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

Today’s Reading

Devotional: Zephaniah 1

I want to come at Zephaniah 1:12–13 rather obliquely.

There is more than one way to relegate God to the sidelines of history. Some do so by arguing that God acts intermittently. When good things happen, that’s God; when bad things happen, that’s the devil—and there is no sense in which God remains sovereign over the devil. Others argue that God’s providence arches over everything, but invariably in line with what takes place in the natural order. For instance, in the past most theistic evolutionists argued that God intervened at dramatic moments in the process of evolution. Nowadays, there is a rising number of theistic evolutionists who say that, at the level of the actual physical processes, their position is undifferentiable from that of the atheist who understands what took place exclusively in term of natural processes. The theistic evolutionists, of course, insist that God’s providence was operating throughout the process. But they say that if God had actually intervened we would be returning to some discredited “God-of-the-gaps” scenario. They can be quite vehemently opposed to those who cite the rising evidence for design in the created order, for that simple notion would radically transform naturalistic assumptions and change the mechanisms that naturalistic scientists are forced to espouse. But are they sure they want to go down this route? Would they apply the same reasoning to the resurrection of Jesus? Would they want to propose that all the forces that brought Jesus back from the dead with a resurrection body can be explained on purely “natural” terms? Or would they say that in this case God dramatically intervened, setting aside the structures of normal physical forces to introduce a stunning miracle? And if God did so in this case, why should it be so difficult to imagine that he did so in connection with the creation—especially when the evidence for design, evidence from the physical order, is multiplying? Transparently, there are many ways of relegating God to the periphery.

But perhaps the worst is simpler and far more damaging than either of the two ways I have mentioned so far. The two that I have mentioned involve a well-thought-out scheme, a worldview. But the worst is rarely systematic or intentional. It simply ignores God. It may formally espouse providence, but in practice it thinks through none of the implications of serving and obeying a God who is irrevocably in charge. It may happily confess the resurrection of Jesus, but expects no other interventions by God. It reads history, but learns nothing that is in line with holy Scripture.

Now meditate on Zephaniah 1:12–13.

Devotional: Jude

“Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men” (Jude 1:3–4). Observe:

(1) Sometimes it is right to contend for the faith. That is not always the way forward, of course: more often the primary emphasis must be on proclamation, articulating, and rearticulating the whole counsel of God. Sometimes a gentle answer or earnest entreaty will prove the wiser course. But here, Jude urges his readers to contend for the faith.

(2) That for which we must contend is the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. The place where the faith is being attacked in such cases is bound up with some stance that describes itself as “progressive,” “contemporary,” or “avant-garde”—but which is inevitably prepared to sacrifice something that “was once for all entrusted to the saints.” Of course, sometimes the latter is nothing more than an appeal to unwarranted tradition, but that is not what is going on in this case. Here the “progressivists” are sacrificing something that has been essential to the Gospel from the very beginning.

(3) In some cases, contending for the faith (which is not to be confused with being contentious about the faith) is the most urgent thing to do. That is why Jude can openly admit he had hoped to write something else, but felt compelled to apply himself to this more urgent task. However discomfiting, when essential truth is being denied, and the denial is being believed by rising numbers, strategic wisdom foregoes other ministry for a while and focuses on the immediate pressing danger.

(4) The need for the firmest contention usually arises when the heretical voices arise in the church. When those who oppose the truth are outside the church, then although some Christians must respond to their various arguments (perhaps for evangelistic purposes), there is no urgency about contending for the faith once entrusted to the saints. Once such people manage to slip inside the church, however, so that many naive Christians accept their teaching without perceiving it to be pernicious, firm contention is inevitable. Such people must not only be refuted, but disciplined—and the latter cannot be accomplished without the former.

(5) The peculiar godlessness Jude confutes in this case is some perverse reading of the Gospel that transmutes it into “a license for immorality” (Jude 1:4). Any reading of the Gospel that promotes immorality or denies the efficacy of Jesus’ salvation must be wrong and dismissed as godless.

2 Chronicles 9

The Queen of Sheba

9:1 Now when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon, she came to Jerusalem to test him with hard questions, having a very great retinue and camels bearing spices and very much gold and precious stones. And when she came to Solomon, she told him all that was on her mind. And Solomon answered all her questions. There was nothing hidden from Solomon that he could not explain to her. And when the queen of Sheba had seen the wisdom of Solomon, the house that he had built, the food of his table, the seating of his officials, and the attendance of his servants, and their clothing, his cupbearers, and their clothing, and his burnt offerings that he offered at the house of the LORD, there was no more breath in her.

And she said to the king, “The report was true that I heard in my own land of your words and of your wisdom, but I did not believe the1 reports until I came and my own eyes had seen it. And behold, half the greatness of your wisdom was not told me; you surpass the report that I heard. Happy are your wives!2 Happy are these your servants, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom! Blessed be the LORD your God, who has delighted in you and set you on his throne as king for the LORD your God! Because your God loved Israel and would establish them forever, he has made you king over them, that you may execute justice and righteousness.” Then she gave the king 120 talents3 of gold, and a very great quantity of spices, and precious stones. There were no spices such as those that the queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon.

10 Moreover, the servants of Hiram and the servants of Solomon, who brought gold from Ophir, brought algum wood and precious stones. 11 And the king made from the algum wood supports for the house of the LORD and for the king's house, lyres also and harps for the singers. There never was seen the like of them before in the land of Judah.

12 And King Solomon gave to the queen of Sheba all that she desired, whatever she asked besides what she had brought to the king. So she turned and went back to her own land with her servants.

Solomon's Wealth

13 Now the weight of gold that came to Solomon in one year was 666 talents of gold, 14 besides that which the explorers and merchants brought. And all the kings of Arabia and the governors of the land brought gold and silver to Solomon. 15 King Solomon made 200 large shields of beaten gold; 600 shekels4 of beaten gold went into each shield. 16 And he made 300 shields of beaten gold; 300 shekels of gold went into each shield; and the king put them in the House of the Forest of Lebanon. 17 The king also made a great ivory throne and overlaid it with pure gold. 18 The throne had six steps and a footstool of gold, which were attached to the throne, and on each side of the seat were armrests and two lions standing beside the armrests, 19 while twelve lions stood there, one on each end of a step on the six steps. Nothing like it was ever made for any kingdom. 20 All King Solomon's drinking vessels were of gold, and all the vessels of the House of the Forest of Lebanon were of pure gold. Silver was not considered as anything in the days of Solomon. 21 For the king's ships went to Tarshish with the servants of Hiram. Once every three years the ships of Tarshish used to come bringing gold, silver, ivory, apes, and peacocks.5

22 Thus King Solomon excelled all the kings of the earth in riches and in wisdom. 23 And all the kings of the earth sought the presence of Solomon to hear his wisdom, which God had put into his mind. 24 Every one of them brought his present, articles of silver and of gold, garments, myrrh,6 spices, horses, and mules, so much year by year. 25 And Solomon had 4,000 stalls for horses and chariots, and 12,000 horsemen, whom he stationed in the chariot cities and with the king in Jerusalem. 26 And he ruled over all the kings from the Euphrates7 to the land of the Philistines and to the border of Egypt. 27 And the king made silver as common in Jerusalem as stone, and he made cedar as plentiful as the sycamore of the Shephelah. 28 And horses were imported for Solomon from Egypt and from all lands.

Solomon's Death

29 Now the rest of the acts of Solomon, from first to last, are they not written in the history of Nathan the prophet, and in the prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite, and in the visions of Iddo the seer concerning Jeroboam the son of Nebat? 30 Solomon reigned in Jerusalem over all Israel forty years. 31 And Solomon slept with his fathers and was buried in the city of David his father, and Rehoboam his son reigned in his place.

Footnotes

[1] 9:6 Hebrew their
[2] 9:7 Septuagint (compare 1 Kings 10:8); Hebrew men
[3] 9:9 A talent was about 75 pounds or 34 kilograms
[4] 9:15 A shekel was about 2/5 ounce or 11 grams
[5] 9:21 Or baboons
[6] 9:24 Or armor
[7] 9:26 Hebrew the River

(ESV)

Jude

Greeting

1:1 Jude, a servant1 of Jesus Christ and brother of James,

To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for2 Jesus Christ:

May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.

Judgment on False Teachers

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved3 a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day—just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire,4 serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.

Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones. But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” 10 But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively. 11 Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam's error and perished in Korah's rebellion. 12 These are hidden reefs5 at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; 13 wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever.

14 It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, 15 to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” 16 These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage.

A Call to Persevere

17 But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. 18 They6 said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” 19 It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. 20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. 22 And have mercy on those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment7 stained by the flesh.

Doxology

24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time8 and now and forever. Amen.

Footnotes

[1] 1:1 For the contextual rendering of the Greek word doulos, see Preface
[2] 1:1 Or by
[3] 1:5 Some manuscripts although you fully knew it, that the Lord who once saved
[4] 1:7 Greek different flesh
[5] 1:12 Or are blemishes
[6] 1:18 Or Christ, because they
[7] 1:23 Greek chiton, a long garment worn under the cloak next to the skin
[8] 1:25 Or before any age

(ESV)

Zephaniah 1

1:1 The word of the LORD that came to Zephaniah the son of Cushi, son of Gedaliah, son of Amariah, son of Hezekiah, in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah.

The Coming Judgment on Judah

  “I will utterly sweep away everything
    from the face of the earth,” declares the LORD.
  “I will sweep away man and beast;
    I will sweep away the birds of the heavens
    and the fish of the sea,
  and the rubble1 with the wicked.
    I will cut off mankind
    from the face of the earth,” declares the LORD.
  “I will stretch out my hand against Judah
    and against all the inhabitants of Jerusalem;
  and I will cut off from this place the remnant of Baal
    and the name of the idolatrous priests along with the priests,
  those who bow down on the roofs
    to the host of the heavens,
  those who bow down and swear to the LORD
    and yet swear by Milcom,2
  those who have turned back from following the LORD,
    who do not seek the LORD or inquire of him.”

The Day of the Lord Is Near

  Be silent before the Lord GOD!
    For the day of the LORD is near;
  the LORD has prepared a sacrifice
    and consecrated his guests.
  And on the day of the LORD's sacrifice—
  “I will punish the officials and the king's sons
    and all who array themselves in foreign attire.
  On that day I will punish
    everyone who leaps over the threshold,
  and those who fill their master's3 house
    with violence and fraud.
10   “On that day,” declares the LORD,
    “a cry will be heard from the Fish Gate,
  a wail from the Second Quarter,
    a loud crash from the hills.
11   Wail, O inhabitants of the Mortar!
    For all the traders4 are no more;
    all who weigh out silver are cut off.
12   At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps,
    and I will punish the men
  who are complacent,5
    those who say in their hearts,
  ‘The LORD will not do good,
    nor will he do ill.’
13   Their goods shall be plundered,
    and their houses laid waste.
  Though they build houses,
    they shall not inhabit them;
  though they plant vineyards,
    they shall not drink wine from them.”
14   The great day of the LORD is near,
    near and hastening fast;
  the sound of the day of the LORD is bitter;
    the mighty man cries aloud there.
15   A day of wrath is that day,
    a day of distress and anguish,
  a day of ruin and devastation,
    a day of darkness and gloom,
  a day of clouds and thick darkness,
16     a day of trumpet blast and battle cry
  against the fortified cities
    and against the lofty battlements.
17   I will bring distress on mankind,
    so that they shall walk like the blind,
    because they have sinned against the LORD;
  their blood shall be poured out like dust,
    and their flesh like dung.
18   Neither their silver nor their gold
    shall be able to deliver them
    on the day of the wrath of the LORD.
  In the fire of his jealousy,
    all the earth shall be consumed;
  for a full and sudden end
    he will make of all the inhabitants of the earth.

Footnotes

[1] 1:3 Or stumbling blocks (that is, idols)
[2] 1:5 Or their king
[3] 1:9 Or their Lord's
[4] 1:11 Or all the people of Canaan
[5] 1:12 Hebrew are thickening on the dregs [of their wine]

(ESV)

Luke 23

Jesus Before Pilate

23:1 Then the whole company of them arose and brought him before Pilate. And they began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ, a king.” And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him, “You have said so.” Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no guilt in this man.” But they were urgent, saying, “He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee even to this place.”

Jesus Before Herod

When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. And when he learned that he belonged to Herod's jurisdiction, he sent him over to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time. When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had long desired to see him, because he had heard about him, and he was hoping to see some sign done by him. So he questioned him at some length, but he made no answer. 10 The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. 11 And Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him. Then, arraying him in splendid clothing, he sent him back to Pilate. 12 And Herod and Pilate became friends with each other that very day, for before this they had been at enmity with each other.

13 Pilate then called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people, 14 and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was misleading the people. And after examining him before you, behold, I did not find this man guilty of any of your charges against him. 15 Neither did Herod, for he sent him back to us. Look, nothing deserving death has been done by him. 16 I will therefore punish and release him.”1

Pilate Delivers Jesus to Be Crucified

18 But they all cried out together, “Away with this man, and release to us Barabbas”—19 a man who had been thrown into prison for an insurrection started in the city and for murder. 20 Pilate addressed them once more, desiring to release Jesus, 21 but they kept shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!” 22 A third time he said to them, “Why? What evil has he done? I have found in him no guilt deserving death. I will therefore punish and release him.” 23 But they were urgent, demanding with loud cries that he should be crucified. And their voices prevailed. 24 So Pilate decided that their demand should be granted. 25 He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, for whom they asked, but he delivered Jesus over to their will.

The Crucifixion

26 And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus. 27 And there followed him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him. 28 But turning to them Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ 30 Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ 31 For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

32 Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 33 And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”2 And they cast lots to divide his garments. 35 And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” 36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine 37 and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38 There was also an inscription over him,3 “This is the King of the Jews.”

39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him,4 saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

The Death of Jesus

44 It was now about the sixth hour,5 and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour,6 45 while the sun's light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last. 47 Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent!” 48 And all the crowds that had assembled for this spectacle, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts. 49 And all his acquaintances and the women who had followed him from Galilee stood at a distance watching these things.

Jesus Is Buried

50 Now there was a man named Joseph, from the Jewish town of Arimathea. He was a member of the council, a good and righteous man, 51 who had not consented to their decision and action; and he was looking for the kingdom of God. 52 This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 53 Then he took it down and wrapped it in a linen shroud and laid him in a tomb cut in stone, where no one had ever yet been laid. 54 It was the day of Preparation, and the Sabbath was beginning.7 55 The women who had come with him from Galilee followed and saw the tomb and how his body was laid. 56 Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments.

On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.

Footnotes

[1] 23:16 Here, or after verse 19, some manuscripts add verse 17: Now he was obliged to release one man to them at the festival
[2] 23:34 Some manuscripts omit the sentence And Jesus . . . what they do
[3] 23:38 Some manuscripts add in letters of Greek and Latin and Hebrew
[4] 23:39 Or blasphemed him
[5] 23:44 That is, noon
[6] 23:44 That is, 3 p.m.
[7] 23:54 Greek was dawning

(ESV)