Day 88

In the Day of Trouble

Wisdom Psalm 38:1–12
New Testament Luke 7:11–35
Old Testament Numbers 23:27–26:11


Ajay Gohil was brought up as a Hindu and worked for the family business in a newsagent in North London. At the age of twenty-one he contracted erythrodermic psoriasis, a chronic skin disease. His weight dropped from 11.5 stone (73kg) to 7.5 stone (47.6kg). The disease was all over his body from head to toe. He lost all his friends. His wife and son left him. He wanted to die.

As Ajay lay dying in hospital he cried out to God. He looked in his locker and found a Bible there. He opened it at Psalm 38 – the psalm for today. Each and every verse seemed relevant to him. He prayed for God to heal him. He fell into a deep sleep. By the next morning he was totally healed. His skin was new like a baby’s and his life was turned around. He was reunited with his son. I interviewed him in one of the services at HTB. He said, ‘Every day I live for Jesus.’

Life is not all plain sailing. We will all face troubles. Whatever you are facing today, God is able to rescue you. In the passages for today we see examples of troubles – traps, tests and temptations – and how to handle them.


Psalm 38:1–12

A psalm of David. A petition.

1 LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger
   or discipline me in your wrath.
2 Your arrows have pierced me,
   and your hand has come down on me.
3 Because of your wrath there is no health in my body;
   there is no soundness in my bones because of my sin.
4 My guilt has overwhelmed me
   like a burden too heavy to bear.

5 My wounds fester and are loathsome
   because of my sinful folly.
6 I am bowed down and brought very low;
   all day long I go about mourning.
7 My back is filled with searing pain;
   there is no health in my body.
8 I am feeble and utterly crushed;
   I groan in anguish of heart.

9 All my longings lie open before you, Lord;
   my sighing is not hidden from you.
10 My heart pounds, my strength fails me;
   even the light has gone from my eyes.
11 My friends and companions avoid me because of my wounds;
   my neighbours stay far away.
12 Those who want to kill me set their traps,
   those who would harm me talk of my ruin;
   all day long they scheme and lie.



David knew what it was like to experience ill-health: ‘my back is filled with searing pain; there is no health in my body’ (v.7). These are some of the words that struck a chord with Ajay as he read this psalm on his hospital bed.

David also knew what it was like to fail. God convinced him of his sin: ‘Your hand has come down on me… because of my sin. My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear… because of my sinful folly… the light has gone from my eyes’ (vv.2–5,8,10).

On top of all this, David had to cope with opposition. He was surrounded by people who wanted to see his downfall. He wrote, ‘Those who want to kill me set their traps, those who would harm me talk of my ruin; all day long they scheme and lie’ (v.12).

Yet, in the midst of these traps and his own failings and difficulties, David cried out to God. He knew that God was able to forgive him, rescue him, and heal him. Whatever your failings or whatever difficulties you may face, you too can bring them to God in prayer.


Lord, I cry to you today – forgive my sin, heal my body and rescue me from the traps set for me.

New Testament

Luke 7:11–35

Jesus Raises a Widow’s Son

11 Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. 12 As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. 13 When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.”

14 Then he went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” 15 The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.

16 They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.” 17 This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country.

Jesus and John the Baptist

18 John’s disciples told him about all these things. Calling two of them, 19 he sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”

20 When the men came to Jesus, they said, “John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?’”

21 At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, illnesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. 22 So he replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. 23 Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”

24 After John’s messengers left, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? 25 If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear expensive clothes and indulge in luxury are in palaces. 26 But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 27 This is the one about whom it is written:

   “‘I will send my messenger ahead of you,
    who will prepare your way before you.’

28 I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”

29 (All the people, even the tax collectors, when they heard Jesus’ words, acknowledged that God’s way was right, because they had been baptized by John. 30 But the Pharisees and the experts in the law rejected God’s purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John.)

31 Jesus went on to say, “To what, then, can I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? 32 They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other:

   “‘We played the pipe for you,
     and you did not dance;
   we sang a dirge,
     and you did not cry.’

33 For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ 34 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ 35 But wisdom is proved right by all her children.”



Each person you meet and every situation that confronts you is, in a sense, a test. How are you going to respond to the needs of the people around you, and the situations you find yourself in?

1. Needs of others

I took the funeral of a young man who died of cancer aged thirty. I saw his mother (a friend of ours for over thirty years) standing by the coffin of her only son. I understand how, when Jesus saw the woman in today’s passage in a similar situation, ‘his heart went out to her’ (v.13).

Jesus had the power and authority to raise her son from the dead, but he still had to have the courage to step out in faith and do it.

We all have to operate within the limits of our own faith. Responding to this kind of situation can be really testing. To get it wrong would be pastorally disastrous. Certainly, I do not recommend doing what Jesus did unless you have his authority, power, faith and a direct instruction from God. But we must seek the right words and the right responses to all those in need. Whatever we do must be motivated by ‘compassion’ (v.13, AMP).

Jesus is able to say, ‘Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor’ (v.22). You may not be able to say all these things, but you can pray for the sick and you can certainly proclaim good news to the poor.

2. Criticism

In spite of the fact that Jesus was doing so much that was extraordinary, wonderful and life-changing, he was not universally accepted. The religious leaders of the time ‘rejected God’s purpose for themselves’ (v.30) and brought false accusations against John the Baptist and Jesus.

How you respond to criticism is another test. Jesus said, ‘For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, “He has a demon.” The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, “Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and ‘sinners’”’ (vv.33–34).

Jesus is saying it is almost impossible to avoid criticism. As Aristotle said, ‘The only way to avoid criticism is to do nothing, say nothing and be nothing.’ Whatever you do, some people will find fault, but Jesus was not put off by criticism. He says, ‘But wisdom is proved right by all her children’ (v.35). Perhaps he means that, in the end, wisdom (and Jesus’ actions) will be proved by the results, or as we would say, ‘the proof of the pudding is in the eating’ (v.35, MSG). Jesus and John the Baptist were very different but they were both ‘wisdom’s children’.


Lord, help me today, with every person I encounter, to have the right words, to bring good news, to have a heart of compassion and to seek to minister to others, as Jesus did.

Old Testament

Numbers 23:27–26:11

Balaam’s Third Message

27 Then Balak said to Balaam, “Come, let me take you to another place. Perhaps it will please God to let you curse them for me from there.” 28 And Balak took Balaam to the top of Peor, overlooking the wasteland.

29 Balaam said, “Build me seven altars here, and prepare seven bulls and seven rams for me.” 30 Balak did as Balaam had said, and offered a bull and a ram on each altar.

24 Now when Balaam saw that it pleased the Lord to bless Israel, he did not resort to divination as at other times, but turned his face toward the wilderness. 2 When Balaam looked out and saw Israel encamped tribe by tribe, the Spirit of God came on him 3 and he spoke his message:

   “The prophecy of Balaam son of Beor,
     the prophecy of one whose eye sees clearly,
   4 the prophecy of one who hears the words of God,
     who sees a vision from the Almighty,
     who falls prostrate, and whose eyes are opened:

   5 “How beautiful are your tents, Jacob,
     your dwelling places, Israel!

   6 “Like valleys they spread out,
     like gardens beside a river,
   like aloes planted by the LORD,
     like cedars beside the waters.
   7 Water will flow from their buckets;
     their seed will have abundant water.

   “Their king will be greater than Agag;
     their kingdom will be exalted.

   8 “God brought them out of Egypt;
     they have the strength of a wild ox.
   They devour hostile nations
     and break their bones in pieces;
     with their arrows they pierce them.
   9 Like a lion they crouch and lie down,
     like a lioness —who dares to rouse them?

   “May those who bless you be blessed
     and those who curse you be cursed!”

10 Then Balak’s anger burned against Balaam. He struck his hands together and said to him, “I summoned you to curse my enemies, but you have blessed them these three times. 11 Now leave at once and go home! I said I would reward you handsomely, but the LORD has kept you from being rewarded.”

12 Balaam answered Balak, “Did I not tell the messengers you sent me, 13 ‘Even if Balak gave me all the silver and gold in his palace, I could not do anything of my own accord, good or bad, to go beyond the command of the LORD —and I must say only what the LORD says’? 14 Now I am going back to my people, but come, let me warn you of what this people will do to your people in days to come.”

Balaam’s Fourth Message

15 Then he spoke his message:

   “The prophecy of Balaam son of Beor,
     the prophecy of one whose eye sees clearly,
   16 the prophecy of one who hears the words of God,
     who has knowledge from the Most High,
   who sees a vision from the Almighty,
     who falls prostrate, and whose eyes are opened:

   17 “I see him, but not now;
     I behold him, but not near.
   A star will come out of Jacob;
     a scepter will rise out of Israel.
   He will crush the foreheads of Moab,
     the skulls of all the people of Sheth.
   18 Edom will be conquered;
     Seir, his enemy, will be conquered,
     but Israel will grow strong.
   19 A ruler will come out of Jacob
     and destroy the survivors of the city.”

Balaam’s Fifth Message

20 Then Balaam saw Amalek and spoke his message:

   “Amalek was first among the nations,
     but their end will be utter destruction.”

Balaam’s Sixth Message

21 Then he saw the Kenites and spoke his message:

   “Your dwelling place is secure,
     your nest is set in a rock;
   22 yet you Kenites will be destroyed
     when Ashur takes you captive.”

Balaam’s Seventh Message

23 Then he spoke his message:

   “Alas! Who can live when God does this?
     24 Ships will come from the shores of Cyprus;
   they will subdue Ashur and Eber,
     but they too will come to ruin. ”

25 Then Balaam got up and returned home, and Balak went his own way.

Moab Seduces Israel

25 While Israel was staying in Shittim, the men began to indulge in sexual immorality with Moabite women, 2 who invited them to the sacrifices to their gods. The people ate the sacrificial meal and bowed down before these gods. 3 So Israel yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor. And the LORD’s anger burned against them.

4 The LORD said to Moses, “Take all the leaders of these people, kill them and expose them in broad daylight before the Lord, so that the LORD’s fierce anger may turn away from Israel.”

5 So Moses said to Israel’s judges, “Each of you must put to death those of your people who have yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor.”

6 Then an Israelite man brought into the camp a Midianite woman right before the eyes of Moses and the whole assembly of Israel while they were weeping at the entrance to the tent of meeting. 7 When Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, saw this, he left the assembly, took a spear in his hand 8 and followed the Israelite into the tent. He drove the spear into both of them, right through the Israelite man and into the woman’s stomach. Then the plague against the Israelites was stopped; 9 but those who died in the plague numbered 24,000.

10 The LORD said to Moses, 11 “Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, has turned my anger away from the Israelites. Since he was as zealous for my honour among them as I am, I did not put an end to them in my zeal. 12 Therefore tell him I am making my covenant of peace with him. 13 He and his descendants will have a covenant of a lasting priesthood, because he was zealous for the honour of his God and made atonement for the Israelites.”

14 The name of the Israelite who was killed with the Midianite woman was Zimri son of Salu, the leader of a Simeonite family. 15 And the name of the Midianite woman who was put to death was Kozbi daughter of Zur, a tribal chief of a Midianite family.

16 The LORD said to Moses, 17 “Treat the Midianites as enemies and kill them. 18 They treated you as enemies when they deceived you in the Peor incident involving their sister Kozbi, the daughter of a Midianite leader, the woman who was killed when the plague came as a result of that incident.”

The Second Census

26 After the plague the LORD said to Moses and Eleazar son of Aaron, the priest, 2 “Take a census of the whole Israelite community by families—all those twenty years old or more who are able to serve in the army of Israel.” 3 So on the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho, Moses and Eleazar the priest spoke with them and said, 4 “Take a census of the men twenty years old or more, as the LORD commanded Moses.”

These were the Israelites who came out of Egypt:

5 The descendants of Reuben, the firstborn son of Israel, were:

through Hanok, the Hanokite clan;

through Pallu, the Palluite clan;

6 through Hezron, the Hezronite clan;

through Karmi, the Karmite clan.

7 These were the clans of Reuben; those numbered were 43,730.

8 The son of Pallu was Eliab, 9 and the sons of Eliab were Nemuel, Dathan and Abiram. The same Dathan and Abiram were the community officials who rebelled against Moses and Aaron and were among Korah’s followers when they rebelled against the LORD. 10 The earth opened its mouth and swallowed them along with Korah, whose followers died when the fire devoured the 250 men. And they served as a warning sign. 11 The line of Korah, however, did not die out.



The events we read about here are ‘a warning sign’ (26:10). As we have seen, when Paul writes about temptations (1 Corinthians 10) he refers back to this section in the book of Numbers and says that what is written here stands as a ‘warning’.

‘These are all warning markers – DANGER! – in our history books, written down so that we don’t repeat their mistakes... we are just as capable of messing it up as they were... You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence; it’s useless. Cultivate God-confidence’ (1 Corinthians 10:11–12, MSG).

What are we being warned about? What are these temptations?

1. Witchcraft

‘Sorcery’ (sometimes translated divination) means turning to supernatural, magical powers, which do not come from God, to find out something, or to make something happen. Today, we see the use of horoscopes, tarot cards, fortune tellers, Ouija boards, palm reading, and so on. People want to know what is going to happen. Especially in times of trouble, they sometimes turn to these wrong methods.

Balaam’s life was a curious mixture. At times he was capable of acting under the inspiration of the ‘Spirit of God’ (Numbers 24:2). He uttered one of the great messianic prophecies: ‘A star will come out of Jacob; a sceptre will rise out of Israel… A ruler will come out of Jacob’ (vv.17–19; see also Matthew 2:1–10). Jesus describes himself as ‘the bright Morning Star’ (Revelation 22:16).

Yet, Balaam is condemned in the New Testament. We see the reason here. He was a sorcerer. He would normally have received a ‘fee for divination’ (Numbers 22:7) and been rewarded handsomely for his sorcery (24:11). The moments when he operated under the Spirit of God were exceptions. There were occasions when, ‘he did not resort to sorcery as at other times’ (v.1).

2. Immorality

The people fell into sexual immorality: ‘the men began to indulge in sexual immorality with Moabite women (25:1). They were all deceived (v.18). God’s judgment came on them and especially on one of their leaders, Zimri, ‘the leader of a Simeonite family’ (v.14). Sexual immorality is not a temptation from which the leaders of the church are exempt. If leaders fail it is even more serious and damaging, partly because of their influence.

3. God-substitutes

The people were unfaithful to God. They worshipped and bowed down to other gods. They ‘joined in worshipping the Baal of Peor’ (vv.3,5). Idols are far broader than statues to other gods. Idols are God-substitutes. They are created things that we are serving as number one in our lives rather than serving the creator (see Romans 1:25).

The apostle Paul warns us of the dangers of falling into the same temptations but ends with these encouraging words:

‘No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. … God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it’ (1 Corinthians 10:13, MSG).


Father, help me to stand against the temptations of the enemy. May I never do anything that brings dishonour to the name of Jesus. May your name be glorified in everything I do.

Pippa adds

In Luke 7:11–35, we see Jesus’ extraordinary compassion and power. This mother, whose son had just died, was also a widow. She would already have experienced deep sorrow at the loss of her husband. She would probably be destitute too, since there would be no one to provide for her or her family as there was no welfare state.

What amazing joy she must have received when Jesus healed her son and gave him back to her.



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The Bible with Nicky and Pippa Gumbel (commentary formerly known as Bible in One Year) ©Alpha International 2009. All Rights Reserved.

Compilation of daily Bible readings © Hodder & Stoughton Limited 1988. Published by Hodder & Stoughton Limited as the Bible in One Year.

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. (

Scripture quotations marked MSG are taken from The Message, copyright © 1993, 2002, 2018 by Eugene H. Peterson. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers.

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