2020 Bible Reflections

April 24th 2020: Psalm 57

Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me,
    for in you I take refuge.
I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings
    until the disaster has passed.

I cry out to God Most High,
    to God, who vindicates me.
He sends from heaven and saves me,
    rebuking those who hotly pursue me—[c]
    God sends forth his love and his faithfulness.

I am in the midst of lions;
    I am forced to dwell among ravenous beasts—
men whose teeth are spears and arrows,
    whose tongues are sharp swords.

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
    let your glory be over all the earth.

They spread a net for my feet—
    I was bowed down in distress.
They dug a pit in my path—
    but they have fallen into it themselves.

My heart, O God, is steadfast,
    my heart is steadfast;
    I will sing and make music.
Awake, my soul!
    Awake, harp and lyre!
    I will awaken the dawn.

I will praise you, Lord, among the nations;
    I will sing of you among the peoples.
10 For great is your love, reaching to the heavens;
    your faithfulness reaches to the skies.

11 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
    let your glory be over all the earth.

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
    let your glory be over all the earth.’
That’s where David ends up, more than once in today’s psalm. But where is he for the majority of the rest of it? He is in deep trouble, in a den of lions, as he puts it, and he is desperate, crying out to God for mercy, for release from the trouble and the fear that he finds himself in.
And yet even in the storm of all this, his plea is that God would be lifted up, that people would know and praise his name. And David wants to make it very clear that, come what may, praising and lifting up the name of God is what he is going to be found doing. This is one of many themes that are repeated throughout the Book of Psalms – the idea of praising in the storm. It sounds good to most of us when we hear it, usually because at the time we are not actually in the midst of a storm ourselves. When the storm actually, finally hits, then it’s interesting. Are we going to be like David and keep on praising throughout the time of storm, the time of trial, or are we going to hold on to our praise, keep it in, keep it ourselves and deny God the joy of our praise until he delivers or releases us from the time of trial, the time of torment? That’s not to say that we don’t all go through things that make praising God a hard thing to do. Of course we do. We’re all living through such circumstances at this very moment, each and every one of us. The choice is ours. Are we going to praise God through the storm, even as we might be clinging on by the merest of fingernails, or are we going to give in and let defeat take hold of us?
Each of us has to answer that for ourselves. Each person, each household, each Church. But I would say that it is in keeping on praising and keeping on lifting up God’s name and trusting in its power that we truly show how free we are.
Something To Do
Praise God with all you have in the tank today, however you like to do it.
Something To Pray
Pray for those who find themselves in ‘a den of lions’ today that they might be strengthened, comforted, keep on praising and that they might be release.
2020 Bible Reflections

April 22nd 2020: Psalm 16

Psalm 16

A miktam[a] of David.

Keep me safe, my God,
    for in you I take refuge.

I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
    apart from you I have no good thing.”
I say of the holy people who are in the land,
    “They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.”
Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more.
    I will not pour out libations of blood to such gods
    or take up their names on my lips.

Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;
    you make my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
    surely I have a delightful inheritance.
I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;
    even at night my heart instructs me.
I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
    With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
    my body also will rest secure,
10 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
    nor will you let your faithful[b] one see decay.
11 You make known to me the path of life;
    you will fill me with joy in your presence,
    with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

Today’s Psalm of David is one where he is taking comfort in knowing that if he keeps his eyes fixed on God, then whatever comes his way will not throw him lastingly off course. Wouldn’t we love to have this confidence?
‘9 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
    my body also will rest secure,
10 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
    nor will you let your faithful[b] one see decay.
11 You make known to me the path of life;
    you will fill me with joy in your presence,
    with eternal pleasures at your right hand.’
This is such great comfort. David has, sometimes more successfully than others, worked hard to develop an intimacy of relationship with God which means that to the best of his knowledge and ability he is, the majority of the time at least, doing the things that God would ask of him in the ways that he ought to. The comfort of knowing that he is seeking to follow God’s lead gives David such confidence. He is filled with joy in the presence of God.
I wonder, how often are you filled with joy in the presence of the Lord? Sometimes I go through the motions somewhat with Church services and my life between them. This isn’t good. We have been saved and freed for joyful obedience. We can have God make his home in our hearts and serve him in the power of the Holy Spirit every day. We are in his presence every moment of our lives. I wonder, are we filled with joy every moment of our lives? Joy and happiness are not the same thing, of course. We can be joy-filled but not happy, because bad things happen, but our security remains in God. A time like the one we’re living through now is ripe for such a way of living. It’s hard for most of us to be happy during Covid-19, but there’s nothing whatsoever to stop us being joyful. We have God. He has us. We are His and, even more miraculously than that, He is ours. Be of good cheer today.
Something To Do
Think back to a time when you were filled with joy. What was special about it?
Something To Pray
Ask God that he might fill you with joy in his presence today.
2020 Bible Reflections

April 21st 2020: Psalm 8

Psalm 8[a]

For the director of music. According to gittith.[b] A psalm of David.

Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory
    in the heavens.
Through the praise of children and infants
    you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
    to silence the foe and the avenger.
When I consider your heavens,
    the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
    which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
    human beings that you care for them?[c]

You have made them[d] a little lower than the angels[e]
    and crowned them[f] with glory and honor.
You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
    you put everything under their[g] feet:
all flocks and herds,
    and the animals of the wild,
the birds in the sky,
    and the fish in the sea,
    all that swim the paths of the seas.

Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!

To call someone ‘our Lord’ is a powerful thing. Before we even get to the ‘all the earth’ part of the phrase that begins and ends this psalm, we are confronted with the idea of familiarity. This psalmist knows that the Lord is the Lord of them and their people. What comfort that must have been through the joys and sorrows of life. To know God and to know that the God they served and who loved them was not just a minor local deity, but the God of the whole Earth. It’s this God who has made men and women ‘a little lower than the angels’ to rule, or to take care of, the Earth.

Having faith in the God whose name is majestic in all the earth doesn’t by any means give us a free pass to treat people, creation or anything else just as we want to. We are always to do our best to remember that God is, as well as majestic, holy, good and just. Holiness, Goodness, Justice. These are all qualities of a Christian person who is filled with the Spirit of God. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not claiming to be holier than thou or anything. I regularly stumble and slip and fall. What I am saying is that it is one thing to, rightly, recognise God’s goodness and holiness, to worship God and to be thankful. It is quite another to live our lives in response in such a way which we are making it clear that we believe these things.

Something To Do

How can you do good in such a way today as to show people that you love God? Not just with words but with actions.

Something To Pray

Pray that God would help you to understand more of just how good, kind and loving he is today.

2020 Bible Reflections

April 20th 2020: Psalm 139

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.

13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you.

19 If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
    Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
20 They speak of you with evil intent;
    your adversaries misuse your name.
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord,
    and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
22 I have nothing but hatred for them;
    I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.

‘You’ve searched me and you’ve known me’. Can there be a more terrifying and comforting in equal measure opening phrase in all of Scripture. What if God actually sees straight into me and knows me for who I really am? What then? I think if I ever stopped to realise that I am completely known by God I would be completely undone. There is no hiding place. I’m not sure if I even want there to be one anyway. But what these few words say to me is that faith in God, loving God, knowing God, being known by God is not something to be over-relaxed about. This is serious stuff. When we come to pray, to sing, to worship, to talk about God and his Word, we are talking about the one who sees all that we are, individually and together as humanity and yet loves us just the same. Some days I can’t get my head around that at all.
But yet, a few verses later, we have
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
Fearfully in this context means amazingly, rather than in the sense of needing to be frightened. The handiwork of God is powerful and good and the writer of the psalm, the ones who sing this song, they thank God because they are wonderfully made and completely known. Have you been able to do that recently?
At the end of the psalm, the psalmist is so confident in who they are in God that they invite Him to again search and know them. And then the desire which I think most of us could join in with, ‘lead me in the way which is everlasting.’ I hope you will let God do that today.
Something To Do
Think about the aspect of yourself that you like the least. Even that bit of you is fearfully and wonderfully made. Be kind to yourself today.
Something To Pray
Pray for those who struggle with knowing they are enough, either enough for God, themselves or for other people. Ask God to use you to help them today.
2020 Bible Reflections

March 23rd 2020: Psalm 70

You can read today’s passage by clicking here: Psalm 70

You can listen to today’s passage here: Psalm 70 Audio

‘May all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you, may those who long for your saving help always say,
    “The Lord is great!”‘ It’s hard to be rejoicing in seeking something when you still haven’t found it. I quite often can’t find the chocolate biscuits at home and I can tell you that there is much more rejoicing when I find and eat the chocolate biscuits than in the time it takes me to root around in the cupboards to see whether the biscuits are still in the house or if they have been taken by others and have become ex-biscuits. A silly example perhaps, but the writer of today’s psalm is reminding us that the time is coming when we who trust in God will receive everything that we have been promised. And what a great day that will be, when the dwelling place of God is with people and He is with them and they are with Him and we know all that we’re meant to know and are known fully. Full togetherness, loving unity and everything that goes with that.

But for today, we see in part and know in part, and there is a beauty to the time of seeking. Seek the Lord while He may be found, indeed. So as we all keep seeking, keep seeking answers in this difficult time, keep seeking hope, healing, peace and freedom, let’s also keep praising. Our deliverer is coming.

Something to do

Find reasons to rejoice today. Good things happen every day. We just have to be looking for them.

Something to pray

‘Thank you God for your goodness and how great you are. I trust you. Amen’