Psalm 141:5–10; 2 Kings 9; Acts 2:29–47

Psalm 141:5–10: Our psalmist continues to contrast his piety with the impious wicked person(s). He is willing to endure the pummeling of the wicked because his faith in God trumps personal hurt. But somewhat surprisingly, also those who claim to be righteous and faithful: “Let the righteous man strike me,/ the faithful rebuke me.” (5a) He will of course continue to reject the actions of those he deems wicked, even if their motives appear anodyne: “Let no wicked man’s oil adorn my head,/ for still my prayer is against their evils.” (5b)

Then we move into creative imprecations against these wicked folk with the added irony that they will hear this (self-)righteous man’s prayers: “Let their leaders slip on a rock,/ and let them hear my words which are sweet.” (6)  Suddenly an image of natural destruction that suggests he will always be faithful even to the end of creation: “As when the earth is parted and split,/ our bones are scattered in the mouth of Sheol.” (7)

Despite whatever calamity that may come to pass, however, our psalmist will remain faithful and that it would be good if God in return continued to protect him: “For to You, O Lord, my eyes turn/ In You I take refuge. Expose not my life.” (8)  Then, one final plea for God to protect him from the conspiratorial wiles of his enemies: “Guard me from the trap they laid for me/ and the snares of the wrongdoers.” (9) Even as the wicked fall into their own traps, he alone will remain faithful: “May the wicked fall in their nets./ I alone shall go on.” (10)

I have the feeling that this psalm was popular among the Pharisees of Jesus’ time because it so clearly juxtaposes personal (self-)righteousness over against everyone else who is either a conspirator, wicked, or more typically, both. But for me, this psalm is just a bit too self-absorbed.

2 Kings 9: Elisha is now in charge of a number of prophets. He commands one of his unnamed subalterns to take some oil to Jehu, who is another son of Jehoshaphat, and anoint him, telling him he will become king. The young prophet finds Jehu sitting with other military commanders as they plot their next move. The prophet calls Jehu outside and “poured the oil on his head, saying to him, “Thus says the Lord the God of Israel: I anoint you king over the people of the Lord, over Israel.” (6) Moreover, the prophet tells Jehu that he will strike down the entire house of Ahab so that God “may avenge on Jezebel the blood of my servants the prophets, and the blood of all the servants of the Lord.” (7) Among other things, “The dogs shall eat Jezebel in the territory of Jezreel, and no one shall bury her.” (10) As soon as he is finished speaking the prophet flees the scene.

Jehu goes back to his commanders who ask, “Why did that madman come to you?” (11) [Prophets were seen as crazies even then…] At first Jehu tries to deflect the conversation, but his fellow officers persist and he tells them that the prophet anointed him as king of Israel. What follows is  one of the speedier coup d’etats on record, Jehu’s fellow officers “hurriedly…took their cloaks and spread them for him on the bare steps; and they blew the trumpet, and proclaimed, “Jehu is king.” (13)

Jeu takes immediate action and arrives at Joram’s residence where the king is recovering from battle-inflicted wounds. King Ahaziah of Judah is also there. Joram’s arrival is seen by the guard outside the city walls. The king sends out a couple of horsemen to find out who it is, but Jehu doesn’t let them return. Finally, Joram himself looks out and see who’s coming. In one of the funniest lines in the OT, Joram says, “It looks like the driving of Jehu son of Nimshi; for he drives like a maniac.” (20)

Joram and Ahaziah go out to meet Jehu, asking if he comes in peace. Jehu replies, “What peace can there be, so long as the many whoredoms and sorceries of your mother Jezebel continue?” (22) Joram’s last words are, “Treason, Ahaziah!” as Jehu draws his bow and “shot Joram between the shoulders, so that the arrow pierced his heart.” (23) Jehu’s men also wound Ahaziah. He escapes to Megiddo, where the king of Judah dies.

Jehu arrives at the city of Samaria and orders “two or three eunuchs” to toss Jezebel out the window and she dies. As prophesied, the dogs eat Jezebel’s corpse before she can be buried.

So what to make of all this? First, vengeance is indeed God’s as Elisha, the young prophet, and Jehu all follow God’s instructions. Second, as my father used to say, “The chickens always come home to roost.” The evil committed by Ahab, Jezebel, Joram and Ahaziah leads to dire consequences, including the memorable image, “the corpse of Jezebel shall be like dung on the field.” (37)

Acts 2:29–47: Peter concludes his sermon by clearly linking Jesus to Israel’s national hero, David. Peter asserts that while David remains dead and buried, he predicted Jesus’ resurrection and quotes a psalm, “He was not abandoned to Hades,/ nor did his flesh experience corruption.’” (31) Peter has pointed out that David is now a secondary figure proclaiming that it is Jesus who is the true Messiah. Just to make sure no one misses the point, Peter says quite clearly and directly, “Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.” (36)

This sermon has an enormous impact on Peter’s listeners and “they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” (37) Again, a clear and direct answer from Peter: ““Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (38)

And there we have it. What theologians call the kerygma: Jesus comes to us, and when we confess our sins and respond in baptism we are a Christian. It’s really that simple. Three thousand people did exactly that and began to follow Jesus. Following this ground-breaking sermon, the apostles continue to make a major impression in Jerusalem: “Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles.” (43) Luke gives us a picture of the activities of the early church, which included “All who believed were together and had all things in common.” (44) The converts spent time in the temple and “broke bread at home  and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people.” (46, 47)

Those were the halcyon days of the early church. But alas, it would not last.


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