Psalm 22:29–31; 2 Chronicles 18; Acts 21:17–30

 Psalm 22:29–31: These last three verses are benedictory–and somewhat puzzling. (Alter remarks that the last two verses in particular, “everything in the Hebrew through the end of the next verse (and the psalm) is opaque, bearing the look of a word salad tossed by a bewildered scribe.”)

As we’ve seen before, this psalm applies not just to Jews, but to everyone. And here the psalmist extends God’s inclusivity even farther to everyone who is yet unborn, all who exist and to all who have died. God is ruler over every human being, “For the Lord’s is the kingship–/ and He rules over the nations.”  So far so good. But then, it appears that even the dead will worship God: “Yes, to Him will bow down/ all the netherword’s sleepers.” (30) For those of us who believe in life after death, there’s nothing unusual here. But it is highly unusual to find it in the OT because the Hebrews did not believe in an afterlife. Worship would not be expected in Sheol.

As we’ve seen, though, this psalm ranges far beyond the interests of Jews and prophecies to all people–so too, here in these final verses. In fact, I think we see a tiny glimpse of the worship in heaven: “Before Him will kneel all who go down to dust.” (30b)

And for the living, for those to come, “My seed will serve Him./ It will be told to the Master for generations to come.” (31) And here we are, hundreds of generations later, and we “will proclaim His bounty to a people aborning, for [what] he has done.” And indeed, we should pause and reflect a moment on the clouds of witness that have come before us–and our responsibility to proclaim God to “a people aborning”–yet to come.

2 Chronicles 18: Ahab, Israel’s king asks Jehoshaphat to join him in common war against Ramoth-gilead. Judah’s king says they should inquire first of God as to the wisdom of this adventure. Ahab wheels out his pagan prophets–all 400 of them–but Jehoshaphat asks almost plaintively, “Is there no other prophet of the Lord here of whom we may inquire?” (6). Ahapb sends for Micaiah, noting, “but I hate him, for he never prophesies anything favorable about me, but only disaster.” (7). The 400 prophets have forecasted glorious triumph, but when asked about the coming battle, Micaiah replies, “As the Lord lives, whatever my God says, that I will speak.” (13) Ahab agrees to listen and Micaiah promptly forecasts doom: “I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains, like sheep without a shepherd” (13)

Ahab is not pleased and whines to the king of Judah, “Did I not tell you that he would not prophesy anything favorable about me, but only disaster?” (17) and then promptly locks up the truth-telling prophet.

Ahab goes into battle, disguises himself as a soldier and is killed. Jehoshaphat is standing there, dressed as a king and the captains of the chariots see who they think is Ahab. But “Jehoshaphat cried out, and the Lord helped him. God drew them away from him,” (31) –saved by a hair. I’m sure the king of Judah saw the folly of his ways for having been enticed into battle despite Miciah’s warning.

Many of us are Ahab, or worse, our leaders are Ahab: we hear only what we want to hear, what fits our preconceived plan and are simply looking for the weakest justification. Too often, our leaders hear only the soothing words of the sycophants around them and disaster ensues. As events of the last 12 years have so amply demonstrated. But we who follow God can also be drawn into folly like Jehoshaphat, choosing to ignore the prophetic voice in our ear.

Acts 21:17–30: Paul arrives in Jerusalem and meets with James. There’s a problem: Paul is anathema to the Jewish believers because “They have been told about you that you teach all the Jews living among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, and that you tell them not to circumcise their children or observe the customs.” (21) James’s solution is for Paul to join four men in a rite of purification so that “all will know that there is nothing in what they have been told about you, but that you yourself observe and guard the law.” (24b) Happily, the church at Israel has absolved teh Gentiles, having sent a letter to that effect.

But Paul is a Jew, and he agrees and enters “the temple with them, making public the completion of the days of purification when the sacrifice would be made for each of them.” (26)

All is well until a bunch of Asian Jews spot him, seize him and stir up the crowd, saying “This is the man who is teaching everyone everywhere against our people, our law, and this place.” OK, there’s some truth to this from their point of view.  But then an outright lie, as they continue, “more than that, he has actually brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.” (28) And the what all Paul’s friends feared, and what I suspect Paul knew would happen, “They seized Paul and dragged him out of the temple, and immediately the doors were shut.” (30).

Is this part of Paul’s plan? We know from what Luke has told us previously, that Paul was hell-bent on getting to Jerusalem, and we suspect he had more than a rite of purification in mind when he got there.

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