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Today’s Reading

Devotional

The opening lines of Paul’s letters are usually crafted with great care. The simplest form of letters in the ancient Greek world was: “From me, to you, Greetings”—often followed by some statement of thanks, and then the body of the letter. But Paul’s customary practice is to “tweak” every component to anticipate what is coming in the rest of his letter. Thus a study of his letter as a whole enriches our understanding of his opening lines—and vice versa (Gal. 1:1–5).

(1) Paul does not always introduce himself as “an apostle.” Sometimes he uses no designation (e.g., 1 and 2 Thess.); sometimes he refers to himself as a “servant” (Rom. 1:1). Here he is “Paul, an apostle” because some people were troubling the Galatian Christians with a “different gospel” that was “really no gospel at all” (Gal. 1:6–7), and to do so they had to undermine Paul’s authority and dismiss him as, at best, a derivative apostle.

(2) Not so, Paul says: not only is he an apostle, but he was “sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father” (Gal. 1:1). His apostleship was not mediated, as if he had been commissioned by the Jerusalem church, or by some individual first-class apostle there. Rather, he was sent “by Jesus Christ,” based on his Damascus Road experience of seeing the risen and exalted Jesus himself, and by God the Father.

(3) Paul further designates God the Father as the one who raised Jesus from the dead. Paul had seen the raised Jesus, the resurrected Jesus. In his years as a devout Pharisee, he had dismissed Jesus as an evil pretender, a malefactor, cursed by God as was clear from the manner of his death. Seeing the resurrected Jesus for himself made Paul rethink everything. Jesus was vindicated by God himself, and the good news of which Paul was an apostle is grounded in Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.

(4) However much he insists on his apostolic status and authority, Paul wisely associates himself and his teaching with “all the brothers” with him (Gal. 1:2). If the Galatians angle off toward this “different gospel,” they must know that they are not only turning away from Paul, but from the countless believers who agree with Paul.

(5) Instead of the traditional greeting Chairein, Paul uses the Christian word grace (charis) and the Jewish greeting peace (shalom in Hebrew) and grounds these blessings in the substitutionary death of the Lord Jesus (Gal. 1:3–5)—not on any particular relationship to the Law of Moses.

(6) Astonishingly, Paul leaves out the “thanks” section, and immediately drives toward his astonished rebuke of the impending defection of his readers (Gal. 1:6–10). However rare, there are times when a rebuke will not wait.

2 Samuel 21

David Avenges the Gibeonites

21:1 Now there was a famine in the days of David for three years, year after year. And David sought the face of the LORD. And the LORD said, “There is bloodguilt on Saul and on his house, because he put the Gibeonites to death.” So the king called the Gibeonites and spoke to them. Now the Gibeonites were not of the people of Israel but of the remnant of the Amorites. Although the people of Israel had sworn to spare them, Saul had sought to strike them down in his zeal for the people of Israel and Judah. And David said to the Gibeonites, “What shall I do for you? And how shall I make atonement, that you may bless the heritage of the LORD?” The Gibeonites said to him, “It is not a matter of silver or gold between us and Saul or his house; neither is it for us to put any man to death in Israel.” And he said, “What do you say that I shall do for you?” They said to the king, “The man who consumed us and planned to destroy us, so that we should have no place in all the territory of Israel, let seven of his sons be given to us, so that we may hang them before the LORD at Gibeah of Saul, the chosen of the LORD.” And the king said, “I will give them.”

But the king spared Mephibosheth, the son of Saul's son Jonathan, because of the oath of the LORD that was between them, between David and Jonathan the son of Saul. The king took the two sons of Rizpah the daughter of Aiah, whom she bore to Saul, Armoni and Mephibosheth; and the five sons of Merab1 the daughter of Saul, whom she bore to Adriel the son of Barzillai the Meholathite; and he gave them into the hands of the Gibeonites, and they hanged them on the mountain before the LORD, and the seven of them perished together. They were put to death in the first days of harvest, at the beginning of barley harvest.

10 Then Rizpah the daughter of Aiah took sackcloth and spread it for herself on the rock, from the beginning of harvest until rain fell upon them from the heavens. And she did not allow the birds of the air to come upon them by day, or the beasts of the field by night. 11 When David was told what Rizpah the daughter of Aiah, the concubine of Saul, had done, 12 David went and took the bones of Saul and the bones of his son Jonathan from the men of Jabesh-gilead, who had stolen them from the public square of Beth-shan, where the Philistines had hanged them, on the day the Philistines killed Saul on Gilboa. 13 And he brought up from there the bones of Saul and the bones of his son Jonathan; and they gathered the bones of those who were hanged. 14 And they buried the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan in the land of Benjamin in Zela, in the tomb of Kish his father. And they did all that the king commanded. And after that God responded to the plea for the land.

War with the Philistines

15 There was war again between the Philistines and Israel, and David went down together with his servants, and they fought against the Philistines. And David grew weary. 16 And Ishbi-benob, one of the descendants of the giants, whose spear weighed three hundred shekels2 of bronze, and who was armed with a new sword, thought to kill David. 17 But Abishai the son of Zeruiah came to his aid and attacked the Philistine and killed him. Then David's men swore to him, “You shall no longer go out with us to battle, lest you quench the lamp of Israel.”

18 After this there was again war with the Philistines at Gob. Then Sibbecai the Hushathite struck down Saph, who was one of the descendants of the giants. 19 And there was again war with the Philistines at Gob, and Elhanan the son of Jaare-oregim, the Bethlehemite, struck down Goliath the Gittite, the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver's beam.3 20 And there was again war at Gath, where there was a man of great stature, who had six fingers on each hand, and six toes on each foot, twenty-four in number, and he also was descended from the giants. 21 And when he taunted Israel, Jonathan the son of Shimei, David's brother, struck him down. 22 These four were descended from the giants in Gath, and they fell by the hand of David and by the hand of his servants.

Footnotes

[1] 21:8 Two Hebrew manuscripts, Septuagint; most Hebrew manuscripts Michal
[2] 21:16 A shekel was about 2/5 ounce or 11 grams
[3] 21:19 Contrast 1 Chronicles 20:5, which may preserve the original reading

(ESV)

Galatians 1

Greeting

1:1 Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead—and all the brothers1 who are with me,

To the churches of Galatia:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

No Other Gospel

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant2 of Christ.

Paul Called by God

11 For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man's gospel.3 12 For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. 13 For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. 14 And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when he who had set me apart before I was born,4 and who called me by his grace, 16 was pleased to reveal his Son to5 me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone;6 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.

18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days. 19 But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord's brother. 20 (In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!) 21 Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. 22 And I was still unknown in person to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23 They only were hearing it said, “He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they glorified God because of me.

Footnotes

[1] 1:2 Or brothers and sisters. In New Testament usage, depending on the context, the plural Greek word adelphoi (translated “brothers”) may refer either to brothers or to brothers and sisters; also verse 11
[2] 1:10 For the contextual rendering of the Greek word doulos, see Preface
[3] 1:11 Greek not according to man
[4] 1:15 Greek set me apart from my mother's womb
[5] 1:16 Greek in
[6] 1:16 Greek with flesh and blood

(ESV)

Ezekiel 28

Prophecy Against the Prince of Tyre

28:1 The word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, say to the prince of Tyre, Thus says the Lord GOD:

  “Because your heart is proud,
    and you have said, ‘I am a god,
  I sit in the seat of the gods,
    in the heart of the seas,’
  yet you are but a man, and no god,
    though you make your heart like the heart of a god—
  you are indeed wiser than Daniel;
    no secret is hidden from you;
  by your wisdom and your understanding
    you have made wealth for yourself,
  and have gathered gold and silver
    into your treasuries;
  by your great wisdom in your trade
    you have increased your wealth,
    and your heart has become proud in your wealth—
  therefore thus says the Lord GOD:
  Because you make your heart
    like the heart of a god,
  therefore, behold, I will bring foreigners upon you,
    the most ruthless of the nations;
  and they shall draw their swords against the beauty of your wisdom
    and defile your splendor.
  They shall thrust you down into the pit,
    and you shall die the death of the slain
    in the heart of the seas.
  Will you still say, ‘I am a god,’
    in the presence of those who kill you,
  though you are but a man, and no god,
    in the hands of those who slay you?
10   You shall die the death of the uncircumcised
    by the hand of foreigners;
    for I have spoken, declares the Lord GOD.”

A Lament over the King of Tyre

11 Moreover, the word of the LORD came to me: 12 “Son of man, raise a lamentation over the king of Tyre, and say to him, Thus says the Lord GOD:

  “You were the signet of perfection,1
    full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.
13   You were in Eden, the garden of God;
    every precious stone was your covering,
  sardius, topaz, and diamond,
    beryl, onyx, and jasper,
  sapphire,2 emerald, and carbuncle;
    and crafted in gold were your settings
    and your engravings.3
  On the day that you were created
    they were prepared.
14   You were an anointed guardian cherub.
    I placed you;4 you were on the holy mountain of God;
    in the midst of the stones of fire you walked.
15   You were blameless in your ways
    from the day you were created,
    till unrighteousness was found in you.
16   In the abundance of your trade
    you were filled with violence in your midst, and you sinned;
  so I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God,
    and I destroyed you,5 O guardian cherub,
    from the midst of the stones of fire.
17   Your heart was proud because of your beauty;
    you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor.
  I cast you to the ground;
    I exposed you before kings,
    to feast their eyes on you.
18   By the multitude of your iniquities,
    in the unrighteousness of your trade
    you profaned your sanctuaries;
  so I brought fire out from your midst;
    it consumed you,
  and I turned you to ashes on the earth
    in the sight of all who saw you.
19   All who know you among the peoples
    are appalled at you;
  you have come to a dreadful end
    and shall be no more forever.”

Prophecy Against Sidon

20 The word of the LORD came to me: 21 “Son of man, set your face toward Sidon, and prophesy against her 22 and say, Thus says the Lord GOD:

  “Behold, I am against you, O Sidon,
    and I will manifest my glory in your midst.
  And they shall know that I am the LORD
    when I execute judgments in her
    and manifest my holiness in her;
23   for I will send pestilence into her,
    and blood into her streets;
  and the slain shall fall in her midst,
    by the sword that is against her on every side.
  Then they will know that I am the LORD.

24 “And for the house of Israel there shall be no more a brier to prick or a thorn to hurt them among all their neighbors who have treated them with contempt. Then they will know that I am the Lord GOD.

Israel Gathered in Security

25 “Thus says the Lord GOD: When I gather the house of Israel from the peoples among whom they are scattered, and manifest my holiness in them in the sight of the nations, then they shall dwell in their own land that I gave to my servant Jacob. 26 And they shall dwell securely in it, and they shall build houses and plant vineyards. They shall dwell securely, when I execute judgments upon all their neighbors who have treated them with contempt. Then they will know that I am the LORD their God.”

Footnotes

[1] 28:12 The meaning of the Hebrew phrase is uncertain
[2] 28:13 Or lapis lazuli
[3] 28:13 The meaning of the Hebrew phrase is uncertain
[4] 28:14 The meaning of the Hebrew phrase is uncertain
[5] 28:16 Or banished you

(ESV)

Psalm 77

In the Day of Trouble I Seek the Lord

To the choirmaster: according to Jeduthun. A Psalm of Asaph.

77:1   I cry aloud to God,
    aloud to God, and he will hear me.
  In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord;
    in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying;
    my soul refuses to be comforted.
  When I remember God, I moan;
    when I meditate, my spirit faints. Selah
  You hold my eyelids open;
    I am so troubled that I cannot speak.
  I consider the days of old,
    the years long ago.
  I said,1 “Let me remember my song in the night;
    let me meditate in my heart.”
    Then my spirit made a diligent search:
  “Will the Lord spurn forever,
    and never again be favorable?
  Has his steadfast love forever ceased?
    Are his promises at an end for all time?
  Has God forgotten to be gracious?
    Has he in anger shut up his compassion?” Selah
10   Then I said, “I will appeal to this,
    to the years of the right hand of the Most High.”2
11   I will remember the deeds of the LORD;
    yes, I will remember your wonders of old.
12   I will ponder all your work,
    and meditate on your mighty deeds.
13   Your way, O God, is holy.
    What god is great like our God?
14   You are the God who works wonders;
    you have made known your might among the peoples.
15   You with your arm redeemed your people,
    the children of Jacob and Joseph. Selah
16   When the waters saw you, O God,
    when the waters saw you, they were afraid;
    indeed, the deep trembled.
17   The clouds poured out water;
    the skies gave forth thunder;
    your arrows flashed on every side.
18   The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind;
    your lightnings lighted up the world;
    the earth trembled and shook.
19   Your way was through the sea,
    your path through the great waters;
    yet your footprints were unseen.3
20   You led your people like a flock
    by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

Footnotes

[1] 77:6 Hebrew lacks I said
[2] 77:10 Or This is my grief: that the right hand of the Most High has changed
[3] 77:19 Hebrew unknown

(ESV)