×
A devotional bible commentary
in partnership with
Join Us!
Join Us!

Today’s Reading

Devotional

JUST BEFORE THE CLOSING LINES of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he invites his readers to pray for him (Eph. 6:19–20): “Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.”

(1) Elsewhere when Paul provides models for how his converts should pray (e.g., Eph. 3:14–21; Phil. 1:9–11), the theme of mission does not arise as powerfully as here. True, Paul elsewhere asks others to pray for him (1 Thess. 5:25), but here he specifies what he wants them to ask for (compare Col. 4:4; 2 Thess. 3:1). He wants to be able to speak the “mystery” of the Gospel fearlessly.

(2) Surely it is encouraging that Paul should feel the need for such prayer. We sometimes place the apostle on such a high pedestal that we forget he was an ordinary mortal faced with the same temptations that confront us. He was very well aware of how easy it is to skew the Gospel, to trim it a little, to get around the bits we think our hearers will find awkward or offensive. So he knew that to preach the Gospel faithfully, he would have to preach it fearlessly. This does not reflect an “in your face” style. It means, rather, that Paul wanted to speak without fearing what his hearers would think or say about him, or what they might do to him, lest he compromise the Gospel he came to announce.

It does not take much imagination to detect ways in which today’s preachers in the Western world stand in need of much prayer in this regard. Suppose you are preaching to university undergraduates at a pagan university, or to bright businesspeople in their 20s and 30s in, say, New York. When you expound Romans, exactly how will you handle homosexuality in chapter 1 and election in chapter 9? How will you talk about hell in the many passages where Jesus himself deploys the most horrific images? How might you be tempted to flinch when you must deal with the sheer exclusiveness of the Gospel or when you talk about money to rich people?

(3) We should not miss the fact that Paul is willing to ask for prayer. Some leaders think they must never admit a weakness, a fear, or a need. They act as if they are above the fray. Not Paul. His request for prayer is not pro forma: he asks for prayer to preach the Gospel fearlessly because he has been preaching long enough, and knows himself well enough, to know the power and danger of preaching for merely popular acclaim. By asking for prayer, he admits his fears, and secures their divine remedy.

1 Kings 9

The Lord Appears to Solomon

9:1 As soon as Solomon had finished building the house of the LORD and the king's house and all that Solomon desired to build, the LORD appeared to Solomon a second time, as he had appeared to him at Gibeon. And the LORD said to him, “I have heard your prayer and your plea, which you have made before me. I have consecrated this house that you have built, by putting my name there forever. My eyes and my heart will be there for all time. And as for you, if you will walk before me, as David your father walked, with integrity of heart and uprightness, doing according to all that I have commanded you, and keeping my statutes and my rules, then I will establish your royal throne over Israel forever, as I promised David your father, saying, ‘You shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.’ But if you turn aside from following me, you or your children, and do not keep my commandments and my statutes that I have set before you, but go and serve other gods and worship them, then I will cut off Israel from the land that I have given them, and the house that I have consecrated for my name I will cast out of my sight, and Israel will become a proverb and a byword among all peoples. And this house will become a heap of ruins.1 Everyone passing by it will be astonished and will hiss, and they will say, ‘Why has the LORD done thus to this land and to this house?’ Then they will say, ‘Because they abandoned the LORD their God who brought their fathers out of the land of Egypt and laid hold on other gods and worshiped them and served them. Therefore the LORD has brought all this disaster on them.’”

Solomon's Other Acts

10 At the end of twenty years, in which Solomon had built the two houses, the house of the LORD and the king's house, 11 and Hiram king of Tyre had supplied Solomon with cedar and cypress timber and gold, as much as he desired, King Solomon gave to Hiram twenty cities in the land of Galilee. 12 But when Hiram came from Tyre to see the cities that Solomon had given him, they did not please him. 13 Therefore he said, “What kind of cities are these that you have given me, my brother?” So they are called the land of Cabul to this day. 14 Hiram had sent to the king 120 talents2 of gold.

15 And this is the account of the forced labor that King Solomon drafted to build the house of the LORD and his own house and the Millo and the wall of Jerusalem and Hazor and Megiddo and Gezer 16 (Pharaoh king of Egypt had gone up and captured Gezer and burned it with fire, and had killed the Canaanites who lived in the city, and had given it as dowry to his daughter, Solomon's wife; 17 so Solomon rebuilt Gezer) and Lower Beth-horon 18 and Baalath and Tamar in the wilderness, in the land of Judah,3 19 and all the store cities that Solomon had, and the cities for his chariots, and the cities for his horsemen, and whatever Solomon desired to build in Jerusalem, in Lebanon, and in all the land of his dominion. 20 All the people who were left of the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, who were not of the people of Israel—21 their descendants who were left after them in the land, whom the people of Israel were unable to devote to destruction4—these Solomon drafted to be slaves, and so they are to this day. 22 But of the people of Israel Solomon made no slaves. They were the soldiers, they were his officials, his commanders, his captains, his chariot commanders and his horsemen.

23 These were the chief officers who were over Solomon's work: 550 who had charge of the people who carried on the work.

24 But Pharaoh's daughter went up from the city of David to her own house that Solomon had built for her. Then he built the Millo.

25 Three times a year Solomon used to offer up burnt offerings and peace offerings on the altar that he built to the LORD, making offerings with it5 before the LORD. So he finished the house.

26 King Solomon built a fleet of ships at Ezion-geber, which is near Eloth on the shore of the Red Sea, in the land of Edom. 27 And Hiram sent with the fleet his servants, seamen who were familiar with the sea, together with the servants of Solomon. 28 And they went to Ophir and brought from there gold, 420 talents, and they brought it to King Solomon.

Footnotes

[1] 9:8 Syriac, Old Latin; Hebrew will become high
[2] 9:14 A talent was about 75 pounds or 34 kilograms
[3] 9:18 Hebrew lacks of Judah
[4] 9:21 That is, set apart (devote) as an offering to the Lord (for destruction)
[5] 9:25 Septuagint lacks with it

(ESV)

Ephesians 6

Children and Parents

6:1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Bondservants and Masters

Bondservants,1 obey your earthly masters2 with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free. Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master3 and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.

The Whole Armor of God

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

Final Greetings

21 So that you also may know how I am and what I am doing, Tychicus the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord will tell you everything. 22 I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage your hearts.

23 Peace be to the brothers,4 and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible.

Footnotes

[1] 6:5 For the contextual rendering of the Greek word doulos, see Preface; also verse 6; likewise for bondservant in verse 8
[2] 6:5 Or your masters according to the flesh
[3] 6:9 Greek Lord
[4] 6:23 Or brothers and sisters

(ESV)

Ezekiel 39

39:1 “And you, son of man, prophesy against Gog and say, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I am against you, O Gog, chief prince of Meshech1 and Tubal. And I will turn you about and drive you forward,2 and bring you up from the uttermost parts of the north, and lead you against the mountains of Israel. Then I will strike your bow from your left hand, and will make your arrows drop out of your right hand. You shall fall on the mountains of Israel, you and all your hordes and the peoples who are with you. I will give you to birds of prey of every sort and to the beasts of the field to be devoured. You shall fall in the open field, for I have spoken, declares the Lord GOD. I will send fire on Magog and on those who dwell securely in the coastlands, and they shall know that I am the LORD.

“And my holy name I will make known in the midst of my people Israel, and I will not let my holy name be profaned anymore. And the nations shall know that I am the LORD, the Holy One in Israel. Behold, it is coming and it will be brought about, declares the Lord GOD. That is the day of which I have spoken.

“Then those who dwell in the cities of Israel will go out and make fires of the weapons and burn them, shields and bucklers, bow and arrows, clubs3 and spears; and they will make fires of them for seven years, 10 so that they will not need to take wood out of the field or cut down any out of the forests, for they will make their fires of the weapons. They will seize the spoil of those who despoiled them, and plunder those who plundered them, declares the Lord GOD.

11 “On that day I will give to Gog a place for burial in Israel, the Valley of the Travelers, east of the sea. It will block the travelers, for there Gog and all his multitude will be buried. It will be called the Valley of Hamon-gog.4 12 For seven months the house of Israel will be burying them, in order to cleanse the land. 13 All the people of the land will bury them, and it will bring them renown on the day that I show my glory, declares the Lord GOD. 14 They will set apart men to travel through the land regularly and bury those travelers remaining on the face of the land, so as to cleanse it. At5 the end of seven months they will make their search. 15 And when these travel through the land and anyone sees a human bone, then he shall set up a sign by it, till the buriers have buried it in the Valley of Hamon-gog. 16 (Hamonah6 is also the name of the city.) Thus shall they cleanse the land.

17 “As for you, son of man, thus says the Lord GOD: Speak to the birds of every sort and to all beasts of the field: ‘Assemble and come, gather from all around to the sacrificial feast that I am preparing for you, a great sacrificial feast on the mountains of Israel, and you shall eat flesh and drink blood. 18 You shall eat the flesh of the mighty, and drink the blood of the princes of the earth—of rams, of lambs, and of he-goats, of bulls, all of them fat beasts of Bashan. 19 And you shall eat fat till you are filled, and drink blood till you are drunk, at the sacrificial feast that I am preparing for you. 20 And you shall be filled at my table with horses and charioteers, with mighty men and all kinds of warriors,’ declares the Lord GOD.

21 “And I will set my glory among the nations, and all the nations shall see my judgment that I have executed, and my hand that I have laid on them. 22 The house of Israel shall know that I am the LORD their God, from that day forward. 23 And the nations shall know that the house of Israel went into captivity for their iniquity, because they dealt so treacherously with me that I hid my face from them and gave them into the hand of their adversaries, and they all fell by the sword. 24 I dealt with them according to their uncleanness and their transgressions, and hid my face from them.

The Lord Will Restore Israel

25 “Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: Now I will restore the fortunes of Jacob and have mercy on the whole house of Israel, and I will be jealous for my holy name. 26 They shall forget their shame and all the treachery they have practiced against me, when they dwell securely in their land with none to make them afraid, 27 when I have brought them back from the peoples and gathered them from their enemies' lands, and through them have vindicated my holiness in the sight of many nations. 28 Then they shall know that I am the LORD their God, because I sent them into exile among the nations and then assembled them into their own land. I will leave none of them remaining among the nations anymore. 29 And I will not hide my face anymore from them, when I pour out my Spirit upon the house of Israel, declares the Lord GOD.”

Footnotes

[1] 39:1 Or Gog, prince of Rosh, Meshech
[2] 39:2 Or and drag you along
[3] 39:9 Or javelins
[4] 39:11 Hamon-gog means the multitude of Gog
[5] 39:14 Or Until
[6] 39:16 Hamonah means multitude

(ESV)

Psalm 90

Book Four

From Everlasting to Everlasting

A Prayer of Moses, the man of God.

90:1   Lord, you have been our dwelling place1
    in all generations.
  Before the mountains were brought forth,
    or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
    from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
  You return man to dust
    and say, “Return, O children of man!”2
  For a thousand years in your sight
    are but as yesterday when it is past,
    or as a watch in the night.
  You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream,
    like grass that is renewed in the morning:
  in the morning it flourishes and is renewed;
    in the evening it fades and withers.
  For we are brought to an end by your anger;
    by your wrath we are dismayed.
  You have set our iniquities before you,
    our secret sins in the light of your presence.
  For all our days pass away under your wrath;
    we bring our years to an end like a sigh.
10   The years of our life are seventy,
    or even by reason of strength eighty;
  yet their span3 is but toil and trouble;
    they are soon gone, and we fly away.
11   Who considers the power of your anger,
    and your wrath according to the fear of you?
12   So teach us to number our days
    that we may get a heart of wisdom.
13   Return, O LORD! How long?
    Have pity on your servants!
14   Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
    that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
15   Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
    and for as many years as we have seen evil.
16   Let your work be shown to your servants,
    and your glorious power to their children.
17   Let the favor4 of the Lord our God be upon us,
    and establish the work of our hands upon us;
    yes, establish the work of our hands!

Footnotes

[1] 90:1 Some Hebrew manuscripts (compare Septuagint) our refuge
[2] 90:3 Or of Adam
[3] 90:10 Or pride
[4] 90:17 Or beauty

(ESV)