Psalm 29; 2 Chronicles 31; Acts 25:1–15

Psalm 29: This hymn is sung by “the sons of God,” who according to Alter, are not humans, and not angels, but heavenly beings–God’s entourage, if you will. For me it strongly evokes the worship in the throne room scene of Revelation, although the psalm is obviously much older than John’s apocalyptic writings. Perhaps this is a psalm John had in mind as he wrote. Alter also mentions that these “celestial creatures” provide Milton ” a model and repertory of devices” for Paradise Lost.

Nowhere else, is the name of God (YHWH) here, “Lord,” used so powerfully by dint of sheer repetition. The psalm is a thundering hymn that first acknowledges God’s primacy–“Bow to the Lord in holy majesty!” (2) And God’s glory is audible: “The God of glory thunders.” (3) Followed by the Lord’s voice in power, majesty, (4) breaking cedars. “shattering cedars,” (5)  God’s voice alters creation as it “hews flames of fire” (7) and “makes the wilderness shake” (8). It even causes “the birth-pangs of does and ays bare the forests.” (9)

God’s voice is evidence of his overwhelming majesty across space and also across time: “the Lord is enthroned for all time.” (10). And yet, despite God’s thundering and his unimaginable majesty God cares above all for his people as the psalm ends with a blessing and the sudden quiet of peace: “May the Lord bless His people with peace.” (11)  This psalm reveals not just the majesty of God, and reminds us that we are his creatures and that he loves us above everything else in creation–and in heaven.

2 Chronicles 31: Following the Great Passover, there is a revival in Israel, “when all this was finished, all Israel who were present went out to the cities of Judah and broke down the pillars, hewed down the sacred poles,and pulled down the high places and the altars throughout all Judah and Benjamin, and in Ephraim and Manasseh, until they had destroyed them all.” (1) Is there hope for the northern kingdom after all?

Under Hezekiah, Judah essentially returns to the Davidic and Solomonic model, where the people worship faithfully. And give faithfully: “the tithe of the dedicated things that had been consecrated to the Lord their God, and laid them in heaps.” (6) In fact, so much is given that there is abundance for everyone: “Since they began to bring the contributions into the house of the Lord, we have had enough to eat and have plenty to spare; for the Lord has blessed his people, so that we have this great supply left over.” (10).

That’s the lesson for us: that by giving happily to God as the people did here, we not only receive, but we receive in even greater abundance.

Hezekiah reorganizes the priesthood, and the people support them willingly: “for the descendants of Aaron, the priests, who were in the fields of common land belonging to their towns, town by town, the people designated by name were to distribute portions to every male among the priests and to everyone among the Levites who was enrolled.” (19)

For our Chronicler, Hezekiah is the shining bright light in the long line of failures because Hezekiah follows God, “he did what was good and right and faithful before the Lord his God.” (20) But not for show, but because “he undertook in the service of the house of God, and in accordance with the law and the commandments, to seek his God, he did with all his heart; and he prospered.” (21)  Hezekiah’s heart was resolutely with God. And along with its king, all Judah enjoys the fruits of having placed God above all the small-g gods and given back to God with all its heart.

Acts 25:1–15: Festus has taken over from Felix as governor and visits Jerusalem, where the Jewish leaders appeal to him to have Paul brought back to Jerusalem. Luke informs us, “They were, in fact, planning an ambush to kill him along the way.” (3) But Festus says they are to come to Caesarea and accuse Paul there. So, the Jews come and bring “many serious charges against [Paul], which they could not prove.” (7). Paul  states his defense bluntly, “I have in no way committed an offense against the law of the Jews, or against the temple, or against the emperor.” (8).

Festus wants to “do the Jews a favor” and asks sweetly if Paul will go up to Jerusalem. But Paul is not about to accommodate the governor. Rather, he exercises his rights as a Roman citizen and appeals “to the emperor’s tribunal; this is where I should be tried. I have done no wrong to the Jews, as you very well know.” (10) we are beginning to see Paul’s exasperation.

Festus grants Paul’s wish, “You have appealed to the emperor; to the emperor you will go.” (12).

A few days later, Agrippa, the Jewish king and vassal of Rome arrives with with his wife. Festus expresses his frustration with this entire case. What will happen next?

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