Week 16

  1. God has a plan
    Psalm 105

The people of Israel knew their history, it defined who they were and gave shape to their existence. In this Psalm King David gives a short summary of about a 500 year period of their story from around 1000 years before David’s reign as king. Part of the psalm was sung when the Ark of the Covenant was carried into Jerusalem as recorded in 1 Chronicles 16:8-22. The people knew the story in a way few people today know their own history, many struggle to identify historical events from 50 years ago, let alone 1000 years. In fact, many of the nations we identify by name now did not exist 100 years ago, 15 countries came into existence when the former USSR dissolved in 1993 including Ukraine, Moldova, Latvia and Russia as it now is. Malaysia became a country in 1963, Singapore in 1965, while Kenya in 1953 and Uganda in 1962 just beat them to nationhood. The political landscape of our world is constantly changing, but Israel can trace its history to a promise made to Abraham about 2000 years before the birth of Jesus.


David begins his psalm with an invitation to call on God while reflecting on the things he has done for Israel. These are things that they should share with each other and any who do not already know. What follows is an overview of God’s plan for the nation that became Israel, starting from when Abraham (or Abram as he was then called) was given a promise. This promise was made before Abram became a believer and lived in a pagan land. Abram was told to leave his home and go wherever God told him and he would become the father of a nation. There was just Abram and his immediate family, but they left home and the story of a new nation began. David doesn’t name every person or event and in fact focuses on two things, the obedience of the people and the blessings and protection of God.


While Abraham, as God renamed him, faithfully followed God he made many mistakes and threatened to derail God’s plan. God however protected him from Pharoah in Egypt; Abimilech a Philistine king and his wife, Sarah’s attempt to take matters into her own hands by giving her maid Hagar to Abraham to bear a child while she could not. Eventually she did conceive and Isaac was born, the promise given to Abraham passed on to him and then to Isaac’s son Jacob. Jacob was a devious person and also did his best to mess up God’s plan, but God thwarted his plans and kept Jacob on the road he wanted him on. Eventually after an encounter with God by the roadside Jacob was renamed Israel, after whom the nation took its name.


One of Jacob’s sons was Joseph, he was the favourite of Jacob and became very unpopular with his eleven brothers. They took an opportunity to take him captive and sell him to the Egyptians as a slave, where he served an official named Potiphar. After being falsely accused of assault by Potiphar’s wife Joseph was put in gaol, God however arranged circumstances so that he came to Pharoah’s notice and was released. He excelled in the tasks given to him and rose to the position of governor, and in this position he was able to assist his family when a famine struck their land. Jacob and the rest of his family moved to Egypt where they quickly grew and outnumbered the Egyptian people. Out of fear the Egyptians forced the people of Israel into slavery where they remined until God sent Moses to rescue them. For 40 years they travelled through the wilderness while God miraculously cared for and protected them until finally under the leadership of Joshua they entered the land promised to them 500 years before to Abraham.


This a very brief summary, but one the people knew well. They were very aware of the times that their leaders and the people themselves had broken their word and had failed to follow God’s direction. But neither his plan nor any of his promises failed. God kept his covenant. God has a purpose for your life and there will be times when you step off the road he has for you, but he will redirect you and bring you back to where you need to be. He is faithful even when we are not, so that we can enter his promise with joy and like David ‘praise the Lord’!

  1. Do you ever feel you have lost your way and missed God’s plan for your life?
  2. How well do you know your own history and the part God has played in it?
  3. If you look back on your life are you surprised at the turns it has taken and wonder where it may go next?
  1. He never gives up
    Psalm 106

Psalm 106 provides the other side of the story presented in the previous Psalm. While both reflect on a period of Israel’s history, this Psalm deals with the period of release from captivity in Egypt to entry into the promised land. Its focus is on the repeated rebellion and failure of the people and God’s unrelenting mercy, while recognizing that sin has consequences that had to be accepted.


The Psalm begins in a similar way to Psalm 105; The people are invited to praise God and reflect on his mighty deeds and goodness to them. The question is asked of who is worthy enough to speak of these things while the answer is given that it is only those who do justice and are righteous all of the time. David, the writer of the Psalm then goes on to show that there were none who were qualified for the task.


The catalogue of rebellion and complaint that David summarizes is not in the order that the events occurred, and is certainly not exhaustive, but he picks out events that illustrate the disobedience, rebellion, and complaining of the people as well as their lack of faith and failure to obey God’s laws. He also mentions the tragic consequences of their actions and the remarkable fact that God continues to rescue them and extend mercy. These were God’s chosen people, he had a purpose for them and he was not going to give up.


David’s narrative starts as the people were standing on the shore of the Red Sea having fled from the Egyptians. God had promised to rescue them but as they waited at the riverside and heard the pursuing Egyptians they were afraid and cried out to Moses, “Why didn’t you leave us in Egypt. Why did you bring us here to die?” It was their first test and their faith failed them. God however, miraculously formed dry ground in the midst of the Red Sea and led them safely across, while causing the Egyptian army to be drowned as the sea closed over them. God used Moses to lead them through the wilderness while providing them with manna, a wafer that tasted like honey and came to them daily. But they weren’t satisfied and demanded meat to eat. They remembered the food they had in Egypt and even though they were kept as slaves they said they preferred to be back there than have to live on what God had provided. God mercifully gave them what they wanted, but it came at a cost. Some translations write that God sent a wasting disease while others translate it as leanness to their souls, but while they were busy stuffing themselves with the quails that God sent to them, a plague came and many died because of it.


David goes on to detail how the people rebelled against the leadership of Moses, complained about not having enough water and made a golden calf to worship while Moses was still receiving the commandments of God. He reminds them of how they had mixed with pagan nations, even inter-marrying with them, engaging in worship of false god’s and sacrificing their own children. When they were at the edge of the promised land, they refused to enter it because they did not believe God would keep his word to them. Time after time the Israelites turned their back on God, they deliberately chose false gods to worship and broke his laws and still as David writes: ‘’Nevertheless, he looked upon their distress, when he heard their cry. For their sake he remembered his covenant, and relented according to the abundance of his steadfast love. He caused them to be pitied by all those who held them captive.” (Verse 44-46).


God never gave up on his people – they tested him and deliberately disobeyed him and still he had mercy on them. Yes, there were consequences for their sin, there was illness and death, a whole generation died in the wilderness and instead of peace they had continuing conflict, but he protected them and brought them into the land he had prepared for them. James Boice, when commenting on this psalm wrote: “Is it that way with you? You see God’s miracles, but at the first sign of any new opposition you forget what God has done and are soon rebelling against what you suppose to be your hard and painful life? Then, when God saves you again, you sing his praises but soon forget even that deliverance? That is exactly what you and I are like.” (Boice). And God has not changed, his steadfast love never ceases, his mercy never come to an end – “Let all the people say, Amen!”

  1. Do you see yourself reflected in the behaviour of the Israelites?
  2. A number of times the people said they wanted to go back to Egypt – to return to how they were before God delivered them, has that been your experience?
  3. What do you think of the comment by James Boice?
  1. Let the redeemed say so
    Psalm 107

This Psalm begins in a familiar way: “Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” In particular the writer calls on the ‘redeemed’ to say so, those that been redeemed from trouble. ‘Redeem’ is a word which means to pay a ransom price or buy back something that has been given to, or taken by another. Sometimes when people are struggling with money problems they may give something of value in exchange for an agreed price, this is sometimes called to ‘pawn’ a possession. When finances improve the original owner can buy back or redeem the item. In times of war captives can be redeemed from an enemy by paying the required ransom. When the Bible speaks of people being redeemed it can refer to them being bought out of captivity, but it can also mean being released from Satan’s grip by payment of a suitable ransom. In the Old Testament this was the blood of an animal, now it is the blood of Jesus Christ offered on the cross.


The writer of the Psalm wants all of those that have been held captive, by whatever means and been released by the payment of a ransom to declare the goodness of God. He identifies four different scenarios where people have been held captive in the following verses. In verse 5 he introduces those who have been held in exile, verse 10 addresses prisoners held in captivity. In verse 17 and the following verses he identifies those that have got lost in the wilderness because of their own sin and stupidity and then verses 23 – 32 consist of sailors caught in a storm.


The first group had been banished from the city, possibly by an invading army. They had nowhere to go and so wandered through the wilderness as homeless people. They should have been enjoying the promised land, but instead they were hungry and thirsty and so called out to God. He heard them and in his mercy answered them. God led them to a city where they could find refuge and from where they should offer him praise. The second group were in prison, chained and made to serve hard labour. They too cried out to God who answered them by breaking their chains and releasing them. He broke down the prison doors and freed them from darkness and the certainty of death.


Those who were suffering because of their sin and foolishness were trapped in sickness and disease. They could not eat and were expecting to die. There was no relief for them, their life was one of misery, but when they called out to God he delivered them from their distress and healed them, now they could give thanks to God and speak of his steadfast love. The last group were doing business on the sea, if they were in exile then they were probably serving a foreign or enemy king. Out at sea they encountered great storms and lost all of their courage, they didn’t know what to do, they couldn’t keep their balance and were terrified. When they cried out to God, he heard them and calmed the storm, once the seas were still they were able to sail to their safe haven where they could praise the Lord.


In the last part of the psalm the writer talks about how God does the impossible: he turns rivers into droughts and but then droughts into well watered places. In these place there is abundance and fruitfulness. While once the people felt as they were oppressed and were sick and sorrowful, he raised them up and blessed them. He redeemed them from captivity and brought them into his place of rest. There are many things that can hold us captive, poor choices and decisions, sins that we cannot defeat, anxiety and past experiences, lack of forgiveness or a critical spirit. Many of these things will deprive us of the blessings that God wants to pour out to us, but he has promised to redeem you -he has purchased your release from the things that hold you captive and has set you free. This freedom is not something you can expect in the future, it has already been secured for you and God himself invites you to walk as a free man or woman and offer to him offerings of thanksgiving.

  1. Do you know you have been redeemed?
  2. Is it possible that you are still being held captive by something that God has released you from?
  3. How should you celebrate your freedom?
  1. He will tread down our enemies
    Psalm 108

Much of this psalm is drawn from two others, Verses 1–5 are from Psalm 57:7–11, and 108:6–13 are from Psalm 60:5–12. Both of those psalms related to specific events and while this psalm does not focus on those same events the truths contained in them still apply. As we read accounts of God’s deliverance in the bible, we can also expect that the way he acted in the past will the same as he will act today. His actions will always conform to his character and that does not change.


The psalm begins with a statement of confidence and one of intent. David trusted God and was not going to be moved. There were times when he struggled and poured out his complaint to God, but he never lost confidence that it was God and only God who could deliver him. Because of this confidence David was going to fully commit to singing and praising God. He was going to give it everything, he would not be lukewarm or half-hearted, he would worship with all of his being. This is a familiar refrain throughout the psalms, God demands wholehearted worship not empty repetition of words. Too often modern expressions of worship lack conviction, whether that is in the offering of praise, the giving of offerings and gifts, participation in ordinances like communion and baptism or simply by not giving our full attention and energy to what we bring. David would not be satisfied with that, and neither is God.


David planned on being up before dawn, just so he could praise his God. He would recall that God’s love never fails, his faithfulness is unlimited, it extends further than he could imagine – above the heavens and beyond the clouds. He lifted God above all earth, beyond any other power or authority, he alone was to be exalted and his glory would cover the whole earth. Greeting the sunrise is a wonderful experience when the conditions are right. As the sun makes its way above the horizon its radiance begins to fill the skies, chasing away the darkness. Sometimes it touches the clouds in a manner that can only be described as glorious, as it rises shadows disappear, the invisible becomes visible, and hope fills the heart. It is perhaps sad that many do not witness the sunrise, preferring a little while longer under the blankets. For David this was a time to lift his eyes heavenward and praise the one who created the masterpiece and whose own glory exceeds that of creation.


Because God delighted in his creation of which man and woman are the pinnacle, David’s prayer was that he would deliver them from the trouble they faced. He reminded God of his promises that were based on his character of holiness. God didn’t need to be reminded, but David probably did. By reciting what he knew of God’s faithfulness he was strengthening his own faith. God was holy, and he was faithful. If he had promised deliverance to his people then surely he could be relied on to keep his word. Psalm 69 which is quoted here was written at the time of a battle against Edom, David had depended on him then and he would do again (2 Samuel 8:11-14). He asked God whether he was no longer going to fight on his behalf and calls on him to once again enter the battle. David knew that if he or the troops won the battle without God it would be a hollow victory, and probably only temporary, but with God they would be more than conquerors, the enemy would be trodden down and destroyed.


We all face battles and there are many suggestions about how we can win them. More discipline, greater effort, mental exercises, read a few self-help books, pray harder and so on. These suggestions may bring about a temporary victory but it seldom lasts. It won’t be long before the same enemy rises up and threatens us again. God wants us to be more than conquerors in this battle and he gives the Holy Spirit to stand with us in the fight. If you are facing a battle, don’t redouble your effort and try to win through determination and hard work, cry out to God to send the Holy Spirit to come alongside and tread down your enemy through his power that lives in you. The first step in winning the battle is confessing that you can’t do it on your own, you need to submit yourself totally to him, he is your rock, he is your deliverer, in him you can trust!

  1. Are you wholehearted in worship?
  2. How would you describe the sunrise?
  3. Which is easier, to try and fight your battles by yourself, or trust God to do it for you?
  1. I give myself to prayer
    Psalm 109

This is a psalm of complaint; it is very similar to psalm 69 with one major difference. In the earlier psalm the writer, David acknowledges his own failure but in this one he insists on his innocence. Initially David addresses a group of people who are attacking him without any reason. He has done nothing wrong and yet they lie about him, spew out words of hatred and deceit and unfairly accuse him. David insists that he had shown love to them but in return they had accused him of some unnamed actions, while he did good to them they were evil in return. In the face of this unfair and hate-filled attack David gave himself to prayer.


The nature of David’s prayer is not specified, although the words that follow are full of hurt and anger towards his accusers. While he started by speaking about a group who were attacking him, the next verses focus on a single individual. This might have been the leader of the group, or else David was just using an expression to identify all of his accusers. Whichever the case David pours out a series of curses in verses 6-15. These are extreme, and include the family and the children of the accuser which may seem unfair, it may be however that sins of this man and the consequences of his behaviour would bring misery to the family. It is common that families and especially children suffer because of the actions of their parents and David may simply be pointing out the inevitable result of the penalty their father would face. This man would lose his wealth, his reputation and his social standing, he would end his days in poverty according to David’s prayer.


David did not seek to bring about this devastating sentence on his accuser, but he asked God to do it. He goes on to explain the reasons why this would be a reasonable thing to do. The man hadn’t shown mercy or kindness and in fact had put to death those who were already suffering; apparently this was a man who loved to curse others so therefore it was right that he in turn should be cursed. David was only asking that his accuser got what he had handed out to others, that seemed fair to him.


David now appeals to God on the basis of God’s own reputation, everyone knew he was a God of steadfast love and he could demonstrate that by delivering David. In fact he was one of the poor and needy that was being oppressed, and he felt like his life was nearly over. He was a physical wreck, he had lost weight and was pitiful to look at. He desperately needed God’s help, he wanted his accuser’s curses to be turned to blessings and for those curses to fall on their own heads, then David would be glad.


The psalm ends with a note of confidence and of thanks. God stood at David’s right hand and would deliver him; this was his confidence and the reason why he could give thanks even when he was overwhelmed by his circumstances. When David came under attack, he gave himself to prayer. He did not seek his own revenge, he didn’t try to refute his accusers, he turned to God. His idea of justice may differ from our own, but he wanted the punishment to fit the crime, but he left it to God to execute judgement. He was confident in God’s deliverance because he knew God, he had been shown lovingkindness and mercy many times and was confident he would receive it again, so he was able to say, “With my mouth I will give great thanks to the LORD; I will praise him in the midst of the throng”. When we are wrongfully accused or lied about it is difficult not to try take our own revenge, David’s solution though was to give himself to prayer, trusting God to bring Justice and praising him in anticipation.

  1. When people say untrue things about you how do your respond?
  2. Is it right to ask God to curse people?
  3. God seems to be particularly offended when the poor and needy are oppressed, why is that?
  1. The Lord said to my Lord
    Psalm 110

This Psalm has been quoted in the New Testament more than any other Psalm, one commentator suggests as many as 27 times, although some of those are a little harder to find than others. The first verse alone is quoted by Jesus in Matthew 22:43-45 (also Mark 12:36-37 and Luke 22:43,44), by Peter in Acts 2:34-35 during his Pentecostal sermon and by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:25. The author of Hebrews quotes it in Hebrews 1:13 and again in 10:13. In our English Bibles when the word LORD is all in capital letters it usually means Jehovah (Yahweh), the covenant God of Israel, while Lord with only the first letter capitalized means Adonai which can mean master, or anyone with power and authority, as well as being used of God. This verse is taken to mean that God the Father is speaking to God the son (Messiah).


After he was ascended Jesus sat at the right hand of the father having completed the work he had to do and there he sits until the final battle when his enemies will be put under his feet. The metaphor of a footstool is used elsewhere to refer to standing on the neck of a defeated opponent. This is looking forward prophetically to the final conflict when Satan will be defeated and consigned to eternal punishment.


The next couple of verses take us to that time when Jesus, the son of man, is sent into the battle where he will rule in the midst of his enemies. This is the day when his power will be revealed, he will be accompanied by all those who have voluntarily offered themselves in his service and they will be dressed in holy garments, which are probably robes of righteousness, Spurgeon and others believe that the reference to the womb of the morning and dew of youth means a band of young warriors serving their king.


Verse 4 introduces a mysterious figure that briefly appears in Genesis 14 after Abraham’s battle against a number of kings who taken his nephew Lot captive. Melchizedek was identified as the king of Salem (which means peace), he had no father or mother and no one knew where he came from. However Abraham recognized him as priest and paid him a tribute. God vowed that Jesus would be a priest of the same order. Later priests were descended from Aaron and Levi and they were temporary simply because they would all die at some time, their ancestry could be and had to be traced but this was not the case of Melchizedek and would not be for the Son of God. The role of priest and king were kept separate, but in Jesus they would be united, as was the case with Melchizedek. His priesthood would be eternal, it would never end.


David now looks forward to end times and prophetically sees the final battle. The king of Kings would execute judgement, all other kings would be brought to justice, the valleys would be filled with dead, army captains and rulers would be shattered over the whole earth. This was not a battle confined to a small area but would cover all the inhabited earth. The warrior king would come and bring the final victory. The Son of God would not be tired out by the battle but would be refreshed on the way and as Matthew Poole writes as the phrase ‘’he will lift up his head’ usually signifies he: “shall be delivered from all his sorrows and sufferings, and exalted to great glory, and joy, and felicity.”


Jesus used the opening of this psalm to affirm his deity and hastened his journey to the cross, it presents him as King, priest and warrior and the one in whom we place our trust.

  1. Which picture of God are you most comfortable with – priest, king or warrior?
  2. What does it mean for Jesus to be your priest?
  3. If Jesus sits at the right of the Father, what does that mean for you now?
  1. God’s works are great
    Psalm 111

This is another psalm written in the form of an acrostic, that is a device to aid in memorizing the words, in this case using the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet begin each verse. Of course the Bible writers didn’t number verses, they were added later and the translation from Hebrew to English loses the ability to retain the acrostic as was intended. Nevertheless the Psalm begins in a familiar way with an encouragement or instruction to praise the Lord. The writer then goes on to say that this this is his intention both in the small group of close companions and in the larger congregation. It is common for us to praise God in song when we meet in large groups but less the case when we meet with fewer people. The writer of this psalm was going to make this his habit and he would be wholehearted in doing so.


In 1874 the text of verse 2 of this psalm: “The works of the Lord are great, sought out by all of them that have pleasure therein” were carved above the door of the Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge University, in Latin. Many Nobel scholars came through this laboratory and it is credited with the discovery of the structure of DNA. 100 years later the laboratory was moved to a new site and the at instigation of Andrew Briggs, who later became Professor of Nanomaterials at Oxford University it was put up again, this time in English. George Horne writes: “Happy are they who, with humility and diligence, with faith and devotion, give themselves to the contemplation of these works, and take ‘pleasure’ and delight therein. To them shall the gate of true science open; they shall understand the mysteries of creation, providence, and redemption; and they who thus ‘seek,’ shall find the treasures of eternal wisdom.”


The study of God’s work should lead us to worship, Many of the scientists who paved the way for the discoveries of today were men and women of great faith. Kepler who formulated the 3 laws of planetary motion and was a professor of mathematics wrote to one of his colleagues: “I wanted to become a theologian; for a long time I was restless. Now, however, behold how through my effort God is being celebrated in astronomy.” There are many other examples which we would do well to remember and celebrate. God reveals himself through the things he has created (Romans 1:20) and when we study them through eyes of faith we grow in our knowledge and appreciation of him.


When the psalmist recalls God’s works, he doesn’t limit them to the physical world, he also reflects on his dealings with his people. He provided food, leads them into their inheritance and continued to show his steadfast love. Memory is important, both our own and those of the community. In the same manner in which we should remember those that have gone before in the world of science and discovery we should remember the ways in which God lead and has provided for his people. Many of the nations we identify today were founded on God’s word but have largely abandoned the precepts it provides. This psalm reminds us that the precepts of God are: ‘trustworthy; they are established forever and ever, to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness.’ (Vs7,8). God is faithful and will keep the covenant that he has made with his people, he offers redemption to those who will receive it, but justice to those who will not.


The beginning of wisdom is the reverential fear of God, it is recognizing that he is holy and just and he will bring judgement to those people and nations that reject him. He waits to offer grace and forgiveness to all who will receive him, but those who do not are “without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honour him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” (Romans 1:20,21).

  1. Do you think the study of science poses a danger to Christianity?
  2. Do you take time to see God in the things he has created?
  3. How can a nation turn back to the precepts of God?