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Today’s Reading

Devotional

THERE IS A GREAT DEAL OF BOASTING in Western evangelicalism. Some of it is so flagrant that it is repulsive to all serious-minded people. Much of it, however, is subtle and potentially subversive. Probably most of us are guilty of it sometimes.

On first reading, it sounds as if Paul in 2 Corinthians 10 is also caught up in boasting, a word that recurs in the final four chapters of this book. In fact, the issues raised by this chapter are extraordinarily complex. I can here mention only a few of them.

(1) The tone of 2 Corinthians 10–13 sets this section off from the rest of the book. It may be that more information about the situation in Corinth has reached Paul. Whatever the case, critics in Corinth are demeaning the apostle on several grounds. They say he is weak and timid in person, while putting on airs of power and authority when he is absent and wielding his pen (2 Cor. 10:1, 10). In an age when “persona” and rhetoric meant a great deal, they say, “His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing” (2 Cor. 10:10). They spend time patting each other on the back in a system of mutual approbation and letters of reference (2 Cor. 10:12). The next chapters reflect even more elements of this barrage of criticism that Paul must endure.

(2) At the heart of it is a stance toward boasting that is antithetical to all that Paul holds dear. A certain style of self-promotion, of confidence in one’s knowledge and rhetoric, of belonging to the “in” group, conspires to construct a clique of egos. Doubtless some of them were threatened by Paul, but whatever their motives, they made a habit of running him down. This put him in an impossible position. If he said nothing, he was in danger of losing the confidence of the entire church; but if he set forth his credentials as a way of responding to these attacks, he would be falling into exactly the same moral failure that beset his opponents.

(3) In the initial response to this dilemma, Paul does three things. (a) He carefully distinguishes his standards from “the standards of the world,” his weapons from “the weapons of the world” (2 Cor. 10:2, 4), and warns that on his next trip to Corinth, despite their caricature of his presence, he will be prepared to administer punishment (2 Cor. 10:6). (b) He insists that his exercise of authority has been for their good, not for his own gain or advancement (2 Cor. 10:7–11). (c) He subtly reminds the Corinthians that they are believers because of his ministry (2 Cor. 10:12–16), while insisting that proper Christian boasting is boasting in the Lord (2 Cor. 10:17–18).

2 Samuel 17

Hushai Saves David

17:1 Moreover, Ahithophel said to Absalom, “Let me choose twelve thousand men, and I will arise and pursue David tonight. I will come upon him while he is weary and discouraged and throw him into a panic, and all the people who are with him will flee. I will strike down only the king, and I will bring all the people back to you as a bride comes home to her husband. You seek the life of only one man,1 and all the people will be at peace.” And the advice seemed right in the eyes of Absalom and all the elders of Israel.

Then Absalom said, “Call Hushai the Archite also, and let us hear what he has to say.” And when Hushai came to Absalom, Absalom said to him, “Thus has Ahithophel spoken; shall we do as he says? If not, you speak.” Then Hushai said to Absalom, “This time the counsel that Ahithophel has given is not good.” Hushai said, “You know that your father and his men are mighty men, and that they are enraged,2 like a bear robbed of her cubs in the field. Besides, your father is expert in war; he will not spend the night with the people. Behold, even now he has hidden himself in one of the pits or in some other place. And as soon as some of the people fall3 at the first attack, whoever hears it will say, ‘There has been a slaughter among the people who follow Absalom.’ 10 Then even the valiant man, whose heart is like the heart of a lion, will utterly melt with fear, for all Israel knows that your father is a mighty man, and that those who are with him are valiant men. 11 But my counsel is that all Israel be gathered to you, from Dan to Beersheba, as the sand by the sea for multitude, and that you go to battle in person. 12 So we shall come upon him in some place where he is to be found, and we shall light upon him as the dew falls on the ground, and of him and all the men with him not one will be left. 13 If he withdraws into a city, then all Israel will bring ropes to that city, and we shall drag it into the valley, until not even a pebble is to be found there.” 14 And Absalom and all the men of Israel said, “The counsel of Hushai the Archite is better than the counsel of Ahithophel.” For the LORD had ordained4 to defeat the good counsel of Ahithophel, so that the LORD might bring harm upon Absalom.

15 Then Hushai said to Zadok and Abiathar the priests, “Thus and so did Ahithophel counsel Absalom and the elders of Israel, and thus and so have I counseled. 16 Now therefore send quickly and tell David, ‘Do not stay tonight at the fords of the wilderness, but by all means pass over, lest the king and all the people who are with him be swallowed up.’” 17 Now Jonathan and Ahimaaz were waiting at En-rogel. A female servant was to go and tell them, and they were to go and tell King David, for they were not to be seen entering the city. 18 But a young man saw them and told Absalom. So both of them went away quickly and came to the house of a man at Bahurim, who had a well in his courtyard. And they went down into it. 19 And the woman took and spread a covering over the well's mouth and scattered grain on it, and nothing was known of it. 20 When Absalom's servants came to the woman at the house, they said, “Where are Ahimaaz and Jonathan?” And the woman said to them, “They have gone over the brook5 of water.” And when they had sought and could not find them, they returned to Jerusalem.

21 After they had gone, the men came up out of the well, and went and told King David. They said to David, “Arise, and go quickly over the water, for thus and so has Ahithophel counseled against you.” 22 Then David arose, and all the people who were with him, and they crossed the Jordan. By daybreak not one was left who had not crossed the Jordan.

23 When Ahithophel saw that his counsel was not followed, he saddled his donkey and went off home to his own city. He set his house in order and hanged himself, and he died and was buried in the tomb of his father.

24 Then David came to Mahanaim. And Absalom crossed the Jordan with all the men of Israel. 25 Now Absalom had set Amasa over the army instead of Joab. Amasa was the son of a man named Ithra the Ishmaelite,6 who had married Abigal the daughter of Nahash, sister of Zeruiah, Joab's mother. 26 And Israel and Absalom encamped in the land of Gilead.

27 When David came to Mahanaim, Shobi the son of Nahash from Rabbah of the Ammonites, and Machir the son of Ammiel from Lo-debar, and Barzillai the Gileadite from Rogelim, 28 brought beds, basins, and earthen vessels, wheat, barley, flour, parched grain, beans and lentils,7 29 honey and curds and sheep and cheese from the herd, for David and the people with him to eat, for they said, “The people are hungry and weary and thirsty in the wilderness.”

Footnotes

[1] 17:3 Septuagint; Hebrew back to you. Like the return of the whole is the man whom you seek
[2] 17:8 Hebrew bitter of soul
[3] 17:9 Or And as he falls on them
[4] 17:14 Hebrew commanded
[5] 17:20 The meaning of the Hebrew word is uncertain
[6] 17:25 Compare 1 Chronicles 2:17; Hebrew Israelite
[7] 17:28 Hebrew adds and parched grain

(ESV)

2 Corinthians 10

Paul Defends His Ministry

10:1 I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away!—I beg of you that when I am present I may not have to show boldness with such confidence as I count on showing against some who suspect us of walking according to the flesh. For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.

Look at what is before your eyes. If anyone is confident that he is Christ's, let him remind himself that just as he is Christ's, so also are we. For even if I boast a little too much of our authority, which the Lord gave for building you up and not for destroying you, I will not be ashamed. I do not want to appear to be frightening you with my letters. 10 For they say, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account.” 11 Let such a person understand that what we say by letter when absent, we do when present. 12 Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.

13 But we will not boast beyond limits, but will boast only with regard to the area of influence God assigned to us, to reach even to you. 14 For we are not overextending ourselves, as though we did not reach you. For we were the first to come all the way to you with the gospel of Christ. 15 We do not boast beyond limit in the labors of others. But our hope is that as your faith increases, our area of influence among you may be greatly enlarged, 16 so that we may preach the gospel in lands beyond you, without boasting of work already done in another's area of influence. 17 “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” 18 For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.

(ESV)

Ezekiel 24

The Siege of Jerusalem

24:1 In the ninth year, in the tenth month, on the tenth day of the month, the word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, write down the name of this day, this very day. The king of Babylon has laid siege to Jerusalem this very day. And utter a parable to the rebellious house and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD:

  “Set on the pot, set it on;
    pour in water also;
  put in it the pieces of meat,
    all the good pieces, the thigh and the shoulder;
    fill it with choice bones.
  Take the choicest one of the flock;
    pile the logs1 under it;
  boil it well;
    seethe also its bones in it.

“Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: Woe to the bloody city, to the pot whose corrosion is in it, and whose corrosion has not gone out of it! Take out of it piece after piece, without making any choice.2 For the blood she has shed is in her midst; she put it on the bare rock; she did not pour it out on the ground to cover it with dust. To rouse my wrath, to take vengeance, I have set on the bare rock the blood she has shed, that it may not be covered. Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: Woe to the bloody city! I also will make the pile great. 10 Heap on the logs, kindle the fire, boil the meat well, mix in the spices,3 and let the bones be burned up. 11 Then set it empty upon the coals, that it may become hot, and its copper may burn, that its uncleanness may be melted in it, its corrosion consumed. 12 She has wearied herself with toil;4 its abundant corrosion does not go out of it. Into the fire with its corrosion! 13 On account of your unclean lewdness, because I would have cleansed you and you were not cleansed from your uncleanness, you shall not be cleansed anymore till I have satisfied my fury upon you. 14 I am the LORD. I have spoken; it shall come to pass; I will do it. I will not go back; I will not spare; I will not relent; according to your ways and your deeds you will be judged, declares the Lord GOD.”

Ezekiel's Wife Dies

15 The word of the LORD came to me: 16 “Son of man, behold, I am about to take the delight of your eyes away from you at a stroke; yet you shall not mourn or weep, nor shall your tears run down. 17 Sigh, but not aloud; make no mourning for the dead. Bind on your turban, and put your shoes on your feet; do not cover your lips, nor eat the bread of men.” 18 So I spoke to the people in the morning, and at evening my wife died. And on the next morning I did as I was commanded.

19 And the people said to me, “Will you not tell us what these things mean for us, that you are acting thus?” 20 Then I said to them, “The word of the LORD came to me: 21 ‘Say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will profane my sanctuary, the pride of your power, the delight of your eyes, and the yearning of your soul, and your sons and your daughters whom you left behind shall fall by the sword. 22 And you shall do as I have done; you shall not cover your lips, nor eat the bread of men. 23 Your turbans shall be on your heads and your shoes on your feet; you shall not mourn or weep, but you shall rot away in your iniquities and groan to one another. 24 Thus shall Ezekiel be to you a sign; according to all that he has done you shall do. When this comes, then you will know that I am the Lord GOD.’

25 “As for you, son of man, surely on the day when I take from them their stronghold, their joy and glory, the delight of their eyes and their soul's desire, and also their sons and daughters, 26 on that day a fugitive will come to you to report to you the news. 27 On that day your mouth will be opened to the fugitive, and you shall speak and be no longer mute. So you will be a sign to them, and they will know that I am the LORD.”

Footnotes

[1] 24:5 Compare verse 10; Hebrew the bones
[2] 24:6 Hebrew no lot has fallen upon it
[3] 24:10 Or empty out the broth
[4] 24:12 The meaning of the Hebrew is uncertain

(ESV)

Psalm 72

Give the King Your Justice

Of Solomon.

72:1   Give the king your justice, O God,
    and your righteousness to the royal son!
  May he judge your people with righteousness,
    and your poor with justice!
  Let the mountains bear prosperity for the people,
    and the hills, in righteousness!
  May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,
    give deliverance to the children of the needy,
    and crush the oppressor!
  May they fear you1 while the sun endures,
    and as long as the moon, throughout all generations!
  May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass,
    like showers that water the earth!
  In his days may the righteous flourish,
    and peace abound, till the moon be no more!
  May he have dominion from sea to sea,
    and from the River2 to the ends of the earth!
  May desert tribes bow down before him,
    and his enemies lick the dust!
10   May the kings of Tarshish and of the coastlands
    render him tribute;
  may the kings of Sheba and Seba
    bring gifts!
11   May all kings fall down before him,
    all nations serve him!
12   For he delivers the needy when he calls,
    the poor and him who has no helper.
13   He has pity on the weak and the needy,
    and saves the lives of the needy.
14   From oppression and violence he redeems their life,
    and precious is their blood in his sight.
15   Long may he live;
    may gold of Sheba be given to him!
  May prayer be made for him continually,
    and blessings invoked for him all the day!
16   May there be abundance of grain in the land;
    on the tops of the mountains may it wave;
    may its fruit be like Lebanon;
  and may people blossom in the cities
    like the grass of the field!
17   May his name endure forever,
    his fame continue as long as the sun!
  May people be blessed in him,
    all nations call him blessed!
18   Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel,
    who alone does wondrous things.
19   Blessed be his glorious name forever;
    may the whole earth be filled with his glory!
      Amen and Amen!
20   The prayers of David, the son of Jesse, are ended.

Footnotes

[1] 72:5 Septuagint He shall endure
[2] 72:8 That is, the Euphrates

(ESV)