Psalm 144:9-15; 2 Kings 17:7-41; Acts 5:12-16

Psalm 144:9-15: Verse nine is one of the more familiar one in all the psalms: “God, a new song I would sing to You, / on a ten-stringed lute I would hymn to You.” But I have never really stopped to think exactly what a “new song” means. Yes, we can certainly enjoy new compositions of old verses with new music. But when I think about the years that I have professed to walk with God, I think it means something deeper: that God gives me fresh insights and new understanding each time I return to his word.

Unlike every other book, I can can come back to the same Bible passage I read months or years earlier and see something fresh–a “new song”–that the Holy Spirit delivers to my heart. Even as I re-read the book of Psalms through each year, each time I encounter even very familiar verses, there is a new facet glinting in the sun, a fresh understanding, a word or turn of phrase that I had not seen or read in exactly the same way before. For me, that’s what “inspired Scripture” is all about. We know the words are inspired because we can gain fresh inspiration each time we come to them. Which is also why I prefer Bible study to “book studies.”  With renewed enthusiasm I can say with the psalmist at verse 15, “Happy are the people to whom such blessings fall;/ happy are the people whose God is the Lord.”

2 Kings 17:7-41: The historian tells us why Israel has been captured by the Assyrians and there distinct identity has melted away: “This occurred because the people of Israel had sinned against the Lord their God” (7) and “The people of Israel secretly did things that were not right against the Lord their God.” (9) and “They did wicked things, provoking the Lord to anger;” (11).

It wasn’t like they weren’t warned, “Yet the Lord warned Israel and Judah by every prophet and every seer, saying, “Turn from your evil ways and keep my commandments and my statutes, in accordance with all the law that I commanded your ancestors and that I sent to you by my servants the prophets.” (13). The root cause of this behavior is clear: “They would not listen but were stubborn.” (14) Stubbornness became rejection: “They rejected all the commandments of the Lord their God …and served Baal.” (16) And that was that: “Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel and removed them out of his sight; none was left but the tribe of Judah alone.” (18). A clear lesson here: stubbornness leads ultimately to rejection. If we persist in sin, it will eventually consume us, but we won;t even notice because we have rejected the promise of God.

Like Israel, Judah was sinful and “did not keep the commandments of the Lord,” but thy live on because Judah “walked in the customs that Israel had introduced. ” (19) 

The king of Assyria, having removed all of Israel from Samaria replaces them with people from all over the empire. But it seems that the land of Israel itself is sacred and these newcomers, who “did not worship the Lord” suffered fates such as being eaten by lions.” The Assyrian king commands, “Send there one of the priests whom you carried away from there; let him[d] go and live there, and teach them the law of the god of the land.” (27). Things improve, but not surprisingly, “every nation still made gods of its own and put them in the shrines of the high places that the people of Samaria had made.” (29) And the people “would not listen, however, but they continued to practice their former custom.” (41)

Acts 5:12-16: Just months after Pentecost, the Holy Spirit works miracles in Jerusalem. Even Peter’s shadow seems to have curative effect on “both the sick and those tormented by unclean spirits–and they were all cured.”

There’s no question that these spectacular acts had a profound impact on the growth of the early church, but it’s also worth noting “ None of the rest dared to join them, but the people held them in high esteem.” (13) Is the source of their hesitancy due to the power the Apostles were displaying that made them kind of scary, albeit respected? Or was it because people knew that further displays of this sort of power would doubtless get the Apostles in further trouble with both the secular and priestly authorities. I suspect the latter.

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