Psalm 142; 2 Kings 10; Acts 3:1–10

Psalm 142: Our psalmist sets a specific time and place for this psalm: “A David maskil, when he was in the cave, a prayer.” (1) this would be the time when David was fleeing Saul, hiding in the cave, and was presented with the opportunity to kill Saul but didn’t.

It is not just a prayer of supplication; it is a prayer of desperation. In his urgency David wasn’t just praying in his head, or even speaking softly, but shouting aloud:
With my voice I shout to the Lord,
with my voice I plead to the Lord.
I pour out my speech before Him,
my distress before Him I tell.” (2,3)

He is at the end of his rope and facing imminent death, but knows that God understands the danger he’s in: “You, You know my path./ On the path on which I walk/ they have laid a trap for me.” (4) There seems to be no way out of this awful predicament because he knows there is no one searching in order to rescue him: “Escape is gone for me,/ no one inquires for me.” (6)

So in final desperation there is only God to turn to; the God who promised to walk beside him; the God who now appears to be silent if not absent:
I shouted to You, O Lord.
my lot in the land of the living.
Listen close to my song of prayer,
for I have sunk very low.” (6, 7a)

This is the quintessential foxhole prayer. There is no lengthy explanation to God about how he got into this situation or confession of whatever wrongdoings he may have committed in the past. This is direct, straightforward, a final plea to “Save me from my pursuers,/ for they are too strong for me.” (7b) And as always, if God will rescue him, then there will be grateful worship: “Bring me out from the prison/ to acclaim your name.” (8a) And if God rescues him, he will be an example of God’s power and the ineffable power of prayer to others: “For the righteous will draw round me/ when You requite me.” (8b)

And we know that David’s prayer was indeed answered. Which should be sufficient to give us courage to pray as boldly and urgently should we find ourselves in similar straits. God may be silent; but like David we need to have faith that he is listening.

2 Kings 10: King Jehu of Israel cleans house. Elisha has prophesied that Ahab’s entire dynasty will be wiped out and Jehu is the instrument to carry that out.  Jehu sends letters to the guardians of Ahab’s 70(!) sons to “select the son of your master who is the best qualified, set him on his father’s throne, and fight for your master’s house.” (3) But the guardians are terrified of Jehu and refuse to name a king. Jehu sends a second letter telling the guardians that “If you are on my side, and if you are ready to obey me, take the heads of your master’s sons and come to me at Jezreel tomorrow at this time.” (6) Which they promptly do. In a grisly demonstration, Jehu directs them to “Lay them in two heaps at the entrance of the gate until the morning.” (8) Which they do. Needless to say, this creates panic in the streets. Jehu announces to the gathered crowd that they are innocent but anyone connected in any way to Ahab will die. Which he does: “So Jehu killed all who were left of the house of Ahab in Jezreel, all his leaders, close friends, and priests, until he left him no survivor.” (11)

Jehu runs into relatives of King Ahaziah of Judah on the road and kills those 42 people as well. Arriving at Samaria he announces that he will offer an even greater sacrifice to Baal than Ahab ever did. Every priest and worshipper is commanded to show up at the Baal temple and “Sanctify a solemn assembly for Baal.” (20) Every Baal worshipper obeys and gathers to make sacrifices. Jehu ensures that there is “no worshiper of the Lord here among you, but only worshipers of Baal.” (24) The king then commands his soldiers to “Come in and kill them; let no one escape.” (25) Which they do. The Baal worshippers are dead; the temple is demolished and turned into a public toilet.

Our authors state, “Thus Jehu wiped out Baal from Israel.” (30) However, Jehu does not totally wipe out idol worship in Israel and the golden calves remain at Bethel and Dan. Even so, God promises Jehu that he and his progeny will rule for four generations. But alas, “But Jehu was not careful to follow the law of the Lord the God of Israel with all his heart; he did not turn from the sins of Jeroboam, which he caused Israel to commit.” (31)

For Jehu’s sins, “the Lord began to trim off parts of Israel.” and the territory of Israel is greatly diminished by a certain Hazael.

This is one of those passages where I cannot really accept that this slaughter was ordained by God. Rather, I see it as an editorial intrusion by the authors of the book. Yes, Baal worship was evil and had the Israelites obeyed God’s original command to fully wipe out the inhabitants of Canaan none of this may have come to pass. But did God ordain the slaughter or was God simply used as a justification for human wickedness and Jehu’s power grab? As it is, Israel cannot be proud of its bloody history.

Acts 3:1–10: While the original apostles were alive there seemed to be a greater power present than in the present day church. Peter and John encounter a crippled man who begged at the entrance to the temple. The man asks for alms from Peter and John.

Luke writes that Peter and John “looked intently” at the beggar and effectively commanded him in return to “Look at us.” The man does so, “expecting to receive something from them.” (5) Peter tells the man he doesn’t have money but rather a gift that is far greater: “but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.” (6)  Peter takes the man by the right hand (always the hand of power!) “and raised him up; and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong.” (7) The beggar’s recovery is so instantaneous that Luke tells us he jumped up, stood and began to walk, entering the temple with Peter and John, “walking and leaping and praising God.” (8)

This was extremely public act and “All the people saw him walking and praising God.” (9) The people know who the beggar is is and “they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.” (10)

I think Luke inserts this dramatic example here not just to demonstrate the transformative power of the Holy Spirit. By this time, thousands in Jerusalem are following “the Way” and this miraculous example is Luke’s way of illustrating how the new movement was starting to take over Jerusalem. The temple authorities were going to have a difficult time tamping down this new sect that was rapidly getting out of control. And the power elite will soon feel seriously threatened.

 

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