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Today’s Reading

Devotional: Proverbs 31

Proverbs 31 focuses, in two different ways, on women.

In the first part (Prov. 31:1–9), the text offers us the “Sayings of King Lemuel” (of whom we know very little)—but although these sayings are “of King Lemuel” in the sense that he authorized them or made them known, they are alternatively described as “an oracle his mother taught him” (Prov. 31:1).

These sayings touch on three subjects. (a) Lemuel’s mother strongly encourages her son to avoid fornication. He must not spend his vigor “on those who ruin kings”—and presidents, for that matter. In addition to the ordinary lusts of the flesh, those in power doubtless have additional opportunities to satiate those lusts, along with additional responsibilities. So the right resolve must be taken as a matter of principle early in life. (b) She tells Lemuel to avoid intoxication. In an age before morphine, beer and wine were fine to help those dying or in terrible anguish (Prov. 31:6), but the “help” provided is of the sort that makes you forget yourself and even lose consciousness. Rulers have no right to opt for such escapism, for they are responsible for upholding the law and assisting the oppressed (Prov. 31:4–5). (c) That brings the queen mother to her last theme: King Lemuel must “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves” (Prov. 31:8). High officials should not use their office to feather their nest and grow detached from ordinary people, but to administer fairly and especially to help the neediest and poorest members of society.

The second part of chapter 31 (Prov. 31:10–31) is well known and describes a “wife of noble character.” (It would be easy to show that the book of Proverbs also says quite a bit about the husband of noble character, but the relevant proverbs are not drawn together into one place, as here.) This woman of noble character is someone in whom her husband has full confidence (Prov. 31:11) and who constantly seeks his good (Prov. 31:12). She is industrious, so much so that she contributes to family income and has more than enough left over to help the poor and needy (Prov. 31:13–22). She plans for the long haul, speaks with wisdom, and manages the household well. In the end she is the praise of her children and husband alike. But above all, and beyond the culturally specific descriptions (e.g., she works with wool and flax, and as a farmer’s wife considers a field and buys it), she fears the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge. “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised” (Prov. 31:30).

Devotional: Leviticus 17

Two specifications in Leviticus 17 constrained the ancient Israelite who wished to remain faithful to the covenant.

The first (17:1–9) limited sacrifices to what the mosaic covenant mandates and sanctions. Apparently some Israelites were offering sacrifices in the open fields, wherever they happened to be (17:5). Doubtless some of these were genuinely offered up to the Lord; others easily slid into syncretistic offerings devoted to local pagan deities (17:7). To bring sacrificial practice under the discipline of the tabernacle (and later the temple) was designed simultaneously to eliminate syncretism and to train up the people in the theological structures inherent in the mosaic covenant. Out there in the field it was all too easy to assume that these religious observances would win the favor of God (or the gods!), thereby securing good crops and nice kids. The tabernacle/temple system ideally brought the people under the tutelage of the Levites, teaching the people a better way. God himself had mandated this system. Only prescribed mediators and sacrifices were acceptable. The entire structure was designed to enhance the transcendence of God, to establish and clarify the sheer ugliness and vileness of sin, to demonstrate that a person could be accepted by God only if that sin were atoned for. Moreover, the system had two further advantages. It brought the people together for the thrice-annual festivals in Jerusalem, securing the cohesion of the covenant people; and it prepared the way for the supreme sacrifice in annual sacrifices that trained generations of believers that sin must be paid for in the way God himself prescribes, or there is no hope for any of us.

The second constraint imposed by this chapter (17:10–16) is the prohibition against eating blood. The reason given is specific: “For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life” (17:11). The passage does not ascribe magical powers to blood. After all, the life is not in the blood apart from the rest of the body, and the strong prohibition against eating blood could never be perfectly carried out (since no matter how carefully you drain the blood from an animal there is always a little left). The point is that there is no life in the body where there is no blood; it is the obvious physical element for symbolizing the life itself. To teach the people how only the sacrifice of life could atone for sin — since the punishment of sin is death — it is difficult to imagine a more effective prohibition. We recall its significance every time we participate in the Lord’s Table.

Related Resources

Don’t Let Your Bible Reading Plan Die in Leviticus

Read Leviticus in the shadow of the cross, and you’ll be richly rewarded.

Should Women Preach in Our Churches?

I’ll explain the argument for women preaching as fairly as I can. Then I’ll make a case why the argument fails to convince.

The Proverbs 31 Man

We must not let assumption rebrand Proverbs 31 as a passage applicable only to women and women's ministries tote bags. It speaks volumes to men as well.

Leviticus 17

The Place of Sacrifice

17:1 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron and his sons and to all the people of Israel and say to them, This is the thing that the LORD has commanded. If any one of the house of Israel kills an ox or a lamb or a goat in the camp, or kills it outside the camp, and does not bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting to offer it as a gift to the LORD in front of the tabernacle of the LORD, bloodguilt shall be imputed to that man. He has shed blood, and that man shall be cut off from among his people. This is to the end that the people of Israel may bring their sacrifices that they sacrifice in the open field, that they may bring them to the LORD, to the priest at the entrance of the tent of meeting, and sacrifice them as sacrifices of peace offerings to the LORD. And the priest shall throw the blood on the altar of the LORD at the entrance of the tent of meeting and burn the fat for a pleasing aroma to the LORD. So they shall no more sacrifice their sacrifices to goat demons, after whom they whore. This shall be a statute forever for them throughout their generations.

“And you shall say to them, Any one of the house of Israel, or of the strangers who sojourn among them, who offers a burnt offering or sacrifice and does not bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting to offer it to the LORD, that man shall be cut off from his people.

Laws Against Eating Blood

10 “If any one of the house of Israel or of the strangers who sojourn among them eats any blood, I will set my face against that person who eats blood and will cut him off from among his people. 11 For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life. 12 Therefore I have said to the people of Israel, No person among you shall eat blood, neither shall any stranger who sojourns among you eat blood.

13 “Any one also of the people of Israel, or of the strangers who sojourn among them, who takes in hunting any beast or bird that may be eaten shall pour out its blood and cover it with earth. 14 For the life of every creature1 is its blood: its blood is its life.2 Therefore I have said to the people of Israel, You shall not eat the blood of any creature, for the life of every creature is its blood. Whoever eats it shall be cut off. 15 And every person who eats what dies of itself or what is torn by beasts, whether he is a native or a sojourner, shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and be unclean until the evening; then he shall be clean. 16 But if he does not wash them or bathe his flesh, he shall bear his iniquity.”

Footnotes

[1] 17:14 Hebrew all flesh
[2] 17:14 Hebrew it is in its life

(ESV)

Resources

Don’t Let Your Bible Reading Plan Die in Leviticus

Read Leviticus in the shadow of the cross, and you’ll be richly rewarded.

Should Women Preach in Our Churches?

I’ll explain the argument for women preaching as fairly as I can. Then I’ll make a case why the argument fails to convince.

The Proverbs 31 Man

We must not let assumption rebrand Proverbs 31 as a passage applicable only to women and women's ministries tote bags. It speaks volumes to men as well.

Psalms 20–21

Trust in the Name of the Lord Our God

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.

20:1   May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble!
    May the name of the God of Jacob protect you!
  May he send you help from the sanctuary
    and give you support from Zion!
  May he remember all your offerings
    and regard with favor your burnt sacrifices! Selah
  May he grant you your heart's desire
    and fulfill all your plans!
  May we shout for joy over your salvation,
    and in the name of our God set up our banners!
  May the LORD fulfill all your petitions!
  Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed;
    he will answer him from his holy heaven
    with the saving might of his right hand.
  Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
    but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.
  They collapse and fall,
    but we rise and stand upright.
  O LORD, save the king!
    May he answer us when we call.

The King Rejoices in the Lord's Strength

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.

21:1   O LORD, in your strength the king rejoices,
    and in your salvation how greatly he exults!
  You have given him his heart's desire
    and have not withheld the request of his lips. Selah
  For you meet him with rich blessings;
    you set a crown of fine gold upon his head.
  He asked life of you; you gave it to him,
    length of days forever and ever.
  His glory is great through your salvation;
    splendor and majesty you bestow on him.
  For you make him most blessed forever;1
    you make him glad with the joy of your presence.
  For the king trusts in the LORD,
    and through the steadfast love of the Most High he shall not be moved.
  Your hand will find out all your enemies;
    your right hand will find out those who hate you.
  You will make them as a blazing oven
    when you appear.
  The LORD will swallow them up in his wrath,
    and fire will consume them.
10   You will destroy their descendants from the earth,
    and their offspring from among the children of man.
11   Though they plan evil against you,
    though they devise mischief, they will not succeed.
12   For you will put them to flight;
    you will aim at their faces with your bows.
13   Be exalted, O LORD, in your strength!
    We will sing and praise your power.

Footnotes

[1] 21:6 Or make him a source of blessing forever

(ESV)

Proverbs 31

The Words of King Lemuel

31:1 The words of King Lemuel. An oracle that his mother taught him:

  What are you doing, my son?1 What are you doing, son of my womb?
    What are you doing, son of my vows?
  Do not give your strength to women,
    your ways to those who destroy kings.
  It is not for kings, O Lemuel,
    it is not for kings to drink wine,
    or for rulers to take strong drink,
  lest they drink and forget what has been decreed
    and pervert the rights of all the afflicted.
  Give strong drink to the one who is perishing,
    and wine to those in bitter distress;2
  let them drink and forget their poverty
    and remember their misery no more.
  Open your mouth for the mute,
    for the rights of all who are destitute.3
  Open your mouth, judge righteously,
    defend the rights of the poor and needy.

The Woman Who Fears the Lord

10   4 An excellent wife who can find?
    She is far more precious than jewels.
11   The heart of her husband trusts in her,
    and he will have no lack of gain.
12   She does him good, and not harm,
    all the days of her life.
13   She seeks wool and flax,
    and works with willing hands.
14   She is like the ships of the merchant;
    she brings her food from afar.
15   She rises while it is yet night
    and provides food for her household
    and portions for her maidens.
16   She considers a field and buys it;
    with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
17   She dresses herself5 with strength
    and makes her arms strong.
18   She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.
    Her lamp does not go out at night.
19   She puts her hands to the distaff,
    and her hands hold the spindle.
20   She opens her hand to the poor
    and reaches out her hands to the needy.
21   She is not afraid of snow for her household,
    for all her household are clothed in scarlet.6
22   She makes bed coverings for herself;
    her clothing is fine linen and purple.
23   Her husband is known in the gates
    when he sits among the elders of the land.
24   She makes linen garments and sells them;
    she delivers sashes to the merchant.
25   Strength and dignity are her clothing,
    and she laughs at the time to come.
26   She opens her mouth with wisdom,
    and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
27   She looks well to the ways of her household
    and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28   Her children rise up and call her blessed;
    her husband also, and he praises her:
29   “Many women have done excellently,
    but you surpass them all.”
30   Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
    but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
31   Give her of the fruit of her hands,
    and let her works praise her in the gates.

Footnotes

[1] 31:2 Hebrew What, my son?
[2] 31:6 Hebrew those bitter in soul
[3] 31:8 Hebrew are sons of passing away
[4] 31:10 Verses 10–31 are an acrostic poem, each verse beginning with the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet
[5] 31:17 Hebrew She girds her loins
[6] 31:21 Or in double thickness

(ESV)

1 Timothy 2

Pray for All People

2:1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man1 Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.

I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, 10 but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. 11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.

Footnotes

[1] 2:5 men and man render the same Greek word that is translated people in verses 1 and 4

(ESV)