Psalm 6; 1 Chronicles 6:31–81; Acts 10:23b–34

Originally published 1/7/2015. Revised and updated 1/7/2019.

Psalm 6: We can almost feel the psalmist’s pain as he cries out to God from his sick bed for mercy. As always, the idea is that illness is God’s punishment for wrongdoing:
Lord, do not chastise me in Your wrath.
Have mercy on me, LORD, for I am wretched.
Heal me, for my limbs are stricken.
And my life is hard stricken. (2, 3, 4a).

The assurance of God’s presence that we saw in earlier psalms is completely absent. In fact, it seems that this psalmist has been calling on God for quite a while, and the only answer is silence:
—and You, O Lord, how long? (4b)

But our poet is not so sick that he cannot apply logic to make his case in order to cause God to answer. After all, God cannot be worshipped if he is dead:
For death holds no mention of You.
In Sheol who can acclaim You? (6)

Perhaps if God realizes how desperately the psalmist longs desperately in his tears of pain and despair for God to respond:
I weary in my sighing.
I make my bed swim every night, 
with my tears I water my couch.
From vexation my eye becomes dim,

is worn out, because of my foes. (7, 8)

And then. And then, comes an answer. God has indeed been listening. The tears vanish; we can imagine the weak smile on the poet’s tear-stained face:
Turn from me, all you wrongdoers,
or the LORD hears the sound of my weeping.
The LORD hears my plea,
the LORD will take my prayer. (9, 10).

His enemies, who doubtless have been assuring him that God cannot hear him are now “shamed and hard stricken.” (11)

This is the psalm that speaks so profoundly to those of who feel we are praying to a God who is not listening. But God is indeed listening. He hears. The next question: Will God speak?

1 Chronicles 6:31–81: Our scrupulous Chroniclers, having listed the genealogies of every tribe of Israel now turn their attention to other inventories, listing the men and their sons and grandsons who served as musicians and priests for David and then, Solomon, including Heman, Samuel’s grandson. We have to wonder which of these men wrote psalms among the list compiled by the Chronicler. I assume that “musician” included not just “player,” but “composer” and “poet” as well.

The Chronicler then turns his attention to inventorying the land and settlements occupied by the Levites, as we recall that the tribe of Levi, being priests, were allocated pieces of land by each of the other tribes. The allocation appear to be a small town and its surrounding pasture lands.  Even in this humble inventory we are reminded that land was at the center of God’s promise to Israel.

Acts 10:23b–33: Peter arrives at Cornelius’ house, who immediately falls down and tries to worship Peter, who in turn “made him get up, saying, “Stand up; I am only a mortal.” (26). I think Luke is making a critical point here. Jesus had not somehow passed along his divinity to his disciples; they were human like everyone else. That would be an important point for the early church, especially as if fought off the influences of gnosticism.

Quite a crowd has gathered and again, Luke underscores the radical nature of this meeting as Peter says, “You yourselves know that it is unlawful for a Jew to associate with or to visit a Gentile; but God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean.” (28) So he has obeyed God and appeared before Cornelius, who still doesn’t know why Peter is there.

Cornelius describes what happened with military precision, including the exact time, “Four days ago at this very hour, at three o’clock,” (30a), explaining only that “a man in dazzling clothes stood before me.” (30b) commanded him to send for Peter at Joppa. [Cornelius seems to be one of the few people in the Bible who is not afraid of an angelic visitation.] And not just send for Peter, but “here in the presence of God to listen to all that the Lord has commanded you to say.” (33) Notice how Cornelius makes it clear that both Jew and gentile are standing in “the presence of God.” Luke is telling us that what is about to happen is not a human idea, but an action that comes from God himself via the power of the Holy Spirit.

Peter begins his speech to Cornelius [and I presume by this time, quite a few listeners, including the soldier’s family, servants and the troops he commanded.] Peter states that God is available to everyone—whether Jew or Gentile. I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all.” (34-36) These sentences are the operation details of Jesus’ Great Commission to “go into all the world.”

Peter states the kerygma, “They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear,” (40, 41) He then states the Good News that is indeed for every person, not just the Jews: “[Jesus] commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead.  All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” (42, 43) There is no ambiguity here! Jesus died to forgive the sins of every person—the living and the dead.

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