Psalm 143:7-12; 2 Kings 14; Acts 4:13-22

Psalm 143:7-12: Regardless of our circumstances–and they need not be as desperate as our psalmists, we can pray each morning, “Let me hear Your kindness in the morning, / for in You I trust. /Let me know the way I should go, /for to You I lift up my being.” (8)

“Hearing kindness” is a fresh way of thinking about God because we tend to think of “doing kindness.” But to “hear kindness” is to listen carefully for God’s gentle voice, the voice in the Garden. The psalmist is not seeking just to hear gentle words of love, but he is also seeking instruction: “Let me know the way I should go.” God is far more than someone who assuages our fear, but who guides us if we only listen carefully enough.

This psalm weaves anxiety with God’s kindness as the psalmist then asks, “Save me from my enemies, Lord” (9) and then again for God’s leading, “Let Your goodly spirit guide me on level ground.” (11). There is constant tension here as the psalmist asks for “level ground” and then the terror emerges once again, “For the sake of Your name, LORD, give me life,” (11).

But at the end kindness is juxtaposed directly against devastation, ending the psalm on a disturbing, discordant note, “And in Your kindness devastate my enemies /and destroy all my bitter foes,” Does God’s kindness include destruction? It would seem so. Should we pray for our enemies to be destroyed? No, I don’t think so because I think this is the tit-for-tat economy that Jesus turned on its head.

2 Kings 14: The parallel history of Judah and Israel continues. Amaziah becomes king of Judah and “did what was right in the sight of the Lord, yet not like his ancestor David;” (3) These rulers, even as they follow God in some things, are still tainted because “the high places were not removed; the people still sacrificed and made offerings on the high places.” (4) He enjoys a victory over the Edomites, but then wants to make war against Israel. Even though he’s warned by Israel’s King Jehoash “Amaziah would not listen” (11). Judah is promptly defeated by Israel.

Nevertheless, Amaziah outlives Jehoash, whose son, Jeroboam begins a 41-year reign over Israel. Alas, “He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord;” (24) Israel eventually comes to desperate straits, and God speaks to Jeroboam via Jonah (!), but Jeroboam persists in his sins.

But God always keeps his promise: “the Lord had not said that he would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven, so he saved them by the hand of Jeroboam. (27). Once again we are reminded that God desperately wishes to keep the Covenant He made with Israel, even though the people and its leaders have drifted far away from God. This reality is counter to the popular image of the OT God wreaking vengeance on sinners. Mercy and love are always there. But like Israel long ago, we persist in our evil ways.

Acts 4:13-22: Peter and John are great examples of the benefits of speaking boldly, for when the priestly officials saw “the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were amazed and recognized them as companions of Jesus.” (13). The officials realize that these Jesus-followers will continue to spread the “contagion” that has infected Jerusalem. Their feeble solution is to command Peter and John to stop speaking publicly. Peter and John basically laugh in their faces, but also say something incredibly profound, “Whether it is right in God’s sight to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; for we cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (20)

In the end, it is the decision of every person to decide whether we listen to our worldly wisdom or to God. This is the same decision that faces us today in an increasingly post-Christian world where those who would pretend to be wise assert that religion, faith, belief are mere crutches for psychologically immature people. Or worse, that belief in Jesus and the Holy Spirit’s power is the source of evil in the world.

The question is, am I standing with the officials or with Peter and John?

 

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