Psalm 18:37–45; 2 Chronicles 3:1–5:1; Acts 18:8–21

 Psalm 18:37–45: These verses are among the most violent that we read in the psalms as David describes how God has assisted him in annihilating his enemies: “I pursued my enemies, caught them / turned not back until I wiped them out.” (38) Phrases such as “smashed them,” (39); and “I demolished them” (41) lead to a stark image of total conquest: “I crushed them like dust in the wind,/ like mud in the streets I ground them.”

It’s one thing for David the warrior to boast of his mighty victory, but these verses include a description of a merciless God, as David’s enemies as in their defeat they appeal to the very same God David trusts: “They cried out–there was none to rescue,/to the Lord–He answered not.” (42) paint a picture of merciless conquest.

This is one of those descriptions of God and God’s intentions that makes us extremely uncomfortable. But we need to remember that this psalm is David’s narrative, spoken in the flush of victory. It is neither theology nor a reasoned picture of who God really is. It is the heat of passion, shouted in victory as we can even see David raising his fist to the sky and praising God in his loudest voice.

So, I choose to believe that while David may think that God has granted him total victory, God has not actually participated actively in David’s conquest. Instead we have a picture of David’s all encompassing trust and faith that while it may be theologically wrong-headed, gives us a terrific picture of the depths of David’s trust in God–and his willingness to give God total credit, even when God may not deserve it. This is what makes the psalms so wonderful: they include every human emotion–and here it is the excited passion of the warrior’s victory.

2 Chronicles 3:1–5:1:  Our Chronicler, who revels in every detail, in measurements and lists, is clearly ecstatic as he describes the dimensions of and materials used in Solomon’s glorious temple. We can imagine him writing from his cramped room in the slums of Babylon as he wistfully writes sentences such as “he overlaid it with six hundred talents of fine gold. The weight of the nails was fifty shekels of gold. He overlaid the upper chambers with gold.” (3:8,9) He includes a detail I must have missed in the description of the temple written in 1 Kings: the pillars in its front entrance have names(!): “He set up the pillars in front of the temple, one on the right, the other on the left; the one on the right he called Jachin, and the one on the left, Boaz.” (3:17).

Our author then moves inside the temple as he describes the dimensions and materials of the temple furnishings in the same loving detail as the temple structure itself, especially the bronze altar, the bronze sea so large that “it held three thousand baths,” the basins, the lampstands, the tables, and the golden bowls. Huram, on loan from the king of Tyre, is given due credit as the artisan who crafted all these things. (4:11).

And once the temple was finished, “Solomon brought in the things that his father David had dedicated, and stored the silver, the gold, and all the vessels in the treasuries of the house of God.” (5:1). Could there have been more wealth in a single place in all the surrounding kingdoms? I don’t see how. All the treasures of the earth have been fashioned into the most suitable, wonderful place for God to reside that human minds could ever imagine and human hands could ever craft.

Acts 18:8–21: Finally, at Corinth Paul finds respite and listeners who are not inclined to run him out of town. We can imagine Paul’s nervousness given his fairly ignominious departures from Lystra, Philippi, Thessalonica, even Athens. One night, God comes to Paul in a vision saying “Do not be afraid, but speak and do not be silent; for I am with you, and no one will lay a hand on you to harm you, for there are many in this city who are my people.” (9,10) Pauls resides in Corinth longer than any other place so far: 18 months

Even so, “the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him before the tribunal.” (12), but Gallio, the Roman proconsul, is indifferent to the obscure theological disputes between the Jews and Christians and dismisses the case out of hand. That doesn’t means tempers aren’t flaring on both sides and poor Sosthenes, the official of the synagogue is beaten up. Was he attacked by Christian followers of Paul? Luke doesn’t tell us. But we need to remember that Christians were human, too, and given to the same passions and often irrational actions–exactly as we have seen down through history to our own time.

Paul, along with Pricilla and Aquilla, finally leaves Corinth, and we read the tiny but fascinating detail of Paul’s haircut. (I need to check out what sort of vow Paul was fulfilling.) They arrive in Ephesus, and as usual, heads to the synagogue “and had a discussion with the Jews.” They want to engage him further, but Paul declines the invitation, saying, “I will return to you if God wills” (21) and he sets sail for home.

This is one of those passages where I think we see Paul at his most human. He has been beaten, taken to court, despised, harassed and by the time he reaches Ephesus, he is at the point of human exhaustion. It’s time for a furlough.

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