House Groups   should have restarted on the week beginning October 4th but are still proscribed due to covid. Material on the psalms has been produced for home study for six weeks. Hard copies can be obtained from me but the material is here printed below

Bible Notes to be used at groups or home from October to December – see below the next two paragraphs in italics

We value reading and learning from the Bible since it is the foundation of our faith. Its teaching never goes out of date because God and people have not changed. In the Old Testament we read of how God made the world and tried to establish a relationship with us, which we kept breaking until we were almost completely out of touch with him. The prophets looked forward to a time when God would do something new to bring us back to God. This special agent or Messiah would be identified with God Himself.

In the New Testament we read of the coming to earth of this rescuer, Jesus. We read of his life, his teachings and miracles, his death and resurrection, God who became a man. We read then of what his disciples did in spreading the message about Jesus as rescuer. Paul and others write letters to encourage the early Christians in their relationships with the risen Jesus and with one another.

Our bible studies focus not on academic study but on finding out what the Bible is saying to us about how we should run our personal and church lives.

STUDY 1               PSALM 23            GUIDANCE

Read   Psalm 23  (some psalms change course but this is one stream of thought)

Q1.I suppose this must be one of the most popular parts of the whole Bible.  This psalm is used at weddings and funerals.  Why do you think this psalm is so popular?

Q2 What is the thought or observation that ties the psalm together ?

Q3 Consider the verbs, the action words, describing what God DOES in this psalm.  Which of these verbs mean/have meant most to you in your life and experience?

Q4. God’s actions far outweigh the psalmist’s actions in this psalm.  David only speaks of “I shall not want”; “I walk”; “I will not fear” and “I will dwell.”  As you have tried to follow Christ, how do these verbs describe your own experience?

Q5 Count how many times in this psalm you can find words referring to the LORD (Lord, he, his, you, your) and words referring to the psalmist (I, me, my).  Notice how the psalmist uses the third person in verses 1-3 and 6, but turns to the second person in verses 4-5.  Why is it important to turn from talking ABOUT God to talking TO God?

Q6 Have you had experiences of the still waters?  The valley of the shadow of death?  The table prepared?  The overflowing cup?  God’s goodness and mercy?  Speak of these times and the lessons you have learned and are learning.

Q7 Summarise what seems to you most important about GOD’S GUIDANCE from this psalm.

Loving Shepherd, thank you for leading us through green pastures and by still waters, and for all the good things along the way – our children and families, shelter and food, schooling and healthcare, rewarding work and enduring friendships. Thank you that green pastures and still waters are your gifts. Amen

STUDY 2           PSALM 36          REFUGE

Read   Psalm 36   (two parts – vv1-4 and vv5-12)

Q1 What is the subject matter in the two parts of this psalm ? What ties  the two sections together ? Is there a difference in tone ?

Q2. What do verses 1-4 and 11-12 tell us about the situation which the psalmist might have been in? What emotions does he display ? What seems to be his attitude to ‘the wicked’ ? Who do we define as ‘the wicked’ and what is our attitude toward those who have wronged or attacked us ?

Q3. What do verses 5-9 tell us about the greatness of God, the gentleness of God and the generosity of God?

Q4. Eugene Peterson (in The Message) celebrates the comprehensiveness of God’s love by translating the last phrase of v.6 “…not a man, not a mouse, slips through the cracks!”  What hinders you from trusting in God’s love?

Q5. What you have experienced of taking “shelter under God’s shadowing wings” (v7).

Finally reflect on Bishop Timothy Dudley-Smith’s song “Safe in the shadow of the Lord” (based on Psalm 91):

Safe in the shadow of the Lord, beneath his hand and power, I trust in Him,  I trust in Him, my fortress and my tower. (v1)

Strong in the everlasting Name, and in my Father’s care, I trust I Him,            I trust in Him, who hears and answers prayer  (v5)

Almighty God, thank you that in times when we’ve been afraid and inadequate, your unfailing strength and power have been our security. Amen.

STUDY 3                      PSALM 144                SECURITY

Read   Psalm 144

Q1 What is happening to the psalmist ? What different emotions are here ? What is the overall mood or outlook? Is it a selfish prayer ? Have we a right to expect answers to a prayer like vv12-14 ? What things does the writer express a concern for ?

Q2 Who might be the writer of this psalm ? Does that change the way you look at it?

Q3.  What images and language show this to be a SOLDIER’S psalm?  How might the images be different if the writer was a grocer or a doctor or a school-teacher?

Q4. The psalm begins with David blessing the LORD, and ends with a prayer that God will bless His people.  How are these two things related?  Why do we praise God?  Does He need our praises?

Q5.  All over the world people pray in times of crisis – in a battle trench; when a boat is sinking; when Notre Dame burns; when someone they love is ill; when an earthquake strikes…..  What does this tell us about human nature?

‘The name of the Lord is a strong tower. The righteous run into it and are safe’ Proverbs 18.10

Q6. The above verse talks about the righteous “running into the tower of God’s name”.  How do you run “into a name”?  Describe a time when you have done this.

Q7  Do you have a favourite song or hymn?  How do snatches of favourite songs help us in hard times?

Q8. Where is Jesus in this psalm?

Sovereign Lord, your many biblical names reveal how varying are your ways of meeting with people in their need. Thank you that ultimately you meet us in Jesus, and that we can run to him and be safe. Amen.

STUDY 4                      PSALM 40                             DELIVERANCE

Read    Psalm 40  (two parts again)

We will focus on Psalm 40 in this study.  Of course, many psalms celebrate God’s deliverance.

Q1 Many psalms start anxiously and end with thanksgiving for deliverance. This is the other way round. Why ? What might be happening ? Are the  two parts incompatible ? On what note does he finish ?

Q2. Deliverance from what?  What does the psalm celebrate?  And what would you like to speak of  (see vs 5, 10, 16) about the deliverances which you have experienced? The writer recognises the need to share what God has done for you with others – when have you been moved to do this ?

Q3. The psalmist says, “I waited, I waited….” The psalm ends, “Hurry up Lord!”   Waiting is a characteristic of hope.  What experiences of waiting can you tell of?  What have you learned from disappointments?

Q4. Does the psalmist really mean (v.6) that he doesn’t need to go to the temple anymore?  That his religion is just a private matter? What awareness does he show of God and what he requires of us ?

Q5. People don’t always recover from things, despite fervent prayer.  Sometimes, it appears, there is deliverance in and through troubles, rather than from troubles…?

Q6. The psalmist says (v.8), “Your instruction is within my heart.”  What verse(s) from this psalm would you like to commit to memory and why?

Q7 If you have time, compare the short Psalm 30.

Redeemer God, thank you for the deliverance from the slime of personal sin and failure. Thank you too that in the dark times of family separation and loneliness, protracted illness and death, depression and doubt, your light breaks in and brings freedom. Amen.

STUDY 5               PSALM 73                SUPPORT

Psalm 18 is a very long psalm; we will focus on Psalm 73.

Read  Psalm 73  (two parts again – you might want to read vv1-14 first)

Q1.The psalm begins well with a robust assertion of faith (v.1).  But then, until about v.16, the psalmist is very preoccupied with (and envious of) the good fortune of unbelievers.  This is easy to see if you use a coloured pen to highlight the words “they, their, them”. Do you sometimes sympathise with what he is saying ? Is it true ? Do you ever find yourself envying anyone ? Why ?

Q2 If the wicked are carefree, does that mean we have cares because we look to Live for God ? Would it be good for us to have no care in the world ?

Q3. What brought the psalmist to his senses in vs 15, 17, 18?  Does coming into church sometimes change the way you look at life and situations ?

Q4 Older people tend to pay more attention to their past (because they have more of it?!), often with nostalgia…. v17 changes from the psalmist’s past (vv13,14) to thinking about the future. How should we pay more attention to our future?

Q5. How may we use verses 23-28 to strengthen our faith and hope for the future, to find support for continuing our journey?

Q6. If people look at our lives – the bit they can see – what will they notice to show that we are convinced that v.25 is true?  Where does our deepest security lie?

Q7. In conclusion, how does the psalmist migrate from “Poor me!” in the first part of the psalm to “Rich me!” in the final section?  In what ways do we have more resources than Asaph did for this migration?

O God, waking in the footsteps of Christ is a difficult thing. Forgive us for being slow to follow your way, or for deliberately choosing a wrong direction. Thank you for your supporting strength when we stumble. Amen.

STUDY 6            PSALM 71            CONSTANT GRACE

Read  Psalm 71  (you might want to read vv1-13 and then vv14-24 after Q4)

Q1.What phrases in this psalm might justify the title “Old Person’s Psalm”?

Other than references to age, what is there about the psalmist’s outlook that suggests an older person ?

Q2 What does it mean to take refuge in God ? Surely not to hide from the world in church !

Q3.The psalmist’s troubles are many, deep and dark, coming to a climax perhaps in v.11: “There is no Deliverer!”  What troubles are outlined in these opening verses? What is the secret of his indomitable faith?

Q4 Can we pray something like v13? Why does the psalmist write this ?

Q5 v14 introduces a change of mood and tone. What are the differences but also the similarities between the two parts of the psalm?

Q6 v19 – “Who is like you?” How does the psalmist fortify himself with reminders of what God IS and what God DOES?

Q7.The psalmist revels in the richness of his tradition and in the deep words of his faith.  He is eager to pass on the story which he has known to the next generation.   John Goldingay writes, “No psalm makes more use   of the word ‘always’!”  What verbs or words or phrases like it describe the psalmist’s habits – and how can we follow his example?

Q8. Looking back, how has this series of studies stregthened you ?

Thank you,Lord, for your overwhelming grace to us and to our families, over many years and in  many situations. Thank you for your forbearance and encouragement  along the way. Amen.