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Today’s Reading

Devotional: Daniel 9

Daniel’s great intercessory prayer (Dan. 9:1–19) cries out for prolonged meditation. The date is 539 B.C. Daniel “understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the Lord given to Jeremiah the prophet” (Dan. 9:2; cf. Jer. 25:11; 29:10), that the seventy years were up—which on the face of it shows that Jeremiah’s writing quickly circulated as Scripture. Some reflections:

(1) The “seventy years” have occasioned some dispute. There were different ways of calculating the period of exile (see, for example, the figures in Ezek. 4). Some argue that seventy years is merely an idealized fixed term for God’s wrath (cf. Zech. 1:12; 2 Chron. 36:21). If (as is more likely) this refers to seventy literal years, the best judgment is that the beginning of the seventy is 609, when the Babylonians beat the Egyptians at the battle of Carchemish, with the result that Judah for the first time became a vassal state in service to Babylon.

(2) When Daniel becomes aware from Scripture just when the close of the exile would take place, far from resting and waiting for the promises to come true, he prays for such fulfillment. The peculiar dynamic between God’s sovereignty and human responsibility in the Bible never retreats to fatalism. The promises of God are incentives to intercession.

(3) Daniel’s confession is general, not personal: “we have sinned and done wrong.… We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away …”—and so forth. Here Daniel reminds us of Isaiah, who joins together personal and general confession (Isa. 6:6). It is doubtful that we can fruitfully pray for our church and our culture without confessing our own sin.

(4) The heart of the confession is that Daniel and his people have turned away from God’s commands and laws (Dan. 9:5), have not listened to God’s servants the prophets (Dan. 9:6), have not obeyed the laws God gave through his servants the prophets (Dan. 9:10), have transgressed the Law (Dan. 9:11), and have not sought the favor of the Lord their God by turning from their sins and giving attention to his truth (Dan. 9:13). Note carefully: the heart of the matter, as Daniel sees it, is neglect of what God said or disobedience to what he said. That is always the heart of the issue. Conversely, genuine sanctification comes through adherence to God’s words (Ps. 1:2; John 17:17). That is why the rising biblical illiteracy within confessional churches, let alone the culture at large, is the most distressing and threatening symptom among us.

(5) Daniel recognizes that the judgments that have befallen God’s people are both just and perfectly in line with Scripture (Dan. 9:7, 11b–14). What bearing does this have on us today?

(6) What are the grounds of Daniel’s appeal for relief?

Devotional: 1 Timothy 2

Current agendas mean that when 1 Timothy 2 is referred to in contemporary discussions, usually the focus is on 1 Timothy 2:11–15. So we shall reflect on 1 Timothy 2:1–7.

(1) Transparently, Paul urges that Christians pray for all who are in authority (1 Tim. 2:1–2). The primary end of such praying is “that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1 Tim. 2:2). God’s sovereignty extends beyond the church to all the affairs of humankind. Paul knows well that an ordered and secure society is conducive to regular, disciplined living, and therefore to “godliness and holiness.”

(2) When Paul says “This is good,” it is not immediately clear whether this refers to the godly living he wants displayed among believers, or to the prayers that they are supposed to raise to Almighty God on behalf of those who are in authority. If the former, then the connection with what follows must be along these lines: if we live godly lives, our very living will bear evangelistic witness to the people all around us whom God wants “to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4). If the reference is to our praying, then the connection with what follows is a little different: Paul is saying that we should pray for those in authority, not only to the end that society may be stable, but to the end that they may be saved—since God wants all people to come to a knowledge of the truth.

(3) Either way, the assumption is that God is vitally interested in the conversion of people everywhere. This is not at all at odds with what the Bible elsewhere says about election. Doubtless God exercises a special love toward his elect. Nevertheless, the Bible constantly portrays God as crying out, in effect, “Turn! Turn! For the Lord has no pleasure in the death of the wicked.” His stance toward his fallen image-bearers, however much characterized by righteousness and judgment, includes this element of yearning for their salvation.

(4) In this context 1 Timothy 2:5 says, in effect, that the doctrine of monotheism has an entailment: if there is but one God, then he must be the God of all, whether recognized as such or not. If there is but one mediator between God and fallen human beings, then the only hope for any human being is that one mediator.

(5) Potentially, then, he is the ransom for all men and women everywhere (1 Tim. 2:6). There is no other mediator. He is not the mediator of the Jews only. In “its proper time” (1 Tim. 2:6) this truth has been made clear—and it lies at the heart of the apostolic gospel that Paul has been appointed to preach, not least among the Gentiles.

2 Kings 5

Naaman Healed of Leprosy

5:1 Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master and in high favor, because by him the LORD had given victory to Syria. He was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper.1 Now the Syrians on one of their raids had carried off a little girl from the land of Israel, and she worked in the service of Naaman's wife. She said to her mistress, “Would that my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” So Naaman went in and told his lord, “Thus and so spoke the girl from the land of Israel.” And the king of Syria said, “Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel.”

So he went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels2 of gold, and ten changes of clothing. And he brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, “When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you Naaman my servant, that you may cure him of his leprosy.” And when the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Only consider, and see how he is seeking a quarrel with me.”

But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent to the king, saying, “Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come now to me, that he may know that there is a prophet in Israel.” So Naaman came with his horses and chariots and stood at the door of Elisha's house. 10 And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.” 11 But Naaman was angry and went away, saying, “Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the LORD his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper. 12 Are not Abana3 and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage. 13 But his servants came near and said to him, “My father, it is a great word the prophet has spoken to you; will you not do it? Has he actually said to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” 14 So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God, and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.

Gehazi's Greed and Punishment

15 Then he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and he came and stood before him. And he said, “Behold, I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel; so accept now a present from your servant.” 16 But he said, “As the LORD lives, before whom I stand, I will receive none.” And he urged him to take it, but he refused. 17 Then Naaman said, “If not, please let there be given to your servant two mule loads of earth, for from now on your servant will not offer burnt offering or sacrifice to any god but the LORD. 18 In this matter may the LORD pardon your servant: when my master goes into the house of Rimmon to worship there, leaning on my arm, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, when I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, the LORD pardon your servant in this matter.” 19 He said to him, “Go in peace.”

But when Naaman had gone from him a short distance, 20 Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said, “See, my master has spared this Naaman the Syrian, in not accepting from his hand what he brought. As the LORD lives, I will run after him and get something from him.” 21 So Gehazi followed Naaman. And when Naaman saw someone running after him, he got down from the chariot to meet him and said, “Is all well?” 22 And he said, “All is well. My master has sent me to say, ‘There have just now come to me from the hill country of Ephraim two young men of the sons of the prophets. Please give them a talent of silver and two changes of clothing.’” 23 And Naaman said, “Be pleased to accept two talents.” And he urged him and tied up two talents of silver in two bags, with two changes of clothing, and laid them on two of his servants. And they carried them before Gehazi. 24 And when he came to the hill, he took them from their hand and put them in the house, and he sent the men away, and they departed. 25 He went in and stood before his master, and Elisha said to him, “Where have you been, Gehazi?” And he said, “Your servant went nowhere.” 26 But he said to him, “Did not my heart go when the man turned from his chariot to meet you? Was it a time to accept money and garments, olive orchards and vineyards, sheep and oxen, male servants and female servants? 27 Therefore the leprosy of Naaman shall cling to you and to your descendants forever.” So he went out from his presence a leper, like snow.

Footnotes

[1] 5:1 Leprosy was a term for several skin diseases; see Leviticus 13
[2] 5:5 A talent was about 75 pounds or 34 kilograms; a shekel was about 2/5 ounce or 11 grams
[3] 5:12 Or Amana

(ESV)

1 Timothy 2

Pray for All People

2:1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man1 Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.

I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, 10 but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. 11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.

Footnotes

[1] 2:5 men and man render the same Greek word that is translated people in verses 1 and 4

(ESV)

Daniel 9

Daniel's Prayer for His People

9:1 In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, by descent a Mede, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans—in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the LORD to Jeremiah the prophet, must pass before the end of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years.

Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. I prayed to the LORD my God and made confession, saying, “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land. To you, O Lord, belongs righteousness, but to us open shame, as at this day, to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to all Israel, those who are near and those who are far away, in all the lands to which you have driven them, because of the treachery that they have committed against you. To us, O LORD, belongs open shame, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against you. To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him 10 and have not obeyed the voice of the LORD our God by walking in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets. 11 All Israel has transgressed your law and turned aside, refusing to obey your voice. And the curse and oath that are written in the Law of Moses the servant of God have been poured out upon us, because we have sinned against him. 12 He has confirmed his words, which he spoke against us and against our rulers who ruled us,1 by bringing upon us a great calamity. For under the whole heaven there has not been done anything like what has been done against Jerusalem. 13 As it is written in the Law of Moses, all this calamity has come upon us; yet we have not entreated the favor of the LORD our God, turning from our iniquities and gaining insight by your truth. 14 Therefore the LORD has kept ready the calamity and has brought it upon us, for the LORD our God is righteous in all the works that he has done, and we have not obeyed his voice. 15 And now, O Lord our God, who brought your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and have made a name for yourself, as at this day, we have sinned, we have done wickedly.

16 “O Lord, according to all your righteous acts, let your anger and your wrath turn away from your city Jerusalem, your holy hill, because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and your people have become a byword among all who are around us. 17 Now therefore, O our God, listen to the prayer of your servant and to his pleas for mercy, and for your own sake, O Lord,2 make your face to shine upon your sanctuary, which is desolate. 18 O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by your name. For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy. 19 O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name.”

Gabriel Brings an Answer

20 While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my plea before the LORD my God for the holy hill of my God, 21 while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the first, came to me in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice. 22 He made me understand, speaking with me and saying, “O Daniel, I have now come out to give you insight and understanding. 23 At the beginning of your pleas for mercy a word went out, and I have come to tell it to you, for you are greatly loved. Therefore consider the word and understand the vision.

The Seventy Weeks

24 “Seventy weeks3 are decreed about your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place.4 25 Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again5 with squares and moat, but in a troubled time. 26 And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its6 end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed. 27 And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week,7 and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator.”

Footnotes

[1] 9:12 Or our judges who judged us
[2] 9:17 Hebrew for the Lord's sake
[3] 9:24 Or sevens; also twice in verse 25 and once in verse 26
[4] 9:24 Or thing, or one
[5] 9:25 Or there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks. It shall be built again
[6] 9:26 Or His
[7] 9:27 Or seven; twice in this verse

(ESV)

Psalms 117–118

The Lord's Faithfulness Endures Forever

117:1   Praise the LORD, all nations!
    Extol him, all peoples!
  For great is his steadfast love toward us,
    and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever.
  Praise the LORD!

His Steadfast Love Endures Forever

118:1   Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
    for his steadfast love endures forever!
  Let Israel say,
    “His steadfast love endures forever.”
  Let the house of Aaron say,
    “His steadfast love endures forever.”
  Let those who fear the LORD say,
    “His steadfast love endures forever.”
  Out of my distress I called on the LORD;
    the LORD answered me and set me free.
  The LORD is on my side; I will not fear.
    What can man do to me?
  The LORD is on my side as my helper;
    I shall look in triumph on those who hate me.
  It is better to take refuge in the LORD
    than to trust in man.
  It is better to take refuge in the LORD
    than to trust in princes.
10   All nations surrounded me;
    in the name of the LORD I cut them off!
11   They surrounded me, surrounded me on every side;
    in the name of the LORD I cut them off!
12   They surrounded me like bees;
    they went out like a fire among thorns;
    in the name of the LORD I cut them off!
13   I was pushed hard,1 so that I was falling,
    but the LORD helped me.
14   The LORD is my strength and my song;
    he has become my salvation.
15   Glad songs of salvation
    are in the tents of the righteous:
  “The right hand of the LORD does valiantly,
16     the right hand of the LORD exalts,
    the right hand of the LORD does valiantly!”
17   I shall not die, but I shall live,
    and recount the deeds of the LORD.
18   The LORD has disciplined me severely,
    but he has not given me over to death.
19   Open to me the gates of righteousness,
    that I may enter through them
    and give thanks to the LORD.
20   This is the gate of the LORD;
    the righteous shall enter through it.
21   I thank you that you have answered me
    and have become my salvation.
22   The stone that the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone.2
23   This is the LORD's doing;
    it is marvelous in our eyes.
24   This is the day that the LORD has made;
    let us rejoice and be glad in it.
25   Save us, we pray, O LORD!
    O LORD, we pray, give us success!
26   Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD!
    We bless you from the house of the LORD.
27   The LORD is God,
    and he has made his light to shine upon us.
  Bind the festal sacrifice with cords,
    up to the horns of the altar!
28   You are my God, and I will give thanks to you;
    you are my God; I will extol you.
29   Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
    for his steadfast love endures forever!

Footnotes

[1] 118:13 Hebrew You (that is, the enemy) pushed me hard
[2] 118:22 Hebrew the head of the corner

(ESV)