Forgetful People

Don’t kill them, for my people soon forget such lessons; stagger them with Your power, and bring them to their knees, O Lord our shield.
‭Psalms‬ ‭59:11‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Psalm 59 continues the epic journey of David and his thoughts as he focuses on avoiding Saul’s malign attempts to end his life. In this Psalm, David rants before God about the nasty people who are out to get him, waiting for him to return home. They are “criminals”, “murderers”, “vicious dogs”, people with “sinful lips”. David doesn’t have much good to say about them at all. But at the end of the Psalm he again lapses into the comfort of his relationship with God, waiting for Him to rescue him. 

But today’s verse is interesting. David knows what people and their memories and thought processes are like. He knew that if God killed David’s enemies it would be a warning to some at the time but then quickly forgotten. Human nature is still the same today. Take for example someone’s driving behaviour if they see a road traffic accident caused by speeding. Their driving style and speed might moderate for a few miles, but for how long will it stay that way? Sooner or later they will forget or ignore what happened and carry on as they did before. The reoffending rate of people imprisoned for burglary is another example. Many soon forget their period of incarceration and return to their old ways. It is a trait of human nature to forget sinful events committed by others or ourselves, adopting an “it will never happen to me” mentality, or ”I’ll be more careful next time and not get caught”.  

However, David appealed to God to “stagger [such people] with [His] power and bring them to their knees“. He knew that someone repenting of their sins, on their knees before God, would have a far greater impact on the society around them. I know a lovely man in Glasgow, jailed in his teens for a drug offence. He found God in prison and is now the Pastor of a church in the very same community where he committed his drug offences. What an impact he has had! He is a constant reminder to the people in that community of God’s grace being available for all sinners, even him. David knew, and recorded in his Psalm, that a life snuffed out will have no future value, but one redeemed from sin will last forever. If my Pastor friend had continued in a life of drugs and crime, there would have been no lasting legacy, no outpouring of God’s grace, no constant reminder that there is a God in Heaven who cares for all mankind, and particularly those in his community.

So we need to be gracious. We need to pray, and keep praying, for those in our communities, workplaces, families, circle of friends, anyone we know who may be causing us difficulties. These people may not be enemies in the way David describes, but they may be telling lies, or posting unfavourable comments on social media about us. They may be ignoring us in the street. They may even be unpleasant to our faces. But prayer changes things. As we pray God will work on their hearts, and give them the opportunity to kneel before Him, asking for His forgiveness. And as we pray, He will change our hearts too, helping us see these people through His eyes, even loving them as He loves us. I can only say in response to such a gracious God, “What a Saviour!” Do I hear an “Amen”?


“Do you rulers indeed speak justly? Do you judge people with equity? No, in your heart you devise injustice, and your hands mete out violence on the earth.
Then people will say, ‘Surely the righteous still are rewarded; surely there is a God who judges the earth.’”

Psalms‬ ‭58:1-2, 11‬ ‭NIVUK‬‬

“Do you judge people with equity?” Surely a good question. A question just as relevant today as it was in David’s time, but with a difference. In 21st Century UK society I would like to think that the laws set out by our parliamentarians are judged upon by our various courts with total and complete honesty. Justice is administered with almost total transparency, and avenues are available for appealing decisions that might be perhaps a bit dubious. However, in David’s day judges had a reputation of being corrupt, accepting bribes, with no right of redress. It didn’t stop there – hundreds of years later Jesus spoke a parable about the “Unjust Judge” – you will find it in Luke 18:1-8. And throughout history, justice has been a rather hit and miss affair.

So to me the issue of justice is not about corruption within the UK legal systems, but about the way secular and godless principles are creeping into law through unjust parliamentarians. Historically, UK law has been established on Godly principles over many years and these have established a society that is strong and stable, a society that is, for the main, implicitly comfortable with the fairness of its laws. But sadly, in recent years, UK governments seem to have lost their moral compass, and have weakly given in to godless minority groups and passed laws at odds with God’s principles. And the consequences of such legislation has had an unsettling effect on society, with unintended consequences coming to the fore. Verse 2 of our Psalm today talks about “violence on the earth”, surely another description for a society without peace, at war with itself.

David ends his Psalm with the comforting thought that God is still on His throne and will judge righteously, rewarding His people, those who abide by His principles. Though we would like God to judge now, He patiently allows everyone the opportunity to respond to Him, and we too need to be patient, trusting Him to bring about righteousness in all the earth. So we pray. And keep praying. For our governments, for our parliamentarians, for our judges, for our communities, for our families. For those who seem set on anarchy with their lobbying and disruption. And with faith, wait for God to bring about His will and purposes. Will we have to wait long? It may be a lifetime. We may never see justice served in the way we would like or expect. But we can be assured of this one thing – God is still on His throne and will one day judge those who devise injustice in their hearts.


“Be exalted, O God, above the highest heavens! May Your glory shine over all the earth.
My enemies have set a trap for me. I am weary from distress. They have dug a deep pit in my path, but they themselves have fallen into it.”
Psalms‬ ‭57:5-6‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Psalm 57 is a “Yo-Yo” set of verses. David’s thoughts, captured in this Psalm, seem to bounce between praise to God and despair about his predicament. He’s on the run again, and Saul nearly catches him this time. You can just imagine him and his men holding their breath as Saul’s soldiers pass by. And we read that Saul was even within reach of David as he “relieved himself” in the same cave in which David was hiding.

In today’s Western society it is difficult to relate to the dangers David faced into, almost on a daily basis, as he tried to keep out of Saul’s way. Most of us do not experience threats to our lives. But we do experience difficulties in which God’s help is just as important as it was in David’s circumstances. As I write, the fallout from Brexit and the pandemic are manifesting themselves in all sorts of societal problems. Security of food and road fuel supplies are under threat. Energy prices have rocketed. We are constantly being told that the NHS cannot cope with the demands being made of it. People are anxious and nervous about the future. Their worlds have been shaken and there seems to be no remedy in sight. So what do we do? We do what David did. Share our worries and concerns with our loving Heavenly Father, and concentrate of praising Him. Verse 5, “Be exalted, O God, above the highest heavens! May your glory shine over all the earth” is repeated again in verse 11. Why? Because that was David’s heart. No matter what he was facing into, the important bit was putting God in His rightful place.

So are we anxious today? 1 Peter 5:7 reads, “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” Jesus said in John 16:33, “…Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” We have a choice – accept God’s loving care as He “overcomes the world” or worry ourselves into an early grave. Stark language I know but David went on to become Israel’s greatest king. What will we achieve as God’s overcomers?

Tears in a Bottle

You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in Your bottle. You have recorded each one in Your book.” Psalms‬ ‭56:8‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Why would the Psalmist write that God collects all his tears in a bottle? To modern readers that will seem a bit strange, but in David’s day, as well as in other periods in history, there was apparently a custom of collecting tears, there being a variety of containers available for such a use. They were called lachrymatories and perhaps were a part of funeral arrangements.

But what did David mean when he wrote this verse? And is it relevant today? I think it first of all points to an intimate relationship between David and his Heavenly Father. At every opportunity he came into God’s presence, sharing what was happening at the time. The good times and well as the bad times. The times of laughter and joy, as well as the times of sorrow and grief. In this verse David was sharing a time of sadness, noting that God was keeping track of all the times a similar situation had occurred in his life. When this Psalm was written, David had been captured by the Philistines – the story can be found in 1  Samuel 21. He realised that he wasn’t in a safe place and pretended to be insane to escape. But in the midst of all this there was one place in which he couldn’t be touched – God’s presence.

So do we think that God keeps a register of all our sorrows? I think that depends on our relationship with Him. David had a full-on relationship with God – nothing held back, good or bad. But what about us? Is our relationship to God limited to a weekly recital of the Lord’s Prayer followed by a couple of hymns? Or do we too, like David, chatter away to our loving Heavenly Father at every opportunity, sharing our life with Him? Perhaps David spent more times in Heavenly places than on Planet Earth. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 is a short verse, and it encourages us to, “Pray without ceasing“. I don’t believe it means we supply God with a continual shopping list of prayers. Rather, we must, like David, develop a conversational and intimate relationship – call it prayer if you like – with our Heavenly Father. Sharing all that is happening to us in our sinful world and receiving the encouragement and advice we need for living. And like David we too will, “….walk in your presence, O God, in your life-giving light.” ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭56:13‬ ‭NLT‬‬.

Mere Mortals

I praise God for what He has promised; yes, I praise the Lord for what He has promised. I trust in God, so why should I be afraid? What can mere mortals do to me?”
Psalms‬ ‭56:10-11‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Who hasn’t been concerned about what others think of them? So much of our societal life revolves around being accepted by others. In our families, our communities, our work places – in fact any place where we interface with others. Schools are terrible places for any child who dares to be different, whether they want to be or not. Conformity in dress code is mandated in most schools and non-conformity can lead to peer ridicule. The overweight or behaviourally different child can be cruelly mocked. In my school years I was a very sensitive child and that exposed me to mild bullying and other difficulties. And in our workplaces, the appraisal system demands that a senior person exposes what he or she thinks about a more junior member of their staff. In our communities, who hasn’t fallen into the trap of saying what they think of “the man down the road” or the lady two doors away?

David, though, is in a bubble, impervious to the thoughts and opinions of others. A bubble of trust in his loving God. He knows that God has made promises to him and his faith is such that he believes them all 100%. And that faith leads him to the astonishing statement that because of his trust in God he has no reason to be afraid. Of anything? I believe David totally trusted God with His life. Time and time again he had experienced God coming through for him, saving him in one calamity or another. He had reached the place where he could honestly say that his fellow human beings could not touch him in anything, not by any thought, word or deed. And his backstop, his bottom line, was the expectation that he would transition from this world to the next should his enemies overcome him, to be in God’s presence for ever.

So back to our question. Are we concerned about what others think of us? The First Century Roman church was counter-cultural in its day and suffered greatly from persecution because the early Christians dared to be different in following their Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul, in his epistle to the Romans, gave some sound advice. Romans‬ ‭12:14-18‬ ‭NLT‬‬, “Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honourable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.” And by following Paul’s advice we can stand secure, having done our best to be acceptable to those around us. We can’t change what others think of us as we stand firm in God’s truths. In Matthew 5:13-16, Jesus informed His followers that they were to be salt and light in their world. Being so will possibly give us hassles as we promote God’s counter-cultural truths. Regarding our standing in people’s thoughts, we must never lose sight of the reality that the only opinion that matters is what God thinks of us. Speaking of which, the Bible is packed full of wonderful truths. Here are two verses that never cease to bless me. Psalm 17:8, “Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings”. And Isaiah 49:16, “See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands…” Wow! God thinks so much of me that He has written my name on His hands. What love! What a Saviour!

So we trust in our God. We praise Him and thank Him at every opportunity. Like David, we each live in a bubble of His love,  where “mere mortals” cannot touch us.

Troublesome Thoughts

Listen to my prayer, O God, do not ignore my plea; hear me and answer me.
My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught
because of what my enemy is saying, because of the threats of the wicked; for they bring down suffering on me and assail me in their anger.

Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken.
But You, God, will bring down the wicked into the pit of decay; the bloodthirsty and deceitful will not live out half their days. But as for me, I trust in You.

Psalm 55:1-3, 22-23 NIV

Oh dear! David is troubled by his thoughts once again. Sound familiar? Those times when we wake up in the wee small hours, “troubled by our thoughts”. Those times when a small problem adopts larger than life proportions and threatens to derail our sleep for a few hours. Well, this seems to be David’s predicament. Except his problem seems to be what people think of him. He seems to have an enemy who is set on spreading lies about him and adding in angry threats for good measure. And the result is that he becomes distraught and suffers greatly.

As we read through this Psalm, it follows the pattern of our nocturnal sleeplessness as we toss and turn, tormented by our thoughts. David went through a familiar process. 

A pounding heart and shaking with fear.
Wanting to run away, the quicker and further the better.
An attempt at blaming something, in this case the wickedness within the city
Sadness about a friend letting him down.
Concocting in his mind what he would like to happen to his enemies.

You can just feel the distress and discomfort building up to a crescendo. But then reality kicks in. He remembers the Lord and what he has done for him in the past and will do for him again in the future. He looks as his problem more rationally, receiving revelation and objectivity about the battle he is engaged in, the facts about his enemies, and even receives a dose of reality over his friend’s behaviour. And he finishes his rant with a statement of the dependability of God. How He will take care of him, carrying his burdens. Knowing that God will not let His people come to grief. And finally declaring that God can be trusted to save him. Wow! What a journey! 

But what an inspiration to us. It boils down to the simplest of conclusions. No matter what is keeping us awake at night, it will never be too big a problem for God to help us through it. Amen?

The Ziphites

Save me, O God, by your name; vindicate me by your might.
You have delivered me from all my troubles, and my eyes have looked in triumph on my foes.
Psalm 54:1,7 NIVUK

David is a hunted man, lurking and hiding in the wilderness of Judah. King Saul is after him and there are many opportunists who want to cosy up to Saul to gain his favours. The Ziphites are amongst them and they try and expose David’s location to King Saul, not just once, but on two occasions. And they did this even though they were tribally related to David, but, sadly, they considered him a rebel. Knowing their own territory, they were keeping tabs on David and providing intelligence to Saul about his whereabouts. But as things worked out, one might say they were backing the wrong horse.

Psalm 54 is the record of a part prayer, part chat, part declaration, between David, his Father God and anyone who was listening at the time. David starts in prayer, appealing to God to keep him safe and vindicate his yet to be fulfilled status as Israel’s king, in spite of the grave threats to his life. He then lapses into explaining why he was praying in such a way before finishing the Psalm with a declaration of praise and thanks. Prayers for help to a result in seven verses. Can’t be bad!

Does this Psalm still have validity today? It was written in a lawless society (at least by today’s standards) where a king could do pretty much what he liked. In our Western society, we have much more stability, or so we like to think, but there are still times of peril when God is the only One who can fix things for us. Those calamitous times when we, in our panic and fright, shout out a hurried “Save me” prayer to God, relief flooding in when He answers us. I’ve been there, and I’m sure you have too. But David didn’t write this Psalm on a whim. He wrote it out of a vibrant and personal relationship with his Father in Heaven. And out of that relationship he could say with confidence that God would come through for him. There is no substitute for a life spent in the company of our Creator God. Perhaps time spent with God will lead to a less stressful life, free of perilous situations. Or, more likely, it will lead us through any “valley[s] of the shadow of death” that we encounter, our walk fearlessly accompanied and comforted by the Lord our Shepherd.

So let me ask you a question today. Are you a fearful person worrying that something is waiting to zap you around the next corner, hoping that you will have time to shout out the “Save me” prayer, or are you a person who spends time with God and is confident in His ability to protect you come what may? Hmmm…

Being a Fool

“Only fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, and their actions are evil; not one of them does good!” Psalms‬ ‭53:1‬ ‭NLT‬‬

David, the Psalmist, is again in contemplative mode. In a zone of musings, as he thinks about what is going on about him. He is obviously much influenced by people around him, and he sees their hypocrisy, their lip service to God but in reality they deny Him, even His existence, with their thoughts and actions. And he concludes that they are “fools”. But if he is right, there are an awful lot of fools around us today. Nothing has changed from David’s day. Worse, though, there are many more who openly declare that there is no God. That everything happened by chance. Chemical reactions brought about carbon-based life. A Big Bang caused the universe to appear. And these people then sit back in a self-satisfied state of “knowledge”, not realising that they have talked themselves into being fully paid up members of the Society of Fools.

David draws the conclusion that without an open acceptance of God and His ways, the God-deniers, the atheists and agnostics of his day, are corrupt and evil in all they think and do. They adopt a life that is biased towards their own personal gain, selfishness being fuelled by an evil desire not held in check by the thought there is a God in Heaven looking on. Deep within us is a God-shaped hole that yearns and aches for Him to fill it. And today there will be those who, in spite of their God-denying, will try to fill their internal ache by doing good things for their society, perhaps helping out at a fund raising function, putting out their neighbour’s bins, visiting sick in hospital, or donating to a charity somewhere. 

But David’s musings remain in the zone of the foolishness of denying God, and the impact such denial will have on thoughts and actions, extending as they do into evil, and general corruption. Worldliness on a global scale.

So what about us. Christians can’t sit back and believe they have nothing to fear from Psalm 53. To the contrary, perhaps there is a wake up call here, for us to review and examine our hearts, bringing to the surface all that is God-denying. All that is evil and corrupt. And then bring it under the Blood of Jesus, in sorrowful and heart-felt repentance. Then the grace of God will flood over us once again. Praise His Name!


Why do you boast about your crimes, great warrior? Don’t you realise God’s justice continues forever? All day long you plot destruction. Your tongue cuts like a sharp razor; you’re an expert at telling lies. You love evil more than good and lies more than truth.
But I am like an olive tree, thriving in the house of God. I will always trust in God’s unfailing love. I will praise You forever, O God, for what You have done. I will trust in Your good name in the presence of Your faithful people.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭52:1-3, 8-9‬ ‭NLT‬‬

A Psalm about two people. A great warrior who tells lies and the Psalmist who likens himself to an olive tree. It could be the actor list for a stage play or the character list in a fantasy novel. But then the seriousness of the message unfolds. David, the Psalmist, was recording the wrongs of a man called “Doeg the Edomite”, a man who massacred priests at Saul’s behest. We can read about the event, and his evil, in 1 Samuel 21 and 22. But what can we learn from this Psalm? I think the main message is that there is an eternal reality about God and His righteousness and justice. There have been many men and women, past and present, who are self-serving, mirroring the behaviour of the “great warrior” and thus assuring themselves the fate reserved for evil people. Perhaps David introduced a hint of sarcasm when he referred to Doeg as being a “great warrior”, because anyone with that title would be expected to be brave and courageous, and with a character befitting the word “great”. David referred to Doeg’s tongue as being like a sharp razor; he was apparently no stranger to boasting about his ruthless deeds and he used his mouth as the vehicle for underpinning his evil reputation. But Doeg was a man without a conscience and his one motivation in life was to maximise his own selfish rewards – an original “what’s in it for me” person – and he came to a early end, dying, according to Jewish traditions, at the age of 34. In today’s culture, the spirit of Doeg lives on, and many a person, not just those in a position of power or leadership, shipwreck their lives on a sea of lies and deceit. 

But David turns away from his rant to more personal matters. He likens himself to an olive tree. Why an olive tree? Why not an oak tree? Or one of those cedars of Lebanon? Perhaps he saw an olive tree planted close by while he wrote down his thoughts in God’s house, and was impressed by its fruitfulness. He saw the blessings of God manifested in this vigorous, long lasting tree; it was perhaps getting close to the time of a rich harvest of olives, and he equated it to his own life of trust in his loving Heavenly Father. A life full of “olives” of praise and thankfulness, a life founded on his relationship with God.

The moral of the story is that sooner or later, a life of deceit will face a time of reckoning. Lies will be exposed before the almighty Judge. And those people who commit to a life of righteousness will be amazed at how blind such deceitful people can be. They will laugh about the fate of even the most mighty of “warriors who do not trust God“. The righteous look on and observe godless, self-seeking evil people as they tumble down the slippery slope leading to the ultimate home of the father of lies.

Grace Unlimited

Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins. 
Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. 
Don’t keep looking at my sins. Remove the stain of my guilt. Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me.”
Psalms‬ ‭51:1, 7, 9-11‬ ‭NLT‬‬

David hasn’t done well. In fact, he has plumbed the depths of depravity beyond even godless people’s experiences. He has coveted another man’s wife, then committed adultery with her, and finally joined the ranks of murderers by arranging for her husband to be killed on the battlefield. And his self-deception was so complete that it took a brave prophet, Nathan, to point out his sins to him. But Psalm 51 is a record of his way back into God’s presence. Surely David’s sins were too great to be forgiven, we might think. Surely what he has done cannot just be atoned for by writing a Psalm. Surely he has to be banished from God’s presence forever. But this is where God’s unlimited grace comes into the picture. God will never turn His back on a truly repentant sinner. 

But we might think that it is unfair of God to forgive someone as sinful as David. After all, my sins are nowhere near as bad as David’s. I’ve never done any of the things David had. The problem is that none of us can live a perfect sinless life that matches up to God’s standard of righteousness. It doesn’t matter how grave the sin is – stealing a pencil from an employer or committing adultery are both sins and both will stop us entering God’s presence. Because of our sinful natures we cannot get into God’s presence through our own efforts. There is only one way into God’s presence and that is through Jesus. Look at the Scriptures. Jesus said in John 14:6, “‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’”. In Acts 4:12 the Apostle Peter said, “There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.”” It is only by the repentance of our sins and our belief that Jesus died for us at Calvary, that will enable us to become righteous enough to enter God’s presence. 

Back in my Sunday School days we used to sing a song that went like this;

There’s a way back to God
from the dark paths of sin;
there’s a door that is open
and you may go in;
at Calvary’s cross is where you begin,
when you come as a sinner
to Jesus.

Through God’s grace there is forgiveness. Once we have truly confessed our sins, and taken on board Jesus’ righteousness, He doesn’t see our sins any more. They are, in the words of the Psalm, blotted out. They have been erased from His record book. What a wonderful God He is!

But there is then the issue of our memories. Perhaps you are like me and sometimes remember a particular sin, from way back in the past, or perhaps not so long ago. We have confessed it, repented of it and God has forgiven us of it. He has no more record of it, but it is still in our memories. So we try and confess it again, just in case we have forgotten something. But God looks up the sin in His record book and doesn’t find it so He asks us the question, “What sin are you talking about?” It has been covered by His grace and blotted out of His records. Our memories retain it though and this is perhaps what David was referring to when he referred to the stain of his guilt. Sins leave stains in our minds. These can become a constant reminder of God’s grace, so freely and generously given. But also something the enemy will use to torment us, it we let him. If God has forgiven us, why would we not forgive ourselves? Perhaps our lack of faith comes to the fore?

The thing that David feared most, though, was that there was no way back into God’s presence. Verses 9-11 of today’s Psalm express the anguish going on within him. David appealed to God in three ways; to not keeping looking at his sins, to not banish him from His presence and to not take away the Holy Spirit. David didn’t have access to the Son of God, Jesus, as we do today. But he knew his God and knew that His grace and mercy would never reject him.

I wonder if David’s biggest fear, though, was that the Holy Spirit wouldn’t come near him again. What a terrible thought? But, rationally, can I ask us all a question today. Would we know if the Holy Spirit had left us? That’s a question to ponder throughout the day.