Sunday 28th January – Psalm 42
1 As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, my God.
2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?
3 My tears have been my food
day and night,
while people say to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”
4 These things I remember
as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go to the house of God
under the protection of the Mighty One
with shouts of joy and praise
among the festive throng.
5 Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.
6 My soul is downcast within me;
therefore I will remember you
from the land of the Jordan,
the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.
7 Deep calls to deep
in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
have swept over me.
8 By day the Lord directs his love,
at night his song is with me—
a prayer to the God of my life.
9 I say to God my Rock,
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about mourning,
oppressed by the enemy?”
10 My bones suffer mortal agony
as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”
11 Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.
The well known song “As the deer pants for the water, so my soul longs after you” comes from the first verse of this Psalm. It is a Psalm of longing for God but most of it is a recitation of depression (“Why my soul are you downcast, why so disturbed within me” – v5,6,11) so it is a mixture of feelings but he is also telling himself, “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him” v5 & 11.
Sometimes we need to speak to ourselves to remind ourselves of the truth amidst feelings that would tempt us to the opposite. There is no doubt about it that the Psalmist is facing troubles – oppressed by the enemy, his bones suffering and his foes taunting (v10) – but he is not going to let these get on top of him when he reminds himself, again and again, to put his hope in God. He knows that it is with Him that his soul finds peace and quiet, that his inner thirst is quenched. Someone once said that there is a God-shaped blank in every life and we only find peace when He is invited in. The little child’s prayer of invitation is pertinent at this point, “Into my heart, come into my heart, come into my heart, Lord Jesus. Come in today, come in to stay, come into my heart, I pray”. First, if you have never done this, now can be a good time, if you did it a while ago but are pressed with many troublesome issues, read this Psalm and tell God how you long for Him and resume your hope for He will not let you down.
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 24:10-17
David is conscience stricken after the task is finished and confesses that he has sinned greatly in doing this and asks for forgiveness. The next morning the prophet Gad came to see David and told him he had a message from the Lord, David would be given three options to choose what God would do in carrying out a punishment on him for his sinful deed.
A modern mind might say, surely God doesn’t punish sin, he forgives it, doesn’t he? But to say this confuses forgiveness and discipline, we may be forgiven our sins but still suffer the consequences. Abraham sinned in his lack of faith in God’s promise to give him descendants through Sarah when he fathered Ishmael through Sarah’s maid. He suffered the consequences at the hands of Ishmael’s descendants. David also in his sin with Bathsheba and the consequences he suffered afterwards. Here Davidi is asked to choose one of three consequences, famine, fleeing, and plague. He chooses the latter for he says, “Let us fall into the hands of the LORD, for his mercy is great; but do not let me fall into human hands.” (v14). He knows who to give himself up to.
When the plague through the angel of the Lord strikes, we are reminded of the Angel of death in Egypt but things cease and David says to the Lord, ‘I have sinned, let your hand fall on me’ as the Angel ceases at the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.
Tuesday 2 Samuel 24:18-25
This event will become a starting point for a long future connection with this place throughout history. The prophet Gad tells David to go and build an altar on the threshing floor of Araunah. We ought to remember what a threshing floor is; it is a place of separation, separation of the wheat from the chaff, as the grain is beaten and thrown up into the air so the chaff is blown away. David wants to buy the place from Araunah but Araunah says, no take it, but David insists on paying (a flash back to Abraham insisting on paying for the burial place for Sarah). God doesn’t receive charity from men.
David builds an altar there and sacrifices burnt and fellowship offerings and it marks the place where the plague was stopped. The writer of the book of Chronicles tells us more about this place in speaking about the future reign of Solomon, “Then Solomon began to build the temple of the LORD in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the LORD had appeared to his father David. It was on the threshing floor of Araunah” (2 Chronicles 3:1 ). In other words this place which was where Abraham was about to sacrifice his son and God stopped him and gave a ram instead, where the plague was stopped before it reached Jerusalem, David confessing his sin, was going to be the place where the Temple was built. All the ritual of the Temple would show that God would pay the price of the deliverance and salvation of his people.
Here judgement ceases, a future opens out, and the node of connection between judgement and future is seen in sacrifice. It shows the way to the cross and to the body of Christ being the new temple where God is worshiped and makes his dwelling. The story of the Old Testament always leads to Jesus and his sacrifice on the cross, the sin is blown away like the chaff so that God’s people might be saved.
Wednesday: Some of Leviticus.
Oh no, you might be saying, Leviticus, that is a difficult book, why should we go there? I don’t intend this to be daily reading but look at it if you would like to. I chose this because we came to the place at the end of 2 Samuel where the Temple was going to be built and the temple was all about worship and sacrifice. The threshing floor of Araunah is specified in 2 Chronicles as Mount Moriah the place where Abraham was about to sacrifice his son, Isaac, but God intervened and provided a ram caught in a thicket which was to be sacrificed instead. Here is where the plague is stopped before it reaches Jerusalem. On any reading of the Bible, sacrifice is at the heart and we ought to look at it.
We are familiar with Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for us but if we want to understand it, the Old Testament is where we should go because it is here that God prepares his people so that they might see and understand the work and person of Jesus.
Jesus is spoken of as the Light of the World. If we think about light we know that it can be split into a rainbow of seven colours. White light is made up of different colours. If we transfer that illustration to Jesus, he is the White Light of our salvation and then looking backwards to the Old Testament we see the different sacrifices as spectrum elements of the one great sacrifice Christ.
The first one to be mentioned is the Burnt Offering (Lev 1) and it speaks of the wholeness of an offering to God. It was a voluntary act of worship including an atonement for unintentional sin but fundamentally an expression of complete devotion and surrender to God.
The Grain Offering (Lev 2), often accompanying the burnt or fellowship offering, is similarly a voluntary act which recognises the good provisions of God for us.
The Fellowship Offering (Lev 3) is also a voluntary thanksgiving offering but it is accompanied by a communal meal.
The Sin Offering (Lev 4) is mandatory and is an offering for unintentional but specific sin, it contains confession, forgiveness and cleansing from defilement.
The Guilt Offering (Lev 5) is also a mandatory offering for unintentional sin but includes an element of restitution if the sin has hurt others.
All of these are brought together in Jesus death which we participate in through our baptism and in communion.
Thursday Matthew 1:1-17
Having come to the end of the life of David (nearly) in the books of Samuel we leave behind the Old Testament and head on to the New Testament and look at another gospel, Mathew’s. David was the King all the Jews looked back to and Matthew writes a particularly Jewish gospel about Jesus, the King of God’s Kingdom, wanting to draw our eyes from the earthly king to the heavenly one from God.
First of all he wants to fix Jesus as not only the son of David but also of Abraham, the founding father of the Jewish people, and he does so by giving this long genealogy leading to Jesus. In Verse 17 he speaks of 14 generations from Abraham to David and 14 from David to Jesus. If we look at the list we will see that some figures are missed out. The Jews (and certainly Mathew) had a great fondness for numbers and not necessarily for their mathematic exactitude but more for what they indicated about events. For example seven (see Genesis and creation) is often seen as the number of completeness and the fourteens of Matthew may be a link to a completeness of certain eras of their history.
Whatever, a look down some of the names reminds us of interesting parts of the history of the people e.g. Rahab who let the spies into Jericho, Ruth, the Moabitess, David’s Great Grandmother.
Friday Matthew 1:18-25
Notice how Matthew uses the word Christ or Messiah meaning the anointed one or King, at the beginning of his story because he wants us to know who Jesus was and is.
Because he traces the genealogical line to Joseph who he calls the husband of Mary, he doesn’t say anything about the angel’s message to Mary but he does say her pregnancy was through the Holy Spirit. Joseph is set aside because God wants to indicate that Man (i.e. humankind figured in Joseph) is impotent to bring about his own salvation, only God can bring this about though he doesn’t bypass humankind, his son is to be born of Mary, taking on human nature.
Joseph is warned about what is to happen because he is minded to have a quiet divorce for Mary’s sake which shows his graciousness and kind support of Mary. Mathew with his Jewish hat on wants his readers to know that this baby fulfils the prophecy of Isaiah in that he will be Imanuel (God with us) and his given name, Jesus (Old Testament ‘Joshua’), points to his saving role. He has God’s nature and is coming to save.
Saturday Matthew 2:1-12
Here we come to the men from the East called Magi or Magus from Greek which means one of a learned and priestly class. They would be studiers of the stars and had come declaring that they had seen some sign that pointed to a King of the Jews. They visited Herod who was an Idumean given the title King by the Romans who wanted him as a puppet King, provided he controlled the rebellious Jews. The Herodian family was a nasty piece of work and you can read about them online but here he wants to know of any rival and, after consulting the chief priests and teachers of the law who would know about the place of birth of the prophesied Messiah, he sent the wise men on their way with the instruction to come back and tell him when they had found him.
Well, they didn’t, but on finding the family they came with their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. The gold was indicative of kingship being the most precious and expensive of metals, the frankincense was connected to the priesthood often used in sacrifice together with grain offerings, the myrrh is a spice but often used in embalming so indicative of death. Jesus would be a King, a Priest and his body would be a sacrifice for sins. Matthew wants to tell of these men because they were non-Jews and the Old Testament scriptures told of the gentile nations receiving light through the Jews:- “Nations will come to your light and kings to the brightness of your dawn” (Isaiah 60:3,6) “The kings of Tarshish and distant shores will bring tribute to him” (Psalm 72:1o,11) So at the start of his gospel Matthew tells of the Old Testament scriptures pointing to Jesus as being a figure for the whole world.