Psalm 3; 1 Chronicles 4:24–43; Acts 9:23–35

Originally published 01/04/2017. Revised and updated 01/04/2019. 

Psalm 3: Our psalmist ascribes this psalm to David “when he fled from Absalom his son.” (1) Alter points out that the Hebrew is ambiguous and while it implies David is the author it also implies that it might refer to different author, who is writing “in the manner of David.” My own view is that most of these “David psalms” were probably written by others, but it seems pointless to argue. David it is.

This is the first psalm of supplication in the book and David’s situation is desperate. He is beset on all sides:
Lord, how many are my foes,
many, who rise up against me
. (2)

While others may think that there is “No rescue for him through God,” (3) David’s faith remains strong:
And You, Lord, a shield are for me,
my glory, Who lifts up my head
. (4)

The question for us of course is, would we still have faith in God when so many things have gone wrong, even to the point of others saying, ‘God won’t rescue him?’ In any event, David’s faith is strong:
With my voice I cry out to the Lord,
and He answers me from His holy mountain
. (5)

Assured via this prayer, Davis knows that God’s rescue is imminent. And he now enjoys inner peace:
I lie down and I sleep.
I awake, for the Lord has sustained me.
 (6)

Fear has been banished even though he is surrounded and outnumbered:
I fear not from myriads of troops
that round about set against me.
” (7)

There is one final cry of confidence that God will intervene—and intervene violently:
Rise, Lord! Rescue me, my God,
for You strike all my foes on the cheek,
the teeth of the wicked You smash. (8)

I think it’s crucial here to note that David leaves the dirty work to God; he does not pray for strength to do the striking and smashing himself. As with vengeance, violence belongs to God.

The psalm concludes with a restatement that “Rescue is the Lord’s!” (9a) And those who follow God faithfully are indeed blessed:
On Your people Your blessing. (9b)

This psalm is a marvelous statement of strongly grounded faith that is put to the test. Here, David’s faith remains invincible. Would mine?

1 Chronicles 4:24–43: Apparently we are going to slog through the genealogies of all twelve of Jacob’s sons. Next up: Simeon, who apparently had seven sons. Simeon’s grandson, “Shimei had sixteen sons and six daughters; but his brothers did not have many children, nor did all their family multiply like the Judeans.” (27) Their towns seem to fade from the map after David becomes king.

Ultimately, though, the descendants of Simeon take up agriculture and work peacefully in Gedor, “where they found rich, good pasture, and the land was very broad, quiet, and peaceful; for the former inhabitants there belonged to Ham.” (40) The Simeonites repulse the ‘sons of Ham’—Amalekites— during the reign of King Hezekiah and take up residence in Mount Seir. I  think our authors are making key point here is that these people obeyed God’s original command to eliminate all traces of their enemies—and will be rewarded with the land: they destroyed the remnant of the Amalekites that had escaped, and they have lived there to this day. (43)

Acts 9:23–35: The converted Saul is now preaching Christ as aggressively and with the same passion he once devoted to capturing Christians. His enthusiasm and doubtless strong and logical argumentation leads to a plot by the Jewish leaders in Damascus to kill him should he appear at the city gates. Saul’s followers cleverly “took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a basket.” (25)

Saul heads back to Jerusalem where he attempts to join the other disciples, who understandably are not convinced Saul has been converted, thinking rather it was a clever plot by him to capture them. But Barnabas stands up for Saul and “described for them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had spoken boldly in the name of Jesus.” (27) They finally accept that Saul is now truly one of them.

There’s nothing like a newly-converted Christian to preach enthusiastically, and Saul is apparently the exemplar. In Jerusalem he manages to offend the Hellenists with whom “he spoke and argued” to the point that they want to kill him. Recognizing that Saul is doing the Jerusalem church no particular good, the other apostles hustle him off to Caesarea and put him on a boat back to his hometown of Tarsus. Perhaps they have recognized that Saul will be far more effective—and less threatening—if he goes and preaches to Gentiles. “Meanwhile the church throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and was built up.” (31a) because they were “living in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.” (31b)

The clear message here is that it is the Holy Spirit, not aggressive or enthusiastic preaching, that builds up the church. Paul’s aggressive arguments—and as we will read in his letters, they were both creative and theologically sound—manages only to offend rather than convert. The other clear message is that Saul—soon to become Paul—has lawyeresque skills that are going to be used by God that are far beyond noisy debates in Damascus or Jerusalem.

The scene now shifts to Peter, who heals a certain Aeneas with the happy result that “all the residents of Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord.” (35) At this point in the life of the early church, acts of healing by the apostles appears to be primary driver of growth. But I suspect the time remaining for this form of conversion-by-healing is limited to the actual apostles who were part of the original twelve who walked with Jesus. We certainly know that Paul never engages in healing.

 

 

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