Psalm 7:1–10; 1 Chronicles 7; Acts 10:34–43

Originally published 1/8/2017. Revised and updated 1/8/2019.

Psalm 7:1–10: Our psalmist, whom we’ll presume to be David, comes right to the point in this psalm of supplication with a breathlessness suggesting he is on the run—and his enemies are not far behind:
Lord, my God, in You I sheltered.
Rescue me from all my pursuers and save me
. (2)

That the situation is beyond desperate becomes clear in the violent simile that follows:
Lest like a lion they tear up my life—
rend me, with no one to save me.
 (3)

David underscores his innocence, effectively daring God to allow the enemies to capture and kill him:
Lord, my God, if I have done this,
if there be wrongdoing in my hands
If I paid back my ally with evil,

if I oppressed my foes without reason—
may the enemy pursue and overtake me
and trample to earth my life
and make my glory dwell in the dust.” (4–6)

Since he believes himself to be truly innocent he assumes God is angry with his enemies rather than himself. Consequently, he pleads with God to execute vengeance on them (remembering always that vengeance is God’s alone). The underlying assumption about God is that God’s demand for justice is even greater than David’s because injustice has upset the order of creation:
Rise up, O Lord, in Your anger,
Loom high against the wrath of my enemies.
Rouse for me the the justice You ordained. (7)

The camera pulls back from this single desperate man, expanding the psalm’s viewpoint to reveal the multitude of people—ultimately comprising entire nations—all of whom God judges:
A band of nations surrounds You,
and above it to the heights return.
The Lord will judge peoples.
 (8, 9a)

David tells God that in his innocence he deserves justice:
Grant me justice, Lord, as befits my righteousness
and as befits my innocence that is in me.
 (9b)

Our poet’s logic is inexorable: since he is innocent and since God demands justice, God will deliver justice. In the end, the wicked will be consumed by their own wicked deeds while the righteous will prevail:
May evil put an end to the wicked;
and make the righteous stay unshaken.
 (10a)

That’s because God knows the heart and motivations of every human:
He searches hearts and conscience,
God is righteous.
” (10b)

In these times where evil seems to be on every corner we too can find hope in this psalm that God will ultimately set things right.

1 Chronicles 7: This chapter covers the genealogies of the tribal descendants of Issachar, Benjamin, Naphtali, Manasseh, Ephraim, and Asher. Of this group the authors clearly prefer the tribes of Issachar and Benjamin, noting the number of “mighty warriors” each tribe offered: “Their kindred belonging to all the families of Issachar were in all eighty-seven thousand mighty warriors, enrolled by genealogy.” (5) The descendants of Benjamin are “mighty warriors, seventeen thousand two hundred, ready for service in war.” (11)—(about whom we will read more in the next chapter). Asher gets some credit as well: “Their number enrolled by genealogies, for service in war, was twenty-six thousand men.” (40)

Clearly, Naphtali was a non-entity as far as our authors are concerned, being basically written off in a single verse: “The descendants of Naphtali: Jahziel, Guni, Jezer, and Shallum, the descendants of Bilhah.” (13) Beginning and end of story. (Or had they lost the genealogical records of Naphtali and this all the data our authors had?

As for Manasseh and Ephram, they are almost as inconsequential as Naphtali. There is no mention anywhere of “mighty warriors.” Instead, we hear only of defeat: “Now the people of Gath, who were born in the land, killed them, because they came down to raid their cattle.” (21)  About all the authors have to say about them beyond  the naming of names is to note the towns they where they lived.

Nevertheless, the naming of names is crucial. Without names these ancestors will be lost to history. I wonder how many of my ancestors have been lost to history? Will I? Or will I be remembered?

Acts 10:34–43: In this crucial passage lies the foundational charter of the Christian church. Peter speaks to the Gentiles, admitting that God is not for the Jews alone, but for all humankind: 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.” (35) To emphasize his point, he says that although Jesus was sent to the people of Israel, Jesus’ message of peace is for everyone because “he is Lord of all” (36).

As always, Peter’s sermon reviews what Jesus did, making sure that everyone understands that it was the power of the Holy Spirit—that same power the apostles now possess—that was the engine of Jesus’ ministry: “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.” (38) Notice also that Peter underscores the primary theme of the Hebrew Scriptures: that God means to bring justice to the poor and oppressed—the so-called “social gospel,” too often demoted by evangelicals over-eager to save people’s souls.

Peter reviews the core of the Good News: “They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear.” (39b, 40) But it’s worth pausing and noting the apostolic exclusivity here: “not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.” (41) This is the operating definition of “apostle” and why I believe only this group could perform healing miracles through the power of the Holy Spirit because they had eaten and drunk with the risen Jesus. Even though Paul experienced a theophany on the road to Damascus, he was not blessed with healing power. Just as the rest of us down through the centuries have not been so blessed.

Peter wraps up his sermon with the Great Commission—”He 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. (42)—and repeats that every person “who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” (43) At this point there is no ambiguity whatsoever: the saving power of Jesus Christ is for everyone—a theme Paul picks up again and again in his epistles.

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