Psalm 148; 1 Chronicles 1:1-37; Acts 8:1-8

Psalm 148: This marvelous psalm of praise begins in heaven itself, as all heavenly beings extol God’s greatness: “Praise Him, all His messengers, /praise Him, all His armies.” (2) and then to the heavenly bodies: “Praise Him, sun and moon, / praise Him, all you stars of light.” (3) The verses then descend from heaven to earth to the creatures of the earth–“wild beasts and all the cattle, 10 crawling things and wingèd birds,” (10)–and then finally, to mankind itself–essentially a reprise of Genesis 1.

But where Genesis 1 spoke only of Adam, here the psalmist includes everyone from the king on down: “princes and all leaders of earth, / young men and also maidens, / elders together with lads. (11,12) This is also a reminder to us that God is the God of everyone–and we are equal in his eyes. And our responsibility whether prince or lad is to praise and worship God for his goodness and greatness: “Let them praise the LORD’s name, / for His name alone is exalted.” (13) for the God whose “grandeur is over earth and the heavens.”

1 Chronicles 1:1-37: While 1 and 2 Kings reflects history written during the time of the exile, we are told that 1 and 2 Chronicles was written long after Israel had returned to Jerusalem following the exile. Jewish tradition says that Jeremiah wrote Kings, while Ezra who came much later, wrote Chronicles. Because of the different time of writing by different authors, they have different theological emphases  and cover many of the same events with a very different perspective–not unlike the different viewpoints about the same events expressed by today’s media.

One thing is clear: the Chronicles author intends to write a comprehensive history, opening his work with a genealogy that traces back to Adam. Perhaps most fascinating is that we learn which tribes descended form which of Noah’s sons, Ham, Shem and Japeth. However, it is a selective genealogy, tracing the important lineage that led eventually to Abraham. (37) out of the root of Shem.

Once we have Abraham, we have Jacob, who is named Israel here. I’m not sure if the author intended, but what stands out here for me is that all humankind has common roots. But internecine warfare and hatreds trace all the way back to Cain and Abel. And alas, thus it has ever been.

Acts 8:1-8: Immediately Stephen’s martyrdom, Luke tells us that “That day a severe persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout the countryside of Judea and Samaria.” (1) After Stephen pointed out what in their hearts they knew to be true, the church authorities were now fiercely committed to stamping out this growing sect.  Saul emerges as the fiercest antagonist of the new church and “was ravaging the church by entering house after house; dragging off both men and women, he committed them to prison.” (3) I assume he was doing this on the authority of the church leaders.

But in their efforts to stamp out “The Way” in Jerusalem, and scattering its leaders the authorities became the agents of causing the church to sprout up all over as “those who were scattered went from place to place, proclaiming the word.” (4) This is why I have no fear for Christianity going forward. The comfortable institutional church of the US may be shrinking, and in our increasingly secular society we may feel like Saul is pounding on its door. But the Holy Spirit is at work all over the world with thousands of Philips proclaiming the word everywhere.

This first attempt to stamp out the early church is also a reminder that it is under oppression and persecution that the church truly grows and flourishes: A stark reminder to those of us who tend to prefer cultural acceptance and comfortable pews.

Speak Your Mind