Psalm 7:1–9; 1 Chronicles 7; Acts 10:34–43

Psalm 7:1–9: We can almost see David running from his enemies, out of breath, now down on his knees, head raised and his crossed arms shielding his face as he prays to an absent God, reminding God that He is David’s last and only hope: “LORD, my God, in You I sheltered. /Rescue me from all my pursuers and save me. / Lest like a lion they tear up my life/— rend me, with no one to save me.” (2,3)

He pleads his innocence, using reverse psychology, imploring God to let his enemies overtake him if he has sinned, “if I have done this, /if there be wrongdoing in my hands. /If I paid back my ally with evil, if I oppressed my foes without reason— /may the enemy pursue and overtake me.”

But if God finds David to be innocent–and he fully expects this exoneration–then he prays for justice: “Rouse for me the justice You ordained.” (7) and again, “Grant me justice, LORD, as befits my righteousness / and as befits my innocence that is in me.” (9) Once again, we must note that David is praying for God to mete out justice; he is not taking justice into his own hands.

This is why a prayer that proclaims our own innocence and asks God to deliver justice is legitimate. We are not asking God’s permission to to wreak justice ourselves. Implicit in this prayer for justice is the supplicant’s willingness to wait on God. In the end, praying is also about being patient–even in the most dire circumstances.

1 Chronicles 7: The genealogical inventory of each tribe continues, now the descendants of Issachar, Benjamine, Napthali, Manasseh, Ephram, and Asher but with a new detail: a count of the warriors gathered from the tribes of Issachar and Benjamin in the “days of David.” (2)  They are impressive numbers: 36,000; (4) 87,000 (5); 22,034(!) (7); 22,200 (9); 17,200 (11).  We have to believe that our Chronicler wrote these numbers with a brooding sense of how much had been lost by the time Judah ended up in Babylon.

The genealogies of Naphtali; Manasseh, Ephraim and Asher are almost perfunctory (especially Naphtali) by comparison. Some of the events listed–“Now the people of Gath, who were born in the land, killed them, because they came down to raid their cattle.” (21) are not even very valorous. But the Chronicler is dedicated and resolutely notes every detail so that all these names of all these generations are at least listed. And in these lists we remember that these were real people who lived in real places. Above all, the Chronicler wants to make sure that Israel’s history is not lost in myth.

Acts 10:34–43: Peter preaches what we now cll the kerygma, the Good News: the most profound story ever told but told in the simplest terms. First, Peter tells us the message is indeed for all people everywhere: ““I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” (34,35). The message at is core is peaceful and acknowledges “Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all.” (36)
Peter then simply describes what happened: Jesus “went about doing good and healing,” including the crucial information that “God was with him.” He was crucified but rose again on the third day.  However, not everyone saw him, just those of “us who were chosen by God as witnesses.” (41)

Peter notes that he and the disciples are not preaching because they thought it would be a nice thing to do, but that “ He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead.” (42). Note “commanded.” Finally, the application to everyone as Peter states what John would later write as 3:16: “everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”(43)

How can something that profound be said any simpler? Yet, even in its simplicity I work hard to make it more complicated that that. I think in the end its because to actually accept the gift of forgiveness requires abandoning our own pretensions, our ego, and above all our desire to control our lives–and ultimately our fate.

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