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Today’s Reading

Devotional

At the beginning of the American experiment in democracy, the Founding Fathers adopted several stances, accepted by few today, that were deeply indebted to the Judeo-Christian heritage. This is not to say that the Founding Fathers were all Christians. Many weren’t; they were vague deists. But among these biblical assumptions was the belief that human beings are not naturally good and have potential for enormous evil.

For that reason, when the Fathers constructed their political system, they never appealed to “the wisdom of the American people” or similar slogans common today. Frankly, they were a little nervous about giving too much power to the masses. That is why there was no direct election of the president: there was an intervening “college.” Only (white) men with a stake in the country could vote. Even then, the branches of government were to be limited by a system of checks and balances, because for the Fathers, populist demagoguery was as frightening as absolute monarchy (as we saw in another connection on January 20).

Certainly one of the great advantages of almost any system of genuine democracy (genuine in this context presupposes a viable opposition, freedom of the press, and largely uncorrupted voting) is that it provides the masses with the power to turf out leaders who disillusion us. In that sense, democracy still works: government must be by the consent of the governed. Yet the primitive heritage has so dissipated today that politicians from all sides appeal to the wisdom of the people. Manipulated by the media, voting their pocketbooks, supporting sectional interests or monofocal issues, voters in America and other Western democracies do not show very great signs of transcendent wisdom. Worse, we labor under the delusion (indeed, we foster the delusion) that somehow things will be all right provided lots of people vote. Our system of government is our new Tower of Babel: it is supposed to make us impregnable. The Soviet empire totters; other nations crumble into the dust, Balkanized, destroyed by civil war, tribal genocide, grinding poverty, endemic corruption, Marxist or some other ideology. Not us. We belong to a democracy, “rule by the people.”

Not for a moment should we depreciate the relative good of living in a country with a relatively high level of income, a stable government, and some accountability. But such blessings do not guarantee righteousness. “The LORD reigns forever; he has established his throne for judgment. He will judge the world in righteousness; he will govern the peoples with justice” (Ps. 9:7–8).

Hear the voice of Scripture: “Arise, O LORD, let not man triumph; let the nations be judged in your presence. Strike them with terror, O LORD; let the nations know they are but men” (Ps. 9:19–20).

Leviticus 8

Consecration of Aaron and His Sons

8:1 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Take Aaron and his sons with him, and the garments and the anointing oil and the bull of the sin offering and the two rams and the basket of unleavened bread. And assemble all the congregation at the entrance of the tent of meeting.” And Moses did as the LORD commanded him, and the congregation was assembled at the entrance of the tent of meeting.

And Moses said to the congregation, “This is the thing that the LORD has commanded to be done.” And Moses brought Aaron and his sons and washed them with water. And he put the coat on him and tied the sash around his waist and clothed him with the robe and put the ephod on him and tied the skillfully woven band of the ephod around him, binding it to him with the band.1 And he placed the breastpiece on him, and in the breastpiece he put the Urim and the Thummim. And he set the turban on his head, and on the turban, in front, he set the golden plate, the holy crown, as the LORD commanded Moses.

10 Then Moses took the anointing oil and anointed the tabernacle and all that was in it, and consecrated them. 11 And he sprinkled some of it on the altar seven times, and anointed the altar and all its utensils and the basin and its stand, to consecrate them. 12 And he poured some of the anointing oil on Aaron's head and anointed him to consecrate him. 13 And Moses brought Aaron's sons and clothed them with coats and tied sashes around their waists and bound caps on them, as the LORD commanded Moses.

14 Then he brought the bull of the sin offering, and Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the head of the bull of the sin offering. 15 And he2 killed it, and Moses took the blood, and with his finger put it on the horns of the altar around it and purified the altar and poured out the blood at the base of the altar and consecrated it to make atonement for it. 16 And he took all the fat that was on the entrails and the long lobe of the liver and the two kidneys with their fat, and Moses burned them on the altar. 17 But the bull and its skin and its flesh and its dung he burned up with fire outside the camp, as the LORD commanded Moses.

18 Then he presented the ram of the burnt offering, and Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the head of the ram. 19 And he killed it, and Moses threw the blood against the sides of the altar. 20 He cut the ram into pieces, and Moses burned the head and the pieces and the fat. 21 He washed the entrails and the legs with water, and Moses burned the whole ram on the altar. It was a burnt offering with a pleasing aroma, a food offering for the LORD, as the LORD commanded Moses.

22 Then he presented the other ram, the ram of ordination, and Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the head of the ram. 23 And he killed it, and Moses took some of its blood and put it on the lobe of Aaron's right ear and on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot. 24 Then he presented Aaron's sons, and Moses put some of the blood on the lobes of their right ears and on the thumbs of their right hands and on the big toes of their right feet. And Moses threw the blood against the sides of the altar. 25 Then he took the fat and the fat tail and all the fat that was on the entrails and the long lobe of the liver and the two kidneys with their fat and the right thigh, 26 and out of the basket of unleavened bread that was before the LORD he took one unleavened loaf and one loaf of bread with oil and one wafer and placed them on the pieces of fat and on the right thigh. 27 And he put all these in the hands of Aaron and in the hands of his sons and waved them as a wave offering before the LORD. 28 Then Moses took them from their hands and burned them on the altar with the burnt offering. This was an ordination offering with a pleasing aroma, a food offering to the LORD. 29 And Moses took the breast and waved it for a wave offering before the LORD. It was Moses' portion of the ram of ordination, as the LORD commanded Moses.

30 Then Moses took some of the anointing oil and of the blood that was on the altar and sprinkled it on Aaron and his garments, and also on his sons and his sons' garments. So he consecrated Aaron and his garments, and his sons and his sons' garments with him.

31 And Moses said to Aaron and his sons, “Boil the flesh at the entrance of the tent of meeting, and there eat it and the bread that is in the basket of ordination offerings, as I commanded, saying, ‘Aaron and his sons shall eat it.’ 32 And what remains of the flesh and the bread you shall burn up with fire. 33 And you shall not go outside the entrance of the tent of meeting for seven days, until the days of your ordination are completed, for it will take seven days to ordain you. 34 As has been done today, the LORD has commanded to be done to make atonement for you. 35 At the entrance of the tent of meeting you shall remain day and night for seven days, performing what the LORD has charged, so that you do not die, for so I have been commanded.” 36 And Aaron and his sons did all the things that the LORD commanded by Moses.

Footnotes

[1] 8:7 Hebrew with it
[2] 8:15 Probably Aaron or his representative; possibly Moses; also verses 16–23

(ESV)

Psalm 9

I Will Recount Your Wonderful Deeds

1 To the choirmaster: according to Muth-labben.2 A Psalm of David.

9:1   I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart;
    I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.
  I will be glad and exult in you;
    I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.
  When my enemies turn back,
    they stumble and perish before3 your presence.
  For you have maintained my just cause;
    you have sat on the throne, giving righteous judgment.
  You have rebuked the nations; you have made the wicked perish;
    you have blotted out their name forever and ever.
  The enemy came to an end in everlasting ruins;
    their cities you rooted out;
    the very memory of them has perished.
  But the LORD sits enthroned forever;
    he has established his throne for justice,
  and he judges the world with righteousness;
    he judges the peoples with uprightness.
  The LORD is a stronghold for the oppressed,
    a stronghold in times of trouble.
10   And those who know your name put their trust in you,
    for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you.
11   Sing praises to the LORD, who sits enthroned in Zion!
    Tell among the peoples his deeds!
12   For he who avenges blood is mindful of them;
    he does not forget the cry of the afflicted.
13   Be gracious to me, O LORD!
    See my affliction from those who hate me,
    O you who lift me up from the gates of death,
14   that I may recount all your praises,
    that in the gates of the daughter of Zion
    I may rejoice in your salvation.
15   The nations have sunk in the pit that they made;
    in the net that they hid, their own foot has been caught.
16   The LORD has made himself known; he has executed judgment;
    the wicked are snared in the work of their own hands. Higgaion.4 Selah
17   The wicked shall return to Sheol,
    all the nations that forget God.
18   For the needy shall not always be forgotten,
    and the hope of the poor shall not perish forever.
19   Arise, O LORD! Let not man prevail;
    let the nations be judged before you!
20   Put them in fear, O LORD!
    Let the nations know that they are but men! Selah

Footnotes

[1] 9:1 Psalms 9 and 10 together follow an acrostic pattern, each stanza beginning with the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet. In the Septuagint they form one psalm
[2] 9:1 Probably a musical or liturgical term
[3] 9:3 Or because of
[4] 9:16 Probably a musical or liturgical term

(ESV)

Proverbs 23

23:1   When you sit down to eat with a ruler,
    observe carefully what1 is before you,
  and put a knife to your throat
    if you are given to appetite.
  Do not desire his delicacies,
    for they are deceptive food.
  Do not toil to acquire wealth;
    be discerning enough to desist.
  When your eyes light on it, it is gone,
    for suddenly it sprouts wings,
    flying like an eagle toward heaven.
  Do not eat the bread of a man who is stingy;2
    do not desire his delicacies,
  for he is like one who is inwardly calculating.3
    “Eat and drink!” he says to you,
    but his heart is not with you.
  You will vomit up the morsels that you have eaten,
    and waste your pleasant words.
  Do not speak in the hearing of a fool,
    for he will despise the good sense of your words.
10   Do not move an ancient landmark
    or enter the fields of the fatherless,
11   for their Redeemer is strong;
    he will plead their cause against you.
12   Apply your heart to instruction
    and your ear to words of knowledge.
13   Do not withhold discipline from a child;
    if you strike him with a rod, he will not die.
14   If you strike him with the rod,
    you will save his soul from Sheol.
15   My son, if your heart is wise,
    my heart too will be glad.
16   My inmost being4 will exult
    when your lips speak what is right.
17   Let not your heart envy sinners,
    but continue in the fear of the LORD all the day.
18   Surely there is a future,
    and your hope will not be cut off.
19   Hear, my son, and be wise,
    and direct your heart in the way.
20   Be not among drunkards5
    or among gluttonous eaters of meat,
21   for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty,
    and slumber will clothe them with rags.
22   Listen to your father who gave you life,
    and do not despise your mother when she is old.
23   Buy truth, and do not sell it;
    buy wisdom, instruction, and understanding.
24   The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice;
    he who fathers a wise son will be glad in him.
25   Let your father and mother be glad;
    let her who bore you rejoice.
26   My son, give me your heart,
    and let your eyes observe6 my ways.
27   For a prostitute is a deep pit;
    an adulteress7 is a narrow well.
28   She lies in wait like a robber
    and increases the traitors among mankind.
29   Who has woe? Who has sorrow?
    Who has strife? Who has complaining?
  Who has wounds without cause?
    Who has redness of eyes?
30   Those who tarry long over wine;
    those who go to try mixed wine.
31   Do not look at wine when it is red,
    when it sparkles in the cup
    and goes down smoothly.
32   In the end it bites like a serpent
    and stings like an adder.
33   Your eyes will see strange things,
    and your heart utter perverse things.
34   You will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea,
    like one who lies on the top of a mast.8
35   “They struck me,” you will say,9 “but I was not hurt;
    they beat me, but I did not feel it.
  When shall I awake?
    I must have another drink.”

Footnotes

[1] 23:1 Or who
[2] 23:6 Hebrew whose eye is evil
[3] 23:7 Or for as he calculates in his soul, so is he
[4] 23:16 Hebrew My kidneys
[5] 23:20 Hebrew those who drink too much wine
[6] 23:26 Or delight in
[7] 23:27 Hebrew a foreign woman
[8] 23:34 Or of the rigging
[9] 23:35 Hebrew lacks you will say

(ESV)

1 Thessalonians 2

Paul's Ministry to the Thessalonians

2:1 For you yourselves know, brothers,1 that our coming to you was not in vain. But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict. For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. For we never came with words of flattery,2 as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle3 among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.

For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. 10 You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. 11 For you know how, like a father with his children, 12 we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.

13 And we also thank God constantly4 for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men5 but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers. 14 For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea. For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews,6 15 who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all mankind 16 by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved—so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them at last!7

Paul's Longing to See Them Again

17 But since we were torn away from you, brothers, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face, 18 because we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, again and again—but Satan hindered us. 19 For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? 20 For you are our glory and joy.

Footnotes

[1] 2:1 Or brothers and sisters; also verses 9, 14, 17
[2] 2:5 Or with a flattering speech
[3] 2:7 Some manuscripts infants
[4] 2:13 Or without ceasing
[5] 2:13 The Greek word anthropoi can refer to both men and women
[6] 2:14 The Greek word Ioudaioi can refer to Jewish religious leaders, and others under their influence, who opposed the Christian faith in that time
[7] 2:16 Or completely, or forever

(ESV)

Resources

Learning to Pastor from Leviticus

Leviticus wasn’t the book I typically went to for guidance as a pastor. Until now.

Proverbs: A Mini-Guide to Life

In my regular, daily Bible reading over the past year I read through Proverbs 3, a passage I've studied and preached through many times. But during this reading, I realized that in verses 3 through 12 we have all the themes of the rest of the book, and therefore a kind of mini-guide to faithful living. There are five things that comprise a wise, godly life. They function both as means to becoming wise and godly as well as signs that you are growing into such a life.