Psalm 22:29–32; 2 Chronicles 18; Acts 21:17–30

Psalm 22:29–32: In this concluding stanza, our psalmist describes the immense breadth of God’s kingship: “For the Lord’s is the kingship—/ and He rules over the nations.” (29) And then, in an unusual movement downward, he asserts that God’s rule extends to the the realm of the dead:
Yes, to Him will bow down
all the netherworld’s sleepers.
Before Him will go down to the dust
whose life is undone.” (30)

In every other psalm the inhabitants of the “netherworld”—Sheol—cannot worship God because they are dead. So I will take the poem here as hyperbolic that in the psalmist’s enthusiasm to describe the unimaginable breadth—and now depth—of God’s reign, that he includes the “netherworld” simply as a poetic device.

The final verse of this remarkable psalm brings us back to the surface of the earth and rushes forward in time as the poet, speaking here as David, proclaims that “My seed will serve Him.” This eager anticipation of obedience and worship of God by David’s progeny is underscored as “It [worship] will be told to the Master for generations to come.” (31) Moreover, God’s story and manifold blessings will be carried down through history by each succeeding generation: “They will proclaim His bounty to a people aborning,/ for [all] He has done.” (32)

And that is exactly what has happened. Today, we worship God and tell his story through Jesus Christ some three millennia after this profound poem was written. Despite our individual suffering, God’s glory suffuses the earth and all that is in it.

2 Chronicles 18: Flush with success and wealth, king Jehoshaphat of Judah has arranged an alliance via marriage with Samaria (aka the northern kingdom of Israel). Our authors are silent on who that was. Ahab, king of Samaria, asks Jehoshaphat to ally with him in battle against the Arameans.

Jehoshaphat suggests that before undertaking the project of war that they “Inquire first for the word of the Lord.” (4) Ahab complies and gathers 400 prophets who affirm the king’s plan to go into battle. This is all a bit too sycophantically unanimous for Jeh. who asks “Is there no other prophet of the Lord here of whom we may inquire?” (6). Ahab replies, “There is still one other by whom we may inquire of the Lord, Micaiah son of Imlah; but I hate him, for he never prophesies anything favorable about me, but only disaster.” (7) Which certainly supports Jeh’s thesis that Ahab’s 400 prophets were skilled only in telling Ahab what he wanted to hear.  As proof of this sycophancy, one of the 400, a certain Zedekiah who is apparently the lead prophet, even goes to far as to forge iron horns, telling the two kings, “Thus says the Lord: With these you shall gore the Arameans until they are destroyed.” (10) We can see the other 399 prophets enthusiastically shaking their heads in assent to Zedekiah that victory would be the king’s.

The messengers sent to bring Micaiah back to the king tell the prophet it would be in his interest to fall in with the majority: “let your word be like the word of one of them, and speak favorably.” (12). As proof that Micaiah follows God rather than other humans, he replies, “As the Lord lives, whatever my God says, that I will speak.” (13) Which of course is the mark of a true prophet.

Ahab demands Micaiah’s prophecy. At first the prophet answers sarcastically, “Go up and triumph; they will be given into your hand.” (15) But Ahab asks for Micaiah’s true and honest answer, which is much more dire: “I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains, like sheep without a shepherd; and the Lord said, ‘These have no master; let each one go home in peace.’” (16) Ahab turns to Jeh and remarks, “Did I not tell you that he would not prophesy anything favorable about me, but only disaster?” (17)

Micaiah underscores his prophecy by telling the kings that a lying spirit has infected the other prophets, which causes Zedekiah to slap him angrily, “Which way did the spirit of the Lord pass from me to speak to you?” (23) Since Micaiah was the bearer of bad news, Ahab orders him to be imprisoned. As he is led away we can see Micaiah turn and shout at Ahab, “If you return in peace, the Lord has not spoken by me.” (27) In this exchange we have one of the great constants of history: kill the messenger who tells us what we don’t want to hear. Denial is a powerful human drive, especially among leaders—right down to the present day.

Needless to say, things do not go well in battle. To escape, Ahab demand that Jeh and he exchange robes, thinking the enemy will kill the Judean king instead. But “Jehoshaphat cried out, and the Lord helped him. God drew them away from him.” (31) The enemy turns away and pursues Ahab, who is promptly speared through a gap in his armor. Mortally wounded, Ahab “propped himself up in his chariot facing the Arameans until evening; then at sunset he died.” (34)

This chapter drives its point home dramatically: Beware of false prophets telling us what we want to hear.

Acts 21:17–30: Writing in the first person, Luke tells how “the brothers welcomed us warmly.” (17) Paul visits James and the other elders of the church. They tell of the perception float that the Jews in Jerusalem “have been told about you that you teach all the Jews living among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, and that you tell them not to circumcise their children or observe the customs.” (21) The elders suggest that Paul undergo a rite of public purification and that therefore the Jews “all will know that there is nothing in what they have been told about you, but that you yourself observe and guard the law.” (24) Paul agrees and “having purified himself, he entered the temple with them, making public the completion of the days of purification when the sacrifice would be made for each of them.” (26)

However, things don’t go well there. The Jews from Asia stir up the crowd and falsely accuse Paul as “the man who is teaching everyone everywhere against our people, our law, and this place; more than that, he has actually brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.” (28) The mob “seized Paul and dragged him out of the temple, and immediately the doors were shut.” (30)

This begins Paul’s captivity as he is about to be brought up on false charges.

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