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Today’s Reading

Devotional

In the course of his treatment of “virgins” (1 Cor. 7:25–38—the word refers to the sexually inexperienced, whether male of female), Paul writes, “Because of the present crisis, I think that it is good for you to remain as you are” (1 Cor. 7:26). Thus it is good for the celibate to remain celibate, for the married not to seek a divorce, and so forth. This does not mean, Paul adds, that if a virgin marries, she is sinning. But he does insist that “the time is short” (1 Cor. 7:29). What does this mean?

(1) Some have argued that in common with everyone else in the early church, Paul believed that Jesus was going to return very soon, certainly within their lifetime. With so limited a horizon, Paul says that on the whole it is better for those who are celibate to remain unmarried. This reading of the passage means, of course, that Paul and the rest of the early church were just plain wrong: Jesus did not come back that quickly. But there are so many passages in the New Testament that envisage the possibility of long delay that we cannot go along with the notion that early Christians suffered under this particular delusion.

(2) Some have argued that “the present crisis” (1 Cor. 7:26) refers to some specially troubling period of persecution. If the authorities are out to get Christians, especially their leaders, it might be an advantage to be celibate: you are more mobile, can hide more easily, and the authorities cannot exert pressure on you by leaning on your family. But this interpretation has two insuperable problems. (a) It may fit the celibates, but it doesn’t fit all the other people to whom Paul makes application: e.g., those who mourn should live as if they did not mourn, those who are happy as if they were not, those who buy something as if it were not theirs to keep (1 Cor. 7:29–30). (b) Above all, there is no good evidence that the Corinthians were being threatened with persecution. The entire tone of this letter suggests they were finding life a bit of a lark.

(3) The word rendered “crisis” simply means “necessity” or “compulsion.” What Paul is referring to is neither the return of Christ nor persecution, but the present “necessity,” the present “compulsion,” of living with the End in view. Unlike pagans and secularists, we cannot make our chief joy turn on marriage, prosperity, or any other temporal thing. They all fall under the formula “as if not”: live “as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away” (1 Cor. 7:31, emphasis added). There are responsible ways for Christians to enjoy these things, or mourn, or be happy—but never as if these things are ultimate.

1 Samuel 26

David Spares Saul Again

26:1 Then the Ziphites came to Saul at Gibeah, saying, “Is not David hiding himself on the hill of Hachilah, which is on the east of Jeshimon?” So Saul arose and went down to the wilderness of Ziph with three thousand chosen men of Israel to seek David in the wilderness of Ziph. And Saul encamped on the hill of Hachilah, which is beside the road on the east of Jeshimon. But David remained in the wilderness. When he saw that Saul came after him into the wilderness, David sent out spies and learned that Saul had indeed come. Then David rose and came to the place where Saul had encamped. And David saw the place where Saul lay, with Abner the son of Ner, the commander of his army. Saul was lying within the encampment, while the army was encamped around him.

Then David said to Ahimelech the Hittite, and to Joab's brother Abishai the son of Zeruiah, “Who will go down with me into the camp to Saul?” And Abishai said, “I will go down with you.” So David and Abishai went to the army by night. And there lay Saul sleeping within the encampment, with his spear stuck in the ground at his head, and Abner and the army lay around him. Then Abishai said to David, “God has given your enemy into your hand this day. Now please let me pin him to the earth with one stroke of the spear, and I will not strike him twice.” But David said to Abishai, “Do not destroy him, for who can put out his hand against the LORD's anointed and be guiltless?” 10 And David said, “As the LORD lives, the LORD will strike him, or his day will come to die, or he will go down into battle and perish. 11 The LORD forbid that I should put out my hand against the LORD's anointed. But take now the spear that is at his head and the jar of water, and let us go.” 12 So David took the spear and the jar of water from Saul's head, and they went away. No man saw it or knew it, nor did any awake, for they were all asleep, because a deep sleep from the LORD had fallen upon them.

13 Then David went over to the other side and stood far off on the top of the hill, with a great space between them. 14 And David called to the army, and to Abner the son of Ner, saying, “Will you not answer, Abner?” Then Abner answered, “Who are you who calls to the king?” 15 And David said to Abner, “Are you not a man? Who is like you in Israel? Why then have you not kept watch over your lord the king? For one of the people came in to destroy the king your lord. 16 This thing that you have done is not good. As the LORD lives, you deserve to die, because you have not kept watch over your lord, the LORD's anointed. And now see where the king's spear is and the jar of water that was at his head.”

17 Saul recognized David's voice and said, “Is this your voice, my son David?” And David said, “It is my voice, my lord, O king.” 18 And he said, “Why does my lord pursue after his servant? For what have I done? What evil is on my hands? 19 Now therefore let my lord the king hear the words of his servant. If it is the LORD who has stirred you up against me, may he accept an offering, but if it is men, may they be cursed before the LORD, for they have driven me out this day that I should have no share in the heritage of the LORD, saying, ‘Go, serve other gods.’ 20 Now therefore, let not my blood fall to the earth away from the presence of the LORD, for the king of Israel has come out to seek a single flea like one who hunts a partridge in the mountains.”

21 Then Saul said, “I have sinned. Return, my son David, for I will no more do you harm, because my life was precious in your eyes this day. Behold, I have acted foolishly, and have made a great mistake.” 22 And David answered and said, “Here is the spear, O king! Let one of the young men come over and take it. 23 The LORD rewards every man for his righteousness and his faithfulness, for the LORD gave you into my hand today, and I would not put out my hand against the LORD's anointed. 24 Behold, as your life was precious this day in my sight, so may my life be precious in the sight of the LORD, and may he deliver me out of all tribulation.” 25 Then Saul said to David, “Blessed be you, my son David! You will do many things and will succeed in them.” So David went his way, and Saul returned to his place.

(ESV)

1 Corinthians 7

Principles for Marriage

7:1 Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

Now as a concession, not a command, I say this.1 I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.

To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single, as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

10 To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband 11 (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.

12 To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. 13 If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. 14 For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. 15 But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you2 to peace. 16 For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?

Live as You Are Called

17 Only let each person lead the life3 that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches. 18 Was anyone at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was anyone at the time of his call uncircumcised? Let him not seek circumcision. 19 For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God. 20 Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called. 21 Were you a bondservant4 when called? Do not be concerned about it. (But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.) 22 For he who was called in the Lord as a bondservant is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a bondservant of Christ. 23 You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants of men. 24 So, brothers,5 in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.

The Unmarried and the Widowed

25 Now concerning6 the betrothed,7 I have no command from the Lord, but I give my judgment as one who by the Lord's mercy is trustworthy. 26 I think that in view of the present8 distress it is good for a person to remain as he is. 27 Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife. 28 But if you do marry, you have not sinned, and if a betrothed woman9 marries, she has not sinned. Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that. 29 This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, 30 and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, 31 and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.

32 I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. 33 But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, 34 and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. 35 I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.

36 If anyone thinks that he is not behaving properly toward his betrothed,10 if his11 passions are strong, and it has to be, let him do as he wishes: let them marry—it is no sin. 37 But whoever is firmly established in his heart, being under no necessity but having his desire under control, and has determined this in his heart, to keep her as his betrothed, he will do well. 38 So then he who marries his betrothed does well, and he who refrains from marriage will do even better.

39 A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord. 40 Yet in my judgment she is happier if she remains as she is. And I think that I too have the Spirit of God.

Footnotes

[1] 7:6 Or I say this:
[2] 7:15 Some manuscripts us
[3] 7:17 Or each person walk in the way
[4] 7:21 For the contextual rendering of the Greek word doulos, see Preface; also verses 22 (twice), 23
[5] 7:24 Or brothers and sisters; also verse 29
[6] 7:25 The expression Now concerning introduces a reply to a question in the Corinthians' letter; see 7:1
[7] 7:25 Greek virgins
[8] 7:26 Or impending
[9] 7:28 Greek virgin; also verse 34
[10] 7:36 Greek virgin; also verses 37, 38
[11] 7:36 Or her

(ESV)

Ezekiel 5

Jerusalem Will Be Destroyed

5:1 “And you, O son of man, take a sharp sword. Use it as a barber's razor and pass it over your head and your beard. Then take balances for weighing and divide the hair. A third part you shall burn in the fire in the midst of the city, when the days of the siege are completed. And a third part you shall take and strike with the sword all around the city. And a third part you shall scatter to the wind, and I will unsheathe the sword after them. And you shall take from these a small number and bind them in the skirts of your robe. And of these again you shall take some and cast them into the midst of the fire and burn them in the fire. From there a fire will come out into all the house of Israel.

“Thus says the Lord GOD: This is Jerusalem. I have set her in the center of the nations, with countries all around her. And she has rebelled against my rules by doing wickedness more than the nations, and against my statutes more than the countries all around her; for they have rejected my rules and have not walked in my statutes. Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: Because you are more turbulent than the nations that are all around you, and have not walked in my statutes or obeyed my rules, and have not1 even acted according to the rules of the nations that are all around you, therefore thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I, even I, am against you. And I will execute judgments2 in your midst in the sight of the nations. And because of all your abominations I will do with you what I have never yet done, and the like of which I will never do again. 10 Therefore fathers shall eat their sons in your midst, and sons shall eat their fathers. And I will execute judgments on you, and any of you who survive I will scatter to all the winds. 11 Therefore, as I live, declares the Lord GOD, surely, because you have defiled my sanctuary with all your detestable things and with all your abominations, therefore I will withdraw.3 My eye will not spare, and I will have no pity. 12 A third part of you shall die of pestilence and be consumed with famine in your midst; a third part shall fall by the sword all around you; and a third part I will scatter to all the winds and will unsheathe the sword after them.

13 “Thus shall my anger spend itself, and I will vent my fury upon them and satisfy myself. And they shall know that I am the LORD—that I have spoken in my jealousy—when I spend my fury upon them. 14 Moreover, I will make you a desolation and an object of reproach among the nations all around you and in the sight of all who pass by. 15 You shall be4 a reproach and a taunt, a warning and a horror, to the nations all around you, when I execute judgments on you in anger and fury, and with furious rebukes—I am the LORD; I have spoken—16 when I send against you5 the deadly arrows of famine, arrows for destruction, which I will send to destroy you, and when I bring more and more famine upon you and break your supply6 of bread. 17 I will send famine and wild beasts against you, and they will rob you of your children. Pestilence and blood shall pass through you, and I will bring the sword upon you. I am the LORD; I have spoken.”

Footnotes

[1] 5:7 Some Hebrew manuscripts and Syriac lack not
[2] 5:8 The same Hebrew expression can mean obey rules, or execute judgments, depending on the context
[3] 5:11 Some Hebrew manuscripts I will cut you down
[4] 5:15 Dead Sea Scroll, Septuagint, Syriac, Vulgate, Targum; Masoretic Text And it shall be
[5] 5:16 Hebrew them
[6] 5:16 Hebrew staff

(ESV)

Psalms 42–43

Book Two

Why Are You Cast Down, O My Soul?

To the choirmaster. A Maskil1 of the Sons of Korah.

42:1   As a deer pants for flowing streams,
    so pants my soul for you, O God.
  My soul thirsts for God,
    for the living God.
  When shall I come and appear before God?2
  My tears have been my food
    day and night,
  while they say to me all the day long,
    “Where is your God?”
  These things I remember,
    as I pour out my soul:
  how I would go with the throng
    and lead them in procession to the house of God
  with glad shouts and songs of praise,
    a multitude keeping festival.
  Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
  Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation3 and my God.
  My soul is cast down within me;
    therefore I remember you
  from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,
    from Mount Mizar.
  Deep calls to deep
    at the roar of your waterfalls;
  all your breakers and your waves
    have gone over me.
  By day the LORD commands his steadfast love,
    and at night his song is with me,
    a prayer to the God of my life.
  I say to God, my rock:
    “Why have you forgotten me?
  Why do I go mourning
    because of the oppression of the enemy?”
10   As with a deadly wound in my bones,
    my adversaries taunt me,
  while they say to me all the day long,
    “Where is your God?”
11   Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
  Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God.

Send Out Your Light and Your Truth

43:1   Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause
    against an ungodly people,
  from the deceitful and unjust man
    deliver me!
  For you are the God in whom I take refuge;
    why have you rejected me?
  Why do I go about mourning
    because of the oppression of the enemy?
  Send out your light and your truth;
    let them lead me;
  let them bring me to your holy hill
    and to your dwelling!
  Then I will go to the altar of God,
    to God my exceeding joy,
  and I will praise you with the lyre,
    O God, my God.
  Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
  Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God.

Footnotes

[1] 42:1 Probably a musical or liturgical term
[2] 42:2 Revocalization yields and see the face of God
[3] 42:5 Hebrew the salvation of my face; also verse 11 and 43:5

(ESV)