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Today’s Reading

Devotional: Psalm 80

Probably Psalm 80 was written by Asaphite singers at another time of national disaster—when the Assyrians captured the northern kingdom, destroyed its capital, and exiled many of its people. The shock felt by the godly remnant in Judah must have been considerable. It accounts for the refrain, “Restore us, O God” (Ps. 80:3, 7, 19; cf. v. 14).

Perhaps the most striking feature of this psalm is the peculiar use it makes of the extended vine imagery (Ps. 80:8–18):

(1) We have often seen Israel portrayed as a vine: see, for instance, the meditation for May 7 (on Isa. 5). In the most dramatic of these passages, Israel is a vine that God carefully planted and nurtured, but sadly it produced only bad fruit. The vine ultimately proved so disappointing that in due course God resolved to destroy it.

(2) But here the emphasis is not on the terrible quality of the vine’s fruit (though that is presupposed), but on the wretched condition of the vine now that the Lord himself has broken down the protecting wall he had built around it. God himself brought the vine out of Egypt, planted it, nurtured it, and watched it spread from the (Mediterranean) Sea to the (Euphrates) River (Ps. 80:8–11). “Why have you broken down its walls so that all who pass by pick its grapes?” (80:12). Even the wild beasts from the forest trample it and ravage it (Ps. 80:13).

(3) So the appeal is that God would have compassion on his own vine. Without dwelling on why God broke down the protecting wall—though Asaph recognizes that it is God’s smoldering anger (Ps. 80:4), God’s righteous rebuke (Ps. 80:16)—the psalmist makes a frankly emotional appeal to God to protect the vine that he himself has nurtured and protected: “Watch over this vine, the root your right hand has planted” (Ps. 80:14–15).

(4) Interlaced with this theme is a reference to the “son” God raised up for himself (Ps. 80:15). The Hebrew word can refer to a branch or a bough (as in Gen. 49:22), but in this poem it is also preparing the way for Psalm 80:17. Probably in the first instance we are to detect a reference to Israel, a reference stemming from Exodus 4:22: “Israel is my firstborn son, and I told you, ‘Let my son go, so he may worship me.’ ” The psalmist pleads for compassion for God’s “son.” Even in verse 17 the “son of man” and the man at God’s right hand, i.e., God’s firstborn, envisage, in the first instance, Israel.

In the larger horizon, the ultimate answer to these petitions of Asaph would come when the true vine (John 15), the ultimate Son of Man, emerged from Israel.

Devotional: 1 Kings 1

The transfer of regal authority from David to Solomon (1 Kings 1) is messy. One of David’s sons, Adonijah, confers with Joab, the head of the military, and tries to take over. Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother, reminds her ailing husband of his promise that Solomon would be the heir, and the complicated account plays out.

Once again the chronic family failure of David stands out. The author of 1 Kings draws it to our attention in the parenthetical comment of 1:6. Referring to Adonijah, who was attempting the coup, he remarks, “His father had never interfered with him by asking, ‘Why do you behave as you do?’ He was also very handsome and was born next after Absalom”—as if good looks bred a kind of easy arrogance that thought everything, including the crown itself, was his by right.

Of the many important lessons, we may highlight two:

First, even gifted and morally upright believers commonly manifest tragic flaws. Occasionally a Daniel arises, of whom no failure is recorded. But most of the best in Scripture betray flaws of one sort or another—Abraham, Moses, Peter, Thomas, and (not least) David. The reality must be faced, for it is no less potent today. God raises up strategically placed and influential leaders. The odd one is so consistent that it is very difficult to detect any notable fault line. But usually that is not the case. Even the finest of our Christian leaders commonly display faults that their closest peers and friends can spot (whether or not the leaders themselves can see them!). This should not surprise us. In this fallen world, it is the way things are, the way things were when the Bible was written. We should therefore not be disillusioned when leaders prove flawed. We should support them wherever we can, seek to correct the faults where possible, and leave the rest to God—all the while recognizing the terrible potential for failures and faults in our own lives.

Second, once again the sovereignty of God works through the complicated efforts of his people. When David is informed of the problem, he does not throw his hands into the air and pray about the situation: he immediately orders that decisive, symbol-laden, and complex steps be taken to ensure that Solomon ascends the throne. Trust in God’s sovereign goodness is never an excuse for inactivity or indolence. Long years of walking by faith have taught David that whatever else “walking by faith” means, it does not warrant passivity. If we are to avoid acting in defiance of God, or in vain efforts to be independent of God, we must also avoid the pietism that is perennially in danger of collapsing trust into fatalism.

1 Kings 1

David in His Old Age

1:1 Now King David was old and advanced in years. And although they covered him with clothes, he could not get warm. Therefore his servants said to him, “Let a young woman be sought for my lord the king, and let her wait on the king and be in his service. Let her lie in your arms,1 that my lord the king may be warm.” So they sought for a beautiful young woman throughout all the territory of Israel, and found Abishag the Shunammite, and brought her to the king. The young woman was very beautiful, and she was of service to the king and attended to him, but the king knew her not.

Adonijah Sets Himself Up as King

Now Adonijah the son of Haggith exalted himself, saying, “I will be king.” And he prepared for himself chariots and horsemen, and fifty men to run before him. His father had never at any time displeased him by asking, “Why have you done thus and so?” He was also a very handsome man, and he was born next after Absalom. He conferred with Joab the son of Zeruiah and with Abiathar the priest. And they followed Adonijah and helped him. But Zadok the priest and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada and Nathan the prophet and Shimei and Rei and David's mighty men were not with Adonijah.

Adonijah sacrificed sheep, oxen, and fattened cattle by the Serpent's Stone, which is beside En-rogel, and he invited all his brothers, the king's sons, and all the royal officials of Judah, 10 but he did not invite Nathan the prophet or Benaiah or the mighty men or Solomon his brother.

Nathan and Bathsheba Before David

11 Then Nathan said to Bathsheba the mother of Solomon, “Have you not heard that Adonijah the son of Haggith has become king and David our lord does not know it? 12 Now therefore come, let me give you advice, that you may save your own life and the life of your son Solomon. 13 Go in at once to King David, and say to him, ‘Did you not, my lord the king, swear to your servant, saying, “Solomon your son shall reign after me, and he shall sit on my throne”? Why then is Adonijah king?’ 14 Then while you are still speaking with the king, I also will come in after you and confirm2 your words.”

15 So Bathsheba went to the king in his chamber (now the king was very old, and Abishag the Shunammite was attending to the king). 16 Bathsheba bowed and paid homage to the king, and the king said, “What do you desire?” 17 She said to him, “My lord, you swore to your servant by the LORD your God, saying, ‘Solomon your son shall reign after me, and he shall sit on my throne.’ 18 And now, behold, Adonijah is king, although you, my lord the king, do not know it. 19 He has sacrificed oxen, fattened cattle, and sheep in abundance, and has invited all the sons of the king, Abiathar the priest, and Joab the commander of the army, but Solomon your servant he has not invited. 20 And now, my lord the king, the eyes of all Israel are on you, to tell them who shall sit on the throne of my lord the king after him. 21 Otherwise it will come to pass, when my lord the king sleeps with his fathers, that I and my son Solomon will be counted offenders.”

22 While she was still speaking with the king, Nathan the prophet came in. 23 And they told the king, “Here is Nathan the prophet.” And when he came in before the king, he bowed before the king, with his face to the ground. 24 And Nathan said, “My lord the king, have you said, ‘Adonijah shall reign after me, and he shall sit on my throne’? 25 For he has gone down this day and has sacrificed oxen, fattened cattle, and sheep in abundance, and has invited all the king's sons, the commanders3 of the army, and Abiathar the priest. And behold, they are eating and drinking before him, and saying, ‘Long live King Adonijah!’ 26 But me, your servant, and Zadok the priest, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and your servant Solomon he has not invited. 27 Has this thing been brought about by my lord the king and you have not told your servants who should sit on the throne of my lord the king after him?”

Solomon Anointed King

28 Then King David answered, “Call Bathsheba to me.” So she came into the king's presence and stood before the king. 29 And the king swore, saying, “As the LORD lives, who has redeemed my soul out of every adversity, 30 as I swore to you by the LORD, the God of Israel, saying, ‘Solomon your son shall reign after me, and he shall sit on my throne in my place,’ even so will I do this day.” 31 Then Bathsheba bowed with her face to the ground and paid homage to the king and said, “May my lord King David live forever!”

32 King David said, “Call to me Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada.” So they came before the king. 33 And the king said to them, “Take with you the servants of your lord and have Solomon my son ride on my own mule, and bring him down to Gihon. 34 And let Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet there anoint him king over Israel. Then blow the trumpet and say, ‘Long live King Solomon!’ 35 You shall then come up after him, and he shall come and sit on my throne, for he shall be king in my place. And I have appointed him to be ruler over Israel and over Judah.” 36 And Benaiah the son of Jehoiada answered the king, “Amen! May the LORD, the God of my lord the king, say so. 37 As the LORD has been with my lord the king, even so may he be with Solomon, and make his throne greater than the throne of my lord King David.”

38 So Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and the Cherethites and the Pelethites went down and had Solomon ride on King David's mule and brought him to Gihon. 39 There Zadok the priest took the horn of oil from the tent and anointed Solomon. Then they blew the trumpet, and all the people said, “Long live King Solomon!” 40 And all the people went up after him, playing on pipes, and rejoicing with great joy, so that the earth was split by their noise.

41 Adonijah and all the guests who were with him heard it as they finished feasting. And when Joab heard the sound of the trumpet, he said, “What does this uproar in the city mean?” 42 While he was still speaking, behold, Jonathan the son of Abiathar the priest came. And Adonijah said, “Come in, for you are a worthy man and bring good news.” 43 Jonathan answered Adonijah, “No, for our lord King David has made Solomon king, 44 and the king has sent with him Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and the Cherethites and the Pelethites. And they had him ride on the king's mule. 45 And Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet have anointed him king at Gihon, and they have gone up from there rejoicing, so that the city is in an uproar. This is the noise that you have heard. 46 Solomon sits on the royal throne. 47 Moreover, the king's servants came to congratulate our lord King David, saying, ‘May your God make the name of Solomon more famous than yours, and make his throne greater than your throne.’ And the king bowed himself on the bed. 48 And the king also said, ‘Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who has granted someone4 to sit on my throne this day, my own eyes seeing it.’”

49 Then all the guests of Adonijah trembled and rose, and each went his own way. 50 And Adonijah feared Solomon. So he arose and went and took hold of the horns of the altar. 51 Then it was told Solomon, “Behold, Adonijah fears King Solomon, for behold, he has laid hold of the horns of the altar, saying, ‘Let King Solomon swear to me first that he will not put his servant to death with the sword.’” 52 And Solomon said, “If he will show himself a worthy man, not one of his hairs shall fall to the earth, but if wickedness is found in him, he shall die.” 53 So King Solomon sent, and they brought him down from the altar. And he came and paid homage to King Solomon, and Solomon said to him, “Go to your house.”

Footnotes

[1] 1:2 Or in your bosom
[2] 1:14 Or expand on
[3] 1:25 Hebrew; Septuagint Joab the commander
[4] 1:48 Septuagint one of my offspring

(ESV)

Galatians 5

Christ Has Set Us Free

5:1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified1 by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.

You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. 10 I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. 11 But if I, brothers,2 still preach3 circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. 12 I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!

13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.

Keep in Step with the Spirit

16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy,4 drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do5 such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

Footnotes

[1] 5:4 Or counted righteous
[2] 5:11 Or brothers and sisters; also verse 13
[3] 5:11 Greek proclaim
[4] 5:21 Some manuscripts add murder
[5] 5:21 Or make a practice of doing

(ESV)

Ezekiel 32

A Lament over Pharaoh and Egypt

32:1 In the twelfth year, in the twelfth month, on the first day of the month, the word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, raise a lamentation over Pharaoh king of Egypt and say to him:

  “You consider yourself a lion of the nations,
    but you are like a dragon in the seas;
  you burst forth in your rivers,
    trouble the waters with your feet,
    and foul their rivers.
  Thus says the Lord GOD:
    I will throw my net over you
    with a host of many peoples,
    and they will haul you up in my dragnet.
  And I will cast you on the ground;
    on the open field I will fling you,
  and will cause all the birds of the heavens to settle on you,
    and I will gorge the beasts of the whole earth with you.
  I will strew your flesh upon the mountains
    and fill the valleys with your carcass.1
  I will drench the land even to the mountains
    with your flowing blood,
    and the ravines will be full of you.
  When I blot you out, I will cover the heavens
    and make their stars dark;
  I will cover the sun with a cloud,
    and the moon shall not give its light.
  All the bright lights of heaven
    will I make dark over you,
    and put darkness on your land,
      declares the Lord GOD.

“I will trouble the hearts of many peoples, when I bring your destruction among the nations, into the countries that you have not known. 10 I will make many peoples appalled at you, and the hair of their kings shall bristle with horror because of you, when I brandish my sword before them. They shall tremble every moment, every one for his own life, on the day of your downfall.

11 “For thus says the Lord GOD: The sword of the king of Babylon shall come upon you. 12 I will cause your multitude to fall by the swords of mighty ones, all of them most ruthless of nations.

  “They shall bring to ruin the pride of Egypt,
    and all its multitude2 shall perish.
13   I will destroy all its beasts
    from beside many waters;
  and no foot of man shall trouble them anymore,
    nor shall the hoofs of beasts trouble them.
14   Then I will make their waters clear,
    and cause their rivers to run like oil,
      declares the Lord GOD.
15   When I make the land of Egypt desolate,
    and when the land is desolate of all that fills it,
  when I strike down all who dwell in it,
    then they will know that I am the LORD.

16 This is a lamentation that shall be chanted; the daughters of the nations shall chant it; over Egypt, and over all her multitude, shall they chant it, declares the Lord GOD.”

17 In the twelfth year, in the twelfth month,3 on the fifteenth day of the month, the word of the LORD came to me: 18 “Son of man, wail over the multitude of Egypt, and send them down, her and the daughters of majestic nations, to the world below, to those who have gone down to the pit:

19   ‘Whom do you surpass in beauty?
    Go down and be laid to rest with the uncircumcised.’

20 They shall fall amid those who are slain by the sword. Egypt4 is delivered to the sword; drag her away, and all her multitudes. 21 The mighty chiefs shall speak of them, with their helpers, out of the midst of Sheol: ‘They have come down, they lie still, the uncircumcised, slain by the sword.’

22 “Assyria is there, and all her company, its graves all around it, all of them slain, fallen by the sword, 23 whose graves are set in the uttermost parts of the pit; and her company is all around her grave, all of them slain, fallen by the sword, who spread terror in the land of the living.

24 “Elam is there, and all her multitude around her grave; all of them slain, fallen by the sword, who went down uncircumcised into the world below, who spread their terror in the land of the living; and they bear their shame with those who go down to the pit. 25 They have made her a bed among the slain with all her multitude, her graves all around it, all of them uncircumcised, slain by the sword; for terror of them was spread in the land of the living, and they bear their shame with those who go down to the pit; they are placed among the slain.

26 “Meshech-Tubal is there, and all her multitude, her graves all around it, all of them uncircumcised, slain by the sword; for they spread their terror in the land of the living. 27 And they do not lie with the mighty, the fallen from among the uncircumcised, who went down to Sheol with their weapons of war, whose swords were laid under their heads, and whose iniquities are upon their bones; for the terror of the mighty men was in the land of the living. 28 But as for you, you shall be broken and lie among the uncircumcised, with those who are slain by the sword.

29 “Edom is there, her kings and all her princes, who for all their might are laid with those who are killed by the sword; they lie with the uncircumcised, with those who go down to the pit.

30 “The princes of the north are there, all of them, and all the Sidonians, who have gone down in shame with the slain, for all the terror that they caused by their might; they lie uncircumcised with those who are slain by the sword, and bear their shame with those who go down to the pit.

31 “When Pharaoh sees them, he will be comforted for all his multitude, Pharaoh and all his army, slain by the sword, declares the Lord GOD. 32 For I spread terror in the land of the living; and he shall be laid to rest among the uncircumcised, with those who are slain by the sword, Pharaoh and all his multitude, declares the Lord GOD.”

Footnotes

[1] 32:5 Hebrew your height
[2] 32:12 Or wealth
[3] 32:17 Hebrew lacks in the twelfth month
[4] 32:20 Hebrew She

(ESV)

Psalm 80

Restore Us, O God

To the choirmaster: according to Lilies. A Testimony. Of Asaph, a Psalm.

80:1   Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel,
    you who lead Joseph like a flock.
  You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth.
    Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh,
  stir up your might
    and come to save us!
  Restore us,1 O God;
    let your face shine, that we may be saved!
  O LORD God of hosts,
    how long will you be angry with your people's prayers?
  You have fed them with the bread of tears
    and given them tears to drink in full measure.
  You make us an object of contention for our neighbors,
    and our enemies laugh among themselves.
  Restore us, O God of hosts;
    let your face shine, that we may be saved!
  You brought a vine out of Egypt;
    you drove out the nations and planted it.
  You cleared the ground for it;
    it took deep root and filled the land.
10   The mountains were covered with its shade,
    the mighty cedars with its branches.
11   It sent out its branches to the sea
    and its shoots to the River.2
12   Why then have you broken down its walls,
    so that all who pass along the way pluck its fruit?
13   The boar from the forest ravages it,
    and all that move in the field feed on it.
14   Turn again, O God of hosts!
    Look down from heaven, and see;
  have regard for this vine,
15     the stock that your right hand planted,
    and for the son whom you made strong for yourself.
16   They have burned it with fire; they have cut it down;
    may they perish at the rebuke of your face!
17   But let your hand be on the man of your right hand,
    the son of man whom you have made strong for yourself!
18   Then we shall not turn back from you;
    give us life, and we will call upon your name!
19   Restore us, O LORD God of hosts!
    Let your face shine, that we may be saved!

Footnotes

[1] 80:3 Or Turn us again; also verses 7, 19
[2] 80:11 That is, the Euphrates

(ESV)