Day 150

Five Burdens You Need Not Carry

Wisdom Psalm 68:15-20
New Testament John 18:25-40
Old Testament 1 Samuel 24:1-25:44

Introduction

At the end of his life, Sir Winston Churchill said, ‘When I look back on all these worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened!’

Churchill was speaking about the burden of worries that never materialise. However, there are many different types of ‘burdens’ in life, and some of them are very real. Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you… and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light’ (Matthew 11:28–30).

A yoke is something Jesus would have made in a carpenter’s shop. It is a wooden frame joining two animals (usually oxen) at the neck, enabling them to pull a plough or wagon together. The function of the yoke is to make the burden easier to carry.

I love the way Eugene Peterson translates this passage in The Message: ‘Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I will show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly’ (vv.28–30).

Wisdom

Psalm 68:15-20

15 Mount Bashan, majestic mountain,
   Mount Bashan, rugged mountain,
16 why gaze in envy, you rugged mountain,
   at the mountain where God chooses to reign,
   where the Lord himself will dwell forever?
17 The chariots of God are tens of thousands
   and thousands of thousands;
   the Lord has come from Sinai into his sanctuary.
18 When you ascended on high,
   you took many captives;
   you received gifts from people,
  even from the rebellious —
   that you,Lord God, might dwell there.

19 Praise be to the Lord, to God our Saviour,
   who daily bears our burdens.
20 Our God is a God who saves;
   from the Sovereign Lord comes escape from death.

Commentary

1. The Burden of Anxiety

In his book Affluenza, the psychologist Oliver James points out that ‘almost a quarter of Britain suffers serious emotional distress, such as depression and anxiety, and another quarter are on the verge thereof’.

David praises God ‘who daily bears our burdens’ (v.19). Burdens here may include many things. One of the burdens that God bears for us daily is the weight of worry, stress and anxiety.

John Newton said, ‘We can easily manage if we will only take, each day, the burden appointed to it. But the load will be too heavy for us if we carry yesterday’s burden over again today, and then add the burden of the morrow before we are required to bear it.’

Each day, you can commit to God your fears, worries and anxieties. It makes all the difference. He daily bears your ‘burdens’ (v.19).

Prayer

Thank you, Lord, that today I can come to you and bring to you all my burdens, worries and anxieties…

New Testament

John 18:25-40

Peter’s Second and Third Denials

25 Meanwhile, Simon Peter was still standing there warming himself. So they asked him, “You aren’t one of his disciples too, are you?”

He denied it, saying, “I am not.”

26 One of the high priest’s servants, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, challenged him, “Didn’t I see you with him in the garden?” 27 Again Peter denied it, and at that moment a cock began to crow.

Jesus Before Pilate

28 Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness they did not enter the palace, because they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. 29 So Pilate came out to them and asked, “What charges are you bringing against this man?”

30 “If he were not a criminal,” they replied, “we would not have handed him over to you.”

31 Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.”

“But we have no right to execute anyone,” they objected. 32 This took place to fulfill what Jesus had said about the kind of death he was going to die.

33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

34 “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”

35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”

36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate.

Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

38 “What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him. 39 But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews’?”

40 They shouted back, “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!” Now Barabbas had taken part in an uprising.

Commentary

2. The Burden of Failure

The great apostle Peter is asked, ‘“You are not one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it, saying, “I am not”’ (v.25). This is his second denial. Then a third time, Peter is challenged and denies knowing Jesus (v.26). At that moment a cock began to crow (v.27) – just as Jesus had predicted.

Peter realised, as most of us do from time to time, that he had failed Jesus. A sense of failure can be a great burden.

This passage is not the end of Peter’s story. After his resurrection, Jesus met with Peter and reinstated him, forgiving him for this failure and commissioning him once more (21:15–25). With Jesus, failure is never final.

Although Peter failed him, Jesus took the burden of his failure, forgave him, reinstated him and used him as powerfully as anyone in human history.

3. The Burden of Injustice

One of the many things that Jesus had to bear was a totally unjust trial. It is a basic principle of every fair system of justice that it is up to the prosecution to prove the case against the defendant. It is on them that the ‘burden of proof’ lies. Therefore, every fair judicial system needs to overcome the basic prejudice that because a person is on trial they must be guilty.

When Pilate asked, ‘What charges are you bringing against this man?’ (v.29) they replied, ‘If he were not a criminal… we would not have handed him over to you’ (v.30). In saying this, Jesus’ accusers were unjustly attempting to reverse the burden of proof.

Pilate also unjustly denied Jesus the right to silence. He said, ‘What is it you have done?’ (v.35c). He tried to get Jesus to condemn himself out of his own mouth. Jesus says that he came into the world ‘to testify to the truth’ (v.37b). Pilate asked, ‘What is truth?’ (v.38a).

It is almost as if Pilate seems to be questioning (as our post-modern society does) whether there is such a thing as ‘truth’ (that is, absolute truth). However, Pilate is face-to-face with the Truth himself, Jesus Christ – who endured an unjust trial – and, far worse, the unfair penalty of crucifixion and death – for you and me.

4. The Burden of Sin

Despite this unjust trial, Pilate concludes, ‘I find no basis for a charge against him’ (v.38b). Jesus is completely innocent. Pilate wants to release him but the crowd shouts, “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!” Now Barabbas had taken part in a rebellion’ (v.40). Jesus, the innocent, is condemned to crucifixion. Barabbas, the sinful, goes free.

The symbolism is clear. On the cross, Jesus, the innocent, died so that we, the sinful, may go free. He bore this burden of our sin.

Prayer

‘Praise be to the Lord, to God our Saviour… our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign Lord comes escape from death’ (Psalm 68:19–20).

Old Testament

1 Samuel 24:1-25:44

David Spares Saul’s Life

24 After Saul returned from pursuing the Philistines, he was told, “David is in the Desert of En Gedi. ” 2 So Saul took three thousand able young men from all Israel and set out to look for David and his men near the Crags of the Wild Goats.

3 He came to the sheep pens along the way; a cave was there, and Saul went in to relieve himself. David and his men were far back in the cave. 4 The men said, “This is the day the Lord spoke of when he said to you, ‘I will give your enemy into your hands for you to deal with as you wish.’” Then David crept up unnoticed and cut off a corner of Saul’s robe.

5 Afterward, David was conscience-stricken for having cut off a corner of his robe. 6 He said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, or lay my hand on him; for he is the anointed of the Lord.” 7 With these words David sharply rebuked his men and did not allow them to attack Saul. And Saul left the cave and went his way.

8 Then David went out of the cave and called out to Saul, “My lord the king!” When Saul looked behind him, David bowed down and prostrated himself with his face to the ground. 9 He said to Saul, “Why do you listen when men say, ‘David is bent on harming you’? 10 This day you have seen with your own eyes how the Lord delivered you into my hands in the cave. Some urged me to kill you, but I spared you; I said, ‘I will not lay my hand on my lord, because he is the Lord’s anointed.’ 11 See, my father, look at this piece of your robe in my hand! I cut off the corner of your robe but did not kill you. See that there is nothing in my hand to indicate that I am guilty of wrongdoing or rebellion. I have not wronged you, but you are hunting me down to take my life. 12 May the Lord judge between you and me. And may the Lord avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you. 13 As the old saying goes, ‘From evildoers come evil deeds, ’ so my hand will not touch you.

14 “Against whom has the king of Israel come out? Who are you pursuing? A dead dog? A flea? 15 May the Lord be our judge and decide between us. May he consider my cause and uphold it; may he vindicate me by delivering me from your hand.”

16 When David finished saying this, Saul asked, “Is that your voice, David my son?” And he wept aloud. 17 “You are more righteous than I,” he said. “You have treated me well, but I have treated you badly. 18 You have just now told me about the good you did to me; the Lord delivered me into your hands, but you did not kill me. 19 When a man finds his enemy, does he let him get away unharmed? May the Lord reward you well for the way you treated me today. 20 I know that you will surely be king and that the kingdom of Israel will be established in your hands. 21 Now swear to me by the Lord that you will not kill off my descendants or wipe out my name from my father’s family. ”

22 So David gave his oath to Saul. Then Saul returned home, but David and his men went up to the stronghold.

David, Nabal and Abigail

25 Now Samuel died, and all Israel assembled and mourned for him; and they buried him at his home in Ramah. Then David moved down into the Desert of Paran.

2 A certain man in Maon, who had property there at Carmel, was very wealthy. He had a thousand goats and three thousand sheep, which he was shearing in Carmel. 3 His name was Nabal and his wife’s name was Abigail. She was an intelligent and beautiful woman, but her husband was surly and mean in his dealings—he was a Calebite.

4 While David was in the wilderness, he heard that Nabal was shearing sheep. 5 So he sent ten young men and said to them, “Go up to Nabal at Carmel and greet him in my name. 6 Say to him: ‘Long life to you! Good health to you and your household! And good health to all that is yours!

7 “‘Now I hear that it is sheep-shearing time. When your shepherds were with us, we did not mistreat them, and the whole time they were at Carmel nothing of theirs was missing. 8 Ask your own servants and they will tell you. Therefore be favourable toward my men, since we come at a festive time. Please give your servants and your son David whatever you can find for them.’”

9 When David’s men arrived, they gave Nabal this message in David’s name. Then they waited.

10 Nabal answered David’s servants, “Who is this David? Who is this son of Jesse? Many servants are breaking away from their masters these days. 11 Why should I take my bread and water, and the meat I have slaughtered for my shearers, and give it to men coming from who knows where?”

12 David’s men turned around and went back. When they arrived, they reported every word. 13 David said to his men , “Each of you strap on your sword!” So they did, and David strapped his on as well. About four hundred men went up with David, while two hundred stayed with the supplies.

14 One of the servants told Abigail, Nabal’s wife, “David sent messengers from the wilderness to give our master his greetings, but he hurled insults at them. 15 Yet these men were very good to us. They did not mistreat us, and the whole time we were out in the fields near them nothing was missing. 16 Night and day they were a wall around us the whole time we were herding our sheep near them. 17 Now think it over and see what you can do, because disaster is hanging over our master and his whole household. He is such a wicked man that no one can talk to him.”

18 Abigail acted quickly. She took two hundred loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five dressed sheep, five seahs of roasted grain, a hundred cakes of raisins and two hundred cakes of pressed figs, and loaded them on donkeys. 19 Then she told her servants, “Go on ahead; I’ll follow you.” But she did not tell her husband Nabal.

20 As she came riding her donkey into a mountain ravine, there were David and his men descending toward her, and she met them. 21 David had just said, “It’s been useless—all my watching over this fellow’s property in the wilderness so that nothing of his was missing. He has paid me back evil for good. 22 May God deal with David, be it ever so severely, if by morning I leave alive one male of all who belong to him!”

23 When Abigail saw David, she quickly got off her donkey and bowed down before David with her face to the ground. 24 She fell at his feet and said: “Pardon your servant, my lord, and let me speak to you; hear what your servant has to say. 25 Please pay no attention, my lord, to that wicked man Nabal. He is just like his name—his name means Fool , and folly goes with him. And as for me, your servant, I did not see the men my lord sent. 26 And now, my lord, as surely as the Lord your God lives and as you live, since the Lord has kept you from bloodshed and from avenging yourself with your own hands, may your enemies and all who are intent on harming my lord be like Nabal. 27 And let this gift, which your servant has brought to my lord, be given to the men who follow you.

28 “Please forgive your servant’s presumption. The Lord your God will certainly make a lasting dynasty for my lord, because you fight the Lord’s battles, and no wrongdoing will be found in you as long as you live. 29 Even though someone is pursuing you to take your life, the life of my lord will be bound securely in the bundle of the living by the Lord your God, but the lives of your enemies he will hurl away as from the pocket of a sling. 30 When the Lord has fulfilled for my lord every good thing he promised concerning him and has appointed him ruler over Israel, 31 my lord will not have on his conscience the staggering burden of needless bloodshed or of having avenged himself. And when the Lord your God has brought my lord success, remember your servant.”

32 David said to Abigail, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, who has sent you today to meet me. 33 May you be blessed for your good judgment and for keeping me from bloodshed this day and from avenging myself with my own hands. 34 Otherwise, as surely as the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, who has kept me from harming you, if you had not come quickly to meet me, not one male belonging to Nabal would have been left alive by daybreak.”

35 Then David accepted from her hand what she had brought him and said, “Go home in peace. I have heard your words and granted your request.”

36 When Abigail went to Nabal, he was in the house holding a banquet like that of a king. He was in high spirits and very drunk. So she told him nothing at all until daybreak. 37 Then in the morning, when Nabal was sober, his wife told him all these things, and his heart failed him and he became like a stone. 38 About ten days later, the Lord struck Nabal and he died.

39 When David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, “Praise be to the Lord, who has upheld my cause against Nabal for treating me with contempt. He has kept his servant from doing wrong and has brought Nabal’s wrongdoing down on his own head.”

Then David sent word to Abigail, asking her to become his wife. 40 His servants went to Carmel and said to Abigail, “David has sent us to you to take you to become his wife.”

41 She bowed down with her face to the ground and said, “I am your servant and am ready to serve you and wash the feet of my lord’s servants.” 42 Abigail quickly got on a donkey and, attended by her five female servants, went with David’s messengers and became his wife. 43 David had also married Ahinoam of Jezreel, and they both were his wives. 44 But Saul had given his daughter Michal, David’s wife, to Paltiel son of Laish, who was from Gallim.

Commentary

5. The Burden of Guilt

Guilt is a horrible burden. A guest in one of our Alpha small groups described the physical feeling of guilt as being like ‘a very bad case of indigestion’. But guilt is more than just a physical feeling. It has even more serious emotional and spiritual consequences.

God has given us all a moral sense – a conscience. Often, we feel guilty because we have done something that we know is wrong. However, our consciences, as fallen human beings, are not perfect. Sometimes we experience false guilt. We feel guilty about things that are not actually our fault. We need our conscience to be educated by the word of God.

At other times we don’t feel guilty about things we should feel guilty about – in which case we need our conscience to be awakened by the Spirit of God.

David was given an opportunity to rid himself of the person who was trying to kill him – Saul (24:1–4). Instead of taking that opportunity, David merely cut off a corner of Saul’s robe in order to prove to him that he could have killed him had he wanted to.

Nevertheless, David was ‘conscience-stricken for having cut off a corner of his robe’ (v.5). ‘He felt guilty’ (v.5, MSG). David clearly had a very sensitive conscience and felt the burden of guilt for having done this to ‘the Lord’s anointed’ (v.6). Yet he was able to declare to Saul, ‘Now understand and recognise that I am not guilty of wrongdoing or rebellion. I have not wronged you’ (v.11b).

For a moment, it seems, Saul himself was conscience-stricken, ‘he wept aloud: “You are more righteous than I… You have treated me well, but I have treated you badly”’ (vv.16c–17). In the midst of his jealousy, Saul had the odd moment of sanity – where he experienced true guilt.

David avoided taking any further burden of guilt upon himself. He was about to avenge Nabal’s ill-treatment of him and his men. Abigail came to the rescue. With enormous skill and diplomacy, she brought gifts to David and said, ‘Upon me alone let this guilt be… The Lord has prevented you from bloodguiltiness’ (25:24,26, AMP).

She went on to say, ‘… my master \[David\] will not have on his conscience the staggering burden of needless bloodshed or of having avenged himself’ (v.31).

David realised that Abigail had rescued him from the burden of guilt: ‘May you be blessed for your good judgment and for keeping me from bloodshed this day and from avenging myself with my own hands’ (v.33). Abigail’s skill is one we all need to develop. It is good to speak with wisdom and diplomacy when advising others on how they might act, so that they avoid doing things that will lead to guilt.

David avoided taking judgment into his own hands. Then, ‘the Lord struck Nabal and he died’ (v.38). When David heard that Nabal was dead he said, ‘Praise be to the Lord, who has upheld my cause against Nabal for treating me with contempt. He has kept his servant from doing wrong and has brought Nabal’s wrongdoing down on his own head’ (v.39). Eventually, it all ends well with David marrying the newly widowed Abigail.

Whether we have the feelings that accompany it or not, the burden of true guilt is real for all. Jesus died on the cross to take our guilt.

Prayer

Thank you, Lord, that you take my guilt, my fears, my worries and my anxieties and daily bear my burdens.

Pippa adds

In 1 Samuel 25:18–19, we see catering stress at its worst. Abigail and all her community would be killed if she didn’t deliver the food in time. I am so impressed by Abigail; she managed to rustle up two hundred loaves (that’s fast baking!), wine, pressed figs, roasted grain, raisin cakes and five dressed sheep! She saved the day. My catering problems seem rather minor in comparison!

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References

Winston Churchill, Amid These Storms: Thoughts and Adventures (C. Scribner's Sons, 1932), p.113.

Oliver James, Affluenza (Vermillion, 2007) p.35.

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 quotations marked (AMP) taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)

Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

The Bible with Nicky and Pippa Gumbel

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