Psalm 28; 2 Chronicles 29:20–30:27; Acts 24:17–27

Psalm 28: This psalm of supplication begs God, “My rock, do not be deaf to me” (1) and “Hear the sound of my pleading/ when I cry out to you.” (2)

As always, he wants to make sure that God knows there is a great distance between him, seeking God and praying with his arms uplifted (2b) and the wicked and wrongdoers, especially the deceivers, “who speak peace to their fellows / with foulness in their heart.” (3)  The population of these “fellows” seems even greater today as we hear of people conning the young and the old.

So, I’m right there with the psalmist as he asks God to “Pay them back for their acts/ and for the evil of their schemings…Pay back what is coming to them.” (4) That is surely the kind of retribution that many of us would like to see come about when we hear of someone who has deceived innocent people–and today, particularly con artists cyber criminals who cynically rob people–especially old people–in their sleep.

They are not only deceivers, but destroyers: “For they understand not the acts of the Lord/ and His handwork they would destroy and not build.” I’ll take that as those who foul the earth (God’s “handiwork”) for their own greedy gain. But as always, the psalmist is praying–as should we–that it is God who carries out these acts. Vengeance is indeed God’s.

The psalm ends as these supplications always do, with worship and praise, and the realization that “The Lord is my strength and my shield. In Him my heart trusts.”  And that is where our quest for justice always returns: that it is God who is faithful and trustworthy.

2 Chronicles 29:20–30:27: After the relentless evil of his predecessors, it is a joy to read of Hezekiah’s restoration of the temple and reestablishment of worship” “Thus the service of the house of the Lord was restored.” (29:35b). In fact, the king goes about the business of doing this restoration so efficiently and he is such a contract to his father and grandfather that doubtless by this time very cynical population “rejoiced because of what God had done for the people; for the thing had come about suddenly.” (29:36)

Following the restoration of worship, Hezekiah sends letters and messengers “throughout all Israel, from Beer-sheba to Dan, that the people should come and keep the passover to the Lord the God of Israel, at Jerusalem;” (30:5) Hezekiah appeals to their better nature, “Do not now be stiff-necked as your ancestors were, but yield yourselves to the Lord and come to his sanctuary, which he has sanctified forever, and serve the Lord your God, so that his fierce anger may turn away from you.” (30:8) But in Israel, the invitation is generally greeted with scorn, just one more example for our Chronicler of what a lost cause the northern kingdom really was. However, he is definitely on the side of Judah, and is pleased to report, “The hand of God was also on Judah to give them one heart to do what the king and the officials commanded by the word of the Lord.” (30:12).

So, the Great Passover occurs and Hezekiah prays, “The good Lord pardon all who set their hearts to seek God,” (30:19) And “The Lord heard Hezekiah, and healed the people.” (30:20),  including those few who had come from Israel. “There was great joy in Jerusalem, for since the time of Solomon son of King David of Israel there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem.” (30:26)

One last note about the effectiveness of Hezekiah as leader is that he encourages those who have worked hard, “Hezekiah spoke encouragingly to all the Levites who showed good skill in the service of the Lord.” (30:22)

Acts 24:17–27: Paul continues his defense, noting that “were some Jews from Asia—they ought to be here before you to make an accusation, if they have anything against me.” (19), challenging his accusers, “tell what crime they had found when I stood before the council,” adding that the only possibility was that he had spoken about the resurrection of the dead.

Luke tells us that Felix was “was rather well informed about the Way” and decides to hold off on judgement until Lysias the tribune arrives and keeps Paul in loose custody. Apparently this is going to take some time because Felix and his Jewish wife Drusilla, have many theological conversations about the Way and its relation to Judiasm. However, when Paul talks about “the coming judgment, Felix became frightened” and sends Paul back to his cell.

Then, we learn the real motivation behind Felix’s apparent interest in Paul, “he hoped that money would be given him by Paul, and for that reason he used to send for him very often and converse with him.” In short, Felix is giving Paul the obvious opportunity to bribe him. But Paul, who is no dummy, refuses to rise to the bait. The tribune never arrives and Paul languishes in Caesarea since “he wanted to grant the Jews a favor, Felix left Paul in prison.” (27)

This is our best vision into the Roman justice system and apparently, the operating assumption was that bribery was expected. But Paul, unjustly accused, refuses to give in. His deep faith in Jesus Christ and what he tells the Corinthians certainly tell us why he refuses to bend under any circumstances.

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