Psalm 11; 1 Chronicles 14:8–15:29; Acts 13:20b–33

Psalm 11: Our psalmist is in dialog with his friends, who have advised him to flee his enemies. But he resists, telling them: “How could you say to me,/ ‘Off to the hills like a bird!‘” (1) Nevertheless, the friends remain adamant, pointing out that the psalmist [whom we’ll say is David] is about to be attacked by the conspirators.  “For, look, the wicked bend back the bow,/ they fix to the string their arrow/ to shoot from the gloom at the up right.” (2) In fact, they despair that a righteous man has no option but to flee a world populated by evil men and their wicked deeds: “The foundations destroyed,/ what can a righteous man do?”

Not so, David replies, for he knows that “The Lord is in His holy palace,/ The Lord in the heavens His throne.” (4a) In point of fact, from his position up in heaven God is looking down at every man—good or evil—and judging them. God sees everything; every person and every deed:
His eyes behold,
His look probes the sons of man.
The Lord probes the righteous and  wicked,
and the lover of havoc He utterly hates.” (4b, 5)

Ultimately, God declares justice as the wicked receive their just desserts. Our psalmist chooses an image that instantly recalls the punishing doom experienced by the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah:
He rains fiery coals on the wicked,
sulphur and gale-winds their lot.” (6)

We arrive the moral of the psalm. As usual there is no middle ground. God hates evil and loves righteousness, because God is the source of righteousness and therefore cannot abide evil. Thus, the righteous man enjoys God’s favor:
For righteous the Lord is,
righteous acts He does love.
The upright behold His face.” (7)

The last line wraps up the core theology of this psalm. Only the righteous can see God and receive his favor. Happily for us, when we stray from righteousness, we can confess our sins through Jesus Christ and restore our right relationship with God.

1 Chronicles 14:8–15:29: Our authors continue with the story of David as the warrior king who never failed to ask God for guidance. The Philistines have raided a valley in Israel. rather than just going out and attacking them, “David inquired of God, “Shall I go up against the Philistines? Will you give them into my hand?” ” (14:10a) God answers David: “Go up, and I will give them into your hand.” (14:10b) And David handily defeats the enemy.

The another example of how attentive David was to God’s leading and guidance. There is a subsequent raid by the Philistines. Once again, David inquires of God, God even provides battle strategy: “You shall not go up after them; go around and come on them opposite the balsam trees.” (14:14) Once again, by following God’s explicit orders, David is victorious and “The fame of David went out into all lands, and the Lord brought the fear of him on all nations.” (14:17)

Back in Jerusalem, and now king, David builds his palace and “he prepared a place for the ark of God and pitched a tent for it.” (15:1) He then calls the leaders of Israel together. [And this being 1 Chronicles that never fails to name everyone involved, especially the Levites, the leaders are all duly identified.] David points out that after the unfortunate incident of Uzzah touching the Ark, they must be more careful about how and who deals with the Ark: “Because you did not carry it the first time, the Lord our God burst out against us, because we did not give it proper care.” (15:13) The Levites sanctify themselves and rather than putting the Ark on a wagon, they “carried the ark of God on their shoulders with the poles, as Moses had commanded according to the word of the Lord.” (15:15) God like it when he is obeyed to the letter of the law.

The act of bringing the Ark into the newly erected tabernacle at Jerusalem is also an occasion of worship, and David “commanded the chiefs of the Levites to appoint their kindred as the singers to play on musical instruments, on harps and lyres and cymbals, to raise loud sounds of joy.” (15:16) [Once again, this being 1 Chronicles, all the players and participants are named.] A party accompanies the successful delivery of the Ark to the tabernacle in Jerusalem: “So all Israel brought up the ark of the covenant of the Lord with shouting, to the sound of the horn, trumpets, and cymbals, and made loud music on harps and lyres.” (28)

But there is one person who is unhappy as the reading concludes on a dark note: “As the ark of the covenant of the Lord came to the city of David, Michal daughter of Saul looked out of the window, and saw King David leaping and dancing; and she despised him in her heart.” (15:29) Proof that as always, no matter how great the rejoicing, discontent and hatred is never far off in the distance.

Acts 13:20b–33: In a sermon not dissimilar to Stephen’s, Paul continues to recount Israel’s history, noting that after the last judge, Samuel, the people asked for a king. That would be Saul, who reigned for 40 years. Then came David, who Peter observes, God said, “‘I have found David, son of Jesse, to be a man after my heart, who will carry out all my wishes.’” (22) The history lesson ends there as Peter leaps ahead in time to Jesus, stating that out of David’s “posterity God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised.” (23) Peter then makes sure that everyone understands that John the Baptist was not—contrary to widespread rumor—the Messiah, but that John made it clear that “one is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of the sandals on his feet.’” (25)

Paul then relates that “Because the residents of Jerusalem and their leaders did not recognize him or understand the words of the prophets that are read every sabbath, they fulfilled those words by condemning him.” (27) This is crucial: Jesus fulfilled the prophet’s foretelling by virtue of being unrecognized for who he was and for being killed by the authorities of Israel.

He goes on to describe Jesus ‘ resurrection, making it clear that it was not magic, not a resuscitation, nor a mere rumor, but that it was “God [who] raised him from the dead.” (30) Peter concludes by telling his audience that this is indeed “good news that what God promised to our ancestors he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising Jesus.” (32, 33a) Paul caps off his sermon by quoting Psalm 2 as God being the one who is speaking: “You are my Son;/ today I have begotten you.’” (33b)

We hear a lot about the “good news” but it is when we actually read Paul’s wonderful sermon that we really get it. Yes, there can be no better news than that Jesus died and rose from the dead. A promise to Israel’s ancestors has been fulfilled for the people to whom Paul is speaking—and remains a promise that has been fulfilled for all of us.

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