Psalm 143:1-6; 2 Kings 12,13; Acts 4:1-12

Psalm 143:1-6: This psalm of supplication is suffused with urgency, as the first verse comes right to the point: “LORD, hear my prayer, /hearken to my pleas. /In Your faithfulness answer me, in Your bounty.” The image is an out-of-breath David attempting to elude his pursuers, who have probably been sent by Saul–maybe even Saul himself. David stops for a moment, perhaps hidden behind a bush or a big rock.

He knows he is safe for just a short time. He asks God not to judge whatever actions he has just done in order to get away, even though he knows “no living thing is acquitted before You.” (2)  He summarizes his desperate circumstances quickly, “For the enemy pursued me, / thrust my life to the ground, / made me dwell in darkness like those long dead.” Perhaps the “darkness” is the famous cave in which he could have killed the sleeping Saul.

In this moment of respite, David’s first act is to pray as “I recalled the days of old, /I recited all Your deeds,/ of Your handiwork I did speak.” (5) And in a physical act of supplication, “I stretched out my hands to you.” (6)

This psalm and its urgency, it’s sense of being pursued by and then barely escaping from evil is a perfect description so many of us feel in modern life. David could have uttered these words yesterday. Our human condition is exactly the same. Will we take the time–even on the run–to stop and pray?

2 Kings 12,13: Young ing Jeohash, having been rescued form assassination by his grandmother, reigns for forty years. Even though “Jehoash did what was right in the sight of the Lord all his days, because the priest Jehoiada instructed him…the high places were not taken away; the people continued to sacrifice and make offerings on the high places.” (1,2).  During previous reigns while GOd has been ignored, the temple has fallen into disrepair. Jehoash imposes a tax on the people for repairs, where the money is given directly to the preists. There are promises from the priests that they will repair the temple, but nothing happens for 23 years(!) since it’s clear they have taken the money for their own use.  Jehoash then installs a chest at the temple entrance where the money is collected publicly. The workers are paid. Lo and behold, the money starts pouring in and repairs are made.

The lesson is clear: public accountability of church finances is essential.

Meanwhile up in Israel, Jehoahaz reigns and he “did what was evil in the sight of the Lord” (13:2).  Israel’s descent into false gods and general depredation continues. The people “did not depart from the sins of the house of Jeroboam, which he caused Israel to sin, but walked in them. (13:6). Jehoahaz squanders Israel’s military strength and Aram is at its door.  The king goes to Elisha one last time, who instructs the king to shoot arrows out the window. But the king shoots only 3 arrows. Elisha tells him, ““You should have struck five or six times; then you would have struck down Aram until you had made an end of it, but now you will strike down Aram only three times.” (13:19) Elisha dies, but Jehoahaz is successful. But we suspect seeds of defeat have been sewn.

Acts 4:1-12: As far as the religious officials and power structure in Jerusalem is concerned this pentecost thing with some 5000 of these new Jesus followers has gotten completely out of hand, especially the Sadducees who were offended by the idea of resurrection form the dead. So they arrest Peter and John, who are brought before Annas, Caiaphas and “all who were of the high-priestly family.”

Luke does not miss this opportunity to put forward the key theological point that drives the entire book of Acts. The accusers ask, “by what power or by what name did you do this?” (7). Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, tells them that whatever healings they’ve seen have occurred through “the power of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.”

He then makes what can only be an inflammatory statement, quoting scripture and telling the priests that have rejected the very cornerstone of their faith. And just to make sure they get the point, Peter adds, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.” (12) This is Luke’s version of John 14:6: Christ alone is the way to salvation.

 

 

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