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Today’s Reading

Devotional: Proverbs 28

On Proverbs 28, I wish to make two observations:

First, this chapter, typical of others in this book, devotes considerable attention to rulers. “When a country is rebellious, it has many rulers, but a man of understanding and knowledge maintains order” (Prov. 28:2). This acknowledges the joint responsibility of ruler and people. “When the righteous triumph, there is great elation; but when the wicked rise to power, men go into hiding” (Prov. 28:12; cf. also Prov. 28:28). The skills of ruling are never merely administrative and personal, but are tied to the deepest questions of public justice. “Like a roaring lion or a charging bear is a wicked man ruling over a helpless people” (Prov. 28:15). This puts a similar thought in highly dramatic form. “A tyrannical ruler lacks judgment, but he who hates ill-gotten gain will enjoy a long life” (Prov. 28:16). This reflects the danger of corruption in any government, especially one that is unconstrained by competing branches and electoral limitations. Indeed, this passage puts into proverbial form something more comprehensively set out in Deuteronomy 17:18–20.

Second, people sometimes charge that the Bible’s Wisdom Literature seems so cut off from the rest of the Bible’s plot-line that they do not know how to integrate it with the whole. Sermons and Bible studies on Proverbs or Ecclesiastes are always in danger of degenerating into thin moralizing that could easily be slotted into some other religious framework. One understands the problem, but there are more links between Wisdom Literature and the rest of the canon than is sometimes acknowledged. From this chapter I mention three:

(1) Rather exceptionally, three times this chapter refers to the Law of God. “Those who forsake the law praise the wicked, but those who keep the law resist them” (Prov. 28:4)—which illustrates the social implications of law-keeping. “He who keeps the law is a discerning son, but a companion of gluttons disgraces his father” (Prov. 28:7)—a contrast both startling and suggestive. “If anyone turns a deaf ear to the law, even his prayers are detestable” (Prov. 28:9)—which demonstrates that under the terms of the old covenant, faithfulness to God was shown in obedience to the Law.

(2) “He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy” (Prov. 28:13)—with dramatic echoes and advances in
1 John 1:9.

(3) “A rich man may be wise in his own eyes, but a poor man who has discernment sees through him” (Prov. 28:11); “A greedy man stirs up dissension, but he who trusts in the LORD will prosper” (Prov. 28:25). Read James.

Devotional: Psalm 17

Psalm 17 is a prayer for vindication. Certainly David knows that he is not always righteous (see Ps. 51!). But in particular circumstances, the believing man or woman may well be certain that he or she has acted with utter integrity, with transparent righteousness. That is the case with David here. If in such instances opponents lie about you or set up a whisper campaign, if like a lion on the prowl they try to hunt you down (17:10–12), what are the righteous to do?

The first thing necessary is a humble pursuit of the God who vindicates. Indeed, David hopes not only for ultimate vindication, but for something more immediate: “Rise up, O LORD, confront them, bring them down; rescue me from the wicked by your sword” (17:13). Even so, he recognizes that to ask for vindication from this sort of God places him on the side of those who do not simply belong to this world: “O LORD, by your hand save me from such men, from men of this world whose reward is in this life” (17:14, italics added).

Since God remains sovereign, vindication can only finally come from God: “May my vindication come from you; may your eyes see what is right” (17:2). Indeed, David appeals to God’s faithful love for his own: “Show the wonder of your great love, you who save by your right hand those who take refuge in you from their foes” (17:7).

These are all important lessons, repeated, in whole or in part, many times in the Bible. Thus we find the apostle Paul telling the Roman believers, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay’ [Deut. 32:35], says the Lord” (Rom. 12:17–19, italics added).

This is a lesson believers must constantly relearn and apply to themselves. It is easy enough to absorb it when things are going well. But when church members are unfairly attacking your ministry, when gossips are undermining your position in the company for their own advantage, when colleagues in the university department invariably attach the ugliest motives to everything you say and do — that is the test for leaving things in the hands of the God whose care for his own and whose passion for justice ensure final vindication.

And such faith brings us relief from stress: “And I — in righteousness I will see your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness” (17:15).

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Leviticus 14

Laws for Cleansing Lepers

14:1 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “This shall be the law of the leprous person for the day of his cleansing. He shall be brought to the priest, and the priest shall go out of the camp, and the priest shall look. Then, if the case of leprous disease is healed in the leprous person, the priest shall command them to take for him who is to be cleansed two live1 clean birds and cedarwood and scarlet yarn and hyssop. And the priest shall command them to kill one of the birds in an earthenware vessel over fresh2 water. He shall take the live bird with the cedarwood and the scarlet yarn and the hyssop, and dip them and the live bird in the blood of the bird that was killed over the fresh water. And he shall sprinkle it seven times on him who is to be cleansed of the leprous disease. Then he shall pronounce him clean and shall let the living bird go into the open field. And he who is to be cleansed shall wash his clothes and shave off all his hair and bathe himself in water, and he shall be clean. And after that he may come into the camp, but live outside his tent seven days. And on the seventh day he shall shave off all his hair from his head, his beard, and his eyebrows. He shall shave off all his hair, and then he shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in water, and he shall be clean.

10 “And on the eighth day he shall take two male lambs without blemish, and one ewe lamb a year old without blemish, and a grain offering of three tenths of an ephah3 of fine flour mixed with oil, and one log4 of oil. 11 And the priest who cleanses him shall set the man who is to be cleansed and these things before the LORD, at the entrance of the tent of meeting. 12 And the priest shall take one of the male lambs and offer it for a guilt offering, along with the log of oil, and wave them for a wave offering before the LORD. 13 And he shall kill the lamb in the place where they kill the sin offering and the burnt offering, in the place of the sanctuary. For the guilt offering, like the sin offering, belongs to the priest; it is most holy. 14 The priest shall take some of the blood of the guilt offering, and the priest shall put it on the lobe of the right ear of him who is to be cleansed and on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot. 15 Then the priest shall take some of the log of oil and pour it into the palm of his own left hand 16 and dip his right finger in the oil that is in his left hand and sprinkle some oil with his finger seven times before the LORD. 17 And some of the oil that remains in his hand the priest shall put on the lobe of the right ear of him who is to be cleansed and on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot, on top of the blood of the guilt offering. 18 And the rest of the oil that is in the priest's hand he shall put on the head of him who is to be cleansed. Then the priest shall make atonement for him before the LORD. 19 The priest shall offer the sin offering, to make atonement for him who is to be cleansed from his uncleanness. And afterward he shall kill the burnt offering. 20 And the priest shall offer the burnt offering and the grain offering on the altar. Thus the priest shall make atonement for him, and he shall be clean.

21 “But if he is poor and cannot afford so much, then he shall take one male lamb for a guilt offering to be waved, to make atonement for him, and a tenth of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil for a grain offering, and a log of oil; 22 also two turtledoves or two pigeons, whichever he can afford. The one shall be a sin offering and the other a burnt offering. 23 And on the eighth day he shall bring them for his cleansing to the priest, to the entrance of the tent of meeting, before the LORD. 24 And the priest shall take the lamb of the guilt offering and the log of oil, and the priest shall wave them for a wave offering before the LORD. 25 And he shall kill the lamb of the guilt offering. And the priest shall take some of the blood of the guilt offering and put it on the lobe of the right ear of him who is to be cleansed, and on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot. 26 And the priest shall pour some of the oil into the palm of his own left hand, 27 and shall sprinkle with his right finger some of the oil that is in his left hand seven times before the LORD. 28 And the priest shall put some of the oil that is in his hand on the lobe of the right ear of him who is to be cleansed and on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot, in the place where the blood of the guilt offering was put. 29 And the rest of the oil that is in the priest's hand he shall put on the head of him who is to be cleansed, to make atonement for him before the LORD. 30 And he shall offer, of the turtledoves or pigeons, whichever he can afford, 31 one5 for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering, along with a grain offering. And the priest shall make atonement before the LORD for him who is being cleansed. 32 This is the law for him in whom is a case of leprous disease, who cannot afford the offerings for his cleansing.”

Laws for Cleansing Houses

33 The LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, 34 “When you come into the land of Canaan, which I give you for a possession, and I put a case of leprous disease in a house in the land of your possession, 35 then he who owns the house shall come and tell the priest, ‘There seems to me to be some case of disease in my house.’ 36 Then the priest shall command that they empty the house before the priest goes to examine the disease, lest all that is in the house be declared unclean. And afterward the priest shall go in to see the house. 37 And he shall examine the disease. And if the disease is in the walls of the house with greenish or reddish spots, and if it appears to be deeper than the surface, 38 then the priest shall go out of the house to the door of the house and shut up the house seven days. 39 And the priest shall come again on the seventh day, and look. If the disease has spread in the walls of the house, 40 then the priest shall command that they take out the stones in which is the disease and throw them into an unclean place outside the city. 41 And he shall have the inside of the house scraped all around, and the plaster that they scrape off they shall pour out in an unclean place outside the city. 42 Then they shall take other stones and put them in the place of those stones, and he shall take other plaster and plaster the house.

43 “If the disease breaks out again in the house, after he has taken out the stones and scraped the house and plastered it, 44 then the priest shall go and look. And if the disease has spread in the house, it is a persistent leprous disease in the house; it is unclean. 45 And he shall break down the house, its stones and timber and all the plaster of the house, and he shall carry them out of the city to an unclean place. 46 Moreover, whoever enters the house while it is shut up shall be unclean until the evening, 47 and whoever sleeps in the house shall wash his clothes, and whoever eats in the house shall wash his clothes.

48 “But if the priest comes and looks, and if the disease has not spread in the house after the house was plastered, then the priest shall pronounce the house clean, for the disease is healed. 49 And for the cleansing of the house he shall take two small birds, with cedarwood and scarlet yarn and hyssop, 50 and shall kill one of the birds in an earthenware vessel over fresh water 51 and shall take the cedarwood and the hyssop and the scarlet yarn, along with the live bird, and dip them in the blood of the bird that was killed and in the fresh water and sprinkle the house seven times. 52 Thus he shall cleanse the house with the blood of the bird and with the fresh water and with the live bird and with the cedarwood and hyssop and scarlet yarn. 53 And he shall let the live bird go out of the city into the open country. So he shall make atonement for the house, and it shall be clean.”

54 This is the law for any case of leprous disease: for an itch, 55 for leprous disease in a garment or in a house, 56 and for a swelling or an eruption or a spot, 57 to show when it is unclean and when it is clean. This is the law for leprous disease.

Footnotes

[1] 14:4 Or wild
[2] 14:5 Or running; Hebrew living; also verses 6, 50, 51, 52
[3] 14:10 An ephah was about 3/5 bushel or 22 liters
[4] 14:10 A log was about 1/3 quart or 0.3 liter
[5] 14:31 Septuagint, Syriac; Hebrew afford, 31such as he can afford, one

(ESV)

Psalm 17

In the Shadow of Your Wings

A Prayer of David.

17:1   Hear a just cause, O LORD; attend to my cry!
    Give ear to my prayer from lips free of deceit!
  From your presence let my vindication come!
    Let your eyes behold the right!
  You have tried my heart, you have visited me by night,
    you have tested me, and you will find nothing;
    I have purposed that my mouth will not transgress.
  With regard to the works of man, by the word of your lips
    I have avoided the ways of the violent.
  My steps have held fast to your paths;
    my feet have not slipped.
  I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God;
    incline your ear to me; hear my words.
  Wondrously show1 your steadfast love,
    O Savior of those who seek refuge
    from their adversaries at your right hand.
  Keep me as the apple of your eye;
    hide me in the shadow of your wings,
  from the wicked who do me violence,
    my deadly enemies who surround me.
10   They close their hearts to pity;
    with their mouths they speak arrogantly.
11   They have now surrounded our steps;
    they set their eyes to cast us to the ground.
12   He is like a lion eager to tear,
    as a young lion lurking in ambush.
13   Arise, O LORD! Confront him, subdue him!
    Deliver my soul from the wicked by your sword,
14   from men by your hand, O LORD,
    from men of the world whose portion is in this life.2
  You fill their womb with treasure;3
    they are satisfied with children,
    and they leave their abundance to their infants.
15   As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness;
    when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness.

Footnotes

[1] 17:7 Or Distinguish me by
[2] 17:14 Or from men whose portion in life is of the world
[3] 17:14 Or As for your treasured ones, you fill their womb

(ESV)

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Proverbs 28

28:1   The wicked flee when no one pursues,
    but the righteous are bold as a lion.
  When a land transgresses, it has many rulers,
    but with a man of understanding and knowledge,
    its stability will long continue.
  A poor man who oppresses the poor
    is a beating rain that leaves no food.
  Those who forsake the law praise the wicked,
    but those who keep the law strive against them.
  Evil men do not understand justice,
    but those who seek the LORD understand it completely.
  Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity
    than a rich man who is crooked in his ways.
  The one who keeps the law is a son with understanding,
    but a companion of gluttons shames his father.
  Whoever multiplies his wealth by interest and profit1
    gathers it for him who is generous to the poor.
  If one turns away his ear from hearing the law,
    even his prayer is an abomination.
10   Whoever misleads the upright into an evil way
    will fall into his own pit,
    but the blameless will have a goodly inheritance.
11   A rich man is wise in his own eyes,
    but a poor man who has understanding will find him out.
12   When the righteous triumph, there is great glory,
    but when the wicked rise, people hide themselves.
13   Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper,
    but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.
14   Blessed is the one who fears the LORD2 always,
    but whoever hardens his heart will fall into calamity.
15   Like a roaring lion or a charging bear
    is a wicked ruler over a poor people.
16   A ruler who lacks understanding is a cruel oppressor,
    but he who hates unjust gain will prolong his days.
17   If one is burdened with the blood of another,
    he will be a fugitive until death;3
    let no one help him.
18   Whoever walks in integrity will be delivered,
    but he who is crooked in his ways will suddenly fall.
19   Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread,
    but he who follows worthless pursuits will have plenty of poverty.
20   A faithful man will abound with blessings,
    but whoever hastens to be rich will not go unpunished.
21   To show partiality is not good,
    but for a piece of bread a man will do wrong.
22   A stingy man4 hastens after wealth
    and does not know that poverty will come upon him.
23   Whoever rebukes a man will afterward find more favor
    than he who flatters with his tongue.
24   Whoever robs his father or his mother
    and says, “That is no transgression,”
    is a companion to a man who destroys.
25   A greedy man stirs up strife,
    but the one who trusts in the LORD will be enriched.
26   Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool,
    but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.
27   Whoever gives to the poor will not want,
    but he who hides his eyes will get many a curse.
28   When the wicked rise, people hide themselves,
    but when they perish, the righteous increase.

Footnotes

[1] 28:8 That is, profit that comes from charging interest to the poor
[2] 28:14 Hebrew lacks the Lord
[3] 28:17 Hebrew until the pit
[4] 28:22 Hebrew A man whose eye is evil

(ESV)

2 Thessalonians 2

The Man of Lawlessness

2:1 Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers,1 not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness2 is revealed, the son of destruction,3 who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming. The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, 10 and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11 Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, 12 in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

Stand Firm

13 But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits4 to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. 14 To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15 So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.

16 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, 17 comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.

Footnotes

[1] 2:1 Or brothers and sisters; also verses 13, 15
[2] 2:3 Some manuscripts sin
[3] 2:3 Greek the son of perdition (a Hebrew idiom)
[4] 2:13 Some manuscripts chose you from the beginning

(ESV)

Resources

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