Rank #1: June 30th: Bible Meditation for Joshua 2
Bible Readings for June 30th
When Joshua sends two spies into the city of Jericho, the men lodge in the house of Rahab, who was a prostitute (Josh. 2:1), likely in an attempt to stay under the radar of Jericho’s officials. The people of Jericho discover that Israelites have come into their city, but when the king sends a messenger to Rahab, asking her about the location of the spies, she lies to them, telling the king’s officials that they had recently left the city altogether (Josh. 2:3–5). In fact, Rahab had hidden them in stalks of flax on her roof (Josh. 2:6).
Why would this woman turn against her own people and protect the Israelite spies? The answer is simple: she has come to fear Yahweh. The people of Jericho have heard all that Yahweh has done for Israel and a great dread has fallen over them (Josh. 2:8–11). But while this dread could have caused Rahab to betray the spies, she instead chooses to throw her lot in with theirs. She begs, then, that the men would spare the lives of her and her family when the army of Israel comes against Jericho (Josh. 2:12–13).
The spies promise that they will do as she asked, but only on the condition that she hang a scarlet thread outside her window. Just as Yahweh had passed over the Israelite houses with the blood of a lamb smeared on the doorframe, so also Israel would pass over any in the woman’s house when they saw the scarlet thread in her window.
As we will see in Joshua 6, the men of Israel keep their promise to Rahab and her family and spare their lives on the basis of the scarlet thread hanging out of her window—a beautiful picture of how God redeems his people. This story proclaims in advance the fact that King Jesus will one day come again to destroy the wicked from the earth, a fact that should cause dread to fall on the inhabitants of this earth who have rebelled against him. And yet, Jesus provides his own scarlet thread—his shed blood at the cross—so that any who trust in him will be spared from the wrath to come.
But the story doesn’t end there. Because of her faith, Rahab’s story is included in the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11:31. And even more than that, Rahab the prostitute married a man named Salmon, the father of Boaz. Boaz married another foreign woman named Ruth, who gave birth to Obed, the father of Jesse. And Jesse was the father of a boy named David, the ancestor (according to the flesh) of our Lord Jesus Christ (Matt. 1:5–6).
The sovereign grace of God can reach, redeem, and commission even the least deserving of sinners—not only Rahab, but also you and me.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Jun 30 2020
Rank #2: September 11th: Bible Meditation for 2 Samuel 6
Bible Readings for September 11th
In 2 Samuel 6, we read one of the first stories explicitly describing the worship of Yahweh since Deuteronomy. David, the anointed king after God’s own heart who reigns over Israel, here brings the ark of God into Jerusalem. When Israel left Egypt, Yahweh led his people in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, and then, once the tabernacle was built, Yahweh dwelt in the midst of his people in the tabernacle. Now, however, Yahweh’s dwelling place with his people would be set in a single location—on Mount Zion in the City of David. In order to establish Jerusalem as the place where Yahweh would make his name dwell (Deut. 12:1–28), Yahweh reestablished two of the guidelines for his worship.
First, through the death of Uzzah (2 Sam. 6:5–11), Yahweh reminds his people that he is holy and that his people may not worship him in any way they see fit. Rather, they should observe all the commandments and statutes he had given them through Moses—including the commandment that only the priests should carry the ark of the covenant and that they should use the poles designed for that purpose and not a cart. It may seem that Uzzah has noble intentions in trying to prevent damage or harm from coming to the ark of the covenant, but because he disregards Yahweh’s commandment, he fundamentally mistreats the holiness of Yahweh when he reaches out to touch it.
Second, through the closing of Michal’s womb (2 Sam. 6:16–23), Yahweh reminds his people that his glory is infinitely superior to the glory even of Israel’s kings. Ultimately, Michal’s offense at David’s dancing for joy as the ark of Yahweh enters the city arises because she does not care that much about Yahweh’s glory and because she cares a lot about the dignity of her husband, Israel’s king. So, David points out to her that her father, Saul, had worried about his own dignity. Additionally, David reminds Michal that Yahweh had rejected Saul in favor of David precisely because David, unlike Saul, cared about Yahweh’s glory more than his own (2 Sam. 6:21–22).
In our own worship, then, we must take seriously the deadly holiness of Yahweh while also abandoning our dignity to rejoice in the Lord—especially since we have a better word than David had as he brought the ark into Jerusalem. The good news of the gospel is that Jesus Christ himself has been struck down, like Uzzah, for all the ways in which we have mistreated the holiness of Yahweh. Since Jesus went to trial for us, we are not on trial, and we may rejoice, having been named sons and daughters of the Most High God who dwells in our midst through his Holy Spirit.
O come, let us worship the Lord!
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Sep 11 2020
Rank #3: September 5th: Bible Meditation for 1 Samuel 29–30
Bible Readings for September 5th
The narrative of 1 Samuel 30 describes to us the final trial David must undergo as the leader of an underground movement before he becomes the king of Israel. Although Saul has wanted to kill David for quite some time, David has never before faced threats to his life from those around him. But in 1 Samuel 30, David faces persecution even from those who had sought his protection in the wilderness.
In 1 Samuel 29, David is expelled from the Philistines, who had given David refuge in his exile from Saul. If David had gone off to battle, he and his men would not have discovered that the Amalekites had plundered their camp, taking their wives and children captive. But because the Philistines rejected David, he and his men have enough time to pursue the Amalekites and rescue their families.
As we look back on our study of David up to this point, it is clear that God ordained a long period of preparation—that is, a long period of suffering—for David before installing him as king. But perhaps none of the trials were as devastating as this betrayal. We read in 1 Samuel 30:6 that “David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because all the people were bitter in soul, each for his sons and daughters. But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God.” In their despair, the people closest to David, those whom David had defended with his life, are now considering whether to stone him!
It is always this way with the leaders of God’s people. The people of Israel were ready to stone Moses (Ex. 17:4), and Jesus pointed out how the people in the capital city of Jerusalem—not in some pagan city in a foreign nation—killed God’s prophets and stoned those sent to it (Matt. 23:37). Ultimately, when Jesus entered this world, he came to be persecuted. His mission was to be betrayed by one of his disciples, despised, mocked, beaten, spit upon, and finally executed on the cross—and all so that he could receive his kingdom from the hand of his Father. The way of the cross is the path by which God prepares his people for glory.
Persecution and suffering, then, are unavoidable components of how God forges his leaders. We have hope, however, in knowing that God is actually accomplishing something real and important through even our most painful suffering. As Paul writes, “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:17). How, then, do you face the suffering in your own life? Do you, like David, “strengthen yourself in Yahweh your God,” or do you seek to rid yourself of suffering by any means possible? What might God be seeking to accomplish through the trials he sends to you?
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
The post September 5th: Bible Meditation for 1 Samuel 29–30 appeared first on Free Daily Bible Study.
Sep 05 2020
Rank #4: September 1st: Bible Meditation for 1 Samuel 25
Bible Readings for September 1st
At the beginning of 1 Samuel 25, the great prophet Samuel dies, an event the biblical author records with characteristic understatement, using just one verse (1 Sam. 25:1). Once again, God buries a workman and carries on his work. The death of Samuel also, however, provides a backdrop to the story of Nabal, Abigail, and David in the rest of 1 Samuel 25. The interesting correlation of these stories arises in that just as Israel’s last judge dies, we meet a man named Nabal, who perfectly represents the foolishness of Israel during the former period of the judges, doing whatever is right in his own eyes (Judg. 21:25). Despite the fact that David had protected Nabal’s shepherds in the wilderness (1 Sam. 25:7), Nabal would not share with David and his men provisions for the feast day that had arrived (1 Sam. 25:9–11). The contrast between Nabal and the priests of Nob is striking—where the priests of Nob generously gave David the only thing they had (holy bread), Nabal will not spare even the smallest amount of his vast wealth (1 Sam. 25:2) in return for the service David provided his shepherds.
But while Nabal unsurprisingly looks foolish—his very name means “fool” (1 Sam. 25:25)—what is surprising is that David isn’t the hero of this story either. David becomes understandably outraged at the disrespect that Nabal had paid him, but he overreacts by commanding his men to strap on their swords (1 Sam. 25:14) with the intent of wiping out every male in Nabal’s midst (1 Sam. 25:34).
Instead, the heroine of the story is Nabal’s wife, Abigail. After hearing what her foolish husband had done, Abigail rushes out to meet David and his men, bows down before David, and begs David to place all the guilt on her despite her complete innocence in the matter (1 Sam. 25:24). In response, David praises her discretion for preventing him from incurring bloodguilt by avenging himself (1 Sam. 25:33), and when Yahweh later strikes Nabal dead (1 Sam. 25:38), David eventually takes Abigail to be his wife (1 Sam. 25:42).
Although David is the king after God’s own heart—from whose line God would raise up his own Son to reign as king over Israel forever—David nevertheless has flaws. In this story, we see a shadow of the greater Son of David not in David himself but in Abigail, who takes upon herself Nabal’s guilt despite her own perfect innocence. Abigail, then, not only foreshadows how Jesus would go to the cross for our guilt but she also demonstrates how we might seek peaceful resolution to conflicts, even when we are not the ones at fault.
Remember the words of Jesus: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matt. 5:9).
Sep 01 2020
Rank #5: August 31st: Bible Meditation for 1 Samuel 24
Bible Readings for August 31st
David has two opportunities to strike down Saul stealthily, and in 1 Samuel 24, we read about the first of those two opportunities. Here, Saul enters a cave to relieve himself, but he chooses the very cave where David and his men are hiding from him (1 Sam. 24:3). As Saul does his business, David’s men prompt him to kill Saul, but David refuses to do as they say, and David’s actions here are helpful as we strategize how to fight our own temptations to sin.
Most importantly, David refuses to listen to justifications for sin by recognizing that they are merely half-truths. David’s men quote him Yahweh’s own promises to David, urging him to kill Saul by saying, “Here is the day of which the LORD said to you, ‘Behold, I will give your enemy into your hand, and you shall do to him as it shall seem good to you’” (1 Sam. 24:4). Certainly, Yahweh had given David’s enemies into his hand again and again, but David knows that Saul is still the rightful king of Israel. Yes, David had been anointed as the next king of Israel (1 Sam. 16:13), but Saul had also been anointed: “The LORD forbid that I should do this thing to my lord, the LORD’s anointed, to put out my hand against him, seeing he is the LORD’s anointed” (1 Sam. 24:6). Even something as innocent as cutting off a corner of Saul’s robe strikes David’s conscience afterward, since it represents an attack on Yahweh’s anointed one (1 Sam. 24:5).
Similarly, we can appropriate David’s logic to fight temptations to mistreat other people when we remember that they are created in the image of God. David fought his own temptations by preaching to himself the reality that Saul was the anointed king of Israel, so to sin against Saul would be to sin against the one who had anointed him—Yahweh himself. When we sin against other people, we also sin against Yahweh, the one who made those people in his own image.
Remarkably, God uses David’s mercy to bring Saul to repentance—not a lasting repentance, as we will see, but nevertheless Saul acknowledges his own sin here and praises David’s righteousness in sparing his life (1 Sam. 24:16–22). In the same way, we should remember the way that God brought us to repentance—not through threats and vengeance, but through mercy, as Jesus Christ came not to kill but to be killed in our place for our sin—so that we might become the righteousness of God. For this reason, Paul urges us not to be quarrelsome but kind and gentle to the people who persecute us in the hopes that “God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 2:25).
How might you love your enemies better?
Aug 31 2020
Rank #6: September 2nd: Bible Meditation for 1 Samuel 26
Bible Readings for September 2nd
In 1 Samuel 24, David had his first opportunity to strike down Saul when Saul relieved himself in the cave where David had been hiding. There, David refused to reach out his hand against Saul, since Saul was Yahweh’s anointed king (1 Sam. 24:6). Here again in 1 Samuel 26, David does not take the opportunity to strike down Saul while Saul and his men are under a deep sleep from Yahweh (1 Sam. 26:12). In today’s meditation, we will consider these stories not from David’s perspective but from Saul’s.
First, David’s mercy toward Saul brings Saul to sorrowful repentance in both stories as he considers David’s righteousness in light of his own unrighteousness. So, in 1 Samuel 24:17, Saul freely confessed to David, “You are more righteous than I, for you have repaid me good, whereas I have repaid you evil.” Then, in today’s reading, Saul confesses again, “I have sinned….Behold, I have acted foolishly, and have made a great mistake” (1 Sam. 26:21). David continues to fear that Saul might seek to kill him (1 Sam. 27:1), but Saul never again seeks an opportunity against David (cf. 1 Sam. 27:4).
Second, these two events confirm Saul’s deepest fears: that David would become king over Israel. In 1 Samuel 24:20, Saul had said, “And now, behold, I know that you shall surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in your hand.” Now, in 1 Samuel 26:25, Saul says, “Blessed be you, my son David! You will do many things and will succeed in them.” Rather than despairing, Saul asks David to swear that he will not destroy the rest of Saul’s offspring when he takes the throne: “Swear to me therefore by the LORD that you will not cut off my offspring after me, and that you will not destroy my name out of my father’s house” (1 Sam. 24:21).
The tragedy here is that, while Saul has knowledge of the fact that Yahweh has chosen David as king, and while Saul gives intellectual assent to that idea, he continues to rebel against Yahweh and Yahweh’s anointed. Theologians have helpfully explained that saving faith requires more than knowledge and intellectual assent, but also trust.1 In other words, it is not enough to know and to assent to the idea that Jesus came to save sinners in general; I must actually trust that Jesus came to save me. Without trust, a person’s faith is not saving faith.
Do you know the gospel and assent to its truths intellectually? If so, do you also trust that Jesus Christ came, lived, died, and rose from the dead for you? Do not follow in the faithless footsteps of Saul—believe trustingly on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved (Acts 16:31).
1 In Latin, notitia (knowledge), assensus (assent), and fiducia (trust). See, e.g., R. C. Sproul, “3 Distinctive Aspects of Biblical Faith,” July 31, 2013, http://www.ligonier.org/blog/what-faith/. Accessed July 20, 2015.
Sep 02 2020
Rank #7: July 8th: Bible Meditation for Joshua 10
Bible Readings for July 8th
In Joshua 9, Israel fails to ask God before entering into a covenant with the Gibeonites. This is a serious breach in their obedience to Yahweh’s commandments, and in today’s reading, we find that Israel’s actions bring severe consequences—but that Yahweh nevertheless redeems Israel’s sin for his own glory.
In the geopolitical landscape of Joshua’s day, Israel does not yet possess the city of Jerusalem. In fact, Adoni-zedek, the king of Jerusalem, identifies Israel as his enemy. When Adoni-zedek discovers that the mighty city of Gibeon had made a covenant with Israel, he fears that his options are running out to protect himself from the Israelites and their God, Yahweh (Josh. 10:1–2).
So, Adoni-zedek forms an alliance with the other major kings of southern Canaan, and those five kings gather their armies together against Gibeon (Josh. 10:3–5). Gibeon immediately sends to Israel, pleading for their assistance in the battle. Now, this was a conflict that Israel had no business involving themselves in, except for the fact that they had sworn a covenant with Gibeon. So, to honor their agreement, Israel marches up against the five Amorite kings through the night (Josh. 10:9).
Through their entire march, Israel had to be wondering whether Yahweh would fight for them when they arrived. They were fulfilling obligations from a sinful, foolish mistake they had made, so would Yahweh protect them? Or would he turn them over to their own strength such that they would have to fight the armies of five kings after a sleepless night of marching?
Mercifully, Yahweh does fight for his people. Yahweh throws the armies of the Amorite kings into a panic, and he sends large hailstones from heaven, killing more of Israel’s enemies than Israel killed with the sword (Josh. 10:10–11). Finally, when the sun starts to set, which would have allowed some of the Amorites to escape, Yahweh keeps the sun up for an entire additional day (Josh. 10:12–14).
But something else comes out of this—since the five largest armies of southern Canaan were destroyed all at once in this single battle, the rest of southern Canaan was wide open for Israel to conquer. So, in Joshua 10:29–43, we read that the Israelites destroyed each defenseless city whose armies had just been defeated: Lachish, Eglon, Hebron, along with a couple other, smaller cities like Gezer and Debir (Josh. 10:29–43).
Yahweh, in other words, used Israel’s sin to expedite the conquering of the Promised Land by defeating all those armies at once because Yahweh is able to use even our sin for his own glory. Obedience is always better, but our God is powerful enough to use our shame and our scars for building the kingdom of Jesus Christ on this earth.
How have you seen God using your sinful past for his own glory?
Jul 08 2020
Rank #8: July 21st: Bible Meditation for Judges 4
Bible Readings for July 21st
In Judges 3–4, we read short descriptions of the ministries of four of Israel’s judges: Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar, and Deborah. As a preface to the stories of three of these judges (Shamgar’s one-verse story being the only exception), we read that the people of Israel sin by serving the false gods of the surrounding nations, provoking Yahweh to anger, and Yahweh then hands Israel over to oppression from their enemies (Judg. 3:7–9, 12, 4:1-3). In these stories, we see that the spiritual condition in Israel is rapidly deteriorating but that Yahweh repeatedly saves his people through the faithful ministry of even a single servant in each generation.
Those single servants whom Yahweh sends to judge Israel in Judges 3–4 were mighty, valiant people. The Spirit of Yahweh himself was upon Othniel (Judg. 3:10), and the story of how Ehud killed Eglon to give Israel eighty years of freedom after eighteen years of Israel’s oppression is extraordinary (Judg. 3:12–30). Finally, the story of Deborah, Barak, and Jael is absolutely worthy of the song recorded for us in Judges 5.
If Joshua was a high point in the story of Israel, Judges is a very low point—and, with each cycle of Israel’s apostasy, the degree to which the people sin against Yahweh will increase and the relative strength of the judges whom Yahweh sends will decrease over the course of this book. By the end of Judges, we no longer see strong leaders like Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar, and Deborah but rather fools like Jephthah and Samson, all leading up to the horrific, final scene of a gang rape and murder in the Benjaminite city of Gibeah. But along the way, in situations that are by no means ideal, even one man or woman willing to obey Yahweh in these situations can make a big difference.
From these stories, we should recognize the value of our own obedience, even in the midst of mass unfaithfulness from professing believers. It should grieve us to see widespread apostasy, but we should take comfort in the fact that, as Paul writes, “So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace” (Rom. 11:5)—that is, there is a group of people whom God is preserving through his grace to continue his work in this world until Jesus returns. The strength and size of the church will grow and shrink, but just as one judge could return the people of Israel back to serving Yahweh, so now God can use even the smallest remnant to restore his church to the faithful service of Jesus Christ today.
As those around you fall away, remember the words of Jesus: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
Jul 21 2020
Rank #9: August 11th: Bible Meditation for 1 Samuel 1
Bible Readings for August 11th
Quietly, through a poor, widowed Moabite woman—the most unlikely person possible—God put into motion a plan in the book of Ruth for raising up a king. This king would shepherd God’s people away from doing what was right in their own eyes and instead toward obeying God by doing everything that was right in his eyes. And in 1 Samuel, God finally anoints his chosen king to the throne of Israel—but not right away. Instead, 1 Samuel opens in the way that many of the best stories in the Bible do, with a barren woman pleading for Yahweh to open her womb. With this, God adds Hannah to the list of Sarah (Gen. 11:30), Rebekah (Gen. 25:21), Rachel (Gen. 29:31), and the unnamed mother of Samson (Judg. 13:23).
Also, the rivalry between Hannah and Peninnah (Peninnah would provoke Hannah because Hannah had no children; 1 Sam. 1:6) should remind us of the stories of Hagar, who looked on Sarah with contempt once she conceived with Sarah’s husband, Abraham (Gen. 16:4), and of Rachel, whose infertility brought her to great distress as she compared herself with her sister, Leah (Gen. 30:1). Sadly, polygamy does happen in the Bible, but it is always cast in the most negative light possible as an unworkable situation that unavoidably causes heartache for the people involved. God’s plan for marriage had always been that a man would cleave to his wife so that the two could become one flesh (Gen. 2:24)—adding additional members to the marriage union causes tremendous problems.
It is no surprise, then, that Hannah’s anguished prayers make her appear drunk to the priest Eli (1 Sam. 1:13). We read that Yahweh mercifully remembered Hannah by answering her prayers, so that “in due time Hannah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Samuel, for she said, ‘I have asked for him from the LORD’” (1 Sam. 1:20). Then, according to her vow, she dedicates Samuel to service in the tabernacle as soon as he is weaned (1 Sam. 1:23–28).
Hannah is a woman of great faith who did not allow her pain to drive her to bitterness but rather poured out her soul before Yahweh, entrusting her fertility to the one who opens and closes wombs. This story does not teach that Yahweh will always give us what we ask for in prayer, but it does teach that Yahweh hears us when we pray.
The question is far less about whether Yahweh will give us the answers we want from him in prayer and far more about whether we, like Hannah, can actually trust Yahweh with our prayers. Whatever it is that brings anguish to your soul—are you pouring that out before Yahweh? And if not, what is stopping you from entrusting yourself to him as Hannah did?
Aug 11 2020
Rank #10: August 13th: Bible Meditation for 1 Samuel 3
Bible Readings for August 13th
Sometimes we imagine that the people living in the Old Testament were constantly surrounded by great signs and wonders—a parted sea here, a prophetic vision there—but that wasn’t the case. Here in 1 Samuel 3:1, we read specifically that “the word of the LORD was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision.” The reason God communicated so infrequently with his people is obvious if we remember the stories we have been reading since the book of Judges: Israel has abandoned Yahweh again and again, and part of the way that Yahweh judges his people for their apostasy is by withdrawing his word from them.
But when Yahweh breaks the silence, he does so in order to tell Samuel that he has rejected the house of Eli entirely as priests because of the sins of Hophni and Phinehas (as well as Eli’s failure to stop them), even going so far as to say that “the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be atoned for by sacrifice or offering forever” (1 Sam. 3:14). Shockingly, when Samuel tells the prophecy to Eli the next morning, Eli does not repent in hopes that Yahweh might relent from his judgment. Instead, he simply acknowledges that “It is the LORD. Let him do what seems good to him” (1 Sam. 3:18). While Eli does not dispute the charges against him, he also doesn’t make any movement toward repentance.
We ought to glean two important lessons from this story. First, this story should help us cherish our Bibles more. In those days, the people of God had to wait for infrequent visions to hear anything from Yahweh, but we have the privilege of holding the written word of God—through which he continues to speak by his Spirit—in our hands. Let us never take God’s word for granted.
Second, let us seek the Lord while he may be found. Yahweh leveled threats against his people multiple times during the ministry of Moses (e.g., Ex. 33:1–6; Num. 16:45), and even during the days of Joshua (Josh. 7:10–15). In each of those cases, Israel’s mediators pleaded with Yahweh for mercy, and each time, Yahweh graciously relented. The reason that Eli’s house will not be atoned for has nothing to do with the effectiveness of the sacrifices—instead, it has everything to do with the fact that Eli would not repent.
Do you worry that you are too far gone for God to save? Those lies from Satan are a form of self-righteousness, misleading you to believe that Jesus might be sufficient for others but that your sins are somehow bigger than Jesus.1 Repent from your sins and your self-righteousness and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. He is willing and able to save.
Aug 13 2020
Rank #11: August 15th: Bible Meditation for 1 Samuel 5–6
Bible Readings for August 15th
If the Israelites had treated Yahweh’s glory with contempt in 1 Samuel 4, the Philistines do so much more in 1 Samuel 5. When the Philistines capture the ark of the covenant in battle, they set it next to their god Dagon as a trophy of war (1 Sam. 5:2)—a situation that does not please Yahweh.
This whole story is written humorously, so we should feel free to laugh as we read about Dagon twice falling facedown before the ark of Yahweh in the night (1 Sam. 5:3–5)—even the false gods must bow down to Yahweh! The second time Dagon falls down is powerfully symbolic. Dagon’s head and his hands break off of the carved image, representing the fact that Dagon has no power actually to think, say, or do anything for the Philistines (1 Sam. 5:4). Then, Yahweh causes the people of Ashdod to break out in tumors (1 Sam. 5:6), killing many Philistines and inciting a “deathly panic throughout the whole city” (1 Sam. 5:11). Here, Yahweh’s wrath falls more heavily on the Philistines than on the Israelites in 1 Samuel 4, so that the Philistines recognize that they absolutely must get the ark out of their country: “The ark of the God of Israel must not remain with us, for his hand is hard against us and against Dagon our god” (1 Sam. 5:7).
The cows, lowing as they beeline straight toward Israel (1 Sam. 6:12), have more sense than the Philistines—and even more than the Israelites, who do not learn their lesson when the ark returns. When some Israelites further treat Yahweh’s glory with contempt by peeking into the ark of the covenant, Yahweh strikes them dead without hesitation (1 Sam. 6:19). Finally, the people exclaim, “Who is able to stand before the LORD, this holy God?” (1 Sam. 6:20).
Today, we continue to struggle with the same fundamental misunderstanding of Yahweh’s glory and holiness, although our struggle looks a little different. We believe we can control Yahweh by ordering him into our battles or that we can tame Yahweh by keeping him as one God in the midst of our idols or that we can use Yahweh for our entertainment by studying his mysteries with cold detachment and without reverence.
The free grace of Jesus, however, does not give us license to live any way that we want. Put another way, Jesus came not because God had abandoned his consuming-fire holiness but in order to uphold it. Jesus faced the hard-handed wrath of his Father for our sin, not so that we might continue to treat God’s glory with contempt, but so that we might learn to worship and honor him as he deserves.
How do you treat the glory of God in light of his mercy toward you?
Aug 15 2020
Rank #12: August 16th: Bible Meditation for 1 Samuel 7–8
Bible Readings for August 16th
In 1 Samuel 7, we see the last iteration of the cycle of Israel’s judges: Israel sins, Yahweh delivers Israel to their enemies, Israel cries for deliverance, and Yahweh sends a judge to reform Israel. In 1 Samuel 7:3, Samuel instructs the people to reform their worship in order to regain the blessings of Yahweh: “If you are returning to the LORD with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your heart to the LORD and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” As under the leadership of previous judges, the people again repent and return to Yahweh, and when the Philistines attempt to come up against Israel at Mizpah, Yahweh throws the Philistines into confusion with mighty thunder from heaven and Israel routs the army of their oppressors (1 Sam. 7:10).
But this is where Israel exits the death spiral they have experienced under the leadership of their judges. It is striking that not even Samuel can shepherd Israel away from doing whatever is right in their own eyes, despite the fact that Samuel is the greatest of the judges and a mighty prophet. Even Samuel’s own sons are corrupt and do not walk faithfully before Yahweh (1 Sam. 8:1–3). If even Samuel couldn’t bring about obedience, who could?
Simply put, Israel needs a king. This is not a new concept, since Yahweh had given laws concerning what his kings should be back Deuteronomy 17:14–20. In fact, Yahweh had foretold that kings would arise from his people back in the days of Jacob, who had prophesied in Genesis 49:10 that a scepter would never depart from the tribe of Judah.
And yet, when Israel asks for a king, Yahweh recognizes that Israel is rejecting him (1 Sam. 8:7). It’s not that Israel wants a king—at least, they do not want Yahweh’s idea of a king. It’s more that Israel wants someone other than Yahweh. The hearts of Israel are so stubborn that they are desperate for any kind of loophole that will allow them to avoid serving Yahweh at all.
What this means is that Yahweh’s king has a double challenge. Not only must the king govern Israel well, but he must somehow transform the hearts of God’s people so that they want to obey Yahweh. No ordinary king over Israel will be up to this challenge, but instead, Yahweh will eventually send a very different and special kind of king: his own Son. Jesus will not merely constrain his people from disobedience but he will transform his people’s hearts so that they will want to do what is right in God’s eyes.
But first, many kings will fail—including Saul, Israel’s first king, whom we will meet in tomorrow’s reading.
Aug 16 2020
Rank #13: July 9th: Bible Meditation for Joshua 11
Bible Readings for July 9th
In Joshua 11, we learn two important principles about Israel’s conquest of the land of Canaan as we read about the final warfare that Israel undertakes under the leadership of Joshua. First, Joshua gives us this insight into the interplay between Yahweh’s sovereignty and the Canaanites’ sin in Joshua 11:20: “For it was the LORD’s doing to harden their hearts that they should come against Israel in battle, in order that they should be devoted to destruction and should receive no mercy but be destroyed, just as the LORD commanded Moses.”
Years before, Yahweh had explained to Abraham that Israel would not take possession of the Promised Land until the iniquity of the Amorites was “complete” (Gen. 15:16). Part of bringing that iniquity to completion involved hardening the hearts of these people so they went out in battle against Israel—just as Yahweh had hardened the heart of Pharaoh in Egypt. There is a mystery that is not fully explained here, but the Scriptures insist both that Yahweh is sovereign to harden the hearts of the wicked and that human beings are responsible for their sin. We dare not downplay one side or the other.
Second, Yahweh commands Joshua and the Israelites to devote the cities of Canaan to destruction (Josh. 11:10–15). The concept of “devote to destruction” comes from Deuteronomy 20:16–18, where Moses had instructed the people of Israel to “save alive nothing that breathes…that they may not teach you to do according to all their abominable practices that they have done for their gods, and so you sin against the LORD your God.” Sadly, when Israel eventually fails to complete the conquest, the gods of the pagan peoples remaining in the land do become a snare for Israel (Judg. 2:3).
Taken together, these principles should create deep humility in our hearts. We should first remember that it is only by grace that we have been saved, and not by any righteousness of our own (Eph. 2:8–9). But also, we must acknowledge that apostasy from our gracious Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is a frighteningly simple path for us to take. We are not better than those around us who have fallen into sin, and it is deadly to imagine otherwise.
Our struggle in the new covenant is not against flesh and blood but against the spiritual forces of darkness (Eph. 6:12). Therefore, we must take every opportunity to devote to destruction any remaining vestiges of sin in our lives. Are you making provisions for the flesh (Rom. 13:14) that will eventually become a snare that will make shipwreck of your faith? By the Spirit of God, put to death the deeds of the flesh so that you may live (Rom. 8:13). Do not flirt with sin. Allow nothing of your sin to remain, or it will eventually rise up to destroy you.
Jul 09 2020
Rank #14: August 28th: Bible Meditation for 1 Samuel 20
Bible Readings for August 28th
Although the story of Saul is tragic, narrating the slow descent of a man who seemed to start off his reign so well, Saul’s legacy nevertheless includes one very bright point: his son Jonathan. Jonathan’s life, however, also involves tragedy, since the sins of Jonathan’s father, Saul, have meant that Jonathan himself would never become king over Israel. Nevertheless, Jonathan’s deep humility and integrity leads him to pledge eagerly to David all the support he can offer here in 1 Samuel 20.
The critical background information to understand the friendship between David and Jonathan is found in 1 Samuel 18, where we first read that David and Jonathan loved each other with the deepest of friendship, so that their souls were knit together (1 Sam. 18:1). There, we find that Jonathan, despite being the prince of Israel and the heir apparent to the throne of Israel, nevertheless swore a covenant with David out of his deep love for his friend (1 Sam. 18:3).
Here in 1 Samuel 20, the two friends not only renew their covenant (1 Sam. 20:16), but Jonathan pledges to protect David from the wrath of Saul once again. What is interesting, though, is that Jonathan demands in return that David pledge to protect Jonathan’s house (that is, his family) in the event that Jonathan will die. Jonathan seems to understand that for David to become the next king, Jonathan might die. This is not a source of bitterness for Jonathan but a source of joy, so that Jonathan prays, “May the LORD take vengeance on David’s enemies” (1 Sam. 20:16) when he makes his covenant with David.
It is obvious to us that David’s story foreshadows the story of Jesus, since Jesus is the Son of David and since the New Testament explicitly draws many comparisons between the events of David’s life and those of Jesus’. But, we should not allow David to eclipse the glory of Jonathan in foreshadowing Jesus as well. In Jonathan, we see a prince willing to die to uphold the covenant God has sworn to David and to protect David from the wrath of his own father—and all of this happens even though Jonathan is the rightful heir to the throne of Israel. In Jonathan, then, we see an uncommon level of humility—the same kind of humility modeled by Jesus Christ himself, “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant…becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:6–8).
Therefore, let us have the same mind—that is, the same mind of humility modeled by Jonathan and ultimately by Jesus himself—among ourselves, looking not to our own interests but to the interests of others (Phil. 2:4).
Aug 28 2020
Rank #15: July 12th: Bible Meditation for Joshua 16–17
Bible Readings for July 12th
In Joshua 16–17, the apportionment of the Promised Land to the tribes of Israel continues. In Joshua 15, Judah had received their inheritance, and now in Joshua 16–17, we read about the inheritance of the two half-tribes descended from Joseph, Manasseh and Ephraim. While all of the other tribes are named after the direct descendants of Jacob, the tribes of Manasseh and Ephraim are named after Jacob’s grandchildren. As you may recall, Jacob had adopted Joseph’s two sons as his own in order for Manasseh and Ephraim to each receive an entire portion of Jacob’s inheritance, rather than dividing Joseph’s single portion of Jacob’s inheritance (Gen. 48:5–7).
This story is behind the question of the two tribes of Joseph in Joshua 17:14: “Then the people of Joseph spoke to Joshua, saying, ‘Why have you given me but one lot and one portion as an inheritance, although I am a numerous people, since all along the LORD has blessed me?’” If we don’t know the backstory, we might read this and think the tribes of Manasseh and Ephraim were simply being greedy and selfish, going behind the backs of the other tribes to ask for a special blessing. But in fact, the tribes of Joseph were asking for the double blessing they had originally been promised by Jacob himself.
Joshua’s response, however, is fascinating. Rather than simply giving the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh another, conquered portion of the land, Joshua points them to the land they have already been given and urges them to clear the forests in the hill country of Ephraim and to drive out the remaining Canaanites from those regions (Josh. 17:15, 18). But sadly, the tribes of Joseph do not finish the conquest and instead allow Canaanites to continue living in their land (Josh. 16:10, 17:12).
Brothers and sisters, through this story, Jesus calls us to complete the conquest. He has inherited all authority in heaven and on earth (Matt. 28:18), but he must reign in order to put every enemy under his feet (1 Cor. 15:24–28). Toward this end, he has established his church on the earth to be the place where his reign and rule flourishes. In his church, Jesus is building his kingdom—a kingdom against which the gates of hell cannot prevail (Matt. 16:18).
But Jesus calls for the patient endurance of his saints (Rev. 14:12). Let us press on in the power of God’s Holy Spirit, armed with the whole armor of God (Eph. 6:10–20), doing the work that our heavenly Father has called us to do as Jesus builds his kingdom on earth. Do not leave the conquest unfinished, but press on until the day that Jesus Christ appears with his army of saints to bring the war to its end.
Jul 12 2020
Rank #16: June 26th: Bible Meditation for Deuteronomy 31
Bible Readings for June 26th
There is an engraved marble memorial at Westminster Abbey in London dedicated to John and Charles Wesley, the great leaders of the Methodist movement in the eighteenth century. At the base of the monument are the words of Charles: “God buries his workmen, but carries on his work.” In Deuteronomy 31, we are rapidly approaching the burial of one of God’s greatest workmen, Moses, and we begin to see how God will carry on his work.
Moses, because of his failure at Meribah to uphold Yahweh as holy (Num. 20:10–13), is not allowed to enter into the Promised Land, despite the fact that he had led Israel out of Egypt and through the wilderness for forty years. Instead, Yahweh here commissions Joshua to take over the leadership of Israel and to bring them into the land (Deut. 31:14–15, 23), since Joshua had been the faithful servant of Moses and had been one of the two spies who believed that Yahweh would give the land of Canaan to Israel (Num. 14:6–9). So at this point, Moses can only prepare the people who will enter the Promised Land without him.
This is a theme that will come up again and again through the Old Testament—that no leader of God’s people can bring total, lasting salvation. Moses does far more than anyone before him has done to shepherd Israel by leading them out of Egypt, across the Red Sea, and into the wilderness, but even he is not allowed to enter into Israel’s inheritance.
After him, Joshua will lead Israel to a complete conquest of Canaan, so that at the end of his life he can claim that “not one word has failed of all the good things that the LORD your God promised concerning you” (Josh. 23:14), but after he dies, Israel quickly falls into idolatry and sin. Later, King David brings peace to Israel by defeating all their enemies, but he is not allowed to build the temple. David’s son Solomon builds the temple, but he himself falls into idolatry because of his many foreign wives.
The whole Old Testament, then, points forward longingly to a savior who would be capable of bringing total, lasting salvation to God’s people. Only Jesus fulfilled his mission without stumbling at any point, and only Jesus could say at the end of his life, “It is finished” (John 19:30). But even now, those of us who live on this side of the coming of Jesus must wait until he comes again to enter into our everlasting inheritance.
Until then, God will continue burying his workmen but carrying on his work.
Jun 26 2020
Rank #17: July 10th: Bible Meditation for Joshua 12–13
Bible Readings for July 10th
The end of Joshua 11 marked the final warfare under the leadership of Joshua. In Joshua 11:23, we read this summary of the Israelite conquest of the Promised Land: “So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the LORD had spoken to Moses.” Now, it’s important to understand that this does not mean Israel had actually taken every last bit of the Promised Land. Yahweh makes this clear in Joshua 13:1, saying this to Joshua: “You are old and advanced in years, and there remains yet very much land to possess.” This bit of information doesn’t contradict the summary that “Joshua took the whole land,” but simply qualifies it. At a broad level, Yahweh has kept his promise to Israel, bringing Israel fully into the land, but there nevertheless remained work to be done.
The best analogy to this would be D-Day, the invasion of Normandy during World War II on June 6, 1944. When the Allied Forces captured Normandy, the mission of invading continental Europe was largely accomplished—according to many historians, D-Day was the point at which the eventual victory of the Allies was sealed. Nevertheless, there was still much fighting to be done, so that the war in Europe was not completely over until V-E Day (Victory in Europe Day), eleven months later on May 8, 1945.
But at the same time, the story is also set up for Israel to fail to complete their mission in the book of Judges. It is as though, having captured Normandy, the Allied Forces decided to declare victory and stop fighting. By leaving peoples in Canaan, Israel falls into a long cycle of idolatry and subjugation by foreign powers again and again—up to the point that Yahweh sends his people into exile under the Assyrians and the Babylonians.
But we must continue reading the story of Israel beyond their exile. There, we discover that God was faithful to keep every word of his promises, even when Israel disobeyed—and even when faithfulness required God to hand his beloved Son over to be crucified at the hands of wicked men. At the cross, God proved his utter faithfulness for all eternity.
The tragedy of the book of Joshua is that this victory would not last. After Joshua’s death, Israel would again forget God. Joshua, then, stands as a warning for us not to make shipwreck of our faith. Do not give up the fight of faith! Jesus promises to go with us to the very end of the age (Matt. 28:20), and to fulfill that promise, he has given us his own Spirit to lead us and guide us every step of the way until the day Jesus himself returns to bring his victory completely into this world. Therefore, be strong and very courageous, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go (Josh. 1:9).
Jul 10 2020
Rank #18: August 14th: Bible Meditation for 1 Samuel 4
Bible Readings for August 14th
In 1 Samuel 4, Yahweh brings three major forms of judgment against the people of Israel. First, when the Israelites bring the ark of the covenant out in battle with them against the Philistines, Yahweh hands them over to defeat, and the Philistines capture the ark (1 Sam. 4:11). Second, Hophni and Phinehas are put to death in battle just as Yahweh had promised in 1 Samuel 2 and 3 (1 Sam. 4:11). Third, when Eli hears the news of these first two judgments, he falls backward from the gate where he was sitting, breaks his neck, and dies (1 Sam. 4:18). These judgments are not random; rather, God’s people reap exactly what they have sown.
Israel’s specific sin in this chapter is that they treat the ark of the covenant as a magic wand, thinking that bringing it to battle will draft Yahweh into battle to fight for them (1 Sam. 4:3). In this thinking, Israel makes their decision based on two half-truths that amount to one deadly lie. First, they are correct in believing that they need Yahweh to fight for them, since the title LORD of hosts (1 Sam. 4:5) is not describing Yahweh’s ability to host a dinner party or social event but rather indicates that he commands the armies (the hosts) of heaven. Second, they are correct that Yahweh sits enthroned upon the cherubim of his ark (1 Sam. 4:4). Their mistake, then, comes from believing they can drag Yahweh around and sic him like a dog on their enemies. Yahweh had promised to fight for his people if they would ask him to, but he refuses to be treated with contempt in this way.
In fact, God is not giving Israel a stone when they ask for bread. Rather, Israel has requested a stone, and God gives them a stone. They are treating Yahweh’s glory with contempt, so Yahweh allows his glory to depart from their midst altogether, which is why Phinehas’s wife names their son Ichabod, meaning “no glory,” since “The glory has departed from Israel” (1 Sam. 4:21). The same is true for Eli. He did not want to discipline his sons himself, so Yahweh did it for him by putting Hophni and Phinehas to death—and then by putting Eli himself to death. Very often, when God gives us what we want, we discover that what we have desperately sought actually qualifies as judgment.
The question, then, is this: What do you want? As C. S. Lewis rightly noted, “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in Hell, choose it.”1 Do you want Jesus and his righteousness, or do you want the hell of your own sin?
Aug 14 2020
Rank #19: July 22nd: Bible Meditation for Judges 5
Bible Readings for July 22nd
Judges 4 narrates the story of how Yahweh saved his people from the oppression of Jabin, king of Canaan. The prophetess-judge Deborah sent Barak, the commander of the army of Naphtali and Zebulun into battle against the army of Jabin’s general, Sisera (Judg. 4:4–10). During the battle, the Canaanite army and chariots were defeated, so that Sisera fled from the battlefield and sought refuge and rest in the tent of a non-Israelite Kenite woman named Jael (Judg. 4:17–18). But as soon as Sisera fell asleep, Jael killed Sisera by driving a tent peg through his temple with a hammer (Judg. 4:19–22).
In Judges 5, then, we find a song celebrating this brutal end to not only Israel’s battle against Sisera but also to the oppression Israel had faced at the hand of the Canaanites for twenty years before Yahweh raised up Deborah to judge Israel (Judg. 4:3). Modern readers might find this song a bit uncomfortable, since it celebrates the execution of Sisera at the hand of Jael. What, then, should we take from this passage?
To begin, we should keep in mind the context of this story. In Judges 5:4–5, the song sets this latest battle in the context of a long line of Yahweh’s earth-trembling acts, beginning during the ministry of Moses, when Yahweh led his people out from Seir, through the region of Edom, and toward Mount Sinai. Here in the book of Judges, Israel is in the Promised Land, and they are still fighting to drive out the Canaanites who surround them, just as Yahweh had commanded them to do.
Focus then on the way that the song concludes in Judges 5:31: “So may all your enemies perish, O LORD! But your friends be like the sun as he rises in his might.” Despite our potential misgivings, it is important to recognize that the Bible is a story about warfare—in the new covenant our warfare is spiritual rather than against flesh and blood (Eph. 6:12), but it is warfare nonetheless. The deep brokenness of creation cannot be solved through peace movements or skilled diplomacy, since our adversary the devil desires nothing except our utter annihilation (1 Pet. 5:8). There can be no lasting peace until Jesus Christ puts all of his enemies under his feet forever (1 Cor. 15:25).
Therefore, brothers and sisters, sing. Even though we face setbacks and sorrows in this life, let us sing in the knowledge that the enemies of Yahweh will perish because Jesus reigns. Sin could not conquer him, Satan could not destroy him, and death could not hold him. And we—the friends of Jesus—will shine like the sun as he rises in his might to return for us on the last day (Judg. 5:31).
Jul 22 2020
Rank #20: June 27th: Bible Meditation for Deuteronomy 32
Bible Readings for June 27th
Moses has given the entire law to the people of Israel, but in Deuteronomy 32, he takes a different approach to impress upon his people the necessity of obeying Yahweh: he sings to them a song. In this song, Moses acts out the story of Israel’s history with Yahweh and then he warns them of the dangers of departing from their covenant.
To begin, Moses calls heaven and earth to give ear to the words of his mouth (Deut. 32:1)—possibly to bear witness against Israel if they violated the covenant of which he was singing, as in Deuteronomy 30:19. He praises Yahweh as the eternal Rock, whose work in creation is perfect, even though humankind rebelled against him, dealing corruptly because of the blemish of the fall (Deut. 32:4–8).
But Yahweh, Moses sings, nevertheless extended free grace to Jeshurun (i.e., to Jacob and Jacob’s descendants; Deut. 32:9), calling his people out of the desert wilderness, feeding him with the finest foods and foaming wine (Deut. 32:9–14). And when Jeshurun grew fat under the blessings of Yahweh, he did not praise God with gratitude but instead sought out false gods. Because of this false worship, Moses sings of the curses that Yahweh sends against Jeshurun (Deut. 32:15–42).
While some of what Moses sings here might represent key sins that have already happened—for example, the incident with the golden calf (Ex. 32) or the Baal worship at Peor (Num. 25)—the primary purpose is to be a warning to the people of Israel not to rebel. So, Moses solemnly charges them, “Take to heart all the words by which I am warning you today, that you may command them to your children, that they may be careful to do all the words of this law. For it is no empty word for you, but your very life, and by this word you shall live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess” (Deut. 32:46–47).
Singing is an important part of the worship of God’s people. When we sing the story of creation, sin, redemption, and the hope of glory, we engage with the story in a different way than when we simply read it or listen to it—by singing it, we engage with the story personally.
So, we are commanded to “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Col. 3:16). Just as Moses commanded the people of Israel to take to heart all his words, so we are commanded to let Christ’s word dwell in us richly.
“Oh come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!” (Psalm 95:1).
Jun 27 2020