Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Challenge Continues, Day 132: II Kings; Psalm 110; Acts 25

Following today's reading in II Kings is akin to attempting to follow the multi-track narrative of an avant-garde French film from the 1960s, or a 19th century Russian novel without a cheat sheet at your side that keeps you connected with who is who, and to what is happening, has happened or is about to happen in any number of places as the plot(s) advance. Worse yet, caught as we are in "excerpt" is hard to not just skip ahead to where (we hope) the narrative makes more sense. There are two kingdoms, Judha and Israel. There are multiple rulers, usurpers and subplots that demand our attention. There are outside agents that from time to time present threats credible enough to warrant a cessation of civil warfare, long enough to repulse (or in some cases, be defeated by) those outsiders.

What is clear? There are a succession of kings in Israel and Judah. Some are better than others. Some are worse, attempting to outdo each other in depravity and/or idolatry. All of them hold power...some for decades, others less (one for just a month!).

From Wikipedia: an image of Succession
That succession seems to be the key to being connected to the chapters we are reading today. Of two constants, one is that the kingdoms remain just that: kingdoms. They are ruled, for better and for worse, by kings whose succession for the most part ties them back to David. Those ties may be tenuous, but they are there. Therein lies Israel's and Judah's connection to God. Alongside the presence of the prophets, that is pretty much all they possess. The other constant is also one of legacy: "the sins of Jeroboam." Jeroboam failed to tear down the shrines people had built to other gods. He failed to discourage the people of Israel in their continued participation in devotion to other gods. They continued to offer prayers, sacrifices and incense at other altars...and the narrative serves to remind us that this apostasy continues to add to both kingdom's debts with God. The quotient of sin is ever-increasing...even compounding.

So, with succession being the key to today's reading in II Kings, I see some parallels in the Psalm and in Acts. In the Psalm, we hear a song of David extolling that the grace of being a king by God's grace means not only sitting at God's right hand; it also means having a heritage that will abide forever in God's presence and in the land itself. Succession is a given, and from David's perspective that is a good thing. Reference above to see how it works out for the divided kingdom....

Paul's appeal to Caesar while before Festus
In Acts, Paul winds up being part of the left-over "to do" items lingering after the change in governors brings Festus to the region. The Jerusalem faction continues to press for access to Paul as they still want to murder him. The case of the apostle's appeal to Roman law is still pending. The tension is still unresolved...and the promise of God's messenger, that Paul will be giving his testimony in Rome, remains unfulfilled. It is in the succession of governors that Paul will receive his opportunity: when Festus attempts to send Paul back to Jerusalem, Paul uses the moment to appeal to Caesar. That is "good" news for Festus: the appeal ends his jurisdiction, for a Roman citizen to appeal to Caesar means transport of that one to Rome. That is "bad" news for Paul, because Caesar's justice usually means death to the accused. Again, Roman justice is Roman justice, after all.

With succession being so important, we are starting to see that God, though still VERY active in the lives of the people of God, has a longer-term set of solutions in mind. The people of God are failing to live up to, and in to, the Covenant; and as that debt increases, more drastic emphasis is building on what salvation from sin really looks like. Though we are in the middle of it events and history work themselves out, we are starting to see themes develop that will be leading us toward a state of being where God's deliverance will be profound, timely and dramatic...

...but, not quite yet. We have quite a few more monarchs to walk with in the histories; and many more miles to travel with Paul and the rest of the apostles before we rest.

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