Day 159

No Shades of Grey

Wisdom Psalm 71:13-18
New Testament Acts 4:27-31, 5:1-3
Old Testament 2 Samuel 13:12


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 71:13-18

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 shall always have hope;
   I will praise you more and more.

18 Even when I am old and grey,
   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 4:27-31, 5:1-3

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…’

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.

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?


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 13:12

‘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.


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

Here begins the family breakdown.

There seem to be some terrible decisions going on at this 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 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’

Thought for the Day

Every generation has the responsibility of passing the baton to the next generation. Succession planning is a key part of finishing well.

Action for the Day

Pray for the Holy Spirit to fill your community.


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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.

“The One Year® is a registered trademark of Tyndale House Publishers used by permission”

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