Psalm 5; 1 Chronicles 5:23–6:30; Acts 10:9–23a

Originally published 1/6/2017. Revised and updated 1/5/2019.

Psalm 5: This psalm of supplication has a greater sense of urgency than the preceding one as it seems almost to instruct God—twice:
Hearken to my speech, O Lord,
attend to my utterance.
Listen well to my voice crying out, my king and my God,
for to You I pray.
 (2, 3)

This stentorian opening is soften in the next verse where our psalmist expresses his assurance that God is indeed listening to his supplications—and that he will wait patiently for God’s response:
Lord, in the morning You hear my voice,
in the morning I lay it before You and wait. (4)

As always, there is the bifurcation between the righteous supplicant and the wicked men who surround him. Unlike the small-g gods, God cannot abide intentional wrongdoing:
For not a god desiring wickedness are You,
no evil will sojourn by You
. (5)

In fact, our psalmist (presumptuously?) states what God will and will not tolerate:
The debauched take no stand in Your eyes,
You hate all the wrongdoers.

The fallout of God’s hatred of wickedness and prevarication is pretty intense:
You destroy pronouncers of lies
a man of blood and deceit the Lord loathes.

Whereas by contrast, the God-follower experiences only God’s kindness as he seeks God’s guidance—always aware that God would reject him if he pursues unrighteousness:
As for me—through Your great kindness I enter Your house.
I bow to Your holy temple in the fear of You.
Guide me, O Lord, in Your righteousness
.” (8, 9a)

We then encounter one of the more severe descriptions of the kind of enemies plotting against David. Interestingly, their primary weapon is speech—basically identical to present day politics:
For there is nothing right in their mouths,
within them—falsehood.
” (10a)

A brilliant metaphor follows, beautifully describing the deceit of too many politicians today:
An open grave their throat,
their tongue, smooth-talking
. (10b)

Our psalmist, speaking as David, asks but one thing: Condemn them, O God.” (11a) However, he is not asking that they be done in by the sword, but by their own conspiratorial words and of course the greatest sin of all, which is rebelling against God:
Let them fall by their counsels for their many sins.
Cast them off, for they have rebelled against You.

As usual, the psalm concludes with the great contrast between the wicked who have ultimately fallen and those, who like the psalmist, are righteous men worshipping God:
Let all who shelter in You rejoice,
let them sing gladly forever—protect them!

It is those who are righteous and who follow God that are blessed because God reserves his favors for them: For You bless the just man, O Lord. (13)

Once again, there are no gray areas about our behavior; no ambiguity to hide behind: we either follow God and his righteousness or we don’t. And if we don’t, our grim fate is clearly defined.

1 Chronicles 5:23–6:30: The half-tribe of Manasseh goes next as our authors note that “they were very numerous from Bashan to Baal-hermon, Senir, and Mount Hermon.” (5:23)  They have multiplied with fecundity, but their multitude of sins led to the the tribe being carried away along with the Reubenites and the Gadites by the Assyrians for one simple reason: “They transgressed against the God of their ancestors, and prostituted themselves to the gods of the peoples of the land.” (25)

The genealogy of the priestly clan, the Levites, is laid out in extensive detail. Our authors avoid any editorial comments about the Levite’s behavior other than to note that they “went into exile when the Lord sent Judah and Jerusalem into exile by the hand of Nebuchadnezzar.” (6:15) We assume that as the scholars of  Judea, it was the Levites themselves writing this genealogy and therefore they avoided any possibility of besmirching their ancestors.

Acts 10:9–23a: Peter has his famous picnic vision while his meal was being prepared in the journey down to Cornelius. He sees a collection of Gentile—and therefore unclean—food together with the command, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat.” (13) As an observant Jew, Peter naturally refuses, so God in the vision is forced to clarify that eating the Gentile food is exactly what he has commanded Peter to do, turning centuries of Jewish practice on its head: “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” (15) After a third instruction, which our author does not describe, Peter emerges from his trance deeply confused (and doubtless conflicted).

Just then, “while Peter was greatly puzzled about what to make of the vision that he had seen, suddenly the men sent by Cornelius appeared.” (17) He hears them ask for him and this time the Holy Spirit takes over: “While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Look, three men are searching for you.” (19). Unlike the vision, there is no ambiguity from the Holy Spirit as it instructs Peter quite clearly, “Now get up, go down, and go with them without hesitation; for I have sent them.” (20)

The next day Peter sets out from Joppa to make the famous visit where Gentiles officially become part of the church.

This story is told in such detail because the full participation of Gentiles in the early church was certainly a fraught matter because of rather clear Jewish law. And there will be lots of conflict to come over whether or not Gentiles must fully observe Jewish law, including circumcision. This is also a dramatic statement that Peter, upon whom the church was founded, is the one who is called to go meet the Gentile centurion and his family. These are the bona fides that the early church needed to “go into all the world.” Since it’s the apostle primus inter pares who goes to sup with the Gentiles, there’s no ambiguity about including Gentiles in the church going forward.


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