WEEK 23, DAY 1

2 Samuel 4-5 Read Text; Psalms 61-67 Read Text

“The LORD said to you: It is you who shall be shepherd of my people Israel, you who shall be ruler over Israel.”

2 Samuel 4-5
We are introduced to Jonathon’s son, crippled in an accident; he will reappear later. Meantime, more treachery and betrayal; in the midst of it David’s integrity remains rock-solid.

Finally, the people gather at Hebron to make David ruler over all Israel. David’s reign begins when he is 30 (so a long time has passed since Samuel first anointed him) and lasts 40 years—seven in Hebron and 33 in Jerusalem.

Although Jerusalem has been within Judah’s territory, its inhabitants, the Jebusites, resist conquest. David takes the city and renames it after himself. He also repulses two Philistine attacks, with God collaborating on military strategy!

Psalms 61-67
Psalm 61 refers to a king enthroned forever—Jesus?

Many of David’s psalms describe troubling current circumstances in contrast to God’s holiness, power, and ability to make everything right. But depending on God involves waiting, as Psalm 62 gently asserts. Psalm 63 expresses this period of waiting as hunger and thirst for God. David brings to mind previous experiences of God’s glory, asserting that God’s steadfast love is better even than life itself.

That crucial moment of trust before resolution has come, described in Psalm 64, is beautifully resolved (and recounted) in the joyful expressions of praise and blessing in Psalms 65-67.


WEEK 22, DAY 6

2 Samuel 2-3 Read Text; Psalms 55-60 Read Text

“In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I am not afraid; what can flesh do to me?”

2 Samuel 2-3
With Saul gone David returns to Israel, settling in Hebron as God instructs. The people of Judah anoint him king (he rules in Hebron seven years), but the eventual division of Israel into two kingdoms begins here (with its seeds arguably planted back in Judges 19). It’s the house of Saul versus the house of David.

Treachery to rival Shakespeare or “Game of Thrones”! It’s hard to keep straight all the loyalties, friendships, betrayals, and vengeance. In the midst of it David remains upright in heart, lamenting over the death of Abner (too complicated—you have to read it all), which endears him to the people.

Psalms 55-60
These six psalms fit perfectly with the plot twists of today’s 2 Samuel chapters. Who can blame David, in the face of civil war, for wishing he had wings to fly away (55:6-8), or take refuge in the shadow of God’s wings (57:1)?! The tortured circumstances of David’s life explain the desperation and indignation, but it is David’s heart—his utter reliance on God—that explains the expressions of persevering hope and unflagging trust in the face of it all. Is God perhaps allowing all this to form David into the person and leader who will finally reunite Israel and bring it safety and peace?

WEEK 22, DAY 5

1 Samuel 31, 2 Samuel 1 Read Text; Psalms 49-54 Read Text

“Your glory, O Israel, lies slain upon your high places! How the mighty have fallen!”

1 Samuel 31, 2 Samuel 1
As Samuel had predicted when called up from the dead, Saul and his sons all die when the Philistines rout Israel in battle. The Philistines abuse the bodies, but Israelites recover them.

2 Samuel picks up without skipping a beat. David is back in his exile home, Ziklag, having defeated the Amalekite raiders and recovered all their plunder. Word of Israel’s defeat and the death of Saul and his sons reaches him, prompting everyone to tear their clothes, mourn, and weep. David also has the messenger killed. His lament for Saul and Jonathan is poetic and heart-rending.

Psalms 49-54
After Psalm 49, a rumination on mortality from the Korahites, and 50, a psalm from Asaph on right sacrifice, we are back to David. Psalm 51 is the go-to scripture when seeking forgiveness and pardon. We will come to its backstory (2 Samuel 11-12) soon—it clarifies the severity of David’s failing as well the state of mind captured by the anguished yet hopeful words of this powerful psalm.

While Psalm 53 recalls Psalm 50, Psalms 52 and 54 are both associated with specific incidents we’ve read (1 Samuel 21 and 23). Lots of synchronicity reading 1-2 Samuel and the Psalms in parallel!

WEEK 22, DAY 4

1 Samuel 29-30 Read Text; Psalms 44-48 Read Text

“Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.”

1 Samuel 29-30
The Philistine generals don’t trust David, so he and his men are turned back, only to find that the town where they have settled has been raided and their families and possessions carried off. They “raised their voices and wept, until they had no more strength to weep.” David nearly faces insurrection, but after inquiring of God, pursues and defeats the perpetrators. No one has been harmed and nothing is missing!

Attributing this wonderful recovery to God, David rejects the proposal that those who stayed behind not share in the spoils; sharing becomes official policy. David also sends presents to towns that have shown them hospitality.

Psalms 44-48
Each of these five psalms has a different way of addressing God’s character. Psalm 44, recognizing that it is God, not our own efforts, who saves us, calls out to God in the midst of rejection and disgrace: Wake up and help!

Could Psalm 45, “a love song,” be describing Jesus—king and bridegroom? (See also John 3, Ephesians 5, Revelation 21.)

Psalm 46 puts God’s presence at the center of everything. Psalm 47 is full of joy, as is Psalm 48, which uses the image of Mount Zion and “the city of our God” to emphasize the centrality of God’s presence among us.

WEEK 22, DAY 3

1 Samuel 27-28 Read Text; Psalms 38-43 Read Text

“As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God.”

1 Samuel 27-28
Fearing Saul, David, his entourage and their families all decamp for Gath, Philistine allies. He plunders towns to the west, while reporting that he has attacked Israelite settlements. This gives Gath’s king a false impression of David’s loyalty as the Philistines prepare to fight against Israel.

Meantime Saul, afraid of a Philistine attack, finds God silent. Ignoring his own prohibition against mediums, he goes disguised to one and asks her to call up Samuel. Samuel, unhappy at being disturbed, tells Saul “tomorrow you and your sons shall be with me; the LORD will also give the army of Israel into the hands of the Philistines.”

Psalms 38-43
Psalm 38 describes an acutely distressing predicament, mostly but not entirely self-inflicted, as well as God’s awareness, and the importance of waiting for God.

Psalm 39’s frustration at life’s fleeting nature is easy to identify with, and Psalm 40’s vivid, “out of the miry bog” (v.2) also describes an experience many of us know. Psalm 41 takes a slightly different approach, emphasizing generosity and integrity.

Psalm 42 begins a series authored by the Korahites. The evocative imagery and introspective tone are consistent with David’s psalms. Psalm 43 places the same importance David has on hope, and on waiting upon God.

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WEEK 22, DAY 2

1 Samuel 25-26 Read Text; Psalms 35-37 Read Text

“The life of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of the living under the care of the LORD your God.”

1 Samuel 25-26
Samuel dies; we will miss him (though he’ll have one more cameo).

The two incidents we read today demonstrate—and must be shaping—David’s character. He is kept from murderous retribution of Nabal’s inhospitality only by Abigail’s pleas and generosity. They recognize God’s hand in this; once widowed, Abigail becomes one of David’s wives. The particulars of this story offer insight into the attitudes behind the psalms we are reading.

Given a second chance to do away with Saul, David instead uses it as a teaching moment. It’s not that David doesn’t want Saul destroyed, but he recognizes that this is God’s business, not his.

Psalms 35-37
By now a clear pattern is emerging in David’s psalms, with consistent attitudes toward God, troubles, enemies, and himself; yet each one has its own circumstances, character, and emphases. It’s easy to see treacherous, willful Saul in Psalm 35: perfect for anyone feeling unfairly accused.

Psalm 36 contrasts the motivations of the wicked—arrogance, deceit—with God’s steadfast love. Psalm 37 describes, a fitting conclusion to this short set, a moment of relief and reassurance. The longest of these three, it appears to come from the perspective of old age. The LORD is worth waiting for—as David’s unfolding story will show.

WEEK 22, DAY 1

1 Samuel 23-24 Read Text; Psalms 31-34 Read Text

“O taste and see that the LORD is good; happy are those who take refuge in him.”

1 Samuel 23-24
The incidents in these chapters testify to David’s purity of heart: his unwavering dependence on the LORD and steadfast commitment to doing the right thing. He only attacks the Philistines upon the LORD’s word. Saul continues to pursue David, but when Saul is put within David’s grasp—entering a cave to relieve himself, not knowing David and his men are hiding out further inside the same cave—he feels bad about even cutting a corner off Saul’s cloak, to prove that he spared his life. Saul has a moment of lucidity, but note that this does not lead David to return to Saul’s court.

Psalms 31-34
Much in these psalms, like yesterday’s, could have been written by David during the events described in today’s 1 Samuel chapters. Or perhaps they reflect an older leader’s deeper struggles—certainly David’s life, for all its glory, joy, and accomplishment, was also full of challenges and trouble (some that he brought on himself).

But David’s purity of heart comes through clearly—while sad or distressed about his circumstances, he never questions God’s essential goodness, holiness, or ability to save, heal, and love him. God is David’s rock, his refuge, and the source of all his happiness—his relationship to God is everything.

WEEK 21, DAY 6

1 Samuel 21-22 Read Text; Psalms 25-30 Read Text

“Everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented gathered to him; and he became captain over them.”

1 Samuel 21-22
David is given holy bread in Nob by the priest Ahimelech—mentioned by Jesus (Matthew 12)—as well as Goliath’s sword. Unfortunately an Edomite servant of Saul’s is on hand and reports back, leading Saul to have all the priests murdered.

David, on the run, looks in on Achish, king of Gath, then continues to the cave of Adullam—where outcasts gather and his family visits—and then to Moab, where he leaves his parents with the king. At the prophet Gad’s word he goes to Judah. A survivor of Saul’s slaughter of the Nob priests arrives, and David vows to protect him.

Psalms 25-30
Real synchronicity between today’s readings. It’s easy to imagine David composing these psalms—Psalms 25-28 especially—in the cave of Adullam (1 Samuel 22:1). David is being formed through all this.

If you want to memorize a single Psalm to have “on hand” for prayer and meditation, I recommend Psalm 27: it is full of encouragement, devotion, triumph, humility, faith, and waiting. Excellent priorities.

The imagery of Psalm 29 is simple yet evocative—as with so many psalms, amazingly poetic for a barbaric warrior king, but there you have it. Psalm 30 evokes the intimate nature of David’s relationship to God.

WEEK 21, DAY 5

1 Samuel 19-20 Read Text; Psalms 20-24 Read Text

“Some take pride in chariots, and some in horses, but our pride is in the name of the LORD our God.”

1 Samuel 19-20
Jonathan brokers a temporary stay on Saul’s plan to kill David, but soon, in spite of David’s military success, Saul is back on the rampage. He tries to pin David to the wall with a spear. Michal, David’s wife and Saul’s daughter, helps him escape. David goes to Samuel, where everyone ends up in a prophetic frenzy—not only Saul’s messengers, but Saul himself.

David returns home and makes a covenant with Jonathan, but Saul sees David as a threat to his son Jonathan becoming king. Jonathan warns David of Saul’s disposition through a secret message involving arrows, and they part with tears and kisses.

Psalms 20-24
Today’s psalms are a collection of Greatest Hits. Psalm 20 is one of my favorite blessings. It’s easy to see Jesus as the subject of Psalm 21, and of course Psalm 22 is read across the Church on Good Friday as a depiction of Jesus’ suffering on the cross.

The depths of Psalm 22 are followed by beloved superstar Psalm 23, memorized and recited by young and old for centuries. It is short but rich and full of evocative, comforting images.

Psalm 24 starts with reverence and moves to praise, using words familiar from the libretto of Handel’s Messiah.

WEEK 21, DAY 4

1 Samuel 17-18 Read Text; Psalms 17-19 Read Text

“The LORD, who saved me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will save me from the hand of this Philistine.”

1 Samuel 17-18
Yesterday’s reading (David anointed king by Samuel and filled with the Spirit) gives context to arguably the best-known Bible story of all: David and Goliath.

The actual text is rich: the description of Goliath; his surly challenge; the fear he instills; David needed on the ranch but bringing supplies to his brothers; David’s brothers angry at his impudence; David putting on Saul’s armor but taking it back off; “five smooth stones from the wadi;” David’s bold, confident trust in the LORD.

Saul rewards David and Jonathan loves him, but soon Saul is trying to kill David, in spite of having given him his daughter to wed.

Psalms 17-19
These three Psalms by David include a prayer, an ode to deliverance, and a paean to the glory of God seen in nature and in the law. All are rich with forceful, vivid imagery and timeless phrases that have resonated through the ages, e.g. 17:8 (“the apple of your eye”); 18:2 (“my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer”); 19:7-10 (“sweeter also than honey”) and of course the preacher’s ultimate pre-sermon prayer (19:14)—just to point out a few.

Keep Psalm 18 in mind as we continue 1 Samuel in the coming days and see David’s integrity in the face of Saul’s fickleness and murderous insanity.

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