Psalm 17:8–15; 1 Chronicles 24; Acts 16:4–15

Psalm 17:8–15: The psalmist seeks God’s protection from his wicked enemies: “Guard me like the apple of the eye, / in the shadow of Your wings conceal me / from the wicked who have despoiled me,/ my deadly enemies drawn round me.” (8,9)

When we speak of the “apple of your eye” we imagine the person who is most favored, and that is exactly what our psalmist is pleading for: that God will guard him as well as the person God loves most. But of course each of us is the “apple of God’s eye.”

The psalmist’s enemies are particularly grotesque: “Their fat has covered their heart. / With their dewlaps they speak haughty words.” (10) We would imagine this is the fat of their riches and in this striking metaphor, their wealth and power has become an impenetrable fatty layer on top of their heart–the seat of justice and mercy. Whatever kindness or mercy they may have once possessed has been hidden forever beneath the fat of acquisition. We have met these people in our own lives. They care only about themselves and their own advancement, caring not a whit whom they step on in their ascent to the top of the heap.

As always, words are just as important as the condition of the heart–and it is words that reveal the condition of the heart. In this case we see their fatty face “dewlaps”out of which their haughty words emerge. This is perhaps one of the ugliest images of what evil is in all of the Psalms. And yet, it is all too familiar. Does fat cover my heart? Do I speak haughty words trough the metaphorical dewlaps on my face?

1 Chronicles 24: At this point there can be little doubt that our Chronicler was himself a priest, as he lists the “divisions of the descendants of Aaron” (1) which “David organized them according to the appointed duties in their service.” As usual, David–the “apple of the Chronicler’s eye” is given credit, this time for the organizational structure of the priesthood.

There’s an interesting observation, that only a leader like David–himself a leader–would have recognized, and what lends even more authenticity to the Chronicler’s account: “Since more chief men were found among the sons of Eleazar than among the sons of Ithamar, they organized them under sixteen heads of ancestral houses of the sons of Eleazar, and eight of the sons of Ithamar.” (4) In other words, the house of Elezar has more leadership talent than the house of Ithamar. Recognizing this, and wishing to maintain balance and avoid internecine battles, David organizes the structure priesthood by ancestry, not the current personalities. And once that basic structure is established, the actual positions are determined by lot, which our author describes in loving detail from one to twenty-four.

This drawing of lots and the way David has organized the priesthood is an outstanding example of effective organizational management. David establishes a structure that is not based on personality. And then he chooses leaders by lot, showing zero favoritism.  No wonder the structure of the priesthood lasted so much longer than that of the kings, who were determined by primogeniture and conspiracy.

Acts 16:4–15: Paul and Silas are traveling from place to place under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Some places they visit and others, they have “been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia.” (6) Notice how Paul and Silas look to the Holy Spirit to provide guidance about where they should and should not go. They accept the negative with the positive, while today so many times we only hear the positive as people say,”The Holy Spirit has led me to…” But we hear “the Holy Spirit has kept me from…” almost never.

Paul receives the “Macedonian vision” and they head to Philippi, “a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony.” (12). With this voyage, Luke has joined them and we are now enjoying his first person account of this revolutionary trip to Europe, where the gospel is preached for the very first time on a different continent: ” We set sail from Troas…” (11).

And unlike the previous chapters, where we hear only about the groups, not individuals–the crowds that Paul and Barnabas preach to and the Jews that pursue them–Luke’s eyewitness account brings us to the personal level, where we meet actual individuals, as Luke expertly limns their personalities.

The first person we meet is Lydia, a wealthy woman and “a worshipper of God.” From a cultural perspective, it’s clear that in Europe, women are not property, nor are they subjugated to their husbands. Lydia is an independent female entrepreneur, a marketer(!), “a dealer in purple cloth,” which today would be the equivalent of a high end sales person selling million dollar capital equipment.

Lydia is baptized and invites them into her home as “she prevailed on us.” (15). Interestingly, we hear nothing of Lydia’s husband. Lydia is her own person. I fail to understand why some Christians emphasize Paul’s screed in Corinthians about how women are second class citizens, who should not speak, much less teach, in church. Yet these same folks fail to draw any wisdom from Lydia’s example of the independent woman, who thinks and acts for herself.


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