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Duddingston Kirk, Edinburgh

Sunday Services are at 10.30 am

Wednesday Stillness Services are at 10 am

Bible Reading Notes

These notes were compiled by the Reverend Dr James A P Jack. You will find reading the Bible rewarding and encouraging, but reading the Bible is not always easy!

These guidelines may help you.

January 2020

January 26      2 Samuel 16:5–14

When a great man is down then little men can act big. In normal circumstances Shimei would not dare to act as he now does. Note how he claims that ‘the Lord has given the kingdom to your son’. There are always those who claim to know God’s will when things are going their way. It takes a great man to acknowledge God’s purpose even in the moment of defeat and humiliation.

January 27      2 Samuel 16:15–19

Hushai is acting deceptively, claiming to be loyal to Absalom while secretly acting as David’s agent. Absalom can hardly complain, since this is exactly the way he has acted towards his own father. It is remarkable how often sinners are repaid in their own coin! But can such double-dealing ever be justified? This is hypocrisy in its true form – wearing a mask to hide the real feeling of the heart.

January 28      2 Samuel 16:20–23

Absalom is here demonstrating that David is now incapable of even defending his women-folk. Why did David leave these unfortunate women? In all probability he would not think Absalom would do such a thing. Ought humans ever to be used as an example to others? In every situation the unfortunate innocents always seem to suffer.

 January 29      2 Samuel 17:1–14

Absalom now had to deal with conflicting advice. Ahitophel’s advice was really the better, but Hushai’s appealed to Absalom’s vanity. The idea of personally leading a great army into battle, in which the victory was assured, fed his sense of self-importance.

January 30      2 Samuel 17:15–23

This passage reads almost like an adventure story. When a nation is involved in civil strife, no one can remain neutral. Here, a boy, a servant girl and a housewife all have their part to play in their nation’s history. Why did Ahitophel hang himself? He had been one of the first to transfer loyalty from David to Absalom. Was his conscience now accusing him?

January 31      2 Samuel 17:24–29

David now receives from strangers far greater kindness than he had received from his own family! And their kindness was expressed in practical form. This generosity must have given David great encouragement. Had they been politically motivated they would have supported Absalom who now seemed on the ‘winning side’, rather than David who now seemed down and out. Their action was prompted by simple kindness and compassion.

February 2020

February 1       2 Samuel 18:1–8

David now seems to have gained fresh heart, and organizes his men for battle. His troops refuse to allow him to go with them. They know that if they are defeated, then David himself might be able to fight another day, but if he falls in this battle, then it is all over. It is unlikely that David received this advice with great enthusiasm, but he saw the sense of it, and acceded. In the battle 20,000 men died – and all because of the vanity and ambition of one man!

February 2       2 Samuel 18:9–18

How strange that Absalom’s most significant feature should be the cause of his own death. David had pleaded that Absalom should not be harmed but Joab knew that there could be no peace in the land so long as Absalom lived. Joab had a sense of personal responsibility for all this – it was he who had arranged for Absalom’s return from exile. He would now feel that his personal friendship had been abused. He would also know that if Absalom survived then, after a time, he would make another attempt to secure the throne. Joab knew that 20,000 men had already died through Absalom’s folly.

February 3       2 Samuel 18:19–33

How strange is the human heart! In spite of all the trouble he had caused, David still loved his rebellious son. Ahimaaz knew that the report of Absalom’s death would be a terrible blow to the king, and so he wanted to prepare him for it – but David was more concerned about the fate of his son than the outcome of the battle.

February 4      2 Samuel 19:1–8a

David’s troops had risked their own lives and won a great victory, but their king seemed to think more of his rebellious son. Joab realized what the outcome of this might be, and so spoke plainly to the king. David accepted the rebuke and went to be with his men.

February 5      2 Samuel 19:8b–14

The rebellion is now completely crushed, and David is invited to resume his kingship. Note that Joab is replaced as commander of the army. This may seem harsh since Joab had served David loyally, but there are two possibilities. David may well have heard that it was Joab who killed Absalom, in spite of David’s request that he be taken alive. On the other hand, Joab would be remembered as the one who had brought Absalom back to Jerusalem. By dismissing him was David seeking to wipe away all that belonged to the past and making a fresh start for the nation?

February 6      2 Samuel 19:15–23

We have already noted Shimei’s behaviour when David was fleeing from Jerusalem. Now he literally grovels that he be put to death, but David rejects his advice. Indeed, David is rather brusque with his two senior officers. He is also surprisingly lenient to Shimei. Is it that David was impressed by Shimei’s contrition?

February 7       2 Samuel 16:1–4; 19:24–30

In the earlier passage we saw what appeared to be Mephibosheth’s ingratitude. Now we learn that it was a matter of Ziba’s deception. How often, in these past few chapters, have we read of one deceiving another? Mephibosheth’s doesn’t want property; he is simply grateful that the king has returned safely.

February 8      2 Samuel 19:31–39

Barzillai was one of those who had provided for David at a time when his fortunes were at their lowest. How good it is to read, amidst all this deception and treachery, of one whose loyalty and friendship was sincere, generous and simple. So often it is the troublemakers who make the headlines, and we forget that there are many plain, honest, decent people whose word can be trusted and whose integrity is beyond question.

February 9      2 Samuel 19:40–43

In spite of David’s example of forgiveness and reconciliation, there is still suspicion between the northern and southern tribes. This will later show itself in a divided kingdom. What is there in human nature that leads to strife rather than harmony?

February 10      2 Samuel 20:1–13

David has been restored to the throne, but his kingdom is far from peaceful. He has to contend with another uprising, this time under Sheba. The incident between Joab and Amasa is more disturbing. Joab bore a grudge against Amasa, and now takes his chance to settle old scores. There can be no peace in a nation so long as personal animosity remains. Old hurts can only be healed by forgiveness – never by vengeance.

February 11      2 Samuel 20:14–26

Was this woman really ‘wise’ or was she guilty of treachery? No effort must be spared in trying to redeem the trouble-makers of life, yet does there comes a point when, for the good of society, they must be ‘eliminated’? Personal freedom must always be balanced against the greater good of the group. Such decisions are never easy, but they are, unfortunately, unavoidable.

February 12      2 Samuel 21:1–14

We have already read of David’s remarkable leniency towards the descendants of Saul. Now we read of him handing them over to be slain in cold blood. The reason for this change may seem quite alien to us. Verse 1 points to a direct link between a famine which lasted for three years, and a crime committed by Saul during his reign. Verse 14 indicates that, justice having been done. Is this possible? Is it true that natural disasters such as famine, flood or storm are somehow linked to a social injustice that has not been expiated?

February 13      2 Samuel 21:15–22

The main feature of this passage is not the remarkable physique of the Philistines, but the growing exhaustion of David. This is hardly surprising considering his long, active and hard life. Note how his people realized that his special contribution was no longer his valour on the battlefield, but his leadership in the nation. He was no longer the David his enemies feared, but he still had a contribution to make to his people.

February 14      2 Samuel 22:1–7

Religious faith is, first of all, personal. Only when individuals have a personal, living faith, do they join together to form a church. God must always be seen as ‘bigger’ than the believer – ‘my protector’, ‘my strong fortress’.

February 15      2 Samuel 22:8–16

Do love and anger co-exist in the same person? A parent, through love of his child, may be angry at what he sees as a threat to his child. Does this then mean that God, who is a God of love, can also be angry? Is it possible that in our emphasis on the god of love, we have distorted the whole idea of what his love is like? Can anger ever be an expression of God’s love?

February 16      2 Samuel 22:17–28

This passage deals with God’s power to save and protect, but note how divine protection is linked with God’s pleasure in the one he protects – ‘He saved me because he was pleased with me’. We must be careful to maintain the balance between two extreme positions. We can never win God’s approval or earn God’s protection through good behaviour. We will never know God’s protection or approval if we deliberately flout God’s laws and ignore God’s presence.

February 17      2 Samuel 22:29–35

Now we focus on God’s gracious ways. We will make no headway in the spiritual life unless our hearts and minds are focused solely on God. So many try to stress their own goodness. Others are content to rely on the organisation of the Church. It is only God who is our strength and salvation.

February 18      2 Samuel 22:36–51

David recalls times when he was aware of God’s protection and guidance – ‘O Lord, you protect me and save me; your help has made me great.’ It is not always easy to see the direct answer to prayer. Many pray and feel as though God has not heard. No prayer is ever without an answer. There may be reasons why our prayers are not as effective as they might be, but God answers all prayers. How many of us have been saved, even from our own folly, because loved ones – known and unknown – have ‘prayed’ us through times of temptation?

February 19      2 Samuel 23:1–7

David’s life was far from blameless. Some of his faults were serious indeed, yet through it all he could see the over-riding presence and direction of God. But more than that, David realized that his descendants could only know blessing through God and never through their own efforts alone. Towards the close of his earthly life he was content to rely on God’s mercy and peace.

February 20      2 Samuel 23:8–39

This passage is mainly a long list of those who had been David’s most famous warriors during his long reign. This incident must have occurred during his desert wanderings before he became king. He expressed a desire for a drink of water from the well from which he must often have drawn water during his early years. Three of his soldiers risked their lives to bring that water, but when he realized the risk they had taken he poured it out as an offering to the Lord. Do we ever give sufficient thought to those who labour and toil to provide our daily needs?

February 21      2 Samuel 24:1–10

God is interested in the quality of personal and national life. It is man’s pride that finds satisfaction in numbers. This is still seen in the modern church where numbers are considered more important than spiritual maturity. For some reason, Israel had incurred divine wrath. We are not told the reason, but that is rather unimportant. God was angry with Israel – that is the main point. As a result of that anger God prompted David to do something which would ‘bring trouble on them’. Although David makes a personal confession, it was the sin of Israel that caused the trouble.

February 22      2 Samuel 24:11–17

Israel is guilty of sin, so God’s righteous punishment must be inflicted upon them. God gives David a choice as to the form it should take. There are times in life when we can do no other than submit to the divine mercy. This David now does.

February 23      2 Samuel 24:18–24

Not unnaturally, David wishes to buy the place where God had mercifully intervened and erect an altar there. Araunah was only too willing to let his King have the place for nothing, along with the animals to be sacrificed on the alter, but David replied – ‘I will not offer to the Lord my God sacrifices that have cost me nothing.’

February 24       1 John 1:1–4

Just like John’s Gospel, this book begins with the Word, here called the Word of life. Note how this Word (Christ) existed from the very beginning, and was available to the senses of seeing, hearing and touching (a direct reference to the earthly life of Christ). ‘When this life becomes visible’ is clearly a reference to the incarnation of Christ, and goes on to speak of it as eternal life which God the Father has made known to us. John hopes that ‘you will join with us in the fellowship we have with the Father’ – again the same evangelical purpose as in the gospel.

February 25       1 John 1:5–7

John is not expressing his opinions, but ‘the message we have received from his Son’. That message is initially about the difference between God and man – a difference expressed by light and darkness. God is of such purity of light that there is no darkness in him at all. Fellowship with God must inevitably bring some such light into our own lives. The amount of darkness within us is a measure of how much our lives are still untouched by God’s light.

February 26       1 John 1:8–10

By our very nature there must inevitably be some darkness within us. If we deny this, and try to pretend that we are as pure as the driven snow, then we deceive ourselves. On the other hand, if we acknowledge our sinfulness before God, then he is willing and able to forgive. Sadly there is a streak of pride within each of us which wants to believe that we do not need forgiveness.

February 27       1 John 2:1–2

By our very nature there remains within us a tendency to sin. Even the most saintly person is not without, at least, moments of moral weakness and temptation. As Christ makes plain the thought is as wrong as the deed. Even though we reach such a stage of saintliness when we can control hand and tongue, yet is it possible that we will ever be able fully to control our minds? If our eternal salvation depended on our own goodness then we have great cause for despair, but ‘we have someone who pleads with the Father on our behalf’. Christ is pleading for us even at this very moment!

February 28        1 John 2:3–4

The way for us to get to know Jesus is to follow him and get to know him by obeying his commands. This is not a drudge but it is a real joy to want to be continually in Jesus’ presence. The contrary is therefore true; if we say we know Jesus but have not followed him and his ways then we are liars!

February 29        1 John 2:5–6

An ancient heresy is ‘salvation by works’ – earning God’s forgiveness by doing all sorts of good deeds here on earth. In no way can we earn God’s favour. If we could earn such divine favour then there would have been no need for Christ to die for us on the cross! However, if we obey God’s command and seek in every way to honour God, then we do not earn God’s favour, but we place ourselves in such a position that that favour may be known in all its fullness. Our whole walk and conversation should be Christ-like.