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Today’s Reading

Devotional

Joshua 4; Psalms 129-131; Isaiah 64; Matthew 12

FROM OUT OF WHAT KIND OF “depths” is the psalmist crying in Psalm 130:1? In other psalms the sheer despair of the expression is bound up with treasonous “friends” and overt persecution (Ps. 69), or with illness and homesickness (Pss. 6, 42). In this case, however, what has plunged the psalmist into “the depths” is sin and guilt: “If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O LORD, who could stand?” (Ps. 130:3).

Four reflections:

First, this accent on the misery of guilt and the need for forgiveness from God serves as a welcome foil to some of the psalms that ask for vindication on the grounds that the psalmist is fundamentally just or righteous (see meditations of April 10 and 24). Such claims could scarcely be taken absolutely; genuinely righteous people invariably become more aware of their personal guilt and need for forgiveness than those who have become so foul and hard they cannot detect their own shame.

Second, the connection between forgiveness and fear is striking: “But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared” (Ps. 130:4). Perhaps this pair of lines hints that assurance of sins forgiven was at this stage in redemptive history not as robust as it would become this side of the cross. More importantly, the “fear of the Lord” is portrayed as not only the outcome of forgiveness, but one of its goals. It confirms that “fear of the Lord” has less to do with slavish, servile terror (which surely should be decreased by forgiveness, not increased) than with holy reverence. Even so, this reverence has a component of honest fear. When sinners begin to see the magnitude of their sin, and experience the joy of forgiveness, at their best they glimpse what might have been the case had they not been forgiven. Forgiveness engenders relief; ironically, it also engenders sober reflection that settles into reverence and godly fear, for sin can never be taken lightly again, and forgiveness never lightly received.

Third, the psalmist understands that what he needs is not forgiveness in the abstract, but forgiveness from God — for what he wants and needs is reconciliation with God, restored fellowship with God. He waits for the Lord and trusts his promises (Ps. 130:5). He waits like a watchman waits for the dawn through the most frightening hours but with the assurance that the dawn’s breaking is inevitable (Ps. 130:6).

Fourth, what is most precious about this psalm is that even though the culmination of redemption’s plan is still centuries away, the focus is not on the mechanism but on God. “O Israel, put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins” (Ps. 130:7-8).

Joshua 4

Twelve Memorial Stones from the Jordan

4:1 When all the nation had finished passing over the Jordan, the LORD said to Joshua, “Take twelve men from the people, from each tribe a man, and command them, saying, ‘Take twelve stones from here out of the midst of the Jordan, from the very place where the priests' feet stood firmly, and bring them over with you and lay them down in the place where you lodge tonight.’” Then Joshua called the twelve men from the people of Israel, whom he had appointed, a man from each tribe. And Joshua said to them, “Pass on before the ark of the LORD your God into the midst of the Jordan, and take up each of you a stone upon his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the people of Israel, that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever.”

And the people of Israel did just as Joshua commanded and took up twelve stones out of the midst of the Jordan, according to the number of the tribes of the people of Israel, just as the LORD told Joshua. And they carried them over with them to the place where they lodged and laid them down1 there. And Joshua set up2 twelve stones in the midst of the Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests bearing the ark of the covenant had stood; and they are there to this day. 10 For the priests bearing the ark stood in the midst of the Jordan until everything was finished that the LORD commanded Joshua to tell the people, according to all that Moses had commanded Joshua.

The people passed over in haste. 11 And when all the people had finished passing over, the ark of the LORD and the priests passed over before the people. 12 The sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh passed over armed before the people of Israel, as Moses had told them. 13 About 40,000 ready for war passed over before the LORD for battle, to the plains of Jericho. 14 On that day the LORD exalted Joshua in the sight of all Israel, and they stood in awe of him just as they had stood in awe of Moses, all the days of his life.

15 And the LORD said to Joshua, 16 “Command the priests bearing the ark of the testimony to come up out of the Jordan.” 17 So Joshua commanded the priests, “Come up out of the Jordan.” 18 And when the priests bearing the ark of the covenant of the LORD came up from the midst of the Jordan, and the soles of the priests' feet were lifted up on dry ground, the waters of the Jordan returned to their place and overflowed all its banks, as before.

19 The people came up out of the Jordan on the tenth day of the first month, and they encamped at Gilgal on the east border of Jericho. 20 And those twelve stones, which they took out of the Jordan, Joshua set up at Gilgal. 21 And he said to the people of Israel, “When your children ask their fathers in times to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 22 then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.’ 23 For the LORD your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the LORD your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, 24 so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the LORD is mighty, that you may fear the LORD your God forever.”3

Footnotes

[1] 4:8 Or to rest
[2] 4:9 Or Joshua had set up
[3] 4:24 Or all the days

(ESV)

Psalms 129-131

They Have Afflicted Me from My Youth

A Song of Ascents.

129:1   “Greatly1 have they afflicted me from my youth”—
    let Israel now say—
  “Greatly have they afflicted me from my youth,
    yet they have not prevailed against me.
  The plowers plowed upon my back;
    they made long their furrows.”
  The LORD is righteous;
    he has cut the cords of the wicked.
  May all who hate Zion
    be put to shame and turned backward!
  Let them be like the grass on the housetops,
    which withers before it grows up,
  with which the reaper does not fill his hand
    nor the binder of sheaves his arms,
  nor do those who pass by say,
    “The blessing of the LORD be upon you!
    We bless you in the name of the LORD!”

My Soul Waits for the Lord

A Song of Ascents.

130:1   Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD!
    O Lord, hear my voice!
  Let your ears be attentive
    to the voice of my pleas for mercy!
  If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities,
    O Lord, who could stand?
  But with you there is forgiveness,
    that you may be feared.
  I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,
    and in his word I hope;
  my soul waits for the Lord
    more than watchmen for the morning,
    more than watchmen for the morning.
  O Israel, hope in the LORD!
    For with the LORD there is steadfast love,
    and with him is plentiful redemption.
  And he will redeem Israel
    from all his iniquities.

I Have Calmed and Quieted My Soul

A Song of Ascents. Of David.

131:1   O LORD, my heart is not lifted up;
    my eyes are not raised too high;
  I do not occupy myself with things
    too great and too marvelous for me.
  But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
    like a weaned child with its mother;
    like a weaned child is my soul within me.
  O Israel, hope in the LORD
    from this time forth and forevermore.

Footnotes

[1] 129:1 Or Often; also verse 2

(ESV)

Isaiah 64

64:1   Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down,
    that the mountains might quake at your presence—
  1 as when fire kindles brushwood
    and the fire causes water to boil—
  to make your name known to your adversaries,
    and that the nations might tremble at your presence!
  When you did awesome things that we did not look for,
    you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence.
  From of old no one has heard
    or perceived by the ear,
  no eye has seen a God besides you,
    who acts for those who wait for him.
  You meet him who joyfully works righteousness,
    those who remember you in your ways.
  Behold, you were angry, and we sinned;
    in our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved?2
  We have all become like one who is unclean,
    and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.
  We all fade like a leaf,
    and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
  There is no one who calls upon your name,
    who rouses himself to take hold of you;
  for you have hidden your face from us,
    and have made us melt in3 the hand of our iniquities.
  But now, O LORD, you are our Father;
    we are the clay, and you are our potter;
    we are all the work of your hand.
  Be not so terribly angry, O LORD,
    and remember not iniquity forever.
    Behold, please look, we are all your people.
10   Your holy cities have become a wilderness;
    Zion has become a wilderness,
    Jerusalem a desolation.
11   Our holy and beautiful4 house,
    where our fathers praised you,
  has been burned by fire,
    and all our pleasant places have become ruins.
12   Will you restrain yourself at these things, O LORD?
    Will you keep silent, and afflict us so terribly?

Footnotes

[1] 64:2 Ch 64:1 in Hebrew
[2] 64:5 Or in your ways is continuance, that we might be saved
[3] 64:7 Masoretic Text; Septuagint, Syriac, Targum have delivered us into
[4] 64:11 Or holy and glorious

(ESV)

Matthew 12

Jesus Is Lord of the Sabbath

12:1 At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”

A Man with a Withered Hand

He went on from there and entered their synagogue. 10 And a man was there with a withered hand. And they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—so that they might accuse him. 11 He said to them, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” 13 Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And the man stretched it out, and it was restored, healthy like the other. 14 But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.

God's Chosen Servant

15 Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. And many followed him, and he healed them all 16 and ordered them not to make him known. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah:

18   “Behold, my servant whom I have chosen,
    my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased.
  I will put my Spirit upon him,
    and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.
19   He will not quarrel or cry aloud,
    nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets;
20   a bruised reed he will not break,
    and a smoldering wick he will not quench,
  until he brings justice to victory;
21     and in his name the Gentiles will hope.”

Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit

22 Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw. 23 And all the people were amazed, and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” 24 But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.” 25 Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. 26 And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? 27 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 29 Or how can someone enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house. 30 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. 31 Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

A Tree Is Known by Its Fruit

33 “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. 36 I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, 37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

The Sign of Jonah

38 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” 39 But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. 42 The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.

Return of an Unclean Spirit

43 “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none. 44 Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. 45 Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this evil generation.”

Jesus' Mother and Brothers

46 While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers1 stood outside, asking to speak to him.2 48 But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

Footnotes

[1] 12:46 Or brothers and sisters; also verses 48, 49
[2] 12:46 Some manuscripts insert verse 47: Someone told him, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, asking to speak to you”

(ESV)