Week 5

1. He has heard my voice 

Psalm 28 

Sometimes it seems that our prayers always contain cries for help and surely God must get tired of them. Can’t we go through a period when everything is good, and we don ‘t need to ask for help all the time? Does God ever think “what do they want this time?” While we might get self conscious or even embarrassed about continually pouring our problems to God asking for his help and deliverance, it never bothered David. It doesn’t bother God either. In fact, Peter reminds us that we should cast all our anxieties on him because he cares for us (1 Peter 5:7), God wants us to depend on him, to bring our every need to him so that he can show how much he cares by meeting our need. Psalm 28 is another example of David facing a difficult situation and crying out to God. 

There was only one thing certain in David’s life. It was God, he was David’s rock, always reliable, never failing. God was his foundation and his strength, when everything fell apart around him, God was there. When other supports that he trusted in, his health, wealth, strength, friends failed him, God stood firm, never wavering. Now David needed assurance that God was listening to him, his language – “I become like those who go down to the pit,” suggests that he might have believed he was close to death and desperately needed God’s intervention. 

David did not want to suffer the same fate as those he calls evil. He didn’t want all he had worked for to disappear, to be torn down. He is not just speaking about people who are disobedient or sinful, these were people who had put themselves against God. They wanted to destroy the work of God’s hands, David wants them destroyed instead. When we see people deliberately trying to destroy the things of God, even the church; when we see campaigns to upset what we know as proper moral decisions or mistreat the poor and broken we naturally get angry and want those who are guilty to suffer the consequences of their actions. This is how David thought and how he prayed. How should we respond? 

There is no question that there are times that we need to stand against evil, to fight on the side of the hurting and the oppressed and yet Jude writes that we are to “show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh” (Jude 23). It is good to be reminded that those who do evil things are not the enemy, they are victims of the enemy held captive to do his will. We should act and pray for their deliverance, being careful not to become contaminated by the same sin.  

David did not doubt that God had heard his prayer and that he would answer he writes: “Blessed be the Lord! For he has heard the voice of my pleas for mercy. The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.” He knew God had heard him, and he had faith that God would deliver him, not only him but all those that were his people. He was their saving refuge, a source of deliverance and a place of safety. He ends his prayer with short requests for the people: 

Save your people 

Bless your heritage 

Be their shepherd 

Carry them forever 

As I write these words, they are my prayers for all those who read them too. That whatever you face God will rescue you from it, he will bless your heritage because it is his heritage, he will guide you through the valleys and carry you when you can’t take another step, and then he will set you down in a high place. 

  1. Do you ever think your prayers are too self-centred? 
  2. Who or what is your rock? 
  3. As soon as David prayed, he acted as if God had answered him is this faith or misplaced optimism? 

2. A God of Thunder

Psalm 29

We are often encouraged to listen for the ‘still small voice of God’ rather than expect to hear him amidst the loud and spectacular. This relates to the experience of Elijah when he had retreated to a cave, having had enough of trying to do his best, coming short and feeling unappreciated. God sent him a demonstration of power through wind, earthquake and fire, but Elijah didn’t hear him through these displays. After this came the sound of a gentle breeze, or as older translations have it, a still small voice, and it is through this that Elijah heard God speak. (I Kings 19:11,12). In this psalm though we hear God’s voice in a different way.

David begins his psalm by ascribing or giving to God the glory that is due to his name, three times the word ‘ascribe’ is used in verses 1 and 2 and on the basis of the things mentioned belonging to God, David’s hearers were expected to worship. His hearers were described as sons of the mighty, or heavenly beings and it as if David needed to remind them of their own need to always acknowledge the glory that belongs to God. If heavenly beings can be exhorted to worship how much greater is the responsibility that we have to do likewise?

Seven times in the remaining verses David speaks of the voice of God, and he describes it as louder and more awesome than the sound of the greatest thunder. An average thunderstorm releases about 10,000,000 kilowatt-hours of energy, roughly equivalent to a 20-kiloton nuclear bomb (M.Hart). The thunder of God’s voice exceeds even the greatest of thunderstorms! David says of God’s voice: it is powerful, it is majestic, it splits apart the greatest of trees, it brings flashes of fire (lightning, volcanos) and shakes the wilderness (earthquakes), he strips the forests bare thorough wind, hurricanes, but also causes the gentlest of creatures to give birth.

The Lord, the possessor of this voice, sits as king over the flood. The flood mentioned is only used by this name in the days of Noah when God covered the world with water in judgement for the sins being committed. He is the king eternal; he reigns with power and while he permits Satan to test and try God’s people one day he will thunder from heaven and commit Satan and his helpers into a Godless eternity. God spoke the world into existence (Genesis 1), he upholds the universe and all of creation by the word of his power (Hebrews 1:3) and when Christ returns in power, he will use this same word to destroy the nations, and rule them with a rod of iron as he treads the winepress of the wrath of God the Almighty (Revelation 19:13-15).

The thundering voice of God speaks of creation but also of judgement. We must listen for God’s quiet voice, but we cannot ignore the voice of thunder. The nations around about, the business interests who seek to remove God from society, the social influencers who bend moral values to suit their own desires will one day hear God thunder from Heaven and understand that judgment has come. He has sent many reminders of his power, we have witnessed tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, typhoons, hurricanes and cyclones. There have been floods and fires, famines and droughts and still people choose to ignore the God who sits enthroned in heaven. He delays his return only so that men and women have the opportunity to change their ways and worship him, but one day he will say “enough, the time has come for judgment to come to the earth”.

  1. Do you expect to hear God’s quiet voice, or the voice of thunder?
  2. Do you see God’s demonstrations of power as evidence that time is running short?
  3. How can we gain a greater appreciation of the ‘awesomeness’ of God?
3. Joy comes with the morning
Psalm 30

The title for this Psalm says that it was to be sung at the dedication of the Temple. The temple and its dedication didn’t take place until after David’s death so it may have been written in anticipation of that event, there is also no mention in the Psalm of the Temple. It is a song of praise however in which David expresses praise and thanks for God’s rescue of him.

David begins by praising God for drawing him up. He is using a metaphor, or expression, of drawing a bucket out of water, he had been submerged and then lifted out. Some scholars believe that David had faced a serious illness almost resulting in his death and that this Psalm was written after his recovery. He had cried out in desperation and God had brought his soul up from Sheol; which for Jews was the dwelling place of the dead, just as he was on the verge of death, God had restored him.

It may be that David believed this was the result of some failure on his part and that God was angry with him. Angry enough to let him die. Now God had restored him and he naturally wanted to give thanks and praise him. Anger is only for a moment he says, but the favour and grace of God lasts forever. He had spent sleepless nights weeping over his fate, but now he experienced joy. The tears were wiped away, there was fresh hope – it was a new day. We can draw comfort from this, there are times when it seems there is no hope, we can’t see the future, everything is bleak. But the morning brings with it freshness and life. The light shines and we recognize that God is with us to refresh, restore and give us new hope. It is interesting that in the Genesis account of creation, we read that there was evening and morning and that was a day. We usually think the day begins when we get up, or at least when the sun does. For the Jews though, the day began in the evening – so for example the sabbath starts at sundown on Friday and proceeds through to Saturday evening. Weeping may last for a night, but the sun always rises and as Psalm 118 puts it: This is the day the Lord has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it.

God had made David prosperous, and he had trusted in his success, but when God turned from him he was dismayed, he understood that by trusting in his own success he had rejected God. Now he pleads for forgiveness and mercy, he tries to reason with God, telling him that there was no point in his death, there was much for him to do, so would he be merciful and let him live? God heard his prayer and restored him so that David could cry out that his mourning was turned into dancing, his clothes of repentance and bitterness were changed into gladness. He could not keep silent, he had to sing and praise God with all of his might.

It may be that David had been healed of serious illness, or that he had faced some other trauma that robbed him of his joy. His life was consumed by his pain so that he could only explain how he felt by saying he spent the night weeping. You may have had or are having similar experiences, when something has so overtaken you, all you could do was weep. You may not have understood what the future held and tears were your constant companion. You may still be in that place. The brightness of God’s face will shine on you, he will take away your clothes of mourning and restore you to hope. God will draw you out of the waters you may feel you are drowning in, and he will lift you up and heal you. The time will come when your grief is turned to dancing and as with David you will say I will sing your praise and I will not be silent.

  1. Have you even felt like a bucket in a well, being repeatedly submerged and out of your depth?
  2. David had trusted in his own ability, accomplishments and image, and when they failed him, he was dismayed – do you trust in what you have achieved or in the God that gave you grace to succeed?
  3. Have you spent the night weeping, longing for morning to come? Can you praise God in that moment?


4. A Mighty Fortress
Psalm 31

About 500 years ago Martin Luther, a prominent figure in the reform of the church from which many of our current denominations have come, wrote the Hymn, A Mighty Fortress is our God. It is taken from verses 1-16 of this Psalm and is still sung in its original form and in various adaptations in many churches. While Luther was meditating on the first verse of the Psalm, he was struck by the request of David that God would deliver him according to his own righteousness. David thought that God’s righteousness meant that he would do what was just and right and if that were the case then all he could do was condemn David, not deliver him. His meditation led him to Romans 1:17 where he read that the righteousness of God was revealed in the gospel, and with this realization he wrote “I grasped the truth that the righteousness of God is that righteousness whereby, through grace and sheer mercy, he justifies us by faith. Therefore I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise… This passage of Paul became to me a gateway into heaven.” It was on this basis that David wanted God to act.

The psalm consists of the three parts: David’s problems, his prayers, and his praise. He describes his problems as being trapped in a net, facing many troubles, suffering physical pain, being despised by people who know him well, being ignored and forgotten, he is being slandered and plotted against, persecuted and lied about.  As he records the problems he faced, he prays to God for deliverance; he asks him to listen to him, protect him, lead him, rescue him, have mercy on him, show favour to him and then to take vengeance on his enemies

David acknowledges his dependance on God and while he asks for rescue and deliverance he utters the words that Jesus would later speak in his dying moments “into your hands I commit my spirit”. He knew that his times were in God’s hands, and he was reconciled to accepting God’s purpose for his life, he still asked for refuge from his enemies though. In verses 9-13 David identifies the pain he was feeling, there was the pain of emotional sorrow. He was worn out by grief. He wanted mercy to relieve his misery. He struggled with physical suffering and was drained of all his energy and strength. He was ridiculed by and shamed by his enemies and even his friends had abandoned him. No one really likes to be around miserable people and maybe this was what happened to David. People told lies about him, even tried to scare him with death threats. But David never stopped trusting God, he depended on him for his own rescue. He was comforted by two things: he knew God personally (vs 14) and he knew God was in control of his life (vs 15). He knew that all people, events, circumstances were in God’s hands. He asked to be rescued, but he also asked for vengeance on his enemies.

With the assurance of God as his refuge, his rock, his deliverer, his mighty fortress, David offers praise. He reminds himself of God’s goodness and that he had been and would always be a safe refuge. Even when in times of frustration and suffering he had complained that God had turned his back in him, he had heard David’s cries and shown him mercy. Now he encourages all of the people to not only grow in their love for God but to show it by being obedient to him. He ends his Psalm with, “Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord”.
This psalm was most probably written for the entire congregation to sing aloud. Not every song we sing to God is full of rejoicing, sometimes they contain laments and deep sorrow. We can express our deepest emotions and needs together as acts of worship, nothing is hidden from God, he knows our innermost feelings and as we offer them to him we are assuring ourselves that he able to deliver us, and we assure others also that our hope is in him.

  1. David had no problem listing his problems to God – do you?
  2. Is it right to ask for vengeance on your enemies?
  3. When you worship do you always try to be positive, or do you express your pain and sorrow as well?
5. Pray at a time when he may be found
Psalm 32

This Psalm may have been in response to David’s sin with Bathsheba, in which case it is connected to Psalm 51, and may have been written after that Psalm. Whether it was this event that has caused David’s confession of sin or some other, it was so serious as to have affected David’s health and vitality.

David begins his psalm by declaring what he knew to be true. His experience told him that blessedness depended on forgiveness of sin. When God covered his shame and didn’t hold his sins against him he knew that he was blessed. In this Psalm he used three different words to describe the sin that had troubled him. In verses 2 and 5 he used transgression which means to defy authority, or break a commandment. Iniquity that refers to something which is crooked or bent in a way to achieve an improper purpose and sin, which means to come short of the mark or acceptable standard. To be blessed required a response to each of these offences against God.

David described his state before he had received God’s forgiveness. His bones were wasted away, he groaned all day long, God’s hand weighed heavily on him, and he had no strength or energy. The guilt of his sin had produced a physical response and he desperately needed healing. Guilt often causes physical reactions: sleeplessness, stomach disorders, headaches, loss of energy and so on. As we are tormented by a mistake we have made or by the way we have failed someone, we may be ashamed, scared that someone will find out. Or a relationship has been damaged and we desperately want it fixed. We have failed in something we have been entrusted with and let people down and so we feel guilty, and the mental anguish produces a physical response. This was David’s experience, but he was able to provide the answer that brought him relief.

He acknowledged his sins to God; he confessed his offences. He didn’t hide them, or try to explain them away or make excuses. He was honest and open and God forgave him. Penance wasn’t require although there were consequences that he and others were forced to accept. His sins were laid bare, there was no escape, but God covered them and took away David’s shame. You and I will commit offences against God from time to time, they may not have been as severe as David’s sins, but they will exist just the same. The guilt of those sins must be dealt with, and David provides the way to do it. Confess them to God, don’t try to dodge the issue, admit where you have failed and ask his forgiveness. If your offence has affected another person you will probably need to resolve that with the person and ask their forgiveness too. If the sin is only against God, then all that is needed is to confess it to him. As the cliché says, we don’t need to hang out our dirty washing for everyone to see. Private sins should be dealt with privately, but public sins need to be confessed publicly. David’s sins were of both types and they had to be dealt with in the appropriate way.

David tells his hearers that there is a time to seek forgiveness and it is now, while God may be found and before you get overwhelmed by the guilt that threatens to consume. God will lead and offer counsel, but he doesn’t want to treat you like a stubborn horse that needs a bit and a bridle, and probably also a whip. We need to stay close to him to feel the pressure of his touch when he directs us this way or that. His steadfast love will surround you, and he will bring health to your bones and vitality to your spirit.

  1. Have you ever felt so guilty about something that you have become physically sick?
  2. Do you try to minimize of hide your sins from God?
  3. Do we always need to confess sin to someone apart from God? When shouldn’t we?
6. Sing a new song
Psalm 33

“Take away the Christian’s power of praising God, and you make him a poor earth-worm, bound here with doubts, and fears, and cares.” (Charles Spurgeon). It is not known who wrote this Psalm but it seems like a response to many of the encouragements to praise God. It was almost certainly intended to be used in the congregation and many of its themes are developed in earlier Psalms.

The writer starts with the instruction to shout for joy. Some translations water this down a bit to ‘rejoice’ and while the intent is to be joyful, that lacks a little of the unbridled enthusiasm that was expected. Praise is fitting, or the right thing for faithful people to do, it should be part of their worship, natural and uninhibited. These sung, shouts of paise were to be accompanied by stringed instruments and should have three characteristics: They should be fresh, played skillfully and sung with passion. Songs had always been part of Jewish life, they were sung in praise, to remember historical events, to celebrate victories and as laments or expressions of grief and sorrow, this psalm is an expression of praise.

 A new song was needed, there was nothing wrong with the old ones, but worship needed to be fresh. What was God doing at the time, what new experiences were there to be thankful for, what fresh understanding had they discovered about God and his mercy? The apostle Paul said that the evidence of being filled with the Holy Spirit was to speak with one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. Singing and praising ought to be a natural part of our life together as we worship him.

The writer contrasts the activity and power of God with the rulers of earth. His work will stand forever, nothing that exists can exist without him and all his work and his counsel is good. On the other hand, the nations of earth plot and conspire and yet all their plans will fail. They trust in their wealth, the size of their armies, their own strength, but none of these things will rescue them. God looks down on them from where he reigns in heaven and watches their futility. In our world there are nations campaigning against one another, conspiring, forming allegiances and treaties, seeking dominance and power. Many of these nations have denied the existence of God while others just act as if he doesn’t or is irrelevant. It has always been this way, nations and their leaders have come and gone. The world powers of the past are now minor players while new leaders have emerged. All the while God sits in the heaven and laughs with disdain. This is his world, the agenda of history is set by him, and when all the machinations and scheming is over, the church of God will stand and every tribe and every nation will bow before our God.

As the Psalm comes to a close there is the great reminder: ‘Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name.’ This is the Christian’s great confidence, we trust in him, he is our help and our shield. While those without Christ have no reason to hope, we do. Our future is certain, yes we need to wait, and waiting is never easy, but we know he will keep his word. The Christian witness in the world must be one of hope and gladness. We are surrounded by people who are worried about the future, who have no certainty about how their lives, and those of their children will be, but we have a sure and certain hope. We may not know all the details about how Christ will return, and no one does, but we do know he will return and all those who have placed their faith in him will be invited into new life for eternity. How do we respond? We pray the closing words of the Psalm: “Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you” and we ask God to give us a new song with which to praise him.

  1. Has God given you a new song?
  2. Do you worry about world events?
  3. How can you best express your hope to your friends and neighbours?
7. Taste and See
Psalm 34

The title of this Psalm tells us that it was written at a time when David changed his behaviour to escape  the King of Gath, Abimilech. Abimilech was the name given to a number of Philistine kings as a title, this king’s name was Achish. I Samuel 21:10-15 records the event, it occurred when David was fleeing from King Saul who wanted to kill him. He went to the city of Gath hoping for refuge but was threatened instead. In order to escape he pretended to be insane and was able to get to a cave where he was joined by a collection of people who were described as ‘’everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was bitter in soul”. The psalm may have been written in this cave for the benefit of those that had sought refuge with David.

David begins by calling on those around him to magnify the Lord. To enlarge their perception of him. We cannot make God bigger, but we can increase our understanding and knowledge of him, David wanted the gathered group to getter a bigger idea of God and what better way to do that than to praise him together? He goes on to say that God had delivered him from all of his fears and yet he had resorted to trickery, even deception to escape. Was he being hypocritical here? Or did God expect him to use his own cunning to evade the Philistine King? We are not told and there are many occasions when Bible heroes used dubious, even devious means to accomplish what seems to be God’s plans. Could David just passively wait for God’s deliverance? Possibly. But often God expects us to use our intellect and resources to achieve his purpose. When someone is sick, they could just wait in hope that God will heal them, or they could seek medical advice and accept a remedy that is given to them. Usually God works through the resources, skills and abilities he gives and sometimes he will work outside of those in a miraculous way. What should David have done? While we can only speculate, he recognized that his deliverance was from God.

A large group of men had joined David seeking refuge, he encouraged them to see that their hope was in God. It was he who was encamped around them and kept them safe. “Taste and see’’ he says, “The Lord is good”. Trust God, try him out and you will not be disappointed. The metaphor is clear, experience God for yourself, the prophet Malachi much later wrote the words of God “test me and see, will I not open the windows of heaven and pour down blessings upon you?” It is one thing to say you believe in God, it is another to put your faith in him. When you are encouraging someone to eat a food they are not sure about you may say ‘just taste it’ assuming that when they do they will enjoy it. David is telling this group of rag tag men to put their faith to the test. ‘’You say you trust God, show me” taste him and see, The Lord is good.

David draws the men together, “you want to save your life?” he asks “then this is what you need to do” He goes on to tell them to seek God, to turn their lives around, trust him. God draws near to the broken and the hurting he will restore them. While everyone will have problems and afflictions in this life, God will restore the righteous while at the same time condemning the ungodly because they have rejected him. Not one of those who have trusted in him will be condemned, this is the assurance and inheritance of those that have put their faith in him. Taste him and see.

The apostle Paul writes in Romans 8 that there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. This is our hope and our confidence, he has taken away the judgement that should fall on us and now we can confidently say, that no matter who accuses us, whoever would speaks condemnation against us, whatever may try to separate us from God’s love in Christ, in all of these things we overwhelmingly conquer.

  1. Did David do the right thing by acting as if he was insane?
  2. In what ways do you need to “taste and see that the lord is good’’?
  3. Do you doubt the assurance of your salvation?