Psalm 14; 1 Chronicles 18; Acts 14:8–20

Psalm 14: This psalm opens with an assertion, “The scoundrel has said in his heart, /“There is no God.” Followed by a bold accusation, “They corrupt, they make loathsome their acts. /There is none who does good.” (1)

This disturbing chorus, “There is none who does good,”  is repeated at verse 3. This is a clear statement that those who say “There is no God” are incapable of doing good because their priorities are not God’s. For this psalmist, humankind is binary: those who follow God and those who deny God. And the consequence is equally binary.

This separation is underscored by the equally provocative image of “The LORD from the heavens looked down on the sons of humankind to see, is there someone discerning, someone seeking out God.” We are reminded of the Noah story, where God finds only one man who follows him. Instead, “All turn astray,/ altogether befouled.” (3)

We can identify with this psalm because we see this denial of God all around us today. Pope Francis has rightly castigated the world for making money its god. And as a result, like the subjects of this psalm, we become “Devourers of my people devoured them like bread.” (4) Even our ostensibly good deeds are worthless if we deny God.

Only at the end is there a glimmer of hope as the psalmist pleads, “Oh, may from Zion come Israel’s rescue /when the LORD restores His people’s condition.” (7) And we know Who came to rescue us. May we be willing to be rescued by Jesus.

1 Chronicles 18: The Chronicler gives us a brief summary of David’s accomplishments (which consume several chapters in 1 Kings). He attacks and subdues the Philistines, Moabites, as well as the king of Hadazer, as our author lovingly inventories the booty that David takes–and which increases his military strength. The Chronicler aims his spotlight on David as mighty warrior. Nevertheless, David is a man of God and “The Lord gave victory to David wherever he went.” (6)

Contrary to our image that it was Solomon who gathered all the wealth that was used to build the temple, the Chronicler makes it clear that David is the one built the massive store of treasure, which Solomon used, such as “a vast quantity of bronze; with it Solomon made the bronze sea and the pillars and the vessels of bronze.” (8)

Word of David’s and Israel’s might spreads throughout the region and King Tou willingly becomes a vassal seeking David’s protection at the cost of “all sorts of articles of gold, of silver, and of bronze.” But these things are not to build wealth and we are told that “King David dedicated to the Lord, together with the silver and gold that he had carried off from all the nations, from Edom, Moab, the Ammonites, the Philistines, and Amalek.” (11)

And again, the author again reminds us that while David is is the instrument of these unceasing victories, it is “the Lord gave victory to David wherever he went.” (12) But David is not just a mighty warrior; his intimate connection with God undergirds his talents as king, “and he administered justice and equity to all his people.” For our author David is the exemplar that set the standard for Israel. As we will see this becomes a sad irony as Israel descends into sin and corruption.

Acts 14:8–20: Luke gives us a good example of why miracles can backfire. After healing the crippled man, the crowd at Lystra goes wild, proclaiming Paul and Barnabas to be Hermes and Zeus in the flesh. Weaker men (and we’ve seen them in our time) would have basked in the glory as they take credit for what is accomplished by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Instead, they tear their clothes and plead with them, “We are mortals just like you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. ” (15) But “Even with these words, they scarcely restrained the crowds from offering sacrifice to them.” (18).

I think this is why we no longer see dramatic miracles such as these. Crowds are fickle and easily swayed one way or the other by dramatic presentations. The Jews from Antioch and Iconium show up and now they “won the crowds.” Paul is stoned so badly that his followers drag him out of the city, fearing he is dead. Paul gets up and he and Barnabas head to Derbe. Has he learned his lesson about the effect of dramatic miracles? Let’s hope so.

 

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