Psalm 27:7–14; 2 Chronicles 28:9–29:19; Acts 24:4–16

Psalm 27:7–14: See yesterday’s post.

2 Chronicles 28:9–29:19: Because of the apostasy of Judah under Ahaz, Judah has been soundly defeated in battle by Israel. It would appear that the kingdom of Judah will soon be history. However, a prophet named Oded meets the returning Samaritan army and points out that they have defeated Judah because “the Lord, the God of your ancestors, was angry with Judah, he gave them into your hand, but you have killed them in a rage that has reached up to heaven.” (28:10) He warns them to send the captives back to Judah “for the fierce wrath of the Lord is upon you.” (28:11)

In addition to Oded’s warning, several Ephramite chiefs “stood up against those who were coming from the war,” (12) and warn the others that “You shall not bring the captives in here, for you propose to bring on us guilt against the Lord in addition to our present sins and guilt. For our guilt is already great, and there is fierce wrath against Israel.” (28:13) This proves that even in the most evil empire there are still men of good will who follow God and wish to hew to the Covenant. The “get it.”

Their persuasion was apparently successful and the Ephramites “took the captives, and with the booty they clothed all that were naked among them; they clothed them, gave them sandals, provided them with food and drink, and anointed them; and carrying all the feeble among them on donkeys, they brought them to their kindred at Jericho, the city of palm trees.” (15) I have to believe that Jesus had exactly this event in mind when he told the story of the good Samaritan because these men were indeed good Samaritans. I wonder of any in Jesus’ audience remembered this historical incident when he told the story? Certainly the Pharisees should have recalled it.

Ahaz and Judah are saved by the grace of God, but unlike the Ephramites, Ahaz still doesn’t get it. He attempts to establish an alliance with the king of Assyria. But still faithless, Ahaz brings only disaster on Judah as “King Tilgath-pilneser of Assyria came against him, and oppressed him instead of strengthening him.” (28:20) But Ahaz continues to persist in his willful faithlessness against God. and he turns now to the small-g gods of Aram. He closes the temple at Jerusalem and “made himself altars in every corner of Jerusalem.” (28:24) Judah is certainly at its lowest point by this time. He finally dies. It’s difficult to imagine any other king of Judah who tested God’s restraint and the promise of an “everlasting kingdom” that he had made to David more than Ahaz.

Rather than being ruled by any of Ahaz’s progeny, Hezekiah, whose mother was a daughter of Zechariah, ascends the throne of Judah. His first act in the first month of his reign is to reopen and repair the temple doors and restore the Levitical priesthood to its rightful place. Unlike his predecessor, Hezekiah “gets it” and tells the people that because of their apostasy, “the wrath of the Lord came upon Judah and Jerusalem, and he has made them an object of horror, of astonishment, and of hissing, as you see with your own eyes.” (29:8)

Hezekiah vows to “make a covenant with the Lord, the God of Israel, so that his fierce anger may turn away from us.” (29:10) The priests tend to the Herculean task of cleaning out the temple. It takes eight days and another eight days to once again sanctify the temple. Things are finally looking up in Judah.

Acts 24:4–16: The Jewish lawyer, “a certain Tertullus” gives his fawning opening statement about how grateful the Jews are to live under the benevolent dictatorship of the Romans. Uh huh. Right. I’m pretty sure Felix saw through that one.

Tertullus casts Paul as a rabble-rouser of the first order. Worse, as “an agitator among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes.” (5) Then, Tertullus accuses Paul of trying to profane the temple—a blatant lie, but a serious charge. The Jews who are with Tertullus bear false witness and “also joined in the charge by asserting that all this was true.” (9)

Paul, acting as his own defense counsel, stands up and speaks, asserting that if Felix cares to investigate, he would find that he only appeared in Jerusalem to worship at the temple a mere twelve days ago. Moreover, Paul asserts, “They did not find me disputing with anyone in the temple or stirring up a crowd either in the synagogues or throughout the city.” (12) and that the Jewish charge cannot be proved.

However, when it comes to matters of theology, Paul does admit “that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our ancestors, believing everything laid down according to the law or written in the prophets.” (14) He then explains that he has “a hope in God—a hope that they themselves also accept—that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.” (15) This is an excellent reminder to the Jews who are present—and to us— that far from being heretical, Paul in fact has exactly the same theological views they do—if they were willing to admit it, which I suspect they will not.

Having heard both sides, what will Felix decide?

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