Psalm 145:1–7; 2 Kings 17:7–41; Acts 5:12–16

 Psalm 145:1–7: The superscription of this psalm—”A David song of praise“—leaves no doubt as to its purpose. And it launches directly into worshipful praise: “Let me exalt You, my God the king,/ and let me bless Your name forevermore.” (1)

The next verses provide poetic instruction about the nature and frequency of worship. It is a daily occurrence with no end date: “Every day let me bless You,/ and let me praise Your name forevermore.” (2) Even though we worship, we will never fully comprehend God’s magnificence: “Great is the Lord and highly praised,/ and His greatness cannot be fathomed.” (3) Worship extends not just to our lifetimes, but we are to teach the manner of worship to our progeny and they to theirs down through the generations: “Let one generation to the next extol Your deeds/ and tell of Your mighty acts.” (4)

The psalmist goes on to describe what aspects of God we are to focus on in the act of worship. Unlike the idols of the psalmists’ time—and ours—God is powerfully active in history, in the world, and in our lives, and that is what we celebrate in the act of worship:
Of the grandeur of Your glorious majesty
and Your wondrous acts let me treat.
And the power of Your awesome deeds let them say,
and Your greatness let me recount.” (5,6)

To be sure, we celebrate God’s powerful deeds, but also how he has blessed our individual lives: “The fame of Your great goodness they utter,/ and of Your bounty they joyously sing.” (7)

In short, worship is all about God, and not all bout us. Notice that nowhere here does the psalmist talk about his feelings. The dividends of worshipping God reflect back on us and we must never forget that we are God’s creatures and worship is our obligation—not our therapy.

2 Kings 17:7–41: The authors depart from their historical narrative to provide the reasons why Israel fell. It’s all really quite simple: “This occurred because the people of Israel had sinned against the Lord their God, who had brought them up out of the land of Egypt… They had worshiped other gods and walked in the customs of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel.”  (7, 8a) But Israel’s fall did not arise just because the people followed the pagan customs of the people who occupied Canaan when they arrived. They also fell because of a leadership failure. Israel also fell because of “the customs that the kings of Israel had introduced.” (8b)

Our authors go into specifics. They built “high places” and “ they set up for themselves pillars and sacred poles[b] on every high hill and under every green tree.” (10) Worse, “they served idols, of which the Lord had said to them, “You shall not do this.”” (12) God sent prophets to warn them but they “would not listen but were stubborn, as their ancestors had been, who did not believe in the Lord their God.” (14)

We get a catalog of specific sins:

  • “They despised his statutes, and his covenant” (14)
  • “They rejected all the commandments of the Lord their God and made for themselves cast images of two calves” (16)
  • “They made their sons and their daughters pass through fire;” (17a)
  • ” they used divination and augury” (17b)
  • “they sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking him to anger” (17c)

What God had threatened to do for so many centuries but up to now had always showed mercy, has now come to pass: “Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel and removed them out of his sight; none was left but the tribe of Judah alone.” (18)

Our authors—obviously from Judah themselves—note that “Judah also did not keep the commandments of the Lord their God but walked in the customs that Israel had introduced.” (19) Jeroboam receives special execration because as far as our authors are concerned, as he was the progenitor of many evil practices: “The people of Israel continued in all the sins that Jeroboam committed; they did not depart from them until the Lord removed Israel out of his sight.” (22, 23)

The king of Assyria replaces the population of Israel with “people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sepharvaim.” (24) Lions start attacking the population, so the king of Assyria sends Jewish priests to “go and live there, and teach them the law of the god of the land.” (27) As a result, traces of worship of God are restored, but it is ow just one religion among many. In the end, the people of Samaria, “worshiped the Lord but also served their own gods, after the manner of the nations from among whom they had been carried away.” (33) It is this syncretistic worship that is the greatest offense against God. Even as the priests (and we presume, a few prophets) reiterate the commandment again and again—”You shall not worship other gods, but you shall worship the Lord your God” (39)—the people “would not listen, however, but they continued to practice their former custom.” (40)

Our authors finally dismiss Israel as a hopeless case: “ So these nations worshiped the Lord, but also served their carved images; to this day their children and their children’s children continue to do as their ancestors did.” (41)

Acts 5:12–16: At this point in the early church in Jerusalem, the apostles continue the work of Jesus as they minister to the sick and injured, apparently pretty much able to do the same types of healing that Jesus did: “Now many signs and wonders were done among the people through the apostles.” (12) This has a profound impact on the population, “Yet more than ever believers were added to the Lord, great numbers of both men and women.” (14) The new believers “even carried out the sick into the streets, and laid them on cots and mats, in order that Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he came by.” (15)

This verse makes me nervous: Now, the people seem to be seeking Peter’s shadow, not of Jesus. This healing in Jerusalem and its suburbs could too easily become a personality cult around Peter. My theory is that it is this shift of focus from Jesus to Peter is what causes the apostles to eventually lose most of their healing power.

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