Psalm 31:11–21; 2 Chronicles 36; Acts 27:9–20

Psalm 31:11–21: Now we come to the confessional meat of this psalm. The psalmist, speaking as David admitsthat his exhaustion that has been caused by the consequences of his sin:
For my life is exhausted in sorrow
and my years in sighing.
Through my crime my strength stumbles
and my limbs are worn out.” (11)

He is ashamed in front of his enemies and his friends are repulsed. The degradation is even worse because he has been “Forgotten from the heart like the dead. / I become like a vessel lost.” (13) If we ever needed a poetic description of the depths of despair and depression it is right in these verses. This is a beautiful description of how it is to feel abandoned by everyone we know—and by God, too.

Nevertheless, he is still subject to the conspiracies of his enemies and
I heard the slander of many,
terror all round,
when they conspired against me,
when they plotted to take my life.” (14)

But even in this dreadful situation, hemmed in on all sides, in despair one hope remains: “As for me, I trust in You, O Lord.” (15) It is only God who can “save me/ from the hand of my enemies, my pursuers.” (16)

As he focuses on God, we see the glimmer of hope grow and as usual, the wish for his enemies to suffer as he has suffered:
Let the wicked know shame,
and be stilled in Sheol.
Let lying lips be silent,
that speak haughty against the just
in arrogance and contempt.” (18, 19)

I read this verse as a plea for justice. Alas, in our fallen world, these words are just as meaningful in our own fallen culture as they were in David’s. It is the wicked who always seem to be on the ascendant. And yet.And yet…

In the end, it is the just who receive God’s protection as he pleads, “Conceal them in the hiding-place of Your presence/ from the crookedness of man.” (21) These are the verses to cling to for those who are depressed and those who are oppressed. Only God provides the shelter from the storm. And we of the New Covenant  find hope in just one place: Jesus Christ.

2 Chronicles 36: With Josiah’s death, things quickly go downhill in Judah. Josiah’s son, Jehoahaz ascends the throne. HI reign is short-lived as the Pharaoh Neco deposes Jehoahaz, demand enormous reparations form Judah and places Jehoahaz’s brother Jehoikim on the throne of Judah.

Alas, the rule of evil sons coming from good men seems to apply, and during his 11 year rule, Jehoiakim “did what was evil in the sight of the Lord his God.” (5)  At this point in Judah’s long, mostly sad history of suffering under evil kings, our authors don’t even have to say it. God punishes Jehoiakim as “King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came up, and bound him with fetters to take him to Babylon.” (6) He dies.

Jehoaikim’s 8-year old son replaces him and reigned for 3 months and 10 days. Like his father, he “did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.” (9) Really? How does an 8-year old kid do evil in God’s sight? Would he even know better or even be responsible for worshipping the false gods of his father? I think our authors are being unduly harsh here.

In any event, his 21-year old brother, Zedekiah, becomes king. One wonders why he wasn’t chosen king in the first place over the 8-year old. Of course, there’s no surprise here, “He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord His God.” Moreover, “He did not humble himself before the prophet Jeremiah who spoke from the mouth of the Lord.” (12)

He even “rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar, who had made him swear by God; he stiffened his neck and hardened his heart against turning to the Lord, the God of Israel.” (13) In other words, even the Nebuchadnezzar’s political threats are insufficient to get Zedekiah to mend his ways. As always, when corruption is at the top, it filters downward and “All the leading priests and the people also were exceedingly unfaithful, following all the abominations of the nations; and they polluted the house of the Lord that he had consecrated in Jerusalem.” (14)

God sends prophets to warn the king and people against their apostasy “because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place.” (15) but they only mocked the prophets. In one of the most freighted verses in this book, our authors observe that even God gives up on his people and “the wrath of the Lord against his people became so great that there was no remedy.” (16) Reflect on that for a moment. Imagine evil so immense that even God gives up.

Both God and Nebuchadnezzar have had enough of the rebellion and stupidity emanating from Jerusalem. In one of the saddest verses in the Bible, God “brought up against them the king of the Chaldeans, who killed their youths with the sword in the house of their sanctuary, and had no compassion on young man or young woman, the aged or the feeble; he gave them all into his hand.” (17) The treasures of the temple are carted off by the Babylonians, and they “burned the house of God, broke down the wall of Jerusalem, burned all its palaces with fire, and destroyed all its precious vessels.” (19) The few who survive this invasion are hauled off to Babylon. All this was “to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had made up for its sabbaths. All the days that it lay desolate it kept sabbath, to fulfill seventy years.” (21) Leave it to our authors to find symbolic meaning in the 70 year exile.

The authors completely skip over what happened during the 70 years of exile and report that King Cyrus of Persia, who conquered Babylon, “in fulfillment of the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah, the Lord stirred up the spirit of King Cyrus of Persia so that he sent a herald throughout all his kingdom and also declared in a written edict” (22) The edict announces that God had charged Cyrus to “build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may the Lord his God be with him! Let him go up.” (23) In other words, the Jews can return to Jerusalem and rebuild the city and the temple.

On the cusp of the return to Jerusalem, our authors put down their pens and roll up the scroll.

Acts 27:9–20: Things are not going well on Paul’s long journey from Caesarea to Rome. Paul predicts that the next leg of their trip will be dangerous: “Sirs, I can see that the voyage will be with danger and much heavy loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.” (10) But Paul lacks credibility for his weather forecasting skills and they put out to sea anyway, planning to winter over at “a harbor of Crete, facing southwest and northwest.” (12)

Not surprisingly, Paul’s forecast was exactly spot on, and “a violent wind, called the northeaster, rushed down from Crete.” (14) Luke reports that they “were scarcely able to get the ship’s boat under control.” (16) But things get worse and they toss the cargo as well as the ship’s tackle overboard. The reading ends on a grim note: “When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest raged, all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned.” (20)

We could probably create some sort of metaphor here of life’s struggles that include violent emotional storms, but sometimes narrative is just narrative and a storm is just a storm.




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