Psalm 147:7–14; 2 Kings 22:11–23:20; Acts 7:30–43

Psalm 147:7–14: Our psalmist moves from God as creator to God as provider though the gifts of nature. We are to
Call out to the Lord in thanksgiving
…who covers the heavens with clouds,
readies ran for the earth,
makes mountains flourish with grass.” (7,8)

It is the clouds that bring the rain which causes the grass to grow which “gives the beast its food,/ to the raven’s young who call.” (9) Nature flourishes because of God’s action.

This psalm was doubtless written after Israel was restored to Jerusalem following the Babylonian captivity. The return did not occur through military prowess or physical strength: “Not by the might of the horse He desires,/ not by a man’s thighs is He pleased.” (10)

Rather, it occurred because the people made God the center of their lives: “The Lord is pleased by those who fear Him,/ those who long for His kindness.” (11) Worship is the recompense for God’s mighty acts: “Extol, O Jerusalem, the Lord,/ praise your God, O Zion.” (12) Whatever protection and blessing they—and we—experience comes directly from God: “For He strengthens the bars of your gates,/ blesses you children in your midst.” (13) As God brought the rain for the raven (verse 9), so too he brings peace and sustenance to us: “He bestows peace in your land,/ He sates you with choice wheat.” (14)

The message is clear: it is God who brings us protection, sustenance, and blessing. Yet we humans persist in thinking whatever we good we have is the result of our own efforts. Worse, we believe that God, even the idea of God, is superfluous. But as the psalmist makes clear, whatever we have, whatever we are comes from God, who seeks only our worship in return.

2 Kings 22:11–23:20: While temple renovations continue, the high priest Hilkiah has found the book of the law in a dusty corner. He brings it to Josiah’s secretary, Shaphan, who reads it to the king. Upon hearing it, he tears his clothes, realizing that “great is the wrath of the Lord that is kindled against us, because our ancestors did not obey the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us.” (22:13)

A delegation arrives at the house of the prophetess Hudah, who informs them that God will indeed “bring disaster on this place and on its inhabitants…Because they have abandoned me and have made offerings to other gods, so that they have provoked me to anger with all the work of their hands, therefore my wrath will be kindled against this place, and it will not be quenched.” (16, 17) In short, there is no escaping ultimate doom for the acts that have been committed by Judah and its kings before Josiah’s reign. However, she continues, because Josiah’s “heart was penitent, and you humbled yourself before the Lord” (19) there will be peace as long as he is on the throne.

Upon hearing this, Josiah gathers all the officials and “made a covenant before the Lord, to follow the Lord, keeping his commandments, his decrees, and his statutes, with all his heart and all his soul.” (23:3) The temple is cleansed as the Baal objects are removed and the Baal priests are “deposed.” The male prostitutes are fired, and all the Baal objects and “high places” are burned to the ground. In the end, Josiah “slaughtered on the altars all the priests of the high places who were there, and burned human bones on them. Then he returned to Jerusalem.” (23:20)

So, we could call Josiah an even greater reformer than Martin Luther. Although the business about killing and burning the Baal priests on their own altars is definitely a pretty violent act of reformation.

Acts 7:30–43: Stephen’s seemingly endless sermon continues as he describes just about everything Moses did and said, culminating in the story of the golden calf. But he says one thing that’s crucial: “This is the Moses who said to the Israelites, ‘God will raise up a prophet for you from your own people as he raised me up.’” (37) And we can guess exactly who Stephen is talking about.

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