1 CHRONICLES 5:18-6:81 | ACTS 26:1-32 | PSALM 6:1-10 | PROVERBS 18:20-21
The historical records of genealogy continue, and in this chapter of the first book of Chronicles there is special mention of the tribe of Levi from whom Moses and Aaron have descended. The priestly line had continued from this tribe of Israel from time immemorial, and to this day, the rabbinical ancestry of the Jewish people may be traced back to the tribe of Levi.
Turning now to our saga of Paul’s unjustified imprisonment, we find that he is now before King Agrippa who invites him to offer a defense. I reproduce Paul’s defense in its entirety because it is so masterfully presented, and is worthy of our complete consideration.
In a most simple yet elegant manner, Paul briefs the king and Festus’ court on his credentials and his faith. Paul says:
2 “King Agrippa, I consider myself fortunate to stand before you today as I make my defense against all the accusations of the Jews, 3 and especially so because you are well acquainted with all the Jewish customs and controversies. Therefore, I beg you to listen to me patiently.
4 “The Jewish people all know the way I have lived ever since I was a child, from the beginning of my life in my own country, and also in Jerusalem. 5 They have known me for a long time and can testify, if they are willing, that I conformed to the strictest sect of our religion, living as a Pharisee. 6 And now it is because of my hope in what God has promised our ancestors that I am on trial today. 7 This is the promise our twelve tribes are hoping to see fulfilled as they earnestly serve God day and night. King Agrippa, it is because of this hope that these Jews are accusing me. 8 Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead?
9 “I too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10 And that is just what I did in Jerusalem. On the authority of the chief priests I put many of the Lord’s people in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. 11 Many a time I went from one synagogue to another to have them punished, and I tried to force them to blaspheme. I was so obsessed with persecuting them that I even hunted them down in foreign cities.
12 “On one of these journeys I was going to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. 13 About noon, King Agrippa, as I was on the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions. 14 We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’
15 “Then I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’
“ ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ the Lord replied. 16 ‘Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me. 17 I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them 18 to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’
19 “So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven. 20 First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and then to the Gentiles, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds. 21 That is why some Jews seized me in the temple courts and tried to kill me. 22 But God has helped me to this very day; so I stand here and testify to small and great alike. I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen— 23 that the Messiah would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would bring the message of light to his own people and to the Gentiles.”
Paul’s defense rings loud and clear, and Agrippa, his wife Berneice, as well as Festus himself appear to be the ones convicted of their own guilt in holding hostage a man clearly free of guilt, and beyond that fact, a man who is openly urging them all to believe in the death and resurrection of the man called Jesus Christ.
We do not know if this trio indeed believed in part or in full, but Agrippa does make a clear statement as follows: “This man is not doing anything that deserves death or imprisonment.”
It is to be seen what lies next for Paul.
Turning now to our reading of the psalms, we find one which must have been written by David in his darkest hour. He is pleading with God for mercy and salvation from his enemies and ill-wishers. After the great outpouring of his sorrow and pleas for help, he closes the psalm with words of great confidence and belief in God’s goodness and grace. He knows even as he prays that he will be delivered, and that his pleas will not fall on deaf ears.
May it be that we might also exhibit the same kind of confidence when we beseech the Lord for help. David says in utter confidence:
9 The LORD has heard my cry for mercy;
the LORD accepts my prayer.
10 All my enemies will be overwhelmed with shame and anguish;
they will turn back and suddenly be put to shame.
Finally, from the book of Proverbs, we find two verses that speak to the great import of the organ in our bodies known as the tongue. Would that we might understand its great power and beauty.
Solomon, the wise king of Israel has this to say about it:
20 From the fruit of their mouth a person’s stomach is filled;
with the harvest of their lips they are satisfied.
21 The tongue has the power of life and death,
and those who love it will eat its fruit.