Psalm 18:26–30; 1 Chronicles 28,29; Acts 17:16–28

Originally published 1/31/2017. Revised and updated 1/31/2019.

Psalm 18:26—30: After describing how God rescued him from his enemies, our psalmist provides a general theological overview to all those who follow God by showing how God reciprocates in exactly the same way we approach him:
With the faithful You deal faithfully,
with a blameless man, [You] act without blame.
With the pure one, You deal purely,
with the perverse man, [You] deal in twists.” (26, 27)

He writes about one of the great themes of the Hebrew scriptures, that God cares for the lowly and rejects the self-centered mighty:
For it is You Who rescues the lowly folk
and haughty eyes You bring low. (28)

The subtext here is that if we do not approach God in humility, then God will seem irrelevant to us. And we certainly see that in abundance in a society where individual rights are paramount and God (and community) is pushed into the background.

In a powerful metaphor, the psalmist expresses how God is the sole source of guidance as we follow life’s dark and twisty path:
For You light up my lamp, O Lord
my God illumines my darkness.
 (29)

We cannot make it through life on our own. We must remember that when we encounter obstacles, it is God who helps us leap over them:
For through You I rush at a barrier,
through my God I can vault a wall.
” (30)

This last metaphor reminds me of how we had to get over a tall wall with no handholds when I was at OCS. To surmount this obstacle we had to run right toward the wall and then take off on the right foot to clear it. Here, in a wonderful metaphor of the Christian life we are encouraged to run with all our might toward—not away from— the obstacle, confidently faithful that God will help us over. With faith in God we do not have to be stymied by the hurdles that life throws at us, confident that with faith in God all things are indeed possible.

1 Chronicles 28,29: Sometimes I do not understand the Moravians. We plod one chapter at a time through the endless lists and now that we finally come to the narrative we have to rush through it…

David gathers his staff together and announces that while he had planned to build the temple himself, God intervened telling the king, “‘You shall not build a house for my name, for you are a warrior and have shed blood.’” (28:3). Then he tells the assembly that it is God—not him— who has chosen Solomon from among David’s many sons to be the next king. David tells “all Israel, the assembly of the Lord, and in the hearing of our God, observe and search out all the commandments of the Lord your God; that you may possess this good land, and leave it for an inheritance to your children after you forever.” (28:8) Once again, we have the terms of the covenant stated for all to hear: observe and search out all the commandments of the Lord your God.

David may not be able to build the temple but he has been its funder and its architect as he hands Solomon “the plan of all that he had in mind: for the courts of the house of the Lord, all the surrounding chambers, the treasuries of the house of God, and the treasuries for dedicated gifts.” (28:12) In addition, he hands over the organization charts as well as “all the vessels for the service in the house of the Lord,” (13) He makes sure that Solomon and all listening clearly understand that this is God’s plan, telling them,“All this, in writing at the Lord’s direction, he made clear to me—the plan of all the works.” (28:19)

Realizing his work is nearly done, David bestows a final blessing on his son: “Be strong and of good courage, and act. Do not be afraid or dismayed; for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you, until all the work for the service of the house of the Lord is finished.” (28:20) This is the fatherly blessing that I think every son wants to hear.

The king then turns to everyone assembled there and asks them to assist his inexperienced son, telling them, “My son Solomon, whom alone God has chosen, is young and inexperienced, and the work is great.” (29:2) He tells everyone how much he has contributed to the funds required to build the temple and asks each person there, “Who then will offer willingly, consecrating themselves today to the Lord?” (29:5) This is an excellent example of a leader having made his own substantial contribution before asking it of others. Something that TV evangelists seem to fail to do.

The next verse would be a terrific passage on which to base a stewardship sermon as our authors write, “Then the people rejoiced because these had given willingly, for with single mind they had offered freely to the Lord; King David also rejoiced greatly.” (9) What a terrific description of a true free-will offering!

The offering complete, David prays one of the greatest prayers in Scripture. In that prayer he observes that in God’s big picture we humans are mere ephemera: “For we are aliens and transients before you, as were all our ancestors; our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no hope.” (15) This is a theme that Peter picks up in his eponymous letter about we Christians being resident aliens here on earth.

David concludes his prayer by asking God to “Grant to my son Solomon that with single mind he may keep your commandments, your decrees, and your statutes, performing all of them, and that he may build the temple for which I have made provision.” (19) The people in attendance “bowed their heads and prostrated themselves before the Lord and the king.” (20)

The next day is filled with the offering of sacrifices and everyone “ate and drank before the Lord on that day with great joy.” (22) This is a reminder that worship is at the center of our lives, but that God also wants us to have a party afterwards.

Solomon sits on the throne and all pledge their allegiance to him as our authors remind us that “The Lord highly exalted Solomon in the sight of all Israel, and bestowed upon him such royal majesty as had not been on any king before him in Israel.” (25)

Acts 17:16–28: Paul arrives in Athens and “was deeply distressed to see that the city was full of idols.” (16) Paul, being Paul, “argued in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and also in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there.” (17) Some Epicurean and Stoic philosophers debate him, but Paul seems to have met his intellectual match and some call him a “babbler.” The Athenians are interested in what Paul has to say more for its academic interest than anything having to do with faith in God. Which is certainly how much of the world views Christianity today—or at least that portion of the world that doesn’t view Christianity as a threat to world peace or to newly-defined minorities.

Paul uses the altar “to an unknown god” as his launch point to tell them that “God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands,” (24)  Given the plentitude of shrines on the Acropolis, this was doubtless a new concept to them. Paul then uses logic to move from point to point, announcing that those who “would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us.” (27) That statement probably makes sense to their philosophical minds, but then Paul says,  “‘In him we live and move and have our being’” and attempts to tie that idea to one of their own poets, observing that “some of your own poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring.’” (28).

The question at this point is can people be saved by Paul’s supremely logical argument? So far, Paul seems to think so—or at least he’s giving this approach to proclaiming the gospel the old college try.

 

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