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Today’s Reading

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In 1 Thessalonians 4, Paul once again provides explicit instruction to his converts on how to live (see meditation for October 4). Although his time with the Thessalonians was brief, Paul can look back on those few weeks and comment, “Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living” (1 Thess. 4:1). In what follows in this chapter, there are four areas of such instruction (and still more in the next chapter, though we shall not pursue them here). The first three of these “how to live” paragraphs are laced with theological terminology and motivations; the fourth is primarily theological in its argumentation, but the reason for writing is entirely practical.

(1) Paul insists that God’s will for the Thessalonians is that they be “sanctified” (1 Thess. 4:3). Although for Paul sanctification is often definitional or positional (i.e., he is thinking of the way believers have been sanctified in Christ at the moment of their conversion, in other words, set aside for God and his use; see meditation for August 27), here he is thinking of the entailments of conversion in the way believers live. In particular, he is concerned with the sexual arena. The Greek text of verse 4 could mean “learn to control his own body” (in the sexual arena), or “learn to live with his own wife” (in honorable sexual harmony, not sexual exploitation or manipulation), or even “learn to acquire a wife” (in an honorable way, not in a relationship based on nothing more than lust). The fact that “God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life” (1 Thess. 4:7) has immediate bearing on our sexual conduct.

(2) Love in the Christian community is a mark that a church has been “taught by God.” However excellent the reputation of the Thessalonians in this respect, Paul urges improvement (1 Thess. 4:9–10).

(3) Christian ambition should aim at quiet faithfulness, minding one’s business, and working hard so as not to be a burden to others. Judging by the frequency with which Paul returns to this theme, one suspects that more than a few idle people filled the church’s ranks in Thessalonica (1 Thess. 5:14; 2 Thess. 3:11–13).

(4) The last paragraph (1 Thess. 4:13–18) concerns “those who fall asleep,” whom the context shows to be Christians who have died. What befalls them? Apparently Paul had not had the time to flesh out much on such matters while he was still with them. Not wanting them to be ignorant (1 Thess. 4:13), he sketches what happens. But the point to observe is that this doctrine is shaped to assuage any grief that befalls bereaved believers: we sorrow, but not “like the rest of men, who have no hope” (1 Thess. 4:13). Instruction on how to live even extends to how to grieve.

1 Kings 21

Naboth's Vineyard

21:1 Now Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard in Jezreel, beside the palace of Ahab king of Samaria. And after this Ahab said to Naboth, “Give me your vineyard, that I may have it for a vegetable garden, because it is near my house, and I will give you a better vineyard for it; or, if it seems good to you, I will give you its value in money.” But Naboth said to Ahab, “The LORD forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my fathers.” And Ahab went into his house vexed and sullen because of what Naboth the Jezreelite had said to him, for he had said, “I will not give you the inheritance of my fathers.” And he lay down on his bed and turned away his face and would eat no food.

But Jezebel his wife came to him and said to him, “Why is your spirit so vexed that you eat no food?” And he said to her, “Because I spoke to Naboth the Jezreelite and said to him, ‘Give me your vineyard for money, or else, if it please you, I will give you another vineyard for it.’ And he answered, ‘I will not give you my vineyard.’” And Jezebel his wife said to him, “Do you now govern Israel? Arise and eat bread and let your heart be cheerful; I will give you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.”

So she wrote letters in Ahab's name and sealed them with his seal, and she sent the letters to the elders and the leaders who lived with Naboth in his city. And she wrote in the letters, “Proclaim a fast, and set Naboth at the head of the people. 10 And set two worthless men opposite him, and let them bring a charge against him, saying, ‘You have cursed1 God and the king.’ Then take him out and stone him to death.” 11 And the men of his city, the elders and the leaders who lived in his city, did as Jezebel had sent word to them. As it was written in the letters that she had sent to them, 12 they proclaimed a fast and set Naboth at the head of the people. 13 And the two worthless men came in and sat opposite him. And the worthless men brought a charge against Naboth in the presence of the people, saying, “Naboth cursed God and the king.” So they took him outside the city and stoned him to death with stones. 14 Then they sent to Jezebel, saying, “Naboth has been stoned; he is dead.”

15 As soon as Jezebel heard that Naboth had been stoned and was dead, Jezebel said to Ahab, “Arise, take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, which he refused to give you for money, for Naboth is not alive, but dead.” 16 And as soon as Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, Ahab arose to go down to the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, to take possession of it.

The Lord Condemns Ahab

17 Then the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, 18 “Arise, go down to meet Ahab king of Israel, who is in Samaria; behold, he is in the vineyard of Naboth, where he has gone to take possession. 19 And you shall say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD, “Have you killed and also taken possession?”’ And you shall say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD: “In the place where dogs licked up the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick your own blood.”’”

20 Ahab said to Elijah, “Have you found me, O my enemy?” He answered, “I have found you, because you have sold yourself to do what is evil in the sight of the LORD. 21 Behold, I will bring disaster upon you. I will utterly burn you up, and will cut off from Ahab every male, bond or free, in Israel. 22 And I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah, for the anger to which you have provoked me, and because you have made Israel to sin. 23 And of Jezebel the LORD also said, ‘The dogs shall eat Jezebel within the walls of Jezreel.’ 24 Anyone belonging to Ahab who dies in the city the dogs shall eat, and anyone of his who dies in the open country the birds of the heavens shall eat.”

Ahab's Repentance

25 (There was none who sold himself to do what was evil in the sight of the LORD like Ahab, whom Jezebel his wife incited. 26 He acted very abominably in going after idols, as the Amorites had done, whom the LORD cast out before the people of Israel.)

27 And when Ahab heard those words, he tore his clothes and put sackcloth on his flesh and fasted and lay in sackcloth and went about dejectedly. 28 And the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, 29 “Have you seen how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself before me, I will not bring the disaster in his days; but in his son's days I will bring the disaster upon his house.”

Footnotes

[1] 21:10 Hebrew blessed; also verse 13

(ESV)

1 Thessalonians 4

A Life Pleasing to God

4:1 Finally, then, brothers,1 we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification:2 that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body3 in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.

Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, 10 for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, 11 and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, 12 so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.

The Coming of the Lord

13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord,4 that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

Footnotes

[1] 4:1 Or brothers and sisters; also verses 10, 13
[2] 4:3 Or your holiness
[3] 4:4 Or how to take a wife for himself; Greek how to possess his own vessel
[4] 4:15 Or by the word of the Lord

(ESV)

Daniel 3

Nebuchadnezzar's Golden Image

3:1 King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits1 and its breadth six cubits. He set it up on the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. Then King Nebuchadnezzar sent to gather the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces to come to the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. Then the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces gathered for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. And they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. And the herald proclaimed aloud, “You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. And whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace.” Therefore, as soon as all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, all the peoples, nations, and languages fell down and worshiped the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

The Fiery Furnace

Therefore at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and maliciously accused the Jews. They declared2 to King Nebuchadnezzar, “O king, live forever! 10 You, O king, have made a decree, that every man who hears the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, shall fall down and worship the golden image. 11 And whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into a burning fiery furnace. 12 There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men, O king, pay no attention to you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

13 Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought. So they brought these men before the king. 14 Nebuchadnezzar answered and said to them, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? 15 Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good.3 But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?”

16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.4 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with fury, and the expression of his face was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He ordered the furnace heated seven times more than it was usually heated. 20 And he ordered some of the mighty men of his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace. 21 Then these men were bound in their cloaks, their tunics,5 their hats, and their other garments, and they were thrown into the burning fiery furnace. 22 Because the king's order was urgent and the furnace overheated, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. 23 And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell bound into the burning fiery furnace.

24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” 25 He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.”

26 Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the burning fiery furnace; he declared, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here!” Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the fire. 27 And the satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king's counselors gathered together and saw that the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men. The hair of their heads was not singed, their cloaks were not harmed, and no smell of fire had come upon them. 28 Nebuchadnezzar answered and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set aside6 the king's command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God. 29 Therefore I make a decree: Any people, nation, or language that speaks anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins, for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.” 30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon.

Footnotes

[1] 3:1 A cubit was about 18 inches or 45 centimeters
[2] 3:9 Aramaic answered and said; also verses 24, 26
[3] 3:15 Aramaic lacks well and good
[4] 3:17 Or If our God whom we serve is able to deliver us, he will deliver us from the burning fiery furnace and out of your hand, O king
[5] 3:21 The meaning of the Aramaic words rendered cloaks and tunics is uncertain; also verse 27
[6] 3:28 Aramaic and changed

(ESV)

Psalm 107

Book Five

Let the Redeemed of the Lord Say So

107:1   Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
    for his steadfast love endures forever!
  Let the redeemed of the LORD say so,
    whom he has redeemed from trouble1
  and gathered in from the lands,
    from the east and from the west,
    from the north and from the south.
  Some wandered in desert wastes,
    finding no way to a city to dwell in;
  hungry and thirsty,
    their soul fainted within them.
  Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,
    and he delivered them from their distress.
  He led them by a straight way
    till they reached a city to dwell in.
  Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love,
    for his wondrous works to the children of man!
  For he satisfies the longing soul,
    and the hungry soul he fills with good things.
10   Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death,
    prisoners in affliction and in irons,
11   for they had rebelled against the words of God,
    and spurned the counsel of the Most High.
12   So he bowed their hearts down with hard labor;
    they fell down, with none to help.
13   Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,
    and he delivered them from their distress.
14   He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death,
    and burst their bonds apart.
15   Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love,
    for his wondrous works to the children of man!
16   For he shatters the doors of bronze
    and cuts in two the bars of iron.
17   Some were fools through their sinful ways,
    and because of their iniquities suffered affliction;
18   they loathed any kind of food,
    and they drew near to the gates of death.
19   Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,
    and he delivered them from their distress.
20   He sent out his word and healed them,
    and delivered them from their destruction.
21   Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love,
    for his wondrous works to the children of man!
22   And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving,
    and tell of his deeds in songs of joy!
23   Some went down to the sea in ships,
    doing business on the great waters;
24   they saw the deeds of the LORD,
    his wondrous works in the deep.
25   For he commanded and raised the stormy wind,
    which lifted up the waves of the sea.
26   They mounted up to heaven; they went down to the depths;
    their courage melted away in their evil plight;
27   they reeled and staggered like drunken men
    and were at their wits' end.2
28   Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,
    and he delivered them from their distress.
29   He made the storm be still,
    and the waves of the sea were hushed.
30   Then they were glad that the waters3 were quiet,
    and he brought them to their desired haven.
31   Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love,
    for his wondrous works to the children of man!
32   Let them extol him in the congregation of the people,
    and praise him in the assembly of the elders.
33   He turns rivers into a desert,
    springs of water into thirsty ground,
34   a fruitful land into a salty waste,
    because of the evil of its inhabitants.
35   He turns a desert into pools of water,
    a parched land into springs of water.
36   And there he lets the hungry dwell,
    and they establish a city to live in;
37   they sow fields and plant vineyards
    and get a fruitful yield.
38   By his blessing they multiply greatly,
    and he does not let their livestock diminish.
39   When they are diminished and brought low
    through oppression, evil, and sorrow,
40   he pours contempt on princes
    and makes them wander in trackless wastes;
41   but he raises up the needy out of affliction
    and makes their families like flocks.
42   The upright see it and are glad,
    and all wickedness shuts its mouth.
43   Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things;
    let them consider the steadfast love of the LORD.

Footnotes

[1] 107:2 Or from the hand of the foe
[2] 107:27 Hebrew and all their wisdom was swallowed up
[3] 107:30 Hebrew they

(ESV)