PSALMS 40:1 – 42:11 and 1 CORINTHIANS 13:1–13
David is still suffering under the consequences of his sin with Bathsheba. This Psalm brings comfort to those who have been going through a time of great uncertainty. This is one of the most difficult parts of any trial; the sense of wondering if there is ever an end. While we have breath we always have hope and we see so many examples where God has brought a person through their valley. We saw it with Job. In Job’s case there was not much precedent that he could have drawn from. Which of the many Bible stories could he go back to draw strength and encouragement?
David endured seasons of despair but he never ceased crying out to God. He was totally dependent upon His mercies because he knew he was suffering as a result of his transgressions. In one moment he is in the depth of despair the next moment he is set upon a rock and established. Who can come to terms to the depths of God’s mercy and ability to restore? One can understand how David can be singing forth a new song (vs 3). It is not just a personal blessing but it has impact upon the lives of many others as well. The working of God in David’s life will instil a fear and reverence in those who have opportunity to observe him. We never know when our lives can serve as a witness to others. It is oftentimes more than what we say but how we live and conduct ourselves, especially when going through adversity. The ways of God go far beyond our understanding and all we can do is submit and seek to serve Him faithfully. The time of sorrow is not wasted provided we maintain a right attitude of heart.
David further states that blessed is the man who makes the Lord His trust; those who do not give heed to the proud or associate with those who turn aside to lies (vs 4). This is a real challenge to the church in these last days because the spirit of antichrist will permeate the church and seek to lay hold of those with an uncircumcised heart.
From verse 6 onwards we have prophetic words that speak of Christ. This is why David is so beloved of the Lord. His heart allows for the Word of God to literally come alive as we now see words that Christ himself will speak. These verses represent the sum of what Jesus was called to do culminating in the giving of His life upon the Cross. David came to the place where he could utter the words that Christ Himself fulfilled. This is a New Covenant reality; the ability in delighting to do the will of God. Remember what David declared in Psalm 37? Delight thyself in the Lord and He shall give you the desires of your heart (Psa 37:4). This is not a self-fulfilling agenda but rather a love of doing the things that pleases God. What is the ultimate result? It is the New Covenant Reality of having the Law written upon the fleshly table of the heart (vs 8, Jer 31:33). The outflow of this experience is a ministry of righteousness being promoted and taught. It cannot be contained or suppressed but it’s a message that is preached in the midst of the great congregations. Don’t you see the need for this kind of preaching and teaching today?
David comes to find the blessings of such an experience as God’s lovingkindness and truth help to preserve Him. There is such a need for Truth to be taught from the pulpits. The problem is we choose to hide from it or suppress it in cleverly veiled ways. We need to answer the question as to what we do with Truth; do we embrace it or do we excuse and dismiss it? It is a question we must honestly address in order to become a New Covenant people. David also understood the reality of evil that surrounded him at every turn. This is especially true if we are those who seek to know and delight in His will. The enemy comes against those who seek to establish God’s kingdom on earth as He has established it in heaven. Too often we go about establishing our own kingdom reality at the expense of God’s intent. The enemy is not threatened because God’s purpose is not being pursued and established. This is the danger of many false doctrines today; churches thrive and have the appearance of blessing but God’s true will is not being delighted in nor pursued. Perhaps this is what it means when many will say to the Lord have we not done these things in thy name and He will respond that He never knew us (Luke 13:27)? Such a people establish their own kingdom parameters rather than learning to delight in His pleasure. May God always help us to have the kind of heart that David had. Another key we see in David is the humility of heart that he presented to the Lord; it is a key in God being so favourably disposed to David.
One of the fruits of David’s suffering as a result of his sin is the compassion he had for others. David was a poor man (spiritually) at this point in his life. It cannot be understated how dependent he was upon the mercies of God. He could not bank on anything else because he sinned from a position of a king and priest. He had come to know the fullness of God’s favour, deliverance and blessing and yet transgressed in a most abhorrent matter. He knew that he was without excuse so all he could do is cry out for mercy. He became acquainted with the needs of the poor man in both a physical and spiritual sense. David was now coming to know a measure of God’s mercy and deliverance he had never experienced and it helps to shape his heart towards others. He exhorts us to consider the poor and to not be overly judgemental. The Lord will preserve and prosper those who minister to the poor in spirit. This will help us in our times of being poor in spirit. Jesus speaks to the poor in spirit with the promise of the blessings of the kingdom (Mat 5:3).
We can only learn to be merciful to others as we come to know the mercies of God upon our own lives. It is true; His mercies are new every morning. The mercy seat is the highest revelation of God given to man. If it was not for the mercy of God we would not be here today. We must never lose that sense of dependence upon it. David, in spite of his sin still had a heart that was tender with an ability to acknowledge and receive correction. This is what God is after in each of our lives; to have a broken and contrite heart before Him. He knows our frailty and longs to have the opportunity to become the strength of our heart (Psa 73:26).
The consequences of sin are still yet very real upon David. He speaks of an evil disease that is plaguing him in verse 8. The descriptions of this disease sound like some form of cancer in seeing its ability to eat away at his life. It has brought him to a place where he cannot even get up so we can assume that it was life threatening. He then had the added blow of a close friend turning his back upon him. This would be Ahithophel who served as his counsellor for many years. He has now sided with the usurper Absalom who was looking to take advantage of David’s vulnerability. Can you see how David is becoming acquainted with a measure of the Lord’s future suffering? Jesus as he approached the Cross would be betrayed by one who was alongside him during His years of ministry. This is one of the fruits of suffering; it can help us come to know a measure of Christ that cannot be gained any other way. By no means am I suggesting the justification of sin so as to come into this realm of understanding but David is touching something new in God. He had a heart that enabled God to work restoration and while doing so was being tenderized to know the mercies of God and the frailties of the flesh. All David can say at the end of this ordeal is the following: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel from everlasting, and to everlasting, Amen, and Amen (vs 13).
This is a Psalm that that was given to the sons of Korah to sing. A Maschil is a teaching or instructive Psalm. It is assumed that David is the one who wrote this Psalm and it is probably placed at the time when he was fleeing from Saul. It opens with a familiar song that is known to many. It would be good to try and place yourself in David’s shoes the next time you sing this song. David is not after a blessing he is longing after God Himself. He has been innocent and yet he is being harassed and pursued for his life. He longs for the privilege of coming into the presence of God. If life is casting overwhelming challenges your way why not turn wholeheartedly to God and just seek to be in his presence; to thirst after the living God. David cultivated this kind of relationship through his years as a shepherd boy. This kind of longing does not just happen overnight but it results from a daily seeking of His face while learning to place priority on the things of the kingdom.
What makes these challenges more difficult is when people speak and say such things as where is your God? It is not unusual to have the mockers and haters of God make such comments but what about well-meaning friends and associates? My wife and I had a taste of this during our first year on the Mission Field. We were called to Tanzania and did make it to this beautiful nation for a period of 2 weeks. While we were there we applied for a more permanent visa and then headed to So. Africa for a planned period of two months. After several months went by we still had no visa and well-meaning people began questioning whether we were doing the right thing. They acknowledged and appreciated our willingness to serve overseas but questions about our giving up full time employment etc began to emerge. Our plans took an unexpected turn but we sensed God’s hand at work throughout this period. We continued to seek the Lord at all times and His affirming hand helped to keep us steady. Interestingly, it turns out that the unplanned year in So. Africa was actual preparation for the next phase of our journey. God is so good.
In verses 5-6 we see one of the primary points that mark David’s life. It is his ability to be honest about his soul. He walked through so many paths of discouragements and uncertainty leaving him in a seemingly helpless state. David had the ability to never leave his soul in such a condition. He found ability in being able to summon the spirit man to a place of authority in his life. David was a shepherd and he was aware of what happens to a sheep when it rolls over on its back. It is helpless and it requires the hand of the shepherd to put the sheep back into an upright position. David knew how to make strong declarations to the chief Shepherd at such times. It serves as a wonderful model for us.
In verses 7-8 we see a man who has passed through severe storms but has been able to come out further strengthened. David was able to lay hold of God’s loving-kindness in the daytime and the song of the Lord at night. Once again we see the nature of relationship that David had with God. This is why it is vital for us to have daily devotionals and prayer. God created man to have fellowship with Him and sad to say we allow so many distractions to get in the way. His song ever needs to be upon our lips; there is a power and force behind our praise when we go through such storms in our respective lives.
In verse 9-11 David again returns to the cry and lament of the soul. There are those times when it seems like God is not present while the enemy does his part in reinforcing doubts and fears. Let us remember that this is the area of attack from Satan; it is the soul. When our spirit man is strong and all is well it limits his ability to make inroads; he seeks for moments of vulnerability. A spiritual man or woman must maintain heightened vigilance at all times and have the ability to see the big picture. This is where the spirit of “Understanding” can prove to be helpful. It allows us to see the “why” of events that surround us. David had this quality so even while he would be in difficult places where his soul would cry out he could still come to the place of declaring that God is the health of his countenance and soul (Psa 42:11).
1 Cor 13
This chapter is commonly noted as the “Love” chapter. It has much more meaning after coming to know the primary makeup of the Corinthian church. They were a people who boasted of their individual gifts at the expense of others. Does this kind of problem exist in today’s churches? You better believe it! One cannot help but go through these chapters and see similarities to our day. So what is the remedy for all of the issues that Paul has sequentially laid out in his epistle? It all comes down to love. Paul in the early stages of chapter 13 speaks of some of the prominent gifts in the church; gifts in which the many of the Corinthian’s boasted in. He makes clear that although one may excel in any of the gifts or majors in areas of charity if it is without love then it is meaningless. The subject of Love will serve as the core of what draws the gifts and ministries of the church together. It all centers around the love of God. “For God so loved the world…” “Greater love hath no man this…” (John 3:16, 15:13)
In verses 4-8 the Apostle Paul gives a description of what true love is and what love is not. He begins by saying that love suffers long, is patient and holds steady. We can be thankful for this attribute of God when we think of the long-suffering and patience that God has for each of us. This revelation should help us to know how to love and reach out to others; having an attitude of love towards others without envy. This is a problem in many churches and ministers today. It is not unusual to see a constant comparing one against another. Oftentimes it is done under the guise of comparing one against another along the lines of doctrine. We must watch carefully our motive. Such error does need to be exposed but it has to be in a pure motive of love.
The Corinthians had a certain “fault finding” mentality in looking at others while not looking within themselves. True love will arrest this problem. True love does not seek after its own but has the interest of others at their core. These values are what Jesus displayed as He was dying on the Cross. His motivation was to serve the will of the Father while having a selfless love for mankind. It is a love that rejoices in Truth as opposed to iniquity. It is a love that boasts not itself against others but covers the overall interests of the body. In short, it is the pure love of God that can address and correct the issues and problems of the Corinthian church. It is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit and it is the same measure of love that Peter attests to at the end of his life (2 Pet 1:5-7). This measure of love is achievable to each of us today.
How can one define and summarize love as mentioned above? Love is giving while at the same time being a denial of self. Jesus Himself gave the best definition when He summarized the Law and the Prophets:
Mat 22:37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
Mat 22:38 This is the first and great commandment.
Mat 22:39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
Mat 22:40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
Paul was pointing out the immaturity of the Corinthians in verse 11 and was basically telling them it is time to grow up. He earlier described them as spiritual babes who had not yet gone beyond milk. The gifts were not the problem it was the immaturity of the human vessels that were giving the Corinthians such a bad name. This needs to be understood today because many have been turned away from the gifts due to Corinthian type behaviour. Paul is seeking to introduce them to strong meat so that they can grow and mature. The Corinthian problem is a modern day church problem. What is our response to this presentation of strong spiritual meat?