Psalm 1; 1 Chronicles 3; Acts 9:1–9

Originally published 01/02/2017. Revised and updated 01/01/2019.  Happy New Year!

Psalm 1: This is the beginning of my eighth cycle through the Psalms.

The very first verse of the very first psalm states one of the key overarching themes that inhabit this book: the benefits granted to those who follow God as opposed to the bad outcomes of consorting with the wicked. We will see the ideas of the first verse expressed over and over through many of the 149 psalms to follow:
Happy the man who has not walked in the wicked’s counsel,
nor in the way of offenders has stood,
nor in the session of scoffers has sat.” (1)

The first key to a righteous life is to avoid succumbing to the temptations—and especially the words—of the wicked. Instead—and this is the second running theme—righteous comes from living a life that continually quests after learning God’s ways and God’s law. We have a hint of what is to come in Psalm 119 right here at the second verse:
But the Lord’s teaching is his desire,
and His teaching he murmurs day and night.
” (2)

This quest to learn and practice God’s law brings us to the first—and one of the most famous—metaphor in this book:
And he shall be like a tree planted by streams of water, (3a)

The quest of following God bears efficacious results:
that bears fruit in its season, (3b)

I have to think that Paul had this verse in mind when he writes of the fruit of the Spirit.

Following God brings life’s reward:
and its leaf does not wither—
and in all that he does he prospers
. (3c)

This is the deuteronomic quid pro quo that we encounter over and over in the Psalms: live a life that follows God and we will prosper. But I think it’s important to note that “prosper” is not the same as “prosperity” or wealth, which too many people today have perverted into a promise that God will bless them with tangible goods and wealth. “Prosper” here is the inner peace and insights of righteousness that arise from following God.

Our psalmist contrasts this fruitful life with the first simile in Psalms:
Not so the wicked,
but like chaff that the wind blows away.
 (4)

The psalm concludes with a clear statement concatenating the consequences of a righteous life following God or a dissolute life ignoring God.
For the Lord embraces the way of the righteous,
and the way of the wicked is lost.
 (6)

In the end, it’s really just that simple. We have a binary choice to live a righteous or dissolute life. When it comes to our life choices, the Bible—and later the Gospels—leave no gray areas. We can choose to follow God and Jesus. Or not.

1 Chronicles 3: It’s becoming increasingly clear that the authors of Chronicles are more accountants than writers as the tote up the progeny of David and Solomon. as well as keeping careful track of durations of kingly reigns.

This chapter lists the numerous sons of David, which are by both his wives and concubines. Six sons were born while he reigned in Hebron, “where he reigned for seven years and six months.” (4) While David reigns for 33 years in Jerusalem, four sons—including Solomon—are borne by Bath-shua, followed by an additional nine sons.  We at last find out about a sister amidst all these sons: Tamar (9) Fecundity, thy name is Bath-shua.

Then, the descendants of Solomon: sons (Abijah et al), grandsons (Johanan et al), great grandsons, and so on. The tragic reality of course is that all the sons, grandsons, great grandsons and on and on “did evil in the sight of the Lord” as we read over and over in 2 Kings. And probably in this book as well.

Acts 9:1–9: We arrive at the incident that instigated the conversion of Saul on his road trip to Damascus to arrest Christians there.

To show the dramatic contrast of the most famous conversion in history, Luke leaves little doubt that Saul was on a quest to stamp out this heretical variant of Judaism: “Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.” (1, 2)

Saul’s vision of a glorified Jesus, who asks the most famous question in this book—“Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (4) leads eventually to the transformation of the church from a Jerusalem-based, primarily Jewish sect to a worldwide church of Gentiles.

Our author is careful to point out that Saul’s vision was for him alone, i.e., that Jesus reached out and specifically chose Saul, and Saul alone: “The men who were traveling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one.” (7)

Saul is blinded by the glory of the risen Christ and in an echo of Jesus’ time in the tomb, “three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank” (9) we know that Saul has indeed experienced a life-changing event. Many have experienced conversion experiences across the centuries, but I think none was as transformative and impactful on history as Saul on the road to Damascus. Only Jesus has had greater effect on turning the world upside down.

 

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