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Today’s Reading

Devotional: Isaiah 1

The opening verse of Isaiah 1 introduces the massive sweep of the book. It announces a vision that Isaiah saw, a vision that runs through the reigns of the four kings of Judah from King Uzziah on.

The first section (Isa. 1:2–9) displays how far the nation has fallen. God himself raised up the nation of Israel (Isa. 1:2)—indeed, he “reared” them, brought them up like children; and like rebellious children they have turned against him. An ox or a donkey knows more of its true home than Israel knows of hers. The heavens and earth are invited to listen in on the rebuke (Isa. 1:2), both as a measure of the intensity of the rebellion and because there is a sense in which the well-being of the entire universe depends on whether God’s people obey or disobey his word. The description of the devastation in the land (Isa. 1:5–9) is not metaphorical: probably what is being described is the bloody carnage that accompanied the invasion of Judah by Sennacherib’s Assyrian forces (701 B.C.)—a foretaste of judgment to come.

From here to the end of the chapter, the thought runs in three movements:

(1) Israel is excoriated for her corrupt and hypocritical worship (Isa. 1:10–17). In dripping sarcasm, God addresses his covenant people as Sodom and Gomorrah. They maintain the stipulated sacrificial system and high feast days, but God insists he cannot bear their “evil assemblies” (Isa. 1:13); he hates them (Isa. 1:14). God will not even listen to his people when they pray (Isa. 1:15), for oppression of the weak and corruption in the administration have reached such proportions that he must act in line with the Sinai covenant (Deut. 21:18–21). He can ignore these violations no longer.

(2) Nevertheless Israel is still being invited to forgiveness and cleansing: “‘Come now, let us reason together,’ says the LORD. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool’” (Isa. 1:18–20). It is not cultic observance that triggers such forgiveness, but repentance: “If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land” (Isa. 1:19). The alternative is judgment (Isa. 1:20). Later in the book the basis for such forgiveness will be set forth; the devastating judgment of oppression and exile was not necessary, but so often we prefer sin to salvation, greed to grace.

(3) Yet Zion (representing the people of God) will one day “be redeemed with justice, her penitent ones with righteousness” (Isa. 1:27). There is no final redemption that ignores justice and righteousness; only judgment awaits the impenitent (Isa. 1:28, 31).

Related Resources

The 5 Movements in Isaiah

Intimidated by Isaiah? It can be best understood by noticing five movements in the book.

Devotional: Psalm 48

One of the ways God talks about the future is . . . well, by simply talking about the future. There are places in the Bible where God predicts, in words, what will happen: he talks about the future. But he also provides pictures, patterns, types, and models. In these cases he establishes an institution, or a rite, or a pattern of relationships. Then he drops hints, pretty soon a cascade of hints, that these pictures or patterns or types or models are not ends in themselves, but are ways of anticipating something even better. In these cases, then, God talks about the future in pictures.

Christians who read their Bibles a lot ponder the connections between the Davidic kingship and Jesus’s kingship, between the Passover lamb and Jesus as “Passover Lamb,” between Melchizedek and Jesus, between the Sabbath rest and the rest Jesus gives, between the high priest’s role and Jesus’s priestly role, between the temple the old covenant priest entered and the heavenly “holy of holies” that Jesus entered, and much more. Of course, for those who lived under the old covenant stipulations, covenantal fidelity meant adherence to the institutions and rites God laid down, even while those same institutions and rites, on the broader canonical scale, looked forward to something even better. Through these pictures, God talked about the future. Once a Christian grasps this point, parts of the Bible come alive in fresh ways.

One of these picture-models is Jerusalem itself, sometimes referred to as Zion (the historic stronghold). Jerusalem was bound up not only with the fact that from David on, it was the capital city (even after the division into Israel and Judah, it was the capital of the southern kingdom), but also with the fact that from Solomon on it was the site of the temple, and therefore of the focus of God’s self-disclosure.

So for the psalmist, “the city of our God, his holy mountain” is not only “beautiful” but “the joy of the whole earth” (Ps. 48:1–2). It is not only the center of armed security (48:4–8), but the locus where God’s people meditate on his unfailing love (48:9), the center of praise (48:10). Yet the psalmist looks beyond the city to God himself: he is the one who “makes her secure forever” (48:8), whose praise reaches to the end of the earth, for ever and ever (48:10, 14).

As rooted as they are in historic Jerusalem, the writers of the new covenant look to a “Jerusalem that is above” (Gal. 4:26), to “Mount Zion,” to “the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God” (Heb. 12:22), to the “new Jerusalem” (Rev. 21:2). Reflect long and often on the connections.

Related Resources

Battling the Idol of Envy with Numbers 11

Moses was probably tired of manna, too. But he responded to his wilderness testing so differently than the Israelites did.

When Moses’s Wish Came True

If Moses could somehow visit your church, which gospel privilege do you think he would admire most?

Want to Understand Jesus’s Signs? Study Isaiah.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus’s works—as signs—have a deeper significance than even miracles.

The 5 Movements in Isaiah

Intimidated by Isaiah? It can be best understood by noticing five movements in the book.

Numbers 11

The People Complain

11:1 And the people complained in the hearing of the LORD about their misfortunes, and when the LORD heard it, his anger was kindled, and the fire of the LORD burned among them and consumed some outlying parts of the camp. Then the people cried out to Moses, and Moses prayed to the LORD, and the fire died down. So the name of that place was called Taberah,1 because the fire of the LORD burned among them.

Now the rabble that was among them had a strong craving. And the people of Israel also wept again and said, “Oh that we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.”

Now the manna was like coriander seed, and its appearance like that of bdellium. The people went about and gathered it and ground it in handmills or beat it in mortars and boiled it in pots and made cakes of it. And the taste of it was like the taste of cakes baked with oil. When the dew fell upon the camp in the night, the manna fell with it.

10 Moses heard the people weeping throughout their clans, everyone at the door of his tent. And the anger of the LORD blazed hotly, and Moses was displeased. 11 Moses said to the LORD, “Why have you dealt ill with your servant? And why have I not found favor in your sight, that you lay the burden of all this people on me? 12 Did I conceive all this people? Did I give them birth, that you should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom, as a nurse carries a nursing child,’ to the land that you swore to give their fathers? 13 Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they weep before me and say, ‘Give us meat, that we may eat.’ 14 I am not able to carry all this people alone; the burden is too heavy for me. 15 If you will treat me like this, kill me at once, if I find favor in your sight, that I may not see my wretchedness.”

Elders Appointed to Aid Moses

16 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Gather for me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them, and bring them to the tent of meeting, and let them take their stand there with you. 17 And I will come down and talk with you there. And I will take some of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them, and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, so that you may not bear it yourself alone. 18 And say to the people, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, and you shall eat meat, for you have wept in the hearing of the LORD, saying, “Who will give us meat to eat? For it was better for us in Egypt.” Therefore the LORD will give you meat, and you shall eat. 19 You shall not eat just one day, or two days, or five days, or ten days, or twenty days, 20 but a whole month, until it comes out at your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you, because you have rejected the LORD who is among you and have wept before him, saying, “Why did we come out of Egypt?”’” 21 But Moses said, “The people among whom I am number six hundred thousand on foot, and you have said, ‘I will give them meat, that they may eat a whole month!’ 22 Shall flocks and herds be slaughtered for them, and be enough for them? Or shall all the fish of the sea be gathered together for them, and be enough for them?” 23 And the LORD said to Moses, “Is the LORD's hand shortened? Now you shall see whether my word will come true for you or not.”

24 So Moses went out and told the people the words of the LORD. And he gathered seventy men of the elders of the people and placed them around the tent. 25 Then the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders. And as soon as the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied. But they did not continue doing it.

26 Now two men remained in the camp, one named Eldad, and the other named Medad, and the Spirit rested on them. They were among those registered, but they had not gone out to the tent, and so they prophesied in the camp. 27 And a young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.” 28 And Joshua the son of Nun, the assistant of Moses from his youth, said, “My lord Moses, stop them.” 29 But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the LORD's people were prophets, that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!” 30 And Moses and the elders of Israel returned to the camp.

Quail and a Plague

31 Then a wind from the LORD sprang up, and it brought quail from the sea and let them fall beside the camp, about a day's journey on this side and a day's journey on the other side, around the camp, and about two cubits2 above the ground. 32 And the people rose all that day and all night and all the next day, and gathered the quail. Those who gathered least gathered ten homers.3 And they spread them out for themselves all around the camp. 33 While the meat was yet between their teeth, before it was consumed, the anger of the LORD was kindled against the people, and the LORD struck down the people with a very great plague. 34 Therefore the name of that place was called Kibroth-hattaavah,4 because there they buried the people who had the craving. 35 From Kibroth-hattaavah the people journeyed to Hazeroth, and they remained at Hazeroth.

Footnotes

[1] 11:3 Taberah means burning
[2] 11:31 A cubit was about 18 inches or 45 centimeters
[3] 11:32 A homer was about 6 bushels or 220 liters
[4] 11:34 Kibroth-hattaavah means graves of craving

(ESV)

Psalm 48

Zion, the City of Our God

A Song. A Psalm of the Sons of Korah.

48:1   Great is the LORD and greatly to be praised
    in the city of our God!
  His holy mountain, beautiful in elevation,
    is the joy of all the earth,
  Mount Zion, in the far north,
    the city of the great King.
  Within her citadels God
    has made himself known as a fortress.
  For behold, the kings assembled;
    they came on together.
  As soon as they saw it, they were astounded;
    they were in panic; they took to flight.
  Trembling took hold of them there,
    anguish as of a woman in labor.
  By the east wind you shattered
    the ships of Tarshish.
  As we have heard, so have we seen
    in the city of the LORD of hosts,
  in the city of our God,
    which God will establish forever. Selah
  We have thought on your steadfast love, O God,
    in the midst of your temple.
10   As your name, O God,
    so your praise reaches to the ends of the earth.
  Your right hand is filled with righteousness.
11     Let Mount Zion be glad!
  Let the daughters of Judah rejoice
    because of your judgments!
12   Walk about Zion, go around her,
    number her towers,
13   consider well her ramparts,
    go through her citadels,
  that you may tell the next generation
14     that this is God,
  our God forever and ever.
    He will guide us forever.1

Footnotes

[1] 48:14 Septuagint; another reading is (compare Jerome, Syriac) He will guide us beyond death

(ESV)

Resources

Battling the Idol of Envy with Numbers 11

Moses was probably tired of manna, too. But he responded to his wilderness testing so differently than the Israelites did.

When Moses’s Wish Came True

If Moses could somehow visit your church, which gospel privilege do you think he would admire most?

Want to Understand Jesus’s Signs? Study Isaiah.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus’s works—as signs—have a deeper significance than even miracles.

The 5 Movements in Isaiah

Intimidated by Isaiah? It can be best understood by noticing five movements in the book.

Isaiah 1

1:1 The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.

The Wickedness of Judah

  Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth;
    for the LORD has spoken:
  “Children1 have I reared and brought up,
    but they have rebelled against me.
  The ox knows its owner,
    and the donkey its master's crib,
  but Israel does not know,
    my people do not understand.”
  Ah, sinful nation,
    a people laden with iniquity,
  offspring of evildoers,
    children who deal corruptly!
  They have forsaken the LORD,
    they have despised the Holy One of Israel,
    they are utterly estranged.
  Why will you still be struck down?
    Why will you continue to rebel?
  The whole head is sick,
    and the whole heart faint.
  From the sole of the foot even to the head,
    there is no soundness in it,
  but bruises and sores
    and raw wounds;
  they are not pressed out or bound up
    or softened with oil.
  Your country lies desolate;
    your cities are burned with fire;
  in your very presence
    foreigners devour your land;
    it is desolate, as overthrown by foreigners.
  And the daughter of Zion is left
    like a booth in a vineyard,
  like a lodge in a cucumber field,
    like a besieged city.
  If the LORD of hosts
    had not left us a few survivors,
  we should have been like Sodom,
    and become like Gomorrah.
10   Hear the word of the LORD,
    you rulers of Sodom!
  Give ear to the teaching2 of our God,
    you people of Gomorrah!
11   “What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?
    says the LORD;
  I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams
    and the fat of well-fed beasts;
  I do not delight in the blood of bulls,
    or of lambs, or of goats.
12   “When you come to appear before me,
    who has required of you
    this trampling of my courts?
13   Bring no more vain offerings;
    incense is an abomination to me.
  New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations—
    I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly.
14   Your new moons and your appointed feasts
    my soul hates;
  they have become a burden to me;
    I am weary of bearing them.
15   When you spread out your hands,
    I will hide my eyes from you;
  even though you make many prayers,
    I will not listen;
    your hands are full of blood.
16   Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
    remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes;
  cease to do evil,
17     learn to do good;
  seek justice,
    correct oppression;
  bring justice to the fatherless,
    plead the widow's cause.
18   “Come now, let us reason3 together, says the LORD:
  though your sins are like scarlet,
    they shall be as white as snow;
  though they are red like crimson,
    they shall become like wool.
19   If you are willing and obedient,
    you shall eat the good of the land;
20   but if you refuse and rebel,
    you shall be eaten by the sword;
    for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

The Unfaithful City

21   How the faithful city
    has become a whore,4
    she who was full of justice!
  Righteousness lodged in her,
    but now murderers.
22   Your silver has become dross,
    your best wine mixed with water.
23   Your princes are rebels
    and companions of thieves.
  Everyone loves a bribe
    and runs after gifts.
  They do not bring justice to the fatherless,
    and the widow's cause does not come to them.
24   Therefore the Lord declares,
    the LORD of hosts,
    the Mighty One of Israel:
  “Ah, I will get relief from my enemies
    and avenge myself on my foes.
25   I will turn my hand against you
    and will smelt away your dross as with lye
    and remove all your alloy.
26   And I will restore your judges as at the first,
    and your counselors as at the beginning.
  Afterward you shall be called the city of righteousness,
    the faithful city.”
27   Zion shall be redeemed by justice,
    and those in her who repent, by righteousness.
28   But rebels and sinners shall be broken together,
    and those who forsake the LORD shall be consumed.
29   For they5 shall be ashamed of the oaks
    that you desired;
  and you shall blush for the gardens
    that you have chosen.
30   For you shall be like an oak
    whose leaf withers,
    and like a garden without water.
31   And the strong shall become tinder,
    and his work a spark,
  and both of them shall burn together,
    with none to quench them.

Footnotes

[1] 1:2 Or Sons; also verse 4
[2] 1:10 Or law
[3] 1:18 Or dispute
[4] 1:21 Or become unchaste
[5] 1:29 Some Hebrew manuscripts you

(ESV)

Resources

The 5 Movements in Isaiah

Intimidated by Isaiah? It can be best understood by noticing five movements in the book.

Hebrews 9

The Earthly Holy Place

9:1 Now even the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly place of holiness. For a tent1 was prepared, the first section, in which were the lampstand and the table and the bread of the Presence.2 It is called the Holy Place. Behind the second curtain was a second section3 called the Most Holy Place, having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron's staff that budded, and the tablets of the covenant. Above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail.

These preparations having thus been made, the priests go regularly into the first section, performing their ritual duties, but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people. By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing (which is symbolic for the present age).4 According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, 10 but deal only with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation.

Redemption Through the Blood of Christ

11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come,5 then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify6 for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our7 conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.8 16 For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. 17 For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive. 18 Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood. 19 For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, 20 saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you.” 21 And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship. 22 Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

23 Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. 25 Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, 26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

Footnotes

[1] 9:2 Or tabernacle; also verses 11, 21
[2] 9:2 Greek the presentation of the loaves
[3] 9:3 Greek tent; also verses 6, 8
[4] 9:9 Or which is symbolic for the age then present
[5] 9:11 Some manuscripts good things to come
[6] 9:13 Or For if the sprinkling of defiled persons with the blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a heifer sanctifies
[7] 9:14 Some manuscripts your
[8] 9:15 The Greek word means both covenant and will; also verses 16, 17

(ESV)