May 20 Psalms 111-118
May 21 1 Kings 1-2; Psalms 37; 71; 94
May 22 Psalm 119:1-88
May 23 1 Kings 3-4; 2 Chronicles 1; Psalm 72
May 24 Psalm 119:89-176
May 25 Song of Solomon 1:1-5:1
What an exciting week! The Egyptian Hallel to seeing David’s death and Solomon’s ascension, then the longest Psalm and the sensuous beginning of the Song of Solomon.
As David lay dying in his old age, his servants found a beautiful girl, Abishag, (his concubine?) to provide for his needs, but “David knew her not”. Did David’s age and possible impotence give Adonijah the courage to make himself king? Although Adonijah proclaimed himself king, both David and God had declared that Solomon would be king, and Solomon was anointed in a very public ceremony. Adonijah’s “supporters” crept away, and Adonijah ran to the temple and grabbed onto the horns of the altar to prevent anyone from killing him. This was a common Near East custom: people would seek asylum in shrines by holding onto the altar. However, God only promised asylum for accidental murder. Solomon tells Adonijah that his life will be spared if he is found worthy.
In David’s final words to Solomon, he encourages him to be strong (the language of warriorship, echoing God’s words in Joshua 1:6-9), walk in God’s ways (the Law) and as a result, prosper. Solomon does prosper – he is given intense wisdom and understanding from God when he requests it, rather than asking for wealth or death of his enemies. However, Solomon divides himself and doesn’t always follow the Law wholeheartedly.
Shortly after David dies, our friend Adonijah tries to usurp once again. He petitions Bathsheba to ask Solomon for the hand of Abishag in marriage. Seems pretty innocent, until you remember that Abishag was the woman who served David as he lay dying. This was seen by Solomon as a revival of Adonijah’s claim to the throne. Through circumstances, Adonijah, Joab and Shimei were put to death.
Solomon marries an Egyptian so there is an alliance. This, of course, brings trouble. Although the Bible says that Solomon still follows David’s statutes, loving the Lord (3:3); however, as God said, this intermarriage produces paganism into the culture (Deuteronomy 7:3-4). Solomon is a divided person. God has given him intelligence from birth, and he uses that intelligence to further his personal kingdom. We see that Solomon is already failing to keep the law wholeheartedly (2:1-4).
Solomon’s alliance doesn’t stop God from paying him a visit in a night dream. He asks Solomon what gift he wants. Solomon is intelligent enough to know that he should ask for wisdom. God is pleased with Solomon’s choice because the wisdom he sought was God’s wisdom, not just men’s “smarts”. God grants Solomon’s desire and also gives him riches and honor. He also promises a long life if Solomon walks in God’s ways and keeps his statutes and commandments. Pretty good deal!
Song of Solomon. Considered too “erotic” to hear from many pulpits, this book is subject to more interpretation that many other books. Romantic love expressed between a young man/shepherd and his lady love/shepherdess. Originally understood by Jews as an allegory for God’s love for Israel, and centuries later as an allegory for Christ’s love of the church and the soul of the believers. Other interpretations are the love expressed between Solomon and his Shulammite bride (ch. 6). Others choose to focus simply on its sensuality and standards of marriage first – intimacy later. Personally, I’m in favor of the allegory of Christ’s love for us as His bride!
We see the lovers yearning for each other and extoling each other’s physical charms. They meet at noon, a traditional rest time. Notice that the woman refers to the man as her shepherd. It’s not sexual needs being met; he is guarding and guiding her. “Nard” refers to a fragrance from a plant – the Spikenard – which is used as perfume, incense, sedative and herbal medicine. The henna blossoms smell like roses. Engedi is an oasis of abundant water, and she refers to the beauty of the cedar and pine – what a beautiful picture of the place Christ prepares for His bride in heaven! Rose of Sharon is most likely a plant similar to the crocus or lily. She, in turn, compares him to an apple tree – a tree different from the forest-type trees previously described. He is the “one and only” and she continues to describe him with total adoration. Arise, my love, and come away he says. What a beautiful picture of Christ’s call to us in this life and in the life to come. She speaks of foxes; creatures that can wreak havoc in “their” vineyard – a perfect picture of Satan’s attempt to wreak havoc on our walk with Christ.
In Chapter 3, we see her dreaming of the consummation of their relationship, which parallels our longing for the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. She searches for her lover and in the dream brings him to her mother’s house. There is no physical consummation because it’s not the appointed time.
Next, we see the bridegroom again extoling the physical beauty of his bride. When he speaks of the tower of David, it is a vivid association with the dignity of royalty (although we don’t really know what the tower of David is). It is clear from the language that the man sees the woman as perfect in every way. So Christ will see us, dressed in brilliant white! Amana, Lebanon, Senir and Hermon were all desolate places, and together with the references to the lions and leopards, we see the groom calling his bride from peril. That’s exactly what Christ calls us from – the peril of death and eternal life without Him.
We see another description of the bride. We see milk and honey – also a biblical description of the Promised Land. The garden isn’t just a beautiful spot with flowers; in the near east, it’s also associated with a woman’s sexuality. And we also see a reference to living water, which was fresh running water and considered the best. It’s an obvious parallel to Jesus’ talk with the Samaritan woman (John 4), but also to the springs of living water which will flow out of everyone who believes in Jesus (John 7), and the living water that the Lamb leads those who came out of the tribulation, just before God wipes tears from their eyes (Revelation 7).
Did you find it odd to read only one verse of Chapter 5? It’s because some scholars say that it should have been a part of chapter 4 as a part of “the garden scene”.
Psalm 37 Don’t envy evildoers. Instead, trust in God and do good. Commit to God; refrain from anger. Wait – don’t worry about the evil one who prospers – let God deal with them. Live in contentment with whatever you have because God upholds the righteous and promises to give us the desires of our heart. Be generous because God will uphold you. Turn from evil; speak only justice and wisdom. You will be exalted in the end.
Psalm 71 I am hiding in You, Lord. Rescue and save me. I can come to You whenever I need to. You are my only hope. You have protected me from before my birth (how amazing is that! God knew us when before the sperm penetrated the egg. That’s how long He has loved you!) How can I stop praising and worshiping You?
Psalm 72 This psalm prays that David’s heirs, beginning with Solomon, will have success in their calling to rule God’s people well, protect the poor and needy, and therefore bring blessings to the earth. This Psalm looks forward to the ultimate rule of the Messiah. Many hymns have been written based on this Psalm. One of the most well-known is Isaac Watts’ I Sing the Mighty Power of God, based on verse 8. Interestingly, this hymn was written around 1715 and was included in a book of songs for young people, “Divine Songs for Children”. How would our lives change if we had rulers like those outlined here – righteous judge, defending the poor, crushing all oppressors, delivering the needy? But what is the response of the people? They pray for him continually!
Psalm 94 Lord, how long will the wicked seem to win? They are oppressing Your people. Shine forth – crush them! Listen, fool! Can’t you see that God formed us, made the nations, gives us knowledge? Don’t you think He knows what’s going on? He disciplines us and teaches us His law. If He has done all this, what makes us think He has forsaken us? He won’t abandon us. Who do you think has been protecting you all along? He’s my stronghold, and I know that He will protect me and wipe out His enemies.
Psalm 111 and 112 These Psalms to together as bookends. One says God is Lord and His righteousness endures forever; the second says that a godly person’s righteousness also endures forever. God is gracious, merciful, just and trustworthy forever. He redeems us and is holy. When we fear God, it’s the beginning of wisdom and the person who fears God is blessed. As a result we deal graciously and generously with all. We aren’t afraid of bad news, but trust in God. We are generous to the poor (Paul quotes 112:9 in 2 Corinthians 9:9 when he exhorts the people to give to the poor, and we see why will honor and care for those who give to the less fortunate.
Psalm 119 This is the longest chapter in the Bible. It is longer than some books! It celebrates God’s gift of the Torah and His covenant law. There are 22 stanzas of 8 verses, and each stanza is written with successive Hebrew letters. Within a stanza (in Hebrew, of course), the first word of each verse begins with the stanza’s assigned letter.
God’s covenantal relationship is described in many ways:
Law (1) – Torah or instruction
Testimonies (2) – God’s solemn testimonies of His will
Precepts (4) – God’s has appointed it to be done
Statutes (5) – the Laws God has laid down
Commandments (6) – what God commanded
Rules (7) – what God has ruled right
Word (9) – what God has spoken
All these words, except precepts, are found in Deuteronomy 4:8, 44-45; 6:1; 33:9 so they all track back to the giving of God’s Law and His instruction for His people.
Aleph (Walk in the Lord) - We are blessed when we walk blamelessly in the way of the Lord, keep His testimonies and statutes. I will praise You with an upright heart! I yearn to learn more of Your precepts.
Beth (Pure in the Lord) - How can we possibly remain pure? By guarding our hearts and constantly seeking God. You are blessed! Help me to continually declare Your rules with my mouth. I will meditate on Your precepts and fix my eyes on You. I will yearn for Your word and not forget it.
Gimel (Loving the Law of the Lord) - Give me extra insight to see the wondrous things in Your laws – help me to see more of You! I am consumed with longing to learn more about You, more of Your word, more of Your law. You will rebuke those who reject Your covenant. I have kept Your testimonies, even though the wicked plot against me. Your testimonies – Your will – delight and teach me.
Daleth (Faithful in the Lord) - Give me life, which comes only from Your Word! Teach me and make me understand what You have appointed to be done. I will think only on Your wondrous works. I’m sorry for the things I’ve done to go against You. Enlarge my heart and my mind so that I am able to perceive more of Your truth. Put anything away from me that doesn’t follow Your law. I am choosing to be faithful and will cling to the things You say are Your will. As You enlarge my heart, my ability to follow your commandments will increase.
He (Learning about the Lord) - I will keep Your statutes to the end when You teach me! My desire is to understand what You want me to do and wholeheartedly observe all your laws. I delight in following the path You’ve set out for me. So many things in the world can turn me away from You, Lord. Show me what’s good and what’s evil, because I know that Your rules are always good. I long to learn more about Your precepts. I want to turn from looking at worthless things. Your righteousness gives me life.
Waw (Loving the Commandments of the Lord) - Your love and salvation are promised to me, God. Because I trust You and learn Your ways, I have answers for the people who taunt me. My only hope is the word of truth and the rules You have set in front of me. My desire is to keep your law continually. My delight is in Your commandments. I lift my hands to Your commandments; I continually come to You to help me do the things I love.
Zayin (Comfort in the Lord) - Your words give me hope and comfort in my afflictions. Although I am continually taunted by the insolent, I refuse to turn from Your Law. I won’t succumb to the world, Lord! I am indignant when I think of those who refuse to follow Your law. I will keep Your law.
Heth (The Lord is my Portion) - Lord, You are my portion. I promise You I will keep Your words, and in turn, I know You will be gracious to me because You have promised it. When I start to go my way, I intentionally turn back to Your commandments, Your law. Even when the world tries to ensnare me, I won’t forget Your law. I praise You throughout the day and at midnight too! Lord, my desire is to see more of Your steadfast love. Teach me!
Teth (Deal with me, Lord) - You deal with me as You have promised, Lord. Please teach me good judgment. I used to stray but now I keep Your word. I need to know more about Your statutes. People slander me but still I choose to do what You’ve told me. Your word and law is better than anything the world has to offer.
Yodh (Blameless in the Lord) - You have made me and I pray that you give me additional insights to understand your commandments. I know that Your rules are right and righteous. You have promised me love and mercy if I live in Your law. I delight in it! Let those who slander me be put to shame. They lie about me. I will testify of You to those who turn to me. I want to be blameless in Your sight so that I am not put to shame.
Kaph (Life in the Lord) - I long for Your salvation. My hope is Your word, your promise. I am drying up like a wineskin, yet I am not going to forget Your laws. I am afflicted. How long will this continue? When will they get what they deserve? They don’t live by Your law. They are going to be the death of me. Yet – I choose to meditate on Your sure commandments and precepts. You will give me life through Your steadfast love, Lord.
Lamedh (Faithfulness of the Lord) - You have fixed Your laws firmly, Lord; You are faithful forever! Without Your law, I would have died. Your precepts bring me life.
Mem (Wisdom in the Lord) – I am wise because of Your commandments. Anything that I know – any wisdom I have – is from You! I listen to Your words and precepts.
Nun: (Light of the Word) – Your word gives light and life. I praise You and promise not to forget Your law. I freely praise you. Your statutes are mine to the end.
Samekh (Divided Loyalties) – I won’t be with those who are not “all in” for God. Depart from me now – God will discard the wicked too!
Ayin (Justice in the Lord) - I am doing what is right. I look for fulfillment of Your promises. Teach me and deal lovingly with me. act against the lawbreakers. I hate everything that is false.
Pe (Wonderful Lord) – Your will is wonderful and light giving and full of wisdom. I am simple, yet your word gives me wisdom as I long for Your commands. Shine on me as Aaron said in Numbers 6. Teach me – I am devastated that people don’t keep Your law.
Tsadhe (The Lord’s promises are well tried) - You are righteous, and I am zealous to remind my foes of Your words. Your righteousness is forever! I will truly be alive when I understand Your will.
Qoph (I cry to the Lord) – I cry to You, call to You, hope for You, meditate on You and the best part, Lord, is that You hear me and draw near!
Resh (Deliver me, Lord) – I am afflicted. Redeem me – save me – have mercy on me! I follow Your ways and know Your words are true forever.
Sin and Shin: (I pray to You, Lord) – I pray to You all day. I pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). I am at peace as I love Your law and hope for salvation. I keep Your precepts and will at the forefront of my mind.
Taw (I plead to You, Lord) - Lord, give me understanding and assurance according to Your Word. Help me as I choose to follow You. My soul will live, sing of Your word, praise You. Although I stray, I pray You seek me and remind me of Your commands.