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Today’s Reading

Devotional: Ezekiel 33

Ezekiel 33 marks a turning point in the book. Chapters 33–37 record oracles related to the fall of Jerusalem. Although the warnings and calls for repentance continue, one now hears a rising note of comfort. As long as the exiles found it difficult to believe that Jerusalem could fall, Ezekiel was full of warning. Once the fall has taken place, God in his mercy gives Ezekiel words that will comfort the exilic community, nurture their faith, and steel their minds and wills.

Before that turning point arrives, the first half of the chapter returns to a theme first introduced in Ezekiel 3:16–21: Ezekiel the watchman. The theme returns because Ezekiel now begins a new phase in his ministry. In a sense, he is being recommissioned. At the same time, the news he is about to deliver regarding the fall of Jerusalem provides the people with a new opportunity to repent and trust God. So the first half of the chapter (Ezek. 33:1–20) divides naturally into these two themes. On the one hand, God reminds the prophet of his awful responsibility as a watchman (Ezek. 33:1–9). He is committed to standing somewhat apart from his fellow exiles. He must keep a vigil, listen to God, and proclaim faithfully what God tells him to say, warning of judgments to come and eliciting faith in God’s faithfulness. On the other hand, the people are called to respond to the watchman’s warnings (Ezek. 33:10–20). They are neither to trust their own righteousness nor to slide into fatalism. The appropriate response is always to heed God’s watchman, for God himself is the One who declares, “As surely as I live … I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?” (Ezek. 33:11).

So the news arrives: Jerusalem has fallen (Ezek. 33:22). Ezekiel is now released from the silence God earlier imposed: he can converse openly and can say things other than what was given to him as a prophet. But all that he says in the rest of this chapter are more words from the Lord. He has two themes. (a) Regarding the people left among the ruins of Jerusalem, they are ever the optimists. They think they will reestablish themselves, even though they have not renounced their sins. So God will continue his chastening until there is only desolation, so that they will learn that he is the Lord (Ezek. 33:23–29). (b) As for the exiles whom Ezekiel addresses directly, they have learned to enjoy listening to him, as one enjoys listening to a gifted orator—but they have not learned to repent.

Where are the closest analogies to such stances today?

Devotional: Galatians 6

The end of Galatians 6 brings several themes together.

(1) Paul’s practice was to dictate his letters. Nevertheless, in order to authenticate them, he commonly wrote the last little bit in his own distinctive hand (compare 2 Thess. 3:17). So here (Gal. 6:11). Some have suggested that his “large letters” betray failing eyesight. That is possible but not certain. The important issue is that Paul wants his readers to recognize the real voice behind this epistle.

(2) The agitators are trying to get the Galatian Gentile believers to accept circumcision (Gal. 6:12). That would make them (they thought) good Jews—a necessary condition for them to become genuine Christians. Yet Paul detects that at least part of their motivation is to maintain acceptability in Jewish synagogue circles. At this stage in the church’s history, most persecution came from synagogue councils exerting discipline. Paul himself had suffered his share: the thirty-nine lashes, endured five times (2 Cor. 11), was a synagogue punishment. Paul holds that some Jews who call themselves Christians and who insist that Gentile Christians become Jews are simply unwilling to face the opprobrium they will have to suffer from some fellow Jews if their closest “brothers” and “sisters” are unkosher Gentiles.

(3) Not only so, but circumcision was a mark of professed covenant fidelity. Here, Paul insists, lies the real problem: those who have been circumcised find it impossible to “obey the law,” so why should they try to compel others to go down that track (Gal. 6:13)? Some of them want to count converts to Judaism like scalps on a spear. But Paul insists that the Christian boasts in nothing but the cross of the Lord Jesus (Gal. 6:14). That is the sole basis of our acceptance before God, nothing else—not circumcision, not law-keeping, not kosher tables, not belonging to the right community. The sole ground is the cross, so that is our sole “boast.” If you believe that, what the world thinks will matter little: it is as if the world has been crucified so far as you are concerned, and you are crucified so far as it is concerned.

(4) Out of this cross-work of Jesus Christ rises the “new creation” (Gal. 6:15). That is what counts—men and women so transformed, because of faith in Jesus, that they belong to the new creation still to be consummated. This is invariably true, even for “the Israel of God”—which might refer to the church as the true Israel, or may be saying that racial Israel must face this truth the same as everyone else.

(5) At the personal level, Paul quietly reminds his Galatian readers that he has paid for his beliefs in suffering. Can the agitators claim the same? So why should any true Christian now be adding to Paul’s sufferings?

1 Kings 2

David's Instructions to Solomon

2:1 When David's time to die drew near, he commanded Solomon his son, saying, “I am about to go the way of all the earth. Be strong, and show yourself a man, and keep the charge of the LORD your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his rules, and his testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn, that the LORD may establish his word that he spoke concerning me, saying, ‘If your sons pay close attention to their way, to walk before me in faithfulness with all their heart and with all their soul, you shall not lack1 a man on the throne of Israel.’

“Moreover, you also know what Joab the son of Zeruiah did to me, how he dealt with the two commanders of the armies of Israel, Abner the son of Ner, and Amasa the son of Jether, whom he killed, avenging2 in time of peace for blood that had been shed in war, and putting the blood of war3 on the belt around his4 waist and on the sandals on his feet. Act therefore according to your wisdom, but do not let his gray head go down to Sheol in peace. But deal loyally with the sons of Barzillai the Gileadite, and let them be among those who eat at your table, for with such loyalty5 they met me when I fled from Absalom your brother. And there is also with you Shimei the son of Gera, the Benjaminite from Bahurim, who cursed me with a grievous curse on the day when I went to Mahanaim. But when he came down to meet me at the Jordan, I swore to him by the LORD, saying, ‘I will not put you to death with the sword.’ Now therefore do not hold him guiltless, for you are a wise man. You will know what you ought to do to him, and you shall bring his gray head down with blood to Sheol.”

The Death of David

10 Then David slept with his fathers and was buried in the city of David. 11 And the time that David reigned over Israel was forty years. He reigned seven years in Hebron and thirty-three years in Jerusalem. 12 So Solomon sat on the throne of David his father, and his kingdom was firmly established.

Solomon's Reign Established

13 Then Adonijah the son of Haggith came to Bathsheba the mother of Solomon. And she said, “Do you come peacefully?” He said, “Peacefully.” 14 Then he said, “I have something to say to you.” She said, “Speak.” 15 He said, “You know that the kingdom was mine, and that all Israel fully expected me to reign. However, the kingdom has turned about and become my brother's, for it was his from the LORD. 16 And now I have one request to make of you; do not refuse me.” She said to him, “Speak.” 17 And he said, “Please ask King Solomon—he will not refuse you—to give me Abishag the Shunammite as my wife.” 18 Bathsheba said, “Very well; I will speak for you to the king.”

19 So Bathsheba went to King Solomon to speak to him on behalf of Adonijah. And the king rose to meet her and bowed down to her. Then he sat on his throne and had a seat brought for the king's mother, and she sat on his right. 20 Then she said, “I have one small request to make of you; do not refuse me.” And the king said to her, “Make your request, my mother, for I will not refuse you.” 21 She said, “Let Abishag the Shunammite be given to Adonijah your brother as his wife.” 22 King Solomon answered his mother, “And why do you ask Abishag the Shunammite for Adonijah? Ask for him the kingdom also, for he is my older brother, and on his side are Abiathar6 the priest and Joab the son of Zeruiah.” 23 Then King Solomon swore by the LORD, saying, “God do so to me and more also if this word does not cost Adonijah his life! 24 Now therefore as the LORD lives, who has established me and placed me on the throne of David my father, and who has made me a house, as he promised, Adonijah shall be put to death today.” 25 So King Solomon sent Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and he struck him down, and he died.

26 And to Abiathar the priest the king said, “Go to Anathoth, to your estate, for you deserve death. But I will not at this time put you to death, because you carried the ark of the Lord GOD before David my father, and because you shared in all my father's affliction.” 27 So Solomon expelled Abiathar from being priest to the LORD, thus fulfilling the word of the LORD that he had spoken concerning the house of Eli in Shiloh.

28 When the news came to Joab—for Joab had supported Adonijah although he had not supported Absalom—Joab fled to the tent of the LORD and caught hold of the horns of the altar. 29 And when it was told King Solomon, “Joab has fled to the tent of the LORD, and behold, he is beside the altar,” Solomon sent Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, saying, “Go, strike him down.” 30 So Benaiah came to the tent of the LORD and said to him, “The king commands, ‘Come out.’” But he said, “No, I will die here.” Then Benaiah brought the king word again, saying, “Thus said Joab, and thus he answered me.” 31 The king replied to him, “Do as he has said, strike him down and bury him, and thus take away from me and from my father's house the guilt for the blood that Joab shed without cause. 32 The LORD will bring back his bloody deeds on his own head, because, without the knowledge of my father David, he attacked and killed with the sword two men more righteous and better than himself, Abner the son of Ner, commander of the army of Israel, and Amasa the son of Jether, commander of the army of Judah. 33 So shall their blood come back on the head of Joab and on the head of his descendants forever. But for David and for his descendants and for his house and for his throne there shall be peace from the LORD forevermore.” 34 Then Benaiah the son of Jehoiada went up and struck him down and put him to death. And he was buried in his own house in the wilderness. 35 The king put Benaiah the son of Jehoiada over the army in place of Joab, and the king put Zadok the priest in the place of Abiathar.

36 Then the king sent and summoned Shimei and said to him, “Build yourself a house in Jerusalem and dwell there, and do not go out from there to any place whatever. 37 For on the day you go out and cross the brook Kidron, know for certain that you shall die. Your blood shall be on your own head.” 38 And Shimei said to the king, “What you say is good; as my lord the king has said, so will your servant do.” So Shimei lived in Jerusalem many days.

39 But it happened at the end of three years that two of Shimei's servants ran away to Achish, son of Maacah, king of Gath. And when it was told Shimei, “Behold, your servants are in Gath,” 40 Shimei arose and saddled a donkey and went to Gath to Achish to seek his servants. Shimei went and brought his servants from Gath. 41 And when Solomon was told that Shimei had gone from Jerusalem to Gath and returned, 42 the king sent and summoned Shimei and said to him, “Did I not make you swear by the LORD and solemnly warn you, saying, ‘Know for certain that on the day you go out and go to any place whatever, you shall die’? And you said to me, ‘What you say is good; I will obey.’ 43 Why then have you not kept your oath to the LORD and the commandment with which I commanded you?” 44 The king also said to Shimei, “You know in your own heart all the harm that you did to David my father. So the LORD will bring back your harm on your own head. 45 But King Solomon shall be blessed, and the throne of David shall be established before the LORD forever.” 46 Then the king commanded Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and he went out and struck him down, and he died.

So the kingdom was established in the hand of Solomon.

Footnotes

[1] 2:4 Hebrew there shall not be cut off for you
[2] 2:5 Septuagint; Hebrew placing
[3] 2:5 Septuagint innocent blood
[4] 2:5 Septuagint my; twice in this verse
[5] 2:7 Or steadfast love
[6] 2:22 Septuagint, Syriac, Vulgate; Hebrew and for him and for Abiathar

(ESV)

Galatians 6

Bear One Another's Burdens

6:1 Brothers,1 if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load.

Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

Final Warning and Benediction

11 See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand. 12 It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13 For even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh. 14 But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which2 the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. 16 And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.

17 From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.

18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen.

Footnotes

[1] 6:1 Or Brothers and sisters; also verse 18
[2] 6:14 Or through whom

(ESV)

Ezekiel 33

Ezekiel Is Israel's Watchman

33:1 The word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, speak to your people and say to them, If I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take a man from among them, and make him their watchman, and if he sees the sword coming upon the land and blows the trumpet and warns the people, then if anyone who hears the sound of the trumpet does not take warning, and the sword comes and takes him away, his blood shall be upon his own head. He heard the sound of the trumpet and did not take warning; his blood shall be upon himself. But if he had taken warning, he would have saved his life. But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any one of them, that person is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman's hand.

“So you, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, that person shall die in his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.

Why Will You Die, Israel?

10 “And you, son of man, say to the house of Israel, Thus have you said: ‘Surely our transgressions and our sins are upon us, and we rot away because of them. How then can we live?’ 11 Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?

12 “And you, son of man, say to your people, The righteousness of the righteous shall not deliver him when he transgresses, and as for the wickedness of the wicked, he shall not fall by it when he turns from his wickedness, and the righteous shall not be able to live by his righteousness1 when he sins. 13 Though I say to the righteous that he shall surely live, yet if he trusts in his righteousness and does injustice, none of his righteous deeds shall be remembered, but in his injustice that he has done he shall die. 14 Again, though I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ yet if he turns from his sin and does what is just and right, 15 if the wicked restores the pledge, gives back what he has taken by robbery, and walks in the statutes of life, not doing injustice, he shall surely live; he shall not die. 16 None of the sins that he has committed shall be remembered against him. He has done what is just and right; he shall surely live.

17 “Yet your people say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just,’ when it is their own way that is not just. 18 When the righteous turns from his righteousness and does injustice, he shall die for it. 19 And when the wicked turns from his wickedness and does what is just and right, he shall live by this. 20 Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ O house of Israel, I will judge each of you according to his ways.”

Jerusalem Struck Down

21 In the twelfth year of our exile, in the tenth month, on the fifth day of the month, a fugitive from Jerusalem came to me and said, “The city has been struck down.” 22 Now the hand of the LORD had been upon me the evening before the fugitive came; and he had opened my mouth by the time the man came to me in the morning, so my mouth was opened, and I was no longer mute.

23 The word of the LORD came to me: 24 “Son of man, the inhabitants of these waste places in the land of Israel keep saying, ‘Abraham was only one man, yet he got possession of the land; but we are many; the land is surely given us to possess.’ 25 Therefore say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: You eat flesh with the blood and lift up your eyes to your idols and shed blood; shall you then possess the land? 26 You rely on the sword, you commit abominations, and each of you defiles his neighbor's wife; shall you then possess the land? 27 Say this to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: As I live, surely those who are in the waste places shall fall by the sword, and whoever is in the open field I will give to the beasts to be devoured, and those who are in strongholds and in caves shall die by pestilence. 28 And I will make the land a desolation and a waste, and her proud might shall come to an end, and the mountains of Israel shall be so desolate that none will pass through. 29 Then they will know that I am the LORD, when I have made the land a desolation and a waste because of all their abominations that they have committed.

30 “As for you, son of man, your people who talk together about you by the walls and at the doors of the houses, say to one another, each to his brother, ‘Come, and hear what the word is that comes from the LORD.’ 31 And they come to you as people come, and they sit before you as my people, and they hear what you say but they will not do it; for with lustful talk in their mouths they act; their heart is set on their gain. 32 And behold, you are to them like one who sings lustful songs with a beautiful voice and plays2 well on an instrument, for they hear what you say, but they will not do it. 33 When this comes—and come it will!—then they will know that a prophet has been among them.”

Footnotes

[1] 33:12 Hebrew by it
[2] 33:32 Hebrew like the singing of lustful songs with a beautiful voice and one who plays

(ESV)

Psalms 81–82

Oh, That My People Would Listen to Me

To the choirmaster: according to The Gittith.1 Of Asaph.

81:1   Sing aloud to God our strength;
    shout for joy to the God of Jacob!
  Raise a song; sound the tambourine,
    the sweet lyre with the harp.
  Blow the trumpet at the new moon,
    at the full moon, on our feast day.
  For it is a statute for Israel,
    a rule2 of the God of Jacob.
  He made it a decree in Joseph
    when he went out over3 the land of Egypt.
  I hear a language I had not known:
  “I relieved your4 shoulder of the burden;
    your hands were freed from the basket.
  In distress you called, and I delivered you;
    I answered you in the secret place of thunder;
    I tested you at the waters of Meribah. Selah
  Hear, O my people, while I admonish you!
    O Israel, if you would but listen to me!
  There shall be no strange god among you;
    you shall not bow down to a foreign god.
10   I am the LORD your God,
    who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.
    Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.
11   “But my people did not listen to my voice;
    Israel would not submit to me.
12   So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts,
    to follow their own counsels.
13   Oh, that my people would listen to me,
    that Israel would walk in my ways!
14   I would soon subdue their enemies
    and turn my hand against their foes.
15   Those who hate the LORD would cringe toward him,
    and their fate would last forever.
16   But he would feed you5 with the finest of the wheat,
    and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.”

Rescue the Weak and Needy

A Psalm of Asaph.

82:1   God has taken his place in the divine council;
    in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:
  “How long will you judge unjustly
    and show partiality to the wicked? Selah
  Give justice to the weak and the fatherless;
    maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.
  Rescue the weak and the needy;
    deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”
  They have neither knowledge nor understanding,
    they walk about in darkness;
    all the foundations of the earth are shaken.
  I said, “You are gods,
    sons of the Most High, all of you;
  nevertheless, like men you shall die,
    and fall like any prince.”6
  Arise, O God, judge the earth;
    for you shall inherit all the nations!

Footnotes

[1] 81:1 Probably a musical or liturgical term
[2] 81:4 Or just decree
[3] 81:5 Or against
[4] 81:6 Hebrew his; also next line
[5] 81:16 That is, Israel; Hebrew him
[6] 82:7 Or fall as one man, O princes

(ESV)