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Today’s Reading

Devotional

Guilt. What a horrendous burden.

Sometimes people carry a tremendous weight of subjective guilt — i.e., of felt guilt — when they are not really guilty. Far worse is the situation where they carry a tremendous weight of objective guilt — i.e., they really are guilty of some odious sin in the eyes of the living God — and are so hardened that they do not know it.

The superscription of Psalm 51 discloses that as David writes he consciously carries both objective and subjective guilt. Objectively, he has committed adultery with Bathsheba and has arranged the murder of her husband Uriah; subjectively, Nathan’s parable (2 Sam. 12) has driven home to David’s conscience something of the proportion of his own sin, and he writes in shame.

(1) David confesses his sin and cries for mercy (51:1–2). There is no echo of the cries for vindication that mark some of the earlier psalms. When we are guilty, and know we are guilty, no other course is possible, and only this course is helpful.

(2) David frankly recognizes that his offense is primarily against God (51:4), not against Uriah, Bathsheba, the child that was conceived, or even the covenant people who bear some of the judgment. God sets the standards. When we break them, we are defying him. Further, David knows that he sits on the throne out of God’s sheer elective grace. To betray the covenant from a position of God-appointed trust is doubly appalling.

(3) David is honest enough to recognize that this sequence of sins, though particularly vile, does not stand alone. It is a display of what is in the heart, of the sin nature that we inherit from our parents. Nothing avails if we are not finally cleansed inwardly, if we are not granted a pure heart and a steadfast spirit (51:5–6, 10).

(4) For David this is not some merely cerebral or cool theological process. Objective guilt and subjective recognition of it so merge that David feels oppressed: his bones are crushed (51:8), he cannot escape the specter of his own sin (51:3), and the joy of his salvation has dissolved (51:12). The transparent honesty and passion of David’s prayer disclose that he seeks no blasé or formulaic cleansing.

(5) David recognizes the testimonial value of being forgiven, and uses it as an argument before God as to why he should be forgiven (51:12–15). Implicitly, of course, this is an appeal for God’s glory.

(6) Steeped as he is in the sacrificial system of the Mosaic covenant, David nevertheless adopts more fundamental priorities. The prescribed sacrifices mean nothing apart from the sacrifice of a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart (51:16–19).

Numbers 15

Laws About Sacrifices

15:1 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land you are to inhabit, which I am giving you, and you offer to the LORD from the herd or from the flock a food offering1 or a burnt offering or a sacrifice, to fulfill a vow or as a freewill offering or at your appointed feasts, to make a pleasing aroma to the LORD, then he who brings his offering shall offer to the LORD a grain offering of a tenth of an ephah2 of fine flour, mixed with a quarter of a hin3 of oil; and you shall offer with the burnt offering, or for the sacrifice, a quarter of a hin of wine for the drink offering for each lamb. Or for a ram, you shall offer for a grain offering two tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with a third of a hin of oil. And for the drink offering you shall offer a third of a hin of wine, a pleasing aroma to the LORD. And when you offer a bull as a burnt offering or sacrifice, to fulfill a vow or for peace offerings to the LORD, then one shall offer with the bull a grain offering of three tenths of an ephah of fine flour, mixed with half a hin of oil. 10 And you shall offer for the drink offering half a hin of wine, as a food offering, a pleasing aroma to the LORD.

11 “Thus it shall be done for each bull or ram, or for each lamb or young goat. 12 As many as you offer, so shall you do with each one, as many as there are. 13 Every native Israelite shall do these things in this way, in offering a food offering, with a pleasing aroma to the LORD. 14 And if a stranger is sojourning with you, or anyone is living permanently among you, and he wishes to offer a food offering, with a pleasing aroma to the LORD, he shall do as you do. 15 For the assembly, there shall be one statute for you and for the stranger who sojourns with you, a statute forever throughout your generations. You and the sojourner shall be alike before the LORD. 16 One law and one rule shall be for you and for the stranger who sojourns with you.”

17 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 18 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land to which I bring you 19 and when you eat of the bread of the land, you shall present a contribution to the LORD. 20 Of the first of your dough you shall present a loaf as a contribution; like a contribution from the threshing floor, so shall you present it. 21 Some of the first of your dough you shall give to the LORD as a contribution throughout your generations.

Laws About Unintentional Sins

22 “But if you sin unintentionally,4 and do not observe all these commandments that the LORD has spoken to Moses, 23 all that the LORD has commanded you by Moses, from the day that the LORD gave commandment, and onward throughout your generations, 24 then if it was done unintentionally without the knowledge of the congregation, all the congregation shall offer one bull from the herd for a burnt offering, a pleasing aroma to the LORD, with its grain offering and its drink offering, according to the rule, and one male goat for a sin offering. 25 And the priest shall make atonement for all the congregation of the people of Israel, and they shall be forgiven, because it was a mistake, and they have brought their offering, a food offering to the LORD, and their sin offering before the LORD for their mistake. 26 And all the congregation of the people of Israel shall be forgiven, and the stranger who sojourns among them, because the whole population was involved in the mistake.

27 “If one person sins unintentionally, he shall offer a female goat a year old for a sin offering. 28 And the priest shall make atonement before the LORD for the person who makes a mistake, when he sins unintentionally, to make atonement for him, and he shall be forgiven. 29 You shall have one law for him who does anything unintentionally, for him who is native among the people of Israel and for the stranger who sojourns among them. 30 But the person who does anything with a high hand, whether he is native or a sojourner, reviles the LORD, and that person shall be cut off from among his people. 31 Because he has despised the word of the LORD and has broken his commandment, that person shall be utterly cut off; his iniquity shall be on him.”

A Sabbathbreaker Executed

32 While the people of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day. 33 And those who found him gathering sticks brought him to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation. 34 They put him in custody, because it had not been made clear what should be done to him. 35 And the LORD said to Moses, “The man shall be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp.” 36 And all the congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him to death with stones, as the LORD commanded Moses.

Tassels on Garments

37 The LORD said to Moses, 38 “Speak to the people of Israel, and tell them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a cord of blue on the tassel of each corner. 39 And it shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the LORD, to do them, not to follow5 after your own heart and your own eyes, which you are inclined to whore after. 40 So you shall remember and do all my commandments, and be holy to your God. 41 I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God: I am the LORD your God.”

Footnotes

[1] 15:3 Or an offering by fire; so throughout Numbers
[2] 15:4 An ephah was about 3/5 bushel or 22 liters
[3] 15:4 A hin was about 4 quarts or 3.5 liters
[4] 15:22 Or by mistake; also verses 24, 27, 28, 29
[5] 15:39 Hebrew to spy out

(ESV)

Psalm 51

Create in Me a Clean Heart, O God

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.

51:1   Have mercy on me,1 O God,
    according to your steadfast love;
  according to your abundant mercy
    blot out my transgressions.
  Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
    and cleanse me from my sin!
  For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is ever before me.
  Against you, you only, have I sinned
    and done what is evil in your sight,
  so that you may be justified in your words
    and blameless in your judgment.
  Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
    and in sin did my mother conceive me.
  Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
    and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
  Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
    wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
  Let me hear joy and gladness;
    let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
  Hide your face from my sins,
    and blot out all my iniquities.
10   Create in me a clean heart, O God,
    and renew a right2 spirit within me.
11   Cast me not away from your presence,
    and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12   Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
    and uphold me with a willing spirit.
13   Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
    and sinners will return to you.
14   Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
    O God of my salvation,
    and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
15   O Lord, open my lips,
    and my mouth will declare your praise.
16   For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
    you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
17   The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
18   Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;
    build up the walls of Jerusalem;
19   then will you delight in right sacrifices,
    in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;
    then bulls will be offered on your altar.

Footnotes

[1] 51:1 Or Be gracious to me
[2] 51:10 Or steadfast

(ESV)

Isaiah 5

The Vineyard of the Lord Destroyed

5:1   Let me sing for my beloved
    my love song concerning his vineyard:
  My beloved had a vineyard
    on a very fertile hill.
  He dug it and cleared it of stones,
    and planted it with choice vines;
  he built a watchtower in the midst of it,
    and hewed out a wine vat in it;
  and he looked for it to yield grapes,
    but it yielded wild grapes.
  And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem
    and men of Judah,
  judge between me and my vineyard.
  What more was there to do for my vineyard,
    that I have not done in it?
  When I looked for it to yield grapes,
    why did it yield wild grapes?
  And now I will tell you
    what I will do to my vineyard.
  I will remove its hedge,
    and it shall be devoured;1
  I will break down its wall,
    and it shall be trampled down.
  I will make it a waste;
    it shall not be pruned or hoed,
    and briers and thorns shall grow up;
  I will also command the clouds
    that they rain no rain upon it.
  For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts
    is the house of Israel,
  and the men of Judah
    are his pleasant planting;
  and he looked for justice,
    but behold, bloodshed;2
  for righteousness,
    but behold, an outcry!3

Woe to the Wicked

  Woe to those who join house to house,
    who add field to field,
  until there is no more room,
    and you are made to dwell alone
    in the midst of the land.
  The LORD of hosts has sworn in my hearing:
  “Surely many houses shall be desolate,
    large and beautiful houses, without inhabitant.
10   For ten acres4 of vineyard shall yield but one bath,
    and a homer of seed shall yield but an ephah.”5
11   Woe to those who rise early in the morning,
    that they may run after strong drink,
  who tarry late into the evening
    as wine inflames them!
12   They have lyre and harp,
    tambourine and flute and wine at their feasts,
  but they do not regard the deeds of the LORD,
    or see the work of his hands.
13   Therefore my people go into exile
    for lack of knowledge;6
  their honored men go hungry,7
    and their multitude is parched with thirst.
14   Therefore Sheol has enlarged its appetite
    and opened its mouth beyond measure,
  and the nobility of Jerusalem8 and her multitude will go down,
    her revelers and he who exults in her.
15   Man is humbled, and each one is brought low,
    and the eyes of the haughty9 are brought low.
16   But the LORD of hosts is exalted10 in justice,
    and the Holy God shows himself holy in righteousness.
17   Then shall the lambs graze as in their pasture,
    and nomads shall eat among the ruins of the rich.
18   Woe to those who draw iniquity with cords of falsehood,
    who draw sin as with cart ropes,
19   who say: “Let him be quick,
    let him speed his work
    that we may see it;
  let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw near,
    and let it come, that we may know it!”
20   Woe to those who call evil good
    and good evil,
  who put darkness for light
    and light for darkness,
  who put bitter for sweet
    and sweet for bitter!
21   Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes,
    and shrewd in their own sight!
22   Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine,
    and valiant men in mixing strong drink,
23   who acquit the guilty for a bribe,
    and deprive the innocent of his right!
24   Therefore, as the tongue of fire devours the stubble,
    and as dry grass sinks down in the flame,
  so their root will be as rottenness,
    and their blossom go up like dust;
  for they have rejected the law of the LORD of hosts,
    and have despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.
25   Therefore the anger of the LORD was kindled against his people,
    and he stretched out his hand against them and struck them,
    and the mountains quaked;
  and their corpses were as refuse
    in the midst of the streets.
  For all this his anger has not turned away,
    and his hand is stretched out still.
26   He will raise a signal for nations far away,
    and whistle for them from the ends of the earth;
  and behold, quickly, speedily they come!
27   None is weary, none stumbles,
    none slumbers or sleeps,
  not a waistband is loose,
    not a sandal strap broken;
28   their arrows are sharp,
    all their bows bent,
  their horses' hoofs seem like flint,
    and their wheels like the whirlwind.
29   Their roaring is like a lion,
    like young lions they roar;
  they growl and seize their prey;
    they carry it off, and none can rescue.
30   They will growl over it on that day,
    like the growling of the sea.
  And if one looks to the land,
    behold, darkness and distress;
  and the light is darkened by its clouds.

Footnotes

[1] 5:5 Or grazed over; compare Exodus 22:5
[2] 5:7 The Hebrew words for justice and bloodshed sound alike
[3] 5:7 The Hebrew words for righteous and outcry sound alike
[4] 5:10 Hebrew ten yoke, the area ten yoke of oxen can plow in a day
[5] 5:10 A bath was about 6 gallons or 22 liters; a homer was about 6 bushels or 220 liters; an ephah was about 3/5 bushel or 22 liters
[6] 5:13 Or without their knowledge
[7] 5:13 Or die of hunger
[8] 5:14 Hebrew her nobility
[9] 5:15 Hebrew high
[10] 5:16 Hebrew high

(ESV)

Hebrews 12

Jesus, Founder and Perfecter of Our Faith

12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Do Not Grow Weary

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

  “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
    nor be weary when reproved by him.
  For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
    and chastises every son whom he receives.”

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

12 Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. 14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; 16 that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. 17 For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.

A Kingdom That Cannot Be Shaken

18 For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest 19 and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. 20 For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” 21 Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” 22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly1 of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

25 See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire.

Footnotes

[1] 12:23 Or church

(ESV)

Resources

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