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Today’s Reading

Devotional: Hosea 8

Perhaps the single element that holds together the various sins condemned in Hosea 8 is human self-reliance. The “eagle” in Hosea 8:1 is probably a vulture. A “[vulture] … over the house of the LORD” is a way of saying that Jerusalem is as good as dead: the carrion eaters are already gathering for their feast. The people might be living in relative prosperity and peace, but the ominous signs were there for those with eyes to see. Evidences of sinful self-sufficiency include:

(1) A hypocritical allegiance to the covenant (Hos. 8:1–3). What makes it hypocritical is that Israel cries out, “O our God, we acknowledge you!” (Hos. 8:2) while breaking the covenant and rebelling against God’s law (Hos. 8:1). This is the rejection of what is good—and there are consequences (Hos. 8:3). Cf. 1 John 2:4.

(2) Defiant alternatives to the Davidic dynasty (Hos. 8:4). That is what is meant by the charge, “They set up kings without my consent; they choose princes without my approval.” The Lord set his seal on the Davidic dynasty, but to preserve their independence from Jerusalem the northern ten tribes, now constituted as Israel, opted for their own monarchs. They were not “chosen” in any democratic sense; frequently they succeeded one another in bloody coups. But they were the choice of the northern tribes nonetheless, insofar as they preferred these to allegiance to David’s line. It is always the case that unless the Lord builds the house, those who labor do so in vain (Ps. 127:1); here the sin is compounded by the alienation from the messianic line.

(3) The development of idols, of the culture’s choice of religion (Hos. 8:4–6, 11–13). Initially two golden calves were set up, one in Dan and one in Bethel, to offset the draw of Jerusalem’s temple (1 Kings 12:27–30). Moreover, people in Israel would not have to travel so far. Thus, although they formally preserve the altars for sin offerings, these have become “altars for sinning” (Hos. 8:11).

(4) The constant dependence on expensive and tricky allies (Hos. 8:8–10). Instead of trusting the Lord, they think their clever diplomacy with regional superpowers will save the day. God is demeaned, and Israel (“Ephraim”) is further seduced by idolatry.

(5) Reliance on wealth and military strength (Hos. 8:14). Israel (the north) has its palaces; Judah (the south) fortifies many towns—forty-six of them, in fact. But God will destroy them (8:14b). When Assyria vanquished Israel (722 B.C.), it also took all the walled cities of Judah except Jerusalem (2 Kings 18:13), which was spared until the rise of Nebuchadnezzar more than a century later.

What signs of self-reliance characterize our culture? What will God do about them?

Devotional: Titus 1

In some denominations, it is held that the Bible prescribes three church officers: bishops, who preside over several congregations; elders/pastors, who serve at the level of the local church, especially with respect to the ministry of the word and prayer (some would add “sacrament”), and deacons, who help in the administration of funds, especially with respect to caring for the physical needs of the flock (see the October 25 meditation).

It is widely recognized, however, that in reality the New Testament recognizes only two officers: the bishop/elder/pastor and the deacon. One of the most convincing treatments of the matter was written in the last century by J. B. Lightfoot, himself an Anglican. The breakdown into three divisions, he rightly contends, takes place after the New Testament documents have been written.

This means, of course, that one of the two offices enjoys three labels, partly because the work has many facets. The word pastor comes from a Latin root for “shepherd” (1 Peter 5:2). Shepherds feed, defend, guide, and discipline the flock. Elder terminology derives both from the rule of ancient villages and from synagogues: the leaders are to be mature and respected. Because bishop nowadays has so many ecclesiastical overtones, the NIV adopts the not uncommon practice of rendering the word “overseer” (e.g., 1 Tim. 3:1) to capture the elements of oversight, godly management, and spiritual accountability bound up with the task.

One of the reasons why so many have come to the conclusion that bishop, elder, and pastor are all words applicable to one office is that the lists of qualifications for these tasks are so similar. Thus, compare Titus 1:6–9 regarding an elder with 1 Timothy 3:1–7 regarding an overseer (bishop).

One point of apparent divergence in the NIV calls forth pangs of conscience among some pastors. First Timothy 3:4 stipulates that the overseer “must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect.” By contrast, Titus 1:6 stipulates that the elder must be “a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient.” This sounds like more stringent requirements for the elder. But in fact, the NIV rendering is both mistaken and unworkable. The Greek is justifiably rendered “whose children are faithful”—in the sense that they are not “wild and disobedient.” As long as the children are under their father’s roof, the bishop/elder must so order his household as to demonstrate he is capable of ordering the church. If Titus 1:6 were understood as in the NIV to stipulate that his children be believers, one might well ask, “From what age?” In short, the mistranslation is also unworkable. What the text actually says aligns it well with 1 Timothy 3.

2 Kings 15

Azariah Reigns in Judah

15:1 In the twenty-seventh year of Jeroboam king of Israel, Azariah the son of Amaziah, king of Judah, began to reign. He was sixteen years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty-two years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Jecoliah of Jerusalem. And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, according to all that his father Amaziah had done. Nevertheless, the high places were not taken away. The people still sacrificed and made offerings on the high places. And the LORD touched the king, so that he was a leper1 to the day of his death, and he lived in a separate house.2 And Jotham the king's son was over the household, governing the people of the land. Now the rest of the acts of Azariah, and all that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah? And Azariah slept with his fathers, and they buried him with his fathers in the city of David, and Jotham his son reigned in his place.

Zechariah Reigns in Israel

In the thirty-eighth year of Azariah king of Judah, Zechariah the son of Jeroboam reigned over Israel in Samaria six months. And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, as his fathers had done. He did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin. 10 Shallum the son of Jabesh conspired against him and struck him down at Ibleam and put him to death and reigned in his place. 11 Now the rest of the deeds of Zechariah, behold, they are written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel. 12 (This was the promise of the LORD that he gave to Jehu, “Your sons shall sit on the throne of Israel to the fourth generation.” And so it came to pass.)

Shallum Reigns in Israel

13 Shallum the son of Jabesh began to reign in the thirty-ninth year of Uzziah3 king of Judah, and he reigned one month in Samaria. 14 Then Menahem the son of Gadi came up from Tirzah and came to Samaria, and he struck down Shallum the son of Jabesh in Samaria and put him to death and reigned in his place. 15 Now the rest of the deeds of Shallum, and the conspiracy that he made, behold, they are written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel. 16 At that time Menahem sacked Tiphsah and all who were in it and its territory from Tirzah on, because they did not open it to him. Therefore he sacked it, and he ripped open all the women in it who were pregnant.

Menahem Reigns in Israel

17 In the thirty-ninth year of Azariah king of Judah, Menahem the son of Gadi began to reign over Israel, and he reigned ten years in Samaria. 18 And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD. He did not depart all his days from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin. 19 Pul4 the king of Assyria came against the land, and Menahem gave Pul a thousand talents5 of silver, that he might help him to confirm his hold on the royal power. 20 Menahem exacted the money from Israel, that is, from all the wealthy men, fifty shekels6 of silver from every man, to give to the king of Assyria. So the king of Assyria turned back and did not stay there in the land. 21 Now the rest of the deeds of Menahem and all that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel? 22 And Menahem slept with his fathers, and Pekahiah his son reigned in his place.

Pekahiah Reigns in Israel

23 In the fiftieth year of Azariah king of Judah, Pekahiah the son of Menahem began to reign over Israel in Samaria, and he reigned two years. 24 And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD. He did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin. 25 And Pekah the son of Remaliah, his captain, conspired against him with fifty men of the people of Gilead, and struck him down in Samaria, in the citadel of the king's house with Argob and Arieh; he put him to death and reigned in his place. 26 Now the rest of the deeds of Pekahiah and all that he did, behold, they are written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel.

Pekah Reigns in Israel

27 In the fifty-second year of Azariah king of Judah, Pekah the son of Remaliah began to reign over Israel in Samaria, and he reigned twenty years. 28 And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD. He did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin.

29 In the days of Pekah king of Israel, Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria came and captured Ijon, Abel-beth-maacah, Janoah, Kedesh, Hazor, Gilead, and Galilee, all the land of Naphtali, and he carried the people captive to Assyria. 30 Then Hoshea the son of Elah made a conspiracy against Pekah the son of Remaliah and struck him down and put him to death and reigned in his place, in the twentieth year of Jotham the son of Uzziah. 31 Now the rest of the acts of Pekah and all that he did, behold, they are written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel.

Jotham Reigns in Judah

32 In the second year of Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, Jotham the son of Uzziah, king of Judah, began to reign. 33 He was twenty-five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Jerusha the daughter of Zadok. 34 And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, according to all that his father Uzziah had done. 35 Nevertheless, the high places were not removed. The people still sacrificed and made offerings on the high places. He built the upper gate of the house of the LORD. 36 Now the rest of the acts of Jotham and all that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah? 37 In those days the LORD began to send Rezin the king of Syria and Pekah the son of Remaliah against Judah. 38 Jotham slept with his fathers and was buried with his fathers in the city of David his father, and Ahaz his son reigned in his place.

Footnotes

[1] 15:5 Leprosy was a term for several skin diseases; see Leviticus 13
[2] 15:5 The meaning of the Hebrew word is uncertain
[3] 15:13 Another name for Azariah
[4] 15:19 Another name for Tiglath-pileser III (compare verse 29)
[5] 15:19 A talent was about 75 pounds or 34 kilograms
[6] 15:20 A shekel was about 2/5 ounce or 11 grams

(ESV)

Titus 1

Greeting

1:1 Paul, a servant1 of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God's elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began2 and at the proper time manifested in his word3 through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior;

To Titus, my true child in a common faith:

Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.

Qualifications for Elders

This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you—if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife,4 and his children are believers5 and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer,6 as God's steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound7 doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.

10 For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party.8 11 They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. 12 One of the Cretans,9 a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.”10 13 This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, 14 not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth. 15 To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. 16 They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.

Footnotes

[1] 1:1 For the contextual rendering of the Greek word doulos, see Preface
[2] 1:2 Greek before times eternal
[3] 1:3 Or manifested his word
[4] 1:6 Or a man of one woman
[5] 1:6 Or are faithful
[6] 1:7 Or bishop; Greek episkopos
[7] 1:9 Or healthy; also verse 13
[8] 1:10 Or especially those of the circumcision
[9] 1:12 Greek One of them
[10] 1:12 Probably from Epimenides of Crete

(ESV)

Hosea 8

Israel Will Reap the Whirlwind

8:1   Set the trumpet to your lips!
    One like a vulture is over the house of the LORD,
  because they have transgressed my covenant
    and rebelled against my law.
  To me they cry,
    “My God, we—Israel—know you.”
  Israel has spurned the good;
    the enemy shall pursue him.
  They made kings, but not through me.
    They set up princes, but I knew it not.
  With their silver and gold they made idols
    for their own destruction.
  I have1 spurned your calf, O Samaria.
    My anger burns against them.
  How long will they be incapable of innocence?
  For it is from Israel;
  a craftsman made it;
    it is not God.
  The calf of Samaria
    shall be broken to pieces.2
  For they sow the wind,
    and they shall reap the whirlwind.
  The standing grain has no heads;
    it shall yield no flour;
  if it were to yield,
    strangers would devour it.
  Israel is swallowed up;
    already they are among the nations
    as a useless vessel.
  For they have gone up to Assyria,
    a wild donkey wandering alone;
    Ephraim has hired lovers.
10   Though they hire allies among the nations,
    I will soon gather them up.
  And the king and princes shall soon writhe
    because of the tribute.
11   Because Ephraim has multiplied altars for sinning,
    they have become to him altars for sinning.
12   Were I to write for him my laws by the ten thousands,
    they would be regarded as a strange thing.
13   As for my sacrificial offerings,
    they sacrifice meat and eat it,
    but the LORD does not accept them.
  Now he will remember their iniquity
    and punish their sins;
    they shall return to Egypt.
14   For Israel has forgotten his Maker
    and built palaces,
  and Judah has multiplied fortified cities;
    so I will send a fire upon his cities,
    and it shall devour her strongholds.

Footnotes

[1] 8:5 Hebrew He has
[2] 8:6 Or shall go up in flames

(ESV)

Psalms 123–125

Our Eyes Look to the Lord Our God

A Song of Ascents.

123:1   To you I lift up my eyes,
    O you who are enthroned in the heavens!
  Behold, as the eyes of servants
    look to the hand of their master,
  as the eyes of a maidservant
    to the hand of her mistress,
  so our eyes look to the LORD our God,
    till he has mercy upon us.
  Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy upon us,
    for we have had more than enough of contempt.
  Our soul has had more than enough
    of the scorn of those who are at ease,
    of the contempt of the proud.

Our Help Is in the Name of the Lord

A Song of Ascents. Of David.

124:1   If it had not been the LORD who was on our side—
    let Israel now say—
  if it had not been the LORD who was on our side
    when people rose up against us,
  then they would have swallowed us up alive,
    when their anger was kindled against us;
  then the flood would have swept us away,
    the torrent would have gone over us;
  then over us would have gone
    the raging waters.
  Blessed be the LORD,
    who has not given us
    as prey to their teeth!
  We have escaped like a bird
    from the snare of the fowlers;
  the snare is broken,
    and we have escaped!
  Our help is in the name of the LORD,
    who made heaven and earth.

The Lord Surrounds His People

A Song of Ascents.

125:1   Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion,
    which cannot be moved, but abides forever.
  As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
    so the LORD surrounds his people,
    from this time forth and forevermore.
  For the scepter of wickedness shall not rest
    on the land allotted to the righteous,
  lest the righteous stretch out
    their hands to do wrong.
  Do good, O LORD, to those who are good,
    and to those who are upright in their hearts!
  But those who turn aside to their crooked ways
    the LORD will lead away with evildoers!
    Peace be upon Israel!

(ESV)