Psalm 30:6–12; 2 Chronicles 33:1–34:7; Acts 26:2–14

Psalm 30:6–12: Our psalmist notes one of the magnificent, if under-appreciated, gifts we have received from God, the diurnal rhythm of life so that indeed, “At evening one beds down weeping/ and in the morning, glad song.” (6) It is a cliche because it is truth: each new day is a gift, the opportunity to begin once again; to start over with a clean slate.

The poet then recounts how he believed how, by virtue of never sinning, God would always be at his side: “I thought in my quiet days, ‘Never will I stumble.'” (7) And when that was the case, “You made me mountain-strong.” (8a) But then, disaster. He fails and God departs: “When You hid Your face I was stricken.” (8b).

As the poet begs God to return–“To You, O Lord, I call, / and to the Master I plead,” (9)–he tries to convince God by the sheer logic that those who are dead cannot worship God: “What profit in my blood,/ in my going down deathward?/ Will dust acclaim You,/ will it tell the truth?” (10) There is great truth here. While we talk about heaven, we need to remember that the OT Jews did not believe in an afterlife. There is no greater despair than to be separated from God.

God eventually hears his pleas to “grant me grace” and we encounter one of the most encouraging verses in the Psalms: “You have turned my dirge to a dance for me,/ undone my sackcloth and bound me with joy.” (12) And we join the in a hymn of thanksgiving, “Lord, my God, for all time will I acclaim You.” The psalm, like its cries of the poet, has descended into the pit but by its end, it has climbed the mount of thanksgiving.

2 Chronicles 33:1–34:7:  What’s so discouraging about the good kings like Hezekiah is that they seem to be unable to pass along their goodness–of course a reminder that each person must make his or her own decision to follow God (and in our case, Jesus).  Children cannot inherit faith; they must find their own–as I well know personally.

Alas: “Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign; he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem. He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.” (33:1,2), quickly rebuilding the “high places” his father Hezekiah had pulled down. Worse, he puts an idol in the temple and in the excoriating judgement of our Chronicler, “Manasseh misled Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that they did more evil than the nations whom the Lord had destroyed before the people of Israel.” (9). Once again we have an example of the crucial importance of the leader. Righteous or sinful, the led will follow his example.

God speaks to “Manasseh and to his people, but they gave no heed.” (10) As a result God calls upon the Assyrian army, which had already destroyed Israel, to invade Judah. Manasseh is captured and carried in chains off to Babylon. Manasseh finally gets God’s message and “in distress he entreated the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his ancestors.” (12) God hears Manasseh and restores him and Judah. “Then Manasseh knew that the Lord indeed was God.” (13) Manasseh has gotten the message and follows God the rest of his life–as does Judah.

While Hezekiah knew and followed God from the beginning, Manasseh must fall into the pit before finding God. Two examples for us: that repentance leads just as surely to God as lifelong faith. Thank God for this.

Amon follows Manasseh, and is assassinated by his servants after a disastrous two-year reign. What’s interesting here is that “the people of the land killed all those who had conspired against King Amon; and the people of the land made his son Josiah king to succeed him.” (25). Justice comes via the population, who were still following God and hoped for a just king.

Which brings us to young king Josiah, a mere lad of when he begins his reign.Like his grandfather, Josiah follows God from the outset and receives the highest compliment from our Chronicler: “He did what was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the ways of his ancestor David; he did not turn aside to the right or to the left.” (34:2). When he was twelve he “began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of the high places, the sacred poles, and the carved and the cast images.” (3)

Acts 26:2–14: Luke’s brilliance as a historian certainly includes the fact that while he tells us much about Paul in the third person, we also get to hear Paul’s own words–and here before Agrippa, his life story.

Having established his Jewish bona fides, Paul relies of fundamental Jewish theology, making it clear that his faith in Jesus is the logical consequence of “my hope in the promise made by God to our ancestors, a promise that our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly worship day and night.”  (6,7) And then he points out, “It is for this hope, your Excellency that I am accused by Jews!” (8) Brilliant. Because he’s saying that he is more Jewish than the Jews who accuse him, so why is he being accused of being too Jewish?

To prove that point, Paul recounts his zealous actions against the Christians, even to the point that “I also cast my vote against them when they were being condemned to death.” (10)

But then, Paul’s life-changing experience on the Damascus road: “I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It hurts you to kick against the goads.’” I think it’s crucial that Paul says that the voice was speaking Hebrew, for it informs his audience that his experience is Jewish at its core; it is the God of the Jews speaking to him. It is in no wise foreign. In other words, the logical connection to Paul’s Jewishness, and to what he is about to tell them, is totally in the Jewish context.


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