Day 159

No Shades of Grey

Wisdom Psalm 71:9-18
New Testament Acts 4:23-5:11
Old Testament 2 Samuel 13:1-39


Back in the 1960s, the band The Monkees sang about how no one seemed to believe in absolute morals anymore. In Shades of Gray they sang:

   When the world and I were young,

   Just yesterday.

   Life was such a simple game…

   It was easy then to tell right from wrong…

   Today there is no black or white,

   Only shades of gray.

Now the expression ‘shades of grey’ has come to be associated with the notorious and controversial books and films with that name.

Many today no longer believe there is such a thing as absolute right or absolute wrong. Stark contrasts and black-and-white distinctions are not always easy to swallow in a society in which relativism is the order of the day. Everything is relative – a matter of degrees.

As followers of Jesus we cannot give in to these relativistic ideas. We must be open to the prophetic voice of Scripture, which often traces stark contrasts, urgent ethical choices and diverging paths in the midst of complex problems and situations.

The reality of right and wrong are very clear in today’s passages and there are stark contrasts between the two.


Psalm 71:9-18

9 Do not cast me away when I am old;
   do not forsake me when my strength is gone.
10 For my enemies speak against me;
   those who wait to kill me conspire together.
11 They say, “God has forsaken him;
   pursue him and seize him,
   for no one will rescue him.”
12 Do not be far from me, my God;
   come quickly, God, to help me.
13 May my accusers perish in shame;
   may those who want to harm me
  be covered with scorn and disgrace.

14 As for me, I will always have hope;
   I will praise you more and more.

15 My mouth will tell of your righteous deeds,
   of your saving acts all day long—
  though I know not how to relate them all.
16 I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, Sovereign Lord;
   I will proclaim your righteous deeds, yours alone.
17 Since my youth, God, you have taught me,
   and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds.
18 Even when I am old and gray,
   do not forsake me, my God,
  till I declare your power to the next generation,
   your mighty acts to all who are to come.


Finishing well vs perishing in shame

The only kind of ‘grey’ approved of in the Bible is ‘grey hair’, which is seen as ‘a crown of splendour… attained by a righteous life’ (Proverbs 16:31). Personally, I find this increasingly encouraging!

The psalmist is determined to finish well. He writes, ‘Do not cast me away when I am old; do not forsake me when my strength is gone… Even when I am old and grey, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come’ (Psalm 71:9,18).

This is in stark contrast to the fate of his enemies who he hopes will ‘perish in shame’ (v.13). From the New Testament perspective, this is probably not the right way to pray for one’s enemies! However, it is certainly true that some people seem to ‘perish in shame’. It is a tragic way for anyone’s life to end.

The psalmist contrasts himself with those who perish in shame. He writes, ‘but as for me…’ (v.14). He wants to continue to be close to the Lord to the end of his life. In fact, he wants the end of his life to be even more fruitful than the beginning. He says, ‘I will praise you more and more’ (v.14).

Every generation has the responsibility of passing the baton ‘to the next generation’ (v.18). Succession planning is a key part of finishing well. It has been said that it is important to pursue a Paul and train a Timothy, be mentored by a Mary and prepare a Phoebe.


Lord, help me to finish well and to declare your power to the next generation. May my mouth tell of your righteousness and proclaim your mighty acts.

New Testament

Acts 4:23-5:11

The Believers Pray

23 On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. 25 You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:

  “‘Why do the nations rage
   and the peoples plot in vain?
  26 The kings of the earth rise up
   and the rulers band together
  against the Lord
   and against his anointed one.’

27 Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. 28 They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. 29 Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”

31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.

The Believers Share Their Possessions

32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.

36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), 37 sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.

Ananias and Sapphira

5 Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. 2 With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.

3 Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? 4 Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.”

5 When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. 6 Then some young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.

7 About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?”

“Yes,” she said, “that is the price.”

9 Peter said to her, “How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.”

10 At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.


Filled with the Holy Spirit vs filled by Satan

Church should never be boring. No one was ever bored in the early church. You never knew what would happen. There was such a powerful sense of God’s presence. Some loved it; others were terrified.

Again, we see a stark contrast.

First, we see the results of being filled with the Holy Spirit:

1. Boldness

Peter and John are not put off by the threats made to them (4:17,21). Rather, ‘they raised their voices together in prayer to God’ (v.24). They prayed, ‘Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness’ (v.29). ‘After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly’ (v.31).

2. Unity

‘All the believers were one in heart and mind’ (v.32a). They were all filled with the same Holy Spirit. A mark of a Spirit-filled community is unity.

3. Generosity

They had a liberating attitude to their possessions: ‘They shared everything they had… There were no needy persons among them’ (vv.32,34). Those who could afford it helped support those who were in need (vv.34–35).

4. Power

They had prayed, ‘Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus’ (v.30). Their prayer was answered: ‘With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus’ (v.33a).

5. Grace

‘… much grace was upon them all’ (v.33b). Experience of God’s grace should lead to a community of grace and graciousness.

By stark contrast, in the second half of today’s passage we see the results of being filled by Satan. Peter uses very strong language when he says, ‘Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart’ (5:3).

There was no necessity for Ananias and Sapphira to give away their property or money: ‘Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal?’ (v.4). They were not criticised for a lack of generosity.

Rather, the evidence that Satan had filled their hearts is not only that they lied (which could be a spontaneous act), but also that they conspired together to lie. Peter says to Ananias, ‘You have lied to the Holy Spirit’ (v.3) and he says to Sapphira, ‘How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord?’ (v.9). This conspiracy was premeditated and prepared.

God gave Peter a ‘word of knowledge’ (vv.3–4). This exposed their sin. The fear of God came upon the people (vv.5,11). This type of fear was not fear of human beings or a slavish fear, but rather a holy fear. They ‘had a healthy respect for God. They knew God was not to be trifled with’ (v.11, MSG).

This is not an easy story to read, and many of us struggle with the severity of God’s judgment in the passage. Ultimately, only God knows the secrets of our hearts, and we need to trust that his judgments are fair and just. It reminds us, though, of the awesomeness of God’s presence in our midst. The sense of God’s presence was so great that people feared that their sin might be exposed. But this presence of God and the Holy Spirit also brought about extraordinary conversions, healings, signs and wonders.


Lord, fill us with your Holy Spirit. May we be a church known for its bold proclamation, unity, generosity, power and grace.

Old Testament

2 Samuel 13:1-39

Amnon and Tamar

13 In the course of time, Amnon son of David fell in love with Tamar, the beautiful sister of Absalom son of David.

2 Amnon became so obsessed with his sister Tamar that he made himself ill. She was a virgin, and it seemed impossible for him to do anything to her.

3 Now Amnon had an adviser named Jonadab son of Shimeah, David’s brother. Jonadab was a very shrewd man. 4 He asked Amnon, “Why do you, the king’s son, look so haggard morning after morning? Won’t you tell me?”

Amnon said to him, “I’m in love with Tamar, my brother Absalom’s sister.”

5 “Go to bed and pretend to be ill,” Jonadab said. “When your father comes to see you, say to him, ‘I would like my sister Tamar to come and give me something to eat. Let her prepare the food in my sight so I may watch her and then eat it from her hand.’”

6 So Amnon lay down and pretended to be ill. When the king came to see him, Amnon said to him, “I would like my sister Tamar to come and make some special bread in my sight, so I may eat from her hand.”

7 David sent word to Tamar at the palace: “Go to the house of your brother Amnon and prepare some food for him.” 8 So Tamar went to the house of her brother Amnon, who was lying down. She took some dough, kneaded it, made the bread in his sight and baked it. 9 Then she took the pan and served him the bread, but he refused to eat.

“Send everyone out of here,” Amnon said. So everyone left him. 10 Then Amnon said to Tamar, “Bring the food here into my bedroom so I may eat from your hand.” And Tamar took the bread she had prepared and brought it to her brother Amnon in his bedroom. 11 But when she took it to him to eat, he grabbed her and said, “Come to bed with me, my sister.”

12 “No, my brother!” she said to him. “Don’t force me! Such a thing should not be done in Israel! Don’t do this wicked thing. 13 What about me? Where could I get rid of my disgrace? And what about you? You would be like one of the wicked fools in Israel. Please speak to the king; he will not keep me from being married to you.” 14 But he refused to listen to her, and since he was stronger than she, he raped her.

15 Then Amnon hated her with intense hatred. In fact, he hated her more than he had loved her. Amnon said to her, “Get up and get out!”

16 “No!” she said to him. “Sending me away would be a greater wrong than what you have already done to me.”

But he refused to listen to her. 17 He called his personal servant and said, “Get this woman out of my sight and bolt the door after her.” 18 So his servant put her out and bolted the door after her. She was wearing an ornate robe, for this was the kind of garment the virgin daughters of the king wore. 19 Tamar put ashes on her head and tore the ornate robe she was wearing. She put her hands on her head and went away, weeping aloud as she went.

20 Her brother Absalom said to her, “Has that Amnon, your brother, been with you? Be quiet for now, my sister; he is your brother. Don’t take this thing to heart.” And Tamar lived in her brother Absalom’s house, a desolate woman.

21 When King David heard all this, he was furious. 22 And Absalom never said a word to Amnon, either good or bad; he hated Amnon because he had disgraced his sister Tamar.

Absalom Kills Amnon

23 Two years later, when Absalom’s sheepshearers were at Baal Hazor near the border of Ephraim, he invited all the king’s sons to come there. 24 Absalom went to the king and said, “Your servant has had shearers come. Will the king and his attendants please join me?”

25 “No, my son,” the king replied. “All of us should not go; we would only be a burden to you.” Although Absalom urged him, he still refused to go but gave him his blessing.

26 Then Absalom said, “If not, please let my brother Amnon come with us.”

The king asked him, “Why should he go with you?” 27 But Absalom urged him, so he sent with him Amnon and the rest of the king’s sons.

28 Absalom ordered his men, “Listen! When Amnon is in high spirits from drinking wine and I say to you, ‘Strike Amnon down,’ then kill him. Don’t be afraid. Haven’t I given you this order? Be strong and brave. ” 29 So Absalom’s men did to Amnon what Absalom had ordered. Then all the king’s sons got up, mounted their mules and fled.

30 While they were on their way, the report came to David: “Absalom has struck down all the king’s sons; not one of them is left.” 31 The king stood up, tore his clothes and lay down on the ground; and all his attendants stood by with their clothes torn.

32 But Jonadab son of Shimeah, David’s brother, said, “My lord should not think that they killed all the princes; only Amnon is dead. This has been Absalom’s express intention ever since the day Amnon raped his sister Tamar. 33 My lord the king should not be concerned about the report that all the king’s sons are dead. Only Amnon is dead.”

34 Meanwhile, Absalom had fled.

Now the man standing watch looked up and saw many people on the road west of him, coming down the side of the hill. The watchman went and told the king, “I see men in the direction of Horonaim, on the side of the hill.”

35 Jonadab said to the king, “See, the king’s sons have come; it has happened just as your servant said.”

36 As he finished speaking, the king’s sons came in, wailing loudly. The king, too, and all his attendants wept very bitterly.

37 Absalom fled and went to Talmai son of Ammihud, the king of Geshur. But King David mourned many days for his son.

38 After Absalom fled and went to Geshur, he stayed there three years. 39 And King David longed to go to Absalom, for he was consoled concerning Amnon’s death.


Love vs hate

In this passage we see strongly contrasting emotions. Amnon ‘fell in love with Tamar’ (v.1). He says, ‘I’m in love with Tamar, my brother Absalom’s sister’ (v.4). David had many wives and many children. The boys would probably have been separated from the girls after the age of five or six; there would not have been a sense of belonging together that exists in a normal family today.

Amnon plotted to rape Tamar, who pleaded with him: ‘Don’t do this wicked thing’ (v.12). She even offered to marry him (v.13). The law forbade marriage to a half-sister. Possibly, this was not being practised at the time. More likely, Tamar was clutching at straws. Amnon ‘refused to listen to her, and since he was stronger than she, he raped her’ (v.14).

The Bible does not ignore the issue of sexual abuse. Rape has always been, and still is, a horrific crime. Tamar describes it as ‘wicked’ (v.12). It is an act of a ‘wicked fool’ (v.13). It leads to ‘desolation’ (v.20) and it is a ‘disgraceful’ (v.21) act.

We see a glimpse of the terrible damage sexual abuse does to the victim: ‘Tamar poured ashes on her head, then she ripped the long-sleeved gown, held her head in her hands, and walked away, sobbing as she went’ (v.19, MSG). She became ‘bitter and desolate’ (v.20, MSG).

Instantly, it appears, ‘Amnon hated her with intense hatred. In fact, he hated her more than he had loved her’ (v.15). This led to further tragedy for David and his household. The violence is perpetuated – Amnon is killed and Absalom flees, separating him from David (vv.23–39).

Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that Amnon was ‘infatuated’ with Tamar. He may have been ‘in love’ with her, but he certainly did not love her. It is extraordinary, though true to fallen human nature and experience, that infatuation can quickly turn to hatred. Amnon’s love was certainly not true love.

‘Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres’ (1 Corinthians 13:4–7).


Lord, deliver us from hatred. May we be filled, not by a superficial love, but by a love that is the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

Pippa adds

2 Samuel 13:1–39

In 2 Samuel chapter 13, we see the family breaking down.

There seemed to be some terrible decisions going on at the time. Jonadab, who was Amnon’s friend, gave bad advice (v.5). If David had punished Amnon for raping his sister, Tamar, it might have stopped Absalom from taking the law into his own hands.

Jonadab, who clearly should have been ashamed of himself, was half the problem. He clearly knew that it was Absalom’s expressed intention to kill Amnon, yet he did not warn David. He only tells him afterwards. He was a bad friend to them all.

It is hard to tell people the truth rather than tell them what they want to hear. But it is important to give the right advice even if we risk the friendship.

Verse of the Day

Acts 4:31

‘After they prayed… they were all filled with the Holy Spirit’.



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The Monkees, ‘Shades of Gray’ (1965), from Headquarters. Songwriters: Mann, Barry / Weil, Cynthia. Lyrics © EMI Music Publishing

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 marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

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