O Israel, hope in the Lord
from this time on and forevermore.
1 Kings 11:1-12:19
Even though the Lord had told the Israelite men not to marry women from certain nations that worshipped other gods, Solomon followed his heart--over a thousand times. And as the Lord had warned, his heart was turned away from God.
In anger, after trying twice to get Solomon to follow his commands, the Lord told him that the kingdom would be split--but not during Solomon's lifetime. Then one of Solomon's trusted employees, Jeroboam (a supervisor of the forced laborers), was approached by a prophet who told him that God was going to split up Solomon's kingdom.
After Solomon died, his son Rehoboam accepted the kingship. When Jeroboam asked him to lighten the burden of the laborers, Rehoboam said he was making make it heaver. The northern tribes did secede.
Saul had witnessed the execution of Stephen in Jerusalem. Persecution of Christians in Jerusalem became so fearsome that many fled the city. Saul was part of the effort to remove what they considered to be a dangerous threat to their religion. Scaring the Christians out of Jerusalem did not silence them. They preached wherever they were. Evangelism in Samaria was so successful that Peter and John made a trip there then returned to Jerusalem. Philip obeyed a call from the Lord to go south. There he baptized and preached.
Saul, aware of the increase in adherents to Christ, set out to find them and bring them back to Jerusalem.
His journey was interrupted. He saw a light and heard a voice, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?"
He asked "Who are you, Lord?" and was answered, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what to do."
Saul had thought he was persecuting heretics; now, he is struck with the realization that the Jesus that they were claiming had been resurrected was now speaking even to him. And engaging him.
Although we are accustomed to thinking of this event as the conversion of Paul, many commentators prefer to term it as the call. After all, Saul/Paul does not quit being a faithful Jew. The split between Jews who are Christians and who are not will come later.
Jesus spoke to Ananias in a vision: Go tell Saul to tell about me to both Gentiles and Jews.
Ananias was surprised at the choice of Saul because of his efforts at ridding Judaism of Christ followers. But, he expressed no surprise at the message only the messenger. After all, Jesus himself had reached out to many persons who were not faithful Jews--or any kind of Jew--for example, sinners, collaborators, and foreigners.
Jesus is still reaching out. It is ironic that he would choose Saul for the mission. Saul, who had been trying to rid the Jews of those who were adherents to Christ, is now going to be asked to go to people who aren't even Jews.
Ananias was afraid and had reason to be; yet, he does what the Lord tells him to do--approach this man who has been persecuting people like him.
He did what Jesus had told him to do. Immediately Saul's sight was restored. He got up, was baptized, ate some food, got stronger, and begin to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying "He is the Son of God."
Psalm 131 begins with an assertion of humility, "O Lord, my heart is not proud nor my look haughty; I do not aspire to great things or to what is beyond me." I'm pausing here to ponder how honestly a typical modern can pray this psalm. Do we think a heart should be proud? Is it hard for us to admit that some things are beyond us? How willing are we to limit our aspirations? Or, I'm wondering if we, on the other hand, can pray this psalm quite honestly. Our humility is part of what drives us to our places of worship. Of course, we can't do everything. Of course, we don't understand why some things turn out the way they do. But, I'm still having trouble with the not-occupying myself part. I, at least, if not we, do tend to worry about a lot of things.
Back to the psalm.
The words of the psalm links the one on the way to the Temple (or on the way home from exile, or the one seeking the presence of God) to a small child with its mother. From an assertion of humility to an example of it. It's hard to come up with a relationship in which one party provides for the needs of the other--even when that other isn't behaving particularly well at all--than the mother and her child.
An evildoer listens to wicked lips;
and a liar gives heed to a mischievous tongue.
Those who mock the poor insult their maker;
those who are glad at calamity will not go unpunished.
Prayer for Today: Choose a prayer from Joan Stott's website The Timeless Psalms.