Psalm 18:7–15; 1 Chronicles 26; Acts 16:30–17:3

Psalm 18:7–15: David has cried to God for help and he knows “my outcry before Him came to His ears.” (8) But unlike the almost passive response of God in other psalms, God arrives for David in seismic terms: “The earth heaved and shuddered, the mountains’ foundations were shaken.” (9a) and we see an image of God that is as far from the avuncular God that Michelangelo painted on the ceiling of the the Sistine Chapel as we can imagine. This image of God is literally fire-breathing: “for smoke rose from His nostrils /and fire from His mouth consumed, /coals blazed up around Him.” (9b).

Adding to this image of fearsome power over all nature, God literally moves the sky (not Heaven) as He arrives: “He tilted the heavens, came down, /dense mist beneath His feet.” (10). And then perhaps the most remarkable image of all: “He mounted a cherub and flew,/ and He soared on the wings of the wind.” (11) Alter tells us this cherub is an image of a “fierce winged beast” borrowed from Canaanite mythology, not “the dimpled darling of Renaissance painting.”

The psalmist’s borrowing from Canaanite mythology continues as he tells us, “Elyon sent forth His voice— / hail and fiery coals.” (14) Elyon being “the designation of a Canaanite deity (“the Most High”)” per Alter. And God/Elyon lets “loose His arrows, and scattered them, / lightning bolts shot, and He panicked them.” (15).

So, the next time someone speaks of an impotent God, who has abandoned the world to its own devices, it may be worth recalling the fearsome imagery of this psalm: the God who not only hears David’s plea, but arrives with powerful drama to strike down David’s enemies in the most fearsome possible way. Perhaps we would do well to think of God in this way rather than a bearded old man.

1 Chronicles 26: The Chronicler now turns his attention to the gatekeepers, who “had duties, just as their kindred did, ministering in the house of the Lord” (12) again listing them by name and the fact that they came to their respective positions by lot. As we read these seemingly endless chapters of names and positions we come to appreciate the sophisticated organization that was required to administer the house of God. As well, we see as just how many people were selected and proud to serve in the capacity for which they were chose by lot, no less. Something to reflect on when we feel envious because someone else is chosen over us.

Our author turns his attention to the “back office” of the house of God: the treasurers, officers, and judges, and David’s personnel search(!) for executive leadership: “(In the fortieth year of David’s reign search was made, of whatever genealogy or family, and men of great ability among them were found at Jazer in Gilead.)” (31) David realized what many of his kingly successors (and leaders right down to today) did not: that a leader is dependent on the organizational and management skills of those he leads. It is not all about him, and any king, leader, president, CEO who thinks they can “do it all” would benefit by turning to these chapters in 1 Chronicles. Moreover, these many people are remembered by name. They are not anonymous drones, but men of skill and faith, who deserved to memorialized.

 Acts 16:30–17:3: The Philippian jailer asks the question we all must ask at some point in our lives: “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (30). A simple question deserves a simple answer (although over the years theologians and philosophers have certainly made the answer seem a lot more complex that what Luke records here):“Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” (31) Baptism and joy follows immediately: “he and his entire household rejoiced that he had become a believer in God.” (34)

The magistrates of Philippi have come to their senses and send police to release Paul and Silas basically in the dark of night. Luke now gives us real insight into Paul’s personality that will not brook that kind of disrespect as he stands his ground and states in the firmest possible terms, “They have beaten us in public, uncondemned, men who are Roman citizens, and have thrown us into prison; and now are they going to discharge us in secret? Certainly not! Let them come and take us out themselves.” (37) The officials show up, apologize because “they were afraid when they heard that they were Roman citizens,” (38) and politely ask Paul and Silas to leave town, which after “seen and encouraged the brothers and sisters [at Lydia’s house], they departed.” (40)

Paul’s rejoinder is a good reminder that we Christians are too often seen–and behave– as societal wimps, happy to have whatever right of ours, e.g., holding a Bible study in a school, that was taken unfairly and arbitrarily begrudgingly returned to us by officialdom. We are supposed to smile and accept this bureaucratic magnanimity with humble gratitude. Sometimes, we are needlessly afraid and would do well to remember this scene at the house of the Philippian jailer.

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