Looking at the verbs of Acts 2:22-36

In practicing this “tell” so very intently, I have suddenly noticed how many verbs God gets. Isn’t that interesting? God: attests, does deeds, gives signs, has a plan and foreknowledge, raised him up, made an oath, walks, (perhaps prevents us from being shaken, gives us gladness), raises again, gives Jesus “the promise of the Holy Spirit”, makes footstools of enemies, made Jesus Lord and Messiah. God is very active in this passage, it seems to me.

And the repetition makes it hard to remember where you are when you are telling the story to an audience.

Specifically, “He is at my right hand” — V. 25, v. 33, v. 34

— verse 25’s right hand is followed by “therefore my heart was glad…”

verse 33’s right hand is followed by “and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit….”

verse 34’s right is followed by “until I make your enemies your footstool.”

The first one is David talking and meaning himself originally although Peter is saying that he had foreknowledge (even if he didn’t know it) and meant the Messiah. (Certainly I think Jesus had a glad heart!) The second is the core of the whole passage — the Father through Jesus sent us the Holy Spirit and all the flames and speaking in tongues earlier — that was not drunkenness (at 9am!) but the power of the Holy Spirit. That’s the core of the whole thing; I can’t mess that up when I tell the story. (Yikes!) Finally, verse 34, a definite tonal shift — either believe or face some consequences. Unless it is supposed to be funny? Would a God who attests, provides, plans, raises us a Messiah, walks with us, swears an oath, provides us with the Holy Spirit, and makes us glad, makes our tongue rejoice with gladness: would a God this full of love really suddenly turn enemies into footstools? It’s a sudden turn or twist in the text. It could be that exaggeration thing that is done so often in scripture for emphasis (and humor?). It could be the plain truth.

It is from Psalm 110 — the first footnote in my study bible says “At my right hand” is the place of power and honor of a ruler. And it says that kings really did treat their enemy captives as footstools. (Yuck!) It also says this psalm has textual problems that “prohibit a clear and certain reading of the text”. Now that is pretty funny, because Peter is using this as one of his “certain” proofs of what he is saying about Jesus and God. Is Peter using an uncertain and confusing psalm as proof to be certain of what he says? Maybe it was clear in his day?

The psalm starts: “The Lord says to my lord/”Sit at my right hand/until I make your enemies your footstool”. That is exactly what Peter quotes in verse except he says “said” instead of “says”. It strikes me as rare that when the New Testament quotes the Hebrew Scriptures it does so perfectly. The rest of psalm 110 is about how, with God, the ruler He is at the right of will have unstoppable power and might and vanquish enemies. This is not one of the “how wonderful you are” psalms but it is describing power.

I wonder if Peter uses it because it is exactly oppose what Jesus did — Jesus healed, spoke in parables, changed hearts, and so on; then was killed, on a cross, by betrayal and fear and by his enemies. Jesus was an unlikely Messiah — they expected one to be a warrior/king as described in this psalm — they got something quite different: A Jesus that God raised up, who pours out the Holy Spirit unto us, who walks with us and makes our hearts glad.

I’m going to have to live with the uncertainty of all this — and hopefully remember that each time He is at my right hand, three different things follow: gladness, the Holy Spirit, footstools. Gladness and promise of gladness; the promise of the Holy Spirit that has witnesses; the power to turn enemies into footstools — maybe just meaning, whatever obstacles there are to overcome as a person or as a group in terms of the everyday world, God is going to be with us and the obstacles are not going to stand at all, they in fact are going to be transformed.

ETA:

Oh my! I just realized — I was doing the dishes and I just realized that the difference between Peter saying the words of Psalm 110 and David/psalm originally is that originally those who were enemies — turned into footstools no less — was referring to those outside Israel. Now Peter is saying something quite different. Those who God makes glad are those you see that Jesus was raised up, sits at the right hand, pours out the Holy Spirit…. a new reality, a new covenant. One that perhaps Peter does not yet realize can include the whole world. Those listening would have been shocked, don’t you think?

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