Week 3

  1. The fool says
    Psalm 14

    David begins this Psalm with a very strong, even offensive statement: ‘the fool says in his heart there is no God’. He is not referring to mental capacity here, but to a moral decision to deny the existence of God, to choose to live as if God does not exist. The word that is used for fool is Nabal it means to stubbornly and persistently reject wisdom in the face of contrary evidence. David is referring those people who want to make ethical decisions as if there is no God. Russian writer Dostoevsky once wrote that without God everything is permissible, these fools that David speaks of want to be accountable to no one but themselves.

    The apostle Paul writes of these people in Romans 1: ‘For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools.’ They had stopped worshiping God, and even refused to acknowledge his existence, even though there is plenty of evidence for him. They fell further and further into sin until ‘they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity.’ (Romans 1:18-32).

    These fools who have chosen to live as if there is no God achieved their own success by oppressing the poor and the needy. David describes them as consuming God’s people like bread. God’s people were consumables, only existing to add wealth to the already prosperous. Micah puts it much more graphically: ‘’Hear, you heads of Jacob and rulers of the house of Israel! Is it not for you to know justice? You who hate the good and love the evil, who tear the skin from off my people and their flesh from off their bones, who eat the flesh of my people, and flay their skin from off them, and break their bones in pieces and chop them up like meat in a pot, like flesh in a cauldron.” (Micah 3:1-3). Even though the poor were exploited God insists that he is with them, the plans and schemes of their oppressors would be destroyed and they would be put to shame.

    The fool says in his heart that there is no God, the issue is the heart, the seat of desire, not the mind or the intellect. David doesn’t appeal to logic or reason; he doesn’t attempt to argue the existence of God. And neither did Paul when he preached many years later and wrote: ‘Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?’ As was the case with the first temptation, Adam and Eve chose to act as if there was no God, even though they clearly knew there was. They did not want to have their freedom of choice limited by God. We may not have travelled down the slope of moral decline of those who refuse to even acknowledge the existence of God, but it is possible to make our own moral and ethical choices as if he does not exist. We don’t want our liberty constrained, we want to be free to act and think without interference from elsewhere. Paul continues his description of those who have rejected God to say: ‘You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.’ It is important for each of us to be careful to depend on Almighty God to be the one who determines the moral and ethical choices we make, and this will be most evident in how we treat ‘the least of these’.

  1. What evidence do you see in those who want act as if God does not exist?
  2. If our parliaments and governing bodies do not acknowledge God, what can we do?
  3. Why do you think God place such a great emphasis on treatment of the poor and oppressed?
  1. Who can visit God’s house?
    Psalm 15

    Older translations of the bible use the word ‘Tabernacle’ rather than tent in verse 1. The tabernacle or Mishkan was a portable sanctuary, a spiritual centre in the midst of the desert. It was the place where the People of Israel would bring sacrifices to atone for sins or express gratitude (Chabad.org). It was basically a big and elaborate tent that remained in use until King Solomon built the Temple. It did go through difficulties though, taken away by the Philistines, returned and then placed at Gibeon, while a second Tabernacle was built by David to house the ark of the covenant in Jerusalem. David asks, who can visit there, who can live on God’s Holy hill? Only priests were permitted to live in the tabernacle and that meant David could not, but what type of person could even visit?

    My parents-in-law used to have a plaque above their door as you entered their house, it contained these words: “Christ is the head of the home, the unseen guest of every meal, the silent listener to every conversation.” Jack, my father-in-law would often say this wasn’t correct because Jesus should not be an unseen guest – he was the owner, we were the guests. It is a good reminder of how we should conduct ourselves in the presence of the king all the same! David asks what manner of life does a person need to have, to be a guest in God’s house and then goes on to describe them by saying what they are not.

    David begins by saying the person must be blameless and do what is right, he or she must always be honest – a person of integrity. To do right indicates that justice must be done and picks up on David’s consistent theme that care for others is high on the list. They must who not gossip or talk behind other people’s backs; The must not do any harm to their neighbours, this does not refer just to those who are friends but all who share the same heritage. They do not say cruel or insulting things about their friends, even if they mean in it as a joke. Proverb 26:18 warns, ‘Like a madman shooting firebrands or deadly arrows is a man who deceives his neighbor and says, “I was only joking!” David emphasises treating others well, just as Jesus later instructed that we should love our neighbour as we love ourselves.

    God’s guest will also have the same attitude toward sin that he does, he or she will despise evil and the evil actions of others. On the other hand they will honour those who worship God with reverence. The Contemporary English Bible writes, ‘they keep their promises, no matter what the cost. They lend their money without charging interest, and they don’t take bribes to hurt the innocent.’ David is not speaking of commercial transactions here, but private loans to a friend or neighbour. The law prohibited charging interest to fellow Israelites, but not to foreigners, ‘this psalm seems to suggest that the ideal person deals generously and fairly with all people, whether they are fellow Israelites or not. He goes beyond what the law requires.’ (ESV.org). The way we use our money or possessions often is an indicator of the state of our heart and our spiritual life. Many people who would be considered godly in other areas of their lives still do not use their money in a way that honors God and shows love and care to others.

    These are the people who may be welcome to rest in God’s house, it is a high standard to meet, and comes with the added blessing that they will never be moved. David is speaking in terms of the Old Covenant when access to God was based on obedience of the law and participation in regular sacrificial ritual. Through the sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf we now have bold and confident access to his throne by grace. ‘Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.’ Who can rest in God’s house – you can, and so can I because of Jesus!

  1. What do you think about resting in God’s house?
  2. Is Christ the guest at every meal in your home?
  3. Is the way you treat money always honouring to God?
3. Give me refuge
Psalm 16

Once again David calls out for protection, a place of refuge. He doesn’t indicate what the situation is that demands that he seek refuge just that the only thing he has going for him is God himself. Spurgeon suggests that he needed to be protected from the temptations of the world, either those which brought pleasure or others which created worry or anxiety; the activity of the devil in tempting him; from himself, growing envious, selfish, above himself, proud or lazy; from the traps he has seen others fall into and anything else that he did not yet know about! Whatever the particular trouble David found himself in, he called on God to keep him safe.

As he considered his own circumstances, he also thought of all the saints, that is all those who understood their privilege in being God’s people and said that he delighted in them. Often it is easier to pick fault with fellow believers than it is to delight in them, but David could claim that this was how he felt. These people had been chosen by God and despite their faults were the cause of genuine pleasure to David. I wonder if we have the same attitude to fellow believers, even those who have opposing views to our own?

David did not have that same opinion of those who had rejected God and followed false religions though. They had nothing to offer, and David would have no part in their activities. While there was no benefit in following after them David was happy, more than happy for what he had received from God. The reference to his portion is likely intended to draw the mind of his hearers to the division of the promised land when lines were drawn and divided into portions allocated to each of the tribes. As the youngest son in his family his portion wouldn’t have been much, but God had given him so much more. There had been strife and difficulties but he was in a pleasant place and had a beautiful inheritance to look forward to.

David depended on God’s counsel, he didn’t seek it from others, no matter how wise they were or how enticing their suggestions might have been. Because he put God first and trusted him completely, he knew he would never be shaken, this is our confidence too if we are sure to put him first and foremost. The right hand is often a symbol of authority and power. Kings wore their signet rings on their right hand, and a father blessed his oldest son with his right hand. In Psalm 110, the right hand describes a place of honor and distinction. The Bible often refers to God’s right hand in his acts of blessing and deliverance (ESV.org). David had God at his right hand, therefore he knew he was secure and safe.

Having begun his psalm seeking refuge, now David bursts into praise, ‘my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices’. He had reminded himself of his relationship with God, he knew that he was safe with Him on his side, he had nothing to fear, in this life or the next. Eugene Peterson translates the last few verses this way: ‘Now you’ve got my feet on the life path, all radiant from the shining of your face. Ever since you took my hand, I’m on the right way.’ While the Common English Bible puts it: ‘You teach me the way of life. In your presence is total celebration. Beautiful things are always in your right hand. The Christian life is meant to be celebrated, even when things aren’t as we hope. As we listen to his voice he will give counsel, even when we sleep! His right hand will always guide, guard and protect us and he will take us by our hand to those beautiful places he has prepared for us. Like David let your whole being rejoice!

  1. What things do you need God to protect you from?
  2. Do you delight in the saints?
  3. When you reflect on what God is and has done for you, does your whole being rejoice?
  1. A Just Cause
    Psalm 17

    David sets the scene as a court of law, he the plaintiff has brought his case to gain justice. He has been accused, tried, the evidence has been tested and he protests his innocence. His cause is just, he expects to be vindicated. There is no mention of when in David’s life this took place or what the particular issue he was protesting about was. This can be looked at as stemming from a personal attack from one of his many enemies, and David insists he is innocent, and calls on God to deliver him and protect him. He claims to have been ‘the apple of God’s eye’, the favoured one, and he wants God to show him that this was still the case.

    We can look at this in a different way though. David had a cause he was fighting for, and he believed it to be just. He was obviously convinced of the rightness of his views, but others disagreed and so there was conflict. He brings his case to God. Firstly he examines himself to make sure there he has no wrong motives, he has always acted properly and is without fault. Then he moves on to his opponents and asks God to act on his behalf.

    It is not uncommon for people to sincerely hold beliefs that are not shared by others. We may be convinced that we are right in what we believe but other equally faithful people have different opinions and sometimes conflict results. At this time in history the church across the globe is divided over a number of issues, the most obvious of which has to do with the Covid 19 pandemic. There are strong opinions held on a range of issues that have resulted in differences of opinion, stress, conflict and even breakdown in relationships. Godly, faithful people on both sides of the divide are sincere and prayerful and yet come to different conclusions. All parties believe they have a just cause and they want God to decide in their favour. Who is right, how does the divide get healed? Leaving aside those that come to the debate from a place where God and his word are not regarded as authoritative, how can Christian men and women pursue truth together?

    David’s approach was to first of all examine himself. What was his motivation, to be proved right or to see God honoured? Had the way he approached those with whom he differed give glory to God or was he more concerned with his opinion and reputation than the good of his neighbour? Was he always truthful and did his behaviour match his words? Did his words do damage or bring healing? Next David examined the motivation of those he opposed, did they seek the good of others or their own personal benefit. Where they godly, faithful people or those that were guided by other influences. He wanted God to deal with them according to their character and to bring them to justice.

    David concludes his petition by insisting that the outcome he wants is to see God, then whatever the outcome, he will be satisfied. God’ pattern for life and resolving differences was, and is, God first, others second and self last. Is that how we evaluate the causes we fight for, or does self sometimes move a little higher up the list? The first lines of Francis of Assisi’s prayer reads: “Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.” This seems excellent advice!

  1. When you have a difference of opinion that threatens to destroy a relationship, how do you resolve it?
  2. Are you able to honestly evaluate your motives?
  3. How do you relate to Francis’ prayer?


  1. Victory!
    Psalm 18.

    Psalm 18 is one of the longer Psalms and it was written after the death of Saul and probably just before David was crowned King. The words are almost identical to the song sung by David just prior to his death, as he was able to look back over his life and recognize God’s protection and deliverance (2 Samuel 2-5).

    David begins by praising God for his acts of deliverance. The list of titles he gives to God have found their way into songbooks and onto T Shirts and mugs in a way David no doubt didn’t expect or intend, but they contain such promises that they are a source of great strength to many as they face challenges in their own lives. He says that God is: His strength, his rock, his fortress, his deliverer, his God, his shield, his horn (which speaks of salvation and defense), his stronghold, the high tower of refuge from where he could see an enemy from a great distance.

    David reminded himself that when he was in distress he called on God to be the things that he had listed and now God had answered in a dramatic way. In verses 7-18 he recounts the distress he faced and how God had rescued him from all of them and had now brought him into a broad place, a place of promise, of prosperity. But he continues saying God acted not because there was anything special about David, yes he had kept faith, never given up hope and always trusted in God, he hadn’t got into idol worship but remained blameless in regard to his faith, and because he was righteous, God had rewarded him.

    God shows himself to be merciful to those that show mercy and David could claim that for himself, he was so confident in God’s strength he says he could run through a troop and leap over a wall – he could outdo superman because God was with him! David acknowledges though, that he had been in a fierce battle and he had needed to play his part. God had made him sure footed so that he would not slip, he trained his hands for battle and strengthened his arm, he gave him the shield of salvation and supported him with his own right arm. Finally, he caused his enemies to turn and run. David was a warrior king of much skill, he had a reputation for military greatness and he used all of his abilities in the battles he faced, but he knew that victory belonged to God.

    David concludes his song by again praising and giving glory to God and declaring his confidence in the steadfast love of God to him and to his descendants. The battles you and I face may be of a different nature to those encountered by David. We probably do not have kings and armies chasing to kill us nor our own family and friends conspiring against us, but we are nonetheless engaged in a battle. Paul reminded the church at Ephesus that the battle they faced was not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers in Heavenly places. We have been given weapons to fight with, but they are not the weapons of the world. Instead, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. (2 Corinthians 10:4). We have armour to put on, like our weapons it is spiritual armour (Ephesians 6:11) and with it we can withstand and defeat our enemy. Our armour starts with a belt, it is the belt of truth. And like David we can proclaim and believe the truth about God, he is your strength, your rock, your fortress, your deliverer, hie is your God, you shield, you horn of salvation your stronghold, your high tower of refuge in him you can trust. You are righteous because God declares you to be because of your faith in Jesus, God’s promise is that in a lll of these things you are more than a conqueror. But like David you need to get dressed for war, take hold of your weapons and stand. Resist the Devil and God will cause him to flee from you!

  1. Could you use any titles to those David gave to God?
  2. What characteristic of God is most important to you?
  3. How well can use the ‘weapons of your warfare’?
  1. The Heavens will declare
    Psalm 19

    August Tulloch wrote: ‘Though all the preachers on earth should grow silent, and every human mouth cease from publishing the glory of God, the heavens above will never cease to declare and proclaim his majesty and glory.’ C.S. Lewis claimed that Psalm 19 was the greatest of all the Psalms and one of the greatest poems ever written. Others may disagree but many of its words and phrases have found their way into song books and common speech.

    There are three parts to the Psalm. The first explains how God is revealed through his creation, the second addresses the benefit of God’s word to the soul and the last an appropriate response to both of these things. In Romans 1 Paul tells his readers that God has revealed his invisible nature by the things he has made (verse 20), the pinnacle of creation is humankind which is made in his image, but all of creation declares the presence and character of God. Many writers have said that they need two books to guide them, and Spurgeon puts it this way: ‘He is wisest who reads both the world-book and the word-book as two volumes of the same work, and feels concerning them “My father wrote them both”. God designed his creation to reveal his nature to those who choose to seek him, it would serve us well to be a good student of his handiwork!

    David moves on to the second part of his work, the word of God. Verses 7-10 became a popular song in many churches about 50 years ago, and many people in churches today know the words by heart through having sung them! He mentions six things that the law, or the word of God accomplishes, each time using a different word. Firstly it is the law and it is perfect, by observing it we are converted or revived from death to life. Next it is the testimony about God which gives wisdom, thirdly the precepts by which we live. Guzik writes: ‘God’s word and the commands contained within are right. They are morally right, they are practically right, and they are universally right. They are right because it is the revelation of a God who is holy, true, and always right.’ We don’t need to debate the rights and wrongs of morality or world views, we need instead to live by his precepts. The commandments of the law are pure, they are without error and are not unclear or ambiguous.

    The fifth simile David uses is the Fear of the Lord, not that we should be afraid of God’s word but that by knowing and understanding it we will lead to reverence. It is clean and it will last forever. God’s word is never out of date, it is always relevant and will always lead to a proper appreciation of who God is. The last reference is to his rules or judgments about what is true. They are always true and they are always righteous. According to David knowing the word of God is more valuable than the finest gold, sweeter than the best honey, more to be desired than any other thing. There is great reward received by keeping his word – if these things are true, why then is it that so many Christians do not read or understand their Bible? Joshua said that the key to success was to meditate on God’s word every day and be careful to do all that is in it (Joshua 1:8). Psalm 1 assures us that the successful person is the one whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. Could it be that the reason we sometimes feel dissatisfied, unhappy or unfulfilled is because we do not take time to read and know his word?

    David’s final words are: Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Our response to God’s revelation through creation and his word is to meditate on him and give him praise.

  1. How impressed are you with creation?
  2. How well do you know his word?
  3. When you seek answers to world affairs do you spend more time on the internet or in the word of God?
7. Some trust in chariots
Psalm 20

This is a Royal Psalm because it is all about the king, it begins with the gathered people praying for their king and ends with them praying for themselves. The setting is the temple, the place of prayer. The people are crowded together as David and his army are about to go out and face the enemy.

David needs to know his prayers will be answered, that God will protect him and give him the support he needs, and the people needed to know that too. They asked that all the sacrifices David had made would be remembered and more importantly that they would be acceptable. Not all sacrifices are acceptable to God. Early in Gods’ dealings with man and woman the two sons of Adam and Eve brought sacrifices, one was given with the right attitude and was accepted, the other was rejected because it was not offered with a whole heart. Later God refused the sacrifice of the sons of the High Priest because they were not acceptable, and David himself insisted he would not be even thinking about offering to God something that cost him nothing. It was important that if David was to embark on a mission for God that he went with his approval because he had given him his best.

The people asked that David’s plans be successful and that he receive all that his heart desired. They wanted to welcome him back with enthusiasm and joy with flags and banners flying and singing in the streets. The too wanted to enter the joy of victory, to know that the prayers of their king had been answered. While the analogy is imperfect there is a message about the way our churches should pray for their leaders. They are engaged in spiritual battles and need to be certain of God’s protection. The service they have offered must be acceptable to God and they must be confident that God will bring their plans to success, their desire for the health and protection of the church will be met. The leaders must also be certain that they have given their best, that God has found their labour acceptable and in turn will given them the desires of their heart.

As the people now turn their prayers to themselves, they confidently assert that they know that God will save and protect their king and answer his prayers. They knew that David acted both for God but also for their welfare and so they were certain his prayers would be answered. They also knew that success in battle would come from God, not from superior numbers or weapons. The most fearful and effective weapons of warfare in David’s day were horses and chariots, the army that had the most and best of these had the military advantage. It would be normal to rely on numbers and the weapons at their disposal, but the worshipers knew that victory was not won that way. Those that trusted in chariots and horses would collapse and fall, but they, who trusted in the Lord would stand upright, and the victory would be theirs.

The crowd concluded their prayer with a final plea that God would hear them and answer their prayer. I am certain that David was not only grateful for the prayers and confidence of his people but was absolutely dependent on it. As a pastor I am no less dependent on the prayers of those I lead and minister to, I would not like to engage the spiritual battles of ministry without knowing that there were those praying on my behalf. I would encourage you, whatever church you are in, if there is one, pray for your leaders. Pray also for me, so that God will indeed ‘send help from the sanctuary and give support from Zion!’ Then together in the name of our God we can set up our banners and proclaim victory!

  1. How should we pray for our leaders, both spiritual  and those of our world?
  2. When you face a battle do you put your trust in superior strength or strategy, or depend on God?
  3. How hard would it be a for leader to go to battle without knowing he or she had the full support and prayer of their people?