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Today’s Reading

Devotional

DAVID WOULD DOUBTLESS make many of us uncomfortable if he lived today. He was such an intense man—exuberant in his pleasures, crushed in his discouragement, powerful in his leadership, unrestrained in his worship.

(1) One occasion that displays much of the man displays no less of God, viz. bringing the ark of the covenant, and presumably the entire tabernacle, up to Jerusalem (2 Sam. 6). David does not send down a few clerics—the designated Levites—and no more. He gathers thirty thousand crack troops and representatives from the whole house of Israel, to say nothing of musicians and choirs.

(2) When Uzzah stretches forth his hand to stabilize the ark because the oxen pulling the cart have stumbled, the “LORD’s anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down and he died there beside the ark of God” (2 Sam. 6:7). That certainly put a damper on the festivities. David is both angry with God (2 Sam. 6:8) and afraid of him (2 Sam. 6:9). For the time being he resolves not to bring the ark of the Lord up to Jerusalem. Certainly there is something in most of us that silently thinks David is right.
Yet all along God has been profoundly concerned to eradicate any hint that he is nothing more than a talisman, a controllable god, some godlet akin to other neighborhood godlets. One of his strongest prohibitions was not to touch the ark, or look inside it. Indeed, on the latter point seventy men of Beth Shemesh had paid with their lives a bare generation earlier (1 Sam. 6:19–20; see the meditation for August 15), when they had ignored the edict. Our text calls Uzzah’s act “irreverent” (2 Sam. 6:7). What made it “irreverent” or “profane” was not that Uzzah was malicious, but that there was no reverent fear before his eyes, no careful distinction between all that God says is holy and what is merely common. The horror of profanity is identical: people say they do not mean anything by it when they take the Lord’s name in vain. That is precisely the point: they do not mean anything by it. God will not be treated that way.

(3) The ark remains with Obed-Edom for three months, and he experiences so much blessing that David becomes interested again (2 Sam. 6:11–12). Blessing and reverence go hand in hand, and David—and we—had better realize it.

(4) Michal turns out to be her father’s daughter: she is more interested in pomp, form, royal robes, and personal dignity than in exuberant worship (2 Sam. 6:16). She despises David precisely because he is so God-centered he cares very little about his persona. People constantly fretting about what others think of them cannot be absorbed by the sheer God-awareness and God-centeredness that characterize all true worship.

2 Samuel 6

The Ark Brought to Jerusalem

6:1 David again gathered all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand. And David arose and went with all the people who were with him from Baale-judah to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the name of the LORD of hosts who sits enthroned on the cherubim. And they carried the ark of God on a new cart and brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. And Uzzah and Ahio,1 the sons of Abinadab, were driving the new cart, with the ark of God,2 and Ahio went before the ark.

Uzzah and the Ark

And David and all the house of Israel were celebrating before the LORD, with songs3 and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals. And when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled. And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah, and God struck him down there because of his error, and he died there beside the ark of God. And David was angry because the LORD had broken out against Uzzah. And that place is called Perez-uzzah4 to this day. And David was afraid of the LORD that day, and he said, “How can the ark of the LORD come to me?” 10 So David was not willing to take the ark of the LORD into the city of David. But David took it aside to the house of Obed-edom the Gittite. 11 And the ark of the LORD remained in the house of Obed-edom the Gittite three months, and the LORD blessed Obed-edom and all his household.

12 And it was told King David, “The LORD has blessed the household of Obed-edom and all that belongs to him, because of the ark of God.” So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom to the city of David with rejoicing. 13 And when those who bore the ark of the LORD had gone six steps, he sacrificed an ox and a fattened animal. 14 And David danced before the LORD with all his might. And David was wearing a linen ephod. 15 So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouting and with the sound of the horn.

David and Michal

16 As the ark of the LORD came into the city of David, Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD, and she despised him in her heart. 17 And they brought in the ark of the LORD and set it in its place, inside the tent that David had pitched for it. And David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD. 18 And when David had finished offering the burnt offerings and the peace offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the LORD of hosts 19 and distributed among all the people, the whole multitude of Israel, both men and women, a cake of bread, a portion of meat,5 and a cake of raisins to each one. Then all the people departed, each to his house.

20 And David returned to bless his household. But Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David and said, “How the king of Israel honored himself today, uncovering himself today before the eyes of his servants' female servants, as one of the vulgar fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!” 21 And David said to Michal, “It was before the LORD, who chose me above your father and above all his house, to appoint me as prince6 over Israel, the people of the LORD—and I will celebrate before the LORD. 22 I will make myself yet more contemptible than this, and I will be abased in your7 eyes. But by the female servants of whom you have spoken, by them I shall be held in honor.” 23 And Michal the daughter of Saul had no child to the day of her death.

Footnotes

[1] 6:3 Or and his brother; also verse 4
[2] 6:4 Compare Septuagint; Hebrew the new cart, 4and brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill, with the ark of God
[3] 6:5 Septuagint, 1 Chronicles 13:8; Hebrew fir trees
[4] 6:8 Perez-uzzah means the breaking out against Uzzah
[5] 6:19 Vulgate; the meaning of the Hebrew term is uncertain
[6] 6:21 Or leader
[7] 6:22 Septuagint; Hebrew my

(ESV)

1 Corinthians 16

The Collection for the Saints

16:1 Now concerning1 the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come. And when I arrive, I will send those whom you accredit by letter to carry your gift to Jerusalem. If it seems advisable that I should go also, they will accompany me.

Plans for Travel

I will visit you after passing through Macedonia, for I intend to pass through Macedonia, and perhaps I will stay with you or even spend the winter, so that you may help me on my journey, wherever I go. For I do not want to see you now just in passing. I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits. But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.

10 When Timothy comes, see that you put him at ease among you, for he is doing the work of the Lord, as I am. 11 So let no one despise him. Help him on his way in peace, that he may return to me, for I am expecting him with the brothers.

Final Instructions

12 Now concerning our brother Apollos, I strongly urged him to visit you with the other brothers, but it was not at all his will2 to come now. He will come when he has opportunity.

13 Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. 14 Let all that you do be done in love.

15 Now I urge you, brothers3—you know that the household4 of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints—16 be subject to such as these, and to every fellow worker and laborer. 17 I rejoice at the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus, because they have made up for your absence, 18 for they refreshed my spirit as well as yours. Give recognition to such people.

Greetings

19 The churches of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Prisca, together with the church in their house, send you hearty greetings in the Lord. 20 All the brothers send you greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss.

21 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. 22 If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Our Lord, come!5 23 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. 24 My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Footnotes

[1] 16:1 The expression Now concerning introduces a reply to a question in the Corinthians' letter; see 7:1; also verse 12
[2] 16:12 Or God's will for him
[3] 16:15 Or brothers and sisters; also verse 20
[4] 16:15 Greek house
[5] 16:22 Greek Maranatha (a transliteration of Aramaic)

(ESV)

Ezekiel 14

Idolatrous Elders Condemned

14:1 Then certain of the elders of Israel came to me and sat before me. And the word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, these men have taken their idols into their hearts, and set the stumbling block of their iniquity before their faces. Should I indeed let myself be consulted by them? Therefore speak to them and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: Any one of the house of Israel who takes his idols into his heart and sets the stumbling block of his iniquity before his face, and yet comes to the prophet, I the LORD will answer him as he comes with the multitude of his idols, that I may lay hold of the hearts of the house of Israel, who are all estranged from me through their idols.

“Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: Repent and turn away from your idols, and turn away your faces from all your abominations. For any one of the house of Israel, or of the strangers who sojourn in Israel, who separates himself from me, taking his idols into his heart and putting the stumbling block of his iniquity before his face, and yet comes to a prophet to consult me through him, I the LORD will answer him myself. And I will set my face against that man; I will make him a sign and a byword and cut him off from the midst of my people, and you shall know that I am the LORD. And if the prophet is deceived and speaks a word, I, the LORD, have deceived that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand against him and will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel. 10 And they shall bear their punishment1—the punishment of the prophet and the punishment of the inquirer shall be alike—11 that the house of Israel may no more go astray from me, nor defile themselves anymore with all their transgressions, but that they may be my people and I may be their God, declares the Lord GOD.”

Jerusalem Will Not Be Spared

12 And the word of the LORD came to me: 13 “Son of man, when a land sins against me by acting faithlessly, and I stretch out my hand against it and break its supply2 of bread and send famine upon it, and cut off from it man and beast, 14 even if these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would deliver but their own lives by their righteousness, declares the Lord GOD.

15 “If I cause wild beasts to pass through the land, and they ravage it, and it be made desolate, so that no one may pass through because of the beasts, 16 even if these three men were in it, as I live, declares the Lord GOD, they would deliver neither sons nor daughters. They alone would be delivered, but the land would be desolate.

17 “Or if I bring a sword upon that land and say, Let a sword pass through the land, and I cut off from it man and beast, 18 though these three men were in it, as I live, declares the Lord GOD, they would deliver neither sons nor daughters, but they alone would be delivered.

19 “Or if I send a pestilence into that land and pour out my wrath upon it with blood, to cut off from it man and beast, 20 even if Noah, Daniel, and Job were in it, as I live, declares the Lord GOD, they would deliver neither son nor daughter. They would deliver but their own lives by their righteousness.

21 “For thus says the Lord GOD: How much more when I send upon Jerusalem my four disastrous acts of judgment, sword, famine, wild beasts, and pestilence, to cut off from it man and beast! 22 But behold, some survivors will be left in it, sons and daughters who will be brought out; behold, when they come out to you, and you see their ways and their deeds, you will be consoled for the disaster that I have brought upon Jerusalem, for all that I have brought upon it. 23 They will console you, when you see their ways and their deeds, and you shall know that I have not done without cause all that I have done in it, declares the Lord GOD.”

Footnotes

[1] 14:10 Or iniquity; three times in this verse
[2] 14:13 Hebrew staff

(ESV)

Psalm 55

Cast Your Burden on the Lord

To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. A Maskil1 of David.

55:1   Give ear to my prayer, O God,
    and hide not yourself from my plea for mercy!
  Attend to me, and answer me;
    I am restless in my complaint and I moan,
  because of the noise of the enemy,
    because of the oppression of the wicked.
  For they drop trouble upon me,
    and in anger they bear a grudge against me.
  My heart is in anguish within me;
    the terrors of death have fallen upon me.
  Fear and trembling come upon me,
    and horror overwhelms me.
  And I say, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove!
    I would fly away and be at rest;
  yes, I would wander far away;
    I would lodge in the wilderness; Selah
  I would hurry to find a shelter
    from the raging wind and tempest.”
  Destroy, O Lord, divide their tongues;
    for I see violence and strife in the city.
10   Day and night they go around it
    on its walls,
  and iniquity and trouble are within it;
11     ruin is in its midst;
  oppression and fraud
    do not depart from its marketplace.
12   For it is not an enemy who taunts me—
    then I could bear it;
  it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me—
    then I could hide from him.
13   But it is you, a man, my equal,
    my companion, my familiar friend.
14   We used to take sweet counsel together;
    within God's house we walked in the throng.
15   Let death steal over them;
    let them go down to Sheol alive;
    for evil is in their dwelling place and in their heart.
16   But I call to God,
    and the LORD will save me.
17   Evening and morning and at noon
    I utter my complaint and moan,
    and he hears my voice.
18   He redeems my soul in safety
    from the battle that I wage,
    for many are arrayed against me.
19   God will give ear and humble them,
    he who is enthroned from of old, Selah
  because they do not change
    and do not fear God.
20   My companion2 stretched out his hand against his friends;
    he violated his covenant.
21   His speech was smooth as butter,
    yet war was in his heart;
  his words were softer than oil,
    yet they were drawn swords.
22   Cast your burden on the LORD,
    and he will sustain you;
  he will never permit
    the righteous to be moved.
23   But you, O God, will cast them down
    into the pit of destruction;
  men of blood and treachery
    shall not live out half their days.
  But I will trust in you.

Footnotes

[1] 55:1 Probably a musical or liturgical term
[2] 55:20 Hebrew He

(ESV)