Psalm 2; 1 Chronicles 4:1–23; Acts 9:10–22

Originally published 01/03/2017. Revised and updated 01/02/2019. 

Psalm 2: If we ever wanted an opening line that perfectly describes today’s world, it would be hard to top this one:
Why are the nations aroused,
and the peoples murmur vain things?

There may not have been Twitter and Facebook back then, but people still complained and focused on the wrong things. Our psalmist then goes on to perfectly describe today’s political and social hostility to God:
Kings of earth take their stand,
and princes conspire together
against the Lord and against His anointed. (2)

This psalm is doubtless describing a certain political uprising and mockingly writes of the conspirator’s plans to free themselves from God’s provenance and establish a new more enlightened leadership:
Let us tear off their fetters,
let us fling away their bonds!

This is exactly what is happening today as America continues to abandon the “fetters” and “bonds” of a moral society—all in the name of individual freedom and a culture of victimhood. Our psalmist reminds his audience—and us—that God will laugh at this temerity and will eventually repay them for their sins:
He who dwells in the heavens will laugh,
the Master derides them.
Then will He speak to them in His wrath,
in His burning anger dismay them. (4,5)

Today, we may not see a direct intervention by God, but I believe we are beginning to experience the doleful consequences of a spiritually unmoored (unhinged?) society.

In the second half of the psalm, God’s speaks directly to his anointed king:
And I—I appointed My king
on Zion, My holy mountain.

Then, in a passage that addresses these political circumstances, the psalmist describes the king as God’s son. But from our Christian perspective, this statement is also a pre-echo of Jesus Christ:
He [God] said to me: ‘You are my son.
I Myself today did beget You.

We can read the verses that follow both as a description of the then-current political situation and the psalmist’s assurance that God will intervene in the affair of men and set things right once again. These verses are also as a striking eschatological description of the end of history as we read it in John’s Revelation:
You will smash them with a rod of iron,
like a potter’s jar you will dash them.

And now, O you kings, pay mind,
be chastened, you rulers of the earth.
 (9, 10)

One hopes for the same thing in today’s squalid politics and ceaseless rumors of conspiracy. As God’s creatures we are not only called to acknowledge him, but to worship with deep reverence:
Worship the Lord in fear,
and exult in trembling.

With purity be armed. (11, 12a)

Ultimately, only those who acknowledge God will find true joy: “Happy, all who shelter in Him.” (12)

1 Chronicles 4:1–23: That our authors are Judeans becomes perfectly clear in this exhaustingly detailed description of the descendants of Jacob’s son, Judah.

Who knew that Ephrathah was the father of Bethlehem? (4) Or that “Jabez was honored more than his brothers; and his mother named him Jabez, saying, “Because I bore him in pain.” (9)

It is in this chapter that we encounter the so-called prayer of Jabez, made famous by author Bruce Wilkinson in his 2001 book, The Prayer of Jabez: Devotional: “Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from hurt and harm!” And God granted what he asked.” (10)

This prayer has been claimed by many as one of the foundational justifications of the so-called “prosperity gospel.” There’s no question that the prayer worked for Jabez but it’s a good example of being careful to understand context. The authors do not make any editorial comment about the general applicability or efficacy of this prayer; they are citing it more as an interesting historical footnote.

Acts 9:10–22: A Jesus disciple in Damascus receives a vision from God. God simply says his name, “Ananias,” and “He answered, “Here I am, Lord.” (10). This answer is of course an example for all of us. If we claim to be Jesus followers, our response when asked should always be, “Here I am, Lord.”

God instructs Ananias to lay hands on Saul so that he will regain his sight. Understandably, Ananias is not very enthusiastic about carrying out that mission: Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.” (13, 14)

It might have ended right there. But God goes on to explain, Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” (15, 16) In this respect Ananias was fortunate. When we feel we are being led in a certain direction by God, God is usually remains frustratingly silent. [This is a frustration we encounter frequently in the Psalms, as well.]

Ananias obeys and lays his hands on Saul and intones, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” (17) By being filled with the Holy Spirit it is here that Saul becomes an official apostle and his eyesight is not only restored, but it’s clear he sees the Christians around him in a completely new and different way. The Holy Spirit has a way of doing that… Our author is also making it clear that when Jesus comes to us we too see the world and people around us in a new way.

Following his baptism and a quick bite to eat, the converted Saul loses no time in heading to the synagogue and preaching that Jesus is the “son of God.” (20) Needless to say, the Jewish officials who had invited Saul to come and cleanse Damascus of this new heretical sect are less than pleased: “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem among those who invoked this name? And has he not come here for the purpose of bringing them bound before the chief priests?” (21) But Saul is undeterred and “became increasingly more powerful and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Messiah.” (22)

With Saul’s conversion the focus of Acts will be shifting from the Jewish Christian church more and more on Paul and the Gentile Christian church, which is the express commission Saul—soon to be Paul— has received from Jesus himself.

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