Psalm 149; 1 Chronicles 1:38–2:17; Acts 8:18–25

Psalm 149: One suspects the psalmist is doing a bit of self-advertising as he writes, “Sing to the Lord a new song,” (1) making sure his listeners know that they are hearing something they’ve never heard before.

This penultimate psalm appears to be celebrating some kind of unexpected military victory: “Let Israel rejoice in its maker,/ Zion’s sons exult in their king.” (2) and “For the Lord looks with favor on His people,/ He adorns the lowly with victory.” (4)

Whatever the cause of this celebration might be, it is certainly a joyously noisy one full of laughter, music, and dancing: “Let them praise His name in dance,/ on the timbrel and lyre let them hymn to Him.” (3)

But then the military imagery becomes downright aggressive:
Exultations of God in their throat
and a double-edged sword in their hand,
to wreak vengeance upon the nations,
punishment on the peoples
to bind their kings in fetters,
and their nobles in iron chains.” (6,7,8)

In fact, God seems to fade into the background amidst the celebration as it appears that it is the Israeli army rather than God is exacting justice: “…to exact from them justice as written—/ it is grandeur for all His faithful.” (9) But we shouldn’t quibble on theology. When there’s a great victory I think it’s completely understandable that enthusiasm will trump reverence.

1 Chronicles 1:38–2:17: The introductory chapters of I Chronicles is somewhat akin to reading a phone book (at least for those of us who remember phone books). Among other gems this reading includes a list of the kings of Edom—”before any king reigned over the Israelites.” (1:43)—as well as a handy list of the clans of Edom (1:51-54).

Chapter two opens with the genealogy of Jacob’s twelve sons: “These are the sons of Israel: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Dan, Joseph, Benjamin, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher.” (2:1,2) Unsurprisingly, since our authors, who are writing from Babylon, are from the (former) kingdom of Judah, they list Judah’s progeny ahead of the other sons. He had three sons by the “Canaanite woman Bath-shua,” one of whom, Er, “Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the Lord, and he put him to death.” (3) It would be nice to know the backstory on that one.

An important genealogy lurks among the endless list, “Boaz of Obed, Obed of Jesse. Jesse became the father of Eliab his firstborn, Abinadab the second, Shimea the third, Nethanel the fourth, Raddai the fifth, Ozem the sixth, David the seventh.” (2:12-15) I had not realized that David was the seventh son and last of Jesse. The other thing to note is that Ruth—the heroine of the eponymous book—who married Boaz is not even mentioned. Only the men get credit.

Acts 8:18–25: Well, I thought Simon the magician had been truly converted, but “when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money,” (18) and rather boldly asking Peter to sell him the “power so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” (20)

Simon should be thankful that the Holy Spirit did not strike him dead as was the case with Ananias and Sapphira. Instead, Peter demands, “Repent therefore of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you.” (22) Simon gets the message and begs Peter to “Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may happen to me.” (24)

The point of this passage is a clear warning to all who might be tempted to believe that wealth and efforts to “but one’s way into heaven” is antithetical to the the Good News of Jesus Christ. Yet, we persist in thinking that good works alone will do the trick or that giving vast sums of money to the church will somehow impress Jesus.


Speak Your Mind