Challenge 9 Songs and sayings

CONTENTS

 The story shown in bold is explored in full in the Big Bible Challenge book www.scriptureunion.org.uk/shop

 Stories in this challenge

The good shepherd              Psalm 23

Please forgive me!             Psalm 51:1–13

Praise the Lord!                    Psalm 103:1–14

Being wise                             Proverbs 3:1–8

God’s way                              Proverbs 16:1–9

 

COMMON tips for this and every challenge

  • Always have a Bible in a child-friendly translation available, as you take the Big Bible Challenge. Even when the Bible verses are printed in the Big Bible Challenge book, find them in a Bible as well. This will help the child gain confidence in handling the Bible and become familiar with its size and number of pages.
  • Finding your way around the Bible can be a challenge in itself! Each reading from the Bible is shown in a certain way, like this:

Genesis 2:15–22.

  • Use the Index or Contents page of the Bible to help you find the book (or books) in the Bible for the readings in this challenge. In this example, the book title is ‘Genesis’.
  • Each book of the Bible is in chapters. In this example, the reading is in chapter 2.
  • Each chapter is split into verses. In this example, the verses are 15–22. In most Bibles, the verse numbers are printed very small.
  • Many of the challenges have five readings from the same part of the Bible, so use a bookmark to keep your place and it will be easier to find the Bible reading next time.
  • The Bible consists of many ‘books’ collected together and presented as one. See if you can work out what sort of ‘book’ you are exploring: is it history or is it a letter? Are you reading words spoken by a prophet or written as a song?
  • Spend time looking at and chatting about the artwork in the Big Bible Challenge. Find out more online in ‘How does the Big Bible Challenge work?’
  • When you have finished this challenge, use the simple evaluation sheet [here: hyperlink]. Find out more online in ‘How does the Big Bible Challenge work?’

 

 COMMENCE: your introduction to this part of the Bible

Psalms are enormously varied. Here we can find exuberant praise, urgent pleas, complaint, and longing. Many point forward to a new reality to come. Proverbs gives us practical wisdom for living but also introduces the idea of God’s wisdom personified, picked up in the New Testament as one way of thinking about Jesus. The Big Bible Challenge selection can only give a tiny sample from these books.

Although Psalms are a human response to God, it does not mean that we cannot hear God speaking in them. It is God who stimulates the praise, who responds to the plea and who acknowledges the complaint. The Psalms give us a model for dialogue with God and words in which we can express our own feelings.

In Psalm 23 David used his own experience as a shepherd to highlight key aspects of God’s nature and character. He expresses confidence in a God who watches over and cares for his people.

Psalm 51 is one of the most profound recognitions of failure that we have, recognising that all sin is an offence not simply against others but against God. While seeking God’s mercy and forgiveness, David is declaring the goodness of God.

Psalm 103 is an overflow from David’s heart of wonderful characteristics of God: forgiving, healing, redeeming, renewing, revealing, compassionate, endlessly loving, faithful, ruling.

Proverbs provide wise sayings to lead us into godly living. We are introduced to wisdom, who calls out to all who will listen (Proverbs 1:20), inviting them to share the fruits of wisdom as they are found in God. It is an essentially practical wisdom, touching on every aspect of life lived out before God. When we live by these proverbs, we enjoy protection from evil and its consequences, and the provision of happiness and well-being.

CONNECT: the five stories in this challenge

The five readings in this challenge give a taste of the psalms and proverbs from the Bible and can be read in whatever order you prefer. You may find it helpful to explore this challenge slightly out of the given order and mix the psalms and proverbs with Challenges 7 and 8 to help your child grasp the link between the historical events and characters and the songs and wise sayings.

If you are starting with the ‘key’ story in the Big Bible Challenge book, you will be examining one of the most powerful prayers recorded in the Bible. David, the shepherd king, anointed when only a child, took on the might of Goliath and won and led Israel to many other great victories. Yet he also failed himself, failed his people and failed God in the events surrounding his relationship with Bathsheba. Filled with remorse, David prayed the prayer recorded in Psalm 51. (You could read this alongside Challenge 8 ‘David is sorry’.)

In Psalm 23 David gives us a series of powerful pictures. The king is calling God a shepherd. He understands God in this way, because he has been a shepherd himself. This song gives us a clear picture of David’s confidence in his God. (You could read this alongside Challenge 7 ‘David and Goliath’, ‘David and Saul’ and ‘King David’.)

Psalm 103 is filled with descriptions of God’s love, grace, compassion and forgiveness and is a real song of praise from a grateful heart.

David’s son Solomon followed him as king and early in his reign he loved God. God gave Solomon a gift of wisdom and many of his wise sayings have been recorded in the book of Proverbs. (You could read these sections alongside Challenge 8 ‘Solomon is wise’.)

 

CONSIDER: what this challenge means today

One very helpful benefit of being part of the family of God is to be able to share our faith journey with someone who has gone before us. The Psalms help us to make this connection. Sometimes we will struggle to know what to say to God about what’s happening in our life. The Psalms often provide just the right words in these situations. With your child, talk through some of the feelings that each of us experience throughout our days. Each day is different – sometimes we are happy, or full of joy; sometimes we are scared, worried, grateful, sorry, and so on. Point out that one of the ways in which we can read the Psalms is to go there to see how others, who have shared the same feelings, have responded to God. This often provides great comfort.

About real life:

Sometimes we think that we can’t be real with God and we may even try to hide what we’re really thinking. The Psalms are written by people who say it like it is. As we read them we see that they are very personal, very honest and full of real human feelings. Sometimes, the psalms explode with joy and delight. In the times in your lives when you want to praise God for who he is, the Psalms are filled with genuine praise to an all-caring God. Many times they are filled with painful questions directed to an all-powerful God. We can be real with God in the same way. What a great resource we have in our hands to accompany us through life.

Practical wisdom:

While the Psalms give us a record of many of the songs that David (and others) recorded, Proverbs is a book filled with wise sayings written by his son Solomon. There is lots of good advice and many practical tips here that help us in our relationships with our parents and our friends, and in the way in which we live our lives. As a matter of interest, it has been recorded that Billy Graham, one of the greatest evangelists of our time, faithfully reads one chapter of Proverbs every day (the 31 chapters neatly fit into most months). Now there’s a good idea for how to be filled with God’s wisdom as we experience life and all that it throws at us!


CLARIFY: issues that may arise from this challenge

Can God take his Holy Spirit from people? (Psalm 51:11)

As David wrote these words in his psalm, it is quite possible that he was remembering the day that he was anointed by Samuel in the presence of his brothers, when ‘the Spirit of the Lord took control of David’ (1 Samuel 16:13). In the very next verse in the Samuel record it is recorded, and this could also have been in David’s mind, that ‘The Spirit of the Lord had left Saul’. Perhaps David’s fears in verse 11 are because he thought his sin might cause the same thing to happen to him and he would be cut off from God.

It is natural that David is worried. He has disobeyed God – and Nathan has told him that God knows all about it! David does not ‘deserve’ to be forgiven: why should God show kindness to him, when he has chosen to do whatever he wanted himself and gone against everything God had taught him and shown him? And yet, as Nathan explains in 1 Samuel 12 (see Challenge 8), God does forgive David when he realises that he has disobeyed God and shows how sorry he is.

To his friends and followers, Jesus promises that the gift of the Spirit will be with us for ever (John14:14–16). Paul talks about nothing separating us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:37–39, see Challenge 17). These are encouragements to follow God and live his way, rather than threats of what may happen if we don’t.

 

COMMUNICATE: talk with God

Psalms and wise sayings (‘proverbs’) praise and acknowledge God, thanking him for his goodness, mercy and wisdom.

Thank God for his world, using these words based on Psalm 24:1. Say or read alternate lines aloud; then swap over and repeat.

The world and all that is in it belongs to the Lord,

The world and all that is in it belongs to the Lord.

The dads, the mums and the children belong to the Lord,

The world and all that is in it belongs to the Lord.

The cats, the dogs and the gerbils belong to the Lord,

The world and all that is in it belongs to the Lord.

The sisters, the brothers and cousins belong to the Lord,

The world and all that is in it belongs to the Lord.

The grans, grandpas and carers belong to the Lord,

The world and all that is in it belongs to the Lord.

The friends, the workmates and neighbours belong to the Lord,

The world and all that is in it belongs to the Lord.

(From A Church for All Ages, Scripture Union 1993 op)

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