Week 10

  1. In a dry and weary land
    Psalm 63

David was everybody’s favourite, the champion who fought their battles, the only one who could calm Saul’s temper and the close friend of Johnathon, the king’s son. But everything went wrong, he fell out of favour with Saul and had to flee, leaving his wife and family behind. The years that followed are sometimes called his wilderness years. There was both a physical and spiritual desert he had to deal with. This psalm is probably written while he was in those wilderness years.


David had enjoyed being the centre of worship, and the hero to the people, he was accustomed to being looked up to and having his successes celebrated, now things were different. Not only did he miss the comforts of the palace and the benefits that came from being included in the royal household, but he missed being able to worship with the people. For David this was the greater loss. He writes that he was in a dry and thirsty land and the only thing that could satisfy him was to be restored to his relationship with God.


Many men and women of the bible went through their own wilderness experiences. Moses spent 40 years after fleeing Egypt, and another 40 leading the people of Israel, Elijah hid in a cave and Jesus was led into the wilderness for 40 days. While it is improbable that you or I will endure the same test as Moses, it is likely that we will be found in our own desert.


The desert can be a place of testing. God might take us through times of dryness to test us, to see where our motivation really lies. Will we still love and serve him without the recognition or results we seek? God also leads us into and through the desert to help us to grow. John the Baptist remained in the desert, where he grew and became strong in the Spirit so that he would be prepared when he appeared in public . We often do our best growing in the desert, the place where we have to deal with the harshness and severity of circumstances. The place where our character is formed and we grow to maturity.


God may lead us into the desert is to give us rest. Sometimes the only way we will rest is if we are forced to it! On occasion God takes us aside so that we will rest – he knows our limits better than we do and if we don’t take time out, his Spirit may well lead us into the desert where we have no choice. God also uses the desert to restore to us something we have lost. He will use dry times to bring us back into the joy of his presence. He may use our dry times to get us ready for what is to come. It is a place where our desire is heightened and where we develop a thirst for the streams of God.


David was in the desert and he longed to leave it, to have his vitality and energy restored. You may be in your own desert, God has led you there, and he will lead you out. Restored, refreshed and full of enthusiasm. Wait for him, he will do it!


  1. Have you ever been in a spiritual desert?
  2. Are you in one now?
  3. Why do you think God may need to take you into the wilderness?
  1. Protect me from snipers
    Psalm 64

David makes three requests in this psalm, he asks God to hear his voice, to preserve his life and to hide him. The way the first request is expressed suggests that David was possibly complaining out loud and he wanted God to take notice of him. He wants to be spared the dread he felt in facing his enemy. This is not the normal fear that we all feel in some measure. We might be afraid of a spider, or that we will fail an exam or that we will suffer some loss, the word that he uses is translated dread. It means terror or panic, the type of emotion that makes the knees tremble. For some reason David was so affected by his enemies that he was terrified, immobilized by fear and he calls on God to preserve him, not from the enemy but from the terror he was experiencing. He wanted to be able to face his fears but couldn’t while he was in a state of panic.


David’s third request was that he be hidden or protected from the conspiracy and schemes of those who sought to destroy him. He compares these foes to what we would call snipers, those who take shots from a hidden location, often at some distance. They don’t mount a frontal attack but sneakily wait for an opportunity to do damage when their target is unawares. These were the people David speaks about, they set up ambushes in secret, stayed well hidden, conspired together to lay traps all the time lacking in the courage to come face to face in battle.


You may have encountered snipers, not armed with bows and arrows or guns but with words. Those people who gossip about you, speak negatively about you to others and then try to find one or two others who will agree with them and try to bring you down. Maybe something you say will be deliberately misrepresented, or you will be spoken badly about to a superior or even a friend. They exist everywhere, in oragnisations and even in churches. Perhaps most sadly they lurk in families as well. These are people who hide in the shadows, instead of dealing with grievances face to face they will draw other people into their complaint, they are dangerous because they are often anonymous. In the many years that I have been a pastor I have seen a number of colleagues who have been damaged by snipers in their own churches. Unhappy people bringing false accusations or promoting controversy when there should be none. Lives can be destroyed, careers left in ruins, families broken when snipers are left to do their work.


But God sees what is happening and David insists that he will respond in kind. Suddenly while the sniper is lying in wait, an arrow will come from nowhere and would them severely. Of course the arrow does not come from nowhere, it is God himself that bends his bow and dispatches the arrow with unerring accuracy. Isaiah 54:17 says: “no weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed, and you shall refute every tongue that rises against you in judgment. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD and their vindication from me, declares the Lord.” In Deuteronomy 32:35 God declares: “Vengeance belongs to Me; I will repay. In time their foot will slip, for their day of disaster is near, and their doom is coming quickly.” David knew these words, they were part of the law that he was instructed in from childhood, God would deal with those who attack his people, what they do in secret is known to him and he will meet them with justice.


  1. Have you experience people sniping at you?
  2. How do you deal with those you see or hear sniping at others?
  3. God did not kill the sniper, why do you think that is?
  1. Blessed are those that dwell in your house
    Psalm 65

Praise is due to you, Our God, is how the Psalm begins, or as others translate it: “Praise is waiting for you, our God”. There are two thoughts contained here, in the first place praise rightfully belongs to God and David goes on to explain the reasons. On the other hand there is silence as the singers wait for the appearance of God before breaking into praise. Both of these ideas fit the passage. Psalm 22:3 tells us that God inhabits or is enthroned on the praises of his people, David understood that enthusiastic praise of God was how to welcome the King. Just as the Jewish people welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem many years later (Luke 19:36-38).


It is God to whom all vows should be paid, it is he who listens to and answers our prayers, all people should come to worship the Lord. David knew that he didn’t always succeed in his fight against temptation. There were times he failed, sometime spectacularly and publicly. As king it was difficult to hide his failings and so to pretend innocence would be foolish. We may not have the status of king, but most if not all of us have families. We may be able to offer a pretense of holiness to acquaintances or strangers, but it will not work at home, among those who see us when we are tired and worn down, or anxious and fretful about meeting the needs of the home or dealing with difficult family members. David acknowledged that were times that iniquities or sins won the battle, but he knew that God would put it right. He uses the word atonement which is not familiar to many of us. It means to put something right, to restore things to the way they should be, specifically the relationship between man and woman and God. In the Old Testament that involved offering sacrifices in the temple to satisfy the penalty of sin. David knew that, but he also looked beyond the animal sacrifice to the death of Christ as the lamb of God.


Those who have had atonement made for them will be invited to dwell in God’s house. For David, only the priest could enter the inner parts of the Temple, the rest could enter the courts, but when Jesus gave his life on the cross, the curtain cutting off the Holy place was torn in two. Now all those who by faith have accepted the atoning work of Jesus have free and confident access to the Holy place, the throne of grace where we are encouraged to come for mercy and help in our time of trouble (Hebrews 4:16). We are invited to dwell in, not visit his house where we will find fulfilment and satisfaction.


God’s awesome power can calm the raging sea, he establishes mountains and can bring them down. He can still the angry mob, the tumult of people, there is nothing outside of his power, people will see and take note. They will wonder at what God can do. It sometimes seems that the world is out of control, nation against nation, floods and fires and earthquakes. In one part of the world an abundance of food while elsewhere children are starving, wars and rumours of wars. Mankind left to his own desires has overseen disasters at every turn, but God remains on his throne and he will bring the new heavens and the new earth for his people to dwell in.


This psalm may have been intended for the Feast of the Tabernacles or a celebration of harvest and the closing verses describe that using poetic language. This abundant harvest is a foretaste of what God has prepared. A time of abundance and peace, the fruit will be fresh and plentiful, crops will grow even in the wheel ruts left by heavy wagons, there will be no lack of water and even the wilderness will bear crops. The hills will look like they have a cloak made of sheep and the summer grain will decorate them, glinting in the sun as all of creation waits in eager anticipation for the coming of the King.


  1. How does praise make you more aware of God’s presence?
  2. Do you feel you have free and confident access to dwell in God’s presence?
  3. Do we as Christians need to be anxious about the future of the world?
  1. Come and see what God has done
    Psalm 66

This is a psalm of praise, but it also contains instructions on how we should offer praise. David starts by announcing that the first element of praise is joy and it should move the worshipper to shout with unbridled enthusiasm. Spurgeon insisted the composers of church music should make sure that their songs were cheerful, “we need not so much noise, as joyful noise,” he wrote. The second requirement is that there should be songs that emphasized the glory of God’s name, and that praise should be glorious. In commenting on a collection of hymns and songs the Parker Chapel Choir described glorious as “having a striking beauty so that feelings of delighted admiration are brought out. This passage of scripture implores all people of the earth to “make a joyful noise unto God.” The description of this praise to God should be glorious. Praise to God should show how amazingly powerful and wonderfully transformative He is. The goal is that through both the substance and presentation of the praise, the hearers will want to join in the worship of the glorious God of heaven and earth.”


The third thing is that praise is addressed to God, reminding him about his awesome or marvelous deeds. It is these deeds that will bring nations into submission, our translation says that they will come cringing to him. They do not submit from choice, but because they are forced to in light of the demonstration of God’s power. All the earth, all the nations will bow down and worship as Paul writes to the church at Philippi, “so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth” (Philippians 2:10). Praise now invites the gathered people to come and see. There are reminders of God’s activity in the past; testimonies of deliverance and answered prayer. David particularly refers to the deliverance of Israel from Egypt, when God miraculously parted the sea and brought them though on dry land. He then extends this illustration and describes being rescued from fire and water. He recalls times of trouble when the people where overwhelmed, it was if their enemies were going to ride right over their heads, but God didn’t just bring them through, but into a place of abundance. Stories of God’s saving grace and deliverance are to be part of our praise to him. Recalling the past and the way God has acted and demonstrated how he has rescued his people are prompts to praise and thanksgiving.


As David leads the congregation in praise he declares that it is time for him to repay his vows, but he was going to do more than expected. He would not just bring the offering required of him, but he would make sure he brought more than he needed and that his offerings were the very best animals of the flock. “Come and hear” he says “I will tell you what God has done for me and why I can’t help but praise him”. He insists that even if he offered the highest praise, if he did it from an insincere heart, one that hung on to past sins, even cherished and nurtured them, then God would not listen. But God had listened, he had paid attention to David’s prayer, wasn’t this proof that he was not nurturing sin? God had not ignored David’s prayer, nor had he taken his mercy and love away from him, and the only thing David could do was bless the Lord.


  1. How many of the elements of praise identified by David are present when you worship?
  2. What has God done for you that immediately makes you want to offer praise to him?
  3. When David brought his gifts and offerings he wanted to give more than necessary to be exceedingly generous in thanks for what God had done for him. Does this characterize your giving?
  1. May his face shine upon us
    Psalm 67

This Psalm begins with the words of the Priestly blessing given to Aaron in Numbers 6:24-26. Aaron was the priest of Israel through the time of their escape from Egypt and journey through the wilderness. He and his sons were instructed by God to speak the words over the people. It is now regularly used in many churches and has been popularized most recently in song during the early days of the Covid 19 pandemic. God initiated this blessing and this psalm it is offered as a prayer by the people rather than being spoken over them.


The blessing contains three requests: that God would be gracious, or merciful, that he would bless them and that he would cause his face to shine on them. The beginning of this and all requests must be based in God’s grace or merciful acts toward the people. The introduction used in the epistles of ‘grace, mercy and peace’ acknowledges this. Grace has been described as God’s undeserved favour toward us. We have done nothing and can do nothing to be worthy of God’s favour, he gives it freely because he chooses to and not because we have earned it. Grace makes mercy possible. God does not hold us to account for the offences we have committed, but because we have chosen to trust in Jesus he has taken away the punishment that we would otherwise receive, in mercy he overlooks our sin and forgives us. Because of his mercy we have peace with him. All of these things are wrapped up in the opening of this blessing.


The request for blessing, means to know his favour. In the Old Testament, the people of Israel associated blessing with prosperity, health and wealth, we sometimes understand it as being happy, but it much richer than that. Then they ask that God cause his face not just to shine, but to shine on them. J.M. Boice writes: “A shining face is the opposite of an angry or scowling face, and a face turned toward someone is the opposite of a face turned away in indifference or disgust. A shining face implies favor…and it implies the friendliness of warm personal relationships too.”


This was the people’s prayer, but it was for a reason. They understood that God intended to bless them so that they would be a blessing to the nations. The blessing wasn’t to be selfishly taken and indulged in but so that nations around about would see God and recognize his power. It was to lead the people who were outside of Israel to praise him. The blessings of God that we enjoy now are of a different nature, no longer are they connected to material success and prosperity but to the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit and the promise of eternal life in the presence of God. It is peace and hope in world where there is no hope, where there is light while our neighbours live in darkness, it is the perfect peace of God which passes all understanding, it is casting our anxieties on him because he cares for us, it is the love of God which casts out all fear. These are blessings God freely gives to us out of the immeasurable riches of his grace, but he does so that we in turn may be a blessing to those around us. So that the good news we have received will be shared with those who have not yet heard it.


Let the nations be glad, says David because God will bring justice and he will guide the nations. He will offer mercy and peace to those who choose to receive it. Let the heavens and the earth praise him.


  1. What does the idea of God’s facing shing on you mean to you?
  2. Do you connect God’s blessings with health, wealth and happiness or something else?
  3. How might you and the church be a blessing to those around about?
  1. The Victorious Procession
    Psalm 68

This is a complex Psalm, it was probably written to commemorate the arrival of the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem after being left neglected for 20 years. Parts of it were used as a triumphant war cry as the armies of Israel marched into battle, and verse 18 was later used by the Apostle Paul to refer to Pentecost. The first verse is drawn from the book of Numbers (10:35) and other verses or variations of them appear in books of the Old Testament and Revelation. Seven forms of the name of God, including those for Master, Lord, Mighty God and Lord God as well as titles such a king and father are used. It is a record of God’s acts of deliverance, present activity and return as king.


The Psalm starts with the confident expectation of triumph. Changing the tenses, David sings ‘When God arises, his enemies will be scattered, they will disappear just like a wisp of smoke in a strong wind’. The word ‘shall’ appears six times in verses 1-3, (in some, but not every translation) and it contrasts the fate of Israel with its enemies. The enemies shall be scattered, they will be driven away, they will perish. On the other hand the righteous will be glad, they will exult (rejoice) before God and they will be jubilant.


God is a warrior God who will defeat the enemies, but then David speaks of God in a familiar way. He will be a father to those who are fatherless, the orphans, perhaps those who have suffered through war or disease. God will be a familiar father to them, as Jesus later promised, he would not leave them as orphans. He would protect widows, those whose husbands had been killed, who would be left defenseless and without support. Those who were single and alone would be given a home, would be adopted into his family and given a heritage. Prisoners whether held as slaves or in bondage to poverty would be set free and brought into abundance. Our God is not one who is far off, but our Father, who sends his son who calls us is brothers, sister and friends, who adopts us into his family and welcomes us into his home.


Now God is leading the procession as the Ark is taken into the Temple. The singers follow, then the young girls with their tambourines and behind them come the musicians with stringed instruments and pipes and drums. All of Israel follows singing praise and songs of triumph. All the nations of the earth will come bringing their wealth as gifts and tributes to the King, the Lord of all the earth.


Of course this is an image of the coming again of Christ, as he rides on the clouds in the ancient heavens. When he cries out with a powerful voice and brings judgement to those who have rejected him and opposed his people. he will trample down the enemy and reign in righteousness. David was a soldier, he saw things though a soldiers eyes he saw the battle between Israel and the enemy nations as the battle in heaven fought out on earth. There are parts of the world where this metaphor is still appropriate and meaningful, but yet for the most part we know our battle is not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers in the heavenlies. But the victory cry is ours, God will arise and our enemies will be scattered, he is the father of fatherless, the husband to the widow, the companion to the lonely and the liberator of the oppressed. We too can join the victory procession as he leads us in triumph over our enemy. This is no time to be a victim, in him we are more than conquerors!


  1. Do you relate best to God as king, father or protector or something else?
  2. Do you see worship as being part of a triumphant procession?
  3. Do you feel like a victim or a conqueror?
  1. Up to my neck in trouble
    Psalm 69

From the heights of Psalm 68 David plunges to the depths of Psalm 69. As we have observed previously the Psalms are not in chronological order and there is no clear indication when in David’s life this was written, although there were many times that he was under attack and desperate.


He was in danger of drowning, not physically but emotionally, spiritually and mentally. He cries that he is up to his neck in waters, not only that but the ground beneath his feet was slimy mud that offered no support. Instead the slime threatened to drag him down, he was left to tread water, while the waters rose and his energy drained away. He was tired from calling for help, his throat was sore, he was thirsty and his eyesight was failing. He was in a desperate place, and he could only wait in hope that God would rescue him. This is a graphic picture and one that might describe how you have felt, or even feel as you read these words. Everything is going wrong, finances are short, relationships broken , you might be sick and tired, just worn out and feel that waters are creeping up to your chin. How long can you can tread water, when will it become too much and you have to give in?


David describes some of his challenges. People hate him and lie about him, he has to make right things that were not his fault and take responsibility for the failings of others. He has been made to feel ashamed because of foolish mistakes he has made and he was guilty and embarrassed because he had done wrong things and they had become known. His friends and family had turned their back on him and even when he tried to serve God he was accused of being too committed to the temple and all his religious acts were made fun of. Even the drunks in the streets knew him and sang songs about him. No matter what he did, it wasn’t good enough. His family deserted him, his friends laughed at him and accused him of things he didn’t do, strangers hated him and told lies. He was worn out, broken and hurting, and his health was failing what could he do?


Like Jeremiah when was he was at the bottom of a pit that he describes in Lamentation 3, he did the only thing he could do, he lifted his eyes heavenward. He reminded himself that, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”” (3:22-24). David had looked for help from others and found none, he thought he would get comfort or pity but instead they kicked him while he was down, he asked God to deal with those people but he lifted his eyes and his voice in praise.


“I will praise the name of God with a song” he says, “I will magnify him with thanksgiving”. God wasn’t asking David to try harder, to make promises or offer sacrifices, he had heard his prayer and would rescue him. From the depths of despair David chose to praise God, from the bottom of the pit Jeremiah chose to trust in God and wait on him. God didn’t want David to anxiously look about him, he says: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; “(Isaiah 43:1,2), and “fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10). This was the confidence that David had, and this is God’s promise to you – wait for him, he has heard you and he will stretch out his hand to draw you to himself.


  1. Have you ever felt you were treading water?
  2. How does it feel when you think you are doing the right thing but everyone else criticizes you?
  3. How hard is it to wait for God and not to anxiously look around or try to ‘paddle harder’?