Psalm 4; 1 Chronicles 5:1–22; Acts 9:36–10:8

Psalm 4: This psalm of supplication–“When I call out, answer me, my righteous God.” (2)–possess a quietude and inner peace that we don’t encounter in other supplication psalms. There is a peaceful assurance that suffuses it: “In the straits, You set me free” (2b) and “But know that the Lord set apart His faithful./ The Lord will hear when I call to Him.” (4)

This assurance reflects a person (David?) with an existing strong relationship with God. There is no air of desperation of the sense that God has abandoned the psalmist. Instead he reflects with great confidence, You put joy in my heart.” (8).  And having prayed, the poet can sleep in peace: “In peace, all whole, let me lie down and sleep. / For You, LORD, alone, do set me down safely.” (9)

My prayer is that I can possess the inner peace that arises form the inner confidence that God is always nearby. And to know that this confidence arises from an active and close relationship with God my Father.

1 Chronicles 5:1–22: Here we meet the descendants of Reuben and Gad. Obviously many more generations have passed than even our very detail-oriented historian cares to list, so we have a list of the various “greats” of each family. Reuben, although the eldest son of Jacob, lost his right to primogeniture and “because he defiled his father’s bed his birthright was given to the sons of Joseph son of Israel, so that he is not enrolled in the genealogy according to the birthright,” (1) thus explaining why he is so far down the list.

It’s interesting that for both these sons, as well as the others, the historian notes the geographic territory in which they resided, e.g., “He also lived to the east as far as the beginning of the desert this side of the Euphrates, because their cattle had multiplied in the land of Gilead.” (9) And, “sons of Gad lived beside them in the land of Bashan as far as Salecah.” (11). In this primarily agrarian society, the geographic space these families occupies is almost important as their names. In our highly mobile society, where most of us have long departed the places where our families grew up or even where we grew up, this rootedness seems almost foreign. Yet, we must never forget that God has given us the earth and it is our responsibility to care for it.

Above all, our author is impressed with these families because they were warriors and with characteristic attention to detail even tells us how many there were: “The Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh had valiant warriors, who carried shield and sword, and drew the bow, expert in war, forty-four thousand seven hundred sixty, ready for service.” (18) Once again, God was on their side because “they cried to God in the battle, and he granted their entreaty because they trusted in him.” (20) even though “Many fell slain, because the war was of God.” (22) It is easy to see why even today warriors are pretty convinced God is on their side: there is ample historical precedent.

Acts 9:36–10:8: In an almost eerie parallel to Jesus’ resuscitation of the officer’s daughter, Luke describes how Peter resuscitates Tabitha. It’s extremely important to note that Peter performs this miracle in private and he prays before commanding Tabitha to “get up.” When we ask why these events don’t happen today (and this is controversial) it’s worth noting that Luke is always careful to add that the response to these miracles is increased faith and growth of the early church: “This became known throughout Joppa, and many believed in the Lord.” (42).

My own belief is that these early miracles were acts of the Holy Spirit to build the early church and give it strong roots.  Once established, and as the original disciples died, “church establishing miracles” became less necessary. There was sufficient mass and energy within the church for it to grow by the means it grows and flourishes today: the faith of men and women activated by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The second echo to Jesus’ healing of the officer’s daughter is the very next event surrounding another officer, “Cornelius, a centurion of the Italian Cohort,” (10:1). What we notice immediately is that up to this point, the witness has been to Jews and Samaritans. Now, Luke’s focus shifts to Caesarea and the most gentile of gentiles: An officer in the Roman army.  We also know that something profound is afoot because this man of God is visited by an angel, who tells him to send for Peter, who is living in Joppa, some 36 miles down the coast.

Notice also, that Cornelius assigns this mission to an underling, who is “devout soldier from the ranks of those who served him,” (10:7) and that “after telling them everything, he sent them to Joppa.” So, why does the senior officer tell his junior “everything?” I think this is a good example of why faith and the intervention of angels or the Holy Spirit is not just a private matter, but is to be shared within the community.

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