×
A devotional bible commentary
in partnership with
Join Us!
Join Us!

Today’s Reading

Devotional: 1 Chronicles 15

In 1 Chronicles 15 we find elements of David’s reasoning not found in the parallel passage in 2 Samuel 6.

After capturing Jerusalem, David eventually determined to bring the ark of the covenant up to the new capital city. On the way, Uzzah reached out his hand to steady the ark as the cart on which it was riding jolted its way along the rutted roads—and he was instantly slain. David was both angry with God and afraid of him (1 Chron. 13:11–12), and abandoned his mission. The ark was parked in the home of Obed-Edom the Gittite. During the three months of the ark’s temporary residence there, the household of Obed-Edom was so abundantly blessed that everyone took notice. So in due course David made another attempt to transport the ark to Jerusalem.

This much could have been gleaned from either 2 Samuel or 1 Chronicles. What 1 Chronicles 15:1–24 adds is something of David’s reasoning and arrangements. I shall focus on one point.

Apparently cooling down after the shocking loss of Uzzah, David returns to the Scriptures. True, Uzzah should not have touched the ark. But were David and his people transgressing any other legal prescriptions in the way they were handling it? David’s Bible reading reminds him that only Levites are permitted to transport it, and how they are to do it. So he tells the Levites to prepare themselves for the task, and explains his reasoning: “It was because you, the Levites, did not bring it up the first time that the LORD our God broke out in anger against us. We did not inquire of him about how to do it in the prescribed way” (1 Chron. 15:13). In other words, David concludes that God’s wrath in the matter of Uzzah’s thoughtlessness was the outcropping of God’s deeper displeasure. Transporting the ark was not to be a willy-nilly matter. God expected to be obeyed, and the symbol of his presence was to be handled in line with the covenantal stipulations.

So that is what the Levites did: “The Levites carried the ark of God with the poles on their shoulders, as Moses had commanded, in accordance with the word of the LORD” (1 Chron. 15:15).

Here is a profound lesson. At one level, doubtless God approves childlike praise and enthusiastic zeal. But he expects those with authority among his people to know what his Word says and obey it. No amount of enthusiasm and zeal can ever hope to make up for this lack. Zeal that is heading in the wrong direction never reaches the goal. It must either be redirected in the direction staked out in God’s Word, or however enthusiastic, it is still wrong-headed and misdirected. There is no substitute for faith working itself out in informed obedience.

Related Resources

Is the Book of James Really Christian?

Would your version of gospel centrality, if applied consistently, rule James out of the canon?

Devotional: Amos 9

Although Amos 9 contains some pretty dreadful threats of judgment, it ends on a positive chord in three-part harmony.

(1) The judgment will not be total, but partial. “I will not totally destroy the house of Jacob,” the Lord declares (Amos 9:8). The sifting will be very thorough (Amos 9:9–10), but God will spare a remnant. From about the time of Elijah on, the remnant theme gets stronger with each passing century. Thoughtful people receive it and are greatly encouraged: God always preserves some faithful people.

(2) “In that day”—a prophetic formula that is exceedingly flexible in its referent—God “will restore David’s fallen tent” (Amos 9:11). God will restore the Davidic dynasty to its former splendor—indeed, to something even greater, as the next verse suggests. Amos was warning the northern kingdom; at this point the Davidic dynasty, however reduced, was still intact in the south. This prophecy does not envisage the restoration of the dynasty after it has ceased for a time to exist (which is the way the later prophets speak, a century and a half after Amos). Rather, it foresees the restoration of the dynasty to its former glory, and more.

(3) The final verses of the chapter (Amos 9:13–15) portray such a time of fertility in the land that the reaper is overtaken by the plowman—a wonderful picture of almost magical fertility. The ruined cities will be rebuilt, and never again will Israel be uprooted from the land.

When are these prophecies fulfilled? The first is surely fulfilled in the events surrounding the exile, but similar events have happened many times since. God preserved a remnant then, and he has done so since. Some think that once the extravagant language of the closing verses is taken with a grain of salt, these promises were fulfilled when the people returned to the land after the exile. But the text says they would “never again” be uprooted, and of course they were. So one must conclude either that Amos goofed or that this promise was not fulfilled in the postexilic period. Certainly that period did not witness the restoration of the Davidic empire. So some foresee a literal fulfillment in the future. But Christians will remember how Amos 9:11–12 is applied by James at the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:16–17). He insists that Jesus is the Davidic king, that his reign fulfills this promise, that the blessings to the Gentiles hinted at here are being fulfilled in the extension of the Gospel to the Gentiles. This suggests a typological fulfillment of some Old Testament prophecies—an approach that has a bearing on how we read some other Old Testament prophecies as well.

1 Chronicles 15

The Ark Brought to Jerusalem

15:1 David1 built houses for himself in the city of David. And he prepared a place for the ark of God and pitched a tent for it. Then David said that no one but the Levites may carry the ark of God, for the LORD had chosen them to carry the ark of the LORD and to minister to him forever. And David assembled all Israel at Jerusalem to bring up the ark of the LORD to its place, which he had prepared for it. And David gathered together the sons of Aaron and the Levites: of the sons of Kohath, Uriel the chief, with 120 of his brothers; of the sons of Merari, Asaiah the chief, with 220 of his brothers; of the sons of Gershom, Joel the chief, with 130 of his brothers; of the sons of Elizaphan, Shemaiah the chief, with 200 of his brothers; of the sons of Hebron, Eliel the chief, with 80 of his brothers; 10 of the sons of Uzziel, Amminadab the chief, with 112 of his brothers. 11 Then David summoned the priests Zadok and Abiathar, and the Levites Uriel, Asaiah, Joel, Shemaiah, Eliel, and Amminadab, 12 and said to them, “You are the heads of the fathers' houses of the Levites. Consecrate yourselves, you and your brothers, so that you may bring up the ark of the LORD, the God of Israel, to the place that I have prepared for it. 13 Because you did not carry it the first time, the LORD our God broke out against us, because we did not seek him according to the rule.” 14 So the priests and the Levites consecrated themselves to bring up the ark of the LORD, the God of Israel. 15 And the Levites carried the ark of God on their shoulders with the poles, as Moses had commanded according to the word of the LORD.

16 David also commanded the chiefs of the Levites to appoint their brothers as the singers who should play loudly on musical instruments, on harps and lyres and cymbals, to raise sounds of joy. 17 So the Levites appointed Heman the son of Joel; and of his brothers Asaph the son of Berechiah; and of the sons of Merari, their brothers, Ethan the son of Kushaiah; 18 and with them their brothers of the second order, Zechariah, Jaaziel, Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Unni, Eliab, Benaiah, Maaseiah, Mattithiah, Eliphelehu, and Mikneiah, and the gatekeepers Obed-edom and Jeiel. 19 The singers, Heman, Asaph, and Ethan, were to sound bronze cymbals; 20 Zechariah, Aziel, Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Unni, Eliab, Maaseiah, and Benaiah were to play harps according to Alamoth; 21 but Mattithiah, Eliphelehu, Mikneiah, Obed-edom, Jeiel, and Azaziah were to lead with lyres according to the Sheminith. 22 Chenaniah, leader of the Levites in music, should direct the music, for he understood it. 23 Berechiah and Elkanah were to be gatekeepers for the ark. 24 Shebaniah, Joshaphat, Nethanel, Amasai, Zechariah, Benaiah, and Eliezer, the priests, should blow the trumpets before the ark of God. Obed-edom and Jehiah were to be gatekeepers for the ark.

25 So David and the elders of Israel and the commanders of thousands went to bring up the ark of the covenant of the LORD from the house of Obed-edom with rejoicing. 26 And because God helped the Levites who were carrying the ark of the covenant of the LORD, they sacrificed seven bulls and seven rams. 27 David was clothed with a robe of fine linen, as also were all the Levites who were carrying the ark, and the singers and Chenaniah the leader of the music of the singers. And David wore a linen ephod. 28 So all Israel brought up the ark of the covenant of the LORD with shouting, to the sound of the horn, trumpets, and cymbals, and made loud music on harps and lyres.

29 And as the ark of the covenant of the LORD came to the city of David, Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window and saw King David dancing and celebrating, and she despised him in her heart.

Footnotes

[1] 15:1 Hebrew He

(ESV)

James 2

The Sin of Partiality

2:1 My brothers,1 show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?

If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. 11 For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. 13 For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

Faith Without Works Is Dead

14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good2 is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

Footnotes

[1] 2:1 Or brothers and sisters; also verses 5, 14
[2] 2:16 Or benefit

(ESV)

Amos 9

The Destruction of Israel

9:1 I saw the Lord standing beside1 the altar, and he said:

  “Strike the capitals until the thresholds shake,
    and shatter them on the heads of all the people;2
  and those who are left of them I will kill with the sword;
    not one of them shall flee away;
    not one of them shall escape.
  “If they dig into Sheol,
    from there shall my hand take them;
  if they climb up to heaven,
    from there I will bring them down.
  If they hide themselves on the top of Carmel,
    from there I will search them out and take them;
  and if they hide from my sight at the bottom of the sea,
    there I will command the serpent, and it shall bite them.
  And if they go into captivity before their enemies,
    there I will command the sword, and it shall kill them;
  and I will fix my eyes upon them
    for evil and not for good.”
  The Lord GOD of hosts,
  he who touches the earth and it melts,
    and all who dwell in it mourn,
  and all of it rises like the Nile,
    and sinks again, like the Nile of Egypt;
  who builds his upper chambers in the heavens
    and founds his vault upon the earth;
  who calls for the waters of the sea
    and pours them out upon the surface of the earth—
  the LORD is his name.
  “Are you not like the Cushites to me,
    O people of Israel?” declares the LORD.
  “Did I not bring up Israel from the land of Egypt,
    and the Philistines from Caphtor and the Syrians from Kir?
  Behold, the eyes of the Lord GOD are upon the sinful kingdom,
    and I will destroy it from the surface of the ground,
    except that I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob,”
      declares the LORD.
  “For behold, I will command,
    and shake the house of Israel among all the nations
  as one shakes with a sieve,
    but no pebble shall fall to the earth.
10   All the sinners of my people shall die by the sword,
    who say, ‘Disaster shall not overtake or meet us.’

The Restoration of Israel

11   “In that day I will raise up
    the booth of David that is fallen
  and repair its breaches,
    and raise up its ruins
    and rebuild it as in the days of old,
12   that they may possess the remnant of Edom
    and all the nations who are called by my name,”3
    declares the LORD who does this.
13   “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the LORD,
    “when the plowman shall overtake the reaper
    and the treader of grapes him who sows the seed;
  the mountains shall drip sweet wine,
    and all the hills shall flow with it.
14   I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel,
    and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them;
  they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine,
    and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit.
15   I will plant them on their land,
    and they shall never again be uprooted
    out of the land that I have given them,”
      says the LORD your God.

Footnotes

[1] 9:1 Or on
[2] 9:1 Hebrew all of them
[3] 9:12 Hebrew; Septuagint (compare Acts 15:17) that the remnant of mankind and all the nations who are called by my name may seek the Lord

(ESV)

Luke 4

The Temptation of Jesus

4:1 And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’” And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written,

  “‘You shall worship the Lord your God,
    and him only shall you serve.’”

And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written,

  “‘He will command his angels concerning you,
    to guard you,’

11 and

  “‘On their hands they will bear you up,
    lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”

12 And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 13 And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.

Jesus Begins His Ministry

14 And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country. 15 And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all.

Jesus Rejected at Nazareth

16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. 17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,

18   “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
  He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
    and recovering of sight to the blind,
    to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19   to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.”

20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 22 And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, “Is not this Joseph's son?” 23 And he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘“Physician, heal yourself.” What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.’” 24 And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. 25 But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, 26 and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27 And there were many lepers1 in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” 28 When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. 29 And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. 30 But passing through their midst, he went away.

Jesus Heals a Man with an Unclean Demon

31 And he went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee. And he was teaching them on the Sabbath, 32 and they were astonished at his teaching, for his word possessed authority. 33 And in the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, 34 “Ha!2 What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” 35 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent and come out of him!” And when the demon had thrown him down in their midst, he came out of him, having done him no harm. 36 And they were all amazed and said to one another, “What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out!” 37 And reports about him went out into every place in the surrounding region.

Jesus Heals Many

38 And he arose and left the synagogue and entered Simon's house. Now Simon's mother-in-law was ill with a high fever, and they appealed to him on her behalf. 39 And he stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her, and immediately she rose and began to serve them.

40 Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to him, and he laid his hands on every one of them and healed them. 41 And demons also came out of many, crying, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that he was the Christ.

Jesus Preaches in Synagogues

42 And when it was day, he departed and went into a desolate place. And the people sought him and came to him, and would have kept him from leaving them, 43 but he said to them, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.” 44 And he was preaching in the synagogues of Judea.3

Footnotes

[1] 4:27 Leprosy was a term for several skin diseases; see Leviticus 13
[2] 4:34 Or Leave us alone
[3] 4:44 Some manuscripts Galilee

(ESV)