Psalm 18:16–24; 1 Chronicles 27; Acts 17:4–15

Psalm 18:16–24: God has arrived in rather dramatic fashion to save David from drowning figuratively, (we presume): “He reached from on high and took me, / pulled me out of the many waters.” (17) And just in the nick of time before his far stronger enemies captured him. But “the LORD became my support / and brought me out to a wide-open space, /set me free, for His pleasure I was.” (20) From hiding behind a rock on the mountainside, God brings David to a “wide open space” and sets him free. OK, but what’s remarkable here is that final phrase: “for His pleasure I was.” One of the reasons God rescues David is because David brings God pleasure.

The obvious question is, do I bring God pleasure? I know he loves me, but love does not necessarily connote pleasure. Or, like Adam, do I hide behind the rock, ashamed of my sins and afraid to let God bring me to the wide open space of forgiveness?

In David’s deuteronomic world, the reason he brings God pleasure is really quite simple: “The LORD dealt with me by my merit, for my cleanness of hands He requited me.” (21) It is David’s personal merit and his freedom from corruption (“clean hands”) that God favors him. David goes on to describe his sterling behavior: “For I kept the ways of the LORD /and did no evil before my God. (22). David keeps God’s law and “from His statutes I did not swerve.”And David is blessed by God’s quid pro quo: “And the LORD requited me for my merit, /for my cleanness of hands in His eyes.” (25)

David may have clean hands and earns God’s favor on his own merit. But a thousand years later Paul points out that “all have sinned.” None of us is David. And we can be grateful for the saving power of Jesus Christ, who–David’s heir–sets all things right for us before God the Father.

1 Chronicles 27: The Chronicler states the purpose of this chapter right up front: “This is the list of the people of Israel, the heads of families, the commanders of the thousands and the hundreds, and their officers who served the king in all matters concerning the divisions that came and went, month after month throughout the year, each division numbering twenty-four thousand.” (1) One division of 24,000 soldiers serves David for a month, and then a new one with a new commander comes into place for the subsequent month, and so forth.

This is really quite brilliant. Since each division is in the king’s service for only one month a year, there is no time for plots against David to thicken, before that division leaves Jerusalem for eleven months.  Too bad many of David’s successors did not follow this organizational process.

A list naming of each of the leaders of the 12 tribes follows, as well as a brief reminder of the abortive census. Only this time our writer makes it sound like Joab, not David, initiated that bad idea: “Joab son of Zeruiah began to count them, but did not finish; yet wrath came upon Israel for this, and the number was not entered into the account of the Annals of King David.” David’s really bad decision to take the census is left out of his official histories, and to a certain extent, Joab’s name is sullied. Which is one more proof that it’s the winners who write history…

Acts 17:4–15: Paul and Silas move on to Thessalonica, and Paul preaches three successive Sabbaths (the first sermon series?) “explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Messiah to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This is the Messiah, Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you.” (3). And he wins both Jewish and Gentile converts, and interesting, “not a few of the leading women.” (4). But as usual, Paul’s message (and I daresay, his fairly abrasive personality) creates jealousy among the Jews, who incite a general riot.

Unable to find Paul and Silas, the mob drags one of Paul’s converts, Jason, out of his house accusing him of housing the seditious Paul, saying “They are all acting contrary to the decrees of the emperor, saying that there is another king named Jesus.” (7). Compared to Philippi, this is a far more sophisticated–and dangerous–accusation and “the city officials were disturbed when they heard this,” (8) but allow poor Jason to go free on bail. (Alas, we do not learn Jason’s subsequent fate.)

Against this accusation, Paul would not be able to use his trump card of Roman citizenship to get out of trouble, so, wisely “That very night the believers sent Paul and Silas off to Beroea,” (10) where they encounter Jews who are much more receptive to Paul’s message. But alas, the Jews of Thessalonica learn that Paul is there and come and stir up the crowds. The believers there send Paul away, although Silas and Timothy “remained behind.”

The second half of Acts reveals the struggles encountered by the early church through Paul’s missionary efforts and that observant Jews were mighty upset not only at his proclamation of Jesus as Messiah, but that “outsiders”–Gentiles–were contaminating the purity of their religious belief. Not much has changed on that front on the ensuing twenty centuries…



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