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Today’s Reading

Devotional

Deuteronomy 12; Psalms 97-98; Isaiah 40; Revelation 9

ALTHOUGH THE BOOK OF Deuteronomy constantly looks backward to the Exodus and years of wilderness wanderings, it also looks forward: the people are about to enter the Promised Land, and certain things will change. In times of transition, one must grasp the distinction between what should change and what should not.

Yesterday’s chapter includes the word today: “Remember today that your children were not the ones . . .” (Deut. 11:2). That word is important throughout this book. A proper grasp of the past prepares the way for the changes today, on the verge of entry into the Promised Land. In Deuteronomy 12, the biggest change that is envisaged is the establishment within the land of a place where God will choose “to put his Name” and establish his dwelling (Deut. 12:5, 11). In other words the chapter anticipates the time when neither independent sacrifices offered wherever the worshiper happens to be (Deut. 12:8), nor the mobile tabernacle of the years of pilgrimage, will be acceptable; rather, God will establish a stable center in the land. “To that place you must go; there bring your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts. . . . There, in the presence of the LORD your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the LORD your God has blessed you” (Deut. 12:5-7). In due course the tabernacle was situated at Shiloh, Bethel, and finally at Jerusalem, where it was replaced by the temple in the days of Solomon.

The changed circumstances bring points of both continuity and discontinuity. Moses insists that then, as now, there will be no tolerance for the pagan worship practices of the surrounding nations and of those they purge from the land (Deut. 12:29-31). But the sheer distance that most people will live from the central sanctuary means that they cannot be expected to have all meat slaughtered in its precincts, nor to observe the fine distinctions between what is the priest’s part and what is their part. Now it will be entirely appropriate to slaughter their animals and eat them as they would wild game killed in the field (Deut. 12:15-22). Even so, three points continue in full force. (1) They must not forget to provide for the Levites (many of whom depended on the service of the tabernacle/temple for their sustenance – Deut. 12:19); (2) they must not eat the blood of the animals they slaughter (Deut. 12:23-25); (3) they are still expected to offer the consecrated sacrifices at the central shrine on the high feast days, when every family is expected to present itself to the Lord (Deut. 12:26-28).

Other transitions follow in the history of redemption and demand our thoughtful meditation (e.g., Ps. 95:7-11; Mark 7:19; John 16:5-11; Heb. 3:7 — 4:11).

Deut. 12

The Lord's Chosen Place of Worship

12:1 “These are the statutes and rules that you shall be careful to do in the land that the LORD, the God of your fathers, has given you to possess, all the days that you live on the earth. You shall surely destroy all the places where the nations whom you shall dispossess served their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree. You shall tear down their altars and dash in pieces their pillars and burn their Asherim with fire. You shall chop down the carved images of their gods and destroy their name out of that place. You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way. But you shall seek the place that the LORD your God will choose out of all your tribes to put his name and make his habitation1 there. There you shall go, and there you shall bring your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the contribution that you present, your vow offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herd and of your flock. And there you shall eat before the LORD your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your households, in all that you undertake, in which the LORD your God has blessed you.

“You shall not do according to all that we are doing here today, everyone doing whatever is right in his own eyes, for you have not as yet come to the rest and to the inheritance that the LORD your God is giving you. 10 But when you go over the Jordan and live in the land that the LORD your God is giving you to inherit, and when he gives you rest from all your enemies around, so that you live in safety, 11 then to the place that the LORD your God will choose, to make his name dwell there, there you shall bring all that I command you: your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the contribution that you present, and all your finest vow offerings that you vow to the LORD. 12 And you shall rejoice before the LORD your God, you and your sons and your daughters, your male servants and your female servants, and the Levite that is within your towns, since he has no portion or inheritance with you. 13 Take care that you do not offer your burnt offerings at any place that you see, 14 but at the place that the LORD will choose in one of your tribes, there you shall offer your burnt offerings, and there you shall do all that I am commanding you.

15 “However, you may slaughter and eat meat within any of your towns, as much as you desire, according to the blessing of the LORD your God that he has given you. The unclean and the clean may eat of it, as of the gazelle and as of the deer. 16 Only you shall not eat the blood; you shall pour it out on the earth like water. 17 You may not eat within your towns the tithe of your grain or of your wine or of your oil, or the firstborn of your herd or of your flock, or any of your vow offerings that you vow, or your freewill offerings or the contribution that you present, 18 but you shall eat them before the LORD your God in the place that the LORD your God will choose, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, and the Levite who is within your towns. And you shall rejoice before the LORD your God in all that you undertake. 19 Take care that you do not neglect the Levite as long as you live in your land.

20 “When the LORD your God enlarges your territory, as he has promised you, and you say, ‘I will eat meat,’ because you crave meat, you may eat meat whenever you desire. 21 If the place that the LORD your God will choose to put his name there is too far from you, then you may kill any of your herd or your flock, which the LORD has given you, as I have commanded you, and you may eat within your towns whenever you desire. 22 Just as the gazelle or the deer is eaten, so you may eat of it. The unclean and the clean alike may eat of it. 23 Only be sure that you do not eat the blood, for the blood is the life, and you shall not eat the life with the flesh. 24 You shall not eat it; you shall pour it out on the earth like water. 25 You shall not eat it, that all may go well with you and with your children after you, when you do what is right in the sight of the LORD. 26 But the holy things that are due from you, and your vow offerings, you shall take, and you shall go to the place that the LORD will choose, 27 and offer your burnt offerings, the flesh and the blood, on the altar of the LORD your God. The blood of your sacrifices shall be poured out on the altar of the LORD your God, but the flesh you may eat. 28 Be careful to obey all these words that I command you, that it may go well with you and with your children after you forever, when you do what is good and right in the sight of the LORD your God.

Warning Against Idolatry

29 “When the LORD your God cuts off before you the nations whom you go in to dispossess, and you dispossess them and dwell in their land, 30 take care that you be not ensnared to follow them, after they have been destroyed before you, and that you do not inquire about their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods?—that I also may do the same.’ 31 You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the LORD hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods.

2

32 “Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it.

Footnotes

[1] 12:5 Or name as its habitation
[2] 12:31 Ch 13:1 in Hebrew

(ESV)

Psalms 97-98

The Lord Reigns

97:1   The LORD reigns, let the earth rejoice;
    let the many coastlands be glad!
  Clouds and thick darkness are all around him;
    righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
  Fire goes before him
    and burns up his adversaries all around.
  His lightnings light up the world;
    the earth sees and trembles.
  The mountains melt like wax before the LORD,
    before the Lord of all the earth.
  The heavens proclaim his righteousness,
    and all the peoples see his glory.
  All worshipers of images are put to shame,
    who make their boast in worthless idols;
    worship him, all you gods!
  Zion hears and is glad,
    and the daughters of Judah rejoice,
    because of your judgments, O LORD.
  For you, O LORD, are most high over all the earth;
    you are exalted far above all gods.
10   O you who love the LORD, hate evil!
    He preserves the lives of his saints;
    he delivers them from the hand of the wicked.
11   Light is sown1 for the righteous,
    and joy for the upright in heart.
12   Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous,
    and give thanks to his holy name!

Make a Joyful Noise to the Lord

A Psalm.

98:1   Oh sing to the LORD a new song,
    for he has done marvelous things!
  His right hand and his holy arm
    have worked salvation for him.
  The LORD has made known his salvation;
    he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations.
  He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness
    to the house of Israel.
  All the ends of the earth have seen
    the salvation of our God.
  Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth;
    break forth into joyous song and sing praises!
  Sing praises to the LORD with the lyre,
    with the lyre and the sound of melody!
  With trumpets and the sound of the horn
    make a joyful noise before the King, the LORD!
  Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
    the world and those who dwell in it!
  Let the rivers clap their hands;
    let the hills sing for joy together
  before the LORD, for he comes
    to judge the earth.
  He will judge the world with righteousness,
    and the peoples with equity.

Footnotes

[1] 97:11 Most Hebrew manuscripts; one Hebrew manuscript, Septuagint, Syriac, Jerome Light dawns

(ESV)

Isaiah 40

Comfort for God's People

40:1   Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
  Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
    and cry to her
  that her warfare1 is ended,
    that her iniquity is pardoned,
  that she has received from the LORD's hand
    double for all her sins.
  A voice cries:2
  “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD;
    make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
  Every valley shall be lifted up,
    and every mountain and hill be made low;
  the uneven ground shall become level,
    and the rough places a plain.
  And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
    and all flesh shall see it together,
    for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

The Word of God Stands Forever

  A voice says, “Cry!”
    And I said,3 “What shall I cry?”
  All flesh is grass,
    and all its beauty4 is like the flower of the field.
  The grass withers, the flower fades
    when the breath of the LORD blows on it;
    surely the people are grass.
  The grass withers, the flower fades,
    but the word of our God will stand forever.

The Greatness of God

  Go on up to a high mountain,
    O Zion, herald of good news;5
  lift up your voice with strength,
    O Jerusalem, herald of good news;6
    lift it up, fear not;
  say to the cities of Judah,
    “Behold your God!”
10   Behold, the Lord GOD comes with might,
    and his arm rules for him;
  behold, his reward is with him,
    and his recompense before him.
11   He will tend his flock like a shepherd;
    he will gather the lambs in his arms;
  he will carry them in his bosom,
    and gently lead those that are with young.
12   Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand
    and marked off the heavens with a span,
  enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure
    and weighed the mountains in scales
    and the hills in a balance?
13   Who has measured7 the Spirit of the LORD,
    or what man shows him his counsel?
14   Whom did he consult,
    and who made him understand?
  Who taught him the path of justice,
    and taught him knowledge,
    and showed him the way of understanding?
15   Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket,
    and are accounted as the dust on the scales;
    behold, he takes up the coastlands like fine dust.
16   Lebanon would not suffice for fuel,
    nor are its beasts enough for a burnt offering.
17   All the nations are as nothing before him,
    they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness.
18   To whom then will you liken God,
    or what likeness compare with him?
19   An idol! A craftsman casts it,
    and a goldsmith overlays it with gold
    and casts for it silver chains.
20   He who is too impoverished for an offering
    chooses wood8 that will not rot;
  he seeks out a skillful craftsman
    to set up an idol that will not move.
21   Do you not know? Do you not hear?
    Has it not been told you from the beginning?
    Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?
22   It is he who sits above the circle of the earth,
    and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;
  who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
    and spreads them like a tent to dwell in;
23   who brings princes to nothing,
    and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness.
24   Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown,
    scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth,
  when he blows on them, and they wither,
    and the tempest carries them off like stubble.
25   To whom then will you compare me,
    that I should be like him? says the Holy One.
26   Lift up your eyes on high and see:
    who created these?
  He who brings out their host by number,
    calling them all by name;
  by the greatness of his might
    and because he is strong in power,
    not one is missing.
27   Why do you say, O Jacob,
    and speak, O Israel,
  “My way is hidden from the LORD,
    and my right is disregarded by my God”?
28   Have you not known? Have you not heard?
  The LORD is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
  He does not faint or grow weary;
    his understanding is unsearchable.
29   He gives power to the faint,
    and to him who has no might he increases strength.
30   Even youths shall faint and be weary,
    and young men shall fall exhausted;
31   but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
    they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
  they shall run and not be weary;
    they shall walk and not faint.

Footnotes

[1] 40:2 Or hardship
[2] 40:3 Or A voice of one crying
[3] 40:6 Revocalization based on Dead Sea Scroll, Septuagint, Vulgate; Masoretic Text And someone says
[4] 40:6 Or all its constancy
[5] 40:9 Or O herald of good news to Zion
[6] 40:9 Or O herald of good news to Jerusalem
[7] 40:13 Or has directed
[8] 40:20 Or He chooses valuable wood

(ESV)

Revelation 9

9:1 And the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star fallen from heaven to earth, and he was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit.1 He opened the shaft of the bottomless pit, and from the shaft rose smoke like the smoke of a great furnace, and the sun and the air were darkened with the smoke from the shaft. Then from the smoke came locusts on the earth, and they were given power like the power of scorpions of the earth. They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any green plant or any tree, but only those people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. They were allowed to torment them for five months, but not to kill them, and their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it stings someone. And in those days people will seek death and will not find it. They will long to die, but death will flee from them.

In appearance the locusts were like horses prepared for battle: on their heads were what looked like crowns of gold; their faces were like human faces, their hair like women's hair, and their teeth like lions' teeth; they had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the noise of their wings was like the noise of many chariots with horses rushing into battle. 10 They have tails and stings like scorpions, and their power to hurt people for five months is in their tails. 11 They have as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit. His name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek he is called Apollyon.2

12 The first woe has passed; behold, two woes are still to come.

13 Then the sixth angel blew his trumpet, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar before God, 14 saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.” 15 So the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour, the day, the month, and the year, were released to kill a third of mankind. 16 The number of mounted troops was twice ten thousand times ten thousand; I heard their number. 17 And this is how I saw the horses in my vision and those who rode them: they wore breastplates the color of fire and of sapphire3 and of sulfur, and the heads of the horses were like lions' heads, and fire and smoke and sulfur came out of their mouths. 18 By these three plagues a third of mankind was killed, by the fire and smoke and sulfur coming out of their mouths. 19 For the power of the horses is in their mouths and in their tails, for their tails are like serpents with heads, and by means of them they wound.

20 The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk, 21 nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts.

Footnotes

[1] 9:1 Greek the abyss; also verses 2, 11
[2] 9:11 Abaddon means destruction; Apollyon means destroyer
[3] 9:17 Greek hyacinth

(ESV)