Psalm 7:11–18; 1 Chronicles 8; Acts 10:44–11:10

Originally published 1/10/2017. Revised and updated 1/9/2019.

Psalm 7:11–18: Our psalmist describes a deuteronomic world where everything is black and white, good and evil. Convinced that God will “exact justice for the righteous,” (12a) he is sure that God “utters doom [to the wicked] each day.” (12b)  He then goes on to describe the fairly horrific consequences that will befall the unrepentant man, describing God’s punishment in a stark metaphor of military weaponry:
If a man repent not, [God] sharpens His sword,
He pulls back the bow and aims it.
 (13)

Doubtless a source for the images of eternal punishment that suffused Medieval Christianity and Jonathan Edwars’ famouse sermon, ‘Sinners in the hands of an angry God,’ God is at the ready to execute capital punishment on the wicked form which there is no escape:
And for him [the wicked man], [God] readies the tools of death,
lets fly his arrows at the fleers.
 (14)

This imagery is about as far as one can get from the sweet images of a loving “Abba” God. Nevertheless, it’s worth remembering that vengeance is indeed God’s.

The metaphor shifts from God as warrior to describing how evil grows can grow from simple sin using the metaphor of a pregnant woman whose baby is growing in the womb:
Look, one spawns wrongdoing,
grows big with mischief,
gives birth to lies.
 (15)

But that’s how it happens, isn’t it? We start out with a simple prevarication and are able to get away with it. Too often, one thing leads to another and criminal activity is the result. But our evil actions have their inevitable consequences. As the saying goes, the wicked are ultimately hoisted on our own petard:
A pit he [the wicked man] delved, and dug it,
and he fell in the trap he made.
His mischief comes down on his head,
on his skull his outrage descends.” (16, 17)

Seeing the wicked get their just desserts is always satisfying. However, I’m not as optimistic as the psalmist that the wicked will become mired in their own conspiracies. Especially those in places of power. Nevertheless, this psalm reminds us that there is a better way to live: as a righteous human being following God. And that’s how the psalm ends: not in the pit of wickedness, but on the peak of righteousness, assured that in the end, God’s justice will prevail:
I acclaim the Lord for His righteousness,
let me hymn the Lord’s name, Most High.
 (18)

God is indeed the Most High. And when we focus above rather than below we avoid the mire of wickedness and God’s just punishment of the consequences of doing evil.

1 Chronicles 8: This chapter appears to have been written by a different author who apparently objected to the short shrift given to the descendants of Benjamin back in chapter 7.  Every son, grandson great grandson, etc. appears to be mentioned in this genealogy. The various descendants become head of “ancestral houses” (13, 28) and we can see how the population grew apace.

The one noteworthy descendant in the tribe of Benjamin is Saul, Israel’s first king: “Ner became the father of Kish, Kish of Saul, Saul of Jonathan, Malchishua, Abinadab, and Esh-baal.” (33) And then, other men that we met back in 1 Samuel: “the son of Jonathan was Merib-baal; and Merib-baal became the father of Micah.” (34) I wonder if this is the same Micah of the eponymous book in the Minor Prophets?

Apparently, the contemporaries of our author, who was certainly a Benjaminite himself, are the sons of a certain Ulam. They receive serious acclamation at the very end of the chapter: “The sons of Ulam were mighty warriors, archers, having many children and grandchildren, one hundred fifty. All these were Benjaminites.” (40) The thrust is (1) it’s good for a many to have many children and grandchildren and (2) it’s good if the sons and grandsons are “mighty warriors.”

Acts 10:44–11:10: The Gentiles are listening to Peter’s sermon and “while Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word.” (44) This is the official place where Gentiles become part of the Church. Needless to say, “the circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles.” (10:45) The proof of the gift of the Holy Spirit is that the Gentiles were “speaking in tongues and extolling God.” (10:46) In short, it’s a mini-Pentecost for the Gentiles. Given that the Holy Spirit had now arrived and demonstrated its power, Peter gives orders for “them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.” (48) What’s fascinating to me is that it is Peter and not Saul—soon to become Paul—who brings the message of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit to the Gentiles. We shall see Peter’s struggles with this fact later in Acts.

Peter arrives back at Jerusalem and is immediately criticized by the other apostles and disciples for consorting with Gentiles: “Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?” (11:3) Peter patiently explains his trance/dream at Joppa, emphasizing that he resisted mightily, telling God,”By no means, Lord; for nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.” (11:8) and that this happened two more times before “everything was pulled up again to heaven.” (11:10)

This of course is just the beginning of the long-standing conflict between Jewish and Gentile followers of Jesus. I wonder if any of the Jewish followers worried that the Gentiles would shortly become the dominant force within the church. Paul’s exhortations—”there is neither Jew nor Greek“—notwithstanding did they fear that the church would eventually become completely Gentile. That the Jewish side eventually died out is certainly one of the great tragedies of the early church. Think of how different history might have been if the Church remained equally Jewish and Gentile, and the Jews were never held responsible for Jesus’ death. The awful consequences of Jewish persecution down through the centuries, through the Holocaust, and down to today might never have occurred. Truly one of the great ‘what ifs’ of history…

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