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Today’s Reading

Devotional

How did the canonical Gospels come down to us?

At one level, it is enough to be assured that God provided them. But normally God operates through identifiable means. At no point do the canonical Gospels give the impression that they were handed down from heaven on golden plates, or transcribed by apostles attentive to divine dictation.

Luke provides the most detail as to how he went about his task (Luke 1:1–4). He tells us that “many” had already “undertaken to draw up an account” of Jesus’s life and ministry, in line with what was “handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word” (1:1–2). From this we can infer two things: (a) Luke does not himself claim to be an eyewitness of Jesus. He does claim to be in touch with what the original “eyewitnesses and servants of the word” handed down. (b) By the time he writes, Luke knows that already there are many written reports circulating. This is not surprising. The Jews were a literate race. Every boy learned to read and write. It is inconceivable that no one committed anything to paper in the first years after Jesus’s death, resurrection, and exaltation.

Then Luke tells us he himself “carefully investigated everything from the beginning.” The words suggest that he read the sources, talked with all the principals he could find, and evaluated the reports. We can glimpse at least a little of his method when we read his second volume, the book of Acts. There, by following his movements, we discover that he can be placed in all the early major Christian centers, where he would have the opportunity to talk to all of the earliest Christian leaders, and to read all of the earliest reports and archives. It is not too much of a leap, then, to infer that if Luke the doctor (see Col. 4:14) has some extra information about Mary’s unique pregnancy (Luke 1:26ff.), it is because he looked her up and had some long chats. In due course, then, he chose to write “an orderly account” (1:3).

Two things follow. First, however much the Spirit of God superintended the production of this Gospel, such divine superintendence did not obviate the need for strenuous research and careful work. Second, this method of bringing a canonical book into being is entirely in line with its subject matter: God himself brought the messianic Son of David, the Son of God, into this world (1:35), the eternal invading the temporal, forever assuring that one could talk of him as a witness speaks of what is observed. The transmission of Christian truth necessarily rests, in part, not on mysticism, but on witness.

Genesis 47

Jacob's Family Settles in Goshen

47:1 So Joseph went in and told Pharaoh, “My father and my brothers, with their flocks and herds and all that they possess, have come from the land of Canaan. They are now in the land of Goshen.” And from among his brothers he took five men and presented them to Pharaoh. Pharaoh said to his brothers, “What is your occupation?” And they said to Pharaoh, “Your servants are shepherds, as our fathers were.” They said to Pharaoh, “We have come to sojourn in the land, for there is no pasture for your servants' flocks, for the famine is severe in the land of Canaan. And now, please let your servants dwell in the land of Goshen.” Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Your father and your brothers have come to you. The land of Egypt is before you. Settle your father and your brothers in the best of the land. Let them settle in the land of Goshen, and if you know any able men among them, put them in charge of my livestock.”

Then Joseph brought in Jacob his father and stood him before Pharaoh, and Jacob blessed Pharaoh. And Pharaoh said to Jacob, “How many are the days of the years of your life?” And Jacob said to Pharaoh, “The days of the years of my sojourning are 130 years. Few and evil have been the days of the years of my life, and they have not attained to the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their sojourning.” 10 And Jacob blessed Pharaoh and went out from the presence of Pharaoh. 11 Then Joseph settled his father and his brothers and gave them a possession in the land of Egypt, in the best of the land, in the land of Rameses, as Pharaoh had commanded. 12 And Joseph provided his father, his brothers, and all his father's household with food, according to the number of their dependents.

Joseph and the Famine

13 Now there was no food in all the land, for the famine was very severe, so that the land of Egypt and the land of Canaan languished by reason of the famine. 14 And Joseph gathered up all the money that was found in the land of Egypt and in the land of Canaan, in exchange for the grain that they bought. And Joseph brought the money into Pharaoh's house. 15 And when the money was all spent in the land of Egypt and in the land of Canaan, all the Egyptians came to Joseph and said, “Give us food. Why should we die before your eyes? For our money is gone.” 16 And Joseph answered, “Give your livestock, and I will give you food in exchange for your livestock, if your money is gone.” 17 So they brought their livestock to Joseph, and Joseph gave them food in exchange for the horses, the flocks, the herds, and the donkeys. He supplied them with food in exchange for all their livestock that year. 18 And when that year was ended, they came to him the following year and said to him, “We will not hide from my lord that our money is all spent. The herds of livestock are my lord's. There is nothing left in the sight of my lord but our bodies and our land. 19 Why should we die before your eyes, both we and our land? Buy us and our land for food, and we with our land will be servants to Pharaoh. And give us seed that we may live and not die, and that the land may not be desolate.”

20 So Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh, for all the Egyptians sold their fields, because the famine was severe on them. The land became Pharaoh's. 21 As for the people, he made servants of them1 from one end of Egypt to the other. 22 Only the land of the priests he did not buy, for the priests had a fixed allowance from Pharaoh and lived on the allowance that Pharaoh gave them; therefore they did not sell their land.

23 Then Joseph said to the people, “Behold, I have this day bought you and your land for Pharaoh. Now here is seed for you, and you shall sow the land. 24 And at the harvests you shall give a fifth to Pharaoh, and four fifths shall be your own, as seed for the field and as food for yourselves and your households, and as food for your little ones.” 25 And they said, “You have saved our lives; may it please my lord, we will be servants to Pharaoh.” 26 So Joseph made it a statute concerning the land of Egypt, and it stands to this day, that Pharaoh should have the fifth; the land of the priests alone did not become Pharaoh's.

27 Thus Israel settled in the land of Egypt, in the land of Goshen. And they gained possessions in it, and were fruitful and multiplied greatly. 28 And Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years. So the days of Jacob, the years of his life, were 147 years.

29 And when the time drew near that Israel must die, he called his son Joseph and said to him, “If now I have found favor in your sight, put your hand under my thigh and promise to deal kindly and truly with me. Do not bury me in Egypt, 30 but let me lie with my fathers. Carry me out of Egypt and bury me in their burying place.” He answered, “I will do as you have said.” 31 And he said, “Swear to me”; and he swore to him. Then Israel bowed himself upon the head of his bed.2

Footnotes

[1] 47:21 Samaritan, Septuagint, Vulgate; Hebrew he removed them to the cities
[2] 47:31 Hebrew; Septuagint staff

(ESV)

Luke 1:1–38

Dedication to Theophilus

1:1 Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.

Birth of John the Baptist Foretold

In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah,1 of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.

Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. 11 And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. 13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb. 16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, 17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”

18 And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” 19 And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20 And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” 21 And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple. 22 And when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple. And he kept making signs to them and remained mute. 23 And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home.

24 After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, 25 “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”

Birth of Jesus Foretold

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed2 to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”3 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”4

35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born5 will be called holy—the Son of God. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant6 of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

Footnotes

[1] 1:5 Greek Zacharias
[2] 1:27 That is, legally pledged to be married
[3] 1:28 Some manuscripts add Blessed are you among women!
[4] 1:34 Greek since I do not know a man
[5] 1:35 Some manuscripts add of you
[6] 1:38 Greek bondservant; also verse 48

(ESV)

Job 13

Job Continues: Still I Will Hope in God

13:1   “Behold, my eye has seen all this,
    my ear has heard and understood it.
  What you know, I also know;
    I am not inferior to you.
  But I would speak to the Almighty,
    and I desire to argue my case with God.
  As for you, you whitewash with lies;
    worthless physicians are you all.
  Oh that you would keep silent,
    and it would be your wisdom!
  Hear now my argument
    and listen to the pleadings of my lips.
  Will you speak falsely for God
    and speak deceitfully for him?
  Will you show partiality toward him?
    Will you plead the case for God?
  Will it be well with you when he searches you out?
    Or can you deceive him, as one deceives a man?
10   He will surely rebuke you
    if in secret you show partiality.
11   Will not his majesty terrify you,
    and the dread of him fall upon you?
12   Your maxims are proverbs of ashes;
    your defenses are defenses of clay.
13   “Let me have silence, and I will speak,
    and let come on me what may.
14   Why should I take my flesh in my teeth
    and put my life in my hand?
15   Though he slay me, I will hope in him;1
    yet I will argue my ways to his face.
16   This will be my salvation,
    that the godless shall not come before him.
17   Keep listening to my words,
    and let my declaration be in your ears.
18   Behold, I have prepared my case;
    I know that I shall be in the right.
19   Who is there who will contend with me?
    For then I would be silent and die.
20   Only grant me two things,
    then I will not hide myself from your face:
21   withdraw your hand far from me,
    and let not dread of you terrify me.
22   Then call, and I will answer;
    or let me speak, and you reply to me.
23   How many are my iniquities and my sins?
    Make me know my transgression and my sin.
24   Why do you hide your face
    and count me as your enemy?
25   Will you frighten a driven leaf
    and pursue dry chaff?
26   For you write bitter things against me
    and make me inherit the iniquities of my youth.
27   You put my feet in the stocks
    and watch all my paths;
    you set a limit for2 the soles of my feet.
28   Man3 wastes away like a rotten thing,
    like a garment that is moth-eaten.

Footnotes

[1] 13:15 Or Behold, he will slay me; I have no hope
[2] 13:27 Or you marked
[3] 13:28 Hebrew He

(ESV)

1 Corinthians 1

Greeting

1:1 Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes,

To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Thanksgiving

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge—even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you—so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Divisions in the Church

10 I appeal to you, brothers,1 by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe's people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

Christ the Wisdom and Power of God

18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,

  “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
    and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach2 to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards,3 not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being4 might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him5 you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Footnotes

[1] 1:10 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 verses 11, 26
[2] 1:21 Or the folly of preaching
[3] 1:26 Greek according to the flesh
[4] 1:29 Greek no flesh
[5] 1:30 Greek And from him

(ESV)