Psalm 18:17–25; 1 Chronicles 27; Acts 17:4–15

Psalm 18:17–25: Amidst the natural chaos—earthquakes, violent storms, volcanic eruptions—that our psalmist has described as God “tilting the heavens” and coming down to earth, there is a personal rescue as from drowning:
He reached down form on high and took me,
pulled me out of the many waters.
He save me from my daunting enemy
and from my foes who were stronger than I.” (17, 18)

But it was a close run thing. His enemies have already attacked: “The came at me on my day of disaster” (18a) but God has arrived at the very last moment and “the Lord became my support.” (19b) God “brought me out to a wide-open space,/ set me free, for His pleasure I was.” (20)

At first the word  ‘pleasure’ seems oddly out of place. David is rescued because he brings pleasure to God? The next verses tell us exactly why David was God’s ‘pleasure’ as we encounter the Old Covenant’s deuteronomic bargain. David has followed God and therefore has become God’s pleasure, worthy of rescue:
The Lord dealt with me by my merit,
for my cleanness of hands He requited me.
For I kept the ways of the Lord
and did no evil before my God.” (21, 22)

We arrive at one of the foundational themes that course through Psalms. This one is most on display in Psalm 119. If we keep God’s law diligently, God will reciprocate and provide rescue in our times of trouble:
For all His laws were before me.
From His statutes I did not swerve.
And I was blameless before Him,
and kept myself from crime.” (23, 24)

The deuteronomic logic is irrefutable. David has kept himself “from crime,” and therefore, “the Lord requited me for my merit,/ for my cleanness of hands in His eyes.” (25) Well, David may have been able to do that most—but not all— of the time, because we know he committed some big time sins. How much better the New Covenant is for us: to be saved through grace by Jesus Christ.

1 Chronicles 27: It’s beginning to look like no citizen of Israel will go unmentioned by the authors of Chronicles as list follows relentless upon list.

At least our authors are straightforward and simply call it for what it is: “This is the list of the people of Israel, the heads of families, the commanders of the thousands and the hundreds, and their officers who served the king in all matters…” (1) Twelve divisions of 24,000 men each rotates through David’s court, each serving for a month.

There’s a parallel leadership structure in Israel. The military that reports to David as commander -in-chief and then there are the tribal heads, which seem more like state governors. After listing the leaders, our authors remind us once again of David’s perfidy in going against God and performing a census: “David did not count those below twenty years of age, for the Lord had promised to make Israel as numerous as the stars of heaven.” (23) But as if for completeness, our authors mention the hapless Joab who “began to count them, but did not finish; yet wrath came upon Israel for this, and the number was not entered into the account of the Annals of King David.” (24) I feel sorry for poor Joab: caught between a demanding king and an angry God.

There is another civic structure described here. This one is the various officials that form something like a cabinet or heads of various ministries for the king. These include:

  • the treasuries,
  • work of the field (farmers),
  • vineyards,
  • “produce of the vineyards,” i.e. the wine cellars,
  • olive and sycamore trees,
  • oil (presumably olive oil)
  • herds that pastured in Sharon
  • herds in the valleys
  • camels
  • donkeys
  • flocks of sheep

Each head held the title of steward and “All these were stewards of King David’s property.” (31)

Finally, “Jonathan, David’s uncle, was a counselor, being a man of understanding and a scribe; Jehiel son of Hachmoni attended the king’s sons.” (32)

I cannot fail to be impressed at the level of organizational sophistication that is described here. When it comes to bureaucracies, there is truly nothing new under the sun.

Acts 17:4–15: Paul and Silas appear to be having great success in Thessalonica.But in describing the events there Luke gives us another clue as to Paul’s persuasive but also abrasive personality: “Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three sabbath days argued with them from the scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Messiah to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This is the Messiah, Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you.” (2,3)  

The Gentiles (“Greeks”) and women basically flock to Paul’s message but “the Jews became jealous, and with the help of some ruffians in the marketplaces they formed a mob and set the city in an uproar.” (5) [I love the word ‘ruffians!’] Paul and Silas cannot be found, so the mob attacks Jason’s house, who having once entertained Paul and Silas as guests, becomes the handy target for outrage. Some things just never change about protests that turn into riots. 

Jason is freed on bail, but to get the officials off the church’s back, the Thessalonian Christians “sent Paul and Silas off to Beroea; and when they arrived, they went to the Jewish synagogue.” (10) Here, there is greater success among the Jews who “welcomed the message very eagerly and examined the scriptures every day to see whether these things were so.” (11) Also, a number of Gentiles, including “men of high standing” become believers.

However, the Thessalonian Jews hear about this and head on over to Beroea “to stir up and incite the crowds.” (13) which they succeed in doing. The Beroean believers see that Paul is definitely the Thessalonian Jew’s target and they “immediately sent Paul away to the coast, but Silas and Timothy remained behind.” (14)

The bottom line here is that Paul was an outstanding theologian and clearly bested anyone who chose to argue against him—always a great way to create enmity. However, it’s also clear that he was an abrasive personality that stirred deep passions and one which had to be hustled off to the next town in order to prevent riots and hurting the church in whatever town he visited. Now wonder Paul started writing letters to the churches.

Paul sounds a lot like a certain abrasive personality now heading the executive branch. Unfortunately, unlike Paul, it’s going to be hard to hustle him off to the next town.

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