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Today’s Reading

Devotional: Proverbs 18

A number of Proverbs in this book bear on the matter of disputes. Some deal with the judicial level—e.g., “It is not good to be partial to the wicked or to deprive the innocent of justice” (Prov. 18:5). Again, “The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him” (Prov. 18:17)—a proverb that has application in wider settings than the courtroom. This judicial element is scarcely surprising, since of course Solomon himself was the final court of appeal in his kingdom. But many of these proverbs about disputes have little to do with the judicial system (although even the most private of disputes may go to court—and it may well be that Solomon’s reflections even about private disputes were stimulated by some of the things he saw dragged into court). There are two such proverbs here: Proverbs 18:13, 18.

(1) “He who answers before listening—that is his folly and his shame” (Prov. 18:13). This, of course, invites wide application. We think of those exasperating, aggressive conversationalists who rarely let you finish a sentence or a thought before they interject their own viewpoint. How much worse is the situation when neither side in a dispute really listens to the other side. In rare cases, of course, there is literally nothing to be said in favor of one particular side. But almost always there is at least something to be said for a contrary position, even if on balance it is not all that defensible. But how can you find out if you do not really listen? How can you hope to convince the other party of what you are saying if you cannot give that party the grace of courteous listening? In most disputes, tensions will improve if one party takes the initiative to lower the volume, slow the pace, cool the rhetoric, and humbly try to listen and discover exactly what the other side is saying.

(2) “Casting the lot settles disputes and keeps strong opponents apart” (Prov. 18:18). “Casting the lot” might refer to the priestly function of appealing to the Urim and Thummim for guidance (e.g., Ex. 28:30). But I suspect not. Some disputes become so vicious or so complex that the simplest way of sorting them out is to flip a coin—provided, of course, that both parties will agree to abide by the outcome. Some disputes cannot and should not be resolved in this manner. But where both sides, deep down, acknowledge that their dispute is six of one and half a dozen of the other, this might be the simplest way forward.

Inescapably clear from all this is the Bible’s profound commitment to truth, to integrity in listening and speaking, and to peace as much as to justice.

Devotional: John 21

After the remarkable exchange that reinstates Peter, Jesus quietly tells him that this discipleship will someday cost him his life: “When you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go” (John 21:18). If the prediction itself has some ambiguity, by the time John records it here all ambiguities had disappeared: “Jesus said that to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God” (21:19). Tradition has it, probably rightly, that Peter was martyred in Rome, about the same time that Paul was executed, both under the Emperor Nero, in the first half of the 60’s.

Peter observes “the disciple whom Jesus loved” — none other than John the evangelist — following them as he and Jesus stroll along the beach (20:20). The designation “the disciple whom Jesus loved” should not be taken to mean that Jesus played a nasty game of arbitrary favorites. Small indications suggest that many people who followed Jesus felt specially loved by him. Thus when Lazarus lay seriously ill, his sisters, Mary and Martha, sent a message to Jesus saying, “Lord, the one you love is sick” (11:3). Even after the resurrection and ascension, Jesus’s followers have delighted in his love, his personal love for them. Thus Paul needs only to mention Jesus and the cross, and he may burst into spontaneous praise with an additional subordinate clause: “who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).

In this case, however, there is still something of the old Peter left. Doubtless he was glad to be reinstated, to be charged with feeding Jesus’s lambs and sheep (John 21:15–17). On the other hand, the prospect of an ignominious death was less appealing. So when Peter sees John, he asks, “Lord, what about him?” (21:21).

We are in no position to criticize Peter. Most of us are constantly comparing service records. Green is a not uncommon color among ministers of the gospel. Someone else has it a little easier, so we can explain away his or her superior fruitfulness. Their kids turn out better, their church is a little more prosperous, their evangelism more effective. Alternatively, we achieve a certain amount of “success” and find ourselves looking over our shoulders at those coming behind, making snide remarks about those who will soon displace us. But after all, they’ve had more advantages than we, haven’t they?

It is all so pathetic, so self-focused, so sinful. Jesus tells Peter, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me” (21:22). The diversity of gifts and graces is enormous; the only Master we must please is Jesus.

Related Resources

The Relationship Between Exodus and Leviticus in the Biblical Storyline

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Leviticus 2–3

Laws for Grain Offerings

2:1 “When anyone brings a grain offering as an offering to the LORD, his offering shall be of fine flour. He shall pour oil on it and put frankincense on it and bring it to Aaron's sons the priests. And he shall take from it a handful of the fine flour and oil, with all of its frankincense, and the priest shall burn this as its memorial portion on the altar, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the LORD. But the rest of the grain offering shall be for Aaron and his sons; it is a most holy part of the LORD's food offerings.

“When you bring a grain offering baked in the oven as an offering, it shall be unleavened loaves of fine flour mixed with oil or unleavened wafers smeared with oil. And if your offering is a grain offering baked on a griddle, it shall be of fine flour unleavened, mixed with oil. You shall break it in pieces and pour oil on it; it is a grain offering. And if your offering is a grain offering cooked in a pan, it shall be made of fine flour with oil. And you shall bring the grain offering that is made of these things to the LORD, and when it is presented to the priest, he shall bring it to the altar. And the priest shall take from the grain offering its memorial portion and burn this on the altar, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the LORD. 10 But the rest of the grain offering shall be for Aaron and his sons; it is a most holy part of the LORD's food offerings.

11 “No grain offering that you bring to the LORD shall be made with leaven, for you shall burn no leaven nor any honey as a food offering to the LORD. 12 As an offering of firstfruits you may bring them to the LORD, but they shall not be offered on the altar for a pleasing aroma. 13 You shall season all your grain offerings with salt. You shall not let the salt of the covenant with your God be missing from your grain offering; with all your offerings you shall offer salt.

14 “If you offer a grain offering of firstfruits to the LORD, you shall offer for the grain offering of your firstfruits fresh ears, roasted with fire, crushed new grain. 15 And you shall put oil on it and lay frankincense on it; it is a grain offering. 16 And the priest shall burn as its memorial portion some of the crushed grain and some of the oil with all of its frankincense; it is a food offering to the LORD.

Laws for Peace Offerings

3:1 “If his offering is a sacrifice of peace offering, if he offers an animal from the herd, male or female, he shall offer it without blemish before the LORD. And he shall lay his hand on the head of his offering and kill it at the entrance of the tent of meeting, and Aaron's sons the priests shall throw the blood against the sides of the altar. And from the sacrifice of the peace offering, as a food offering to the LORD, he shall offer the fat covering the entrails and all the fat that is on the entrails, and the two kidneys with the fat that is on them at the loins, and the long lobe of the liver that he shall remove with the kidneys. Then Aaron's sons shall burn it on the altar on top of the burnt offering, which is on the wood on the fire; it is a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the LORD.

“If his offering for a sacrifice of peace offering to the LORD is an animal from the flock, male or female, he shall offer it without blemish. If he offers a lamb for his offering, then he shall offer it before the LORD, lay his hand on the head of his offering, and kill it in front of the tent of meeting; and Aaron's sons shall throw its blood against the sides of the altar. Then from the sacrifice of the peace offering he shall offer as a food offering to the LORD its fat; he shall remove the whole fat tail, cut off close to the backbone, and the fat that covers the entrails and all the fat that is on the entrails 10 and the two kidneys with the fat that is on them at the loins and the long lobe of the liver that he shall remove with the kidneys. 11 And the priest shall burn it on the altar as a food offering to the LORD.

12 “If his offering is a goat, then he shall offer it before the LORD 13 and lay his hand on its head and kill it in front of the tent of meeting, and the sons of Aaron shall throw its blood against the sides of the altar. 14 Then he shall offer from it, as his offering for a food offering to the LORD, the fat covering the entrails and all the fat that is on the entrails 15 and the two kidneys with the fat that is on them at the loins and the long lobe of the liver that he shall remove with the kidneys. 16 And the priest shall burn them on the altar as a food offering with a pleasing aroma. All fat is the LORD's. 17 It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations, in all your dwelling places, that you eat neither fat nor blood.”

(ESV)

John 21

Jesus Appears to Seven Disciples

21:1 After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way. Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards1 off.

When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

Jesus and Peter

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” 19 (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”

Jesus and the Beloved Apostle

20 Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” 21 When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” 22 Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” 23 So the saying spread abroad among the brothers2 that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?”

24 This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true.

25 Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.

Footnotes

[1] 21:8 Greek two hundred cubits; a cubit was about 18 inches or 45 centimeters
[2] 21:23 Or brothers and sisters

(ESV)

Resources

The Relationship Between Exodus and Leviticus in the Biblical Storyline

Jay Sklar, professor of Old Testament at Covenant Seminary, a contributor to the ESV Study Bible, and author of a forthcoming Tyndale commentary on Leviticus, has a very helpful explanation here about the place of Leviticus as the storyline of Scripture unfolds: . . . [I]t is vital to remember that Leviticus is part of a much larger story, especially the one told in Exodus. You could tell that story like this: In Exodus the Lord delivers his people from slavery with mighty signs and wonders (1-15) and brings them to Sinai (16-19), telling them there that they are to...

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Proverbs 18

18:1   Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire;
    he breaks out against all sound judgment.
  A fool takes no pleasure in understanding,
    but only in expressing his opinion.
  When wickedness comes, contempt comes also,
    and with dishonor comes disgrace.
  The words of a man's mouth are deep waters;
    the fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook.
  It is not good to be partial to1 the wicked
    or to deprive the righteous of justice.
  A fool's lips walk into a fight,
    and his mouth invites a beating.
  A fool's mouth is his ruin,
    and his lips are a snare to his soul.
  The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels;
    they go down into the inner parts of the body.
  Whoever is slack in his work
    is a brother to him who destroys.
10   The name of the LORD is a strong tower;
    the righteous man runs into it and is safe.
11   A rich man's wealth is his strong city,
    and like a high wall in his imagination.
12   Before destruction a man's heart is haughty,
    but humility comes before honor.
13   If one gives an answer before he hears,
    it is his folly and shame.
14   A man's spirit will endure sickness,
    but a crushed spirit who can bear?
15   An intelligent heart acquires knowledge,
    and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.
16   A man's gift makes room for him
    and brings him before the great.
17   The one who states his case first seems right,
    until the other comes and examines him.
18   The lot puts an end to quarrels
    and decides between powerful contenders.
19   A brother offended is more unyielding than a strong city,
    and quarreling is like the bars of a castle.
20   From the fruit of a man's mouth his stomach is satisfied;
    he is satisfied by the yield of his lips.
21   Death and life are in the power of the tongue,
    and those who love it will eat its fruits.
22   He who finds a wife finds a good thing
    and obtains favor from the LORD.
23   The poor use entreaties,
    but the rich answer roughly.
24   A man of many companions may come to ruin,
    but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

Footnotes

[1] 18:5 Hebrew to lift the face of

(ESV)

Colossians 1

Greeting

1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,

To the saints and faithful brothers1 in Christ at Colossae:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father.

Thanksgiving and Prayer

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant.2 He is a faithful minister of Christ on your3 behalf and has made known to us your love in the Spirit.

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; 12 giving thanks4 to the Father, who has qualified you5 to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

The Preeminence of Christ

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by6 him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation7 under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

Paul's Ministry to the Church

24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, 25 of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, 26 the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. 27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.

Footnotes

[1] 1:2 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
[2] 1:7 For the contextual rendering of the Greek word sundoulos, see Preface
[3] 1:7 Some manuscripts our
[4] 1:12 Or patience, with joy giving thanks
[5] 1:12 Some manuscripts us
[6] 1:16 That is, by means of; or in
[7] 1:23 Or to every creature

(ESV)