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Today’s Reading

Devotional: Isaiah 60

If Isaiah 59 is extraordinarily bleak, Isaiah 60 blazes with glory. Here Zion returns—not the Jerusalem that the returning exiles gradually rebuilt, but the ultimate Zion, the kingdom of God coming to earth. If much of the symbolism still springs from the historical city, that is no surprise. Yet the vision transcends any merely earthly hope. As evidence, we note that there is no longer any sun or moon, “for the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory” (Isa. 60:19; cf. Rev. 21:23). Here the sovereign Lord himself arises, infinitely more glorious than any earthly sunrise: “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you” (Isa. 60:1). The previous chapter establishes the desperate need of the people, the raw evidence that they cannot really transform themselves. This chapter picks up on that dark picture and introduces the only possible solution: “See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn” (Isa. 60:2–3).

Three further observations:

(1) This Zion is home to nations and foreigners and kings, to “islands” (a way of referring to people a long way off), to people from countries that have nothing to do with the Promised Land (Isa. 60:3, 9–10, 14). Gentiles will join Jews in this kingdom, honoring those of the faithful Israelites who belonged to Zion before them. The light dawns in Jerusalem and spreads to all nations.

(2) All who refuse this glory face judgment: “For the nation or kingdom that will not serve you will perish; it will be utterly ruined” (Isa. 60:12). The text offers no hope that the final Zion embraces all without exception; rather, it embraces all without distinction, provided they embrace “the Holy One of Israel” and “the City of the Lord” (Isa. 60:14).

(3) Above all, there is a glorious prospect of eternal longevity to what this kingdom brings. “I will make peace your governor and righteousness your ruler,” God says. “No longer will violence be heard in your land … but you will call your walls Salvation and your gates Praise” (Isa. 60:17–19, italics added). Follow the temporal terms: the sun will no more be your light; the LORD will be your everlasting light; your sun will never set again; your days of sorrow will end; the people will possess the land forever (Isa. 60:19–21). The cycles of rebellion and repentance will end; the cycles of blessing and cursing will be no more. “I am the LORD; in its time I will do this swiftly” (Isa. 60:22). Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

Devotional: Deut. 33-34

How does the Pentateuch end (Deut. 34)?

At a certain level, perhaps one might speak of hope, or at least of anticipation. Even if Moses himself is not permitted to enter the Promised Land, the Israelites are on the verge of going in. The “land flowing with milk and honey” is about to become theirs. Joshua son of Nun, a man “filled with the spirit of wisdom”(Deut. 34:9), has been appointed. Even the blessing of Moses on the twelve tribes (Deut. 33) might be read as bringing a fitting closure to this chapter of Israel’s history.

Nevertheless, such a reading is too optimistic. Converging emphases leave the thoughtful reader with quite a pessimistic expectation of the immediate future. After all, for forty years the people have made promises and broken them, and have repeatedly been called back to covenantal faithfulness by the harsh means of judgment. In Deuteronomy 31, God himself predicts that the people will “soon forsake me and break the covenant I made with them” (Deut. 31:16). Moses, this incredibly courageous and persevering leader, does not enter the Promised Land because on one occasion he failed to honor God before the people.

In this respect, he serves as a negative foil to the great Hebrew at the beginning of this story of Israel: Abraham dies as a pilgrim in a strange land not yet his, but at least he dies with honor and dignity, while Moses dies as a pilgrim forbidden to enter the land promised to him and his people, in lonely isolation and shame. We do not know how much time elapsed after Moses’ death before this last chapter of Deuteronomy was penned, but it must have been substantial, for verse 10 reads, “Since then (i.e., since Moses’ death), no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses.” One can scarcely fail to hear overtones of the prophecy of the coming of a prophet like Moses (Deut. 18:15-18). By the time of writing, other leaders had arisen, some of them faithful and stalwart. But none like Moses had arisen — and this is what had been promised.

These strands make the reader appreciate certain points, especially if the Pentateuch is placed within the storyline of the whole Bible. (1) The law-covenant simply did not have the power to transform the covenant people of God. (2) We should not be surprised by more instances of catastrophic decline. (3) The major hope lies in the coming of a prophet like Moses. (4) Somehow this is tied to the promises at the front end of the story: we wait for someone of Abraham’s seed through whom all the nations of the earth will be blessed.

Deut. 33-34

Moses' Final Blessing on Israel

33:1 This is the blessing with which Moses the man of God blessed the people of Israel before his death. He said,

  “The LORD came from Sinai
    and dawned from Seir upon us;1
    he shone forth from Mount Paran;
  he came from the ten thousands of holy ones,
    with flaming fire2 at his right hand.
  Yes, he loved his people,3
    all his holy ones were in his4 hand;
  so they followed5 in your steps,
    receiving direction from you,
  when Moses commanded us a law,
    as a possession for the assembly of Jacob.
  Thus the LORD6 became king in Jeshurun,
    when the heads of the people were gathered,
    all the tribes of Israel together.
  “Let Reuben live, and not die,
    but let his men be few.”

And this he said of Judah:

  “Hear, O LORD, the voice of Judah,
    and bring him in to his people.
  With your hands contend7 for him,
    and be a help against his adversaries.”

And of Levi he said,

  “Give to Levi8 your Thummim,
    and your Urim to your godly one,
  whom you tested at Massah,
    with whom you quarreled at the waters of Meribah;
  who said of his father and mother,
    ‘I regard them not’;
  he disowned his brothers
    and ignored his children.
  For they observed your word
    and kept your covenant.
10   They shall teach Jacob your rules
    and Israel your law;
  they shall put incense before you
    and whole burnt offerings on your altar.
11   Bless, O LORD, his substance,
    and accept the work of his hands;
  crush the loins of his adversaries,
    of those who hate him, that they rise not again.”

12 Of Benjamin he said,

  “The beloved of the LORD dwells in safety.
  The High God9 surrounds him all day long,
    and dwells between his shoulders.”

13 And of Joseph he said,

  “Blessed by the LORD be his land,
    with the choicest gifts of heaven above,10
    and of the deep that crouches beneath,
14   with the choicest fruits of the sun
    and the rich yield of the months,
15   with the finest produce of the ancient mountains
    and the abundance of the everlasting hills,
16   with the best gifts of the earth and its fullness
    and the favor of him who dwells in the bush.
  May these rest on the head of Joseph,
    on the pate of him who is prince among his brothers.
17   A firstborn bull11—he has majesty,
    and his horns are the horns of a wild ox;
  with them he shall gore the peoples,
    all of them, to the ends of the earth;
  they are the ten thousands of Ephraim,
    and they are the thousands of Manasseh.”

18 And of Zebulun he said,

  “Rejoice, Zebulun, in your going out,
    and Issachar, in your tents.
19   They shall call peoples to their mountain;
    there they offer right sacrifices;
  for they draw from the abundance of the seas
    and the hidden treasures of the sand.”

20 And of Gad he said,

  “Blessed be he who enlarges Gad!
    Gad crouches like a lion;
    he tears off arm and scalp.
21   He chose the best of the land for himself,
    for there a commander's portion was reserved;
  and he came with the heads of the people,
    with Israel he executed the justice of the LORD,
    and his judgments for Israel.”

22 And of Dan he said,

  “Dan is a lion's cub
    that leaps from Bashan.”

23 And of Naphtali he said,

  “O Naphtali, sated with favor,
    and full of the blessing of the LORD,
    possess the lake12 and the south.”

24 And of Asher he said,

  “Most blessed of sons be Asher;
    let him be the favorite of his brothers,
    and let him dip his foot in oil.
25   Your bars shall be iron and bronze,
    and as your days, so shall your strength be.
26   “There is none like God, O Jeshurun,
    who rides through the heavens to your help,
    through the skies in his majesty.
27   The eternal God is your dwelling place,13
    and underneath are the everlasting arms.14
  And he thrust out the enemy before you
    and said, ‘Destroy.’
28   So Israel lived in safety,
    Jacob lived alone,15
  in a land of grain and wine,
    whose heavens drop down dew.
29   Happy are you, O Israel! Who is like you,
    a people saved by the LORD,
  the shield of your help,
    and the sword of your triumph!
  Your enemies shall come fawning to you,
    and you shall tread upon their backs.”

The Death of Moses

34:1 Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho. And the LORD showed him all the land, Gilead as far as Dan, all Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the western sea, the Negeb, and the Plain, that is, the Valley of Jericho the city of palm trees, as far as Zoar. And the LORD said to him, “This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, ‘I will give it to your offspring.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not go over there.” So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD, and he buried him in the valley in the land of Moab opposite Beth-peor; but no one knows the place of his burial to this day. Moses was 120 years old when he died. His eye was undimmed, and his vigor unabated. And the people of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days. Then the days of weeping and mourning for Moses were ended.

And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him. So the people of Israel obeyed him and did as the LORD had commanded Moses. 10 And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, 11 none like him for all the signs and the wonders that the LORD sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land, 12 and for all the mighty power and all the great deeds of terror that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.

Footnotes

[1] 33:2 Septuagint, Syriac, Vulgate; Hebrew them
[2] 33:2 The meaning of the Hebrew word is uncertain
[3] 33:3 Septuagint; Hebrew peoples
[4] 33:3 Hebrew your
[5] 33:3 The meaning of the Hebrew word is uncertain
[6] 33:5 Hebrew Thus he
[7] 33:7 Probable reading; Hebrew With his hands he contended
[8] 33:8 Dead Sea Scroll, Septuagint; Masoretic Text lacks Give to Levi
[9] 33:12 Septuagint; Hebrew dwells in safety by him. He
[10] 33:13 Two Hebrew manuscripts and Targum; Hebrew with the dew
[11] 33:17 Dead Sea Scroll, Septuagint, Samaritan; Masoretic Text His firstborn bull
[12] 33:23 Or west
[13] 33:27 Or a dwelling place
[14] 33:27 Revocalization of verse 27 yields He subdues the ancient gods, and shatters the forces of old
[15] 33:28 Hebrew the abode of Jacob was alone

(ESV)

Psalm 119:145-176

Qoph

145   With my whole heart I cry; answer me, O LORD!
    I will keep your statutes.
146   I call to you; save me,
    that I may observe your testimonies.
147   I rise before dawn and cry for help;
    I hope in your words.
148   My eyes are awake before the watches of the night,
    that I may meditate on your promise.
149   Hear my voice according to your steadfast love;
    O LORD, according to your justice give me life.
150   They draw near who persecute me with evil purpose;
    they are far from your law.
151   But you are near, O LORD,
    and all your commandments are true.
152   Long have I known from your testimonies
    that you have founded them forever.

Resh

153   Look on my affliction and deliver me,
    for I do not forget your law.
154   Plead my cause and redeem me;
    give me life according to your promise!
155   Salvation is far from the wicked,
    for they do not seek your statutes.
156   Great is your mercy, O LORD;
    give me life according to your rules.
157   Many are my persecutors and my adversaries,
    but I do not swerve from your testimonies.
158   I look at the faithless with disgust,
    because they do not keep your commands.
159   Consider how I love your precepts!
    Give me life according to your steadfast love.
160   The sum of your word is truth,
    and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.

Sin and Shin

161   Princes persecute me without cause,
    but my heart stands in awe of your words.
162   I rejoice at your word
    like one who finds great spoil.
163   I hate and abhor falsehood,
    but I love your law.
164   Seven times a day I praise you
    for your righteous rules.
165   Great peace have those who love your law;
    nothing can make them stumble.
166   I hope for your salvation, O LORD,
    and I do your commandments.
167   My soul keeps your testimonies;
    I love them exceedingly.
168   I keep your precepts and testimonies,
    for all my ways are before you.

Taw

169   Let my cry come before you, O LORD;
    give me understanding according to your word!
170   Let my plea come before you;
    deliver me according to your word.
171   My lips will pour forth praise,
    for you teach me your statutes.
172   My tongue will sing of your word,
    for all your commandments are right.
173   Let your hand be ready to help me,
    for I have chosen your precepts.
174   I long for your salvation, O LORD,
    and your law is my delight.
175   Let my soul live and praise you,
    and let your rules help me.
176   I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant,
    for I do not forget your commandments.

(ESV)

Isaiah 60

The Future Glory of Israel

60:1   Arise, shine, for your light has come,
    and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.
  For behold, darkness shall cover the earth,
    and thick darkness the peoples;
  but the LORD will arise upon you,
    and his glory will be seen upon you.
  And nations shall come to your light,
    and kings to the brightness of your rising.
  Lift up your eyes all around, and see;
    they all gather together, they come to you;
  your sons shall come from afar,
    and your daughters shall be carried on the hip.
  Then you shall see and be radiant;
    your heart shall thrill and exult,1
  because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you,
    the wealth of the nations shall come to you.
  A multitude of camels shall cover you,
    the young camels of Midian and Ephah;
    all those from Sheba shall come.
  They shall bring gold and frankincense,
    and shall bring good news, the praises of the LORD.
  All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered to you;
    the rams of Nebaioth shall minister to you;
  they shall come up with acceptance on my altar,
    and I will beautify my beautiful house.
  Who are these that fly like a cloud,
    and like doves to their windows?
  For the coastlands shall hope for me,
    the ships of Tarshish first,
  to bring your children from afar,
    their silver and gold with them,
  for the name of the LORD your God,
    and for the Holy One of Israel,
    because he has made you beautiful.
10   Foreigners shall build up your walls,
    and their kings shall minister to you;
  for in my wrath I struck you,
    but in my favor I have had mercy on you.
11   Your gates shall be open continually;
    day and night they shall not be shut,
  that people may bring to you the wealth of the nations,
    with their kings led in procession.
12   For the nation and kingdom
    that will not serve you shall perish;
    those nations shall be utterly laid waste.
13   The glory of Lebanon shall come to you,
    the cypress, the plane, and the pine,
  to beautify the place of my sanctuary,
    and I will make the place of my feet glorious.
14   The sons of those who afflicted you
    shall come bending low to you,
  and all who despised you
    shall bow down at your feet;
  they shall call you the City of the LORD,
    the Zion of the Holy One of Israel.
15   Whereas you have been forsaken and hated,
    with no one passing through,
  I will make you majestic forever,
    a joy from age to age.
16   You shall suck the milk of nations;
    you shall nurse at the breast of kings;
  and you shall know that I, the LORD, am your Savior
    and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.
17   Instead of bronze I will bring gold,
    and instead of iron I will bring silver;
  instead of wood, bronze,
    instead of stones, iron.
  I will make your overseers peace
    and your taskmasters righteousness.
18   Violence shall no more be heard in your land,
    devastation or destruction within your borders;
  you shall call your walls Salvation,
    and your gates Praise.
19   The sun shall be no more
    your light by day,
  nor for brightness shall the moon
    give you light;2
  but the LORD will be your everlasting light,
    and your God will be your glory.3
20   Your sun shall no more go down,
    nor your moon withdraw itself;
  for the LORD will be your everlasting light,
    and your days of mourning shall be ended.
21   Your people shall all be righteous;
    they shall possess the land forever,
  the branch of my planting, the work of my hands,
    that I might be glorified.4
22   The least one shall become a clan,
    and the smallest one a mighty nation;
  I am the LORD;
    in its time I will hasten it.

Footnotes

[1] 60:5 Hebrew your heart shall tremble and grow wide
[2] 60:19 Masoretic Text; Dead Sea Scroll, Septuagint, Targum add by night
[3] 60:19 Or your beauty
[4] 60:21 Or that I might display my beauty

(ESV)

Matthew 8

Jesus Cleanses a Leper

8:1 When he came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him. And behold, a leper1 came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And Jesus2 stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a proof to them.”

The Faith of a Centurion

When he had entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, appealing to him, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly.” And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.” But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant,3 ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” 10 When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel4 have I found such faith. 11 I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, 12 while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” 13 And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; let it be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed at that very moment.

Jesus Heals Many

14 And when Jesus entered Peter's house, he saw his mother-in-law lying sick with a fever. 15 He touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she rose and began to serve him. 16 That evening they brought to him many who were oppressed by demons, and he cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “He took our illnesses and bore our diseases.”

The Cost of Following Jesus

18 Now when Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. 19 And a scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” 20 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” 21 Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 22 And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.”

Jesus Calms a Storm

23 And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. 24 And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. 25 And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” 26 And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. 27 And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?”

Jesus Heals Two Men with Demons

28 And when he came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes,5 two demon-possessed6 men met him, coming out of the tombs, so fierce that no one could pass that way. 29 And behold, they cried out, “What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?” 30 Now a herd of many pigs was feeding at some distance from them. 31 And the demons begged him, saying, “If you cast us out, send us away into the herd of pigs.” 32 And he said to them, “Go.” So they came out and went into the pigs, and behold, the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the waters. 33 The herdsmen fled, and going into the city they told everything, especially what had happened to the demon-possessed men. 34 And behold, all the city came out to meet Jesus, and when they saw him, they begged him to leave their region.

Footnotes

[1] 8:2 Leprosy was a term for several skin diseases; see Leviticus 13
[2] 8:3 Greek he
[3] 8:9 Or bondservant
[4] 8:10 Some manuscripts not even in Israel
[5] 8:28 Some manuscripts Gergesenes; some Gerasenes
[6] 8:28 Greek daimonizomai (demonized); also verse 33; elsewhere rendered oppressed by demons

(ESV)