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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson

Psalm 33:1-3: A fitting garment

Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous;

    it is fitting for the upright to praise him.

2 Praise the Lord with the harp;

    make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre.

3 Sing to him a new song;

    play skillfully, and shout for joy.

‘Whereas all Scripture speaks to us, the psalms speak for us.’

In Jonathon Aitken’s autobiography, ‘Pride and Perjury’, he describes how early on in his spiritual journey, as his life was falling apart, he met a pastor in a church in New York. This man encouraged him to pray the Psalms.

In the middle of the Bible we have this great prayer book (or hymn book? Both!??). For the next few weeks we are going continue on from Psalm 32, by taking time to study some of these wonderful prayer poems.

Psalm 33 opens where Psalm 32 closed – with the theme of joy and rejoicing. In fact, this psalm itself begins and ends calling for, and affirming, joy in the Lord (1-3,20-22).

The “righteous” are those who have been made right with God. Out of that relationship – in the overflow of it – they endeavour to live ‘’upright’’ lives before men. It is entirely “fitting” that such people should want to praise God with joyful shouting and singing and skilful music-making.

Alec Motyer, in the ‘New Bible Commentary’, says that a “new song” is ‘not so much novel as fresh, prompted by a fresh awareness of who and what he (God) is. True praise requires this fresh sense of God as it needs the fervour of joy and the skill of good musicianship’ (pp.505,506).

Last week-end, on a Radio 4 programme, I heard a fascinating story told by a lady about an incident which occurred a number of years ago. I think she must have been a child at the time. She was with her dad one day, when they came across a former Prime Minister who was in trouble in the water. Her father rescued him and saved him from drowning. The next morning they just happened to come across him again. She said that he clearly was not pleased to see them, but did speak to them because he had to. Apparently there was a feeling that he could suffer severe political embarrassment if the story got out, as his chief opponent was a highly proficient yachtsman. It wouldn’t make him look good. (It appears this story has never found its way into any of the biographies written about this leading statesman). As I listened to this I thought, ‘How could you fail to show warm gratitude to one who saved you?’ He clearly was not pleased to see us. How inadequate and inappropriate! But…

“…it is fitting for the upright…” to praise God.

PRAYER: Lord, fill our hearts and churches with joyful songs and shouts, skilful music, and utterly befitting praise to you, the One who saved us.

Psalm 32:11: Choose Joy

Rejoice in the LORD and be glad, you righteous;

    sing, all you who are upright in heart!

The blessing of joy

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!’ Philippians 4:4;

“Rejoice always…” 1 Thessalonians 5:16.

This is not primarily about our emotions. We might be feeling good; we might be feeling bad. Thisis a choice, a decision. It’s something we are called to do/commanded to do.

One thing that can help us with this is song. Singing should not be reserved for church services only, but what about its place in our personal lives? One church minister wrote that every week he chose a hymn of the week, and he would sing it every day (or read it as a prayer).

You will note that the call is to “Rejoice in the LORD.” Our rejoicing is in Him: Who He is and what He’s done. Feelings change; circumstances change; but He never changes. He is always the same.

“Rejoice in the LORD and be glad, you righteous”: i.e. you who are in a right relationship with God. The greatest reason for rejoicing, every moment of every day, is to know that we are forgiven through faith in the crucified Jesus.

“God buries our sins in the deepest sea, and puts up a big sign: ‘No fishing!’ “

Psalm 32:8,9: ‘Wonderful Counsellor’

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;

    I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.

9 Do not be like the horse or the mule,

    which have no understanding

but must be controlled by bit and bridle

As we work through Psalm 32, we are continuing to reflect on some of the blessings of the ‘saved’ person. We have considered the blessing of prayer (6a), and the blessing of a relationship with God (6,7, 10). Today we are going to think about the blessing of guidance.

What a wonderful promise is contained in these verses! In my mind, I set alongside them Proverbs 3:5,6:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart

    and lean not on your own understanding;

6 in all your ways submit to him,

    and he will make your paths straight.

It has been pointed out that we experience God as our “hiding place’ (7) as we live under His guidance and watchful care. The safest (and sweetest) place in all the world in which to live is in the centre of God’s will. He knows what is best for us and where is best for us. May His will always be done!

As God guides us, our response should not be the forced compliance of an animal lacking understanding, but a loving obedience (9).

‘We ought to be as a feather in the wind, wafted readily in the breath of the Holy Spirit…’ C.H.Spurgeon: ‘Treasury of David’.

PRAYER: Lord God, you are the ‘Wonderful Counsellor”, and you are always with me – and in me. Help me to be alert to your voice: even to your faintest whispers; and when I hear you speak may I not be stubborn, but willing to go your way.

Psalm 32:6,7,10: ‘I live in God’

Therefore let all the faithful pray to you

    while you may be found;

surely the rising of the mighty waters

    will not reach them.

7 You are my hiding place;

    you will protect me from trouble

    and surround me with songs of deliverance…

…Many are the woes of the wicked,

    but the Lord’s unfailing love

    surrounds the one who trusts in him.

I read about an elderly gentleman who was living in a care home. One day, some visitors insensitively asked him, ‘What’s it like to live in an old folks home?’ Pulling himself to his full height, the man replied with great dignity, ‘I don’t live in an old folks home; I live in God.’

How’s that for perspective?

The second blessing I want to highlight here is that of a personal relationship with God. (This, of course, links with the previous blessing of prayer. To say we believe in God, but not pray to Him, is a form of ‘practical atheism’).

It’s been pointed out that, as believers, we are not necessarily immune from the “rising waters” (6), but even when they come we are surrounded by a love that never fails (10).

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;

    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-39)

We need to grasp that we live not so much in these set of circumstances (whether good or bad), but in God. Our lives are “hidden with Christ in God” (Col.3:3). So if something is going to touch us, it has to come through Him, and if He allows it to touch us, He must have a purpose in it.

“Hide yourself in God, so when a man wants to find you he will have to go there first.” Shannon L. Alder

Psalm 32:6,7: Digging where David dug

Therefore let all the faithful pray to you

    while you may be found;

surely the rising of the mighty waters

    will not reach them.

7 You are my hiding place;

    you will protect me from trouble

    and surround me with songs of deliverance.

As we work through the remainder of Psalm 32, I want to highlight other blessings in the lives of the blessed! Those who experience the blessing of salvation, sins forgiven, a right relationship with God, experience other blessings too. The first of these is:

The blessing of (answered) prayer.

The word “Therefore” looks back to verses 1-5, and David’s answered prayer for forgiveness of sins. David is sharing his own experience as an encouragement to others.

I was speaking on this psalm recently, and afterwards someone rightly commented that prayer is a blessing in itself, aside from any answers we may receive. It is such a blessing to be able to talk to God about everything. That is true. I agree one hundred per cent. But I would still assert that it is primarily the blessing of answered prayer to which David refers here.

Consider these two excellent quotes on verse 5:

‘If prayer is sufficient to deal with the most serious problem of all – will not prayer solve every problem of life.’ Alec Motyer.

‘Remarkable answers to prayer very much quicken the prayerfulness of other godly persons. Where one man finds a golden nugget others feel inclined to dig.’ C.H. Spurgeon.

No doubt the experience of David, in his personal dealings with God, has encouraged many other people through the years who might otherwise have wallowed in despair.

Psalm 32:5: The only way sin can leave the body

Then I acknowledged my sin to you

    and did not cover up my iniquity.

I said, “I will confess

    my transgressions to the Lord.”

And you forgave

    the guilt of my sin.

There is such freedom in confession. It leads to knowing the blessing of full forgiveness.

If we are thinking, in this psalm, about that chapter in David’s life when he sinned with Bathsheba (see 2 Samuel 11,12), then verse 5 will correspond to 2 Samuel 12:13, where we see that the prayer of confession led to instantaneous forgiveness.

I just happened to be listening to 2 Samuel 11,12 the other day, and even though I know the story well, I felt shocked by the ruthlessness and brutality David showed in ‘stealing’ another man’s wife, then having this man of integrity – Uriah- killed, in an effort to cover his tracks. Of course, he couldn’t. He found himself hopelessly exposed in God’s searchlights. It is, for us, breathtaking (and encouraging) to realise that he could be instantly forgiven for that. ‘Amazing grace’!

(I just make the point in passing though, that, although David could be forgiven for the guilt of his sin, he still had to face its consequences. That is another story, and beyond the scope of what we are studying here. Still, it should be noted. It is salutary).

It follows that we should be wary of making cheap confession. David’s was anything but cheap. As we have seen, he went through the wringer to get to the place of coming clean.

Proverbs 28:13 says: “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.”

Confessing and renunciation; confession and forsaking, go together. What the Bible envisages is not a trite ‘going to confession’ so you can do it all again quite happily next week, knowing you can go to confession again…and so on, and so forth, ad infinitum. (I realise this may be a bit of a stereotype, but I have reason to believe it really does happen).

Look at 1 John 1:8-10: someone commented that the only way sin can leave the body is ‘through the mouth’, as we confess it.

Psalm 32:3,4: ‘Sorrowful as God intended’

When I kept silent,

    my bones wasted away

    through my groaning all day long.

4 For day and night

    your hand was heavy on me;

my strength was sapped

    as in the heat of summer.

What a miserable condition it is to find yourself under conviction of sin. If you have ever been there, you will identify with these words. In some cases it can go on for a long time. It may need to, in order to bring about real repentance. (Reading Jonathon Aitken’s story, ‘Pride and Perjury’, you get the sense that it was like this for him. He had a lot to work through. It wasn’t over in five minutes).

Conviction can even affect your body; you may feel the effects physically. Whatever David’s sin was, it ‘ate way at’ his ‘soul like a cancer.’ Tom Hale.

This may well belong to the time of David’s adultery with Bathsheba ( see 2 Samuel 11,12). If so, verse 3,4 may reflect David being burdened with a guilty conscience. It’s such a heavy weight to carry. But if it leads to the “Then” of verse 5, it has done its work.

I think of Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 7:8b-11a:

“…I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while – yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you…”

Psalm 32:1,2: Let the party begin!

Blessed is the one

    whose transgressions are forgiven,

    whose sins are covered.

2 Blessed is the one

    whose sin the Lord does not count against them

    and in whose spirit is no deceit.

We are just past the half way mark in Exodus, and for the next few days we’re going to take a short break, and work our way through Psalm 32.

I have to admit that this psalm has been very much on my mind in recent weeks, because a couple of friends came round to our home to pray with Jilly and myself, and they shared Psalm 32:8 with us. Not only has that verse come to mean a lot, but I’ve felt inspired to take a fresh look at this lovely psalm. I suggest you begin by reading the whole 11 verses, and consider what the Lord is saying to you through it, before you read any thoughts of mine.

Today, though, we will focus on verses 1,2, where we see the blessing of full forgiveness.

I understand that this is the first use of the word “Blessed” in the psalter since Psalm 1. The truly happy life is the totally forgiven life. As someone observed, the prodigal is welcomed home, the singing and dancing begin, a party is thrown.

I am struck by the comprehensive language used here:

  • “Transgressions” are ‘rebellions’. This refers to deliberately going against God’s known will; when we do what we know to be wrong. We see a big, unmistakeable sign saying, ‘No trespassing’, but we cross that boundary line anyway;
  • “Sins” are specific items of wrongdoing in thought, word and deed;
  • “Sin” is what we might call our general fallenness/our sinfulness – our sinful disposition.

I will return to this thought when we come to verse 11, but our greatest cause for happiness is to know that all our sins are fully forgiven through faith in Jesus’ blood – that ‘Calvary covers it all’. (David knew a fully comprehensive forgiveness, but we have a far richer understanding and experience in the light of the Cross and the full revelation of Scripture).

‘My sin, O the bliss of this glorious thought,

My sin, not in part but the whole;

Is nailed to His Cross, and I bear it no more,

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul.’

Exodus 21:1-11: People matter

“These are the laws you are to set before them:

Hebrew Servants

2 “If you buy a Hebrew servant, he is to serve you for six years. But in the seventh year, he shall go free, without paying anything. 3 If he comes alone, he is to go free alone; but if he has a wife when he comes, she is to go with him. 4 If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the woman and her children shall belong to her master, and only the man shall go free.

5 “But if the servant declares, ‘I love my master and my wife and children and do not want to go free,’ 6 then his master must take him before the judges. He shall take him to the door or the doorpost and pierce his ear with an awl. Then he will be his servant for life.

7 “If a man sells his daughter as a servant, she is not to go free as male servants do. 8 If she does not please the master who has selected her for himself, he must let her be redeemed. He has no right to sell her to foreigners, because he has broken faith with her. 9 If he selects her for his son, he must grant her the rights of a daughter. 10 If he marries another woman, he must not deprive the first one of her food, clothing and marital rights. 11 If he does not provide her with these three things, she is to go free, without any payment of money.

‘The material which comprises this section represents only some of the statutes which formed part of ancient Israel’s law. In all likelihood many of the laws included here have been selected because they corresponded closely with God’s actions in rescuing the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.’ T.D.Alexander: ‘New Bible Commentary’, p.109.

We are entering into territory, in Exodus, which is not always easy to read or understand. But here are some pointers to help us with this particular passage:

  • There is much that relates particularly to the people of Israel at that time, and their context and culture;
  • Nothing resembling Caribbean-type slavery is envisaged here. The Christians who fought against the slave trade rightly saw it as a great evil, and did not see any Biblical support for it. It is probably something more akin to indentured apprenticeships and service in an extended family that is in mind here. Compulsory, life-long slavery is forbidden;
  • The safeguards are put in place because people, made in the image of God, matter. As we saw in looking at the Ten Commandments, loving God and loving people are indissolubly linked. ‘God always safeguards the rights of those who cannot defend themselves, such as servants, women and children…In the corresponding passage in Deuteronomy 15:12-18, the master of the servant being freed is commanded to treat the servant generously and not send him away empty-handed; the master is to remember that the Israelites were once slaves in Egypt, and that therefore he should treat his servant as he would have wanted to be treated himself (Deuteronomy 15:14-15; Matthew 7:12).’ Tom Hale: ‘Applied Old Testament Commentary’, p.246.)

The principle to take away is, I believe, that people matter. We cannot divorce how we treat fellow human-beings from our worship of God. It’s a principle we will see again.

“In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12).

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