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Today’s Reading

Devotional: Proverbs 22

Several observations on Proverbs 22:

(1) A break occurs after Proverbs 22:16, with a new heading. We now leave behind the proverbs of Solomon and begin the “Sayings of the Wise.” These must have been collected and perhaps circulated independently of the next section, “Further Sayings of the Wise” (Prov. 24:23–34), which is then followed by more of Solomon’s proverbs (Prov. 25:1ff.). Several cultures in the ancient Near East cherished and collected proverbs, and of course this fostered the rise of groups of “wise men” whose best utterances were preserved for posterity.

(2) The proverb “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” (Prov. 22:6) is so well known that it cries out for comment. Recall that a proverb is neither case law nor unqualified promise (review meditation for March 23). When children go wrong, very often the careful observer can spot familial reasons that have contributed to the rebellion. But this is not always the case. Sometimes young people from evidently wonderful families kick the traces. Some return years later; some never do. Good families may produce prodigal sons. This proverb must not be treated as if it were a promise that fails periodically. Rather, it is a proverb: it tells how God has structured reality, and what we should do to conform to it. This is the principle of how families work; it includes no footnotes and mentions no exceptions.

(3) Proverbs 22:29 provides an instance of wisdom that is simply technical skill (see meditation for March 14).

(4) Once more it is worth reflecting on how many proverbs focus on social dynamics of one sort or another and on the desirability of peace, self-control, and restrained speech. “Drive out the mocker, and out goes strife; quarrels and insults are ended” (Prov. 22:10). “Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn his ways and get yourself ensnared” (Prov. 22:24–25).

(5) Several verses in this chapter encourage the reader to remember that biblical proverbs are more than good common sense of a secular sort, with a little piety thrown in. They are deeply grounded in devotion to the living God and to all the revelation he has given. Sometimes the way of framing a proverb makes this reality sing. “Rich and poor have this in common: The LORD is the Maker of them all” (Prov. 22:2). The wise saying is grounded in the doctrine of creation. “The mouth of an adulteress is a deep pit; he who is under the LORD’s wrath will fall into it” (Prov. 22:14). The sexual sin everywhere condemned in this book is now seen as evidence of God’s sovereign wrath.

Devotional: Psalms 7–8

Psalm 7 is the second of fourteen psalms that are linked in the title to some historical event (the first is Ps. 3). We cannot know the details, but clearly David felt terribly betrayed when he was falsely charged by someone close to him who should have known better. We shall focus on the last four verses (7:15-17):

He who is pregnant with evil and conceives trouble gives birth to disillusionment.
He who digs a hole and scoops it out falls into the pit he has made.
The trouble he causes recoils on himself; his violence comes down on his own head.
I will give thanks to the LORD because of his righteousness,
and will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High.

The colorful language makes the point tellingly. Here is someone carefully digging a pit to serve as a trap for someone else — but the digger falls in himself. The first line pictures someone “pregnant with evil” and “conceiv[ing] trouble,” but giving birth not to the trouble they intended to produce, but to (their own) disillusionment. The psalmist then expresses his conviction more straightforwardly in verse 16: “The trouble he causes recoils on himself; his violence comes down on his own head.”

David’s conviction is grounded neither in some impersonal force (“right wins out in the end”) nor in some Pollyanna-like optimism (“I’m sure it will turn out all right”), but in the righteousness of God: “I will give thanks to the LORD because of his righteousness and will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High” (7:17). David is not blind to the injustices of the world, but he lives in a theistic universe where right will finally prevail because God is just.

If we cast our minds more broadly through the pages of Scripture (not to mention our own experience), it is easy to think of instances where the tricks and traps set by evil people recoiled on themselves before they could do any real damage. Haman hangs on the gallows he has prepared for Mordecai. But in many cases judgment falls on the perpetrator in this life, only after he or she has succeeded in doing enormous damage. David could not help but know this: he had been caught himself. He succeeded in sleeping with Bathsheba and murdering her husband Uriah before he was caught, and had to face judgment himself. Judas Iscariot’s life ended horribly, but not before he had betrayed his Master. Ahab faced prophetic wrath, but only after his wicked queen Jezebel had managed to malign Naboth and had him killed in order to steal his vineyard.

But the ultimate sanction is at the last judgment, without which there is no final justice in this universe.

Related Resources

Why Leviticus Can Be Boring

Vern Poythress explains that if you find the repetitiveness of the animal sacrifices somewhat tedious and boring---that's part of the point.

Leviticus 7

7:1 “This is the law of the guilt offering. It is most holy. In the place where they kill the burnt offering they shall kill the guilt offering, and its blood shall be thrown against the sides of the altar. And all its fat shall be offered, the fat tail, the fat that covers the entrails, 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. The priest shall burn them on the altar as a food offering to the LORD; it is a guilt offering. Every male among the priests may eat of it. It shall be eaten in a holy place. It is most holy. The guilt offering is just like the sin offering; there is one law for them. The priest who makes atonement with it shall have it. And the priest who offers any man's burnt offering shall have for himself the skin of the burnt offering that he has offered. And every grain offering baked in the oven and all that is prepared on a pan or a griddle shall belong to the priest who offers it. 10 And every grain offering, mixed with oil or dry, shall be shared equally among all the sons of Aaron.

11 “And this is the law of the sacrifice of peace offerings that one may offer to the LORD. 12 If he offers it for a thanksgiving, then he shall offer with the thanksgiving sacrifice unleavened loaves mixed with oil, unleavened wafers smeared with oil, and loaves of fine flour well mixed with oil. 13 With the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving he shall bring his offering with loaves of leavened bread. 14 And from it he shall offer one loaf from each offering, as a gift to the LORD. It shall belong to the priest who throws the blood of the peace offerings. 15 And the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving shall be eaten on the day of his offering. He shall not leave any of it until the morning. 16 But if the sacrifice of his offering is a vow offering or a freewill offering, it shall be eaten on the day that he offers his sacrifice, and on the next day what remains of it shall be eaten. 17 But what remains of the flesh of the sacrifice on the third day shall be burned up with fire. 18 If any of the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offering is eaten on the third day, he who offers it shall not be accepted, neither shall it be credited to him. It is tainted, and he who eats of it shall bear his iniquity.

19 “Flesh that touches any unclean thing shall not be eaten. It shall be burned up with fire. All who are clean may eat flesh, 20 but the person who eats of the flesh of the sacrifice of the LORD's peace offerings while an uncleanness is on him, that person shall be cut off from his people. 21 And if anyone touches an unclean thing, whether human uncleanness or an unclean beast or any unclean detestable creature, and then eats some flesh from the sacrifice of the LORD's peace offerings, that person shall be cut off from his people.”

22 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 23 “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, You shall eat no fat, of ox or sheep or goat. 24 The fat of an animal that dies of itself and the fat of one that is torn by beasts may be put to any other use, but on no account shall you eat it. 25 For every person who eats of the fat of an animal of which a food offering may be made to the LORD shall be cut off from his people. 26 Moreover, you shall eat no blood whatever, whether of fowl or of animal, in any of your dwelling places. 27 Whoever eats any blood, that person shall be cut off from his people.”

28 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 29 “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, Whoever offers the sacrifice of his peace offerings to the LORD shall bring his offering to the LORD from the sacrifice of his peace offerings. 30 His own hands shall bring the LORD's food offerings. He shall bring the fat with the breast, that the breast may be waved as a wave offering before the LORD. 31 The priest shall burn the fat on the altar, but the breast shall be for Aaron and his sons. 32 And the right thigh you shall give to the priest as a contribution from the sacrifice of your peace offerings. 33 Whoever among the sons of Aaron offers the blood of the peace offerings and the fat shall have the right thigh for a portion. 34 For the breast that is waved and the thigh that is contributed I have taken from the people of Israel, out of the sacrifices of their peace offerings, and have given them to Aaron the priest and to his sons, as a perpetual due from the people of Israel. 35 This is the portion of Aaron and of his sons from the LORD's food offerings, from the day they were presented to serve as priests of the LORD. 36 The LORD commanded this to be given them by the people of Israel, from the day that he anointed them. It is a perpetual due throughout their generations.”

37 This is the law of the burnt offering, of the grain offering, of the sin offering, of the guilt offering, of the ordination offering, and of the peace offering, 38 which the LORD commanded Moses on Mount Sinai, on the day that he commanded the people of Israel to bring their offerings to the LORD, in the wilderness of Sinai.

(ESV)

Psalms 7–8

In You Do I Take Refuge

A Shiggaion1 of David, which he sang to the LORD concerning the words of Cush, a Benjaminite.

7:1   O LORD my God, in you do I take refuge;
    save me from all my pursuers and deliver me,
  lest like a lion they tear my soul apart,
    rending it in pieces, with none to deliver.
  O LORD my God, if I have done this,
    if there is wrong in my hands,
  if I have repaid my friend2 with evil
    or plundered my enemy without cause,
  let the enemy pursue my soul and overtake it,
    and let him trample my life to the ground
    and lay my glory in the dust. Selah
  Arise, O LORD, in your anger;
    lift yourself up against the fury of my enemies;
    awake for me; you have appointed a judgment.
  Let the assembly of the peoples be gathered about you;
    over it return on high.
  The LORD judges the peoples;
    judge me, O LORD, according to my righteousness
    and according to the integrity that is in me.
  Oh, let the evil of the wicked come to an end,
    and may you establish the righteous—
  you who test the minds and hearts,3
    O righteous God!
10   My shield is with God,
    who saves the upright in heart.
11   God is a righteous judge,
    and a God who feels indignation every day.
12   If a man4 does not repent, God5 will whet his sword;
    he has bent and readied his bow;
13   he has prepared for him his deadly weapons,
    making his arrows fiery shafts.
14   Behold, the wicked man conceives evil
    and is pregnant with mischief
    and gives birth to lies.
15   He makes a pit, digging it out,
    and falls into the hole that he has made.
16   His mischief returns upon his own head,
    and on his own skull his violence descends.
17   I will give to the LORD the thanks due to his righteousness,
    and I will sing praise to the name of the LORD, the Most High.

How Majestic Is Your Name

To the choirmaster: according to The Gittith.6 A Psalm of David.

8:1   O LORD, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!
  You have set your glory above the heavens.
    Out of the mouth of babies and infants,
  you have established strength because of your foes,
    to still the enemy and the avenger.
  When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
    the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
  what is man that you are mindful of him,
    and the son of man that you care for him?
  Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings7
    and crowned him with glory and honor.
  You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
    you have put all things under his feet,
  all sheep and oxen,
    and also the beasts of the field,
  the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
    whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
  O LORD, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Footnotes

[1] 7:1 Probably a musical or liturgical term
[2] 7:4 Hebrew the one at peace with me
[3] 7:9 Hebrew the hearts and kidneys
[4] 7:12 Hebrew he
[5] 7:12 Hebrew he
[6] 8:1 Probably a musical or liturgical term
[7] 8:5 Or than God; Septuagint than the angels

(ESV)

Resources

Why Leviticus Can Be Boring

Vern Poythress explains that if you find the repetitiveness of the animal sacrifices somewhat tedious and boring---that's part of the point.

Proverbs 22

22:1   A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches,
    and favor is better than silver or gold.
  The rich and the poor meet together;
    the LORD is the Maker of them all.
  The prudent sees danger and hides himself,
    but the simple go on and suffer for it.
  The reward for humility and fear of the LORD
    is riches and honor and life.1
  Thorns and snares are in the way of the crooked;
    whoever guards his soul will keep far from them.
  Train up a child in the way he should go;
    even when he is old he will not depart from it.
  The rich rules over the poor,
    and the borrower is the slave of the lender.
  Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity,
    and the rod of his fury will fail.
  Whoever has a bountiful2 eye will be blessed,
    for he shares his bread with the poor.
10   Drive out a scoffer, and strife will go out,
    and quarreling and abuse will cease.
11   He who loves purity of heart,
    and whose speech is gracious, will have the king as his friend.
12   The eyes of the LORD keep watch over knowledge,
    but he overthrows the words of the traitor.
13   The sluggard says, “There is a lion outside!
    I shall be killed in the streets!”
14   The mouth of forbidden3 women is a deep pit;
    he with whom the LORD is angry will fall into it.
15   Folly is bound up in the heart of a child,
    but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.
16   Whoever oppresses the poor to increase his own wealth,
    or gives to the rich, will only come to poverty.

Words of the Wise

17   Incline your ear, and hear the words of the wise,
    and apply your heart to my knowledge,
18   for it will be pleasant if you keep them within you,
    if all of them are ready on your lips.
19   That your trust may be in the LORD,
    I have made them known to you today, even to you.
20   Have I not written for you thirty sayings
    of counsel and knowledge,
21   to make you know what is right and true,
    that you may give a true answer to those who sent you?
22   Do not rob the poor, because he is poor,
    or crush the afflicted at the gate,
23   for the LORD will plead their cause
    and rob of life those who rob them.
24   Make no friendship with a man given to anger,
    nor go with a wrathful man,
25   lest you learn his ways
    and entangle yourself in a snare.
26   Be not one of those who give pledges,
    who put up security for debts.
27   If you have nothing with which to pay,
    why should your bed be taken from under you?
28   Do not move the ancient landmark
    that your fathers have set.
29   Do you see a man skillful in his work?
    He will stand before kings;
    he will not stand before obscure men.

Footnotes

[1] 22:4 Or The reward for humility is the fear of the Lord, riches and honor and life
[2] 22:9 Hebrew good
[3] 22:14 Hebrew strange

(ESV)

1 Thessalonians 1

Greeting

1:1 Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy,

To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:

Grace to you and peace.

The Thessalonians' Faith and Example

We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly1 mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers2 loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.

Footnotes

[1] 1:2 Or without ceasing
[2] 1:4 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

(ESV)