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Today’s Reading

Devotional: Daniel 7

Daniel not only interpreted the dreams of others, on occasion he himself had dreams that needed interpretation. The one described here (Dan. 7) took place in the first year of Belshazzar (Dan. 7:1), i.e., more than fifty years since Daniel had first been deported to Babylon. Not all revelation is given at once. From now to the end of the book, Daniel writes in the first person (with the exception of the note at Dan. 10:1).

(1) Although the four beasts representing four kingdoms or empires are in some measure sequential (and to that extent probably to be identified with specific historical kingdoms—see below), the initial observation that these four beasts came out of the sea (proverbial for chaos and wickedness) churned up by the four winds (i.e., from the four points of the compass, or everywhere) may hint that they also represent all kingdoms that oppose God.

(2) The evocative nature of these beasts must not be overlooked. The lion combined with the eagle suggests dominion, speed, and strength. The brown Syrian bear may weigh up to six hundred pounds and has a voracious appetite. The leopard is known for its extraordinarily sudden, rapid attacks; its four heads show it to be rapacious in all directions, wanting dominion everywhere. The last beast is “terrifying and frightening and very powerful … it crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left” (Dan. 7:7). Horns represent kings or kingdoms or dominion; this beast has ten of them, five times more than the natural two horns. The best identification is that the four beasts represent, respectively, the Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Greek, and Roman Empires.

(3) The expression “son of man” is a Semitic way of saying “human being.” The other kingdoms are beastly and inhuman; here the reins of power rest in the hands of a human being as God meant a human being to be. Because of the parallels between verse 14 and verses 18 and 27, some have argued that “son of man” is merely a symbol for the “saints of the Most High” (Dan. 7:18). But the matter is not so simple. If “son of man” in verses 13–14 were merely a symbol of the people of God, why should the authority be given to one who is like “a son of man”? The figure in verse 12 is an individual figure, yet he has a representative role (like the Old Testament priest, cf. Ex. 19:6). He comes “with the clouds of heaven,” a common association with the glory of deity. And by using “son of man,” the vision simultaneously signals a kingship that extends beyond Israel to all of humankind and prepares the way for the incarnation. Cf. Matthew 19:28; Mark 13:26; 14:62; Revelation 1:13–16.

Devotional: 2 Thessalonians 3

The passage in 2 Thessalonians 3:6–13 is unique in the New Testament. Nowhere else do we find so many lines devoted to the sin of idleness.

Certainly it is possible to transform work itself, or the rewards that stem from work, into an idol. That is often what people have in mind when they speak disparagingly of the “Protestant work ethic.” Still, one must insist that the proper response to the sin of making work an idol is not leisure: that may simply make leisure and hedonism an idol. The proper response is repentance, and faith in and obedience toward God. Then work must find its proper place in a world framed by God and his Word.

Readers of the Bible cannot help but notice that God says a great deal more about work than about leisure. The much-maligned “Protestant work ethic” began rather simply: devout Christians thought they should offer all their work to God. That guaranteed that, on the whole, they worked somewhat harder and a great deal more honestly than many others. The inevitable happened: many of them prospered. Of course, two or three generations on, many began focusing on the work itself, either as the essential mark of piety, or as a means to win prosperity, or both—and sometimes God was squeezed to the periphery. But while we rightly seek to condemn work as idolatry, we should be very careful about swinging the pendulum the other way, and seeing work as something that merely has to be done, so that we can get on with the really important thing: having fun and serving self. Biblically speaking, it is difficult to see how this stance is an improvement in any sense.

We do not know exactly what prompted a number of the Thessalonian believers to be lazy. Perhaps some were simply sponging off the generosity of Christians. Certainly some were less interested in being busy than in being “busybodies” (2 Thess. 3:11). But Paul will not have it. This is not a case of Christians needing to show compassion to those genuinely in need. Rather, this is a case of Christians needing to crack the whip against those who claim they are Christians but who disobey the apostle’s explicit injunctions (2 Thess. 3:12) and ignore his remarkable personal conduct (2 Thess. 3:7–9). He worked (i.e., at his trade), precisely to teach the point: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat” (2 Thess. 3:10). Now Paul goes a step farther: responsible Christians are to shun these shysters, to keep away from them entirely (2 Thess. 3:6). That way they cannot corrupt the church. More importantly, outsiders will not confuse the conduct of such people with the conduct of Christians who happily take on apostolic instruction.

2 Kings 3

Moab Rebels Against Israel

3:1 In the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, Jehoram the son of Ahab became king over Israel in Samaria, and he reigned twelve years. He did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, though not like his father and mother, for he put away the pillar of Baal that his father had made. Nevertheless, he clung to the sin of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin; he did not depart from it.

Now Mesha king of Moab was a sheep breeder, and he had to deliver to the king of Israel 100,000 lambs and the wool of 100,000 rams. But when Ahab died, the king of Moab rebelled against the king of Israel. So King Jehoram marched out of Samaria at that time and mustered all Israel. And he went and sent word to Jehoshaphat king of Judah: “The king of Moab has rebelled against me. Will you go with me to battle against Moab?” And he said, “I will go. I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses.” Then he said, “By which way shall we march?” Jehoram answered, “By the way of the wilderness of Edom.”

So the king of Israel went with the king of Judah and the king of Edom. And when they had made a circuitous march of seven days, there was no water for the army or for the animals that followed them. 10 Then the king of Israel said, “Alas! The LORD has called these three kings to give them into the hand of Moab.” 11 And Jehoshaphat said, “Is there no prophet of the LORD here, through whom we may inquire of the LORD?” Then one of the king of Israel's servants answered, “Elisha the son of Shaphat is here, who poured water on the hands of Elijah.” 12 And Jehoshaphat said, “The word of the LORD is with him.” So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat and the king of Edom went down to him.

13 And Elisha said to the king of Israel, “What have I to do with you? Go to the prophets of your father and to the prophets of your mother.” But the king of Israel said to him, “No; it is the LORD who has called these three kings to give them into the hand of Moab.” 14 And Elisha said, “As the LORD of hosts lives, before whom I stand, were it not that I have regard for Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, I would neither look at you nor see you. 15 But now bring me a musician.” And when the musician played, the hand of the LORD came upon him. 16 And he said, “Thus says the LORD, ‘I will make this dry streambed full of pools.’ 17 For thus says the LORD, ‘You shall not see wind or rain, but that streambed shall be filled with water, so that you shall drink, you, your livestock, and your animals.’ 18 This is a light thing in the sight of the LORD. He will also give the Moabites into your hand, 19 and you shall attack every fortified city and every choice city, and shall fell every good tree and stop up all springs of water and ruin every good piece of land with stones.” 20 The next morning, about the time of offering the sacrifice, behold, water came from the direction of Edom, till the country was filled with water.

21 When all the Moabites heard that the kings had come up to fight against them, all who were able to put on armor, from the youngest to the oldest, were called out and were drawn up at the border. 22 And when they rose early in the morning and the sun shone on the water, the Moabites saw the water opposite them as red as blood. 23 And they said, “This is blood; the kings have surely fought together and struck one another down. Now then, Moab, to the spoil!” 24 But when they came to the camp of Israel, the Israelites rose and struck the Moabites, till they fled before them. And they went forward, striking the Moabites as they went.1 25 And they overthrew the cities, and on every good piece of land every man threw a stone until it was covered. They stopped every spring of water and felled all the good trees, till only its stones were left in Kir-hareseth, and the slingers surrounded and attacked it. 26 When the king of Moab saw that the battle was going against him, he took with him 700 swordsmen to break through, opposite the king of Edom, but they could not. 27 Then he took his oldest son who was to reign in his place and offered him for a burnt offering on the wall. And there came great wrath against Israel. And they withdrew from him and returned to their own land.

Footnotes

[1] 3:24 Septuagint; the meaning of the Hebrew is uncertain

(ESV)

2 Thessalonians 3

Pray for Us

3:1 Finally, brothers,1 pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored,2 as happened among you, and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith. But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.3 And we have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will do the things that we command. May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.

Warning Against Idleness

Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone's bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. 10 For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. 11 For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. 12 Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.4

13 As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good. 14 If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. 15 Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.

Benediction

16 Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all.

17 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. This is the sign of genuineness in every letter of mine; it is the way I write. 18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

Footnotes

[1] 3:1 Or brothers and sisters; also verses 6, 13
[2] 3:1 Or glorified
[3] 3:3 Or evil
[4] 3:12 Greek to eat their own bread

(ESV)

Daniel 7

Daniel's Vision of the Four Beasts

7:1 In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel saw a dream and visions of his head as he lay in his bed. Then he wrote down the dream and told the sum of the matter. Daniel declared,1 “I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea. And four great beasts came up out of the sea, different from one another. The first was like a lion and had eagles' wings. Then as I looked its wings were plucked off, and it was lifted up from the ground and made to stand on two feet like a man, and the mind of a man was given to it. And behold, another beast, a second one, like a bear. It was raised up on one side. It had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth; and it was told, ‘Arise, devour much flesh.’ After this I looked, and behold, another, like a leopard, with four wings of a bird on its back. And the beast had four heads, and dominion was given to it. After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, terrifying and dreadful and exceedingly strong. It had great iron teeth; it devoured and broke in pieces and stamped what was left with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns. I considered the horns, and behold, there came up among them another horn, a little one, before which three of the first horns were plucked up by the roots. And behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things.

The Ancient of Days Reigns

“As I looked,

  thrones were placed,
    and the Ancient of Days took his seat;
  his clothing was white as snow,
    and the hair of his head like pure wool;
  his throne was fiery flames;
    its wheels were burning fire.
10   A stream of fire issued
    and came out from before him;
  a thousand thousands served him,
    and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him;
  the court sat in judgment,
    and the books were opened.

11 “I looked then because of the sound of the great words that the horn was speaking. And as I looked, the beast was killed, and its body destroyed and given over to be burned with fire. 12 As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.

The Son of Man Is Given Dominion

13 “I saw in the night visions,

  and behold, with the clouds of heaven
    there came one like a son of man,
  and he came to the Ancient of Days
    and was presented before him.
14   And to him was given dominion
    and glory and a kingdom,
  that all peoples, nations, and languages
    should serve him;
  his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
    which shall not pass away,
  and his kingdom one
    that shall not be destroyed.

Daniel's Vision Interpreted

15 “As for me, Daniel, my spirit within me2 was anxious, and the visions of my head alarmed me. 16 I approached one of those who stood there and asked him the truth concerning all this. So he told me and made known to me the interpretation of the things. 17 ‘These four great beasts are four kings who shall arise out of the earth. 18 But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, forever and ever.’

19 “Then I desired to know the truth about the fourth beast, which was different from all the rest, exceedingly terrifying, with its teeth of iron and claws of bronze, and which devoured and broke in pieces and stamped what was left with its feet, 20 and about the ten horns that were on its head, and the other horn that came up and before which three of them fell, the horn that had eyes and a mouth that spoke great things, and that seemed greater than its companions. 21 As I looked, this horn made war with the saints and prevailed over them, 22 until the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was given for the saints of the Most High, and the time came when the saints possessed the kingdom.

23 “Thus he said: ‘As for the fourth beast,

  there shall be a fourth kingdom on earth,
    which shall be different from all the kingdoms,
  and it shall devour the whole earth,
    and trample it down, and break it to pieces.
24   As for the ten horns,
  out of this kingdom ten kings shall arise,
    and another shall arise after them;
  he shall be different from the former ones,
    and shall put down three kings.
25   He shall speak words against the Most High,
    and shall wear out the saints of the Most High,
    and shall think to change the times and the law;
  and they shall be given into his hand
    for a time, times, and half a time.
26   But the court shall sit in judgment,
    and his dominion shall be taken away,
    to be consumed and destroyed to the end.
27   And the kingdom and the dominion
    and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven
    shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High;
  his kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom,
    and all dominions shall serve and obey him.’3

28 “Here is the end of the matter. As for me, Daniel, my thoughts greatly alarmed me, and my color changed, but I kept the matter in my heart.”

Footnotes

[1] 7:2 Aramaic answered and said
[2] 7:15 Aramaic within its sheath
[3] 7:27 Or their kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey them

(ESV)

Psalms 114–115

Tremble at the Presence of the Lord

114:1   When Israel went out from Egypt,
    the house of Jacob from a people of strange language,
  Judah became his sanctuary,
    Israel his dominion.
  The sea looked and fled;
    Jordan turned back.
  The mountains skipped like rams,
    the hills like lambs.
  What ails you, O sea, that you flee?
    O Jordan, that you turn back?
  O mountains, that you skip like rams?
    O hills, like lambs?
  Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord,
    at the presence of the God of Jacob,
  who turns the rock into a pool of water,
    the flint into a spring of water.

To Your Name Give Glory

115:1   Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory,
    for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!
  Why should the nations say,
    “Where is their God?”
  Our God is in the heavens;
    he does all that he pleases.
  Their idols are silver and gold,
    the work of human hands.
  They have mouths, but do not speak;
    eyes, but do not see.
  They have ears, but do not hear;
    noses, but do not smell.
  They have hands, but do not feel;
    feet, but do not walk;
    and they do not make a sound in their throat.
  Those who make them become like them;
    so do all who trust in them.
  O Israel,1 trust in the LORD!
    He is their help and their shield.
10   O house of Aaron, trust in the LORD!
    He is their help and their shield.
11   You who fear the LORD, trust in the LORD!
    He is their help and their shield.
12   The LORD has remembered us; he will bless us;
    he will bless the house of Israel;
    he will bless the house of Aaron;
13   he will bless those who fear the LORD,
    both the small and the great.
14   May the LORD give you increase,
    you and your children!
15   May you be blessed by the LORD,
    who made heaven and earth!
16   The heavens are the LORD's heavens,
    but the earth he has given to the children of man.
17   The dead do not praise the LORD,
    nor do any who go down into silence.
18   But we will bless the LORD
    from this time forth and forevermore.
  Praise the LORD!

Footnotes

[1] 115:9 Masoretic Text; many Hebrew manuscripts, Septuagint, Syriac O house of Israel

(ESV)