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Day 162

God Even Uses Your Mistakes

Wisdom Psalm 72:1-20
New Testament Acts 7:20-43
Old Testament 2 Samuel 16:15-18:18

Introduction

Handley Moule, when he was Bishop of Durham, had the task of visiting the relatives of 170 miners who had been killed in a mining accident. While he was wondering what to say to them, he picked up a little bookmark his mother had given him. As he held it up, on the reverse side of the handwoven bookmark there was a tangled web. There was no rhyme, no reason, no pattern, nothing. But on the other side it said, ‘God is love’.

The world sometimes seems to us like a tangled web. Often we cannot work out what is going on or why we are suffering in the way we are. But the claim of Jesus and the Scriptures is that behind it all is the love of God. Even though things may seem very difficult for us to understand now, God is working out his loving purposes in the world.

God can weave a pattern from the threads of our lives – including the suffering, heartaches and even our mistakes and make something beautiful. The apostle Paul tells us that ‘in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose’ (Romans 8:28). Reflect today on the fact that, even though your situation may be challenging, God is weaving his purpose for your life.

Job said, ‘You gave me life and showed me kindness, and in your providence watched over my spirit’ (Job 10:12). Everything that happens in this world is within the sphere of God’s working. ‘Providence’ means God’s foresight: the way he anticipates and prepares for the future. ‘Providence’ is the way God guides and steers human history – he is present and active in the world – sustaining it and ruling it.

It is also the way he guides and steers your life personally and individually. God has a specific, unique destiny for you. Sometimes this thought worries people: that they might somehow mess things up and miss out on God’s purpose. But that isn’t the case. Even your mistakes he uses for good. In all the circumstances of your life and the events going on around you, you can trust in the providence of God.

Wisdom

Psalm 72:1-20

Of Solomon.

1 Endow the king with your justice, O God,
    the royal son with your righteousness.
2 May he judge your people in righteousness,
    your afflicted ones with justice.

3 May the mountains bring prosperity to the people,
    the hills the fruit of righteousness.
4 May he defend the afflicted among the people
    and save the children of the needy;
    may he crush the oppressor.
5 May he endure as long as the sun,
    as long as the moon, through all generations.
6 May he be like rain falling on a mown field,
    like showers watering the earth.
7 In his days may the righteous flourish
    and prosperity abound till the moon is no more.

8 May he rule from sea to sea
    and from the River to the ends of the earth.
9 May the desert tribes bow before him
    and his enemies lick the dust.
10 May the kings of Tarshish and of distant shores
    bring tribute to him.
        May the kings of Sheba and Seba
    present him gifts.
11 May all kings bow down to him
    and all nations serve him.

12 For he will deliver the needy who cry out,
    the afflicted who have no one to help.
13 He will take pity on the weak and the needy
    and save the needy from death.
14 He will rescue them from oppression and violence,
    for precious is their blood in his sight.

15 Long may he live!
    May gold from Sheba be given him.
May people ever pray for him
    and bless him all day long.
16 May grain abound throughout the land;
    on the tops of the hills may it sway.
May the crops flourish like Lebanon
    and thrive like the grass of the field.
17 May his name endure forever;
    may it continue as long as the sun.

Then all nations will be blessed through him,
    and they will call him blessed.

18 Praise be to the Lord God, the God of Israel,
    who alone does marvelous deeds.
19 Praise be to his glorious name forever;
    may the whole earth be filled with his glory.
        Amen and Amen.

20 This concludes the prayers of David son of Jesse.

Commentary

Providence and prayer

Your prayers make a difference. Not only do they affect your own life but they can also affect the course of history.

How providence and prayer work together is a mystery. In some extraordinary way, your prayers affect the outcome of events. God is sovereign and works out his purposes through history. Yet he involves you in this process.

This psalm is David’s prayer for his son and successor, King Solomon. It was a strong reminder of his high calling. Yet it goes beyond what is humanly attainable. For example, ‘He will endure as long as the sun, as long as the moon, through all generations’ (v.5). His reign is eternal and universal (v.8). Ultimately, it was only fulfilled in the Messiah, God’s Son, Jesus Christ.

This psalm is a prayer for blessing on the king and through him that all the people will be blessed with ‘prosperity’ (v.3). The good leader will be concerned about poverty and justice: ‘Please stand up for the poor, help the children of the needy, come down hard on the cruel tyrants’ (v.4, MSG). It is also a prayer that in his foreign policy ‘all nations will be blessed through him’ (v.17).

David says, ‘May people ever pray for him and bless him all day long’ (v.15b). It is clear that God’s blessing on the leader will come as people pray for him. How this works we do not know. However, it shows that praying really does make a difference. In his providence, God takes your prayers and uses them to bring blessing.

Prayer

Lord, thank you that prayer makes a difference. I pray for our leaders whom you have set over us. Give them grace and wisdom. Enrich their lives that they may be a source of strength and inspiration, and promote your honour and glory.

New Testament

Acts 7:20-43

20 “At that time Moses was born, and he was no ordinary child. For three months he was cared for by his family. 21 When he was placed outside, Pharaoh’s daughter took him and brought him up as her own son. 22 Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action.

23 “When Moses was forty years old, he decided to visit his own people, the Israelites. 24 He saw one of them being mistreated by an Egyptian, so he went to his defense and avenged him by killing the Egyptian. 25 Moses thought that his own people would realize that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not. 26 The next day Moses came upon two Israelites who were fighting. He tried to reconcile them by saying, ‘Men, you are brothers; why do you want to hurt each other?’

27 “But the man who was mistreating the other pushed Moses aside and said, ‘Who made you ruler and judge over us? 28 Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?’ 29 When Moses heard this, he fled to Midian, where he settled as a foreigner and had two sons.

30 “After forty years had passed, an angel appeared to Moses in the flames of a burning bush in the desert near Mount Sinai. 31 When he saw this, he was amazed at the sight. As he went over to get a closer look, he heard the Lord say: 32 ‘I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.’ Moses trembled with fear and did not dare to look.

33 “Then the Lord said to him, ‘Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground. 34 I have indeed seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their groaning and have come down to set them free. Now come, I will send you back to Egypt.’

35 “This is the same Moses they had rejected with the words, ‘Who made you ruler and judge?’ He was sent to be their ruler and deliverer by God himself, through the angel who appeared to him in the bush. 36 He led them out of Egypt and performed wonders and signs in Egypt, at the Red Sea and for forty years in the wilderness.

37 “This is the Moses who told the Israelites, ‘God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your own people.’ 38 He was in the assembly in the wilderness, with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our ancestors; and he received living words to pass on to us.

39 “But our ancestors refused to obey him. Instead, they rejected him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt. 40 They told Aaron, ‘Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who led us out of Egypt—we don’t know what has happened to him!’ 41 That was the time they made an idol in the form of a calf. They brought sacrifices to it and reveled in what their own hands had made. 42 But God turned away from them and gave them over to the worship of the sun, moon and stars. This agrees with what is written in the book of the prophets:

    “‘Did you bring me sacrifices and offerings
        forty years in the wilderness, people of Israel?
    43 You have taken up the tabernacle of Molek
        and the star of your god Rephan,
    the idols you made to worship.
        Therefore I will send you into exile’ beyond Babylon.

Commentary

Providence and prophecy

We see in this passage the extraordinary way in which God planned and prepared for the coming of Jesus. God in his providence foresees the future, and so in a mysterious way anticipates, prepares for it and guides it. Therefore, you can trust God’s providence in all the events and circumstances of your life.

Stephen’s speech rehearses the ways in which God had guided and watched over Israel’s history, and through it prepared for Jesus’ coming. In this section, he focuses particularly on Moses.

Moses had said that God would raise up a prophet like him (Deuteronomy 18:15). Peter has already applied this to Jesus (Acts 3:22–23). Now Stephen does the same. He says, ‘This is that Moses who told the Israelites, “God will send you a prophet like me from your own people”’ (7:37).

Moses was a ‘type’ of Christ. He foreshadowed and prepared the way. There are at least fifteen similarities between Moses and Jesus:

1. Like Jesus, Moses was ‘no ordinary child’ (v.20). The circumstances surrounding the births of both Moses and Jesus were appropriately extraordinary.

2. Like Jesus (Matthew 2:16–17), Moses was born at a time when newborn babies were being killed off (Acts 7:19–21).

3. Like Jesus (Luke 2:40), Moses was noted for his wisdom (Acts 7:22).

4. Like Jesus (John 7:46), Moses was ‘powerful in speech and action’ (Acts 7:22).

5. Like Jesus, Moses had a season of preparation. We know little about the first thirty years of either of their lives. Both spent this time being trained for the task ahead (vv.22–23).

6. Like Jesus (John 2:16), Moses showed righteous anger at sin (Acts 7:24). However, unlike Jesus, Moses committed a crime. But God, in his providence, even used this mistake.

7. Like Jesus (John 1:11), Moses was sent by God to rescue his people, but was not recognised as such at the time. ‘Moses thought that his own people would realise that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not’ (Acts 7:25).

8. Like Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:19), Moses aimed at reconciliation: Moses ‘tried to reconcile them’ (Acts 7:26).

9. Like Jesus (John 5:22), Moses is described as ruler and judge. It was said to Moses, ‘Who made you ruler and judge over us?’ (Acts 7:27).

10. Like Jesus (Luke 3:22), Moses heard the Lord’s voice (Acts 7:31).

11. Like Jesus (John 1:14; 2:21), Moses recognised that the holy place was not in a specific religious location, but where God is present. For Moses this was at the burning bush for God said, ‘The place where you are standing is holy ground’ (Acts 7:33).

12. Like Jesus (John 8:36), Moses set the people free from oppression (Acts 7:34).

13. Like Jesus (4:11), Moses was misunderstood and rejected by his own people: ‘Moses whom they had rejected... they rejected him’ (7:35,39).

14. Like Jesus (2 Corinthians 1:10), Moses succeeded in delivering his own people. Moses ‘led them out of Egypt’ (Acts 7:36).

15. Like Jesus (2:36), Moses’ rejection brought God’s judgment, but led to eventual victory (7:42). As the apostle Peter put it on the day of Pentecost, ‘God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ’ (2:36).

Prayer

Lord, thank you for the astonishing way in which you work your purposes out through history and through your prophets like Moses. Today, I trust in your providence over all the events and circumstances in my life.

Old Testament

2 Samuel 16:15-18:18

The Advice of Ahithophel and Hushai

15 Meanwhile, Absalom and all the men of Israel came to Jerusalem, and Ahithophel was with him. 16 Then Hushai the Arkite, David’s confidant, went to Absalom and said to him, “Long live the king! Long live the king!”

17 Absalom said to Hushai, “So this is the love you show your friend? If he’s your friend, why didn’t you go with him?”

18 Hushai said to Absalom, “No, the one chosen by the Lord, by these people, and by all the men of Israel—his I will be, and I will remain with him. 19 Furthermore, whom should I serve? Should I not serve the son? Just as I served your father, so I will serve you.”

20 Absalom said to Ahithophel, “Give us your advice. What should we do?”

21 Ahithophel answered, “Sleep with your father’s concubines whom he left to take care of the palace. Then all Israel will hear that you have made yourself obnoxious to your father, and the hands of everyone with you will be more resolute.” 22 So they pitched a tent for Absalom on the roof, and he slept with his father’s concubines in the sight of all Israel.

23 Now in those days the advice Ahithophel gave was like that of one who inquires of God. That was how both David and Absalom regarded all of Ahithophel’s advice.

17Ahithophel said to Absalom, “I would choose twelve thousand men and set out tonight in pursuit of David. 2 I would attack him while he is weary and weak. I would strike him with terror, and then all the people with him will flee. I would strike down only the king 3 and bring all the people back to you. The death of the man you seek will mean the return of all; all the people will be unharmed.” 4 This plan seemed good to Absalom and to all the elders of Israel.

5 But Absalom said, “Summon also Hushai the Arkite, so we can hear what he has to say as well.” 6 When Hushai came to him, Absalom said, “Ahithophel has given this advice. Should we do what he says? If not, give us your opinion.”

7 Hushai replied to Absalom, “The advice Ahithophel has given is not good this time. 8 You know your father and his men; they are fighters, and as fierce as a wild bear robbed of her cubs. Besides, your father is an experienced fighter; he will not spend the night with the troops. 9 Even now, he is hidden in a cave or some other place. If he should attack your troops first, whoever hears about it will say, ‘There has been a slaughter among the troops who follow Absalom.’ 10 Then even the bravest soldier, whose heart is like the heart of a lion, will melt with fear, for all Israel knows that your father is a fighter and that those with him are brave.

11 “So I advise you: Let all Israel, from Dan to Beersheba —as numerous as the sand on the seashore—be gathered to you, with you yourself leading them into battle. 12 Then we will attack him wherever he may be found, and we will fall on him as dew settles on the ground. Neither he nor any of his men will be left alive. 13 If he withdraws into a city, then all Israel will bring ropes to that city, and we will drag it down to the valley until not so much as a pebble is left.”

14 Absalom and all the men of Israel said, “The advice of Hushai the Arkite is better than that of Ahithophel.” For the Lord had determined to frustrate the good advice of Ahithophel in order to bring disaster on Absalom.

15 Hushai told Zadok and Abiathar, the priests, “Ahithophel has advised Absalom and the elders of Israel to do such and such, but I have advised them to do so and so. 16 Now send a message at once and tell David, ‘Do not spend the night at the fords in the wilderness; cross over without fail, or the king and all the people with him will be swallowed up. ’”

17 Jonathan and Ahimaaz were staying at En Rogel. A female servant was to go and inform them, and they were to go and tell King David, for they could not risk being seen entering the city. 18 But a young man saw them and told Absalom. So the two of them left at once and went to the house of a man in Bahurim. He had a well in his courtyard, and they climbed down into it. 19 His wife took a covering and spread it out over the opening of the well and scattered grain over it. No one knew anything about it.

20 When Absalom’s men came to the woman at the house, they asked, “Where are Ahimaaz and Jonathan?”

The woman answered them, “They crossed over the brook.” The men searched but found no one, so they returned to Jerusalem.

21 After they had gone, the two climbed out of the well and went to inform King David. They said to him, “Set out and cross the river at once; Ahithophel has advised such and such against you.” 22 So David and all the people with him set out and crossed the Jordan. By daybreak, no one was left who had not crossed the Jordan.

23 When Ahithophel saw that his advice had not been followed, he saddled his donkey and set out for his house in his hometown. He put his house in order and then hanged himself. So he died and was buried in his father’s tomb.

Absalom’s Death

24 David went to Mahanaim, and Absalom crossed the Jordan with all the men of Israel. 25 Absalom had appointed Amasa over the army in place of Joab. Amasa was the son of Jether, an Ishmaelite who had married Abigail, the daughter of Nahash and sister of Zeruiah the mother of Joab. 26 The Israelites and Absalom camped in the land of Gilead.

27 When David came to Mahanaim, Shobi son of Nahash from Rabbah of the Ammonites, and Makir son of Ammiel from Lo Debar, and Barzillai the Gileadite from Rogelim 28 brought bedding and bowls and articles of pottery. They also brought wheat and barley, flour and roasted grain, beans and lentils, 29 honey and curds, sheep, and cheese from cows’ milk for David and his people to eat. For they said, “The people have become exhausted and hungry and thirsty in the wilderness. ”

18David mustered the men who were with him and appointed over them commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds. 2 David sent out his troops, a third under the command of Joab, a third under Joab’s brother Abishai son of Zeruiah, and a third under Ittai the Gittite. The king told the troops, “I myself will surely march out with you.”

3 But the men said, “You must not go out; if we are forced to flee, they won’t care about us. Even if half of us die, they won’t care; but you are worth ten thousand of us. It would be better now for you to give us support from the city.”

4 The king answered, “I will do whatever seems best to you.”

So the king stood beside the gate while all his men marched out in units of hundreds and of thousands. 5 The king commanded Joab, Abishai and Ittai, “Be gentle with the young man Absalom for my sake.” And all the troops heard the king giving orders concerning Absalom to each of the commanders.

6 David’s army marched out of the city to fight Israel, and the battle took place in the forest of Ephraim. 7 There Israel’s troops were routed by David’s men, and the casualties that day were great—twenty thousand men. 8 The battle spread out over the whole countryside, and the forest swallowed up more men that day than the sword.

9 Now Absalom happened to meet David’s men. He was riding his mule, and as the mule went under the thick branches of a large oak, Absalom’s hair got caught in the tree. He was left hanging in midair, while the mule he was riding kept on going.

10 When one of the men saw what had happened, he told Joab, “I just saw Absalom hanging in an oak tree.”

11 Joab said to the man who had told him this, “What! You saw him? Why didn’t you strike him to the ground right there? Then I would have had to give you ten shekels of silver and a warrior’s belt. ”

12 But the man replied, “Even if a thousand shekels were weighed out into my hands, I would not lay a hand on the king’s son. In our hearing the king commanded you and Abishai and Ittai, ‘Protect the young man Absalom for my sake.’ 13 And if I had put my life in jeopardy—and nothing is hidden from the king —you would have kept your distance from me.”

14 Joab said, “I’m not going to wait like this for you.” So he took three javelins in his hand and plunged them into Absalom’s heart while Absalom was still alive in the oak tree. 15 And ten of Joab’s armor-bearers surrounded Absalom, struck him and killed him.

16 Then Joab sounded the trumpet, and the troops stopped pursuing Israel, for Joab halted them. 17 They took Absalom, threw him into a big pit in the forest and piled up a large heap of rocks over him. Meanwhile, all the Israelites fled to their homes.

18 During his lifetime Absalom had taken a pillar and erected it in the King’s Valley as a monument to himself, for he thought, “I have no son to carry on the memory of my name.” He named the pillar after himself, and it is called Absalom’s Monument to this day.

Commentary

Providence and protection

You can trust God with your future, your family, your church and your nation. The whole universe is in his hands and he is working his purposes out.

God is at work through all the human events that are described here.

The advice Ahithophel gave ‘was like that of one who enquires of God’ (16:23). If we are to give advice of any value, we have to be people who enquire of the Lord, in advance, what God is doing and what his will is.

If Absalom had followed Ahithophel’s advice, it would have been disastrous for David. Instead, Absalom chose to ignore Ahithophel’s wise advice and follow the bad advice of Hushai.

We see how God’s providential care and protection was around David: ‘For the Lord had determined to frustrate the good advice of Ahithophel’ (17:14). This was an answer to the spirit of David’s prayer.

Here we see that God is the hidden hand and ruler of history. David and all the other people involved in the drama had enormous power and freedom to act. But they were not free to act as though the Lord was not there.

Prayer

Thank you, Lord, that you are in charge of human history. You reign and rule over this universe. Thank you that in all things, including our mistakes, you work for the good of those who love you and who have been called according to your purpose (Romans 8:28).

Pippa adds

2 Samuel 16:15–18:18

What was Absalom’s problem? He had everything. He was handsome, wealthy and powerful. How could he have got to a position of wanting to kill his father? He was angry at David’s handling of the Amnon situation. He was proud, envious and jealous. Because of Absalom’s actions 20,000 men died (18:7). One person’s anger can cause so much damage. Our attitudes affect the lives of the people around us. We can sow hate or we can sow love.

Verse of the Day

Acts 7:33–34, MSG

‘Kneel and pray… get yourself ready; I’m sending you’
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References

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.

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