Psalm 22:22–28; 2 Chronicles 16,17; Acts 21:5–16

Psalm 22:22–28: The emphasis of the psalm shifts from the trials of a single person–“Rescue me from the lion’s mouth” (22)–to telling others of God’s greatness: “Let me tell Your name to my brothers, / in the assembly let me praise You.” (23) And from the assembly to the entire nation: “All the seed of Jacob revere Him!” (24)

But remember, the psalmist warns, God is also to be feared: “And be afraid of Him, all Israel’s seed!” This seems a warning to those who have oppressed the downtrodden because God has certainly not forgotten them: “For He has not spurned nor despised/ the affliction of the lowly.” (26) And once again, as we do so frequently, we encounter, albeit briefly here, the underlying economic theme of the OT: God cares for the poor, the widows, and orphans first: “The lowly will eat and be sated.” (27)

Then, the verses expand out from the poor and Israel to all of creation: “All the far ends of the earth will remember/ and return to the Lord./ All the clans of the nations / will bow down before you.” If we consider the prophetic nature of this psalm as speaking earlier of Christ’s death on the cross, then here in this ascent from Israel to all the world we can glimpse the message of the Good News overtaking the world.

2 Chronicles 16,17: But in the 36th year of Asa’s reign over Judah, Israel’s king begins to build fortifications, making it clear he’s going to attack Judah. Asa forms an alliance with King Ben-hadad of Aram, clearly not a Jew, in Damascus. The seer Hanani comes to Asa and says, “Because you relied on the king of Aram, and did not rely on the Lord your God, the army of the king of Aram has escaped you.” (16:7). In a famous example of attacking the messenger, Asa “Asa was angry with the seer, and put him in the stocks, in prison, for he was in a rage with him because of this.” (16:10)

Three years later Asa has a severe foot disease, “yet even in his disease he did not seek the Lord, but sought help from physicians.” (16:13). Would Asa have been healed if he turned to God? Our Chronicler is certainly suggesting that. For me, anyway, I’ll take the lesson as prayer and physicians. Medical science clearly does not know everything and prayer for healing should come alongside science.

Asa’s son, Jehoshaphat, comes to the throne and J “sought the God of his father and walked in his commandments, and not according to the ways of Israel.” (17:4) and God is pleased and “Therefore the Lord established the kingdom in his hand.” (5) And the remainder of this chapter describes the power of Judah and the respect accorded to its king as “Jehoshaphat grew steadily greater.” (17:12).

We learn something about Asa’s son that was never said of his father: “ His heart was courageous in the ways of the Lord.” (6) What an honor! It’s clear that the young American woman,Kayla Jean Mueller, who went to help the poor and afflicted in Syria had a courageous heart in the ways of the Lord. She carried out what God has asked all of us to do: to care for the poor and the afflicted. For her troubles she was murdered by evil. But she is honored both on earth and on heaven for her vision, for he willingness to act on that vision and ultimately, for her courage. Could my heart be as courageous in the ways of the Lord?

Acts 21:5–16: Paul and his companions, including Luke, leave Tyre and journey to Caesarea to the house of Philip the evangelist, whom we have already met–most famous for converting the Ethiopian eunuch. While they are staying there, the prophet Agabus “came down form Judea.” Luke provides us a remarkable–and moving–eyewitness account of what Agabus does: “He came to us and took Paul’s belt, bound his own feet and hands with it, and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘This is the way the Jews in Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.’” (11).

We can see Paul’s friends circling him and begging him not to go to Jerusalem. I’m sure that they told Paul how much more valuable he would be to the church if he continued  to preach in places far form Jerusalem. I’m sure they told him, there are so many who have not yet heard the Good News. I’m sure they couldn’t fathom Paul’s obsession with going to Jerusalem where danger and probably death awaits. If I were there, I know I wouldn’t.

Paul is distraught because he does not feel supported by his friends who are “breaking my heart” in what he clearly sees as his mission. But finally, “Since he would not be persuaded, we remained silent except to say, “The Lord’s will be done.” (14).

How often have we tried to dissuade someone from going on what we think is a crazy, even dangerous path? I remember thinking how crazy my friends Larry and Linda were for becoming missionaries and taking their five kids with them to then dangerous Colombia. Yet, God has used Larry and Linda mightily in ways we could never have imagined. What seems so obvious to us is not always the way that God would have someone go. Just as I’m sure the friends of Kayla Mueller, killed by ISIS in Syria, pleaded with her exactly as Paul’s friends did. Yet, it is entirely possible that her death may change the course of history.

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