Psalm 31:5–20; 2 Chronicles 36; Acts 27:9–20

Psalm 31:5–20: These verses describe well the vicissitudes of the righteous man in the world then–and the world today–beautifully describing the symptoms of depression. He sees himself as surrounded by those “who look to vaporous lies” (7) and “My eye is worn out in vexation, my throat and my belly.” (10) He feels he is abhorred by both his enemies and his friends: “for all my enemies I become a disgrace,/ just as much to my neighbors, and fear to my friends.” (13)  He recognizes his straits: “I become like a vessel lost” (13) leading to paranoia: “For I heard the slander of many,/ terror all round,/ when they conspired against me,/ when they plotted to take my life.” (14)

There is only one way out for this man beleaguered on all sides: “As for me, I trust in You, O Lord. / I say ‘You are my God.'” (15) And then the plea for rescue: O save me/ from the hand of my enemies, my pursuers./ Shine Your face on my servant,/ rescue me in Your kindness.” (16, 17)

The psalmist knows–as we should as well–that God is the one way out of the wilderness of depression. Whether our enemies are real or imagined, there is only one Rescuer. And God, who is love, will rescue us in his kindness. Yes, there are valuable medicines to treat depression, and God has given us the smarts to develop them. But underneath our own efforts and science is the God of kindness, on whom we can rely and trust.

2 Chronicles 36: Even though Josiah had been faithful to God all these years, Pharoah Neco comes through Judah “fight at Carchemish on the Euphrates,” which was definitely not Judah. Josiah did not listen to the warning of Neco, who told him to not to fight him but to “cease opposing God, who is with me, so that he will not destroy you” (35:21) But Josiah ignores the warning and is killed in battle.

The lesson here is that God can speak to us from unexpected places. Josiah was certainly not expecting God to speak through the voice of the Pharaoh–and he pays the price. We must be listening and discerning the voice of God, no matter what unexpected direction it may be coming from.

Following Josiah’s death, our Chronicler catalogs a depressing list of failed kings: “Jehoiakim was twenty-five years old when he began to reign…He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord his God.” (36:5). Then “Jehoiachin was eight years old when he began to reign; he reigned three months and ten days in Jerusalem. He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.” (9)(Although it’s unclear to me how an eight-year old could do evil, but I’ll presume he was surrounded by evil courtiers.)

Then “Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he began to reign; he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord his God.” (11) This guy is notable because  “He did not humble himself before the prophet Jeremiah who spoke from the mouth of the Lord.” (12) 

By this time, Judah was a vassal state of Babylon and had fallen, and Judah “kept mocking the messengers of God, despising his words, and scoffing at his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord against his people became so great that there was no remedy.” (16). Jerusalm falls to the hand of “the king of the Chaldeans.” Nebuchadnezzar shows no mercy. Those who were not killed outright were taken into captivity and carted off to Babylon for the next 70 years.

But the Chronicler ends on a high note. After 70 years, Cyrus of Persia conquers Babylon and “in fulfillment of the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah, the Lord stirred up the spirit of King Cyrus of Persia” (22) says “The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may the Lord his God be with him! Let him go up.” (23).

God is the God of second chances. And people of Judah are free to return to Jerusalem. When people speak of the harsh God of the OT, they really need to read this last chapter of 2 Chronicles. It is Judah who was unfaithful and received their due by their own folly. God is merciful.

 Acts 27:9–20:  Agrippa, who was almost persuaded by Paul, said, “This man is doing nothing to deserve death or imprisonment.” And then, “This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to the emperor.” (26:32). But Paul has long wanted to go to Rome and even though he is going there as a prisoner, his wish is being fulfilled.

Luke, speaking again in the first person is accompanying Paul to Rome. Paul is under the guard of a certain Julius,”a centurion of the Augustan Cohort.” Luke describes the voyage in great detail, telling us the exact route they are taking. It’s been a difficult voyage with the wind against them and they arrive at a place called Fair Havens.

Luke tells us “much time had been lost and sailing was now dangerous,” (27:9). Paul, obviously an experienced traveler strongly advises against sailing, “Sirs, I can see that the voyage will be with danger and much heavy loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.” (10) But his advice is ignored and the centurion, who (understandably) things the captain and sailors know better. So, they set sail and take “the chance that somehow they could reach Phoenix, where they could spend the winter.” (12)

A nor’easter from Crete overtakes them and even their attempts at anchoring the boat were futile. They began tossing cargo overboard, then the ships tackle. But it was all futile, and Luke writes, “neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest raged, all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned.” (20)

Did God cause the storm so Paul could be proved right? I don’t think so. Storms happen; men do stupid things, failing to take advice from those who are more experienced. Why would a sea captain listen to a mere passenger–and one who was a prisoner at that? As Josiah found out, God speaks to us in unexpected ways from unexpected sources. But the hearers must be listening. Josiah did not. And the centurion was not.


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