Psalm 31:1–5; 2 Chronicles 34:8–33; Acts 26:15–27

Psalm 31:1–5: This psalm of supplication emphasizes God as our shelter as the psalmist pleads using military images, “Be my stronghold of rock, /a fort-house to rescue me,/ For You are my crag and my bastion.” (3c, 4a) The psalmist evokes the image of David and his men clambering among the rocks and caves as they are pursued by Saul.

The other image in these first verses of this psalm is the psalmist asking God in an anthropomorphic sense, to bend over and “Incline Your ear to me.” (3a)  And the faster, the better, “Quick, save me.” (3b)  And then more specifically, “for Your nam’s sake guide and lead me.” (4b). One more metaphor makes it clear that the psalmist is being pursued: “Get me out of the net that they laid for me, / for You are my stronghold.” (5) And then, he surrenders totally into “Your hand I commend my spirit.” (6a) And like many psalms of supplication, he acknowledges that in the asking itself, there is rescue: “You redeemed me, O Lord, God of truth.” (6b)

In this onrush of images and metaphors we feel the psalmists’s desperation and then, suddenly, once he utters “Into Your hand I commend my spirit,” there is peace. Just as Jesus uttered these words on the cross; the agony completed and death takes his spirit.

2 Chronicles 34:8–33: In the midst of the great temple clean-out, rebuilding, and “While they were bringing out the money that had been brought into the house of theLord, the priest Hilkiah found the book of the law of the Lord given through Moses.” (14). Our Chronicler describes exactly how the book finds its way into the hands of King Josiah, who upon hearing its words and realizing what it is, tears his clothes because “the wrath of the Lord that is poured out on us is great, because our ancestors did not keep the word of the Lord, to act in accordance with all that is written in this book.” (21b).

What’s interesting here is that I think this is the frist time that the “Moses books” have been described specifically as a book, indicating that by the time of Josiah, written records were becoming important, and we come to see why Jews came to be known as “people of the Book.”

Josiah consults Huldah, that rarity among rarities: a female prophet. Which makes me wonder: why do some churches prevent women from preaching when Josiah seemed perfectly happy to consult the person through whom God was speaking–and was completely indifferent to the prophet’s sex?

Huldah tells Josiah, yes, for everything Judah has done in the past in worshiping small-g gods they deserve the wrath of God. But because Josiah has been humble before God, “you shall be gathered to your grave in peace; your eyes shall not see all the disaster that I will bring on this place and its inhabitants.” Of course, this is the Chronicler’s reference to the Babylonian conquest.

Josiah causes the book to be read aloud among the people and all make a covenant to keep their side of the Covenant. And for Josiah’s entire reign, “All his days they did not turn away from following the Lord the God of their ancestors.” (33). That the people followed God through Josiah’s entire reign is the greatest legacy any king could wish for.

Acts 26:15–27: Paul tells of his Damascus road experience, and of how Jesus commissioned him, telling him that Paul was being sent “to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’” (18) Paul has certainly not missed the opportunity to preach the Good News to Festus and Agrippa.

Paul asserts that he has done nothing more than to preach this precisely-defined message of repentance to both Jews and Gentiles, and “For this reason the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me.” (21) Once again, Paul makes it clear that Jesus is the oft-prophesied Messiah, and “saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would take place that the Messiah must suffer, and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.” (22,23)

Paul’s entire defense hangs on the simple assertion that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah. And as we know , down through history this has been rejected–the Cornerstone has been rejected.

In Festus, who exclaims, “You are out of your mind, Paul! Too much learning is driving you insane!” (24) Luke shows us the reaction of the educated world, who sees the Good News as improbable nonsense. When we encounter this reaction today, it’s useful to remember it’s hardly original–it’s as old as the church itself.

But Agrippa is clearly listening, and Paul again bases the Gospel on the Scriptures, and goes for the preemptive close on Agrippa: “ King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe.” (27) Which is a good place to remember that we cannot understand–or accept–the Gospel without understanding the Scriptures on which it is based.


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