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

Today’s Reading

Devotional: Hebrews 11

Faith has many facets. Some of them emerge in Hebrews 11—and also what faith isn’t.

(1) Not once does “faith” take on the modern sense of “religious preference” or “belief without grounding in fact or truth.” So much has scientism brainwashed our world in this respect that we easily think of “faith” in this purely subjective sense. If you tell others what you believe, they do not ask you what your reasons are to determine whether or not your belief is well grounded. It is automatically assumed that such faith cannot be more than religious preference, for which there are, by definition, no useful criteria.

(2) By contrast, faith in this chapter is a faculty to perceive what is objectively true. The author is not calling in doubt the proposition that “the universe was formed at God’s command” (Heb. 11:3). Rather, he implies that we have no ready way to demonstrate it; we can acknowledge the truthfulness of this proposition only if the one Person who was there discloses what happened—and we believe him. Similarly, the author entertains no doubt that the Christian consummation, “what we hope for” (Heb. 11:1), is coming. But we cannot measure it or bottle it or prove it. For very good reasons, we believe the promises of God regarding what is to come. Our “faith” is thus a glorious God-given facility that enables us to be “sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Heb. 11:1).

(3) In certain respects, then, this faith is like the faith of “the ancients” (Heb. 11:2). For many of them were promised things that they did not see in their lifetimes. Because they believed the promises of God and acted upon them, they were commended for their faith. Thus Abraham acted on the promise that his descendants would multiply abundantly and inherit the land of Canaan. He did not live to see it, but he acted on it. The twelve patriarchs believed the promise, Joseph so strongly that he gave instructions to the Israelites about taking his body with them when they left Egypt, though that departure was centuries away. Many of those promises have already come to pass; by analogy, ought we not to await with glad faith the fulfillment of the promises of God yet outstanding?

(4) Such faith works out not only in those readily seen as victors (e.g., Heb. 11:32–35a) but in those seen as victims (Heb. 11:35b–38). Whether we belong to those called to conquer kingdoms, administer justice, escape the edge of the sword, and receive the dead back to life, or to those who are tortured, who face jeers and floggings, imprisonment, destitution, and ignominious death, is entirely secondary. The critical question is whether or not we take God at his word.

Devotional: Amos 5

On first reading, Amos 5 is a bit of a muddle. It is made up of such diffuse bits—not only different themes, but different forms and literary genres. The NIV recognizes the point by putting verses 8–9 in parentheses (there are no parentheses in Hebrew). The first three verses are a lament, a funeral dirge, mournfully bemoaning the fall of Israel. Verses 4–6 and 14–15 constitute an evangelistic appeal. This is how Israel must respond if they are to be accepted by the Lord and survive. Verses 7 and 10–13 deal with the oppression and corruption in the land. The last two verses (16–17) return to lament.

It is easy enough to reflect on these distinct themes separately. For example, one might well meditate on how seeking the Lord himself (Amos 5:4–6, 14–15) is more important than the aesthetically pleasing form of worship (Amos 5:4–5), on how genuine repentance embraces a massive hatred of sin not only at some distant, theoretical level, but at the level of practical integrity and social responsibility, including justice in the courts (Amos 5:15). Does any society need to hear this more than ours, where there is less and less interest in justice and righteousness, and more and more interest in merely manipulating the duly enacted laws? And so we could work through all of the themes and forms in Amos 5:1–17.

For some purposes, of course, such thematic analysis is helpful. It finds its extreme in the liberal critic who thinks the chapter is a mismatched pastiche of sources that can be set to rights with scissors and paste. But that misses the genius and power of the chapter. This is a collage, akin to a rapid succession of images on film that dance from war to sermon to funeral to judgment to sin to repentance. Amos’s original hearers were hostile. To retain their interest he had to knock them off base, and the resulting rapid transitions give power to the whole precisely because they are jarring and unexpected. We are forced to think not only about the themes themselves, but about their interconnectedness with other themes.

The direction of the whole is exposed in the final verses of the chapter (Amos 5:18–27). For all their self-indulgence and moral ambivalence, these people retain a religious fervor that hungers for “the day of the LORD”—as many of us hunger for “revival.” But God says he despises their religious feasts and hates their assemblies. What he demands is implacable: “But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” (Amos 5:24). Otherwise “the day of the Lord,” when he truly does meet with them, will be a day of dark judgment, infinitely removed from the paradisiacal light for which they hope.

1 Chronicles 7–8

Descendants of Issachar

7:1 The sons1 of Issachar: Tola, Puah, Jashub, and Shimron, four. The sons of Tola: Uzzi, Rephaiah, Jeriel, Jahmai, Ibsam, and Shemuel, heads of their fathers' houses, namely of Tola, mighty warriors of their generations, their number in the days of David being 22,600. The son2 of Uzzi: Izrahiah. And the sons of Izrahiah: Michael, Obadiah, Joel, and Isshiah, all five of them were chief men. And along with them, by their generations, according to their fathers' houses, were units of the army for war, 36,000, for they had many wives and sons. Their kinsmen belonging to all the clans of Issachar were in all 87,000 mighty warriors, enrolled by genealogy.

Descendants of Benjamin

The sons of Benjamin: Bela, Becher, and Jediael, three. The sons of Bela: Ezbon, Uzzi, Uzziel, Jerimoth, and Iri, five, heads of fathers' houses, mighty warriors. And their enrollment by genealogies was 22,034. The sons of Becher: Zemirah, Joash, Eliezer, Elioenai, Omri, Jeremoth, Abijah, Anathoth, and Alemeth. All these were the sons of Becher. And their enrollment by genealogies, according to their generations, as heads of their fathers' houses, mighty warriors, was 20,200. 10 The son of Jediael: Bilhan. And the sons of Bilhan: Jeush, Benjamin, Ehud, Chenaanah, Zethan, Tarshish, and Ahishahar. 11 All these were the sons of Jediael according to the heads of their fathers' houses, mighty warriors, 17,200, able to go to war. 12 And Shuppim and Huppim were the sons of Ir, Hushim the son of Aher.

Descendants of Naphtali

13 The sons of Naphtali: Jahziel, Guni, Jezer and Shallum, the descendants of Bilhah.

Descendants of Manasseh

14 The sons of Manasseh: Asriel, whom his Aramean concubine bore; she bore Machir the father of Gilead. 15 And Machir took a wife for Huppim and for Shuppim. The name of his sister was Maacah. And the name of the second was Zelophehad, and Zelophehad had daughters. 16 And Maacah the wife of Machir bore a son, and she called his name Peresh; and the name of his brother was Sheresh; and his sons were Ulam and Rakem. 17 The son of Ulam: Bedan. These were the sons of Gilead the son of Machir, son of Manasseh. 18 And his sister Hammolecheth bore Ishhod, Abiezer, and Mahlah. 19 The sons of Shemida were Ahian, Shechem, Likhi, and Aniam.

Descendants of Ephraim

20 The sons of Ephraim: Shuthelah, and Bered his son, Tahath his son, Eleadah his son, Tahath his son, 21 Zabad his son, Shuthelah his son, and Ezer and Elead, whom the men of Gath who were born in the land killed, because they came down to raid their livestock. 22 And Ephraim their father mourned many days, and his brothers came to comfort him. 23 And Ephraim went in to his wife, and she conceived and bore a son. And he called his name Beriah, because disaster had befallen his house.3 24 His daughter was Sheerah, who built both Lower and Upper Beth-horon, and Uzzen-sheerah. 25 Rephah was his son, Resheph his son, Telah his son, Tahan his son, 26 Ladan his son, Ammihud his son, Elishama his son, 27 Nun4 his son, Joshua his son. 28 Their possessions and settlements were Bethel and its towns, and to the east Naaran, and to the west Gezer and its towns, Shechem and its towns, and Ayyah and its towns; 29 also in possession of the Manassites, Beth-shean and its towns, Taanach and its towns, Megiddo and its towns, Dor and its towns. In these lived the sons of Joseph the son of Israel.

Descendants of Asher

30 The sons of Asher: Imnah, Ishvah, Ishvi, Beriah, and their sister Serah. 31 The sons of Beriah: Heber, and Malchiel, who fathered Birzaith. 32 Heber fathered Japhlet, Shomer, Hotham, and their sister Shua. 33 The sons of Japhlet: Pasach, Bimhal, and Ashvath. These are the sons of Japhlet. 34 The sons of Shemer his brother: Rohgah, Jehubbah, and Aram. 35 The sons of Helem his brother: Zophah, Imna, Shelesh, and Amal. 36 The sons of Zophah: Suah, Harnepher, Shual, Beri, Imrah. 37 Bezer, Hod, Shamma, Shilshah, Ithran, and Beera. 38 The sons of Jether: Jephunneh, Pispa, and Ara. 39 The sons of Ulla: Arah, Hanniel, and Rizia. 40 All of these were men of Asher, heads of fathers' houses, approved, mighty warriors, chiefs of the princes. Their number enrolled by genealogies, for service in war, was 26,000 men.

A Genealogy of Saul

8:1 Benjamin fathered Bela his firstborn, Ashbel the second, Aharah the third, Nohah the fourth, and Rapha the fifth. And Bela had sons: Addar, Gera, Abihud, Abishua, Naaman, Ahoah, Gera, Shephuphan, and Huram. These are the sons of Ehud (they were heads of fathers' houses of the inhabitants of Geba, and they were carried into exile to Manahath): Naaman,5 Ahijah, and Gera, that is, Heglam, who fathered6 Uzza and Ahihud. And Shaharaim fathered sons in the country of Moab after he had sent away Hushim and Baara his wives. He fathered sons by Hodesh his wife: Jobab, Zibia, Mesha, Malcam, 10 Jeuz, Sachia, and Mirmah. These were his sons, heads of fathers' houses. 11 He also fathered sons by Hushim: Abitub and Elpaal. 12 The sons of Elpaal: Eber, Misham, and Shemed, who built Ono and Lod with its towns, 13 and Beriah and Shema (they were heads of fathers' houses of the inhabitants of Aijalon, who caused the inhabitants of Gath to flee); 14 and Ahio, Shashak, and Jeremoth. 15 Zebadiah, Arad, Eder, 16 Michael, Ishpah, and Joha were sons of Beriah. 17 Zebadiah, Meshullam, Hizki, Heber, 18 Ishmerai, Izliah, and Jobab were the sons of Elpaal. 19 Jakim, Zichri, Zabdi, 20 Elienai, Zillethai, Eliel, 21 Adaiah, Beraiah, and Shimrath were the sons of Shimei. 22 Ishpan, Eber, Eliel, 23 Abdon, Zichri, Hanan, 24 Hananiah, Elam, Anthothijah, 25 Iphdeiah, and Penuel were the sons of Shashak. 26 Shamsherai, Shehariah, Athaliah, 27 Jaareshiah, Elijah, and Zichri were the sons of Jeroham. 28 These were the heads of fathers' houses, according to their generations, chief men. These lived in Jerusalem.

29 Jeiel7 the father of Gibeon lived in Gibeon, and the name of his wife was Maacah. 30 His firstborn son: Abdon, then Zur, Kish, Baal, Nadab, 31 Gedor, Ahio, Zecher, 32 and Mikloth (he fathered Shimeah). Now these also lived opposite their kinsmen in Jerusalem, with their kinsmen. 33 Ner was the father of Kish, Kish of Saul, Saul of Jonathan, Malchi-shua, Abinadab and Eshbaal; 34 and the son of Jonathan was Merib-baal; and Merib-baal was the father of Micah. 35 The sons of Micah: Pithon, Melech, Tarea, and Ahaz. 36 Ahaz fathered Jehoaddah, and Jehoaddah fathered Alemeth, Azmaveth, and Zimri. Zimri fathered Moza. 37 Moza fathered Binea; Raphah was his son, Eleasah his son, Azel his son. 38 Azel had six sons, and these are their names: Azrikam, Bocheru, Ishmael, Sheariah, Obadiah, and Hanan. All these were the sons of Azel. 39 The sons of Eshek his brother: Ulam his firstborn, Jeush the second, and Eliphelet the third. 40 The sons of Ulam were men who were mighty warriors, bowmen, having many sons and grandsons, 150. All these were Benjaminites.

Footnotes

[1] 7:1 Syriac (compare Vulgate); Hebrew And to the sons
[2] 7:3 Hebrew sons; also verses 10, 12, 17
[3] 7:23 Beriah sounds like the Hebrew for disaster
[4] 7:27 Hebrew Non
[5] 8:7 Hebrew and Naaman
[6] 8:7 Or Gera; he carried them into exile and fathered
[7] 8:29 Compare 9:35; Hebrew lacks Jeiel

(ESV)

Hebrews 11

By Faith

11:1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. 11 By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.

13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, 18 of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 19 He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. 20 By faith Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau. 21 By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff. 22 By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones.

23 By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king's edict. 24 By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, 25 choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them.

29 By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned. 30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days. 31 By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.

32 And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets—33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two,1 they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—38 of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

39 And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

Footnotes

[1] 11:37 Some manuscripts add they were tempted

(ESV)

Amos 5

Seek the Lord and Live

5:1 Hear this word that I take up over you in lamentation, O house of Israel:

  “Fallen, no more to rise,
    is the virgin Israel;
  forsaken on her land,
    with none to raise her up.”

For thus says the Lord GOD:

  “The city that went out a thousand
    shall have a hundred left,
  and that which went out a hundred
    shall have ten left
    to the house of Israel.”

For thus says the LORD to the house of Israel:

  “Seek me and live;
    but do not seek Bethel,
  and do not enter into Gilgal
    or cross over to Beersheba;
  for Gilgal shall surely go into exile,
    and Bethel shall come to nothing.”
  Seek the LORD and live,
    lest he break out like fire in the house of Joseph,
    and it devour, with none to quench it for Bethel,
  O you who turn justice to wormwood1
    and cast down righteousness to the earth!
  He who made the Pleiades and Orion,
    and turns deep darkness into the morning
    and darkens the day into night,
  who calls for the waters of the sea
    and pours them out on the surface of the earth,
  the LORD is his name;
  who makes destruction flash forth against the strong,
    so that destruction comes upon the fortress.
10   They hate him who reproves in the gate,
    and they abhor him who speaks the truth.
11   Therefore because you trample on2 the poor
    and you exact taxes of grain from him,
  you have built houses of hewn stone,
    but you shall not dwell in them;
  you have planted pleasant vineyards,
    but you shall not drink their wine.
12   For I know how many are your transgressions
    and how great are your sins—
  you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe,
    and turn aside the needy in the gate.
13   Therefore he who is prudent will keep silent in such a time,
    for it is an evil time.
14   Seek good, and not evil,
    that you may live;
  and so the LORD, the God of hosts, will be with you,
    as you have said.
15   Hate evil, and love good,
    and establish justice in the gate;
  it may be that the LORD, the God of hosts,
    will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.

16 Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of hosts, the Lord:

  “In all the squares there shall be wailing,
    and in all the streets they shall say, ‘Alas! Alas!’
  They shall call the farmers to mourning
    and to wailing those who are skilled in lamentation,
17   and in all vineyards there shall be wailing,
    for I will pass through your midst,”
      says the LORD.

Let Justice Roll Down

18   Woe to you who desire the day of the LORD!
    Why would you have the day of the LORD?
  It is darkness, and not light,
19     as if a man fled from a lion,
    and a bear met him,
  or went into the house and leaned his hand against the wall,
    and a serpent bit him.
20   Is not the day of the LORD darkness, and not light,
    and gloom with no brightness in it?
21   “I hate, I despise your feasts,
    and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
22   Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings,
    I will not accept them;
  and the peace offerings of your fattened animals,
    I will not look upon them.
23   Take away from me the noise of your songs;
    to the melody of your harps I will not listen.
24   But let justice roll down like waters,
    and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

25 “Did you bring to me sacrifices and offerings during the forty years in the wilderness, O house of Israel? 26 You shall take up Sikkuth your king, and Kiyyun your star-god—your images that you made for yourselves, 27 and I will send you into exile beyond Damascus,” says the LORD, whose name is the God of hosts.

Footnotes

[1] 5:7 Or to bitter fruit
[2] 5:11 Or you tax

(ESV)

Luke 1:1–38

Dedication to Theophilus

1:1 Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.

Birth of John the Baptist Foretold

In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah,1 of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.

Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. 11 And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. 13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb. 16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, 17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”

18 And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” 19 And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20 And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” 21 And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple. 22 And when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple. And he kept making signs to them and remained mute. 23 And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home.

24 After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, 25 “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”

Birth of Jesus Foretold

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed2 to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”3 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”4

35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born5 will be called holy—the Son of God. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant6 of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

Footnotes

[1] 1:5 Greek Zacharias
[2] 1:27 That is, legally pledged to be married
[3] 1:28 Some manuscripts add Blessed are you among women!
[4] 1:34 Greek since I do not know a man
[5] 1:35 Some manuscripts add of you
[6] 1:38 Greek bondservant; also verse 48

(ESV)