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Today’s Reading

Devotional

APPARENTLY SOME CHRISTIANS in Corinth, secure in their knowledge that idols are nothing at all, and that all meat has been created by the one true God so that it is good to eat even if it had been offered to an idol, feel wonderful liberty to eat whatever they like. Others, converted perhaps from a life bound up with pagan superstition, detect the demonic in the idol, and think it unsafe to eat food that has been offered to them (1 Cor. 8). The thrust of Paul’s argument is plain enough. Those with a robust conscience on these matters should be willing to forgo their rights so that they do not damage other brothers and sisters in Christ.

It may nevertheless crystallize the application if we underline several elements:

(1) The issue concerns something that is not intrinsically wrong. One could not imagine the apostle suggesting that some Christians think adultery is all right, while others have qualms about it, and the former should perhaps forgo their freedom so as not to offend the latter. In such a case, there is never any excuse for the action; the action is prohibited. So Paul’s principles here apply only to actions that are in themselves morally indifferent.

(2) Paul assumes that it is wrong to go against conscience, for then conscience may be damaged (1 Cor. 8:12). A conscience hardened in one area, over an indifferent matter, may become hard in another area—something more crucial. Ideally, of course, the conscience should become more perfectly aligned with what God says in Scripture, so that in indifferent matters it would leave the individual free. Conscience may be instructed and shaped by truth. But until conscience has been reformed by Scripture, it is best not to contravene it.

(3) The “weak” brother in this chapter (1 Cor. 8:7–13) is one with a “weak” conscience; that is, one who thinks some action is wrong even though there is nothing intrinsically wrong in it. Thus the “weak” brother is more bound by rules than the “strong” brother. Both will adopt the rules that touch things truly wrong, while the weak brother adds rules for things that are not truly wrong but that are at that point wrong for him, since he thinks them wrong.

(4) Paul places primary onus of responsibility on the “strong” to restrict their own freedoms for the sake of others. In other words, it is never a sufficient question for the Christian to ask, “What am I allowed to do? What are my rights?” Christians serve a Lord who certainly did not stand on his rights when he went to the cross. Following the self-denial of Jesus, they will also ask, “What rights should I give up for the sake of others?”

1 Samuel 27

David Flees to the Philistines

27:1 Then David said in his heart, “Now I shall perish one day by the hand of Saul. There is nothing better for me than that I should escape to the land of the Philistines. Then Saul will despair of seeking me any longer within the borders of Israel, and I shall escape out of his hand.” So David arose and went over, he and the six hundred men who were with him, to Achish the son of Maoch, king of Gath. And David lived with Achish at Gath, he and his men, every man with his household, and David with his two wives, Ahinoam of Jezreel, and Abigail of Carmel, Nabal's widow. And when it was told Saul that David had fled to Gath, he no longer sought him.

Then David said to Achish, “If I have found favor in your eyes, let a place be given me in one of the country towns, that I may dwell there. For why should your servant dwell in the royal city with you?” So that day Achish gave him Ziklag. Therefore Ziklag has belonged to the kings of Judah to this day. And the number of the days that David lived in the country of the Philistines was a year and four months.

Now David and his men went up and made raids against the Geshurites, the Girzites, and the Amalekites, for these were the inhabitants of the land from of old, as far as Shur, to the land of Egypt. And David would strike the land and would leave neither man nor woman alive, but would take away the sheep, the oxen, the donkeys, the camels, and the garments, and come back to Achish. 10 When Achish asked, “Where have you made a raid today?” David would say, “Against the Negeb of Judah,” or, “Against the Negeb of the Jerahmeelites,” or, “Against the Negeb of the Kenites.” 11 And David would leave neither man nor woman alive to bring news to Gath, thinking, “lest they should tell about us and say, ‘So David has done.’” Such was his custom all the while he lived in the country of the Philistines. 12 And Achish trusted David, thinking, “He has made himself an utter stench to his people Israel; therefore he shall always be my servant.”

(ESV)

1 Corinthians 8

Food Offered to Idols

8:1 Now concerning1 food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.2

Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”—yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating3 in an idol's temple, will he not be encouraged,4 if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? 11 And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. 12 Thus, sinning against your brothers5 and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.

Footnotes

[1] 8:1 The expression Now concerning introduces a reply to a question in the Corinthians' letter; see 7:1
[2] 8:3 Greek him
[3] 8:10 Greek reclining at table
[4] 8:10 Or fortified; Greek built up
[5] 8:12 Or brothers and sisters

(ESV)

Ezekiel 6

Judgment Against Idolatry

6:1 The word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, set your face toward the mountains of Israel, and prophesy against them, and say, You mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Lord GOD! Thus says the Lord GOD to the mountains and the hills, to the ravines and the valleys: Behold, I, even I, will bring a sword upon you, and I will destroy your high places. Your altars shall become desolate, and your incense altars shall be broken, and I will cast down your slain before your idols. And I will lay the dead bodies of the people of Israel before their idols, and I will scatter your bones around your altars. Wherever you dwell, the cities shall be waste and the high places ruined, so that your altars will be waste and ruined,1 your idols broken and destroyed, your incense altars cut down, and your works wiped out. And the slain shall fall in your midst, and you shall know that I am the LORD.

“Yet I will leave some of you alive. When you have among the nations some who escape the sword, and when you are scattered through the countries, then those of you who escape will remember me among the nations where they are carried captive, how I have been broken over their whoring heart that has departed from me and over their eyes that go whoring after their idols. And they will be loathsome in their own sight for the evils that they have committed, for all their abominations. 10 And they shall know that I am the LORD. I have not said in vain that I would do this evil to them.”

11 Thus says the Lord GOD: “Clap your hands and stamp your foot and say, Alas, because of all the evil abominations of the house of Israel, for they shall fall by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence. 12 He who is far off shall die of pestilence, and he who is near shall fall by the sword, and he who is left and is preserved shall die of famine. Thus I will spend my fury upon them. 13 And you shall know that I am the LORD, when their slain lie among their idols around their altars, on every high hill, on all the mountaintops, under every green tree, and under every leafy oak, wherever they offered pleasing aroma to all their idols. 14 And I will stretch out my hand against them and make the land desolate and waste, in all their dwelling places, from the wilderness to Riblah.2 Then they will know that I am the LORD.”

Footnotes

[1] 6:6 Or and punished
[2] 6:14 Some Hebrew manuscripts; most Hebrew manuscripts Diblah

(ESV)

Psalm 44

Come to Our Help

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

44:1   O God, we have heard with our ears,
    our fathers have told us,
  what deeds you performed in their days,
    in the days of old:
  you with your own hand drove out the nations,
    but them you planted;
  you afflicted the peoples,
    but them you set free;
  for not by their own sword did they win the land,
    nor did their own arm save them,
  but your right hand and your arm,
    and the light of your face,
    for you delighted in them.
  You are my King, O God;
    ordain salvation for Jacob!
  Through you we push down our foes;
    through your name we tread down those who rise up against us.
  For not in my bow do I trust,
    nor can my sword save me.
  But you have saved us from our foes
    and have put to shame those who hate us.
  In God we have boasted continually,
    and we will give thanks to your name forever. Selah
  But you have rejected us and disgraced us
    and have not gone out with our armies.
10   You have made us turn back from the foe,
    and those who hate us have gotten spoil.
11   You have made us like sheep for slaughter
    and have scattered us among the nations.
12   You have sold your people for a trifle,
    demanding no high price for them.
13   You have made us the taunt of our neighbors,
    the derision and scorn of those around us.
14   You have made us a byword among the nations,
    a laughingstock2 among the peoples.
15   All day long my disgrace is before me,
    and shame has covered my face
16   at the sound of the taunter and reviler,
    at the sight of the enemy and the avenger.
17   All this has come upon us,
    though we have not forgotten you,
    and we have not been false to your covenant.
18   Our heart has not turned back,
    nor have our steps departed from your way;
19   yet you have broken us in the place of jackals
    and covered us with the shadow of death.
20   If we had forgotten the name of our God
    or spread out our hands to a foreign god,
21   would not God discover this?
    For he knows the secrets of the heart.
22   Yet for your sake we are killed all the day long;
    we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.
23   Awake! Why are you sleeping, O Lord?
    Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever!
24   Why do you hide your face?
    Why do you forget our affliction and oppression?
25   For our soul is bowed down to the dust;
    our belly clings to the ground.
26   Rise up; come to our help!
    Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love!

Footnotes

[1] 44:1 Probably a musical or liturgical term
[2] 44:14 Hebrew a shaking of the head

(ESV)