Psalm 30:1–5; 2 Chronicles 32; Acts 25:16–26:1

 Psalm 30:1–5: This psalm’s superscription, “Psalm, song for the dedication of the house, for David,” tells us it’s a hymn that was sung when the temple (or, as Alter suggests, some object or area inside the temple) was dedicated. And the hymn is “for David,” which given David was long dead by the time the temple was dedicated, I’ll take as
“in memory of David.”

There is great verticality here. The psalmist has died (or come close to it) and descended into “the pit,” representing deep illness, depression, or even death. But God has rescued him and “I shall exalt You, Lord, for you drew me up” (2) –almost as water being drawn up from a well. And again, “Lord, You brought me up from Sheol” (4a) And returned his life to him, “[You] gave me life from those gone down to the pit.” (4b)

This drawing up, and essentially, resurrection has come about because “I cried out and You healed me.” (3) and as a result, there is cause for great rejoicing: “Hymn to the Lord, O his faithful, / acclaim his holy name.” (5). This is indeed a psalm for those who have been healed, for it is prayer and God’s response to prayer that is healing, be that physically, emotionally or spiritually.

2 Chronicles 32: Even though Hezekiah is Judah’s most righteous king in a long time, trouble–in the form of King Sennacherib of Assyria comes to invade. (I imagine that having successfully conquered Israel, Assyria has turned its aggressive intentions to Judah.) Rather than just going out and attacking, Hezekiah executes several brilliant defensive moves. One being to cut off all the water that flows outside Jerusalem, “Why should the Assyrian kings come and find water in abundance?” (4)

Leader that he is, he encourages his people and his troops, reminding them that God is on their side, “Be strong and of good courage. Do not be afraid or dismayed before the king of Assyria and all the horde that is with him; for there is one greater with us than with him.” (7) Sennecherib tries to discourage the inhabitants of Jerusalem, telling them that they are stupid for believing Hezekiah when he says God will save them against Assyria’s might, “Hezekiah [is] misleading you, handing you over to die by famine and by thirst, when he tells you, ‘The Lord our God will save us from the hand of the king of Assyria’” (11)

Of course Sennacherib is mistaken, having “spoken of the God of Jerusalem as if he were like the gods of the peoples of the earth, which are the work of human hands.” (19) and he goes down to defeat. This victory brings not only vindication, but “Many brought gifts to the Lord in Jerusalem and precious things to King Hezekiah of Judah, so that he was exalted in the sight of all nations from that time onward.” (23).

But Hezekiah is human and the worst sin of all–pride– overcomes him; victory goes to his head and he becomes sick but then he “humbled himself for the pride of his heart,” and recovers. All in all a successful reign, for Hezekiah remains faithful to the end of his life, even though God continues to test him “and to know all that was in his heart.” (31b). Hezekiah passes the test and the Chronicler accords him a great accolade not given to other kings in his history, speaking of his “good deeds.”

Hezekiah is the paragon of faithfulness, but for me, it is gratifying to see his weakness as well. He finds his way back to God–just as each of us can do if we are willing to step back and be self-aware.

 Acts 25:16–26:1: Speaking with King Agrippa, Festus relates his frustration with the Jews and especially with Paul, the proximate cause of all the unrest. He’s especially frustrated because no obvious crime has been committed. To his Roman ears, it’s just impenetrable theological disagreement. Now, Paul has asked to take his case to the emperor, but this places Festus in a quandary, since “I have nothing definite to write to our sovereign about him.” (26) He asks Agrippa, who obviously understands the theological issues, to hear Paul “so that, after we have examined him, I may have something to write” (26) Agrippa agrees to hear Paul.

This passage where Roman authority meets Jewish authority is crucial because I think Luke is showing us that the gospel message is confusing to to the “greeks” and blasphemous to the Jews. Paul certainly explicates these issues in his letter to the Romans, (which is why it may be placed immediately following Acts). From the secular point of view, represented here by Festus, the Good News makes no sense other than that it it doesn’t seem to be a crime.

We see evidence all around us today, ranging from people like Festus who see it as nonsensical to people like the Jews, who wish it to be suppressed.  We would do well to remember just how radical the gospel message really is.

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