Psalm 27:7–14; 2 Chronicles 28:9–29:19; Acts 24:4–16

Psalm 27:7–14: Having worshipped God, our psalmist now asks for God to listen to him as the psalm becomes supplication: “Hear, O Lord, my voice when I call,/ and grant me grace and answer me.” (7) He is seeking two things: listening and God’s response.

Often in my wimpy prayers I feel everything will be OK if I know that God is listening. But I usually lack the courage to ask for God’s reply. Here the psalmist is asking not only for God’s response, but to reveal himself fully and not reject him: “Do not hide Your face from me, / do not turn Your servant away in wrath.” (9)

Because “You are my help,” God is the only one on whom this desperate man can rely.  And the desperation shows: “Abandon me not, nor forsake me, /O God of my rescue.” (9) But then, the realization that God is the ultimately faithful one in his life; that God is more reliable than even the other humans that love him most: “Though my father and mother forsook me,/ the Lord would gather me in.” (10)

Which makes him realize that above all else is trust, “If I but trust to see the Lord’s goodness,” (13) which becomes hope: “Hope for the Lord!/ Let your heart be form and bold, / and hope for the Lord.”

The realization that God is faithful is behind this ascent from desperation and abandonment to trust. And all because the psalmist has reflected on the incredible faithfulness of God. And in that faith resides hope. For him. And for me.

 2 Chronicles 28:9–29:19: Judah, under king Ahaz, is utterly defeated and about to disappear form the face of the earth. But a little known prophet, Oded, comes to the leaders of Israel saying that to do so would just add to Israel’s already substantial guilt before God and boldly declares to the leaders returning from war: “You shall not bring the captives in here, for you propose to bring on us guilt against the Lord in addition to our present sins and guilt. For our guilt is already great, and there is fierce wrath against Israel.” (28:13)

Clearly, the Holy Spirit through Oded moved the hearts of these men. And the leaders “got up and took the captives, and with the booty they clothed all that were naked among them; they clothed them, gave them sandals, provided them with food and drink, and anointed them;” (15). Even though Israel is essentially apostate, they have listened to God and shown mercy.

As for Ahaz, he attempts to enter into an alliance with Assyria and “plundered the house of the Lord and the houses of the king and of the officials, and gave tribute to the king of Assyria; but it did not help him.” (21) Ahaz becomes desperate, forgetting the one simple thing that might of helped: turning back to God. Instead, he turns to the gods of Assyria, desecrates the temple, selling off its utensils, and dies apostate.  What is it that even in desperation we can so easily forget God, and unlike the psalmist, who turns to God and finds hope, we turn away and find dust.

One good thing comes form Ahaz, and that is is his son, Hezekiah, who “did what was right in the sight of the Lord, just as his ancestor David had done.” (29:2)  He assembles the Levites and priests, telling them, “Listen to me, Levites! Sanctify yourselves, and sanctify the house of the Lord, the God of your ancestors, and carry out the filth from the holy place.” (29:5) And in a remarkable and memorable sentence summarizes the consequences of turning away from God, that the “wrath of the Lord came upon Judah and Jerusalem, and he has made them an object of horror, of astonishment, and of hissing, as you see with your own eyes.” (8)

And the Levites cleanse and re-sanctify the temple, returning to Hezekiah. Things may be looking up for Judah for the simple reason that Hezekiah looks to God and realizes that it is God who is the source of strength for Judah and himself. Exactly the theme of today’s psalm.

Acts 24:4–16: Tertullus, the Jew’s lawyer, (who I gather is not Jewish himself), lays out the case against Paul. First, he accuses Paul being a of being “a pestilent fellow” upsetting the general peace–not just in Jerusalem but “among all the Jews throughout the world,” (5). He’s also a conspirator–“a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes” and a blasphemer. “He even tried to profane the temple, and so we seized him.” (7). As lawyers are wont to do he leaves out certain crucial details such as it was the Jews that started the riot, but here the “Jews also joined in the charge by asserting that all this was true.” (9)

Paul rises and speaks, first noting that he was in Jerusalem for only twelve days–hardly time to put together a complex conspiracy. He then asserts, “ They did not find me disputing with anyone in the temple or stirring up a crowd either in the synagogues or throughout the city,” noting that his accusers cannot prove their charge.

Then, Paul, being Paul, in a brilliant move, rather than attempting to defend himself against these spurious charges, admits what is true: He is indeed a member of the sect called “the Way” but also that it is simply the logical extension of–and entirely consistent with–the Jewish religion (about which we assume Felix was not versed in its theological niceties). Paul underscores the similarity, “I worship the God of our ancestors, believing everything laid down according to the law or written in the prophets.” (14). Then he says he has hope in the same God and that there will be “be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.” This latter statement is a clever move since Paul well knows that the Pharisees feel the same way. In short, Paul has not allowed a crack of light to come between his belief and Jewish belief. And he rests his case.

The lesson for us: honey is far more effective than defensive vinegar.

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