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When things go radically wrong in a culture, the problems often become intertwined. Two of the strands are twisted together in Micah 2:6–11. The passage begins and ends with a warning against false prophets, but in the middle of the oracle is Amos’s ongoing denunciation of the powerful people who are stripping bare the powerless (Micah 2:8–9).
Begin with the latter. They are so corrupt, Micah announces, that they act not like the people of the covenant, but like their enemies (Micah 2:8a). Women and children are despoiled by these brutes (Micah 2:9). Children cruelly lose their inheritance while these powerful people become richer—even though it is written, “Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless” (Ex. 22:22–23).
With this background in God’s revelation, one might have thought that the prophets of the land would be calling the powerful to account. Instead, the powerful and the corrupt turn out to be the prophets’ patrons. These prophets still preach, but what they preach is that Micah must not preach (Micah 2:6). Micah’s response is blistering: “If a liar and deceiver comes and says, ‘I will prophesy for you plenty of wine and beer,’ he would be just the prophet for this people” (Micah 2:11).
We must see how this happens. It is terribly easy for the preacher to shape his message to fit in with the spirit of the age. What begins as a concern to be relevant and contemporary—both admirable goals—ends up with seduction and domestication. This is especially likely when the rich and the powerful are paying our bills. At every level it is easy to fool oneself into thinking that cowardice is prudence, that silence on the moral issues of the day is a small price to pay in order to have influence in the corridors of power. Get invited to the White House (or even denominational headquarters!), and you will never inveigh against its sins. Give a lecture at a prestigious academic organ, and be sure to ruffle as few feathers as possible. Become a bishop, and instead of being the next J. C. Ryle, you sell your silence. Of course, it doesn’t have to be that way. God will always have his Micah and his Amos. But it happens frequently enough that we ought to return often to God’s revelation, to make sure that our message is shaped by what he has said and is neither the fruit of smart-mouthed petulance nor the oily “appropriateness” of those who cleverly say only what people want to hear.
In certain respects the structure of Israelite life, including some facets of its religious life, changed when the people entered the Promised Land and were no longer nomadic. The first changes were obvious. The Lord stopped the daily supply of manna: the people had to gather food for themselves and grow things. Urbanization began. The Sabbath laws were increasingly applied to trade and commerce as well as to agrarian life.
Now with the establishment of the monarchy and the impending construction of the temple, much more organization and centralization must take place. In particular, David concerns himself not only with providing Solomon with the wherewithal to construct the temple, but with laying the foundations for the new organizational structures that would be necessary to keep it operating. Such matters are of central interest in 1 Chronicles 23–26.
Already in 1 Chronicles 23 David himself reflects on the changes that are coming. One of the duties of the Levites in the past, begun during the wilderness years, was to pack up and transport the tabernacle in the prescribed way, whenever the Lord indicated it was time to move. David reflects on the fact the Lord has now granted his people “rest”: they are in the Promised Land. Moreover, he has chosen “to dwell in Jerusalem forever” (1 Chron. 23:25), so some of the duties of the Levites must change: “the Levites no longer need to carry the tabernacle or any of the articles used in its service” (1 Chron. 23:26). Meanwhile, new functions are introduced: more thought is given to temple choirs, and thus to schools of music and training.
So the Levites are reorganized. They are divided into major families, minor clans, and so forth. Moreover, the temple and its needs will not be allowed to take over. True, the following chapters focus on the kinds of tasks that those who serve the temple will have to discharge—not only the immediately priestly duties and the obviously menial tasks surrounding the temple, but the major responsibilities of upkeep, maintenance, finance, and administration. But from the beginning the priests were also to teach the people the law, and serve as “officials and judges.” David allots six thousand Levites for the latter tasks (1 Chron. 23:4).
From all of this we derive significant lessons. Most importantly, this is a lesson in contextualization within the canon—that is, how to take the old “givens” of revelation and adapt them to a new context without sacrificing the givens. As the church has expanded outward into new cultural contexts, those sorts of questions have had to be addressed again and again. One party will latch onto mere traditionalism from another culture; another party will start to abandon what Scripture actually says. What we really need is faithfulness and flexibility.
23:1 When David was old and full of days, he made Solomon his son king over Israel.
2 David1 assembled all the leaders of Israel and the priests and the Levites. 3 The Levites, thirty years old and upward, were numbered, and the total was 38,000 men. 4 “Twenty-four thousand of these,” David said,2 “shall have charge of the work in the house of the LORD, 6,000 shall be officers and judges, 5 4,000 gatekeepers, and 4,000 shall offer praises to the LORD with the instruments that I have made for praise.” 6 And David organized them in divisions corresponding to the sons of Levi: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari.
7 The sons of Gershon3 were Ladan and Shimei. 8 The sons of Ladan: Jehiel the chief, and Zetham, and Joel, three. 9 The sons of Shimei: Shelomoth, Haziel, and Haran, three. These were the heads of the fathers' houses of Ladan. 10 And the sons of Shimei: Jahath, Zina, and Jeush and Beriah. These four were the sons of Shimei. 11 Jahath was the chief, and Zizah the second; but Jeush and Beriah did not have many sons, therefore they became counted as a single father's house.
12 The sons of Kohath: Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel, four. 13 The sons of Amram: Aaron and Moses. Aaron was set apart to dedicate the most holy things, that he and his sons forever should make offerings before the LORD and minister to him and pronounce blessings in his name forever. 14 But the sons of Moses the man of God were named among the tribe of Levi. 15 The sons of Moses: Gershom and Eliezer. 16 The sons of Gershom: Shebuel the chief. 17 The sons of Eliezer: Rehabiah the chief. Eliezer had no other sons, but the sons of Rehabiah were very many. 18 The sons of Izhar: Shelomith the chief. 19 The sons of Hebron: Jeriah the chief, Amariah the second, Jahaziel the third, and Jekameam the fourth. 20 The sons of Uzziel: Micah the chief and Isshiah the second.
21 The sons of Merari: Mahli and Mushi. The sons of Mahli: Eleazar and Kish. 22 Eleazar died having no sons, but only daughters; their kinsmen, the sons of Kish, married them. 23 The sons of Mushi: Mahli, Eder, and Jeremoth, three.
24 These were the sons of Levi by their fathers' houses, the heads of fathers' houses as they were listed according to the number of the names of the individuals from twenty years old and upward who were to do the work for the service of the house of the LORD. 25 For David said, “The LORD, the God of Israel, has given rest to his people, and he dwells in Jerusalem forever. 26 And so the Levites no longer need to carry the tabernacle or any of the things for its service.” 27 For by the last words of David the sons of Levi were numbered from twenty years old and upward. 28 For their duty was to assist the sons of Aaron for the service of the house of the LORD, having the care of the courts and the chambers, the cleansing of all that is holy, and any work for the service of the house of God. 29 Their duty was also to assist with the showbread, the flour for the grain offering, the wafers of unleavened bread, the baked offering, the offering mixed with oil, and all measures of quantity or size. 30 And they were to stand every morning, thanking and praising the LORD, and likewise at evening, 31 and whenever burnt offerings were offered to the LORD on Sabbaths, new moons, and feast days, according to the number required of them, regularly before the LORD. 32 Thus they were to keep charge of the tent of meeting and the sanctuary, and to attend the sons of Aaron, their brothers, for the service of the house of the LORD.
4:1 Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh,1 arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. 3 For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. 4 With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; 5 but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6 For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.
7 The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. 8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory2 and of God rests upon you. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And
“If the righteous is scarcely saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”3
19 Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.
2:1 Woe to those who devise wickedness
and work evil on their beds!
When the morning dawns, they perform it,
because it is in the power of their hand.
2 They covet fields and seize them,
and houses, and take them away;
they oppress a man and his house,
a man and his inheritance.
3 Therefore thus says the LORD:
behold, against this family I am devising disaster,1
from which you cannot remove your necks,
and you shall not walk haughtily,
for it will be a time of disaster.
4 In that day they shall take up a taunt song against you
and moan bitterly,
and say, “We are utterly ruined;
he changes the portion of my people;
how he removes it from me!
To an apostate he allots our fields.”
5 Therefore you will have none to cast the line by lot
in the assembly of the LORD.
6 “Do not preach”—thus they preach—
“one should not preach of such things;
disgrace will not overtake us.”
7 Should this be said, O house of Jacob?
Has the LORD grown impatient?2
Are these his deeds?
Do not my words do good
to him who walks uprightly?
8 But lately my people have risen up as an enemy;
you strip the rich robe from those who pass by trustingly
with no thought of war.3
9 The women of my people you drive out
from their delightful houses;
from their young children you take away
my splendor forever.
10 Arise and go,
for this is no place to rest,
because of uncleanness that destroys
with a grievous destruction.
11 If a man should go about and utter wind and lies,
saying, “I will preach to you of wine and strong drink,”
he would be the preacher for this people!
12 I will surely assemble all of you, O Jacob;
I will gather the remnant of Israel;
I will set them together
like sheep in a fold,
like a flock in its pasture,
a noisy multitude of men.
13 He who opens the breach goes up before them;
they break through and pass the gate,
going out by it.
Their king passes on before them,
the LORD at their head.
11:1 Now Jesus1 was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” 2 And he said to them, “When you pray, say:
“Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
3 Give us each day our daily bread,2
4 and forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.”
5 And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, 6 for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; 7 and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? 8 I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence3 he will rise and give him whatever he needs. 9 And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 11 What father among you, if his son asks for4 a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
14 Now he was casting out a demon that was mute. When the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke, and the people marveled. 15 But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of demons,” 16 while others, to test him, kept seeking from him a sign from heaven. 17 But he, knowing their thoughts, said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls. 18 And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul. 19 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 20 But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 21 When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe; 22 but when one stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his spoil. 23 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.
24 “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ 25 And when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order. 26 Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there. And the last state of that person is worse than the first.”
27 As he said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” 28 But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”
29 When the crowds were increasing, he began to say, “This generation is an evil generation. It seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah. 30 For as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. 31 The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. 32 The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.
33 “No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a basket, but on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. 34 Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness. 35 Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness. 36 If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light.”
37 While Jesus5 was speaking, a Pharisee asked him to dine with him, so he went in and reclined at table. 38 The Pharisee was astonished to see that he did not first wash before dinner. 39 And the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. 40 You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also? 41 But give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you.
42 “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. 43 Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seat in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces. 44 Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without knowing it.”
45 One of the lawyers answered him, “Teacher, in saying these things you insult us also.” 46 And he said, “Woe to you lawyers also! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers. 47 Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets whom your fathers killed. 48 So you are witnesses and you consent to the deeds of your fathers, for they killed them, and you build their tombs. 49 Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’ 50 so that the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, 51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be required of this generation. 52 Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.”
53 As he went away from there, the scribes and the Pharisees began to press him hard and to provoke him to speak about many things, 54 lying in wait for him, to catch him in something he might say.