The final section of Acts contains a tale of many temples: in Athens, in Ephesus and Jerusalem, which posed challenges and threats to Paul and his gospel. Then there is the portable temple of the church in mission, a tabernacle which even takes to sea. Paul’s sea voyages in some ways reprise but also reverse the mission of a previous prophet, Jonah. So well-detailed and recounted are the sea voyages that we can easily retrace the route and, in the right seasons, experience the same weather. The recurrent use of “we” shows that the author was eye-witness to many of these events.
In this section there is also the clash of kingdoms: that of the Lord Christ, Son of God, and Caesar, also “Son of God.” Both kingdoms are made of flesh-and-blood humans with their foibles and faults, as well as their strengths, so that no one comes out fully a villain. Among the Roman officials with whom Paul has to treat, we find nobility and respect for the rule of law, as well as corruption, foolishness and idolatry. Its especially ironic that Paul is carried to Rome on a boat that bears the names of Graeco-Roman gods. But this is precisely as Jesus promised in chapter 9, which he renewed. Note also the sovereignty of God, that even while Paul was cooling his heels and biding his time in a Caesarean prison, he was writing most of the correspondence that would become our New Testament letters. Even thus did his bondage bear fruit for the spread of God’s kingdom.
PSALM 110 is a royal psalm, perhaps of enthronement, that figures greatly into the New Testament understanding of how Jesus fulfills the prayers, promises and prophecies of the Old Testament. Jesus himself referred to it in Mk. 12: 35-37. “How is it that the scribes call the Messiah David’s Son, when David calls him Lord?” Though Jesus is genetically David’s offspring, he is his Lord both in provenance and in his ministry of peacemaking. His coming to power would be unlike that of David, as would also his kingdom.
Hebrews 5 picks up this psalm, including verse 4, “You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek,” which name means “King of Righteousness.” Jesus and the apostles then saw in this Psalm a promise and a prophecy to the effect that the Messiah would be both king and priest of Israel, even the nations, as the promises of conquest and victory show. But now, post-Calvary, we know how Jesus and his ministry would turn the sword of conquest on its head to become the cross.
PSALM 111 is a wisdom psalm, done in acrostic style, that is, with each verse or phrase beginning in a letter of the Hebrew alphabet, each in order after the previous one. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” which means awe, wonder, respect and reverence, not the fear that has to do with punishment. Wisdom is also tied to the Word of God and God’s commandments.
PSALM 112 is also an acrostic psalm, in the wisdom genre. To the previous psalm it adds the qualities of generosity and trust in God. It serves as a warning against our very individualistic age, in which the greatest qualities are personal achievement, popularity and the acquisition of wealth for oneself. Security and justice are instead found in relationships and reputation for trustworthiness and generosity.
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