Day 163

You Can Change

Wisdom Psalm 73:1–14
New Testament Acts 7:44–8:3
Old Testament 2 Samuel 18:19–19:43


There was a woman who lived on the streets near our church. She would ask for money and react aggressively to those who refused. When she died, I took the funeral. I discovered afterwards that this woman had inherited a large fortune. She had acquired a luxurious flat and many valuable paintings, but she chose to live on the streets with her plastic bags full of rubbish. She could not bring herself to leave behind the life she knew and she never enjoyed her inheritance.

Some people are afraid of change, while others believe change is not possible. Yet the wonderful news is that with God’s help you can change. This change is key to spiritual life, growth and transformation. It is not just about changing our actions or appearance; we need to change on the inside – we need a change of heart. How can this happen?


Psalm 73:1–14

A psalm of Asaph.

1 Surely God is good to Israel,
   to those who are pure in heart.

2 But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
   I had nearly lost my foothold.
3 For I envied the arrogant
   when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

4 They have no struggles;
   their bodies are healthy and strong.
5 They are free from common human burdens;
   they are not plagued by human ills.
6 Therefore pride is their necklace;
   they clothe themselves with violence.
7 From their callous hearts comes iniquity;
   their evil imaginations have no limits.
8 They scoff, and speak with malice;
   with arrogance they threaten oppression.
9 Their mouths lay claim to heaven,
   and their tongues take possession of the earth.
10 Therefore their people turn to them
   and drink up waters in abundance.
11 They say, “How would God know?
   Does the Most High know anything?”

12 This is what the wicked are like—
   always free of care, they go on amassing wealth.

13 Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure
   and have washed my hands in innocence.
14 All day long I have been afflicted,
   and every morning brings new punishments.


Get God’s perspective

Have you ever wondered whether your faith was really worthwhile? Have you ever looked around at very successful people who have no faith and wondered whether they are better off than you and even been tempted to be envious of them?

The psalmist has kept his heart pure (v.1), but he has found life extremely tough. He has had his struggles and been ‘plagued’ (v.5) by temptation, doubts, fears and anxiety of mind.

He looks around at an affluent society that seems to be doing very well without God. He ‘almost slipped’ (v.2): ‘For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked’ (v.3).

You may see people around who are rich and successful. In spite of their ‘callous hearts’ (v.7), they seem not to have struggles (v.4). They seem perfectly healthy and free from burdens (vv.4–5). They are proud and arrogant and appear to have no need of God (vv.6–11).

If you find yourself on the slippery path of doubt and despair (v.2), wondering whether you have kept your heart pure in vain (v.13), then this psalm tells you what to do.

As we shall see, everything changes when we enter ‘the sanctuary of God’ (v.17) and see things from God’s perspective. The psalmist had a complete change of heart. He ‘understood their final destiny’. He realised the difference between their destiny and his (v.17).

The psalm starts, ‘Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart’ (v.1). And it ends, ‘But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds’ (v.28).


Lord, may I enter your sanctuary and see things from your perspective. Thank you that ‘you are good to those who are pure in heart... it is good to be near you. I have made you my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.’
New Testament

Acts 7:44–8:3

44 “Our ancestors had the tabernacle of the covenant law with them in the wilderness. It had been made as God directed Moses, according to the pattern he had seen. 45 After receiving the tabernacle, our ancestors under Joshua brought it with them when they took the land from the nations God drove out before them. It remained in the land until the time of David, 46 who enjoyed God’s favor and asked that he might provide a dwelling place for the God of Jacob. 47 But it was Solomon who built a house for him.

48 “However, the Most High does not live in houses made by human hands. As the prophet says:

  49 “‘Heaven is my throne,
   and the earth is my footstool.
  What kind of house will you build for me?
    says the Lord.
   Or where will my resting place be?
  50 Has not my hand made all these things?’

51 “You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit! 52 Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him — 53 you who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it.”

The Stoning of Stephen

54 When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”

57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.

59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.

8 And Saul approved of their killing him.

The Church Persecuted and Scattered

On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. 2 Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. 3 But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.


‘Circumcise’ your heart

Do you ever look at someone who is very opposed to the Christian faith and wonder if they could ever change? In today’s passage, we see that even the most hardened opponent can have a change of heart.

To be a Jew meant physical circumcision. Every male was circumcised on the eighth day of his life. But physical circumcision was intended to symbolise circumcision of the heart.

As Stephen’s speech comes to an end, with great courage and boldness, he says to his accusers, ‘You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit!’ (7:51). He then accuses them of having murdered Jesus (‘the Righteous One’, v.52).

One main theme runs through Stephen’s speech: God is not restricted to any one place: ‘The Most High does not live in houses made by human hands’ (v.48).

Neither the tabernacle (vv.44–45), nor the temple (vv.46–47) could ever have been viewed as God’s home in a literal sense (v.48). For as God says through Isaiah, ‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool’ (v.49). Jesus came to replace the tabernacle and temple. Before Jesus, people would come to the temple to meet God. With Jesus’ coming, the meeting place with God would be Jesus himself.

Now, through the Holy Spirit, God is present with his people (Matthew 18:20). It is especially in the gathered community, the church, that God lives by his Spirit (Ephesians 2:22). By his Spirit, he dwells within each of us. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). God’s dwelling is now in Stephen, who is ‘full of the Holy Spirit’ (Acts 7:55).

Stephen is speaking to the priests of the very temple that has now been superseded by Jesus through the Holy Spirit. So it is not surprising that ‘they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him’ (v.54). They drag him out of the city and stone him (v.58).

One of the people with an ‘uncircumcised heart’ is Saul: ‘The ringleaders took off their coats and asked a young man named Saul to watch them’ (v.58, MSG). He ‘was right there, congratulating the killers’ (8:1, MSG). This young man, Saul, ‘began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison’ (v.3).

It would be hard to find anyone in human history who had a bigger change of heart than this young man. From being a murderer of Christians, he became a great apostle who preached all over the world that Jesus is the Son of God (9:20). Imagine if a former member of Isis ended up as the Pope and you’ll be close to understanding what happened to the apostle Paul!

When did this change of heart begin? Perhaps a seed was planted when he saw Stephen’s death: ‘Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God”’ (7:55–56).

Then, ‘While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep’ (vv.59–60).

Later, this same Saul, also known as Paul, would write, ‘… a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit’ (Romans 2:29).

To circumcise is to cut off. Every true Christian is circumcised by the Holy Spirit. When your heart is circumcised, you seek to cut off every wrong attitude that comes into your heart and mind. Say ‘no’ to anything that will stop your heart being right before God. Like Stephen, be filled with the Holy Spirit overflowing with love, courage and forgiveness.


Thank you, Lord, that your love has changed my heart. Thank you that through your Holy Spirit we can all change.
Old Testament

2 Samuel 18:19–19:43

David Mourns

19 Now Ahimaaz son of Zadok said, “Let me run and take the news to the king that the LORD has vindicated him by delivering him from the hand of his enemies. ”

20 “You are not the one to take the news today,” Joab told him. “You may take the news another time, but you must not do so today, because the king’s son is dead.”

21 Then Joab said to a Cushite, “Go, tell the king what you have seen.” The Cushite bowed down before Joab and ran off.

22 Ahimaaz son of Zadok again said to Joab, “Come what may, please let me run behind the Cushite.”

But Joab replied, “My son, why do you want to go? You don’t have any news that will bring you a reward.”

23 He said, “Come what may, I want to run.”

So Joab said, “Run!” Then Ahimaaz ran by way of the plain and outran the Cushite.

24 While David was sitting between the inner and outer gates, the watchman went up to the roof of the gateway by the wall. As he looked out, he saw a man running alone. 25 The watchman called out to the king and reported it.

The king said, “If he is alone, he must have good news.” And the runner came closer and closer.

26 Then the watchman saw another runner, and he called down to the gatekeeper, “Look, another man running alone!”

The king said, “He must be bringing good news, too.”

27 The watchman said, “It seems to me that the first one runs like Ahimaaz son of Zadok.”

“He’s a good man,” the king said. “He comes with good news.”

28 Then Ahimaaz called out to the king, “All is well!” He bowed down before the king with his face to the ground and said, “Praise be to the LORD your God! He has delivered up those who lifted their hands against my lord the king.”

29 The king asked, “Is the young man Absalom safe?”

Ahimaaz answered, “I saw great confusion just as Joab was about to send the king’s servant and me, your servant, but I don’t know what it was.”

30 The king said, “Stand aside and wait here.” So he stepped aside and stood there.

31 Then the Cushite arrived and said, “My lord the king, hear the good news! The LORD has vindicated you today by delivering you from the hand of all who rose up against you.”

32 The king asked the Cushite, “Is the young man Absalom safe?”

The Cushite replied, “May the enemies of my lord the king and all who rise up to harm you be like that young man.”

33 The king was shaken. He went up to the room over the gateway and wept. As he went, he said: “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you—O Absalom, my son, my son!”

19 Joab was told, “The king is weeping and mourning for Absalom.” 2 And for the whole army the victory that day was turned into mourning, because on that day the troops heard it said, “The king is grieving for his son.” 3 The men stole into the city that day as men steal in who are ashamed when they flee from battle. 4 The king covered his face and cried aloud, “O my son Absalom! O Absalom, my son, my son!”

5 Then Joab went into the house to the king and said, “Today you have humiliated all your men, who have just saved your life and the lives of your sons and daughters and the lives of your wives and concubines. 6 You love those who hate you and hate those who love you. You have made it clear today that the commanders and their men mean nothing to you. I see that you would be pleased if Absalom were alive today and all of us were dead. 7 Now go out and encourage your men. I swear by the LORD that if you don’t go out, not a man will be left with you by nightfall. This will be worse for you than all the calamities that have come on you from your youth till now.”

8 So the king got up and took his seat in the gateway. When the men were told, “The king is sitting in the gateway, ” they all came before him.

Meanwhile, the Israelites had fled to their homes.

David Returns to Jerusalem

9 Throughout the tribes of Israel, all the people were arguing among themselves, saying, “The king delivered us from the hand of our enemies; he is the one who rescued us from the hand of the Philistines. But now he has fled the country to escape from Absalom; 10 and Absalom, whom we anointed to rule over us, has died in battle. So why do you say nothing about bringing the king back?”

11 King David sent this message to Zadok and Abiathar, the priests: “Ask the elders of Judah, ‘Why should you be the last to bring the king back to his palace, since what is being said throughout Israel has reached the king at his quarters? 12 You are my relatives, my own flesh and blood. So why should you be the last to bring back the king?’ 13 And say to Amasa, ‘Are you not my own flesh and blood? May God deal with me, be it ever so severely, if you are not the commander of my army for life in place of Joab. ’”

14 He won over the hearts of the men of Judah so that they were all of one mind. They sent word to the king, “Return, you and all your men.” 15 Then the king returned and went as far as the Jordan.

Now the men of Judah had come to Gilgal to go out and meet the king and bring him across the Jordan. 16 Shimei son of Gera, the Benjamite from Bahurim, hurried down with the men of Judah to meet King David. 17 With him were a thousand Benjamites, along with Ziba, the steward of Saul’s household, and his fifteen sons and twenty servants. They rushed to the Jordan, where the king was. 18 They crossed at the ford to take the king’s household over and to do whatever he wished.

When Shimei son of Gera crossed the Jordan, he fell prostrate before the king 19 and said to him, “May my lord not hold me guilty. Do not remember how your servant did wrong on the day my lord the king left Jerusalem. May the king put it out of his mind. 20 For I your servant know that I have sinned, but today I have come here as the first from the tribes of Joseph to come down and meet my lord the king.”

21 Then Abishai son of Zeruiah said, “Shouldn’t Shimei be put to death for this? He cursed the Lord’s anointed.”

22 David replied, “What does this have to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah? What right do you have to interfere? Should anyone be put to death in Israel today? Don’t I know that today I am king over Israel?” 23 So the king said to Shimei, “You shall not die.” And the king promised him on oath.

24 Mephibosheth, Saul’s grandson, also went down to meet the king. He had not taken care of his feet or trimmed his mustache or washed his clothes from the day the king left until the day he returned safely. 25 When he came from Jerusalem to meet the king, the king asked him, “Why didn’t you go with me, Mephibosheth?”

26 He said, “My lord the king, since I your servant am lame, I said, ‘I will have my donkey saddled and will ride on it, so I can go with the king.’ But Ziba my servant betrayed me. 27 And he has slandered your servant to my lord the king. My lord the king is like an angel of God; so do whatever you wish. 28 All my grandfather’s descendants deserved nothing but death from my lord the king, but you gave your servant a place among those who eat at your table. So what right do I have to make any more appeals to the king?”

29 The king said to him, “Why say more? I order you and Ziba to divide the land.”

30 Mephibosheth said to the king, “Let him take everything, now that my lord the king has returned home safely.”

31 Barzillai the Gileadite also came down from Rogelim to cross the Jordan with the king and to send him on his way from there. 32 Now Barzillai was very old, eighty years of age. He had provided for the king during his stay in Mahanaim, for he was a very wealthy man. 33 The king said to Barzillai, “Cross over with me and stay with me in Jerusalem, and I will provide for you.”

34 But Barzillai answered the king, “How many more years will I live, that I should go up to Jerusalem with the king? 35 I am now eighty years old. Can I tell the difference between what is enjoyable and what is not? Can your servant taste what he eats and drinks? Can I still hear the voices of male and female singers? Why should your servant be an added burden to my lord the king? 36 Your servant will cross over the Jordan with the king for a short distance, but why should the king reward me in this way? 37 Let your servant return, that I may die in my own town near the tomb of my father and mother. But here is your servant Kimham. Let him cross over with my lord the king. Do for him whatever you wish.”

38 The king said, “Kimham shall cross over with me, and I will do for him whatever you wish. And anything you desire from me I will do for you.”

39 So all the people crossed the Jordan, and then the king crossed over. The king kissed Barzillai and bid him farewell, and Barzillai returned to his home.

40 When the king crossed over to Gilgal, Kimham crossed with him. All the troops of Judah and half the troops of Israel had taken the king over.

41 Soon all the men of Israel were coming to the king and saying to him, “Why did our brothers, the men of Judah, steal the king away and bring him and his household across the Jordan, together with all his men?”

42 All the men of Judah answered the men of Israel, “We did this because the king is closely related to us. Why are you angry about it? Have we eaten any of the king’s provisions? Have we taken anything for ourselves?”

43 Then the men of Israel answered the men of Judah, “We have ten shares in the king; so we have a greater claim on David than you have. Why then do you treat us with contempt? Weren’t we the first to speak of bringing back our king?”

But the men of Judah pressed their claims even more forcefully than the men of Israel.


Mature through suffering

Are you in a period of suffering or grief? God often uses these times to change your heart and increase your compassion for others.

David’s heart was purified through suffering and grief. As if he had not suffered enough up until now, he receives the news that Absalom, his son, is dead. He was ‘heartbroken’ (18:33, MSG). He cries out, ‘O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you – O Absalom, my son, my son!’ (v.33).

He is then told in no uncertain terms by Joab that he has to pull himself together and to go out and encourage his troops who have just won a great battle for him against his enemies (19:1–7). Joab tells David, ‘put some heart into your servants!’ (v.7, MSG).

David changes his attitude. He gets up and does exactly what he has been asked to do (v.8). ‘He won over the hearts of all the men of Judah as though they were one man’ (v.14).

Not only did David have a change of heart, Shimei did as well. He prostrates himself before the king: ‘May my lord not hold me guilty. Do not remember how your servant did wrong… For I your servant know that I have sinned, but today I have come here as the first of the whole house of Joseph to come down and meet my lord the king’ (vv.19–20).

David, purified by his suffering, shines out like a brilliant light to all around him. He has mercy on Shimei. He deals wisely with Mephibosheth, Ziba and Barzillai (vv.24–39).

But David is going to face more battles ahead as a war of words breaks out between Israel and Judah (vv.41–43).


Lord, thank you for the ways in which you use the times of suffering and grief to bring change in my life. Purify my heart and increase my compassion for others.

Pippa adds

Acts 7:56 says:

‘“Look,” [Stephen] said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”’

Stephen was being stoned, which sounds the most terrible way to die. And yet there is something amazing about this scene. I don’t know of many who have seen the Father and the Son together. It was not so much that the crowd were killing Stephen, but God the Father and God the Son – Jesus – welcoming him home.

Verse of the Day

Psalm 73:1

‘God is good…’.



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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. (

Scripture quotations marked MSG are taken from The Message, copyright © 1993, 2002, 2018 by Eugene H. Peterson. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers.

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