×
A devotional bible commentary
in partnership with
Join Us!
Join Us!

Today’s Reading

Devotional

IT IS BEYOND THESE BRIEF REFLECTIONS to provide a history of the difficult visits and painful letters that generated deep emotion in the apostle’s relations with the Corinthians. Relations between Corinth and Paul are apparently improving in the opening chapters of 2 Corinthians, but remain a trifle raw.

In this context Paul devotes quite a bit of attention to explaining the nature of his ministry, whether its grand design or discrete decisions he has made. For example, in 2 Corinthians 1, it is fairly obvious that the Corinthians had charged Paul with being fickle. He had said he would come, and then he had changed plans and not arrived. Paul acknowledges that he had indeed changed plans, but insists this does not indicate fickleness (2 Cor. 1:15–17). In his conduct he tries to imitate God’s steadfast faithfulness (2 Cor. 1:18–22). And then he gives the real reason why he did not show up: he was trying to spare the Corinthians, for he knew that if he had shown up at that point he would have had to take action that would have caused even more distress (2 Cor. 1:23–2:2).

In 2 Corinthians 2, Paul is still unpacking various elements of his ministry. Here we note two.

First, Paul understands his ministry to be akin to a device that distributes the fragrance of the knowledge of God (2 Cor. 2:14). Otherwise put, before God Paul himself is an aroma, “the aroma of Christ among both those who are being saved and those who are perishing” (2 Cor. 2:15). “To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life” (2 Cor. 2:16). In other words, Paul insists that he does not himself change, depending on his audience. He is the same aroma; he proclaims the same Gospel, the same discipleship, the same Christ, the same way to live. Whether he is perceived to be a sweet fragrance or a foul stench does not depend on some change in him, but on the people who must deal with him. Implicitly, the Corinthians must recognize that some animus against the apostle is the animus of the unregenerate heart. “And who is equal to such a task?” (2 Cor. 2:16).

Second, many Corinthians (as becomes clear later in this letter) thought that teachers should command substantial salaries, and if they didn’t, they weren’t worth much. In that kind of atmosphere, it would be easy to despise even a gifted apostolic teacher who refused your money. But because he was teaching a gospel of grace, Paul evangelized for free. (He accepted support money from elsewhere.) On the long haul, he did not want to gain a reputation for peddling the word of God for profit; rather, he wanted to be known as a man sent from God (2 Cor. 2:17).

2 Samuel 8–9

David's Victories

8:1 After this David defeated the Philistines and subdued them, and David took Metheg-ammah out of the hand of the Philistines.

And he defeated Moab and he measured them with a line, making them lie down on the ground. Two lines he measured to be put to death, and one full line to be spared. And the Moabites became servants to David and brought tribute.

David also defeated Hadadezer the son of Rehob, king of Zobah, as he went to restore his power at the river Euphrates. And David took from him 1,700 horsemen, and 20,000 foot soldiers. And David hamstrung all the chariot horses but left enough for 100 chariots. And when the Syrians of Damascus came to help Hadadezer king of Zobah, David struck down 22,000 men of the Syrians. Then David put garrisons in Aram of Damascus, and the Syrians became servants to David and brought tribute. And the LORD gave victory to David wherever he went. And David took the shields of gold that were carried by the servants of Hadadezer and brought them to Jerusalem. And from Betah and from Berothai, cities of Hadadezer, King David took very much bronze.

When Toi king of Hamath heard that David had defeated the whole army of Hadadezer, 10 Toi sent his son Joram to King David, to ask about his health and to bless him because he had fought against Hadadezer and defeated him, for Hadadezer had often been at war with Toi. And Joram brought with him articles of silver, of gold, and of bronze. 11 These also King David dedicated to the LORD, together with the silver and gold that he dedicated from all the nations he subdued, 12 from Edom, Moab, the Ammonites, the Philistines, Amalek, and from the spoil of Hadadezer the son of Rehob, king of Zobah.

13 And David made a name for himself when he returned from striking down 18,000 Edomites in the Valley of Salt. 14 Then he put garrisons in Edom; throughout all Edom he put garrisons, and all the Edomites became David's servants. And the LORD gave victory to David wherever he went.

David's Officials

15 So David reigned over all Israel. And David administered justice and equity to all his people. 16 Joab the son of Zeruiah was over the army, and Jehoshaphat the son of Ahilud was recorder, 17 and Zadok the son of Ahitub and Ahimelech the son of Abiathar were priests, and Seraiah was secretary, 18 and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was over1 the Cherethites and the Pelethites, and David's sons were priests.

David's Kindness to Mephibosheth

9:1 And David said, “Is there still anyone left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan's sake?” Now there was a servant of the house of Saul whose name was Ziba, and they called him to David. And the king said to him, “Are you Ziba?” And he said, “I am your servant.” And the king said, “Is there not still someone of the house of Saul, that I may show the kindness of God to him?” Ziba said to the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is crippled in his feet.” The king said to him, “Where is he?” And Ziba said to the king, “He is in the house of Machir the son of Ammiel, at Lo-debar.” Then King David sent and brought him from the house of Machir the son of Ammiel, at Lo-debar. And Mephibosheth the son of Jonathan, son of Saul, came to David and fell on his face and paid homage. And David said, “Mephibosheth!” And he answered, “Behold, I am your servant.” And David said to him, “Do not fear, for I will show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan, and I will restore to you all the land of Saul your father, and you shall eat at my table always.” And he paid homage and said, “What is your servant, that you should show regard for a dead dog such as I?”

Then the king called Ziba, Saul's servant, and said to him, “All that belonged to Saul and to all his house I have given to your master's grandson. 10 And you and your sons and your servants shall till the land for him and shall bring in the produce, that your master's grandson may have bread to eat. But Mephibosheth your master's grandson shall always eat at my table.” Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants. 11 Then Ziba said to the king, “According to all that my lord the king commands his servant, so will your servant do.” So Mephibosheth ate at David's2 table, like one of the king's sons. 12 And Mephibosheth had a young son, whose name was Mica. And all who lived in Ziba's house became Mephibosheth's servants. 13 So Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, for he ate always at the king's table. Now he was lame in both his feet.

Footnotes

[1] 8:18 Compare 20:23, 1 Chronicles 18:17, Syriac, Targum, Vulgate; Hebrew lacks was over
[2] 9:11 Septuagint; Hebrew my

(ESV)

2 Corinthians 2

2:1 For I made up my mind not to make another painful visit to you. For if I cause you pain, who is there to make me glad but the one whom I have pained? And I wrote as I did, so that when I came I might not suffer pain from those who should have made me rejoice, for I felt sure of all of you, that my joy would be the joy of you all. For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.

Forgive the Sinner

Now if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure—not to put it too severely—to all of you. For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him. For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything. 10 Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, 11 so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.

Triumph in Christ

12 When I came to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ, even though a door was opened for me in the Lord, 13 my spirit was not at rest because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I took leave of them and went on to Macedonia.

14 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? 17 For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God's word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.

(ESV)

Ezekiel 16

The Lord's Faithless Bride

16:1 Again the word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, make known to Jerusalem her abominations, and say, Thus says the Lord GOD to Jerusalem: Your origin and your birth are of the land of the Canaanites; your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite. And as for your birth, on the day you were born your cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to cleanse you, nor rubbed with salt, nor wrapped in swaddling cloths. No eye pitied you, to do any of these things to you out of compassion for you, but you were cast out on the open field, for you were abhorred, on the day that you were born.

“And when I passed by you and saw you wallowing in your blood, I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’ I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’ I made you flourish like a plant of the field. And you grew up and became tall and arrived at full adornment. Your breasts were formed, and your hair had grown; yet you were naked and bare.

“When I passed by you again and saw you, behold, you were at the age for love, and I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness; I made my vow to you and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Lord GOD, and you became mine. Then I bathed you with water and washed off your blood from you and anointed you with oil. 10 I clothed you also with embroidered cloth and shod you with fine leather. I wrapped you in fine linen and covered you with silk.1 11 And I adorned you with ornaments and put bracelets on your wrists and a chain on your neck. 12 And I put a ring on your nose and earrings in your ears and a beautiful crown on your head. 13 Thus you were adorned with gold and silver, and your clothing was of fine linen and silk and embroidered cloth. You ate fine flour and honey and oil. You grew exceedingly beautiful and advanced to royalty. 14 And your renown went forth among the nations because of your beauty, for it was perfect through the splendor that I had bestowed on you, declares the Lord GOD.

15 “But you trusted in your beauty and played the whore2 because of your renown and lavished your whorings3 on any passerby; your beauty4 became his. 16 You took some of your garments and made for yourself colorful shrines, and on them played the whore. The like has never been, nor ever shall be.5 17 You also took your beautiful jewels of my gold and of my silver, which I had given you, and made for yourself images of men, and with them played the whore. 18 And you took your embroidered garments to cover them, and set my oil and my incense before them. 19 Also my bread that I gave you—I fed you with fine flour and oil and honey—you set before them for a pleasing aroma; and so it was, declares the Lord GOD. 20 And you took your sons and your daughters, whom you had borne to me, and these you sacrificed to them to be devoured. Were your whorings so small a matter 21 that you slaughtered my children and delivered them up as an offering by fire to them? 22 And in all your abominations and your whorings you did not remember the days of your youth, when you were naked and bare, wallowing in your blood.

23 “And after all your wickedness (woe, woe to you! declares the Lord GOD), 24 you built yourself a vaulted chamber and made yourself a lofty place in every square. 25 At the head of every street you built your lofty place and made your beauty an abomination, offering yourself6 to any passerby and multiplying your whoring. 26 You also played the whore with the Egyptians, your lustful neighbors, multiplying your whoring, to provoke me to anger. 27 Behold, therefore, I stretched out my hand against you and diminished your allotted portion and delivered you to the greed of your enemies, the daughters of the Philistines, who were ashamed of your lewd behavior. 28 You played the whore also with the Assyrians, because you were not satisfied; yes, you played the whore with them, and still you were not satisfied. 29 You multiplied your whoring also with the trading land of Chaldea, and even with this you were not satisfied.

30 “How sick is your heart,7 declares the Lord GOD, because you did all these things, the deeds of a brazen prostitute, 31 building your vaulted chamber at the head of every street, and making your lofty place in every square. Yet you were not like a prostitute, because you scorned payment. 32 Adulterous wife, who receives strangers instead of her husband! 33 Men give gifts to all prostitutes, but you gave your gifts to all your lovers, bribing them to come to you from every side with your whorings. 34 So you were different from other women in your whorings. No one solicited you to play the whore, and you gave payment, while no payment was given to you; therefore you were different.

35 “Therefore, O prostitute, hear the word of the LORD: 36 Thus says the Lord GOD, Because your lust was poured out and your nakedness uncovered in your whorings with your lovers, and with all your abominable idols, and because of the blood of your children that you gave to them, 37 therefore, behold, I will gather all your lovers with whom you took pleasure, all those you loved and all those you hated. I will gather them against you from every side and will uncover your nakedness to them, that they may see all your nakedness. 38 And I will judge you as women who commit adultery and shed blood are judged, and bring upon you the blood of wrath and jealousy. 39 And I will give you into their hands, and they shall throw down your vaulted chamber and break down your lofty places. They shall strip you of your clothes and take your beautiful jewels and leave you naked and bare. 40 They shall bring up a crowd against you, and they shall stone you and cut you to pieces with their swords. 41 And they shall burn your houses and execute judgments upon you in the sight of many women. I will make you stop playing the whore, and you shall also give payment no more. 42 So will I satisfy my wrath on you, and my jealousy shall depart from you. I will be calm and will no more be angry. 43 Because you have not remembered the days of your youth, but have enraged me with all these things, therefore, behold, I have returned your deeds upon your head, declares the Lord GOD. Have you not committed lewdness in addition to all your abominations?

44 “Behold, everyone who uses proverbs will use this proverb about you: ‘Like mother, like daughter.’ 45 You are the daughter of your mother, who loathed her husband and her children; and you are the sister of your sisters, who loathed their husbands and their children. Your mother was a Hittite and your father an Amorite. 46 And your elder sister is Samaria, who lived with her daughters to the north of you; and your younger sister, who lived to the south of you, is Sodom with her daughters. 47 Not only did you walk in their ways and do according to their abominations; within a very little time you were more corrupt than they in all your ways. 48 As I live, declares the Lord GOD, your sister Sodom and her daughters have not done as you and your daughters have done. 49 Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. 50 They were haughty and did an abomination before me. So I removed them, when I saw it. 51 Samaria has not committed half your sins. You have committed more abominations than they, and have made your sisters appear righteous by all the abominations that you have committed. 52 Bear your disgrace, you also, for you have intervened on behalf of your sisters. Because of your sins in which you acted more abominably than they, they are more in the right than you. So be ashamed, you also, and bear your disgrace, for you have made your sisters appear righteous.

53 “I will restore their fortunes, both the fortunes of Sodom and her daughters, and the fortunes of Samaria and her daughters, and I will restore your own fortunes in their midst, 54 that you may bear your disgrace and be ashamed of all that you have done, becoming a consolation to them. 55 As for your sisters, Sodom and her daughters shall return to their former state, and Samaria and her daughters shall return to their former state, and you and your daughters shall return to your former state. 56 Was not your sister Sodom a byword in your mouth in the day of your pride, 57 before your wickedness was uncovered? Now you have become an object of reproach for the daughters of Syria8 and all those around her, and for the daughters of the Philistines, those all around who despise you. 58 You bear the penalty of your lewdness and your abominations, declares the LORD.

The Lord's Everlasting Covenant

59 “For thus says the Lord GOD: I will deal with you as you have done, you who have despised the oath in breaking the covenant, 60 yet I will remember my covenant with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish for you an everlasting covenant. 61 Then you will remember your ways and be ashamed when you take your sisters, both your elder and your younger, and I give them to you as daughters, but not on account of9 the covenant with you. 62 I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall know that I am the LORD, 63 that you may remember and be confounded, and never open your mouth again because of your shame, when I atone for you for all that you have done, declares the Lord GOD.”

Footnotes

[1] 16:10 Or with rich fabric
[2] 16:15 Or were unfaithful; also verses 16, 17, 26, 28
[3] 16:15 Or unfaithfulness; also verses 20, 22, 25, 26, 29, 33, 34, 36
[4] 16:15 Hebrew it
[5] 16:16 The meaning of this Hebrew sentence is uncertain
[6] 16:25 Hebrew spreading your legs
[7] 16:30 Revocalization yields How I am filled with anger against you
[8] 16:57 Some manuscripts (compare Syriac) of Edom
[9] 16:61 Or not apart from

(ESV)

Psalms 58–59

God Who Judges the Earth

To the choirmaster: according to Do Not Destroy. A Miktam1 of David.

58:1   Do you indeed decree what is right, you gods?2
    Do you judge the children of man uprightly?
  No, in your hearts you devise wrongs;
    your hands deal out violence on earth.
  The wicked are estranged from the womb;
    they go astray from birth, speaking lies.
  They have venom like the venom of a serpent,
    like the deaf adder that stops its ear,
  so that it does not hear the voice of charmers
    or of the cunning enchanter.
  O God, break the teeth in their mouths;
    tear out the fangs of the young lions, O LORD!
  Let them vanish like water that runs away;
    when he aims his arrows, let them be blunted.
  Let them be like the snail that dissolves into slime,
    like the stillborn child who never sees the sun.
  Sooner than your pots can feel the heat of thorns,
    whether green or ablaze, may he sweep them away!3
10   The righteous will rejoice when he sees the vengeance;
    he will bathe his feet in the blood of the wicked.
11   Mankind will say, “Surely there is a reward for the righteous;
    surely there is a God who judges on earth.”

Deliver Me from My Enemies

To the choirmaster: according to Do Not Destroy. A Miktam4 of David, when Saul sent men to watch his house in order to kill him.

59:1   Deliver me from my enemies, O my God;
    protect me from those who rise up against me;
  deliver me from those who work evil,
    and save me from bloodthirsty men.
  For behold, they lie in wait for my life;
    fierce men stir up strife against me.
  For no transgression or sin of mine, O LORD,
    for no fault of mine, they run and make ready.
  Awake, come to meet me, and see!
    You, LORD God of hosts, are God of Israel.
  Rouse yourself to punish all the nations;
    spare none of those who treacherously plot evil. Selah
  Each evening they come back,
    howling like dogs
    and prowling about the city.
  There they are, bellowing with their mouths
    with swords in their lips—
    for “Who,” they think,5 “will hear us?”
  But you, O LORD, laugh at them;
    you hold all the nations in derision.
  O my Strength, I will watch for you,
    for you, O God, are my fortress.
10   My God in his steadfast love6 will meet me;
    God will let me look in triumph on my enemies.
11   Kill them not, lest my people forget;
    make them totter7 by your power and bring them down,
    O Lord, our shield!
12   For the sin of their mouths, the words of their lips,
    let them be trapped in their pride.
  For the cursing and lies that they utter,
13     consume them in wrath;
    consume them till they are no more,
  that they may know that God rules over Jacob
    to the ends of the earth. Selah
14   Each evening they come back,
    howling like dogs
    and prowling about the city.
15   They wander about for food
    and growl if they do not get their fill.
16   But I will sing of your strength;
    I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning.
  For you have been to me a fortress
    and a refuge in the day of my distress.
17   O my Strength, I will sing praises to you,
    for you, O God, are my fortress,
    the God who shows me steadfast love.

Footnotes

[1] 58:1 Probably a musical or liturgical term
[2] 58:1 Or you mighty lords (by revocalization; Hebrew in silence)
[3] 58:9 The meaning of the Hebrew verse is uncertain
[4] 59:1 Probably a musical or liturgical term
[5] 59:7 Hebrew lacks they think
[6] 59:10 Or The God who shows me steadfast love
[7] 59:11 Or wander

(ESV)