Sunday 31st December – Psalm 38
1 Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger
or discipline me in your wrath.
2 Your arrows have pierced me,
and your hand has come down on me.
3 Because of your wrath there is no health in my body;
there is no soundness in my bones because of my sin.
4 My guilt has overwhelmed me
like a burden too heavy to bear.
5 My wounds fester and are loathsome
because of my sinful folly.
6 I am bowed down and brought very low;
all day long I go about mourning.
7 My back is filled with searing pain;
there is no health in my body.
8 I am feeble and utterly crushed;
I groan in anguish of heart.
9 All my longings lie open before you, Lord;
my sighing is not hidden from you.
10 My heart pounds, my strength fails me;
even the light has gone from my eyes.
11 My friends and companions avoid me because of my wounds;
my neighbors stay far away.
12 Those who want to kill me set their traps,
those who would harm me talk of my ruin;
all day long they scheme and lie.
13 I am like the deaf, who cannot hear,
like the mute, who cannot speak;
14 I have become like one who does not hear,
whose mouth can offer no reply.
15 Lord, I wait for you;
you will answer, Lord my God.
16 For I said, “Do not let them gloat
or exalt themselves over me when my feet slip.”
17 For I am about to fall,
and my pain is ever with me.
18 I confess my iniquity;
I am troubled by my sin.
19 Many have become my enemies without cause;
those who hate me without reason are numerous.
20 Those who repay my good with evil
lodge accusations against me,
though I seek only to do what is good.
21 Lord, do not forsake me;
do not be far from me, my God.
22 Come quickly to help me,
my Lord and my Savior.
I don’t know if David wrote this Psalm at the turn of a year but it is a reflective Psalm about his life and his relation with God. It is one of his penitential Psalms which is full of his misery whilst seeking God’s relief. We don’t know the background to the situation, could it be after his sin with Bathsheba, or living in the Philistine country? We don’t need to know for the words can speak to us in whatever situation we may be in when our sin and its consequences bear down upon us and bring us the pain and misery that Davud felt.
The Psalm is not just a pouring out of how he feels but it is a plea for God to hold back when he says in v1 “LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath “. He knows that God is against him but prays that God won’t deal with him in anger and wrath. There is a difference between the just anger of a parent and the fierce anger of an enemy and what David is pleading for is that God will not treat him as an enemy. He accepts the displeasure of God and confesses his iniquity but prays, “Come quickly to help me, my Lord and my Saviour” (v22) and he believes that God will answer him in time – “Lord I wait for you; you will answer, Lord my God” (v15). Notice his use of ‘my’ when he speaks of God as my Lord, my Saviour. He knows that God is not far away and he believes his plea will be heard.
There is a world of difference between a declaration of God as God, and the declaration of God in the personal terms the believer makes as my Shepherd, my Saviour, my Lord. David’s sins and the affect they had on him are well portrayed in this Psalm but he knows, and clings on to the fact, that God is his Saviour and therefore believes that his prayer will be heard. Whatever resolutions you make this year, make the first to know him as your God.
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 13:1-22
Amnon was the oldest son of David, born to Ahinoam in Hebron while David was King over Judah and would be the normal heir on David’s death. David of course had other wives and to Maacah he had Absalom and Tamar. The Old Testament doesn’t bang on about God’s plan for marriage it just shows what happens when his law is ignored and this story shows one of the results.
Amnon was infatuated with his half-sister Tamar but was frustrated at his inability to have her however he speaks to his cousin, Jonadab, the son of one of David’s older brothers who gives him a plan. His plan says much about Jonadab’s character. If cousins cannot give good, just and moral guidance to their relatives then rot sets into society and families crumble.
The rape of Tamar followed by her rejection by Amnon was an evil disreputable act and as she fled in tears her brother Absalom met her and hearing the terrible story took her to live with him. Eventually news came to David’s ears and it says he was furious but we have to ask, what did he do about it? Nothing it appears. What it did to Absalom was ignite a fierce hatred in his heart for Amnon but he hid it in his heart saying nothing either good nor bad to Amnon
A failure in discipline on David’s part and the nursing of hate on Absalom’s were going to bring disaster on the Kingdom and on David.
Tuesday 2 Samuel 13:23-29
Absalom’s quietly held bitterness against Amnon came to a climax when two years later he saw an opportunity to avenge his sister’s rape. He had a sheepshearing time and he thought he would invite family members to a family feast. He invited David to come but wasn’t successful however his main aim was to have Amnon. Was David suspicious when he asked him why he wanted Amnon there? (v26) I’m sure David would have reflected on the past situation but did he think there was or might be some kind of reconciliation? He failed in dealing with Amnon’s disgraceful behaviour with regard to Tamar which was surely part of the reason Absalom thought he would exert his own brand of discipline (in murder!).
What did Amnon think? Did he think things were past and done, that his brother had moved on and accepted things? There seems to have been a lack of family dynamics in the family with people not realising that wrong things done within a family need to be properly dealt with. Here they hadn’t been and when Absalom’s deed was done all the princes ran for the hills thinking that where evil starts in small ways they can expand and blow up in large ways. They would have known about the previous episode with Amnon and Tamar but like the King turned a blind eye hoping not to make trouble with the future King.
Family life and family dynamics are important for all families and where things are left lying trouble can spring up in the future. Pray for all your family members and relations within the family. It is important.
Wednesday 2 Samuel 13:30-39
News travels fast but sometimes it isn’t always accurate for the word got back to David that Absalom had executed all his brothers (v29,30). In our present day where all sorts of information travels via electronic means should give us cause for caution. The old saying that lies flies around the world while truth gets its boot on is true. Internet scams are warned about but certain ‘news’ sources can be as bad. All that glitters is not gold.
After court grief a correction to the news came that it was only Amnon who had been killed by Absalom not the whole family. Who brought the news? It was Jonadab, son of Shimeah, who we have heard from before. He was the cousin who gave Amnon the scheming plan to get Tamar into his bedroom. He was the shrewd schemer who would knew what Absalom had planned. When the company of the Kings sons arrived and gave the first hand news of what had happened the King and all the family and court wept bitterly that such a thing had happened.
The outcome of this family fracture was that Absalom headed to Talmai who was his uncle through his mother, Maacah, one of David’s wives, and thus the separation started. However after three years David’s grief at the awful fratricide gave way to grief about the separation of Absalom from himself and the family. He began to seek some form of reconciliation, doubtless feeling some part in his own failure to deal with the rape of Tamar by Amnon.
Thursday 2 Samuel 14:1-24
The relationship between David and Absalom was complex. David detested his act but grieved the split relationship between them but as long as Absalom remained with the King of Talmai the split remained a cause of unsettlement in the land. Joab designed a ruse to kick David into action by inviting this woman of Tekoa to come and tell a story of her being a widow and one son having killed her other son the elders of the day demanded the remaining son’s life as a murderer. In itself a just legal requirement of the day but it would leave the widow destitute of support and be almost a death warrant on her. Her plea to the King would be for amnesty for the remaining son.
The implication behind the story is that despite the horror of what happened in the family, David should not keep the banishment of Absalom alive. David detects the work of Joab behind this and challenges him on it who admits his part and David agrees to the return of Absalom to Jerusalem but with a requirement that he live in his own house and not be seen in the palace where David was. It was a return though not quite a reconciliation. How things would work out we shall see next.
Friday 2 Samuel 14:25-33
Absalom seems to have been a particularly handsome man who cut a figure in the land but, as we should know, looks are not the measure of character. Three sons and a daughter were born to him and it will not escape our notice that he named his daughter Tamar after his sister.
Having lived in banishment for three years he lived two years in Jerusalem without meeting the King (‘without seeing the King’s face’ – v29). He decided to do something about this and summoned Joab to come so that he could get Joab to arrange a meeting with David, but Joab did not come. What did he do but get his men to set fire to Joab’s fields! After this Joab did come requiring an explanation for this act and was told what Absalom wanted.
As we read through the Old Testament we must take note that everything written there is designed to teach us what living in obedience and love of God is like so that when we come to the New Testament and to Paul’s words, “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and
Pumping up grievances is a through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope”, we may say the Amen, we know what living that way is like and what it is not like!
At any rate he gets his reintroduction to his father who greets him well enough even though the past has been bitter. If there are situations in our lives that bear a similarity, we know how to act.
Saturday 2 Samuel 15:1-6
Absalom started to ‘put himself out’ as they say. He wanted to be noticed and thought highly of, a quality not to be pursued my God’s Christian people as the apostle Paul warns us, “do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Phil 2:3). Any who are aware of their peacock’s feathers should take note of Absalom in contrast to David.
The city gate was where business was done and where judgement was given on issues legal and otherwise. Absalom started to place himself at the side of the road leading to the city gate which is where any who had a complaint about something would come for judgement to be made. Perhaps it was a familial row or a neighbour’s disputes but whatever it was Absalom would commiserate and say that if he were in the seat of judgement he would sort things for them. Of course, he was implying that the government of the day (David’s kingdom) was slack in its work whilst he was kept out of things unjustly (v4).
Pumping up grievances is never a way to bring about peace and order, neither is pulling others down but this was the way Absalom thought to advance himself. He also ingratiated himself with the ordinary folk by bowing down and kissing them as though exhibiting humility, a humility which was utterly false (v5). Nevertheless by these tactics the narrative tells us “he stole the hearts of the people of Israel” (v6)