, who was obviously a wise and gracious woman.
Abigail acted post haste in getting some supplies together while not telling Nabal and sending a servant ahead to David and his advancing men, while she followed on her donkey although on arriving at David, she bowed down in obeisance. Her speech to him is worth reading as it is a model of mediation. She tells David to pay no attention to what Nabal has said, even calling him a fool, and tells David that his future is secure because the Lord will make it so but he shouldn’t blot his conscience by engaging in needless bloodshed.
David accepts the wise and gracious advice and sees in Abigail a woman of repute saying, “Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel, who has sent you today to meet me. May you be blessed for your good judgment and for keeping me from bloodshed this day and from avenging myself with my own hands”. (v32,33) Abigail returned to see her husband in a drunk stupor and said nothing about what she had done until the morning upon which Nabal collapsed and died like a stone (a stroke? Who knows).
At the close we see that David has recognised a good woman when he sees one and asks Abigail to marry him (Saul had already given Michal, his daughter to someone else). How important it is to marry those who are kindred spirits in the Lord.
Thursday 1 Samuel 26:1-25
We have heard of the Ziphites before in 1 Samuel 23:19 where they revealed David’s hideouts to Saul and were ready to hand him over. Here in Chapter 26 we see them again giving Saul the information to catch David. As in Psalm 54 we often see David referring to enemies and among those the Ziphites would rank high. They belonged to the same tribe as David and should have shown brotherly love but instead they had it in for him. How sad when families do not care for each other.
Having told Saul where he could find David he sets out with three thousand troops and camped beside the road on the hill of Hakilah. David sent out scouts and when he heard he went to the place where Saul was with the intention of going down at night to the camp. Abishai accompanied him as he crept down and, finding Saul with his spear beside him, Abishai wanted to pin Saul to the ground with his spear telling David, “Today God has delivered your enemy into your hands”. As with the previous incident in the cave David won’t have it done saying, “Don’t destroy him! Who can lay a hand on the LORD’s anointed and be guiltless?” (v9). He will definitely not have Saul killed by his own hand or those of his men the reason being that until God removes him in some other way he remains the anointed of God. He takes the spear and water jug and returns. The next morning he reveals himself at a distance and charges Abner, Saul’s commander, with not protecting his master showing the spear and water jug he had taken the previous night.
Once again we see Saul expressing his regret at his actions in pursuing David but we know that his changeable mind is not sure, he will change like the wind. When we see the truth about something and express the same it is important that we remain faithful and don’t allow ourselves to be swayed by inner thoughts coming from the selfish heart. The BB motto is “Sure and Steadfast” and it is a motto for all in the changing winds of our times.
Friday 1 Samuel 27:1-12
Having experienced Saul’s fluctuations of mind David has no trust in him or anything he promises and decides it will be much better to leave the land which he does and heads over the border to the country of the Philistines, roughly modern day Gaza. Along with his men he went to Achish, King of Gath, and asked to settle there although not to in the royal city so he was settled in Ziklag (a town which in the future would be Israelite. The move had its desired result in that Saul gave up pursuing David, thinking that he had got rid of a competitor for the throne and that David was out of his hair now.
David had not gone over to the other side though and with his men he engaged in raiding enemies of Israel. His attacks were brutal and complete, not leaving any alive so that word would not get back to Achish, instead he told Achish that he had engaged in raiding areas within Israel. Achish felt secure that David would now be viewed as an enemy of Israel and therefore not an enemy of the Philistines.
Should he have moved to Philistia – he did not seem to seek the word of God through Abiathar the Priest for example – he moved because of his own advice? The next issue is that having moved it led him into lies which would cause him difficulties in the future. As God had delivered him during all his wanderings in the desert areas should he have trusted God to continue to deliver him. The danger is always to give up on God and think that we can manage things ourselves. As Walter Scott (not Shakespeare) had it “Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive” (Marmion: a tale of Flodden Field). The counsel of the Word of God is always truth.
Saturday 1 Samuel 28:1-11
The start of this chapter shows where David’s lies led him; Achish told him of the Philistines forthcoming battle against Israel and says David must accompany him and be his bodyguard. David mutters, “Then you will see for yourself what your servant can do” (v2) We shall see where that will lead in due course.
Meantime Saul is struggling with lack of any spiritual guidance. He has expelled the mediums and spiritists from the land, good, but he had no-one to turn to for a word from God. Samuel was dead. When he saw the Philistines gathered to fight he was scared and sought answers but the Lord did not speak either by dreams or by Urim (the priests’ guidance stones) or by prophets. When God did not answer he should have reflected on his past which would have told him why.
Next, he takes the forbidden route of consulting the dead because he asks his men to find a woman medium. [“Do not turn to mediums or necromancers; do not seek them out, and so make yourselves unclean by them: I am the Lord your God”. Lev 10:31] or [“When you come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord. And because of these abominations the Lord your God is driving them out before you. You shall be blameless before the Lord your God” – Deut 18:9-13]. Saul was past paying attention to the commands of God.
So what happened? Saul asked the witch of Endor to bring up Samuel from the dead. She became scared when she saw the vision. Although this practice was banned it may be that God allowed Saul to hear Samuel and it is not helpful to him but what did he expect?
Whatever the witch of Endor saw it shocked her as though something like this had never happened to her before which was probably true in that communication with the dead was prohibited by God – “Do not turn to mediums or necromancers; do not seek them out, and so make yourselves unclean by them: I am the Lord your God.” (Lev 19:31). In this instance God allowed it to show its uselessness for in asking Samuel what to do he is told that his destiny is already determined because of his past life of determined it – his refusal of God’s commands.
Jesus parable in the New Testament about the rich man and Lazarus has the same message. The rich man in hell pleads with Abraham to send to his brothers to warn them not to come to this place but Abrham tells him that they have Moses and the Prophets (the scriptures), if they do not hear them they won’t heed even if someone comes back from the dead. It is a solemn warning to hear and heed the Word of God, Saul persistently refused and tried to cover his disobedience with excuses as to why he hadn’t or couldn’t. We could well repeat the saying of Scott again, “Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive”.
If any pay no attention to the Word of God then they need to be honest, to accept their position, and also to understand that it’s consequences are dire. Saul almost collapsed when he heard Samuel’s words and it took those with him to get him up and eat.