Psalm 18:8–16; 1 Chronicles 26; Acts 16:30–17:3

Psalm 18:8–16: David has cried out to God in his distress and God hears him: “He heard from His palace my voice,/ and my outcry before Him came to His ears.” (8) What follows is an amazing description that is essentially cinematic as this brilliant poetry evokes incredible images of power.

God not only hears he acts. And there’s nothing subtle about God’s response for it affects all nature, beginning with a violent earthquake:
The earth heaved and shuddered,
the mountains’ foundations were shaken.” (9a)

Followed by a volcanic eruption:
They heaved, for smoke rose from His nostrils
and fire from His mouth consumed,
coals blazed up around Him.” (9b)

So, the question becomes, is this theophany an actual description of God’s power or is our psalmist simply giving us a dramatic metaphor for God’s power? To me, the details in the verses seem to suggest an eyewitness account. Whether or not these events actually happened doesn’t really matter. We have a marvelous reminder of God’s power that many believed (and many still believe) is expressed through natural phenomena.

Then in a remarkable image of heaven intersecting with earth, “He tilted the heavens, came down,/ dense mist beneath His feet.” (10) As if dramatic natural manifestations of God’s power were not enough, God “mounted a cherub and flew,/ and He soared on the wings of the wind.” (11)

But amidst all this sturm und drang, God still remains hidden from view: “He set darkness His hiding place around him,” (12a) And then with dark foreboding he sneaks up on David’s enemies, “His abode water-massing, the clouds of the skies.” (12b) WHich I take to be something like a giant thunderhead reaching far up into the atmosphere. David’s enemies can see that something awful is about to happen because God is suddenly visible as the skies open: “From the brilliance before Him His clouds moved ahead—/ hail and fiery coals.” (13) We encounter these kinds of dramatic images later in Revelation, leading me to believe that the author knew this psalm well.

And then it happens. God in all his terror acts against David’s enemies who are no match for God’s power as they flee in terror:
He let loose His arrows, and scattered them,
lightning bolts shot, and He panicked them.” (15)

This theophany becomes even more apocalyptic as earth seems transformed back to its primordial origins:
The channels of water were exposed,
and the world’s foundations laid bare
from the Lord’s roaring,
from the blast of Your nostril’s breath.” (16)

These verses are important to recall when we call God, “Abba,” but forget that God is no ordinary father. To be sure, God loves us, but he is also the source of unimaginable power.

1 Chronicles 26: The endless organization chart continues with the names and organization of the gatekeeper, who are split into three divisions, and guard the entrances to Jerusalem.

Then come the treasurers, accountants, and judges. “The sons of Jehieli, Zetham and his brother Joel, were in charge of the treasuries of the house of the Lord.” (22) The treasury is divided into two parts: [1] the gifts brought by David and the leaders of the army (26) and [2] the gifts from the past: “all that Samuel the seer, and Saul son of Kish, and Abner son of Ner, and Joab son of Zeruiah had dedicated.” (28)

Then, “Chenaniah and his sons were appointed to outside duties for Israel, as officers and judges.” (29) In addition, 1700 “men of ability, had the oversight of Israel west of the Jordan for all the work of the Lord and for the service of the king.” (30) It would be great to be designated a “man of ability.”  The key here is that responsible people were put in charge. We can only hope for the same in our own day…

Acts 16:30–17:3: Rescued form suicide the Philippian jailer asks Paul a simple but all-important question. And it’s the question every person really has to ask one way or the other at some point in his or her life: “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (3) Paul’s answer is equally simple and straightforward: “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” (31) The jailer and his family are quickly baptized and then there a party. NOtice there are no complicated statements of doctrine or theological discussions or other hoops through which the jailer must jump—especially the circumcision hoop.

Apparently someone at the Philippi city hall came to his senses and word was sent that “The magistrates sent word to let you go; therefore come out now and go in peace.” (36) The officials would be only too happy to shove the wretched affair under the proverbial rug, but Paul would have nothing of it: “They have beaten us in public, uncondemned, men who are Roman citizens, and have thrown us into prison; and now are they going to discharge us in secret? Certainly not!” (37)

So, the fearful authorities apologize to Paul and Silas and asked them to leave Philippi. However, Paul and Silas return to Lydia’s house and only then, “when they had seen and encouraged the brothers and sisters there, they departed.” (40) This is a great example of Paul’s fearlessness and the fact that he did not submit to false authority.

So, what are the lessons here? One is that sometimes there really is justice and as so many psalms remind us, the wicked do indeed get their comeuppance. The other more important lesson, I think, is that one does not need to be a theologian to be saved. One needs only to believe on Jesus Christ and accept the wonderful gift he has given us. And then throw a party. For that is what grace is all about: salvation and the joy that comes form the knowledge we are indeed saved.

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