Psalm 20; 2 Chronicles 9:13–10:19; Acts 19:32–20:3

Psalm 20:  Alter suggests this “royal psalm” is addressed to King David since all the references to “you” are in the masculine singular tense. To our modern ears, though, it has a very benedictory flavor: “May the Lord answer you on the day of distress…May He send help to you…and from Zion sustain you.” (2,3)

The wishes for good things to happen to the king continue to include everything the king could possibly desire—almost to the point of hyperbole: “May He grant you what your heart would want,/ and all your consoles may He fulfill.” (5)  This thought is repeated in the next verse: “May the Lord fill all your desires.” (6b) But I suppose when you’re invoking a blessing on a king, you naturally take it all the way…

From wishing the king well, the psalmist turns to to the confidence that God has already done all these things: “Now do I know / that the Lord has rescued His anointed./ He has inserted him form His holy heavens.” (7)

At first we may wonder why the psalmist wishes all these good things to happen to the king and then basically says they have already happened. But this is not contradictory. We ask God for blessing, knowing in our hearts that he has already blessed us, and as the psalmist notes, we have already been rescued “in the might of His right hand’s rescue.” (7b) For us, of course, we have been rescued by the salvific power of Jesus Christ himself.

And that is why unlike our enemies who “have tumbled and fallen / we arose and took heart.” (9)

2 Chronicles 9:13–10:19: The accountant side of our Chronicler reveals itself in his almost loving inventory of Solomon’s death, focusing on the 200 shields of beaten gold, noting that 600 shekels of gold went into each shield. Then to the ivory throne overlaid with gold.

One source of Solomon’s wealth was the constant stream of admiring visitors: “All the kings of the earth sought the presence of Solomon to hear his wisdom, which God had put into his mind.” (9:23). And it’s good that we’re reminded that Solomon’s wisdom comes from God  Each visitor “ brought a present, objects of silver and gold, garments, weaponry, spices, horses, and mules, so much year by year. “ (24) —all leading to the king’s unimaginable wealth.

But wisdom and wealth do not create immortality. Solomon dies and his son Rehoboam takes over as king. We know things are not going to turn out well almost immediately when Rehoboam, asked to lighten the load of the workers, rejects the wise counsel of the older advisors and instead, listening to his younger friends states the infamous line,  “My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to it; my father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.” (10:14).

Here we see the root cause of the failed leadership of so many kings and leaders to come. They listened neither to God nor to their people. Rehoboam’s pride and hubris replace Solomon’s wisdom. Only David seems to have gotten it right and his son, albeit to a lesser extent—despite his wisdom and worldly wealth. And Israel, the northern kingdom, “has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day.” (10:19) The inevitable collapse begins.

Acts 19:32–20:3: Talk about a reality that still applies today, albeit in social media rather than the Ephesian town square: “some were shouting one thing, some another; for the assembly was in confusion, and most of them did not know why they had come together.” (19:32) Why gather facts when we can shout (and post our shouting)?

Only the town clerk of Ephesus seems to keep his head in the midst of the chaos. In his brief talk we find out that the statue of Artemis “fell from heaven,” and “Since these things cannot be denied, you ought to be quiet and do nothing rash.” (36). He points out that “these men here who are neither temple robbers nor blasphemers of our[b] goddess. “ and tells the complainers to take it up in the courts,which are open. Then, to the point at hand, “we are in danger of being charged with rioting today, since there is no cause that we can give to justify this commotion.” (40)

In this passage, Luke makes it clear that the message about Jesus that Paul and the others are communicating is neither blasphemous nor seditious. Of course, later not everyone will see it that way. But the intervention of the town clerk makes it clear that even at its very earliest years of the church not every Roman official felt threatened and even that The Way sought peace, not confrontation. Of course, that too would change. Rather, it was the Jews who saw Paul as blasphemous.

So, once again Paul leaves town and heads to Greece. But word has clearly spread everywhere among the Jewish communities throughout the eastern Roman Empire that Paul is a blasphemous Jew and anathema to Judaism. Once again, Paul barely avoids another plot and returns to Macedonia. This is a good reminder that our tendency to translate Paul into our own culture and view his missionary efforts as anodyne was not at all the case. He was hated and despised by the Jews, who sought to kill him and the blasphemous message he promulgated.

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