Psalm 18:46–50; 2 Chronicles 5:2–6:23; Acts 18:22–19:5

Originally published 2/3/2015. Revised and updated 2/2/2019.

Psalm 18:46–50:  In our era we find the subject of David’s gratitude to be somewhat askew:
The the God who grants vengeance to me
and crushes peoples beneath me
. (48)

Nevertheless, he is the exemplar of a strong underlying faith:
The Lord lives and blessed is my Rock,
exalted the God of my rescue. (47).

David rests in a living God, not a mute household idol. God is David’s rock: the firm place from when he ventures forth and to whom he returns. God doesn’t move; For David, God is always right there. God’s immutability and his immobility are a reminder to us that like the old cliche has it, when God seems far away we need to remember who moved.

This psalm that combines thanksgiving with disturbing violence concludes formally as David effectively shouts:
Therefore I acclaim You among nations, O Lord,
and to Your name I would hymn. (50)

This single verse reminds us of our two great responsibilities as Christians: that we are to worship God (“Your name I would hymn”) and we are to take the Good News of Jesus Christ out to the world at large (“I acclaim You among nations.”) Like the rock He is, it is God who is faithful—and our model of faithfulness. It is both our duty and joy to be faithful in return. In that regard may be always be like David, the warrior king, but above all else, “the man of God.”

2 Chronicles 5:2–6:23: The completed temple receives its last and greatest furnishing–the Ark of the Covenant: So they brought up the ark, the tent of meeting, and all the holy vessels that were in the tent; the priests and the Levites brought them up. (5:5) The Ark is placed in the inner sanctuary under the “cherubim [who] spread out their wings over the place of the ark, so that the cherubim made a covering above the ark and its poles.” (8) Interestingly, our author points out, “There was nothing in the ark except the two tablets that Moses put there at Horeb, where the Lord made a covenant with the people of Israel after they came out of Egypt.” (10)

What are we to make of the empty ark that contained only the stone tablets? For me, it means that God’s covenant is far greater than just those two stone tablets, but extends to all the world, speaking to the underlying theme that God is not “contained” in the Ark, but as Lord of creation, is everywhere. The Ark may be the symbol of the covenant between God and Israel, but is only that: a symbol. It is not the reality of the covenant that encompasses all creation–and all time as it extends down to us through Jesus Christ.

Once in place, there is worship: singing “with cymbals, harps and lyres.” And then “it was the duty of the trumpeters and singers to make themselves heard in unison in praise and thanksgiving to the Lord”  (5:12) to sing the shortest but most profound worship hymn of all: “For he is good,/ for his steadfast love endures forever.” (5:13) And “the glory of the Lord filled the house of God.” (14) At long last, Israel has built a permanent house for God—and he seems very pleased.

Solomon dedicates the temple, recounting the long journey that brought the Ark from Egypt to its resting place, noting along the way that it was David’s son—himself—”who shall be born to you shall build the house for my name.” (6:9) The king concludes with a prayer of dedication that acknowledges that God is not confined to the Ark. Indeed, “But will God indeed reside with mortals on earth? Even heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, how much less this house that I have built!” (18).

I believe this prayer makes the temple at Jerusalem different than every other temple built in the ancient world. All the other gods and idols were confined to the place where they were worshipped–and nowhere else. Israel’s God—our God—transcends mere buildings. As creator, God cannot be constrained in or by creation. Solomon reminds us of this simple but profound fact.

Acts 18:22–19:5: Luke does not seem to be accompanying Paul at this point as he becomes a reporter, noting only  at a high level of abstraction, that Paul “went from place to place through the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples.” (18:23).

We meet Apollos, “a native of Alexandria. He was an eloquent man, well-versed in the scriptures.” (18:24). Apollos “spoke with burning enthusiasm and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John.” (18:25). But when “when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained the Way of God to him more accurately.” (18:26).

This is reminder to us that eloquence and enthusiasm may be necessary but they are not sufficient to proclaim the word. There must be training and “accurate” knowledge of the “Way of God.” When Apollos heads to Corinth,”he greatly helped those who through grace had become believers,…showing by the scripture that the Messiah is Jesus.” (18:27, 28). In fact, as we know from Paul’s letter to Corinth, Apollos was so effective and compelling that he gained a coterie of followers, who were more enamored of the messenger than the Message.

In the meantime, Paul finally returns to Ephesus, where he encounters “disciples” who are unaware of the Holy Spirit. Paul asks them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?” (19:2) They reply that they were baptized “into John’s baptism.” This statement reveals that John’s message had indeed spread far and wide in the same years that Jesus’ message was being preached. Paul explains that John was telling “the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, in Jesus.” (19:4) They accept this and are baptized. This passage is a reminder that while there may be other small-g gospels out there, there is only one true Gospel—the good news about Jesus. At the same time it also reminds us that hearts are prepared by many means, making them open to the real truth when they hear it. I’m sure many missionaries have encountered this same receptivity and hunger for the actual Good News.

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