Psalm 18:1–6; 1 Chronicles 25; Acts 16:16–29

Psalm 18:1–6: This psalm is essentially identical to David’s song in 2 Samuel 22. Alter suggests that the version in 2 Samuel may be older, but that David in all probability wrote this psalm.

It begins with an extraordinarily lengthy superscription, giving us a detailed picture of the circumstances behind the psalm: “For the lead player, for the LORD’s servant, for David, who spoke to the LORD the words of this song on the day the LORD saved him from the grasp of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul.”

We can picture David running from Saul’s men, finally finding a crag to hide behind for a moment in order to to catch his breath, as he passionately cries out the opening verses with what’s left of his energy: “I am impassioned of You, LORD, my strength! /The LORD is my crag and my bastion, / and my deliverer, my God, my rock where I shelter,” (2,3) But even in desperation, David remembers who God and is beyond grateful for God’s deliverance from the wiles and snares of his enemy: “Praised I called the LORD /and from my enemies I was rescued. /The cords of death wrapped round me,/ and the torrents of perdition dismayed me.”

David doesn’t just come to God in reflective prayer, gently asking God to hear his prayer and hoping God will answer. Rather, he shouts: “In my strait I called to the LORD, / to my God I cried out.” God is David’s rescuer, not just in the abstract, but in the midst of actual pursuit. We tend to deride “foxhole prayers,” thinking they are the act of desperation rather than of faith. Well, they are the act of desperation. And guess what? God answers them: “He heard from His palace my voice, / and my outcry before Him came to His ears.”

No matter how desperate our circumstances, God is listening if we but cry out as David did.

1 Chronicles 25:Ever the master of detail, the Chronicler turns to the musicians, again naming them and describing their duties.

I’m struck by the statement at verse 1, “…who should prophesy with lyres, harps, and cymbals.” I have never thought of music as prophecy, but in the sense of “forthtelling,” music indeed proclaims the word of the Lord. Which is why I believe that while music forms the core of worship, it must also have profound content that proclaims the greatness and power of God–and for us–the Kerygma of Jesus Christ. Which is why I believe repetitive ditties set to boring music are not worthy in worship.

To the text: Heman, the king’s seer, had fourteen sons and three daughters and they “were all under the direction of their father for the music in the house of the Lord with cymbals, harps, and lyres for the service of the house of God.” (Sort of a precursor to the Bach family!) Moreover, there were 288 kindred of Asaph, Jeduthun and Heman, who formed the choir, “They and their kindred, who were trained in singing to the Lord, all of whom were skillful,” (7).

Perhaps most remarkably, each musician was open to whatever duty became his by lot: “And they cast lots for their duties, small and great, teacher and pupil alike.” (8) No musical prima donnas here!

Acts 16:16–29: Up to now, given his experience at Lystra, Paul has refrained from performing anything resembling a miracle for fear of riling the crowd and detracting form his message. But after being followed by the fortune-telling girl, who kept crying out, “These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation.” (17) Paul can take no more and exorcises the demon from the girl, who immediately loses her cash-generating fortune-telling powers.

The slave girl’s owners drag Paul and Silas before the Philippian authorities, accusing them of being Jews (perhaps the first such accusation on European soil that would lead to so much oppression of the Jews over the centuries) and of upsetting good order by “advocating customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to adopt or observe.” (21) The crowd, ever eager for drama, agrees enthusiastically and “the magistrates had them stripped of their clothing and ordered them to be beaten with rods.” (22) and tossed into the blackest hole in prison. No trial, no jury, just a sentence as the authorities once again bow to the will of the mob.

In passing, I’m noticing the important role that crowds play in Acts, usually as the device to cause a miscarriage of justice and oppression to those preaching the Good News. It’s not just the mob that turned against Jesus and demanded his death. These crowds which have a mind of their own, appear again and again.

Irrepressible Paul and Silas are singing in prison and Luke tells us “the prisoners were listening to them.” (One wonders what they thought.) The famous earthquake occurs, and Paul saves the jailer from suicide. What strikes me here is a detail I’ve never noticed before, “The jailer called for lights.” Not just for the lights in the prison, but for what turns out to be the light of the Good News and the Holy Spirit.


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