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Today’s Reading

Devotional

One of the remarkable features of Paul’s letters is that much space is devoted to teaching people how to live. Indeed, the Bible as a whole is interested in teaching us what to believe (because these things are true), and it is no less interested in teaching us faithful conduct. Nowhere is such balance more evident than in Paul’s letters.

The reason for this comprehensiveness lies in the nature of God. The God of the Bible, the God who is there (as Francis Schaeffer taught us to say), is God of everything. He is not the God of thoughts only, or of some spiritual or religious realm exclusively. He is God. As our Maker and providential Ruler, his interests and writ extend to every aspect of our being, beliefs, utterances, and conduct. Thus to preserve some horrible tension between our belief systems and our conduct is not only an invitation to schizophrenia, it is also an insult against God, a horrible rebellion no less ugly for being selective.

This means that our teaching and preaching must include not only truths to be believed, but also instruction on how to live. Entirely exemplary in this respect is the example of Paul in Ephesians 4:17–32. No one seriously doubts that this epistle contains rich doctrine. Here, however, we find Paul insisting that his readers “no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking” (Eph. 4:17). He ties this “futility” to their ignorance of God on the one hand, and to their disgusting conduct on the other. “You, however, did not come to know Christ that way” (Eph. 4:20). You were “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). That means “put[ting] off” the old self, and being “made new in the attitude of your minds” and “put[ting] on” the new self (Eph. 4:22–24).

All of this could remain a little ethereal. Paul will not allow such an escape. The rest of the chapter is frank and practical. The conduct Paul expects includes truthful speech—“for we are all members of one body” (Eph. 4:25), and a practical commitment to let no day end in anger, lest the devil be given a foothold (Eph. 4:26–27). Converted thieves must steal no more. They must work, doing something useful, learning to be generous with what they earn (Eph. 4:28). Our talk must not only eliminate what is blasphemous, vulgar, or “unwholesome,” but must learn to utter “what is helpful for building others up according to their needs” (Eph. 4:29). Comprehensively: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Eph. 4:31–32).

1 Kings 7

Solomon Builds His Palace

7:1 Solomon was building his own house thirteen years, and he finished his entire house.

He built the House of the Forest of Lebanon. Its length was a hundred cubits1 and its breadth fifty cubits and its height thirty cubits, and it was built on four2 rows of cedar pillars, with cedar beams on the pillars. And it was covered with cedar above the chambers that were on the forty-five pillars, fifteen in each row. There were window frames in three rows, and window opposite window in three tiers. All the doorways and windows3 had square frames, and window was opposite window in three tiers.

And he made the Hall of Pillars; its length was fifty cubits, and its breadth thirty cubits. There was a porch in front with pillars, and a canopy in front of them.

And he made the Hall of the Throne where he was to pronounce judgment, even the Hall of Judgment. It was finished with cedar from floor to rafters.4

His own house where he was to dwell, in the other court back of the hall, was of like workmanship. Solomon also made a house like this hall for Pharaoh's daughter whom he had taken in marriage.

All these were made of costly stones, cut according to measure, sawed with saws, back and front, even from the foundation to the coping, and from the outside to the great court. 10 The foundation was of costly stones, huge stones, stones of eight and ten cubits. 11 And above were costly stones, cut according to measurement, and cedar. 12 The great court had three courses of cut stone all around, and a course of cedar beams; so had the inner court of the house of the LORD and the vestibule of the house.

The Temple Furnishings

13 And King Solomon sent and brought Hiram from Tyre. 14 He was the son of a widow of the tribe of Naphtali, and his father was a man of Tyre, a worker in bronze. And he was full of wisdom, understanding, and skill for making any work in bronze. He came to King Solomon and did all his work.

15 He cast two pillars of bronze. Eighteen cubits was the height of one pillar, and a line of twelve cubits measured its circumference. It was hollow, and its thickness was four fingers. The second pillar was the same.5 16 He also made two capitals of cast bronze to set on the tops of the pillars. The height of the one capital was five cubits, and the height of the other capital was five cubits. 17 There were lattices of checker work with wreaths of chain work for the capitals on the tops of the pillars, a lattice6 for the one capital and a lattice for the other capital. 18 Likewise he made pomegranates7 in two rows around the one latticework to cover the capital that was on the top of the pillar, and he did the same with the other capital. 19 Now the capitals that were on the tops of the pillars in the vestibule were of lily-work, four cubits. 20 The capitals were on the two pillars and also above the rounded projection which was beside the latticework. There were two hundred pomegranates in two rows all around, and so with the other capital. 21 He set up the pillars at the vestibule of the temple. He set up the pillar on the south and called its name Jachin, and he set up the pillar on the north and called its name Boaz. 22 And on the tops of the pillars was lily-work. Thus the work of the pillars was finished.

23 Then he made the sea of cast metal. It was round, ten cubits from brim to brim, and five cubits high, and a line of thirty cubits measured its circumference. 24 Under its brim were gourds, for ten cubits, compassing the sea all around. The gourds were in two rows, cast with it when it was cast. 25 It stood on twelve oxen, three facing north, three facing west, three facing south, and three facing east. The sea was set on them, and all their rear parts were inward. 26 Its thickness was a handbreadth,8 and its brim was made like the brim of a cup, like the flower of a lily. It held two thousand baths.9

27 He also made the ten stands of bronze. Each stand was four cubits long, four cubits wide, and three cubits high. 28 This was the construction of the stands: they had panels, and the panels were set in the frames, 29 and on the panels that were set in the frames were lions, oxen, and cherubim. On the frames, both above and below the lions and oxen, there were wreaths of beveled work. 30 Moreover, each stand had four bronze wheels and axles of bronze, and at the four corners were supports for a basin. The supports were cast with wreaths at the side of each. 31 Its opening was within a crown that projected upward one cubit. Its opening was round, as a pedestal is made, a cubit and a half deep. At its opening there were carvings, and its panels were square, not round. 32 And the four wheels were underneath the panels. The axles of the wheels were of one piece with the stands, and the height of a wheel was a cubit and a half. 33 The wheels were made like a chariot wheel; their axles, their rims, their spokes, and their hubs were all cast. 34 There were four supports at the four corners of each stand. The supports were of one piece with the stands. 35 And on the top of the stand there was a round band half a cubit high; and on the top of the stand its stays and its panels were of one piece with it. 36 And on the surfaces of its stays and on its panels, he carved cherubim, lions, and palm trees, according to the space of each, with wreaths all around. 37 After this manner he made the ten stands. All of them were cast alike, of the same measure and the same form.

38 And he made ten basins of bronze. Each basin held forty baths, each basin measured four cubits, and there was a basin for each of the ten stands. 39 And he set the stands, five on the south side of the house, and five on the north side of the house. And he set the sea at the southeast corner of the house.

40 Hiram also made the pots, the shovels, and the basins. So Hiram finished all the work that he did for King Solomon on the house of the LORD: 41 the two pillars, the two bowls of the capitals that were on the tops of the pillars, and the two latticeworks to cover the two bowls of the capitals that were on the tops of the pillars; 42 and the four hundred pomegranates for the two latticeworks, two rows of pomegranates for each latticework, to cover the two bowls of the capitals that were on the pillars; 43 the ten stands, and the ten basins on the stands; 44 and the one sea, and the twelve oxen underneath the sea.

45 Now the pots, the shovels, and the basins, all these vessels in the house of the LORD, which Hiram made for King Solomon, were of burnished bronze. 46 In the plain of the Jordan the king cast them, in the clay ground between Succoth and Zarethan. 47 And Solomon left all the vessels unweighed, because there were so many of them; the weight of the bronze was not ascertained.

48 So Solomon made all the vessels that were in the house of the LORD: the golden altar, the golden table for the bread of the Presence, 49 the lampstands of pure gold, five on the south side and five on the north, before the inner sanctuary; the flowers, the lamps, and the tongs, of gold; 50 the cups, snuffers, basins, dishes for incense, and fire pans, of pure gold; and the sockets of gold, for the doors of the innermost part of the house, the Most Holy Place, and for the doors of the nave of the temple.

51 Thus all the work that King Solomon did on the house of the LORD was finished. And Solomon brought in the things that David his father had dedicated, the silver, the gold, and the vessels, and stored them in the treasuries of the house of the LORD.

Footnotes

[1] 7:2 A cubit was about 18 inches or 45 centimeters
[2] 7:2 Septuagint three
[3] 7:5 Septuagint; Hebrew posts
[4] 7:7 Syriac, Vulgate; Hebrew floor
[5] 7:15 Targum, Syriac (compare Septuagint and Jeremiah 52:21); Hebrew and a line of twelve cubits measured the circumference of the second pillar
[6] 7:17 Septuagint; Hebrew seven; twice in this verse
[7] 7:18 Two manuscripts (compare Septuagint); Hebrew pillars
[8] 7:26 A handbreadth was about 3 inches or 7.5 centimeters
[9] 7:26 A bath was about 6 gallons or 22 liters

(ESV)

Ephesians 4

Unity in the Body of Christ

4:1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift. Therefore it says,

  “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,
    and he gave gifts to men.”1

(In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth?2 10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds3 and teachers,4 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood,5 to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

The New Life

17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!—21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self,6 which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. 26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil. 28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. 29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Footnotes

[1] 4:8 The Greek word anthropoi can refer to both men and women
[2] 4:9 Or the lower parts of the earth?
[3] 4:11 Or pastors
[4] 4:11 Or the shepherd-teachers
[5] 4:13 Greek to a full-grown man
[6] 4:22 Greek man; also verse 24

(ESV)

Ezekiel 37

The Valley of Dry Bones

37:1 The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley;1 it was full of bones. And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord GOD, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath2 to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the LORD.”

So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling,3 and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.

11 Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.’ 12 Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. 13 And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. 14 And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the LORD.”

I Will Be Their God; They Shall Be My People

15 The word of the LORD came to me: 16 “Son of man, take a stick4 and write on it, ‘For Judah, and the people of Israel associated with him’; then take another stick and write on it, ‘For Joseph (the stick of Ephraim) and all the house of Israel associated with him.’ 17 And join them one to another into one stick, that they may become one in your hand. 18 And when your people say to you, ‘Will you not tell us what you mean by these?’ 19 say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I am about to take the stick of Joseph (that is in the hand of Ephraim) and the tribes of Israel associated with him. And I will join with it the stick of Judah,5 and make them one stick, that they may be one in my hand. 20 When the sticks on which you write are in your hand before their eyes, 21 then say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will take the people of Israel from the nations among which they have gone, and will gather them from all around, and bring them to their own land. 22 And I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel. And one king shall be king over them all, and they shall be no longer two nations, and no longer divided into two kingdoms. 23 They shall not defile themselves anymore with their idols and their detestable things, or with any of their transgressions. But I will save them from all the backslidings6 in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.

24 “My servant David shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd. They shall walk in my rules and be careful to obey my statutes. 25 They shall dwell in the land that I gave to my servant Jacob, where your fathers lived. They and their children and their children's children shall dwell there forever, and David my servant shall be their prince forever. 26 I will make a covenant of peace with them. It shall be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will set them in their land7 and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in their midst forevermore. 27 My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 28 Then the nations will know that I am the LORD who sanctifies Israel, when my sanctuary is in their midst forevermore.”

Footnotes

[1] 37:1 Or plain; also verse 2
[2] 37:5 Or spirit; also verses 6, 9, 10
[3] 37:7 Or an earthquake (compare 3:12, 13)
[4] 37:16 Or one piece of wood; also verses 17, 19, 20
[5] 37:19 Hebrew And I will place them on it, the stick of Judah
[6] 37:23 Many Hebrew manuscripts; other Hebrew manuscripts dwellings
[7] 37:26 Hebrew lacks in their land

(ESV)

Psalms 87–88

Glorious Things of You Are Spoken

A Psalm of the Sons of Korah. A Song.

87:1   On the holy mount stands the city he founded;
    the LORD loves the gates of Zion
    more than all the dwelling places of Jacob.
  Glorious things of you are spoken,
    O city of God. Selah
  Among those who know me I mention Rahab and Babylon;
    behold, Philistia and Tyre, with Cush1
    “This one was born there,” they say.
  And of Zion it shall be said,
    “This one and that one were born in her”;
    for the Most High himself will establish her.
  The LORD records as he registers the peoples,
    “This one was born there.” Selah
  Singers and dancers alike say,
    “All my springs are in you.”

I Cry Out Day and Night Before You

A Song. A Psalm of the Sons of Korah. To the choirmaster: according to Mahalath Leannoth. A Maskil2 of Heman the Ezrahite.

88:1   O LORD, God of my salvation,
    I cry out day and night before you.
  Let my prayer come before you;
    incline your ear to my cry!
  For my soul is full of troubles,
    and my life draws near to Sheol.
  I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
    I am a man who has no strength,
  like one set loose among the dead,
    like the slain that lie in the grave,
  like those whom you remember no more,
    for they are cut off from your hand.
  You have put me in the depths of the pit,
    in the regions dark and deep.
  Your wrath lies heavy upon me,
    and you overwhelm me with all your waves. Selah
  You have caused my companions to shun me;
    you have made me a horror3 to them.
  I am shut in so that I cannot escape;
    my eye grows dim through sorrow.
  Every day I call upon you, O LORD;
    I spread out my hands to you.
10   Do you work wonders for the dead?
    Do the departed rise up to praise you? Selah
11   Is your steadfast love declared in the grave,
    or your faithfulness in Abaddon?
12   Are your wonders known in the darkness,
    or your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?
13   But I, O LORD, cry to you;
    in the morning my prayer comes before you.
14   O LORD, why do you cast my soul away?
    Why do you hide your face from me?
15   Afflicted and close to death from my youth up,
    I suffer your terrors; I am helpless.4
16   Your wrath has swept over me;
    your dreadful assaults destroy me.
17   They surround me like a flood all day long;
    they close in on me together.
18   You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me;
    my companions have become darkness.5

Footnotes

[1] 87:4 Probably Nubia
[2] 88:1 Probably musical or liturgical terms
[3] 88:8 Or an abomination
[4] 88:15 The meaning of the Hebrew word is uncertain
[5] 88:18 Or darkness has become my only companion

(ESV)