Sunday 3rd December – Psalm 34
When he pretended to be insane before Abimelek, who drove him away, and he left.
1 I will extol the Lord at all times;
his praise will always be on my lips.
2 I will glory in the Lord;
let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
3 Glorify the Lord with me;
let us exalt his name together.
4 I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.
5 Those who look to him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame.
6 This poor man called, and the Lord heard him;
he saved him out of all his troubles.
7 The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him,
and he delivers them.
8 Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
9 Fear the Lord, you his holy people,
for those who fear him lack nothing.
10 The lions may grow weak and hungry,
but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.
11 Come, my children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
12 Whoever of you loves life
and desires to see many good days,
13 keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from telling lies.
14 Turn from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.
15 The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
and his ears are attentive to their cry;
16 but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
to blot out their name from the earth.
17 The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;
he delivers them from all their troubles.
18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
19 The righteous person may have many troubles,
but the Lord delivers him from them all;
20 he protects all his bones,
not one of them will be broken.
21 Evil will slay the wicked;
the foes of the righteous will be condemned.
22 The Lord will rescue his servants;
no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.
The title of this Psalm tells us of its background. It was when David, fleeing from King Saul’s persecution, sought safety in Philistine lands but when being brought before the King of Gath he is afraid he will be remembered and changes his behaviour, slavering down his beard and pretending to be mad. His plan succeeds and he is ejected from the King’s presence (1 Samuel 21), saved from what could have been instant and painful death.
The Psalm is one of great relief as he says, “I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears” (v4) and again, “This poor man called, and the LORD heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles” (v6). He is relieved and knows that it was God who delivered him and so he wants to declare it before others and also to ask them to praise God with him, “Glorify the LORD with me; let us exalt his name together”. (v3).
If you have ever felt relief about something then you will know how David felt, even if it was not a deliverance from death! In all circumstances where we have escaped something that frightened us or made us anxious, praise and thanks to God is fitting. Why not take the opportunity of thanking him now? In wanting others to join him he speaks to any who have never put their trust in God by encouraging them to, “Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him”(v8) and he goes over and over in different ways emphasizing that seeking the Lord and trusting in him is absolutely the best thing to do. “The righteous person may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all” (v19). What is there to say to that other than 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 1 Samuel 29:1-11
David’s duplicity before Achish caught up with him here in that he found himself marching behind Achish to join a large assembly of Philistines who were going to fight the Israelites under Saul. Achish thought he was a good ally but when the Philistine leaders of other cities heard who he was bringing along they didn’t want him on their side. Even though Achish vouched for him they knew of his past saying, “Isn’t this the David they sang about in their dances:
“‘Saul has slain his thousands,
and David his tens of thousands’?” (1 Samuel 29:5)
And so even though Achish was angry he asked David to go back. We have to wonder what was in David’s mind at the time? Would he have gone on and engaged in a fight against his fellow Israelites and so defeat Saul or would he, as the Philistine rulers thought, change sides in the midst of the battle and fought against the Philistines? Both sides could be argued but we don’t know. At any rate David is removed from the battle.
Sometimes it may be that we are stopped in a course of action and things change. It may be the hand of God although we may never know. Events in life are not always easily explained and neither are our own intentions.
Tuesday 1 Samuel 30:1-20
David and his men returned three days later to Ziklag where they stayed, and found disaster had ensued whilst they were away. Amalekites, whom we have come across before, had raided Ziklag, burned it, and taken all the women and everyone else, young and old captive. Verses 3 & 4 tell us that David and his men wept aloud till they had no more strength to weep. Remember to such early nomads taking a man’s family was taking his heritage and future away, it was extinguishing him and his life from the earth. It was death with capital letters. David was distressed for his own sake in that Ahinoam and Abigail, his wives, had been taken but more than that his men were blaming him and even talking of stoning him (v6).
What do you do when the world is falling around you? The end of the verse says this, “But David found strength in the Lord his God”. We remember that Jonathan helped him ‘find strength in the Lord’ (1 Sam 23:16) but here he was on his own and had to find his own way to God for help. It is wonderful to have fellows who may help and support us in times of trial or distress but sometimes we have to find our own way before the throne of God in prayer to seek his presence.
Here David sought Abiathar the priest and asked him to seek God’s answer through the priestly ephod as to whether he should pursue the raiding party or not. God’s answer was to pursue and that he would certainly overtake them and succeed in the rescue. And so he and six hundred men set off.
His men had just been on the march for three days and with all the emotion of the time were exhausted but they set off until they reached the Besor valley where two hundred were so exhausted they couldn’t go any further. David and the other four hundred pressed on and found an Egyptian slave of one of the Amalekite group near to death with hunger and thirst and having helped him asked if he could lead them to the raiding party. That he did and David and his men eventually fell on the raiders winning a great battle and recovering their hostages and much plunder as well.
Before we leave this part of the story do you notice the time elements of the story? It took David three days after leaving Achish to get back to Ziklag where after the grief he sought God’s word through Abiathar. The Egyptian slave had been abandoned three days earlier by the Amalekites, in other words at the time David left Achish (and also the time most likely when his camp at Ziklag was being raided). God’s plan to guide him was taking shape in the abandonment of the poor slave. God is ahead of us in all our lives. He knows the future and plans for his people. Praise God.
Wednesday 1 Samuel 30:21-30
The story doesn’t finish there, for David’s victorious men head back for home and they meet the 200 who had become too exhausted to continue and had been left behind at the Besor valley. We should note first that David asks how they were (v21). We can sometimes make the words. “How are you?” into a greeting that means nothing but here David does show genuine interest in all his men, however some of the men who went with him and won the battle were not so well intentioned. They would give these men their wives and children but they weren’t going to share in the plunder arguing that as they didn’t come with them they shouldn’t get any share in the spoils.
David however was not going to go along with this and told them that, as it was the Lord who had given them the victory (had they forgotten?),.. then all the benefits would be shared alike between them. The strong share with the weak and David made it a statute and ordinance for Israel that lasted down to the writing of the book. This pattern was seen to emerge in the early Church in the book of Acts and it needs to be seen whenever benefit arises at whoever’s hands.
David’s generosity did not stop with his men however. The booty that he managed to take from the Amalekites he used to send gifts to elders of Israel who were his friends, namely to people who had nothing to do with the victory but whom he felt needed the aid.
Once again a good word for us. People will often give to their children and family but David’s way and Christ’s is to spread the good we have to many.
Thursday 1 Samuel 31:1-13
After David had left the Philistine assembled forces to return to Ziklag, the Philistines started their campaign against the Israelites and they became victorious causing the Israelites to flee under their assault. They particularly pursued Saul and his sons who were all killed. Saul’s death is specially mentioned being fatally struck by an arrow from one of their archers but not wanting to give them the kudos of his death, he asked his armour bearer to finish him off. (v4)
Just as David had refused to kill Saul because he was King so his armour bearer did not want to do the job either. A High respect was had not so much for the man but for his role, he was the anointed King. Saul then took his own life by falling on his own sword, a form of words that has passed into our own language to this day.
When the Israelites along the valley and also those across the Jordan heard of the defeat they abandoned their towns and fled from the marauding Philistines (v7). Mount Gilboa became to them like Flodden, a place of defeat and where the leading people had lost their lives – the “flooers o’ the forest” were a’ wede awa’”. The lament would be heard far and wide.
[The illustration is one by Gustave Dore]
The bodies of Saul and his sons were displayed on the wall of Beth Shan, a typical gory assertion of victory, but when the people of Jabesh Gilead heard, they went at night and took the bodies down burning them, taking the bones and burying them under a tamarisk tree at Jabesh. Their gallantry and valour David would honour in due course.
Friday 2 Samuel 1:1-16
The story of the death of Saul in 2 Samuel is rather different from that of 1 Samuel 31. The explanation is most probably this. The true story is that in 1 Samuel 31 and the Amalekite who arrived at David’s place with his own story, was a battlefield treasure hunter and plunderer. Saul had been shot with an arrow and the Philistines had not yet caught up, the Amalekite, who was part of the Israelite camp, saw what had happened between Saul and the armour bearer with Saul taking his own life and he took the crown and arm band off the dead King. Knowing that David was the likely successor to Saul he planned to make something of this, thinking he could curry favour returning the items and doing obeisance. He didn’t reckon that his story of killing Saul was not going to do him any favours.
David, hearing that he was an Amalekite and had killed ‘God’s Anointed’, ordered his immediate execution. Remember it was Saul’s failure to remove the Amalekites that had lost him the crown, here we see an Amalekite twister seeking to boast about killing him. He didn’t know of Scott’s poem we mentioned before, “O what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive”. Greed and lies so often go together.
Saturday 2 Samuel 1:17-27
The last half of this chapter is devoted to David’s lament following the slaughter on Mount Gilboa and in particular the loss of Saul and Jonathan. “How the mighty have fallen” has found its way into popular language (v19) and it is of similar sentiment to the Scottish “Flooers o’ the Forest”. The lords who died at Flodden were not all men of quality and honour but they were fighting for Scotland and so were honoured for their defence of the realm at the time and David’s words here are similar.
The defeat was not to be told in the Philistine city of Gath because the enemy would rejoice. Even if a military victory is justifiable its accomplishment ought not to be rejoiced in because loss of life is loss of life, a tragedy that it should ever have had to happen. David links Saul and Jonathan as fighters together for Israel even though in character they were entirely different (v23) and would not all be loved equally. The women and girls were invited to mourn for Saul because he had clothed them in fine garments which would doubtless be the case in the royal courts.
Jonathan is singled out as we would expect, David grieving over his loss because he had been such a close and devoted friend “whose love was more wonderful than that of women”. Jonathan had covenanted to support David declaring that he knew the will of God for him to be King. His loss as a close confidant was severe.
We ought to think of those whose lives have paralleled ours and give thanks to God when we suffer the loss of them. Memory and thanksgiving go together.