Psalm 21; 2 Chronicles 11:1–12:12; Acts 20:4–16

Originally published 2/8/2017. Revised and updated 2/7/2019.

Psalm 21: This royal psalm opens with our psalmist exclaiming in the third person about the king who rejoices in God’s strength and “in Your rescue how much he exults!” (2) The king has good reason to rejoice. God has answered his prayers:
His heart’s desire You gave to him,
and his lips’ entreaty You did not withhold
. (3)

The obvious question is, when God rescues us are we sufficiently grateful, or do we merely ascribe a happy outcome to good circumstances? Or worse, do we think it’s something we accomplished on our own? In this psalm there’s no question that David’s rescue and his subsequent successes were strictly God’s doing because David trusted his entire life in God.

God indeed has rescued David from his enemies and now rescued our psalmist wishes him a long life, albeit with a bit of hyperbole since even King David was not immortal:
Life he asked You—You gave him,
length of days for time without end. (5)

Not only did God rescue David from his enemies, he then set David above everyone else:
Great is his glory through Your rescue.
Glory and grandeur You bestowed on him. (6)

We may not become kings after God rescues us, but often, times of trial have a way of bettering our lives when we come out the other end of whatever trial we have endured. This psalm reminds us that this result is not exclusively of our own doing, but of God’s.

God rescues David and David reciprocates—as we all should do—by trusting and worshipping God:
For the king puts his trust in the Lord,
through Elyon’s kindness he will not fail. (8)

For David—and as we have read in a number of psalms up to this point—his trust in God has resulted results in the utter destruction of his enemies:
The Lord will devour them in His anger,
and fire will consume them.

Perhaps even worse than physical loss for persons in that time and culture, their ancestral line is blotted out as our psalmist describes the ultimate fate of those who fought David:
Their fruit from the land You destroy
and their seed from among humankind
. (11)

But God never acts capriciously. These people have committed woeful sins against David and he will make them pay:
For evil they plotted against you,
devised schemes they could not fulfill
For you will make them turn back,
with your bowstring you aim at their face. (12, 13)

The message here for us is that God is watching out for us, but we must also act. Like David, God will give us the courage to confront our enemies directly. The question of course is, will I have the courage to confront my enemies, even knowing God will support me?

2 Chronicles 11:1–12:12: All of Israel has rebelled against Rehoboam. IN a hint of the national civil war to come, the king assembles an army of 180,000 “chosen troops of the house of Judah and Benjamin to fight against Israel, to restore the kingdom to Rehoboam.” (11:1) But a prophet warns the king, “Thus says the Lord: You shall not go up or fight against your kindred. Let everyone return home, for this thing is from me.” (11:2) Happily, internecine warfare is avoided. This time, anyway.

Not everyone is against Rehoboam. Other parts of Israel have begun idolatrous worship practices under Jeroboam, who has set himself up as the alternate king of Israel. This prevents the Levites and priests from conducting worship in those places. They come to Jerusalem and ally themselves to Rehoboam. Our authors [who obviously came from Jerusalem] note that Jerusalem is where “Those who had set their hearts to seek the Lord God of Israel came after them from all the tribes of Israel to Jerusalem to sacrifice to the Lord, ” (16) and “they made Rehoboam son of Solomon secure, for they walked for three years in the way of David and Solomon.” (17)

During this time of peace Rehoboam followed God. We learn that he loves Maacah, Absalom’s daughter, more than any other wife. But this love does not prevent him from taking “eighteen wives and sixty concubines, and became the father of twenty-eight sons and sixty daughters.” (21) [Our accountant authors at work once again providing us with more detail than we probably need…]

However, good things rarely seem to last and “When the rule of Rehoboam was established and he grew strong, he abandoned the law of the Lord, he and all Israel with him.” (12:1)  We need to realize that we are all Rehoboam. How easy it is to find salvation through Jesus, be enthusiastic for a while and then eventually drift away, thinking our strength has come from us rather than from God.

In the fifth year of Rehoboam’s reign, “King Shishak of Egypt came up against Jerusalem with twelve hundred chariots and sixty thousand cavalry.” (12:2,3) The Egyptians, along with Libyans, Sukkiim, and Ethiopians, capture the fortified cities of Judah, arriving at the walls of Jerusalem. The prophet Shemiah comes to Rehoboam and tells them, “Thus says the Lord: You abandoned me, so I have abandoned you to the hand of Shishak.”  (12:5)

Happily, Rehoboam and the officers of Israel realize the prophet is right and they humble themselves before God. God preserves Jerusalem from the Egyptians but tells them that via Shemiah there will be a high cost for their sins: “Nevertheless they shall be his servants, so that they may know the difference between serving me and serving the kingdoms of other lands.”  (12:8) Humility arrives in Jerusalem as the Egyptian king makes off with most of the wealth that Solomon has amassed. The gold shields are taken, but a chastened Rehoboam replaces them with bronze shields—“Because Rehoboam humbled himself the wrath of the Lord turned from him, so as not to destroy them completely; moreover, conditions were good in Judah.” (12:12)

This is a great story about the terms of God’s covenant with Israel. Follow God and all will be well. Abandon God and things will deteriorate rapidly. Repent and God will save you, but having wandered away from God there is a very high price to pay.

Acts 20:4–16: Unable to sail to Syria, Paul and his companions—”Sopater son of Pyrrhus from Beroea, by Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica, by Gaius from Derbe, and by Timothy, as well as by Tychicus and Trophimus from Asia” (4)— head to Troas, where they stay for a week.

There, unobstructed by angry silversmiths, Paul manages to hold a discussion with some of the believers in Troas from breakfast until midnight(!) One of the believers, a “young man named Eutychus,” falls asleep while sitting in the open window and falls 3 stories to the ground below. Paul rushes down and happily, finds that Eutychus has survived. Undaunted by this “minor incident,” Paul returns upstairs and then talks until dawn(!) Paul certainly was a gifted speaker that he could hold his audience’s attention for almost 24 hours. Obviously, as Eutychus proved, not everyone could stay awake through Paul’s orations. When I was a kid, I was more like Eutychus during those interminable sermons in church.

Luke then gives us an itinerary whereby his companions leave by ship from Arros and Paul meets up with them and boards the ship at Mitylene, arriving two days later at Miletus. Paul avoids returning to Ephesus because he wants to get down to Jerusalem in time for Pentecost. As we will find out, this is a fateful, life-altering decision.

One of the things this seemingly odd itinerary passage reminds us of is just how authentic this history is. And since it’s history we will always wonder about the “what ifs.” For example, what would the church look like if Paul had returned to Ephesus instead of heading to Jerusalem?


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