Daily Bread

Psalm 5

Get the inside right first

For there is no faithfulness in their mouth; their inward part is very wickedness; their throat is an open sepulchre; they flatter with their tongue. (Psa 5:9 KJV)

Notice in verse 9 there are people who can flatter you and seem great on the outside, but “their inward part is very wickedness”. Contrast this with what God requires:

Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom. (Psa 51:6)

This second quote was from a Psalm David wrote some time after his sin with Bathsheba, so David is not claiming to be a perfect example of virtue. What he is saying is that God wants us to be right from within, and no amount of flattery on the outside will cover a rotten inside. So also with us, we need to work on our own inner thoughts and desires first, so that the outward words and actions flow naturally from within.

Psalm 4

Thou hast enlarged my steps

Verse 1 appears to be a reference to Psalm 18, written about David’s desperate situation at the time of his fight with the Amalekites. His wives and children, and the families of all his soldiers had been taken captive.

The specific phrase that links these two psalms is “Thou hast enlarged me”. It appears in 4:1 and 18:36, and as we shall see, refers to the way God helped David overcome the Amalekites.

Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness: thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress; have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer. (Psalm 4:1)

In Psalm 18, that same phrase is used, and we can see exactly what this “enlarging” was:

“Thou hast enlarged my steps under me, that my feet did not slip. I have pursued mine enemies, and overtaken them: neither did I turn again till they were consumed. I have wounded them that they were not able to rise: they are fallen under my feet. For thou hast girded me with strength unto the battle: thou hast subdued under me those that rose up against me.” (Psalm 18:36-39)

If we read the account of the battle in 1 Samuel chapter 30, we see that David had literally no strength left to chase after his enemies, having only just returned from another battle front. So much was the fatigue in evidence that many of his men were physically unable to continue. Thus David requested of God:

“shall I pursue after this troop? Shall I overtake them?”

It’s not that he was asking permission, but that he was asking for God’s help to do so. He knew he had no strength to do this, but the need for action to save his family remained. What would you do if it were you?

We know from other passages of scripture that God on occasion gave supernatural speed or strength to His servants, and adding these two Psalms and the account in Samuel together, we can clearly see that this was the case here. This explains David’s specific wording: shall I pursue? In other words, will you give me strength to get back on the road? Shall I overtake them? In other words, will You give me speed or slow them down?

Question 1: Can you find other occasions where God helped David with strength, speed or skill?

Question 2: Do you think God would help you like this if you really needed it? What scripture would you use to back up your opinion?

Psalm 3

Sleeping peacefully

In Psalm 3 and 4 David is obviously in great distress. Many times he repeats his cry for help, “save me” or “hear my cry!”

How interesting, then, that in verse 5 David says “I lay down and slept”. How could someone sleep whilst in a state of such trouble and anxiety?

I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the LORD sustained me. (Psa 3:5 KJV)

Again, in Psalm 4 verse 4 he is quiet on his bed, and in v8 he says “I will both lie down in peace, and sleep”!

Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah. … I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety. (Psa 4:4, 8 KJV)

Jesus did the same thing when he was in the boat on Galilee. He was in the same trouble as the disciples, being in the same boat, yet while they were anxious, he was calmly asleep.

And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep. And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish. And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. (Mat 8:24-26 KJV)

So also with David. In his anxiety he called out to God. He meditated upon his knowledge of God, and realised that having asked his Father for help, he ought to believe in that help, because God had always helped him in times past. At the same time he wrote the words of these Psalms, he was probably still experiencing his problems, yet he had conquered his anxiety through faith. Therefore in Psalm 3v6 he says “I will not be afraid”, and in 4v5 he advises us: “put your trust in the LORD!”.

I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that have set themselves against me round about. (Psa 3:6 KJV)

Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the LORD. (Psa 4:5 KJV)

Having realised these things, he could confidently say “I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; For you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety”.

 

Psalm 2

Kiss the son, lest he be angry

Putting Psalm 2 in it’s context is difficult because we don’t know who wrote it, or when. While David is the author who wrote most Psalms (he was called “the sweet Psalmist of Israel” in 2 Samuel 23:1), many other authors are included too. We have some clues though. Let’s take a look:

Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. (Psa 2:1-3 KJV)

So it is a time where the anointed King of Israel reigns over other nations as well as Israel. Their service is not willingly offered. “let us break their bands asunder” sounds like tribute is being paid to this king.

Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. (Psa 2:6 KJV)

This tells us the King was ruling from Jerusalem, rather than Hebron, Samaria or Gibeah as at other times.

Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him. (Psa 2:12 KJV)

This verse sounds like a father had set up the Kingdom and was passing it on to his son.

I would suggest that this Psalm may be based around the time at the end of David’s reign and the beginning of Solomon’s. David’s military campaigns had successfully secured the borders and brought the surrounding nations into tribute. These Kings had to decide whether to continue serving and passing tribute money to Solomon, or risk war if they refused.

Some of the details in the Psalm still do not fit completely, which is why this Psalm must ultimately be a prophecy of Jesus. Jesus will reign over all the world, not just a part of it:

Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. (Psa 2:8 KJV)

Of him the LORD would say:

…Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. (Psa 2:7 KJV)

Which is applied to Jesus in the new testament book of Hebrews:

For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son? (Heb 1:5 KJV)

 

Why are schools not closing in the UK?

The situation in the UK is that people are being asked to stay away from work and from group contact, yet schools are remaining open. This is causing confusion, because if you have to stay away from groups, then schools are groups, and you have to stay away.

I wanted to write this blog to add my voice to those clarifying the advice and suggest a way forward.

The simple fact is that if you follow the advice about staying away from non-essential group contact, then you also will need to keep your children home from school. Children carry the Covid19 coronavirus without even displaying symptoms, so it stands to reason that children are a very high risk part of the way the virus will spread.

So my simple advice is: Keep your children home from school if possible.

Now I know this is tough advice. It’s difficult facing the prospect of having to fill time, especially as it means running their education. Here’s some thoughts on that piece of the puzzle:

  1. People are being asked to work from home anyway, so chances are that you or your husband/wife/partner will be at home anyway.
  2. The average school day runs for 6.5 hours, but they are not learning for this time. Think about how long it takes a group of 30 children to take their coats off – 15 mins. To move on to the next activity – 15 mins. To get ready for lunch, to come home, etc etc. In reality how much actual focused work are they doing? I would suggest 2 hours a day.
  3. If you focus on 2-3 hours of focused learning, you will be well in line and probably ahead of school education. I suggest using the morning to mimic school hours, and let the children get on with their maths, english, and topic. Then break for lunch and let the afternoon be whatever you happen to be doing. DO NOT feel bad about having to work.
  4. So having taken 2-3 hours out of your working day, that can be put back in by starting work at 7 or 8am, and doing some evening work. I realise it’s not ideal, but if that’s what you need to do to keep your job, it’s worthit!

The last thing I want to say is that the Bible says a great deal about work, education, mental health, family life and even about hand-washing, isolation, and pestilence. If you think now is a good time to get into the Bible some more, I’ve started an email mailing list you can sign up to. You will receive one bite-sized study in the Psalms every day. Sign up here: Daily Bread in the Psalms.

Psalm 1

Works vs Growth

In Psalm 1 we have described for us in a nutshell, all we have to do to receive blessings from God:

Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. (Psalm 1:1-2 KJV)

Blessed is the man who:

  • Doesn’t walk according to the advice of the ungodly
  • Doesn’t hang around with sinners
  • Doesn’t go along with the scornful

but instead:

  • Delights in the law of God
  • Thinks about it all the time
  • Plants himself where he can receive spiritual nourishment

I think we can all from time to time become obsessed with trying to better ourselves, and naturally we would go about that by trying to make ourselves do good works. When we do this we can become very disappointed when we fail. We sometimes measure ourselves against the example of others, or of Christ, which can make us feel unworthy or worthless.

But this is the opposite to the advice of this Psalm. The Psalm suggests that if only we remove ourselves from bad influences, and plant ourselves in good influences, then we will bear fruit of righteousness. Fruit grows automatically on that tree, as it will with us. Once we make this shift in emphasis away from work to think instead about growth, we will never feel wretched at our lack of works, because instead we will wait patiently for God to bring forth fruit in us.

And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. (Psalm 1:3 KJV)