Psalm 16:7–11; 1 Chronicles 21:27–22:19; Acts 15:19–31

Psalm 16:7–11: Our psalmist writes in the second half that because God has brought him to his senses about the futility of worshipping the small-g gods, his life is now suffused with a peaceful conscience: “I shall bless the Lord who gave me counsel/ through the nights that my conscience would lash me.” (7) God has become the guide of his entire being, the key to living an upright life: “I set the Lord always before me,/ on my right hand, that I not stumble.” (8) Which is enormously good advice for us, as well. It is when we hew to the small-g gods in our own lives that we drift away from God and inevitably into a guilty conscience.

The concluding verses are an expression of the joy that permeates the psalmist’s entire being—an image that’s intensified by the references to his heart and the blood that pulses in him: “So my heart rejoices and my pulse beats with joy,/ my whole body abides secure.” (9) This verse resonates because it demonstrates so clearly that a right relationship with God is not just an abstract spiritual feeling, but that true joy in God is an intense physical experience as well.

Our psalmist has total assurance that God will always be with him—that he is indeed saved from an awful fate: “For You will not forsake my life to Sheol/ You won’t let Your faithful one see the Pit.” (10) Rather, God is about a life well lived where joy rather than a a guilty conscience is the order of the day:
Make me know the path of life.
Joys overflow in Your presence,
delights in Your right hand forever.” (11)

A right relationship with God means joy, never fear and never a guilty conscience.

1 Chronicles 21:27–22:19: God answers David’s fervent prayer to save Israel from the pestilence and “the Lord commanded the angel, and he put his sword back into its sheath.” (21:27) God’s angel has struck fear into David and he is now afraid to go before God in the tabernacle currently located at Gibeon. Instead, David determines that the threshing floor of Ornan is where the permanent structure of a temple is to be located. Which suggests that Ornan’s threshing floor was atop what is now called Temple Mount in the middle of Jerusalem.

Among David’s final acts as king is to assemble and prepare the materials for the temple, which will be built by his son Solomon. He “set stonecutters to prepare dressed stones for building the house of God. David also provided great stores of iron for nails for the doors of the gates and for clamps, as well as bronze in quantities beyond weighing, and cedar logs without number.” (22:2-4) It’s just like our accountant authors to provide a fairly complete inventory of building materials!

Now that those details have been taken care of, David “called for his son Solomon and charged him to build a house for the Lord, the God of Israel,” (22:6) explaining that he cannot build because God told him that “you [David] have shed so much blood in my sight on the earth.” (22:8)

David goes on to tell Solomon that God has given the future king a great promise: “I will give peace  and quiet to Israel in his days. He shall build a house for my name. He shall be a son to me, and I will be a father to him, and I will establish his royal throne in Israel forever.’” (9, 10)

David advises Solomon, “may the Lord grant you discretion and understanding, so that when he gives you charge over Israel you may keep the law of the Lord your God.” (12) Solomon has a lot to work with as our accountants happily relate in their usual inventory fashion that David has “provided for the house of the Lord one hundred thousand talents of gold, one million talents of silver, and bronze and iron beyond weighing, for there is so much of it; timber and stone too I have provided.” (14) David has also provided an abundance of labor, “stonecutters, masons, carpenters, and all kinds of artisans without number, skilled in working gold, silver, bronze, and iron” (15, 16a).

David then gives his son a final fatherly command: “Now begin the work, and the Lord be with you.” (16b). Just to make sure we get the point that it was David who decided where the temple was going to be built, who performed a lot of pre-construction work, and most importantly that he was Israel’s greatest king, David gives a final instruction to “the leaders of Israel to help his son Solomon, saying, “Is not the Lord your God with you? Has he not given you peace on every side? For he has delivered the inhabitants of the land into my hand; and the land is subdued before the Lord and his people.” (18)  David may have blood on his hands, but to our authors he was also a holy man of God, who in the end accepts he will not have the honor of building the temple for the God whom he loves. The question is, would I be so willing to forego a project on which my heart was so firmly set?

Acts 15:19–31: The Jerusalem conference issues its communique that insofar as circumcision is concerned, Peter has “reached the decision that we should not trouble those Gentiles who are turning to God.” (19) However, he does ask them to follow some Jewish dietary laws: “we should write to them to abstain only from things polluted by idols and from fornication and from whatever has been strangled and from blood.” (20)

To make sure that the Gentiles at Antioch understand that the church at Jerusalem has made this all-important decision, Judas Barsabbas and Silas accompany Paul and Barnabas back to Antioch, letter in hand, to make it clear Paul and Barnabas are not making this up.

Luke helpfully quotes the letter, which after a lengthy introduction of who Judas Barsabbas and Silas are, gets to the meat: “For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to impose on you no further burden than these essentials: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from fornication. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well.” (28, 29)

To say that the members of the Antioch congregation were happy is something of an understatement as Luke somewhat drily observes, “When its members read it, they rejoiced at the exhortation.” (31) Good news indeed. For the church at Antioch and every gentile Christian. Although we’ll find out via Paul’s various epistles that the letter form Jerusalem did not completely put the circumcision issue to rest.

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