Day 147

The Power of Unity

Wisdom Psalm 68:7–14
New Testament John 17:6–26
Old Testament 1 Samuel 19:1–20:42


In Buchenwald concentration camp, 56,000 people were put to death by a totalitarian regime that saw the Christian faith as a threat to its ideology. One block of cells in the camp was reserved for prisoners who were deemed especially dangerous or notable. Paul Schneider, a Lutheran pastor who was called ‘the preacher of Buchenwald’, was placed in this special block because even from the small window in his cell he loudly proclaimed the gospel of Jesus Christ – in defiance of the orders of the Gestapo guards.

Otto Neururer, a Catholic priest whose work on behalf of the Jews and other so called ‘undesirables’ had made him a threat to the Nazi warlords, was also put in this block. He too ministered in Jesus’ name to his fellow inmates in the concentration camp until he was crucified upside down.

In unity, these two men, one a Catholic and the other a Protestant, bore witness together to their common Lord – Jesus Christ. Unity is so powerful.


Psalm 68:7–14

7 When you, God, went out before your people,
   when you marched through the wilderness,
8 the earth shook, the heavens poured down rain,
   before God, the One of Sinai,
   before God, the God of Israel.
9 You gave abundant showers, O God;
   you refreshed your weary inheritance.
10 Your people settled in it,
   and from your bounty, God, you provided for the poor.

11 The LORD announces the word,
   and the women who proclaim it are a mighty throng:
12 “Kings and armies flee in haste;
   the women at home divide the plunder.
13 Even while you sleep among the sheep pens,
   the wings of my dove are sheathed with silver,
   its feathers with shining gold.”
14 When the Almighty scattered the kings in the land,
   it was like snow fallen on Mount Zalmon.


The people and the land

David reflects on the exodus, Mount Sinai and the conquest of Canaan. These were some of the high points of the history of the people of God when they were genuinely united.

This passage is all about recognising where that blessing and unity ultimately came from – God. It is a psalm of thanksgiving and praise to God for all the things he has done. It celebrates his leadership (v.7), his power and provision (vv.8–9), his generosity, his justice (v.10) and his victories (vv.11–14).

God had led the people to the promised land. Yet today, in this very same area, the challenge of unity is great. The search for peace in the Middle East remains one of the greatest challenges facing our world.


Lord, thank you for your love for everyone. I pray for peace and unity in the war-torn countries of the Middle East. Thank you that you are the source and foundation of unity.
New Testament

John 17:6–26

Jesus Prays for His Disciples

6 “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. 7 Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. 8 For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. 9 I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. 11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.

13 “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.

Jesus Prays for All Believers

20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one — 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.

25 “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26 I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”


The church and the world

In the Gospels, we frequently read about the prayer life of Jesus. But only on rare occasions are we informed at any length of what he prayed for. In this great prayer of Jesus, before he goes out to face the cross, we see his priorities.

Jesus prays not only for his disciples, but also for those who will believe in the future – that is to say, he prays for the entire church – which includes you and me (v.20).

This prayer is dominated by the theme of unity. Jesus prays not only for unity among his disciples (v.11), but also for the church (v.20). He prays for a unity like that which unites the Trinity: ‘that they may be one, as we are one’ (v.11).

  1. The motive for unity is the great commission of Jesus
    Jesus prayed for complete unity so that the world may believe (v.23) and know unity with God (vv.21,24). One of the greatest barriers to belief is disunity in the church. In politics, the moment a political party becomes disunited, it loses popularity. It happens in the secular world and even more so in the church. Jesus says that he protected his disciples and kept them safe ‘so that they may be one’ (v.12). Now he prays, ‘protect them from the evil one’ (v.15) who will seek to divide them.

    When churches fight each other, people lose interest. Conversely, when churches do unite it is so attractive. It is the source of joy. The followers of Jesus are not supposed to be miserable. Jesus prays ‘that they may have the full measure of my joy within them’ (v.13). Joy comes from unity. Disunity is a joy-stealer. Unity is powerful.

  2. The means of unity is the Holy Spirit of Jesus
    Jesus prays for your holiness. Jesus prays, ‘Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth’ (v.17). Holiness comes from the truth. The truth is found in God’s word. That is why it is so important to soak yourself in God’s word.

    Holiness comes as you welcome the Holy One, the Spirit of Truth, who comes to dwell within you.

    Jesus prays, ‘that I myself may be in them’ (v.26). This is the most extraordinary truth of the New Testament – that Jesus comes to live in you by the Holy Spirit. The same Holy Spirit lives in all Christians of whatever church or denomination. The Holy Spirit unites us.

  3. The mark of unity is the love of Jesus
    Jesus prays, ‘that the love you have for me may be in them’ (v.26). What higher love can you have than the love that God the Father has for Jesus his Son? Jesus’ prayer for you is that you should have the same love that God the Father has for Jesus in your heart for other Christians, for other parts of the body of Christ.

  4. The measure of unity is the visibility of Jesus
    Sometimes people speak about ‘invisible unity’. But Jesus didn’t pray for invisible unity. Nor did he pray that we might be ‘almost united’. He prayed that they may ‘be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me’ (v.23). He wants the church to be completely and visibly united.

    One day it will be (see Ephesians 1:9–11). In the meantime, as we build bridges, work together and come together with other Christians from different parts of the church, as hearts and minds are bonded together in communion with Jesus, we can see, as in Buchenwald, visible signs of our invisible unity.


Lord, thank you for the way the Holy Spirit is drawing us together. May we see increasing signs of visible unity so that the world will believe.
Old Testament

1 Samuel 19:1–20:42

Saul Tries to Kill David

19 Saul told his son Jonathan and all the attendants to kill David. But Jonathan had taken a great liking to David 2 and warned him, “My father Saul is looking for a chance to kill you. Be on your guard tomorrow morning; go into hiding and stay there. 3 I will go out and stand with my father in the field where you are. I’ll speak to him about you and will tell you what I find out.”

4 Jonathan spoke well of David to Saul his father and said to him, “Let not the king do wrong to his servant David; he has not wronged you, and what he has done has benefited you greatly. 5 He took his life in his hands when he killed the Philistine. The LORD won a great victory for all Israel, and you saw it and were glad. Why then would you do wrong to an innocent man like David by killing him for no reason?”

6 Saul listened to Jonathan and took this oath: “As surely as the LORD lives, David will not be put to death.”

7 So Jonathan called David and told him the whole conversation. He brought him to Saul, and David was with Saul as before.

8 Once more war broke out, and David went out and fought the Philistines. He struck them with such force that they fled before him.

9 But an evil spirit from the LORD came on Saul as he was sitting in his house with his spear in his hand. While David was playing the lyre, 10 Saul tried to pin him to the wall with his spear, but David eluded him as Saul drove the spear into the wall. That night David made good his escape.

11 Saul sent men to David’s house to watch it and to kill him in the morning. But Michal, David’s wife, warned him, “If you don’t run for your life tonight, tomorrow you’ll be killed.” 12 So Michal let David down through a window, and he fled and escaped. 13 Then Michal took an idol and laid it on the bed, covering it with a garment and putting some goats’ hair at the head.

14 When Saul sent the men to capture David, Michal said, “He is ill.”

15 Then Saul sent the men back to see David and told them, “Bring him up to me in his bed so that I may kill him.” 16 But when the men entered, there was the idol in the bed, and at the head was some goats’ hair.

17 Saul said to Michal, “Why did you deceive me like this and send my enemy away so that he escaped?”

Michal told him, “He said to me, ‘Let me get away. Why should I kill you?’”

18 When David had fled and made his escape, he went to Samuel at Ramah and told him all that Saul had done to him. Then he and Samuel went to Naioth and stayed there. 19 Word came to Saul: “David is in Naioth at Ramah”; 20 so he sent men to capture him. But when they saw a group of prophets prophesying, with Samuel standing there as their leader, the Spirit of God came on Saul’s men, and they also prophesied. 21 Saul was told about it, and he sent more men, and they prophesied too. Saul sent men a third time, and they also prophesied. 22 Finally, he himself left for Ramah and went to the great cistern at Seku. And he asked, “Where are Samuel and David?”

“Over in Naioth at Ramah,” they said.

23 So Saul went to Naioth at Ramah. But the Spirit of God came even on him, and he walked along prophesying until he came to Naioth. 24 He stripped off his garments, and he too prophesied in Samuel’s presence. He lay naked all that day and all that night. This is why people say, “Is Saul also among the prophets?”

David and Jonathan

20 Then David fled from Naioth at Ramah and went to Jonathan and asked, “What have I done? What is my crime? How have I wronged your father, that he is trying to kill me?”

2 “Never!” Jonathan replied. “You are not going to die! Look, my father doesn’t do anything, great or small, without letting me know. Why would he hide this from me? It isn’t so!”

3 But David took an oath and said, “Your father knows very well that I have found favour in your eyes, and he has said to himself, ‘Jonathan must not know this or he will be grieved.’ Yet as surely as the LORD lives and as you live, there is only a step between me and death.”

4 Jonathan said to David, “Whatever you want me to do, I’ll do for you.”

5 So David said, “Look, tomorrow is the New Moon feast, and I am supposed to dine with the king; but let me go and hide in the field until the evening of the day after tomorrow. 6 If your father misses me at all, tell him, ‘David earnestly asked my permission to hurry to Bethlehem, his hometown, because an annual sacrifice is being made there for his whole clan.’ 7 If he says, ‘Very well,’ then your servant is safe. But if he loses his temper, you can be sure that he is determined to harm me. 8 As for you, show kindness to your servant, for you have brought him into a covenant with you before the LORD. If I am guilty, then kill me yourself! Why hand me over to your father?”

9 “Never!” Jonathan said. “If I had the least inkling that my father was determined to harm you, wouldn’t I tell you?”

10 David asked, “Who will tell me if your father answers you harshly?”

11 “Come,” Jonathan said, “let’s go out into the field.” So they went there together.

12 Then Jonathan said to David, “I swear by the LORD, the God of Israel, that I will surely sound out my father by this time the day after tomorrow! If he is favourably disposed toward you, will I not send you word and let you know? 13 But if my father intends to harm you, may the LORD deal with Jonathan, be it ever so severely, if I do not let you know and send you away in peace. May the LORD be with you as he has been with my father. 14 But show me unfailing kindness like the LORD’s kindness as long as I live, so that I may not be killed, 15 and do not ever cut off your kindness from my family —not even when the LORD has cut off every one of David’s enemies from the face of the earth.”

16 So Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, “May the LORD call David’s enemies to account. ” 17 And Jonathan had David reaffirm his oath out of love for him, because he loved him as he loved himself.

18 Then Jonathan said to David, “Tomorrow is the New Moon feast. You will be missed, because your seat will be empty. 19 The day after tomorrow, toward evening, go to the place where you hid when this trouble began, and wait by the stone Ezel. 20 I will shoot three arrows to the side of it, as though I were shooting at a target. 21 Then I will send a boy and say, ‘Go, find the arrows.’ If I say to him, ‘Look, the arrows are on this side of you; bring them here,’ then come, because, as surely as the LORD lives, you are safe; there is no danger. 22 But if I say to the boy, ‘Look, the arrows are beyond you,’ then you must go, because the LORD has sent you away. 23 And about the matter you and I discussed—remember, the LORD is witness between you and me forever.”

24 So David hid in the field, and when the New Moon feast came, the king sat down to eat. 25 He sat in his customary place by the wall, opposite Jonathan, and Abner sat next to Saul, but David’s place was empty. 26 Saul said nothing that day, for he thought, “Something must have happened to David to make him ceremonially unclean—surely he is unclean. ” 27 But the next day, the second day of the month, David’s place was empty again. Then Saul said to his son Jonathan, “Why hasn’t the son of Jesse come to the meal, either yesterday or today?”

28 Jonathan answered, “David earnestly asked me for permission to go to Bethlehem. 29 He said, ‘Let me go, because our family is observing a sacrifice in the town and my brother has ordered me to be there. If I have found favour in your eyes, let me get away to see my brothers.’ That is why he has not come to the king’s table.”

30 Saul’s anger flared up at Jonathan and he said to him, “You son of a perverse and rebellious woman! Don’t I know that you have sided with the son of Jesse to your own shame and to the shame of the mother who bore you? 31 As long as the son of Jesse lives on this earth, neither you nor your kingdom will be established. Now send someone to bring him to me, for he must die!”

32 “Why should he be put to death? What has he done?” Jonathan asked his father. 33 But Saul hurled his spear at him to kill him. Then Jonathan knew that his father intended to kill David.

34 Jonathan got up from the table in fierce anger; on that second day of the feast he did not eat, because he was grieved at his father’s shameful treatment of David.

35 In the morning Jonathan went out to the field for his meeting with David. He had a small boy with him, 36 and he said to the boy, “Run and find the arrows I shoot.” As the boy ran, he shot an arrow beyond him. 37 When the boy came to the place where Jonathan’s arrow had fallen, Jonathan called out after him, “Isn’t the arrow beyond you?” 38 Then he shouted, “Hurry! Go quickly! Don’t stop!” The boy picked up the arrow and returned to his master. 39 (The boy knew nothing about all this; only Jonathan and David knew.) 40 Then Jonathan gave his weapons to the boy and said, “Go, carry them back to town.”

41 After the boy had gone, David got up from the south side of the stone and bowed down before Jonathan three times, with his face to the ground. Then they kissed each other and wept together—but David wept the most.

42 Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, for we have sworn friendship with each other in the name of the LORD, saying, ‘The LORD is witness between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants forever. ’” Then David left, and Jonathan went back to the town.


The friends and rivals

In politics, business or even in church life, two people who are great friends can at the same time end up competing for the same job. How should we handle the tension between our ambitions and our friendships?

The friendship between David and Jonathan was remarkable. They were rivals for the throne. They had every reason to be envious of each other and to hate each other. Yet Jonathan loved David ‘as he loved himself’ (20:17). This type of love, which Jesus commanded, is the highest love one person can have for another (Matthew 22:39).

On the other hand, Saul was filled with jealousy. Jealousy starts with comparing ourselves to others – comparing our achievements with those around us. Jealousy has the power to deprive someone temporarily of their senses. When Jonathan points out to his father, Saul, that David has not wronged him and has benefitted him greatly and it would be quite wrong to kill an innocent man, Saul says, ‘As surely as the LORD lives, David will not be put to death’ (1 Samuel 19:6).

Logic and reasonable argument may convince a person who is filled with jealousy at the time. However, jealousy is so powerful that once it gets a grip of a person, as it did with Saul, there is no stopping it. As Shakespeare put it in Othello, ‘It is the green-ey’d monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on.’

David and Jonathan loved each other. Jonathan ‘was very fond of David’ (v.1) and he ‘spoke well of David’ (v.4). Jonathan even said to David, ‘Whatever you want me to do, I’ll do for you’ (20:4). What a great commitment to make to a friend! Their commitment to each other took the form of a ‘covenant’ (v.16), which included even their descendants (v.42). And Jonathan ‘made David reaffirm his oath out of love for him, because he loved him as he loved himself’ (vv.16–17).

As a result of his jealousy ‘Saul’s anger flared up at Jonathan’ (v.30). Jonathan knew that his father intended to kill David (v.33) and he ‘got up from the table in fierce anger’ (v.34).

The difference between Saul’s anger and Jonathan’s anger was that Saul’s was unfounded and produced by jealousy. Jonathan’s anger was righteous anger; ‘He was grieved at his father’s shameful treatment of David’ (v.34). Anger is not always wrong – but examine your motives carefully.

David and Jonathan were not ashamed of showing their affection for each other: ‘… they kissed each other and wept together’ (v.41). Crying can be seen by some as showing weakness. But they had no shame in crying openly and showing their love for each other. This is a powerful model of friendship, love and unity. Marriage is one of God’s answers to loneliness. Close friendship is another.

It was this love and friendship that enabled Jonathan to be totally loyal, supportive and protective in spite of the fact that he was a rival candidate to the throne.


Lord, help us to be willing and able to love our friends and neighbours as ourselves. May people find the answer to loneliness in the love, affection and unity of church community.

Pippa adds

1 Samuel 19:1, its says:

‘Saul told his son Jonathan and all the attendants to kill David. But Jonathan was very fond of David and warned him…’

David was having a tough time, as we all do at different times in our lives. He had been faithfully serving God and Saul his king. Yet whatever he did he couldn’t please his boss (Saul). The only thing David could do was to keep on doing what was right. He didn’t seek revenge or justice. Eventually, God did vindicate him, and he will vindicate us.

Verse of the Day

John 17:12

‘I protected them and kept them safe…’ – Jesus



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William Shakespeare, Othello, Act III, Scene iii.

The Bible with Nicky and Pippa Gumbel (commentary formerly known as Bible in One Year) ©Alpha International 2009. All Rights Reserved.

Compilation of daily Bible readings © Hodder & Stoughton Limited 1988. Published by Hodder & Stoughton Limited as the Bible in One Year.

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture quotations marked (AMP) taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (

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