Psalm 2; 1 Chronicles 4:1–23; Acts 9:10–22

Psalm 2: Israel, here identified as Zion, is surrounded by “Kings of the earth take [who] their stand, / and princes conspire together against the LORD and against His anointed.” (2) certainly has a contemporary feel to it, since that is precisely the position Israel finds itself in today. Alter tells us that scholars have never been able to identify the exact circumstances that are addressed by this psalm, but Israel’s (or maybe Judah’s) king knows that God is definitely on his side since it is God himself speaking, “And I—I appointed My king on Zion, My holy mountain.”(6)

Then the king speaks, “He said to me: “You are My son. I Myself today did beget you. / Ask of me, and I shall give nations as your estate, / and your holdings, the ends of the earth.” (7) There is certainly a  Christological suggestion here with Jesus being the Son of God. On the other hand, it may simply be the bold assurance of the king who knows God is on his side and victory will be theirs: “You will smash them with a rod of iron, like a potter’s jar you will dash them.” (9)

Whatever its deeper meaning, this psalm is a reminder that we can be confident in God who watches over us.

1 Chronicles 4:1–23: Reading this seemingly endless list of names of the descendants of Judah is reminiscent of the pages at the back of my various alumni magazines that list the names of donors, which can consume a number of pages. The reason is the same: the naming of names means that at some level we are remembered for our deeds.

One thing I had not noticed before is that even before the Israelites left Egypt there was intermarriage: “These are the sons of Bithiah, daughter of Pharaoh, whom Mered married; and she conceived and bore Miriam, Shammai, and Ishbah father of Eshtemoa. (17). One wonders then about the strict prohibitions of intermarriage with the Canaanites, which rule was of course observed in the breach.

Acts 9:10–22: Ananias is one of the unsung heroes of the NT. Obviously, he had heard nothing about Paul’s conversion experience on the Damascus road and he had every right to resist the call of God. His logic is impeccable: “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.” (13,14) God reveals that he has big plans for Saul. Ananias’ instincts notwithstanding he obeys and lays hands on Saul, and Saul sees again–both literally and of course spiritually. Ananias then disappears from the stage, but he has performed one great act by obeying the command of God. A reminder that most of us are Ananias, not Paul. But also a reminder that the Church cannot thrive without the Ananiases of the world. Each of us has an important God-directed role to play. Our duty is to listen and discern.

For Saul it was not all conversion sweetness and light, for God says also, “I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” (16) And as we will read, Paul suffers physically and psychologically for his witness of Jesus Christ. That with great joy comes great suffering is why I am suspicious of preachers who claim that God delivers only prosperity. The great truth of living the Christian life is that while we experience great joy we will also suffer. To pretend otherwise is a sham religion.

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