Psalm 147:1–6; 2 Kings 21:1–22:10; Acts 7:17–29

Psalm 147:1–6: The editors of Psalms knew exactly what they were doing as they conclude the collection with praise hymns. What better way to end our long journey through every human emotion and every aspect of God’s character than to sing God’s praises in joyful worship. This is the point of the opening verse of this hymn: “For it is good to hymn to our God,/ for it is sweet to adorn with praise.” (1)

On this Christmas Eve, these lines remind me of God’s greatest historical intervention of all: the birth of Jesus, who comes to earth fully human, fully God. It is the church established by Jesus Christ of which each Christian is a member that has fulfilled through the centuries—and continues to fulfill—God’s wonderful actions that our psalmist describes here:
Builder of Jerusalem, the Lord,
Israel’s scattered ones He gathers in.
Healer of the broken-hearted,
He binds their painful wounds.” (2,3)

It’s worth remembering that before Christianity there were no orphanages, no hospitals, no universities.

God has acted on our behalf through Jesus Christ because he is our Creator and “He counts the number of the stars,/ to all of them gives names.” (4) If God can count and name the infinity of stars, it is through the person of Jesus that we can perceive but a tiny aspect of God’s powerful reality and more importantly, his love for us, “Great is our master, abounding in power,/ His wisdom is beyond number.” (5)

I think this  why Jesus came to earth: that we could experience the ineffable saving power of “The Lord [who] sustains the lowly,/ [and who] casts the wicked to the ground” (6) up close and personal. The reality of Jesus has given us an even sharper picture of God’s power and grace than this psalmist could even have imagined. 

2 Kings 21:1–22:10: Hezekiah’s son, Manasseh, takes over and reigns 55 years in Jerusalem. Alas, unlike his father he reverts to long-standing pattern: “He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, following the abominable practices of the nations that the Lord drove out before the people of Israel.” (21:2) Our authors point out that not only did he rebuild “high places,” including an image of the idol, Asherah in the temple court itself, “He made his son pass through fire; he practiced soothsaying and augury, and dealt with mediums and with wizards.” (21:6) Needless to say, Manasseh kindles God’s anger. Our authors make it clear that it is the failure of leadership that causes the hoi polloi to be led astray. “Manasseh misled [the people] to do more evil than the nations had done that the Lord destroyed before the people of Israel.” (9) Which is saying something indeed…

Needless to say, the prophets of God predict dire consequences: “therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, I am bringing upon Jerusalem and Judah such evil that the ears of everyone who hears of it will tingle.” (12) And in one of the more creative metaphors in this book, the prophets announce that God “will wipe Jerusalem as one wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down.” (13) But Manasseh continues to do evil, and his enduring legacy is that “he caused Judah to sin so that they did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.” (16)

Manasseh’s son, Amon, succeeds him at age 22 and like father, like son, “He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, as his father Manasseh had done.” (20) However, after reigning a mere two years his servants assassinate him. The assassins are in turn killed by “the people of the land,” (24) which I take to be from among the hoi polloi, who are responding to 57 years of evil leadership. They place eight-year old Josiah on the throne, who reigns for 31 years. At long last, a good king. Josiah “did what was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in all the way of his father David; he did not turn aside to the right or to the left.” (22:2)

Eighteen years into his reign, Josiah directs the high priest, Hilkiah to distribute funds that have been squirreled away in the temple “to the carpenters, to the builders, to the masons; and let them use it to buy timber and quarried stone to repair the house.” (22:6) The repair project results in discovery of a book, which Hilkiah gives to Josiah’s servant, Shaphan, to bring to the king.

What, we wonder, is in the book? Stay tuned…

Acts 7:17–29: Luke employs Stephen’s lengthy sermon to place Jesus in the historical context of Israel, even though he has not yet uttered Jesus’ name. In these verses Stephen focuses on the Egyptian captivity and Moses, who “When he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his relatives, the Israelites.” (23) Stephen asserts that Moses’ murder of the Egyptian overseer was justified because “he saw one of them being wronged, he defended the oppressed man and avenged him by striking down the Egyptian.” (24) However, the Israelites around Moses did not “understand that God through him was rescuing them,” (25) and one of the Israelite slaves accuses Moses, “Who made you a ruler and a judge over us? Do you want to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?’” (27, 28)

We can begin to see the parallels here and where Stephen is going. By focusing on this aspect of the Moses story, we can sense Stephen leading to the observation that in the same way, the Israel in which he is preaching has also rejected Jesus—just as their ancestors rejected Moses.


Speak Your Mind