PSALM 51: 1-12

This psalm of David is often referred to as the penitential psalm, as it records David’s public confession and repentance for his reprehensible behaviour in taking the wife of Uriah and then conniving in Uriah’s death. The first half of the psalm which we read today deals with David’s confession of sin while the second half speaks of the renewal God can bring into his life. David’s sin was a transgression of the social order as given by God in the laws conveyed through Moses, but would not have been considered culpable for a despotic king in terms of the contemporary rulers of his day. David recognises that his sin was against God and acknowledges that it is only God who can cleanse and remove his sin from him. David knows that in His mercy God can wash away his sin. David recognises that every natural born human is born with a sinful nature, while God requires a life of integrity. For this reason, he prays for God to fill his mind with Godly wisdom. Mankind is not able to remove our sinfulness and make us clean. Then, even in the experience of deep guilt, it will be possible to be happy again by the mercy of God. True joy will be experienced when God covers our sin and gives us a sense of a new and clean heart. This will lead to an enjoyment of the presence of God in our lives and will lead us to a willingness to obey Him.

2 SAMUEL 11: 26- 12:13

The enormity of David’s sin with Bathsheba was brought home to him by a parable relayed to him by the prophet Nathan. After Uriah had been killed in military action at the connivance of David with his army commander, Bathsheba mourned for her husband in the rites according to the laws of the Israelites. After these rites were completed, David took her into the palace and she formally became one of his wives, and a son was born to her.

It is probable that the whole sordid story became known amongst many of the people, and Nathan the prophet was constrained by God to confront David with his sin. Nathan’s method of bringing the accusation to David was through a parable. There was a rich man with great possessions in goods and livestock, while a poor neighbour only had a lamb which was his pride and joy and was regarded as a pet in the man’s family. In fact, the lamb was like a daughter to him. When the rich man received a guest, the rich man would not slaughter one of his own sheep to feast the visitor, instead, he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared a meal for his guest. On hearing this, David indignantly cried out that the rich man ought to die for his action. Nathan replied, “You are that man!” Nathan elaborated that the judgement of God was that although He had advanced David in protection against King Saul and being made king over the whole nation, so because of his sin, David’s family would become dysfunctional and many of his descendants would suffer violence. Because David had tried to cover up his transgression, his actions would become an open secret to all people.

David realised that however much he tried to keep his actions secret, they were not hidden from God, and that all was known to Him. In his repentance, Nathan assured him that even this sin of his could be, and was, forgiven.

EPHESIANS 4: 1-16

Paul wrote this letter while imprisoned, probably in Rome. In this section of the letter (remember Paul did not make the chapter divisions in his letters), Paul makes an impassioned plea to the followers of the Lord in that place to live a life commensurate with the standard set by God. Paul outlines some of the marks of his standard in the attitudes to one another in the company of the believers, such as humility, gentleness, patience and loving tolerance. An important aspect of these attitudes is the preservation of the unity in the power of the Holy Spirit within them. This Spirit- induced unity will be evident in the peace which binds God’s people together. The unity displayed by the people of God is a reflection of the unity of God as Father, Son and Spirit, and the unity of the faith and hope which we can enjoy as being part of the family of God.

Paul then goes on to compare the triumph of the work of Christ to the triumphal return of a military commander to his homeland after a successful campaign. There would be a grand procession through the great city led by the victorious commander and followed by the troops bringing the prisoners and the spoils of war. Of these spoils, the watching citizens would receive gifts as a token of the victory.

In a similar way, Christ is victorious over the host of evil and He brings gifts of His victory to His people. The quotation in v8 is from psalm 68:18, but the transfer of gifts is reversed. Paul indicates that it is the people who receive gifts. For Paul, the fact that our Lord leads the victory procession (goes up) shows that He had first to “come down” in His incarnation in order to achieve the victory.  And the gifts He gave to His people are the gifts of leaders in the family of God, apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. The purpose of these gifts is to prepare all God’s people for service in the building up of the body of Christ in the world. In this way, both the body as a community, and the individuals who make up the community, will grow and become mature people. It should be the goal of all God’s people to “grow up in every way”, and like a body, each individual will fulfil the role in the whole for which that one is designed.

JOHN 6: 24-35

After the crowd of 5000 men had been fed, Jesus went off alone and his disciples left that place in their boat. The crowd, however, apparently camped out in that place. They looked for Jesus, but He was not still there so they returned to Capernaum on the north coast of the lake, still looking for Jesus. When they found Him, they wondered how He had got there. Jesus knew they were searching for Him to make Him a king who could always provide for them, not because they understood the meaning of His mission, so He told them that material food has a limited shelf life, but the spiritual food He supplies is a gift for eternity. In answer to their question as to what God requires of them, He told them to believe in the One sent by God. They understood Him to refer to Himself as the One sent by God, so they asked for a sign which would prove this claim. In the days of Moses, the people were fed with manna from God. Jesus counter-claims that He Himself was the real bread from heaven of which the manna in the wilderness was a prefigure of God’s eternal provision. As they asked for a supply of this everlasting bread, Jesus made the claim that He Himself is the bread of life.

  1. David’s repentance in Psalm 51 had a clear ring of sincerity. How sincere is our repentance?
  2. How do we ensure our lifestyle conforms to the pattern of our profession of faith
  3. What does it mean to feed on the bread of life?
Categories: Lectionary