Psalm 18:30–36; 2 Chronicles 1,2; Acts 17:29–18:7

Psalm 18:30–36: Knowing that “For through You I rush at a barrier,/ through my God I can vault a wall.” David goes on to praise God, asking rhetorically, “For who is god except the LORD,/ and who the Rock except our God?” David certainly knows, as his God is “The God who girds me with might / and keeps my way blameless,” (33)

Notice that David speaks to God’s goodness in both the physical (“girds me with might”) and moral (“keeps my way blameless”) In our abstract thoughts about God, we often think of God affecting only our spiritual or moral universe. Yet, here is David making it clear that God brings him strength in every dimension, including military might as God “trains my hands for combat,/ makes my arms bend a bow of bronze.” (35). I can certainly identify with this same God, who has been the crucial agent in my own physical healing.

This is because God “gave me Your shield of rescue,/ Your right hand did sustain me.” (36) These verses are a challenge to me, who always feels more comfortable with an abstract God “out there” than with a God who is involved with our physical well being.

2 Chronicles 1,2: Solomon takes the throne and his first act is to summon all Israel to the Tabernacle and worship God by offering “a thousand burnt offerings.” (1:6) What I had not realized before is that it is God who shows up to Solomon (not the other way round) and says simply, “Ask what I should give you.” Solomon responds famously, “Give me now wisdom and knowledge to go out and come in before this people, for who can rule this great people of yours?” (10). Which as we know God assuredly does. And since Solomon did not ask for riches, God bestows them on him anyway–an example of the boundless generosity of God to those who would not be greedy, but ask for greater things.

Interestingly one of Solomon’s first acts is also one of generosity–and the wisdom of keeping one’s neighbors happy. He imports 150 expensive (600 shekels each) chariots and horses from Egypt and distributes them to “all the kings of the Hittites and the kings of Aram.” (17)

The king then turns to the business of temple building, sending word to King Huram of Tyre, reminding him that he once supplied David with the building materials for his house. Now he asks Huram to send “an artisan skilled to work in gold, silver, bronze, and iron, and in purple, crimson, and blue fabrics, trained also in engraving, to join the skilled workers who are with me in Judah and Jerusalem.” (2:7) as well as “cedar, cypress, and algum timber from Lebanon,” in exchange for “twenty thousand cors of crushed wheat, twenty thousand cors of barley, twenty thousand baths of wine, and twenty thousand baths of oil.” (10). Huram is clearly flattered, agrees to the terms of the deal. But more importantly, Huram recognizes ““Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, who made heaven and earth, who has given King David a wise son, endowed with discretion and understanding, who will build a temple for the Lord, and a royal palace for himself.” Thus, not only does Solomon obtain the artisans and materials he needs, he simultaneously ensures peace on the northern side of Israel. Today’s diplomats could learn much by reading this chapter…

Then a more disturbing note (at least to me, anyway) Solomon takes a census of the aliens living in Israel. Unlike David’s census this one apparently doesn’t bother God because it’s not counting the Jews. Ever the accountant, the Chronicler tells us “one hundred fifty-three thousand six hundred.” (17).This becomes the workforce (the forced labor?) that builds the temple: “Seventy thousand of them he assigned as laborers, eighty thousand as stonecutters in the hill country, and three thousand six hundred as overseers to make the people work.” (18) Every alien in Israel is put to work.

Acts 17:29–18:7: Paul concludes his Athenian sermon by noting that “we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals.” (29) and then takes a tough apocalyptic stance with his listeners, “now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, (30, 31). Again, he does not mention Jesus by name. 

Many of the Athenians are not too thrilled with the idea of a resurrection and he receives a mixed reaction: “some scoffed; but others said, “We will hear you again about this.”” (32). Paul leaves Athens–never to return. His success is modest–a few believers–but we never hear of a church being established there. Even Paul is not successful in some places. Is it because he waters down the Kerygma by making it too philosophical, as some have argued? Or is Athens simply an example of Jesus’ parable of sewing seeds where some will not take root.

In any event, Luke simply tells us “Paul left Athens and went to Cornith” where he meets Acquila, a fellow tentmaker, and Paul “stayed with them, and they worked together” (18:3) What strikes me is that Paul has not given up his day job as he argues with the Jews at the local synagogue on the Sabbath.

It is in Corinth where Paul gives up on taking the Good News to the Jews because of their unceasingly hostile reaction  and “in protest he shook the dust from his clothes and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”” (6). Lest we think Paul’s life was filled with unalloyed success, it’s well to remember Athens and the Jews.  His reaction to the Jews also gives us some insight into his fiery personality!

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