OT: 2 Kings 10:32-12:21
Oh, FOR GOODNESS SAKE! Could the lineages be any more confusing? It's time to find a king chart.
Okay, that's better. Now, let's try to figure out today's reading.
First of all, the author of Kings graciously spares us the details of the carnage that Elisha predicted. Hazael overpowers Israel in today's reading, but we are spared any of the gory details of what his victory entailed.
Also in Israel, Jehu dies, and Jehoahaz succeeds in as king.
Over in Judah, Ahaziah dies, and his mother, Athaliah, goes a bit psycho. She basically kills her whole family, including many children, so that she could reign. And she did, for six years. Unfortunately for her, the one-year-old Joash was spared from the massacre which preceeded her reign, and he spent those six years hidden in the temple. When he was seven, the priest, Jehoiada, planned the child's coup. It was executed perfectly, and a child became king of Israel.
As kings go, Joash turned out to be a pretty good one. Not perfect (12:3), but good (12:2). He was plagued by some government inefficiency, however, as he could not get the priests to make the necessary repairs to the temple. Finally, he has them hire out the job. It's funny how you read about times past, and they seem so different from your own. And then, you get a little detail that shows that human nature is pretty much the same. So often, I see household projects being put off because "we are going to do it ourselves." Then, after it keeps being put off, finally the people decide to hire someone just to get it done. The priests in Joash's time were the same way.
NT: Acts 18:1-22
It's cool to see Paul go to the places to whom he later wrote letters. Today, he visits Corinth and Ephesus. I know from his letters that the Corinthians were crazy and plagued with immorality. Perhaps their struggles came partly from the fact that most of them were Gentiles. After all, in Corinth, Paul gets mad at the Jews and announces (again) that he is going to the Gentiles. From being involved in ministry, I can relate to Paul's attitude toward the Jews. On the one hand, he loves the Jews so much and wants so much for them. He talks at length about his love and desires for their salvation in Romans. On the other hand, because he cares about them so much, they frustrate the tar out of him. Twice now, he has "washed his hands" of them and turned to the Gentiles. Yet, it seems clear that though Paul does have a passion for the Gentiles, he never truly gives up on the Jews. He is simply too attached to them. And I think that, ironically, God used that love and resulting frustration to open the door for the Gentiles.
One of my favorite parts of this passage was God's reassurance to Paul in verses 9-10: "Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city." It's that last phrase that I love: "I have many people in this city." That statement resonates with my view of the kingdom of God that has developed over the last year and a half. I see the kingdom of God as a global network of Christians in every city and country throughout the world. I see us Christians having a responsibility for the city that we are in. Our city is our territory, so to speak. As such, we have a responsibility to take care of those within our territory. And I like the image of God over this whole network, thinking of cities in terms of how many people He has there. When God said, "I have many people in this city," it was His way of assuring Paul that he was going to be taken care of. Where God has many people, He can be assured that they will protect and care well for those in their city. As a Christian, I feel more and more of a responsibility to those in my territory, both Christian and non-Christian alike.
Psalm 145: 1-21
This was an interesting praise psalm. Verses 9-17 make several statements about God being good to all people:
"The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made" (9).
"All you have made will praise you" (10).
"The Lord is faithful to all his promises and loving toward all he has made" (13).
"The Lord upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down" (14).
"The eyes of all look to you, and you give them food at the proper time" (15).
"You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing" (16).
"The Lord is righteous in all his ways and loving toward all he has made" (17).
Now, I can definitely see how all of those statements are true in an eternal, "big picture" sense, but at the same time, my mind is playing back many OT stories that, strictly speaking, seem to contradict those verses. Many, many people have suffered, starved, and died in ways that might cause them to take issue with such verses. You can kind of see David thinking the same thing, too, because in verse 18, he kind of course corrects:
"The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.
He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them.
The Lord watches over all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy" (18-20).
Unlike the other verses, these three contain more caveats. I thought that was interesting.
I'm pretty sure that my preacher used this verse in a sermon recently, and I thought, "Wow, that's a great verse." Then I promptly forgot what it said, and I was looking forward to rediscovering it when I got to it in my reading. Well, I'm here now, and this doesn't sound at all like I remembered:
"An unfriendly man pursues selfish ends; he defies all sound judgment."
Hmm...I just checked the verse in several different versions, and I can't remember for the life of me why I liked it so much. Perhaps it was part of a bigger point about the need for community. That would make it more appealing to me, I think. Yeah, maybe that was it. Maybe my preacher was talking about how we aren't supposed to do this Christian thing alone, and how it is ultimately selfish and stupid to say that you don't need the church.