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Today’s Reading

Devotional: Haggai 1

The prophet Haggai is one of several “postexilic prophets,” i.e., prophets who addressed the covenant people of God who returned to the Promised Land after the exile. Haggai 1 can be dated to about August 520 B.C., almost twenty years after the first groups of Jews returned home. Although initially addressed to Zerubbabel and Joshua (Hag. 1:1), almost immediately it is clear that the message is intended for everyone (Hag. 1:3–4), for “the whole remnant of the people” (Hag. 1:14).

Zerubbabel was a grandson of King Jehoiachin, who had been taken to exile in 597. He was thus the heir apparent to the throne of David. Zerubbabel was the son of Pedaiah, Jehoiachin’s third son (1 Chron. 3:19); apparently the first son, Shealtiel, was childless. Perhaps Shealtiel adopted his eldest nephew, who would thereafter be called by his name (as in Hag. 1:1). In any case, Zerubbabel was “governor of Judah.” This would have allowed him very little freedom, as the relationship of his authority to that of the governor of Samaria, the provincial center, and the borders of their respective territories, were ill-defined. Joshua was son of Jehozadak the priest, who was taken captive in 587 (1 Chron. 6:15). He was responsible for the religious affairs of the community.

The burden of this first chapter, set out in the challenge of the prophet’s message (Hag. 1:1–11) and the response of Zerubbabel and the people (Hag. 1:12–15), is that they have delayed far too long in building the new temple. They have had enough time and energy to build their own nicely paneled homes (Hag. 1:4), but not enough to get on with the temple. That is the reason, God says, why the previous twenty years have been as hard as they have been. He refuses to pour out great blessings on them when they have been so short-sighted with respect to that which should have been at the very heart of their enterprise: the joyful and committed worship of Almighty God. “Give careful thought,” the prophet repeats (Hag. 1:5, 7), and they will find this assessment of their recent past entirely realistic. “You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why? … Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house” (Hag. 1:9).

The fundamental issue is not one of buildings, but of priorities. Our generation faces this challenge no less than any other. Why bother to ask God to bless us unless our priorities are conscientiously aligned with his? That will affect our conduct and speech, our pocketbooks and our imaginations, our vocation and our retirement, where we live and what we do and how we do it.

Devotional: Revelation 3

The seven churches of Asia Minor (roughly the western third of modern Turkey) differ quite a bit from one another (Rev. 2–3). In most instances they reflect something of the cities in which they are located, either by mirroring their faults or by withstanding their oppression. Two of the seven churches, at Smyrna and Philadelphia, are small and under attack, and they receive no criticism. The other five are in various degrees of jeopardy.

The church that receives the least encouragement and the most condemnation is the church at Laodicea (Rev. 3:14–22), a church that reflects its surroundings far too closely. Laodicea was a banking center. Here travelers to the East changed their money, as did Cicero, the famous Roman orator, when he traveled beyond the borders of the Empire toward the East. The money business made the city wealthy. It was also known as an ophthalmic center. Eye infections were not uncommon, and at Laodicea doctors had developed a poultice that many found effective. The sheep in this area produced a particularly tough, black wool—the “jeans” material of the ancient world. The only real drawback to the town was its water system. Nearby Colossae had the only fresh spring water in the Lycus Valley; nearby Hierapolis boasted hot springs, renowned as a place for “taking the cure.” Laodicea had to bring in its water through stone pipes from miles away, and this water was foul. It left thick calcium carbonate deposits in the pipes, and was infamous in the ancient world for its disgusting taste.

John picks up on these points. The church thinks it is rich, but does not realize it is spiritually bankrupt. It believes it can “see,” i.e., that it is discerning, when in fact it is blind. It holds that it is well dressed, entirely presentable, whereas God perceives it is naked. This church has become smug and proud in all the ways the city is smug and proud. The exalted Jesus urges that this church “buy” the “gold” that only he can give, the eye salve only he can provide, and clothes, white clothes (signaling purity) only he can give them (Rev. 3:18). For in his experience, in their current state they are to him like Laodicea’s water: neither cool and refreshing (like the water at Colossae), nor hot and medicinal (like the water at Hierapolis), but frankly nauseating. They are neither cool and useful, nor hot and useful; they are merely disgusting and make him retch.

Many a church in the West finds itself in a similar position. Hear the Word of the Lord: “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me” (Rev. 3:19–20).

2 Chronicles 13

Abijah Reigns in Judah

13:1 In the eighteenth year of King Jeroboam, Abijah began to reign over Judah. He reigned for three years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Micaiah1 the daughter of Uriel of Gibeah.

Now there was war between Abijah and Jeroboam. Abijah went out to battle, having an army of valiant men of war, 400,000 chosen men. And Jeroboam drew up his line of battle against him with 800,000 chosen mighty warriors. Then Abijah stood up on Mount Zemaraim that is in the hill country of Ephraim and said, “Hear me, O Jeroboam and all Israel! Ought you not to know that the LORD God of Israel gave the kingship over Israel forever to David and his sons by a covenant of salt? Yet Jeroboam the son of Nebat, a servant of Solomon the son of David, rose up and rebelled against his lord, and certain worthless scoundrels2 gathered about him and defied Rehoboam the son of Solomon, when Rehoboam was young and irresolute3 and could not withstand them.

“And now you think to withstand the kingdom of the LORD in the hand of the sons of David, because you are a great multitude and have with you the golden calves that Jeroboam made you for gods. Have you not driven out the priests of the LORD, the sons of Aaron, and the Levites, and made priests for yourselves like the peoples of other lands? Whoever comes for ordination4 with a young bull or seven rams becomes a priest of what are not gods. 10 But as for us, the LORD is our God, and we have not forsaken him. We have priests ministering to the LORD who are sons of Aaron, and Levites for their service. 11 They offer to the LORD every morning and every evening burnt offerings and incense of sweet spices, set out the showbread on the table of pure gold, and care for the golden lampstand that its lamps may burn every evening. For we keep the charge of the LORD our God, but you have forsaken him. 12 Behold, God is with us at our head, and his priests with their battle trumpets to sound the call to battle against you. O sons of Israel, do not fight against the LORD, the God of your fathers, for you cannot succeed.”

13 Jeroboam had sent an ambush around to come upon them from behind. Thus his troops5 were in front of Judah, and the ambush was behind them. 14 And when Judah looked, behold, the battle was in front of and behind them. And they cried to the LORD, and the priests blew the trumpets. 15 Then the men of Judah raised the battle shout. And when the men of Judah shouted, God defeated Jeroboam and all Israel before Abijah and Judah. 16 The men of Israel fled before Judah, and God gave them into their hand. 17 Abijah and his people struck them with great force, so there fell slain of Israel 500,000 chosen men. 18 Thus the men of Israel were subdued at that time, and the men of Judah prevailed, because they relied on the LORD, the God of their fathers. 19 And Abijah pursued Jeroboam and took cities from him, Bethel with its villages and Jeshanah with its villages and Ephron6 with its villages. 20 Jeroboam did not recover his power in the days of Abijah. And the LORD struck him down, and he died. 21 But Abijah grew mighty. And he took fourteen wives and had twenty-two sons and sixteen daughters. 22 The rest of the acts of Abijah, his ways and his sayings, are written in the story of the prophet Iddo.


[1] 13:2 Spelled Maacah in 1 Kings 15:2
[2] 13:7 Hebrew worthless men, sons of Belial
[3] 13:7 Hebrew soft of heart
[4] 13:9 Hebrew to fill his hand
[5] 13:13 Hebrew they
[6] 13:19 Or Ephrain


Revelation 3

To the Church in Sardis

3:1 “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.

“‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’

To the Church in Philadelphia

“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.

“‘I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you. 10 Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. 11 I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. 12 The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. 13 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’

To the Church in Laodicea

14 “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God's creation.

15 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. 21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”


Haggai 1

The Command to Rebuild the Temple

1:1 In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, on the first day of the month, the word of the LORD came by the hand of Haggai the prophet to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest: “Thus says the LORD of hosts: These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the LORD.” Then the word of the LORD came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? Now, therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts: Consider your ways. You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes.

“Thus says the LORD of hosts: Consider your ways. Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified, says the LORD. You looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? declares the LORD of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house. 10 Therefore the heavens above you have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce. 11 And I have called for a drought on the land and the hills, on the grain, the new wine, the oil, on what the ground brings forth, on man and beast, and on all their labors.”

The People Obey the Lord

12 Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the LORD their God, and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the LORD their God had sent him. And the people feared the LORD. 13 Then Haggai, the messenger of the LORD, spoke to the people with the LORD's message, “I am with you, declares the LORD.” 14 And the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people. And they came and worked on the house of the LORD of hosts, their God, 15 on the twenty-fourth day of the month, in the sixth month, in the second year of Darius the king.


John 2

The Wedding at Cana

2:1 On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.1 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

12 After this he went down to Capernaum, with his mother and his brothers2 and his disciples, and they stayed there for a few days.

Jesus Cleanses the Temple

13 The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. 15 And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father's house a house of trade.” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

18 So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple,3 and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body. 22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

Jesus Knows What Is in Man

23 Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. 24 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.


[1] 2:6 Greek two or three measures (metrētas); a metrētēs was about 10 gallons or 35 liters
[2] 2:12 Or brothers and sisters. In New Testament usage, depending on the context, the plural Greek word adelphoi (translated “brothers”) may refer either to brothers or to brothers and sisters
[3] 2:20 Or This temple was built forty-six years ago