Psalm 9:1–11; 1 Chronicles 9:35–11:3; Acts 11:25–12:5

Originally published 1/12/2017. Revised and updated 1/11/2019.

Psalm 9:1–11: This thanksgiving psalm begins with an excellent description of the various aspects of worship:
I acclaim the Lord with all my heart,
let me tell of all His wonders.
Let me rejoice and be glad in You,
let me hymn Your name, Most High.” (2,3)

Worship should consume our entire being—all our heart. It is not something we do while thinking about other things. Worship is testimony as we tell of “all His wonders,” both of our personal feelings as well as the glories of God’s creation. Worship is suffused in joy, and above all, it is focused solely on God, and for us Christians, always on Jesus in both singing and speech.

The reason for the psalmist’s joy is that God has delivered justice:
For You upheld my justice, my right,
You sat on the throne of the righteous judge.

The backstory appears to be that there has been a tremendous victory by Israel over its enemies:
You rebuked the nations, destroyed the wicked,
their name You wiped out forever.

As is always the case in the OT (and certainly in our current readings in I Chronicles!), it is always about names. Without a name there is no reality, no existence. Thus, the defeated nations, having lost their name, are as if they never existed:
The enemy—ruins that are gone for all time,
and towns you smashed, their name is lost.

God, who is beyond time, is the source of all justice:
But the Lord is forever enthroned,
makes His throne for justice unshaken.

Moreover, God is not just a local God for Israel; God reigns over all humankind and judges everyone—a theme we encounter big time in Revelation:
And He judges the the world in righteousness,
lays down law to the nations in truth.

There is nothing capricious about God, who can judge only in righteousness and truth. We hear often today that we are living in a “post-truth” era, at least as far as politics is concerned. We cannot overestimate the doleful trajectory of a culture that does not center itself as God does: on truth and righteousness.

As always, God is the protector of the discouraged and powerless:
Let the Lord be a fortress for the downcast,
a fortress in times of distress.

Because God never abandons us we return God’s faithfulness with our trust—and worship. God knows our names and we know his:
And those who know Your name will trust You,
for You forsook not Your seekers, O Lord.

God of course is the “name above all names.”

1 Chronicles 9:35–11:3: This epic 9-chapter genealogy finally concludes with the family of Jeiel and arrives at Saul about eight generations later. Then we read of Saul’s descendants on down to a succeeding eight generations, which probably brought it up to the present day as the authors were writing. So Saul, who began his reign with such promise, may have become a weak, paranoid leader who drifted away from God at the end of his reign, but there’s no question that he is still honored in this chapter and in Israel as its first king.

At chapter 10 we finally come to history, which opens at the final battle where Saul is defeated and asks his reluctant armor-bearer to “Draw your sword, and thrust me through with it, so that these uncircumcised may not come and make sport of me.” (10:4) The armor-bearer refuses and Saul famously falls on his own sword.

The authors record how the Philistines took Saul’s body, stripped it, decapitated him, and “put his armor in the temple of their gods, and fastened his head in the temple of Dagon.” (10:10) Upon hearing of this outrage, “all the valiant warriors got up and took away the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons, and brought them to Jabesh.” (12)

Our authors editorialize, observing that “Saul died for his unfaithfulness; he was unfaithful to the Lord in that he did not keep the command of the Lord.” (10:13) Even more egregious, Saul “had consulted a medium, seeking guidance, and did not seek guidance from the Lord.” (10:13, 14)

Our authors conclude Saul’s story by asserting, “Therefore the Lord put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse.” (10:14) In short, it was God’s action that placed David on Israel’s throne. The question of course is, does God act in a similar fashion today? Personally, I doubt he would have chosen any of the politicians that we seem to have been stuck with for the last 50 years—and certainly not the present crop of “leaders.”

David is eagerly accepted by the populace of Israel, who tell him that even though Saul was king it was pretty much in name only because “it was you [David] who commanded the army of Israel,” (11:2) i.e., David was already at the center of power. Israel itself recognizes that God chose David and “David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the Lord.” (11:3a) Accordingly, David is anointed “king over Israel, according to the word of the Lord by Samuel.” (11:3b). As is the question at the beginning of every kingly accession, will David keep his promise to Israel and to God?

Acts 11:25–12:5: While on his road trip to Antioch, Barnabas heads over to Tarsus and retrieves Saul. It’s clear by the timing that Barnabas believes that Saul is the perfect guy to preach to the Gentiles—and it will keep him away from Jerusalem where he has a rather poor reputation and where he caused so much dissension.

Luke notes that “it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called “Christians.” (11:26) A name that has certainly stuck…

A Jewish prophet named Agabus arrives in Antioch and “predicted by the Spirit that there would be a severe famine over all the world.” (11:27a) Luke attests to the famine’s historic actuality when he tells us that “this took place during the reign of Claudius.” (11:27b) The Antioch believers send aid down to Judea via Barnabas and Saul—a great sign of Gentiles aiding Jews because they were all one in Jesus.

After enjoying substantial growth the church now enters a time of persecution. King Herod, obviously fearing that his power base would be undermined by these Christians, “had James, the brother of John, killed with the sword.” (12:2) This proved to be popular with the Jews and the king then arrests Peter. Rather than killing him outright, Herod plans to make a public example of Peter following Passover, so he places Peter in prison. What’s significant here is that “While Peter was kept in prison, the church prayed fervently to God for him.” (12:5)

I think it’s important for us American Christians to remember that the church has been persecuted by the political authorities since its earliest years. That why trying to claim America is a “Christian nation” or is somehow “blessed by God” is such a stupid act. These folks are just playing into the hands of modern day Herods, who see themselves as the all-knowing elites and will always cast Christianity as superstitious intolerance. We need to recognize that as Peter points out in his eponymous epistle, Christians are always resident aliens and never part of the power structure. We must always be looking to Jesus, not to temporal power.

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