By Rt. Rev. Justin Welby, the Bishop of Durham
What did he do wrong? Every scholar has a different answer, but probably the spiritual reality is David sought to demonstrate his own strength and not rely on God. God had given him rest from his enemies. He was secure, he had nothing to prove. The psalm he sings shows his true spirituality, of reliance on the God who rescues. The list of mighty men shows his strength. But he could not see that. We are dealing in terms of a belief that, as they say in Nigeria, the fish rots from the head. In other words, bad rulers bring misfortune on their people. We know that is true, and this passage ascribes responsibility to God. Peter also could not see this was God. He saw and did not believe. In biblical terms that is not seeing. Nor did Rhoda see. The psalm is one of rule and glory for God. Put alongside randomly cruelHerod and irresponsible David, that seems to make little sense, but it is this truth that has held the prisoner secure under persecution and inspired those struggling with injustice. God’s perspective and ours are utterly different. What counts is our final trust in Him, not only in this world but in the face of losing it. The second key point is prayer. David turned to prayer, the church prayed for Peter, the Psalm expresses confidence in God. And things changed. It is easy to believe in prayer as therapy, and less so to hold on the truth that prayer is both action and obedience, trust and intervention, aligning ourselves to God and interceding for an issue or situation to be aligned by God.
What do you rely on more than God, if anything? Or, if you are in the place of Peter for one reason or another, literally or imprisoned by suffering and circumstances, are you as honest with God as you can be, not only declaring His praise, but telling Him of your lament.
Tell the story from the point of view of anyone in (or implied by) the passage either in I Samuel or Acts. Then, in the same time, tell something of your own story of God, you and struggle and deliverance. Keep it true!
Oh God, you know that we can do nothing of ourselves to help ourselves. Give us strength both to bear the struggles and injustices of this world, and also, trusting in your grace, to resist wrong and serve truth. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
The Rt. Rev. Justin Welby is the the Bishop of Durham