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Today’s Reading

Devotional: Colossians 2

The setting was a Bible study led by a lady in the church where I was serving as pastor. A woman from one of the more popular cults had infiltrated this group, and the lady from our church soon discovered she was a little out of her depth. I was invited along, and soon found myself in a public confrontation with the intruder’s cult “pastor” (though he did not call himself that). One of the things he wanted to deny in strong terms was the deity of Jesus Christ. As we started looking together at biblical references which, on the face of it, say something about the deity of Christ, eventually we came to Colossians 2:9. He wanted to render the verse, rather loosely, something like “in Christ all the attributes of the Deity live in bodily form.”

I asked him which of the attributes of God Jesus does not have. He immediately saw the problem. If he said, “eternality” (which is what he believed), he would be trapped, for his own rendering would contradict him. If he said, “none” (in defiance of his own beliefs), then how can Jesus and God be as sharply distinguished as he proposed?

In any case, Colossians 2:9 is even stronger than his translation allowed: “in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.” Observe:

(1) In this context, the Colossians are exhorted to continue to live in Christ, just as they “received Christ Jesus as Lord” (Col. 2:6)—which as usual bears an overtone of Jesus’ divine identity, since “Lord” was commonly the way one addressed God in the Greek versions of the Old Testament.

(2) Both then and now, there are people who try to ensnare you through a “hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition” (Col. 2:8). In virtually every case, the aim of such deceptive philosophies is to reduce or relativize Christ, to redirect attention and allegiance away from him. Not only these verses but much of the letter to the Colossians show that, whoever these heretics are, their attack is against Christ. Paul will not budge: “all the fullness of the Deity” lives in him in bodily form—and you are complete in him, in him you enjoy all the fullness you can possibly know (Col. 2:10). To turn from him for extras is disastrous, for he alone is “the head over every power and authority” (Col. 2:10).

(3) Apparently at least one branch of the Colossian heretics was trying to get the believers to add to Christ a bevy of Jewish rituals. Paul does not budge: he understands that the rites and rituals mandated by the Old Testament constitute “a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ” (Col. 2:17).

Devotional: Psalms 99–101

Some of the Psalms are into collections. Psalms 93–100 celebrate the kingship and coming of the Lord. Thematically, however, they range from the exuberant exhilaration of Psalm 98 (yesterday’s meditation) to a more subdued but profoundly submissive awe. After the unrestrained joy of Psalm 98, there follows in Psalm 99 a profound reverence. We have moved from a festival of praise to a cathedral.

The psalm divides into two parts. The theme of the first is established by the repeated line, “he is holy” (Ps. 99:3, 5). This does not mean something as narrow as saying that God is good or moral (though it does not exclude such notions). The emphasis is on the sheer “Godness” of God—what makes him different from human beings, what makes him uniquely God. The two instances of the clause “he is holy” are meant to be statements summarizing in each case the preceding lines. (a) The Lord reigns; he is exalted above the mighty cherubim (Ps. 99:1). Though he manifests himself in Zion, he is no tribal deity: “he is exalted over all the nations” (Ps. 99:2). “Let them praise your great and awesome name” (Ps. 99:3)—and then the summarizing refrain, “he is holy.” (b) If he reigns over all, he is, supremely, the King (Ps. 99:4). He is not only mighty, he loves justice and fairness. This has been eminently displayed in his own covenant community: “in Jacob you have done what is just and right” (Ps. 99:4). There is only one appropriate response before such a God: “Exalt the LORD our God and worship at his footstool” (Ps. 99:5)—and again the summarizing refrain, “he is holy.”

The second part of the psalm contemplates the truth that, however exalted and holy he is, God chose to disclose himself to human beings. We may be tempted to think of Moses and Aaron and Samuel as almost superhuman. But the psalmist carefully places them among the priests and among those who called on his name: they were not fundamentally different from others. Moreover, they were frail and flawed like the rest of us. According to verse 8, God was to them (not “to Israel”: the NIV footnote is correct) “a forgiving God,” even though he “punished their misdeeds” (here follow the NIV text, not the footnote).

Thus the theme of God’s holiness does not end in mere transcendence, but in an unimaginably great God graciously disclosing himself to human beings—even when they rebel against him. We stand in their company. If his holiness is disclosed both in mercy and in wrath, then we are neither to despair of it nor to presume upon it. “Exalt the LORD our God and worship at his holy mountain, for the LORD our God is holy” (Ps. 99:9).

1 Kings 15

Abijam Reigns in Judah

15:1 Now in the eighteenth year of King Jeroboam the son of Nebat, Abijam began to reign over Judah. He reigned for three years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Maacah the daughter of Abishalom. And he walked in all the sins that his father did before him, and his heart was not wholly true to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father. Nevertheless, for David's sake the LORD his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem, setting up his son after him, and establishing Jerusalem, because David did what was right in the eyes of the LORD and did not turn aside from anything that he commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite. Now there was war between Rehoboam and Jeroboam all the days of his life. The rest of the acts of Abijam and all that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah? And there was war between Abijam and Jeroboam. And Abijam slept with his fathers, and they buried him in the city of David. And Asa his son reigned in his place.

Asa Reigns in Judah

In the twentieth year of Jeroboam king of Israel, Asa began to reign over Judah, 10 and he reigned forty-one years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Maacah the daughter of Abishalom. 11 And Asa did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, as David his father had done. 12 He put away the male cult prostitutes out of the land and removed all the idols that his fathers had made. 13 He also removed Maacah his mother from being queen mother because she had made an abominable image for Asherah. And Asa cut down her image and burned it at the brook Kidron. 14 But the high places were not taken away. Nevertheless, the heart of Asa was wholly true to the LORD all his days. 15 And he brought into the house of the LORD the sacred gifts of his father and his own sacred gifts, silver, and gold, and vessels.

16 And there was war between Asa and Baasha king of Israel all their days. 17 Baasha king of Israel went up against Judah and built Ramah, that he might permit no one to go out or come in to Asa king of Judah. 18 Then Asa took all the silver and the gold that were left in the treasures of the house of the LORD and the treasures of the king's house and gave them into the hands of his servants. And King Asa sent them to Ben-hadad the son of Tabrimmon, the son of Hezion, king of Syria, who lived in Damascus, saying, 19 “Let there be a covenant1 between me and you, as there was between my father and your father. Behold, I am sending to you a present of silver and gold. Go, break your covenant with Baasha king of Israel, that he may withdraw from me.” 20 And Ben-hadad listened to King Asa and sent the commanders of his armies against the cities of Israel and conquered Ijon, Dan, Abel-beth-maacah, and all Chinneroth, with all the land of Naphtali. 21 And when Baasha heard of it, he stopped building Ramah, and he lived in Tirzah. 22 Then King Asa made a proclamation to all Judah, none was exempt, and they carried away the stones of Ramah and its timber, with which Baasha had been building, and with them King Asa built Geba of Benjamin and Mizpah. 23 Now the rest of all the acts of Asa, all his might, and all that he did, and the cities that he built, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah? But in his old age he was diseased in his feet. 24 And Asa slept with his fathers and was buried with his fathers in the city of David his father, and Jehoshaphat his son reigned in his place.

Nadab Reigns in Israel

25 Nadab the son of Jeroboam began to reign over Israel in the second year of Asa king of Judah, and he reigned over Israel two years. 26 He did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and walked in the way of his father, and in his sin which he made Israel to sin.

27 Baasha the son of Ahijah, of the house of Issachar, conspired against him. And Baasha struck him down at Gibbethon, which belonged to the Philistines, for Nadab and all Israel were laying siege to Gibbethon. 28 So Baasha killed him in the third year of Asa king of Judah and reigned in his place. 29 And as soon as he was king, he killed all the house of Jeroboam. He left to the house of Jeroboam not one that breathed, until he had destroyed it, according to the word of the LORD that he spoke by his servant Ahijah the Shilonite. 30 It was for the sins of Jeroboam that he sinned and that he made Israel to sin, and because of the anger to which he provoked the LORD, the God of Israel.

31 Now the rest of the acts of Nadab and all that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel? 32 And there was war between Asa and Baasha king of Israel all their days.

Baasha Reigns in Israel

33 In the third year of Asa king of Judah, Baasha the son of Ahijah began to reign over all Israel at Tirzah, and he reigned twenty-four years. 34 He did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and walked in the way of Jeroboam and in his sin which he made Israel to sin.

Footnotes

[1] 15:19 Or treaty; twice in this verse

(ESV)

Colossians 2

2:1 For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ.

Alive in Christ

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits1 of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. 11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities2 and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.3

Let No One Disqualify You

16 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. 18 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions,4 puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.

20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations—21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

Footnotes

[1] 2:8 Or elementary principles; also verse 20
[2] 2:15 Probably demonic rulers and authorities
[3] 2:15 Or in it (that is, the cross)
[4] 2:18 Or about the things he has seen

(ESV)

Ezekiel 45

The Holy District

45:1 “When you allot the land as an inheritance, you shall set apart for the LORD a portion of the land as a holy district, 25,000 cubits1 long and 20,0002 cubits broad. It shall be holy throughout its whole extent. Of this a square plot of 500 by 500 cubits shall be for the sanctuary, with fifty cubits for an open space around it. And from this measured district you shall measure off a section 25,000 cubits long and 10,000 broad, in which shall be the sanctuary, the Most Holy Place. It shall be the holy portion of the land. It shall be for the priests, who minister in the sanctuary and approach the LORD to minister to him, and it shall be a place for their houses and a holy place for the sanctuary. Another section, 25,000 cubits long and 10,000 cubits broad, shall be for the Levites who minister at the temple, as their possession for cities to live in.3

“Alongside the portion set apart as the holy district you shall assign for the property of the city an area 5,000 cubits broad and 25,000 cubits long. It shall belong to the whole house of Israel.

The Portion for the Prince

“And to the prince shall belong the land on both sides of the holy district and the property of the city, alongside the holy district and the property of the city, on the west and on the east, corresponding in length to one of the tribal portions, and extending from the western to the eastern boundary of the land. It is to be his property in Israel. And my princes shall no more oppress my people, but they shall let the house of Israel have the land according to their tribes.

“Thus says the Lord GOD: Enough, O princes of Israel! Put away violence and oppression, and execute justice and righteousness. Cease your evictions of my people, declares the Lord GOD.

10 “You shall have just balances, a just ephah, and a just bath.4 11 The ephah and the bath shall be of the same measure, the bath containing one tenth of a homer,5 and the ephah one tenth of a homer; the homer shall be the standard measure. 12 The shekel shall be twenty gerahs;6 twenty shekels plus twenty-five shekels plus fifteen shekels shall be your mina.7

13 “This is the offering that you shall make: one sixth of an ephah from each homer of wheat, and one sixth of an ephah from each homer of barley, 14 and as the fixed portion of oil, measured in baths, one tenth of a bath from each cor8 (the cor, like the homer, contains ten baths).9 15 And one sheep from every flock of two hundred, from the watering places of Israel for grain offering, burnt offering, and peace offerings, to make atonement for them, declares the Lord GOD. 16 All the people of the land shall be obliged to give this offering to the prince in Israel. 17 It shall be the prince's duty to furnish the burnt offerings, grain offerings, and drink offerings, at the feasts, the new moons, and the Sabbaths, all the appointed feasts of the house of Israel: he shall provide the sin offerings, grain offerings, burnt offerings, and peace offerings, to make atonement on behalf of the house of Israel.

18 “Thus says the Lord GOD: In the first month, on the first day of the month, you shall take a bull from the herd without blemish, and purify the sanctuary. 19 The priest shall take some of the blood of the sin offering and put it on the doorposts of the temple, the four corners of the ledge of the altar, and the posts of the gate of the inner court. 20 You shall do the same on the seventh day of the month for anyone who has sinned through error or ignorance; so you shall make atonement for the temple.

21 “In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month, you shall celebrate the Feast of the Passover, and for seven days unleavened bread shall be eaten. 22 On that day the prince shall provide for himself and all the people of the land a young bull for a sin offering. 23 And on the seven days of the festival he shall provide as a burnt offering to the LORD seven young bulls and seven rams without blemish, on each of the seven days; and a male goat daily for a sin offering. 24 And he shall provide as a grain offering an ephah for each bull, an ephah for each ram, and a hin10 of oil to each ephah. 25 In the seventh month, on the fifteenth day of the month and for the seven days of the feast, he shall make the same provision for sin offerings, burnt offerings, and grain offerings, and for the oil.

Footnotes

[1] 45:1 A cubit was about 18 inches or 45 centimeters
[2] 45:1 Septuagint; Hebrew 10,000
[3] 45:5 Septuagint; Hebrew as their possession, twenty chambers
[4] 45:10 An ephah was about 3/5 of a bushel or 22 liters; a bath was about 6 gallons or 22 liters
[5] 45:11 A homer was about 6 bushels or 220 liters
[6] 45:12 A shekel was about 2/5 ounce or 11 grams; a gerah was about 1/50 ounce or 0.6 gram
[7] 45:12 A mina was about 1 1/4 pounds or 0.6 kilogram
[8] 45:14 A cor was about 6 bushels or 220 liters
[9] 45:14 See Vulgate; Hebrew (ten baths are a homer, for ten baths are a homer)
[10] 45:24 A hin was about 4 quarts or 3.5 liters

(ESV)

Psalms 99–101

The Lord Our God Is Holy

99:1   The LORD reigns; let the peoples tremble!
    He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake!
  The LORD is great in Zion;
    he is exalted over all the peoples.
  Let them praise your great and awesome name!
    Holy is he!
  The King in his might loves justice.1
    You have established equity;
  you have executed justice
    and righteousness in Jacob.
  Exalt the LORD our God;
    worship at his footstool!
    Holy is he!
  Moses and Aaron were among his priests,
    Samuel also was among those who called upon his name.
    They called to the LORD, and he answered them.
  In the pillar of the cloud he spoke to them;
    they kept his testimonies
    and the statute that he gave them.
  O LORD our God, you answered them;
    you were a forgiving God to them,
    but an avenger of their wrongdoings.
  Exalt the LORD our God,
    and worship at his holy mountain;
    for the LORD our God is holy!

His Steadfast Love Endures Forever

A Psalm for giving thanks.

100:1   Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!
    Serve the LORD with gladness!
    Come into his presence with singing!
  Know that the LORD, he is God!
    It is he who made us, and we are his;2
    we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
  Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
    and his courts with praise!
    Give thanks to him; bless his name!
  For the LORD is good;
    his steadfast love endures forever,
    and his faithfulness to all generations.

I Will Walk with Integrity

A Psalm of David.

101:1   I will sing of steadfast love and justice;
    to you, O LORD, I will make music.
  I will ponder the way that is blameless.
    Oh when will you come to me?
  I will walk with integrity of heart
    within my house;
  I will not set before my eyes
    anything that is worthless.
  I hate the work of those who fall away;
    it shall not cling to me.
  A perverse heart shall be far from me;
    I will know nothing of evil.
  Whoever slanders his neighbor secretly
    I will destroy.
  Whoever has a haughty look and an arrogant heart
    I will not endure.
  I will look with favor on the faithful in the land,
    that they may dwell with me;
  he who walks in the way that is blameless
    shall minister to me.
  No one who practices deceit
    shall dwell in my house;
  no one who utters lies
    shall continue before my eyes.
  Morning by morning I will destroy
    all the wicked in the land,
  cutting off all the evildoers
    from the city of the LORD.

Footnotes

[1] 99:4 Or The might of the King loves justice
[2] 100:3 Or and not we ourselves

(ESV)