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

Today’s Reading

Devotional

The first verse of Psalm 127 is often quoted today: “Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain.” In an age of overpopulation, we less often cite verse 3: “Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him.” We may gain some helpful perspective by observing four things.

First, in Hebrew the psalm deploys a couple of word plays that are lost in English, and these plays give pointers as to how to read the psalm. The word house (Ps. 127:1) can refer to a building. By extension, this is then applied to the city in a metaphorical sense (Ps. 127:1b–3). More importantly, house can also refer to a household, built up in this case by the blessing of children (Ps. 127:3–5). Moreover, builders and sons sound very similar in Hebrew.

Second, this suggests that the unifying theme through the superficially disparate parts of the psalm is that in every sphere of life only the blessing and provision of God can bring about a successful outcome. At the most mechanical level of building a house, this is true. God gives strength to the workers; he sustains them in life; he restrains himself from sending a catastrophic storm that would tear the structure down; countless surprises may be avoided (unsafe concrete, a quagmire under the topsoil, “accidents” that take out workers, and countless more).

The same principle is true in the basic defensive operation of watching over a city wall, or defending a nation with a radar system: if God sustains you, your defense will suffice, and if he does not, then no matter how professional and expensive it is, it will prove inadequate. In the home, procreation is a “natural” function, but in a providentially ordered world, children are an inheritance from the Lord. The lesson to be learned is not passivity, but trust and rest, a godly lowering of frenzied labor (Ps. 127:2).

Third, Psalm 127 stands among the songs of ascent precisely because the pilgrimage up to Jerusalem in observance of the covenantally prescribed feasts provides an excellent occasion to reflect on God’s gracious provision in every area of life (compare also Ps. 128).

Fourth, alone among the songs of ascent this one is ascribed to Solomon. Sadly, Solomon is a figure whose great wisdom was sometimes not followed in his own life: his own building program, both physical and metaphorical, became foolish (1 Kings 9:10–19), his kingdom a ruin (1 Kings 11:11–13; see the October 8 meditation), and his household — not least his multiplied pagan marriages — a systematic denial of the claims of the living God (1 Kings 11:1–9). How important to ask God for the grace to live up to what we understand!

Joshua 3

Israel Crosses the Jordan

3:1 Then Joshua rose early in the morning and they set out from Shittim. And they came to the Jordan, he and all the people of Israel, and lodged there before they passed over. At the end of three days the officers went through the camp and commanded the people, “As soon as you see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God being carried by the Levitical priests, then you shall set out from your place and follow it. Yet there shall be a distance between you and it, about 2,000 cubits1 in length. Do not come near it, in order that you may know the way you shall go, for you have not passed this way before.” Then Joshua said to the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you.” And Joshua said to the priests, “Take up the ark of the covenant and pass on before the people.” So they took up the ark of the covenant and went before the people.

The LORD said to Joshua, “Today I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. And as for you, command the priests who bear the ark of the covenant, ‘When you come to the brink of the waters of the Jordan, you shall stand still in the Jordan.’” And Joshua said to the people of Israel, “Come here and listen to the words of the LORD your God.” 10 And Joshua said, “Here is how you shall know that the living God is among you and that he will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Hivites, the Perizzites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, and the Jebusites. 11 Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth2 is passing over before you into the Jordan. 12 Now therefore take twelve men from the tribes of Israel, from each tribe a man. 13 And when the soles of the feet of the priests bearing the ark of the LORD, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan shall be cut off from flowing, and the waters coming down from above shall stand in one heap.”

14 So when the people set out from their tents to pass over the Jordan with the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people, 15 and as soon as those bearing the ark had come as far as the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the brink of the water (now the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest), 16 the waters coming down from above stood and rose up in a heap very far away, at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan, and those flowing down toward the Sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, were completely cut off. And the people passed over opposite Jericho. 17 Now the priests bearing the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firmly on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan, and all Israel was passing over on dry ground until all the nation finished passing over the Jordan.

Footnotes

[1] 3:4 A cubit was about 18 inches or 45 centimeters
[2] 3:11 Hebrew the ark of the covenant, the Lord of all the earth

(ESV)

Psalms 126–128

Restore Our Fortunes, O Lord

A Song of Ascents.

126:1   When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion,
    we were like those who dream.
  Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
    and our tongue with shouts of joy;
  then they said among the nations,
    “The LORD has done great things for them.”
  The LORD has done great things for us;
    we are glad.
  Restore our fortunes, O LORD,
    like streams in the Negeb!
  Those who sow in tears
    shall reap with shouts of joy!
  He who goes out weeping,
    bearing the seed for sowing,
  shall come home with shouts of joy,
    bringing his sheaves with him.

Unless the Lord Builds the House

A Song of Ascents. Of Solomon.

127:1   Unless the LORD builds the house,
    those who build it labor in vain.
  Unless the LORD watches over the city,
    the watchman stays awake in vain.
  It is in vain that you rise up early
    and go late to rest,
  eating the bread of anxious toil;
    for he gives to his beloved sleep.
  Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD,
    the fruit of the womb a reward.
  Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
    are the children1 of one's youth.
  Blessed is the man
    who fills his quiver with them!
  He shall not be put to shame
    when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.2

Blessed Is Everyone Who Fears the Lord

A Song of Ascents.

128:1   Blessed is everyone who fears the LORD,
    who walks in his ways!
  You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands;
    you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you.
  Your wife will be like a fruitful vine
    within your house;
  your children will be like olive shoots
    around your table.
  Behold, thus shall the man be blessed
    who fears the LORD.
  The LORD bless you from Zion!
    May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem
    all the days of your life!
  May you see your children's children!
    Peace be upon Israel!

Footnotes

[1] 127:4 Or sons
[2] 127:5 Or They shall not be put to shame when they speak with their enemies in the gate

(ESV)

Isaiah 63

The Lord's Day of Vengeance

63:1   Who is this who comes from Edom,
    in crimsoned garments from Bozrah,
  he who is splendid in his apparel,
    marching in the greatness of his strength?
  “It is I, speaking in righteousness,
    mighty to save.”
  Why is your apparel red,
    and your garments like his who treads in the winepress?
  “I have trodden the winepress alone,
    and from the peoples no one was with me;
  I trod them in my anger
    and trampled them in my wrath;
  their lifeblood1 spattered on my garments,
    and stained all my apparel.
  For the day of vengeance was in my heart,
    and my year of redemption2 had come.
  I looked, but there was no one to help;
    I was appalled, but there was no one to uphold;
  so my own arm brought me salvation,
    and my wrath upheld me.
  I trampled down the peoples in my anger;
    I made them drunk in my wrath,
    and I poured out their lifeblood on the earth.”

The Lord's Mercy Remembered

  I will recount the steadfast love of the LORD,
    the praises of the LORD,
  according to all that the LORD has granted us,
    and the great goodness to the house of Israel
  that he has granted them according to his compassion,
    according to the abundance of his steadfast love.
  For he said, “Surely they are my people,
    children who will not deal falsely.”
    And he became their Savior.
  In all their affliction he was afflicted,3
    and the angel of his presence saved them;
  in his love and in his pity he redeemed them;
    he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.
10   But they rebelled
    and grieved his Holy Spirit;
  therefore he turned to be their enemy,
    and himself fought against them.
11   Then he remembered the days of old,
    of Moses and his people.4
  Where is he who brought them up out of the sea
    with the shepherds of his flock?
  Where is he who put in the midst of them
    his Holy Spirit,
12   who caused his glorious arm
    to go at the right hand of Moses,
  who divided the waters before them
    to make for himself an everlasting name,
13     who led them through the depths?
  Like a horse in the desert,
    they did not stumble.
14   Like livestock that go down into the valley,
    the Spirit of the LORD gave them rest.
  So you led your people,
    to make for yourself a glorious name.

Prayer for Mercy

15   Look down from heaven and see,
    from your holy and beautiful5 habitation.
  Where are your zeal and your might?
    The stirring of your inner parts and your compassion
    are held back from me.
16   For you are our Father,
    though Abraham does not know us,
    and Israel does not acknowledge us;
  you, O LORD, are our Father,
    our Redeemer from of old is your name.
17   O LORD, why do you make us wander from your ways
    and harden our heart, so that we fear you not?
  Return for the sake of your servants,
    the tribes of your heritage.
18   Your holy people held possession for a little while;6
    our adversaries have trampled down your sanctuary.
19   We have become like those over whom you have never ruled,
    like those who are not called by your name.

Footnotes

[1] 63:3 Or their juice; also verse 6
[2] 63:4 Or the year of my redeemed
[3] 63:9 Or he did not afflict
[4] 63:11 Or Then his people remembered the days of old, of Moses
[5] 63:15 Or holy and glorious
[6] 63:18 Or They have dispossessed your holy people for a little while

(ESV)

Matthew 11

Messengers from John the Baptist

11:1 When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in their cities.

Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers1 are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? A man2 dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings' houses. What then did you go out to see? A prophet?3 Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is he of whom it is written,

  “‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
    who will prepare your way before you.’

11 Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12 From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence,4 and the violent take it by force. 13 For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, 14 and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. 15 He who has ears to hear,5 let him hear.

16 “But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates,

17   “‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
    we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’

18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.”6

Woe to Unrepentant Cities

20 Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.”

Come to Me, and I Will Give You Rest

25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.7 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Footnotes

[1] 11:5 Leprosy was a term for several skin diseases; see Leviticus 13
[2] 11:8 Or Why then did you go out? To see a man . . .
[3] 11:9 Some manuscripts Why then did you go out? To see a prophet?
[4] 11:12 Or has been coming violently
[5] 11:15 Some manuscripts omit to hear
[6] 11:19 Some manuscripts children (compare Luke 7:35)
[7] 11:26 Or for so it pleased you well

(ESV)

Resources

Look at a River, Learn About God

A river is a classic example of how God’s creation helps us understand truths about him. Here are three.

From OT Baptisms to the Cross: Behold Your Escalating Bible

The baptism of Noah, then Moses, then Joshua, then Jonah, then Jesus. What Good Friday is all about.

What Your Kids Need from You

Parents, here is your desperation, your goal, your resources, and your hope.