Psalm 30:1–6; 2 Chronicles 32; Acts 25:16–26:1

Psalm 30:1–6: This psalm of thanksgiving exudes a quiet joy as the psalmist thanks God for his recent healing from a  disease. As well, apparently his enemies would have preferred that he die of the illness:
I shall exalt You, Lord, for You drew me up,
and You gave no joy to my enemies>
Lord, my God,
I cried to You and You healed me.” (2,3)

Clearly, this healing was from a near-death experience:
“Lord, You brought me up from Sheol,
gave me life from those gone down to the pit.” (5)

In light of this almost miraculous healing, our psalmist can have only one possible response: worship.
Hymn to the Lord, O his faithful,
acclaim His holy name.” (5)

Following the act of worship, our psalmist turns reflective:
But a moment in His wrath,
life in His pleasure.” (6a)

He observes that we will from time to time experience the wrath of God—here in the form of disease— remembering the deuteronomic outlook that disease was seen as God’s punishment. But in comparison to the far greater periods of life’s joys that come from God, suffering lasts but a moment.  This idea is captured memorably in the latter half of this verse:
At evening one beds down weeping,
and in the morning, glad song.” (6b)

Not only is sleep physically healing, it metaphorically tells us that God will always waken us in peace and even joy.

We might ask about those who suffer over a long period of time. How do these verses apply to them? I think the answer is that even in ongoing suffering, God will bring peace. I know this has been true of two men with whom I’ve walked along side as they suffered from disease that indeed carried them to death. Yet, along the way they both found the quiet joy in God that our poet describes here.

2 Chronicles 32: Even though Hezekiah and Judah have followed God assiduously, that is no guarantee that there will not be hard times. We read that “After these things and these acts of faithfulness, King Sennacherib of Assyria came and invaded Judah and encamped against the fortified cities, thinking to win them for himself.” (1)

But Hezekiah does not panic, but rather responds cooly to the threat. First, they cut off all the water flowing outside the fortified Jerusalem, depriving Sennacherib and his army of water. Hezekiah then sees that the city walls are repaired and fortified and goes on to organize the army.

But perhaps most impressive of all is that Hezekiah demonstrates the true leadership that comes from a man who knows and follows God: “Hezekiah spoke encouragingly to them, saying, “Be strong and of good courage. Do not be afraid or dismayed before the king of Assyria and all the horde that is with him; for there is one greater with us than with him.” (7)

Sennacherib sends his servants to Jerusalem in an attempt to discourage Hezekiah and all Jerusalem from the overwhelming force that surrounds them. He mocks their belief in God, sarcastically intoning, “‘The Lord our God will save us from the hand of the king of Assyria’?” (11) The Assyrian king then attempts to turn the court officials against Hezekiah, warning them that he remains undefeated: “do not let Hezekiah deceive you or mislead you in this fashion, and do not believe him, for no god of any nation or kingdom has been able to save his people from my hand or from the hand of my ancestors.” (15)

Still unable to persuade Hezekiah or Judah to surrender, the Assyrians shout at the people in their native tongue that “the God of Jerusalem [was] like the gods of the peoples of the earth, which are the work of human hands.” (19)

Hezekiah and Isaiah “cried to heaven.” God responds and “the Lord sent an angel who cut off all the mighty warriors and commanders and officers in the camp of the king of Assyria.” (21) Sennacherib returns in disgrace to Assyria. and in anger promptly kills some of his own sons—a vile act inspired by his belief in the false gods who apparently have betrayed him.

Then comes a reminder that it was God and not Hezekiah who accomplished this great victory, “Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death.” (24) However, as our authors point out, Hezekiah had become prideful. But he at least had the good sense to have “humbled himself for the pride of his heart, both he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of the Lord did not come upon them in the days of Hezekiah.” (26)

Our authors conclude the story of Hezekiah noting that “Hezekiah had very great riches and honor; and he made for himself treasuries for silver, for gold, for precious stones, for spices, for shields, and for all kinds of costly objects.” (27) He also executes an engineering project: “Hezekiah closed the upper outlet of the waters of Gihon and directed them down to the west side of the city of David. Hezekiah prospered in all his works.” (30) This same tunnel was rediscovered in Jerusalem in the 1980s.

All in all, Hezekiah’s is the most successful reign since Solomon—and all because Hezekiah and the people remained faithful and followed God. No one reading this history in Babylon and tempted to abandon God can miss the moral of this story…

Acts 25:16–26:1: Festus is truly confused about Paul’s case. In conversation with King Agrippa, it’s clear he’s trying to figure out these strange Jewish customs that seem to fly in the face of the Roman legal system. He tells Agrippa, “you see this man about whom the whole Jewish community petitioned me, both in Jerusalem and here, shouting that he ought not to live any longer. But I found that he had done nothing deserving death.” (24, 25a) This sounds exactly like the conundrum that Pilate faced with Jesus—a coincidence that surely was not lost on our author, Luke.

Now that Paul has appealed to the Emperor, Festus has to write up the case and charges against Paul—and he is at a loss of what to write, remarking, “it seems to me unreasonable to send a prisoner without indicating the charges against him.” (27)  Festus asks Agrippa to hear Paul out to see what charges may be brought out of this strange very Jewish situation of people demanding a man’s death for the relatively trivial (in Roman eyes, anyway) of blasphemy.

Festus is certainly a wiser man than Pilate who gave into the crowd’s anger. Of course, he was not facing a riot on his doorstep the way Pilate was.

Paul rises to speak to Agrippa…


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