Psalm 31:1–6; 2 Chronicles 34:8–33; Acts 26:15–27

Psalm 31:1–6: To be blunt, this psalm of supplication appears to have borrowed many of its tropes from other psalms—almost to the point of predictability. After a brief introduction stating, “In You, O Lord, I shelter,/ let me never be shamed,” our psalmist asks God to listen, and then to rescue him with a certain urgency:
In Your bounty, O free me.
Incline Your ear to me.
Quick, save me.
Be my stronghold of rock,
a fort-house to rescue me.” (2, 3)

The next verse echoes Psalm 23:
For You are my crag and bastion,
and for Your name’s sake guide me and lead me.” (4)

Perhaps it’s my mood this morning, but I don’t sense the anxious desperation that we encounter in other psalms of supplication. Perhaps it’s because we’ve read these same phrases too many times already.

We get a hint from the psalmist, speaking as David, that enemies are conspiring against him, but it almost seems a passing reference before he changes the subject:
Get me out of the net that they laid for me,
for You are my stronghold.” (5)

Suddenly, just six verses in there seems to be an out-of-place benediction of sorts:
In Your hand I commend my spirit.
You redeemed me, O Lord, God of truth.” (6)

Yes, there is giving his being over to God and the acknowledgement that God has redeemed him. But I just can’t get over the feeling that our psalmist has just phoned this in. We’ll see how things progress tomorrow.

2 Chronicles 34:8–33: Having been desecrated so many times and, I presume, subject to lots of deferred maintenance, the temple at Jerusalem is pretty much in a shambles. In the 18th year of his reign, Josiah has collected funds “from Manasseh and Ephraim and from all the remnant of Israel and from all Judah and Benjamin and from the inhabitants of Jerusalem” (9) to restore the temple.  As the workman set about repairing the house of God, “the priest Hilkiah found the book of the law of the Lord given through Moses.” (14) He gives it to his secretary, Shaphan, who brings it to Josiah.

Upon hearing the word of the Lord, Josiah tears his clothes and asks the high priest and a couple of servants to “Go, inquire of the Lord for me and for those who are left in Israel and in Judah, concerning the words of the book that has been found.” (21a) Josiah rather correctly fears that the punishment for the sins of their ancestors will be meted upon them, “for the wrath of the Lord that is poured out on us is great, because our ancestors did not keep the word of the Lord.” (21b)

Their inquiry leads them to the prophet Huldah, a female prophetess, the wife of the king’s wardrobe master. She confirms Josiah’s fear that because of the apostasy of their ancestors, “Tell the man who sent you to me, Thus says the Lord: I will indeed bring disaster upon this place and upon its inhabitants, all the curses that are written in the book that was read before the king of Judah.” (24)

However, because Josiah’s “heart was penitent and you humbled yourself before God when you heard his words against this place and its inhabitants, and you have humbled yourself before me, and have torn your clothes and wept before me, I also have heard you, says the Lord.” (27) God grants a delay for the punishment to come to Josiah and Judah: “your eyes shall not see all the disaster that I will bring on this place and its inhabitants.” (28)

Obviously the disaster to come was the final conquest of Jerusalem and the exile to Babylon, which is where our authors are writing from.

Upon hearing this, as well as more words from the book, “the king stood in his place and made a covenant before the Lord, to follow the Lord, keeping his commandments, his decrees, and his statutes, with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant that were written in this book.” (31) Josiah makes all of Jerusalem and Benjamin take the same oath and for the reminder of the Josiah’s time of the throne, “All his days they did not turn away from following the Lord the God of their ancestors.” (33)

The clear message here is that the sins of the father are indeed visited upon the children. Judah has been saved for the time being, but the consequences of all the evil in Judah’s history will indeed bear bitter fruit. I believe this principle is still very much in operation today. There will be consequences upon our progeny for the sins our generation has committed—and continues to commit.

Acts 26:15–27: Paul relates to Agrippa that his Damascus Road experience was a holy commission directly from God, “to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” (18)

Paul goes on to relate how he has carried out that commission by speaking first to Jews and then to Gentiles. However, regardless of the audience, the message was always the same: “that they should repent and turn to God and do deeds consistent with repentance.” (20) Paul seems to be telling Agrippa (and us) that it was because he carried this message to the Gentiles that “the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me.” (21) But he continues to insist that he has done nothing more than to declare that Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of “what the prophets and Moses said would take place: that the Messiah must suffer, and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.” (22, 23)

Festus, who is listening to Paul’s disquisition, finds this theology all a bit confusing and accuses Paul, “You are out of your mind, Paul! Too much learning is driving you insane!” (24) —certainly one of the more dramatic moments in Acts, and a clear message to the readers of Acts that many besides Festus had also probably declared Paul insane.

But Paul stands his ground: “I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking the sober truth.” (25) he points out that Agrippa is well aware of what Moses and the prophets had said.

Paul then famously asks Agrippa for the order: “King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe.” (27) How will Agrippa respond? How would we respond?

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