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Today’s Reading

Devotional: Daniel 10

The last three chapters of Daniel are largely given over to the final vision, a vision of a heavenly messenger and his revelation (Dan. 10:1–12:13). This chapter (Dan. 10) establishes the setting. The date is 537 B.C. The first group of exiles have returned to Jerusalem. The reminder that Daniel’s assigned name is Belteshazzar, and the mention of Cyrus, tie this chapter to 1:7, 21. The setting includes several remarkable features:

(1) The heavenly messenger is more radiant than Gabriel and mightier than Michael (the only named angels in all of Scripture), and has power to strengthen Daniel.

(2) Far from being exhilarated by the experience, Daniel is so drained of energy and even speech and consciousness that three times he must be revived by the visitor from God. Cf. Deuteronomy 5:26; Acts 9:8; 22:11. All this, Joyce Baldwin writes, “is a salutary reminder of the majesty of our God and of the amazing condescension of the incarnation.”

(3) Daniel is a man highly esteemed by God (Dan. 10:11, 19). The thought is stunning. What serious Christian would not give everything for a similar encomium? Does not Jesus teach, in effect, that we ought to pursue the “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matt. 25:21)?

(4) The three-week delay (Dan. 10:12–14) unveils conflict in the heavenlies. The prince of the Persian kingdom is apparently some angelic being connected with Persia; similarly for the prince of Greece (Dan. 10:20). Michael, “one of the chief princes” (Dan. 10:13), is “your [Israel’s] prince” (Dan. 10:21). The hierarchy of angelic beings is not governed by the relationships of their earthly counterparts. As there is war between good and evil on earth, so is there war in heaven. In the same way that observing earthly people and powers might lead the unwary to conclude that God is not really in control, so also this delay in the movements of angels has caused the unwary to conclude that God is not really in control in heaven either—since clearly there are many contingencies of which we are not normally aware. But that is to draw a conclusion that Scripture rules out of order. Nebuchadnezzar learned the lesson well: God “does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and with the peoples of the earth” (Dan. 4:35, italics added). There is a terrible war going on, but this takes place under God’s sovereignty; in its affirmation of God’s utter dominion the text insists, “All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing.… No one can hold back his hand” (Dan. 4:35). So there is space for conflict, resolve, perseverance—and for faith and utter confidence.

Devotional: 1 Timothy 3

In the New Testament, there are two explicit church offices. On the one hand, there are pastors (the word comes from the Latin expression for “shepherds”), who are also called elders or overseers (the word rendered “bishops” in older translations). On the other hand, there are deacons. It was not until the second century that bishops became a kind of third rank of ecclesiastical authority, supervising several pastors/elders under them.

So when Paul briefly outlines the criteria for becoming an “overseer” (1 Tim. 3:1–7), he is in fact providing the criteria of the pastoral office. Brief reflection on some of his points may be of help:

(1) At one level, the standards Paul provides are not particularly elevated or difficult. There is nothing about an elite education, a certain kind of personality, belonging to the aristocratic sectors of society, or displaying a certain kind of leadership capability. The list includes things like not getting drunk, not being quarrelsome, and the like.

(2) With the exception of only two qualifications, everything else in this list is elsewhere mandated of all Christians. For instance, if the overseer is to be “hospitable” (1 Tim. 3:2), the same thing is laid on all Christians in Hebrews 13:2. If Christian pastors are not to be “given to drunkenness” (1 Tim. 3:3), neither should any other Christian be. In other words, what must characterize the Christian pastor, in the first instance, is that he display the kinds of graces and signs of maturity that are being imposed on all believers without exception. So the Christian elder is to be a model of what Christian living should look like. In that sense the standards as a whole are high indeed.

(3) The two that are distinctive are as follows: (a) The Christian pastor must be “able to teach” (1 Tim. 3:2). That presupposes both knowledge and the ability to communicate it. That is the distinctive function of this office. (b) Christian pastors must not be recent converts (1 Tim. 3:6). Obviously that excludes some Christians. What “recent convert” means will doubtless vary according to the age and maturity of the church, as the criterion is necessarily relative to how recently others have been converted.

(4) The tight connection between the home and the church (1 Tim. 3:4–5) is quite startling. Not every Christian father is eligible to be an elder in the church; every Christian father is nevertheless presupposed to have elderlike functions to discharge in his own home.

(5) Several of the qualifications are bound up with the distinctive responsibility of this office. If he is to teach, the elder must be hospitable, maintain a good reputation with outsiders, not prove quarrelsome, and be untouched by money’s attractions. A merely bookish theologian with no love for people will not do.

2 Kings 6

The Axe Head Recovered

6:1 Now the sons of the prophets said to Elisha, “See, the place where we dwell under your charge is too small for us. Let us go to the Jordan and each of us get there a log, and let us make a place for us to dwell there.” And he answered, “Go.” Then one of them said, “Be pleased to go with your servants.” And he answered, “I will go.” So he went with them. And when they came to the Jordan, they cut down trees. But as one was felling a log, his axe head fell into the water, and he cried out, “Alas, my master! It was borrowed.” Then the man of God said, “Where did it fall?” When he showed him the place, he cut off a stick and threw it in there and made the iron float. And he said, “Take it up.” So he reached out his hand and took it.

Horses and Chariots of Fire

Once when the king of Syria was warring against Israel, he took counsel with his servants, saying, “At such and such a place shall be my camp.” But the man of God sent word to the king of Israel, “Beware that you do not pass this place, for the Syrians are going down there.” 10 And the king of Israel sent to the place about which the man of God told him. Thus he used to warn him, so that he saved himself there more than once or twice.

11 And the mind of the king of Syria was greatly troubled because of this thing, and he called his servants and said to them, “Will you not show me who of us is for the king of Israel?” 12 And one of his servants said, “None, my lord, O king; but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedroom.” 13 And he said, “Go and see where he is, that I may send and seize him.” It was told him, “Behold, he is in Dothan.” 14 So he sent there horses and chariots and a great army, and they came by night and surrounded the city.

15 When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” 16 He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” 17 Then Elisha prayed and said, “O LORD, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. 18 And when the Syrians came down against him, Elisha prayed to the LORD and said, “Please strike this people with blindness.” So he struck them with blindness in accordance with the prayer of Elisha. 19 And Elisha said to them, “This is not the way, and this is not the city. Follow me, and I will bring you to the man whom you seek.” And he led them to Samaria.

20 As soon as they entered Samaria, Elisha said, “O LORD, open the eyes of these men, that they may see.” So the LORD opened their eyes and they saw, and behold, they were in the midst of Samaria. 21 As soon as the king of Israel saw them, he said to Elisha, “My father, shall I strike them down? Shall I strike them down?” 22 He answered, “You shall not strike them down. Would you strike down those whom you have taken captive with your sword and with your bow? Set bread and water before them, that they may eat and drink and go to their master.” 23 So he prepared for them a great feast, and when they had eaten and drunk, he sent them away, and they went to their master. And the Syrians did not come again on raids into the land of Israel.

Ben-hadad's Siege of Samaria

24 Afterward Ben-hadad king of Syria mustered his entire army and went up and besieged Samaria. 25 And there was a great famine in Samaria, as they besieged it, until a donkey's head was sold for eighty shekels of silver, and the fourth part of a kab1 of dove's dung for five shekels of silver. 26 Now as the king of Israel was passing by on the wall, a woman cried out to him, saying, “Help, my lord, O king!” 27 And he said, “If the LORD will not help you, how shall I help you? From the threshing floor, or from the winepress?” 28 And the king asked her, “What is your trouble?” She answered, “This woman said to me, ‘Give your son, that we may eat him today, and we will eat my son tomorrow.’ 29 So we boiled my son and ate him. And on the next day I said to her, ‘Give your son, that we may eat him.’ But she has hidden her son.” 30 When the king heard the words of the woman, he tore his clothes—now he was passing by on the wall—and the people looked, and behold, he had sackcloth beneath on his body—31 and he said, “May God do so to me and more also, if the head of Elisha the son of Shaphat remains on his shoulders today.”

32 Elisha was sitting in his house, and the elders were sitting with him. Now the king had dispatched a man from his presence, but before the messenger arrived Elisha said to the elders, “Do you see how this murderer has sent to take off my head? Look, when the messenger comes, shut the door and hold the door fast against him. Is not the sound of his master's feet behind him?” 33 And while he was still speaking with them, the messenger came down to him and said, “This trouble is from the LORD! Why should I wait for the LORD any longer?”

Footnotes

[1] 6:25 A shekel was about 2/5 ounce or 11 grams; a kab was about 1 quart or 1 liter

(ESV)

1 Timothy 3

Qualifications for Overseers

3:1 The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer1 must be above reproach, the husband of one wife,2 sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

Qualifications for Deacons

Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued,3 not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. 11 Their wives likewise4 must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. 12 Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. 13 For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.

The Mystery of Godliness

14 I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, 15 if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth. 16 Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness:

  He5 was manifested in the flesh,
    vindicated6 by the Spirit,7
      seen by angels,
  proclaimed among the nations,
    believed on in the world,
      taken up in glory.

Footnotes

[1] 3:2 Or bishop; Greek episkopos; a similar term occurs in verse 1
[2] 3:2 Or a man of one woman; also verse 12
[3] 3:8 Or devious in speech
[4] 3:11 Or Wives likewise, or Women likewise
[5] 3:16 Greek Who; some manuscripts God; others Which
[6] 3:16 Or justified
[7] 3:16 Or vindicated in spirit

(ESV)

Daniel 10

Daniel's Terrifying Vision of a Man

10:1 In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia a word was revealed to Daniel, who was named Belteshazzar. And the word was true, and it was a great conflict.1 And he understood the word and had understanding of the vision.

In those days I, Daniel, was mourning for three weeks. I ate no delicacies, no meat or wine entered my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, for the full three weeks. On the twenty-fourth day of the first month, as I was standing on the bank of the great river (that is, the Tigris) I lifted up my eyes and looked, and behold, a man clothed in linen, with a belt of fine gold from Uphaz around his waist. His body was like beryl, his face like the appearance of lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and the sound of his words like the sound of a multitude. And I, Daniel, alone saw the vision, for the men who were with me did not see the vision, but a great trembling fell upon them, and they fled to hide themselves. So I was left alone and saw this great vision, and no strength was left in me. My radiant appearance was fearfully changed,2 and I retained no strength. Then I heard the sound of his words, and as I heard the sound of his words, I fell on my face in deep sleep with my face to the ground.

10 And behold, a hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. 11 And he said to me, “O Daniel, man greatly loved, understand the words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for now I have been sent to you.” And when he had spoken this word to me, I stood up trembling. 12 Then he said to me, “Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words. 13 The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia, 14 and came to make you understand what is to happen to your people in the latter days. For the vision is for days yet to come.”

15 When he had spoken to me according to these words, I turned my face toward the ground and was mute. 16 And behold, one in the likeness of the children of man touched my lips. Then I opened my mouth and spoke. I said to him who stood before me, “O my lord, by reason of the vision pains have come upon me, and I retain no strength. 17 How can my lord's servant talk with my lord? For now no strength remains in me, and no breath is left in me.”

18 Again one having the appearance of a man touched me and strengthened me. 19 And he said, “O man greatly loved, fear not, peace be with you; be strong and of good courage.” And as he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, “Let my lord speak, for you have strengthened me.” 20 Then he said, “Do you know why I have come to you? But now I will return to fight against the prince of Persia; and when I go out, behold, the prince of Greece will come. 21 But I will tell you what is inscribed in the book of truth: there is none who contends by my side against these except Michael, your prince.

Footnotes

[1] 10:1 Or and it was about a great conflict
[2] 10:8 Hebrew My splendor was changed to ruin

(ESV)

Psalm 119:1–24

Your Word Is a Lamp to My Feet

Aleph

119:1   1 Blessed are those whose way is blameless,
    who walk in the law of the LORD!
  Blessed are those who keep his testimonies,
    who seek him with their whole heart,
  who also do no wrong,
    but walk in his ways!
  You have commanded your precepts
    to be kept diligently.
  Oh that my ways may be steadfast
    in keeping your statutes!
  Then I shall not be put to shame,
    having my eyes fixed on all your commandments.
  I will praise you with an upright heart,
    when I learn your righteous rules.2
  I will keep your statutes;
    do not utterly forsake me!

Beth

  How can a young man keep his way pure?
    By guarding it according to your word.
10   With my whole heart I seek you;
    let me not wander from your commandments!
11   I have stored up your word in my heart,
    that I might not sin against you.
12   Blessed are you, O LORD;
    teach me your statutes!
13   With my lips I declare
    all the rules3 of your mouth.
14   In the way of your testimonies I delight
    as much as in all riches.
15   I will meditate on your precepts
    and fix my eyes on your ways.
16   I will delight in your statutes;
    I will not forget your word.

Gimel

17   Deal bountifully with your servant,
    that I may live and keep your word.
18   Open my eyes, that I may behold
    wondrous things out of your law.
19   I am a sojourner on the earth;
    hide not your commandments from me!
20   My soul is consumed with longing
    for your rules4 at all times.
21   You rebuke the insolent, accursed ones,
    who wander from your commandments.
22   Take away from me scorn and contempt,
    for I have kept your testimonies.
23   Even though princes sit plotting against me,
    your servant will meditate on your statutes.
24   Your testimonies are my delight;
    they are my counselors.

Footnotes

[1] 119:1 This psalm is an acrostic poem of twenty-two stanzas, following the letters of the Hebrew alphabet; within a stanza, each verse begins with the same Hebrew letter
[2] 119:7 Or your just and righteous decrees; also verses 62, 106, 160, 164
[3] 119:13 Or all the just decrees
[4] 119:20 Or your just decrees; also verses 30, 39, 43, 52, 75, 102, 108, 137, 156, 175

(ESV)