2020 Bible Reflections

April 27th 2020: Psalm 61

Psalm 61

For the director of music. With stringed instruments. Of David.

Hear my cry, O God;
    listen to my prayer.

From the ends of the earth I call to you,
    I call as my heart grows faint;
    lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
For you have been my refuge,
    a strong tower against the foe.

I long to dwell in your tent forever
    and take refuge in the shelter of your wings
For you, God, have heard my vows;
    you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.

Increase the days of the king’s life,
    his years for many generations.
May he be enthroned in God’s presence forever;
    appoint your love and faithfulness to protect him.

Then I will ever sing in praise of your name
    and fulfill my vows day after day.

When you are ‘growing faint’, what do you do? For me, I often get to the end of a day and am so worn out, or weighed down by things that have happened during the day just gone, that I long for sleep. Not David, the psalmist and King though, no. As he seems to be reaching the end of himself, he is praying, desperate for God to listen, to hear, to answer, to save and free him.

I wonder, is there a model for those of us who pray to follow here? Rather than a quick prayer before a meal, in the morning and at bedtime, prayer can be something which we turn to throughout the day. We can turn to God at good times, bad times, all the times in between. If we pray, it’s because we want God to listen, whether we’re thanking him for something, asking him for something, lifting someone or something to him or any other reason you might be praying, follow David’s example. There is a rock that is higher and firmer than him, that’s what he realises. God is the rock. He is the rock that doesn’t change or fail, whatever else happens, whatever what is happening around us or inside us looks or feels like. God is the rock and firm foundation of the lives of the ones who trust him. We all need hope and a firm foundation. All of us.

Something To Do

How are you feeling today? Are you ok? Anxious? Happy? Joyful? Spend a few moments thinking about how you actually feel within yourself.

Something To Pray

‘lead me to yourself, the rock that is higher than I’.

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 23rd 2020: Psalm 5

Psalm 5[a]

For the director of music. For pipes. A psalm of David.

Listen to my words, Lord,
    consider my lament.
Hear my cry for help,
    my King and my God,
    for to you I pray.

In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice;
    in the morning I lay my requests before you
    and wait expectantly.
For you are not a God who is pleased with wickedness;
    with you, evil people are not welcome.
The arrogant cannot stand
    in your presence.
You hate all who do wrong;
    you destroy those who tell lies.
The bloodthirsty and deceitful
    you, Lord, detest.
But I, by your great love,
    can come into your house;
in reverence I bow down
    toward your holy temple.

Lead me, Lord, in your righteousness
    because of my enemies—
    make your way straight before me.
Not a word from their mouth can be trusted;
    their heart is filled with malice.
Their throat is an open grave;
    with their tongues they tell lies.
10 Declare them guilty, O God!
    Let their intrigues be their downfall.
Banish them for their many sins,
    for they have rebelled against you.
11 But let all who take refuge in you be glad;
    let them ever sing for joy.
Spread your protection over them,
    that those who love your name may rejoice in you.

12 Surely, Lord, you bless the righteous;
    you surround them with your favor as with a shield

In today’s Psalm, David asks God to listen to his prayers. We are told that he prays in the morning and in the evening. I have no doubt that he was praying during the day too. I would have been if his job was my job and his enemies were my enemies. There’s something here of two elements:

  1. Persistence in prayer. Most of the time when we start praying we know what we are praying about, or asking for (although not always, sometimes all we can do is groan and ask God to hear the deep cry within us). David speaks here of continually going to God and asking him to hear and intervene as he prays. God is not an instantly-gratifying slot machine. One thing you notice through spending any time with David’s Psalms is that he obviously felt as if he put a huge amount of time into his relationship with God and so he knew his ways, what God wanted, the kind of things it was right to pray. If prayer is a conversation, a deepening of relationship, then as much as it is for God to hear and to answer, it is also for us to be committed to actually putting in the time in prayer, making it a priority, deepening our own commitment to our side of the relationship that we have been offered through divine generosity. We can be known by God and approach him in conversation, with our thankfulness and our requests, as well as our weeping and our laments. Having been given such a great gift, we ought to use it.
  2. David recognised God’s holiness and that he would have nothing to do with evil apart from finding ways to get rid of it. Of course David lived before Jesus triumphed over death and evil in the resurrection and his ascension, so we now know that we can be forgiven and free if we trust him. It is worth remembering when we pray that the one we are praying to is holy and right and good as I said earlier this week and that his love is what makes us worthy  to be his friends, adopted members of his family. I can try my best on my own, but I will never be the right kind of good without the intervention of God. That’s not to do myself down, that’s just how it is. Evil has been overcome. We ought to do our utmost to stay away from it where we can and ask God to lead us in the path to everlasting life, and do so often.

Something To Do

Make a point of praying today. It doesn’t matter what kind of prayers you pray in the first place, just spend time in prayer. Make it a priority.

Something To Pray

Thank you is always a good place to start, if you can’t think of anything else, but if you spend any amount of time actually focusing on God, I’m sure the thoughts, words and perhaps even tears will come.

2020 Bible Reflections

April 11th 2020: Psalm 142

Psalm 142

A maskilof David. When he was in the cave. A prayer.

I cry aloud to the Lord;
    I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy.
I pour out before him my complaint;
    before him I tell my trouble.

When my spirit grows faint within me,
    it is you who watch over my way.
In the path where I walk
    people have hidden a snare for me.
Look and see, there is no one at my right hand;
    no one is concerned for me.
I have no refuge;
    no one cares for my life.

I cry to you, Lord;
    I say, “You are my refuge,
    my portion in the land of the living.”

Listen to my cry,
    for I am in desperate need;
rescue me from those who pursue me,
    for they are too strong for me.
Set me free from my prison,
    that I may praise your name.
Then the righteous will gather about me
    because of your goodness to me.

You can listen to today’s Psalm here: Psalm 142 audio

David speaks this psalm from within a cave. It’s an important detail, particularly resonant today on Holy Saturday, when we remember the body of Jesus, in Joseph’s tomb, on the day of lost hope and quiet turmoil that his friends and disciples were going through. Yes, he had promised that if he, was destroyed he would rise within 3 days. Yes, those who had been paying attention might have been hopeful of something miraculous taking place, but Jesus’s family friends and followers had just watched the flame of hope and the light of love die, apparently, with the death of Jesus as they awoke on this Saturday. And they were frightened. Life was locked in a cave.

And so we return to David, another who spent time hiding in a cave, pursued by his enemies and, it often seems to me, by his own fears, doubts and questions, both about himself and his life and about whether the God he had put his hope in was really going to come through for him and save him. It’s a fair enough question and just as David asked it, the followers of Jesus asked it whilst he was in a cave, so it seems understandable to me that many of us might be in a place of doubt and questions and crying out to God for deliverance. Only a few days before this in his own story, Jesus had asked God if there was any possibility of the cup of suffering being taken from him. When the answer came back a resounding no, he once again set his face to what was needed and required of him and gave his life, his all, on the cross, scorning its shame, so that the possibility of resurrection might exist not just for him but for all.

David hiding in his cave cried out to God but still wanted to make it clear that he trusted God. Jesus trusted God and his plan all the way to the cross, the cave and the depths of death. Will we trust God through our own doubts and suffering in the hope that Sunday is coming?

Something To Do

Commit to contentment. What gifts have you been given that you can enjoy and use for the benefit of other people?

Something To Pray

Lord, you invite us to enter into the fellowship of Jesus’s sufferings. Help us to wait in this place of pain and watch with you for the dawn of tomorrow’s brand new day and brand new hope.