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Today’s Reading

Devotional

Most Christians have listened to testimonies that relate how some man or woman lived a life of fruitlessness and open degradation, or at least of quiet desperation, before becoming a Christian. Genuine faith in the Lord Christ brought about a personal revolution: old habits destroyed, new friends and commitments established, a new direction to give meaning and orientation. Where there was despair, there is now joy; where there was turmoil, there is now peace; where there was anxiety, there is now some measure of serenity. And some of us who were reared in Christian homes have secretly wondered if perhaps it might have been better if we had been converted out of some rotten background.

That is not the psalmist’s view. “For you have been my hope, O Sovereign LORD, my confidence since my youth. From birth I have relied on you; you brought me forth from my mother’s womb” (Ps. 71:5-6). “Since my youth, O God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds” (71:17). Indeed, because of this background, the psalmist calmly looks over the intervening years and petitions God for persevering grace into old age: “Do not cast me away when I am old; do not forsake me when my strength is gone” (71:9). “But as for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more” (71:14). “Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come” (71:18).

Doubtless particular circumstances were used by God to elicit these words from the psalmist’s pen. Nevertheless, the stance itself is invaluable. The most thoughtful of those who are converted later in life wish they had not wasted so many of their early years. Now that they have found the pearl of great price, their only regret is that they did not find it sooner. More importantly, those who are reared in godly Christian homes are steeped in Scripture from their youth. There is plenty in Scripture and in personal experience to disclose to them the perversity of their own hearts; they do not have to be sociopaths to discover what depravity means. They will be sufficiently ashamed of the sins they have committed, despite their backgrounds, that instead of wishing they could have had a worse background (!), they sometimes hang their head in shame that they have done so little with their advantages, and frankly recognize that apart from the grace of God, there is no crime and sin to which they could not sink.

It is best, by far, to be grateful for a godly heritage and to petition God himself for grace that will see you through old age.

Numbers 27

The Daughters of Zelophehad

27:1 Then drew near the daughters of Zelophehad the son of Hepher, son of Gilead, son of Machir, son of Manasseh, from the clans of Manasseh the son of Joseph. The names of his daughters were: Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah. And they stood before Moses and before Eleazar the priest and before the chiefs and all the congregation, at the entrance of the tent of meeting, saying, “Our father died in the wilderness. He was not among the company of those who gathered themselves together against the LORD in the company of Korah, but died for his own sin. And he had no sons. Why should the name of our father be taken away from his clan because he had no son? Give to us a possession among our father's brothers.”

Moses brought their case before the LORD. And the LORD said to Moses, “The daughters of Zelophehad are right. You shall give them possession of an inheritance among their father's brothers and transfer the inheritance of their father to them. And you shall speak to the people of Israel, saying, ‘If a man dies and has no son, then you shall transfer his inheritance to his daughter. And if he has no daughter, then you shall give his inheritance to his brothers. 10 And if he has no brothers, then you shall give his inheritance to his father's brothers. 11 And if his father has no brothers, then you shall give his inheritance to the nearest kinsman of his clan, and he shall possess it. And it shall be for the people of Israel a statute and rule, as the LORD commanded Moses.’”

Joshua to Succeed Moses

12 The LORD said to Moses, “Go up into this mountain of Abarim and see the land that I have given to the people of Israel. 13 When you have seen it, you also shall be gathered to your people, as your brother Aaron was, 14 because you rebelled against my word in the wilderness of Zin when the congregation quarreled, failing to uphold me as holy at the waters before their eyes.” (These are the waters of Meribah of Kadesh in the wilderness of Zin.) 15 Moses spoke to the LORD, saying, 16 “Let the LORD, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation 17 who shall go out before them and come in before them, who shall lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the LORD may not be as sheep that have no shepherd.” 18 So the LORD said to Moses, “Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him. 19 Make him stand before Eleazar the priest and all the congregation, and you shall commission him in their sight. 20 You shall invest him with some of your authority, that all the congregation of the people of Israel may obey. 21 And he shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall inquire for him by the judgment of the Urim before the LORD. At his word they shall go out, and at his word they shall come in, both he and all the people of Israel with him, the whole congregation.” 22 And Moses did as the LORD commanded him. He took Joshua and made him stand before Eleazar the priest and the whole congregation, 23 and he laid his hands on him and commissioned him as the LORD directed through Moses.

(ESV)

Psalms 70-71

O Lord, Do Not Delay

To the choirmaster. Of David, for the memorial offering.

70:1   Make haste, O God, to deliver me!
    O LORD, make haste to help me!
  Let them be put to shame and confusion
    who seek my life!
  Let them be turned back and brought to dishonor
    who delight in my hurt!
  Let them turn back because of their shame
    who say, “Aha, Aha!”
  May all who seek you
    rejoice and be glad in you!
  May those who love your salvation
    say evermore, “God is great!”
  But I am poor and needy;
    hasten to me, O God!
  You are my help and my deliverer;
    O LORD, do not delay!

Forsake Me Not When My Strength Is Spent

71:1   In you, O LORD, do I take refuge;
    let me never be put to shame!
  In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me;
    incline your ear to me, and save me!
  Be to me a rock of refuge,
    to which I may continually come;
  you have given the command to save me,
    for you are my rock and my fortress.
  Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked,
    from the grasp of the unjust and cruel man.
  For you, O Lord, are my hope,
    my trust, O LORD, from my youth.
  Upon you I have leaned from before my birth;
    you are he who took me from my mother's womb.
  My praise is continually of you.
  I have been as a portent to many,
    but you are my strong refuge.
  My mouth is filled with your praise,
    and with your glory all the day.
  Do not cast me off in the time of old age;
    forsake me not when my strength is spent.
10   For my enemies speak concerning me;
    those who watch for my life consult together
11   and say, “God has forsaken him;
    pursue and seize him,
    for there is none to deliver him.”
12   O God, be not far from me;
    O my God, make haste to help me!
13   May my accusers be put to shame and consumed;
    with scorn and disgrace may they be covered
    who seek my hurt.
14   But I will hope continually
    and will praise you yet more and more.
15   My mouth will tell of your righteous acts,
    of your deeds of salvation all the day,
    for their number is past my knowledge.
16   With the mighty deeds of the Lord GOD I will come;
    I will remind them of your righteousness, yours alone.
17   O God, from my youth you have taught me,
    and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.
18   So even to old age and gray hairs,
    O God, do not forsake me,
  until I proclaim your might to another generation,
    your power to all those to come.
19   Your righteousness, O God,
    reaches the high heavens.
  You who have done great things,
    O God, who is like you?
20   You who have made me see many troubles and calamities
    will revive me again;
  from the depths of the earth
    you will bring me up again.
21   You will increase my greatness
    and comfort me again.
22   I will also praise you with the harp
    for your faithfulness, O my God;
  I will sing praises to you with the lyre,
    O Holy One of Israel.
23   My lips will shout for joy,
    when I sing praises to you;
    my soul also, which you have redeemed.
24   And my tongue will talk of your righteous help all the day long,
  for they have been put to shame and disappointed
    who sought to do me hurt.

(ESV)

Isaiah 17-18

An Oracle Concerning Damascus

17:1 An oracle concerning Damascus.

  Behold, Damascus will cease to be a city
    and will become a heap of ruins.
  The cities of Aroer are deserted;
    they will be for flocks,
    which will lie down, and none will make them afraid.
  The fortress will disappear from Ephraim,
    and the kingdom from Damascus;
  and the remnant of Syria will be
    like the glory of the children of Israel,
      declares the LORD of hosts.
  And in that day the glory of Jacob will be brought low,
    and the fat of his flesh will grow lean.
  And it shall be as when the reaper gathers standing grain
    and his arm harvests the ears,
  and as when one gleans the ears of grain
    in the Valley of Rephaim.
  Gleanings will be left in it,
    as when an olive tree is beaten—
  two or three berries
    in the top of the highest bough,
  four or five
    on the branches of a fruit tree,
      declares the LORD God of Israel.

In that day man will look to his Maker, and his eyes will look on the Holy One of Israel. He will not look to the altars, the work of his hands, and he will not look on what his own fingers have made, either the Asherim or the altars of incense.

In that day their strong cities will be like the deserted places of the wooded heights and the hilltops, which they deserted because of the children of Israel, and there will be desolation.

10   For you have forgotten the God of your salvation
    and have not remembered the Rock of your refuge;
  therefore, though you plant pleasant plants
    and sow the vine-branch of a stranger,
11   though you make them grow1 on the day that you plant them,
    and make them blossom in the morning that you sow,
  yet the harvest will flee away2
    in a day of grief and incurable pain.
12   Ah, the thunder of many peoples;
    they thunder like the thundering of the sea!
  Ah, the roar of nations;
    they roar like the roaring of mighty waters!
13   The nations roar like the roaring of many waters,
    but he will rebuke them, and they will flee far away,
  chased like chaff on the mountains before the wind
    and whirling dust before the storm.
14   At evening time, behold, terror!
    Before morning, they are no more!
  This is the portion of those who loot us,
    and the lot of those who plunder us.

An Oracle Concerning Cush

18:1   Ah, land of whirring wings
    that is beyond the rivers of Cush,3
  which sends ambassadors by the sea,
    in vessels of papyrus on the waters!
  Go, you swift messengers,
    to a nation tall and smooth,
  to a people feared near and far,
    a nation mighty and conquering,
    whose land the rivers divide.
  All you inhabitants of the world,
    you who dwell on the earth,
  when a signal is raised on the mountains, look!
    When a trumpet is blown, hear!
  For thus the LORD said to me:
  “I will quietly look from my dwelling
    like clear heat in sunshine,
    like a cloud of dew in the heat of harvest.”
  For before the harvest, when the blossom is over,
    and the flower becomes a ripening grape,
  he cuts off the shoots with pruning hooks,
    and the spreading branches he lops off and clears away.
  They shall all of them be left
    to the birds of prey of the mountains
    and to the beasts of the earth.
  And the birds of prey will summer on them,
    and all the beasts of the earth will winter on them.

At that time tribute will be brought to the LORD of hosts

  from a people tall and smooth,
    from a people feared near and far,
  a nation mighty and conquering,
    whose land the rivers divide,

to Mount Zion, the place of the name of the LORD of hosts.

Footnotes

[1] 17:11 Or though you carefully fence them
[2] 17:11 Or will be a heap
[3] 18:1 Probably Nubia

(ESV)

1 Peter 5

Shepherd the Flock of God

5:1 So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight,1 not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you;2 not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 11 To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Final Greetings

12 By Silvanus, a faithful brother as I regard him, I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it. 13 She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings, and so does Mark, my son. 14 Greet one another with the kiss of love.

Peace to all of you who are in Christ.

Footnotes

[1] 5:2 Some manuscripts omit exercising oversight
[2] 5:2 Some manuscripts omit as God would have you

(ESV)