PSALM 84

This psalm is a prayer for longing for the presence of God. The joyful expectation of the pilgrim transforms the difficulties of the journey into refreshment for the soul.

This psalm is not attributed to any author, but is dedicated to the “chief musician” and the choir school founded by Korah. It is said to be accompanied “upon Gittith”, which would appear to be a stringed musical instrument – although this is not certain. What is certain is that the psalmist expresses his great desire to be in the place where God’s presence is to be experienced. In Psalm 16:11, David writes that “your presence fills me with joy”. It is not to be supposed that birds actually nested on the altar of sacrifice, but the nearness to the altar was a guarantee of blessedness. It was not possible for all to live within the tabernacle, or house of the Lord, but it would be an enviable possibility. The journey of pilgrimage may be fraught with danger as “the dry valley of Baca”, but even then the blessings of springs of water refresh the way. In calling for blessings on “our king” the psalmist prophetically points to the ultimate king in the person of the Messiah, the Lord our Protector and glorious King. The menial task of a doorkeeper in the house of the Lord is far to be preferred to spending time in the homes of the wicked.

I KINGS 8: 1, 6, 10-11, 22-30, 41-43

When the temple was fully constructed and furnished, Solomon called an assembly of the leaders of the nation to come to the removal of the Covenant, from its place in the worship tent in Zion, to the temple. As instructed in the laws of Moses, the box, called the ark, was carried by the priests to its new location. When put into position, the priests filed out of the building and suddenly the whole place was filled with a cloud and a dazzling light of the presence of God. Solomon prayed a prayer of dedication and addressed the gathered people, telling the story of the building of the temple. Solomon then stood before the altar of sacrifice and praised God for His faithfulness to the nation. God had kept His covenant with the people as they lived in obedience to Him. Solomon acknowledged that he, as heir to David, would serve God as David had. But Solomon recognised the fact that indeed, God could not be confined to any one place on earth, even the temple he had built. The temple could only ever be a symbol of the presence of God with His people. As he continued his prayer, Solomon asked God also to grant the prayers of foreigners who came to worship in the temple. It is God who is to be worshipped, not the building; but the building was a sign that God was with His people.

EPHESIANS 6: 10-20

Paul has been detailing the character which true followers of Christ should show in their daily lives. He now comes to the overarching characteristic which should be the aim of each believer. This is to let the strength of the Lord build us up by His mighty power at work in us. This will require utilising all the armour that God supplies in order to stand up against the stratagems of the evil one. Our battle is not against physical forces, but against the spiritual attack of Satan and his minions. Paul describes them as the “cosmic powers of this dark age”. When Paul speaks of the “heavenly world” he is speaking of the sphere of the spiritual, not the exclusive domain of God. So Paul encourages his hearers to avail themselves of the armour God supplies so as to be ready to meet the onslaught of the opposition. With this armour, the battle can be won in a fight to the end.

The armour God supplies is complete (the Greek word gives us the word panoply). It is not sufficient to take up only part of the armour supplied. So Paul enumerates the items included in the armour. First mentioned is the belt of truth. The belt holds all the rest in place. Secondly, the breastplate of righteousness. It is the righteousness supplied by Christ, not any righteousness of our own. For footwear, we have the readiness to announce the Good News. This is reminiscent of the words of Isaiah in 52:7, “How beautiful are the feet of him who brings good news”. An important item of defence is the shield of faith which can quench the fiery darts of doubt shot by the evil one. The head is protected by the helmet of salvation, and for the offensive is the “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God”. Without a good knowledge of the Bible, it is difficult to fend off the attacks which may arise. Armour is all very well, but in order to use it well needs practice, and this is supplied as the wearer keeps in prayer contact with the Lord of the army. Prayer supports all the people of God. At this thought, Paul asks for continued prayer for himself as he would boldly speak God’s message in all circumstances, even in his situation as a prisoner.

JOHN 6: 56-69

In his gospel, John places a long discourse by Jesus to the people who followed Him after the miracles of the feeding of the multitude. The main theme of this discourse is the elaboration of the idea that Jesus is the bread of life. Those who do not appreciate the power of metaphor have difficulty in understanding Jesus’ concept of feeding upon Him. The concept of feeding on Jesus is to take into ourselves the ideas and actions of Jesus and to make  them a part of our own characteristics. As suggested last week, the saying you are what you eat is exemplified in this idea that by “feeding” on Jesus, we become like Him. His life becomes our life, and His life is eternal. In contrast with the manna the Israelites fed on in the wilderness, the true bread of heaven, Jesus Himself, is sustenance for eternity. Jesus gave this teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum, but even His followers found this teaching hard to understand. As they discussed it among themselves, Jesus asked them if they felt they could no longer follow Him. Human power is ineffectual in producing this life, it is only given by the Spirit of God, and it is mediated in the words of Jesus. Jesus knew that not all who followed after Him truly believed His words, so He repeated His saying that those who truly believed were drawn to Him by the Father. Some followers deserted at this saying, so He asked the 12 disciples if they too would leave Him. Simon Peter, the impulsive speaker for the rest, answered with the insightful words “to whom should we go? You have the words that give eternal life”.

  1. How precious to you is the time and the place in which you can feel in the very presence of God?
  2. Read again the prayer of Solomon at the dedication of the temple. What parts of his prayer speak most closely to you when you consider the words of          2 Corinthians 6:16?
  3. Have you taken for yourself the “whole armour of God?
  4. Do you echo Peter’s declaration “To whom shall we go?”?
Categories: Lectionary