We are currently in the season of Eastertide. Easter is the annual celebration of the resurrection of the Lord, and has been observed from the earliest days of the church. In the Jewish calendar, Jesus died during the Passover Feast, and the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Day of Pentecost, 50 days later. The church follows this sequence of events, with the season of Eastertide occupying the 50 days between the two great festivals.
CALL TO WORSHIP
God, come to my assistance.
Lord, make haste to help me.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen
God’s Kindness to Rebellious Israel
A Contemplation of Asaph.
Give ear, O my people, to my law;
Incline your ears to the words of my mouth.
I will open my mouth in a parable;
I will utter dark sayings of old,
Which we have heard and known,
And our fathers have told us.
We will not hide them from their children,
Telling to the generation to come the praises of the Lord,
And His strength and His wonderful works that He has done.
For He established a testimony in Jacob,
And appointed a law in Israel,
Which He commanded our fathers,
That they should make them known to their children;
That the generation to come might know them,
The children who would be born,
That they may arise and declare them to their children,
That they may set their hope in God,
And not forget the works of God,
But keep His commandments;
And may not be like their fathers,
A stubborn and rebellious generation,
A generation that did not set its heart aright,
And whose spirit was not faithful to God.
The children of Ephraim, being armed and carrying bows,
Turned back in the day of battle.
They did not keep the covenant of God;
They refused to walk in His law,
And forgot His works
And His wonders that He had shown them.
Marvelous things He did in the sight of their fathers,
In the land of Egypt, in the field of Zoan.
He divided the sea and caused them to pass through;
And He made the waters stand up like a heap.
In the daytime also He led them with the cloud,
And all the night with a light of fire.
He split the rocks in the wilderness,
And gave them drink in abundance like the depths.
He also brought streams out of the rock,
And caused waters to run down like rivers.
But they sinned even more against Him
By rebelling against the Most High in the wilderness.
And they tested God in their heart
By asking for the food of their fancy.
Yes, they spoke against God:
They said, “Can God prepare a table in the wilderness?
Behold, He struck the rock,
So that the waters gushed out,
And the streams overflowed.
Can He give bread also?
Can He provide meat for His people?”
Therefore the Lord heard this and was furious;
So a fire was kindled against Jacob,
And anger also came up against Israel,
Because they did not believe in God,
And did not trust in His salvation.
Yet He had commanded the clouds above,
And opened the doors of heaven,
Had rained down manna on them to eat,
And given them of the bread of heaven.
Men ate angels’ food;
He sent them food to the full.
He caused an east wind to blow in the heavens;
And by His power He brought in the south wind.
He also rained meat on them like the dust,
Feathered fowl like the sand of the seas;
And He let them fall in the midst of their camp,
All around their dwellings.
So they ate and were well filled,
For He gave them their own desire.
They were not deprived of their craving;
But while their food was still in their mouths,
The wrath of God came against them,
And slew the stoutest of them,
And struck down the choice men of Israel.
In spite of this they still sinned,
And did not believe in His wondrous works.
Therefore their days He consumed in futility,
And their years in fear.
When He slew them, then they sought Him;
And they returned and sought earnestly for God.
Then they remembered that God was their rock,
And the Most High God their Redeemer.
Nevertheless they flattered Him with their mouth,
And they lied to Him with their tongue;
For their heart was not steadfast with Him,
Nor were they faithful in His covenant.
But He, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity,
And did not destroy them.
Yes, many a time He turned His anger away,
And did not stir up all His wrath;
For He remembered that they were but flesh,
A breath that passes away and does not come again.
How often they provoked Him in the wilderness,
And grieved Him in the desert!
Yes, again and again they tempted God,
And limited the Holy One of Israel.
They did not remember His power:
The day when He redeemed them from the enemy,
When He worked His signs in Egypt,
And His wonders in the field of Zoan;
Turned their rivers into blood,
And their streams, that they could not drink.
He sent swarms of flies among them, which devoured them,
And frogs, which destroyed them.
He also gave their crops to the caterpillar,
And their labor to the locust.
He destroyed their vines with hail,
And their sycamore trees with frost.
He also gave up their cattle to the hail,
And their flocks to fiery lightning.
He cast on them the fierceness of His anger,
Wrath, indignation, and trouble,
By sending angels of destruction among them.
He made a path for His anger;
He did not spare their soul from death,
But gave their life over to the plague,
And destroyed all the firstborn in Egypt,
The first of their strength in the tents of Ham.
But He made His own people go forth like sheep,
And guided them in the wilderness like a flock;
And He led them on safely, so that they did not fear;
But the sea overwhelmed their enemies.
And He brought them to His holy border,
This mountain which His right hand had acquired.
He also drove out the nations before them,
Allotted them an inheritance by survey,
And made the tribes of Israel dwell in their tents.
Yet they tested and provoked the Most High God,
And did not keep His testimonies,
But turned back and acted unfaithfully like their fathers;
They were turned aside like a deceitful bow.
For they provoked Him to anger with their high places,
And moved Him to jealousy with their carved images.
When God heard this, He was furious,
And greatly abhorred Israel,
So that He forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh,
The tent He had placed among men,
And delivered His strength into captivity,
And His glory into the enemy’s hand.
He also gave His people over to the sword,
And was furious with His inheritance.
The fire consumed their young men,
And their maidens were not given in marriage.
Their priests fell by the sword,
And their widows made no lamentation.
Then the Lord awoke as from sleep,
Like a mighty man who shouts because of wine.
And He beat back His enemies;
He put them to a perpetual reproach.
Moreover He rejected the tent of Joseph,
And did not choose the tribe of Ephraim,
But chose the tribe of Judah,
Mount Zion which He loved.
And He built His sanctuary like the heights,
Like the earth which He has established forever.
He also chose David His servant,
And took him from the sheepfolds;
From following the ewes that had young He brought him,
To shepherd Jacob His people,
And Israel His inheritance.
So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart,
And guided them by the skillfulness of his hands.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen
(A short time of worship and thanksgiving, led or spontaneous. Alternatively a devotional song may be played and listened to.)
OLD TESTAMENT READING
2 Samuel 3:26-39
Joab Murders Abner
When Joab came out from David’s presence, he sent messengers after Abner, and they brought him back from the cistern of Sirah. But David did not know about it.And when Abner returned to Hebron, Joab took him aside into the midst of the gate to speak with him privately, and there he struck him in the stomach, so that he died, for the blood of Asahel his brother. Afterwards, when David heard of it, he said, “I and my kingdom are for ever guiltless before the Lord for the blood of Abner the son of Ner. May it fall upon the head of Joab and upon all his father’s house, and may the house of Joab never be without one who has a discharge or who is leprous or who holds a spindle or who falls by the sword or who lacks bread!” So Joab and Abishai his brother killed Abner, because he had put their brother Asahel to death in the battle at Gibeon.
David Mourns Abner
Then David said to Joab and to all the people who were with him, “Tear your clothes and put on sackcloth and mourn before Abner.” And King David followed the bier. They buried Abner at Hebron. And the king lifted up his voice and wept at the grave of Abner, and all the people wept. And the king lamented for Abner, saying,
“Should Abner die as a fool dies?
Your hands were not bound;
your feet were not fettered;
as one falls before the wicked
you have fallen.”
And all the people wept again over him. Then all the people came to persuade David to eat bread while it was yet day. But David swore, saying, “God do so to me and more also, if I taste bread or anything else till the sun goes down!” And all the people took notice of it, and it pleased them, as everything that the king did pleased all the people. So all the people and all Israel understood that day that it had not been the king’s will to put to death Abner the son of Ner. And the king said to his servants, “Do you not know that a prince and a great man has fallen this day in Israel? And I was gentle today, though anointed king. These men, the sons of Zeruiah, are more severe than I. The Lord repay the evildoer according to his wickedness!”
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.
Pause for Reflection……
(Take a moment to bring to God any issues that have arisen during the morning. You may like to end with the following prayer…)
Lord Jesus, you worked with your hands as a carpenter.
May we who labour upon the earth never cease to give you praise,
And know your loving presence with us.
We ask this for your glory. Amen
(If these prayers are taking place before food, you may like to say the Grace here also.)
(If these prayers are taking place before food, you may like to say the Grace here instead.)
Lord God, we thank you for your gift to us of this food;
Produce of earth, sky, many living beings, and much hard work.
May we eat with prayerfulness, gratitude and moderation;
With renewed minds and spirit-controlled appetites.
May we eat with compassion for those who hunger today,
And in such a way that reduces the suffering of all creatures;
Healing and preserving our precious planet.
Use this food to strengthen our bodies, revive our spirits,
Nurture our family and nourish our resolve;
That we may continue to serve all that lives with all our life. Amen
Psalms taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Other Scripture taken from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.