October 11, 2015
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October 15, 2015
October 16, 2015
October 17, 2015
Ezekiel 44; Psalms 97-98
The Gate for the Prince
1 Then he brought me back to the outer gate of the sanctuary, which faces east. And it was shut. 2 And the Lord said to me, “This gate shall remain shut; it shall not be opened, and no one shall enter by it, for the Lord, the God of Israel, has entered by it. Therefore it shall remain shut. 3 Only the prince may sit in it to eat bread before the Lord. He shall enter by way of the vestibule of the gate, and shall go out by the same way.”
4 Then he brought me by way of the north gate to the front of the temple, and I looked, and behold, the glory of the Lord filled the temple of the Lord. And I fell on my face. 5 And the Lord said to me, “Son of man, mark well, see with your eyes, and hear with your ears all that I shall tell you concerning all the statutes of the temple of the Lord and all its laws. And mark well the entrance to the temple and all the exits from the sanctuary. 6 And say to the rebellious house, to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: O house of Israel, enough of all your abominations, 7 in admitting foreigners, uncircumcised in heart and flesh, to be in my sanctuary, profaning my temple, when you offer to me my food, the fat and the blood. You have broken my covenant, in addition to all your abominations. 8 And you have not kept charge of my holy things, but you have set others to keep my charge for you in my sanctuary.
9 “Thus says the Lord God: No foreigner, uncircumcised in heart and flesh, of all the foreigners who are among the people of Israel, shall enter my sanctuary. 10 But the Levites who went far from me, going astray from me after their idols when Israel went astray, shall bear their punishment. 11 They shall be ministers in my sanctuary, having oversight at the gates of the temple and ministering in the temple. They shall slaughter the burnt offering and the sacrifice for the people, and they shall stand before the people, to minister to them. 12 Because they ministered to them before their idols and became a stumbling block of iniquity to the house of Israel, therefore I have sworn concerning them, declares the Lord God, and they shall bear their punishment. 13 They shall not come near to me, to serve me as priest, nor come near any of my holy things and the things that are most holy, but they shall bear their shame and the abominations that they have committed. 14 Yet I will appoint them to keep charge of the temple, to do all its service and all that is to be done in it.
Rules for Levitical Priests
15 “But the Levitical priests, the sons of Zadok, who kept the charge of my sanctuary when the people of Israel went astray from me, shall come near to me to minister to me. And they shall stand before me to offer me the fat and the blood, declares the Lord God. 16 They shall enter my sanctuary, and they shall approach my table, to minister to me, and they shall keep my charge. 17 When they enter the gates of the inner court, they shall wear linen garments. They shall have nothing of wool on them, while they minister at the gates of the inner court, and within. 18 They shall have linen turbans on their heads, and linen undergarments around their waists. They shall not bind themselves with anything that causes sweat. 19 And when they go out into the outer court to the people, they shall put off the garments in which they have been ministering and lay them in the holy chambers. And they shall put on other garments, lest they transmit holiness to the people with their garments. 20 They shall not shave their heads or let their locks grow long; they shall surely trim the hair of their heads. 21 No priest shall drink wine when he enters the inner court. 22 They shall not marry a widow or a divorced woman, but only virgins of the offspring of the house of Israel, or a widow who is the widow of a priest. 23 They shall teach my people the difference between the holy and the common, and show them how to distinguish between the unclean and the clean. 24 In a dispute, they shall act as judges, and they shall judge it according to my judgments. They shall keep my laws and my statutes in all my appointed feasts, and they shall keep my Sabbaths holy. 25 They shall not defile themselves by going near to a dead person. However, for father or mother, for son or daughter, for brother or unmarried sister they may defile themselves. 26 After he has become clean, they shall count seven days for him. 27 And on the day that he goes into the Holy Place, into the inner court, to minister in the Holy Place, he shall offer his sin offering, declares the Lord God.
28 “This shall be their inheritance: I am their inheritance: and you shall give them no possession in Israel; I am their possession. 29 They shall eat the grain offering, the sin offering, and the guilt offering, and every devoted thing in Israel shall be theirs. 30 And the first of all the firstfruits of all kinds, and every offering of all kinds from all your offerings, shall belong to the priests. You shall also give to the priests the first of your dough, that a blessing may rest on your house. 31 The priests shall not eat of anything, whether bird or beast, that has died of itself or is torn by wild animals.
The Lord Reigns
1 The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice;
let the many coastlands be glad!
2 Clouds and thick darkness are all around him;
righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
3 Fire goes before him
and burns up his adversaries all around.
4 His lightnings light up the world;
the earth sees and trembles.
5 The mountains melt like wax before the Lord,
before the Lord of all the earth.
6 The heavens proclaim his righteousness,
and all the peoples see his glory.
7 All worshipers of images are put to shame,
who make their boast in worthless idols;
worship him, all you gods!
8 Zion hears and is glad,
and the daughters of Judah rejoice,
because of your judgments, O Lord.
9 For you, O Lord, are most high over all the earth;
you are exalted far above all gods.
10 O you who love the Lord, hate evil!
He preserves the lives of his saints;
he delivers them from the hand of the wicked.
11 Light is sown for the righteous,
and joy for the upright in heart.
12 Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous,
and give thanks to his holy name!
Make a Joyful Noise to the Lord
1 Oh sing to the Lord a new song,
for he has done marvelous things!
His right hand and his holy arm
have worked salvation for him.
2 The Lord has made known his salvation;
he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations.
3 He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness
to the house of Israel.
All the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation of our God.
4 Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth;
break forth into joyous song and sing praises!
5 Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre,
with the lyre and the sound of melody!
6 With trumpets and the sound of the horn
make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord!
7 Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
the world and those who dwell in it!
8 Let the rivers clap their hands;
let the hills sing for joy together
9 before the Lord, for he comes
to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
and the peoples with equity.
IN THE ANGLICAN BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER, Psalm 98 is known as the Cantate Domino (“Sing to the Lord”) and is placed between the evening Old Testament
reading and its New Testament counterpart. It overflows with exhilarating worship
The psalm has three stanzas. The first (98:1-3) celebrates the “salvation” of
God (found in each verse). The word is perhaps more comprehensive than the
way it is used today. It includes victory over enemies: this “salvation” or victory
was effected by the Lord’s “right hand and his holy arm” (98:1). But it also
includes what we mean by salvation: God reconciles people to himself and transforms
them by his grace. While God “has remembered his love and his faithfulness
to the house of Israel” (98:3), the glorious truth is that he “has made his
salvation known and revealed his righteousness to the nations” (98:2); “all the
ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God” (98:3). Small wonder, then,
we must sing to the Lord “a new song” (98:1). The expression signals not so much
a new composition, written for the occasion perhaps, as a fresh response to new
mercies showered upon us.
The second stanza (98:4-6) responds to the first. The first celebrates God’s
coming in power and salvation, the second responds to every act of God in exhilarated
worship. Indeed, because the full salvation briefly described awaits the consummation,
all our acts of worship are an anticipation of the end. We “shout for
joy before the LORD, the King” (98:6) as a prelude and an announcement of the
consummation of his reign. The instruments listed here were regularly used as
part of temple worship (cf. 1 Chron. 16:5-6) or on joyous occasions such as the
accession of a new king (e.g., 1 Kings 1:39).
If the praise of the second stanza is carefully put together in orchestrated
singing, the praise of the third stanza (98:7-9) is inarticulate. But it is no less powerful
for being artless. Even now the whole universe declares the glory of God.
But if various Old Testament passages anticipate a vast renewing of the created
order (Ps. 96:11-13; Isa. 2; 11; 55:11-12), Paul not only anticipates the same but
recognizes that the fulfillment depends on the transformation of human beings
at the end: “The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be
revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but
by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated
from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the
children of God” (Rom. 8:19-21).
Ezekiel 45; Psalms 99-101
The Holy District
1 “When you allot the land as an inheritance, you shall set apart for the Lord a portion of the land as a holy district, 25,000 cubits long and 20,000 cubits broad. It shall be holy throughout its whole extent. 2 Of this a square plot of 500 by 500 cubits shall be for the sanctuary, with fifty cubits for an open space around it. 3 And from this measured district you shall measure off a section 25,000 cubits long and 10,000 broad, in which shall be the sanctuary, the Most Holy Place. 4 It shall be the holy portion of the land. It shall be for the priests, who minister in the sanctuary and approach the Lord to minister to him, and it shall be a place for their houses and a holy place for the sanctuary. 5 Another section, 25,000 cubits long and 10,000 cubits broad, shall be for the Levites who minister at the temple, as their possession for cities to live in.
6 “Alongside the portion set apart as the holy district you shall assign for the property of the city an area 5,000 cubits broad and 25,000 cubits long. It shall belong to the whole house of Israel.
The Portion for the Prince
7 “And to the prince shall belong the land on both sides of the holy district and the property of the city, alongside the holy district and the property of the city, on the west and on the east, corresponding in length to one of the tribal portions, and extending from the western to the eastern boundary 8 of the land. It is to be his property in Israel. And my princes shall no more oppress my people, but they shall let the house of Israel have the land according to their tribes.
9 “Thus says the Lord God: Enough, O princes of Israel! Put away violence and oppression, and execute justice and righteousness. Cease your evictions of my people, declares the Lord God.
10 “You shall have just balances, a just ephah, and a just bath. 11 The ephah and the bath shall be of the same measure, the bath containing one tenth of a homer, and the ephah one tenth of a homer; the homer shall be the standard measure. 12 The shekel shall be twenty gerahs; twenty shekels plus twenty-five shekels plus fifteen shekels shall be your mina.
13 “This is the offering that you shall make: one sixth of an ephah from each homer of wheat, and one sixth of an ephah from each homer of barley, 14 and as the fixed portion of oil, measured in baths, one tenth of a bath from each cor (the cor, like the homer, contains ten baths). 15 And one sheep from every flock of two hundred, from the watering places of Israel for grain offering, burnt offering, and peace offerings, to make atonement for them, declares the Lord God. 16 All the people of the land shall be obliged to give this offering to the prince in Israel. 17 It shall be the prince's duty to furnish the burnt offerings, grain offerings, and drink offerings, at the feasts, the new moons, and the Sabbaths, all the appointed feasts of the house of Israel: he shall provide the sin offerings, grain offerings, burnt offerings, and peace offerings, to make atonement on behalf of the house of Israel.
18 “Thus says the Lord God: In the first month, on the first day of the month, you shall take a bull from the herd without blemish, and purify the sanctuary. 19 The priest shall take some of the blood of the sin offering and put it on the doorposts of the temple, the four corners of the ledge of the altar, and the posts of the gate of the inner court. 20 You shall do the same on the seventh day of the month for anyone who has sinned through error or ignorance; so you shall make atonement for the temple.
21 “In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month, you shall celebrate the Feast of the Passover, and for seven days unleavened bread shall be eaten. 22 On that day the prince shall provide for himself and all the people of the land a young bull for a sin offering. 23 And on the seven days of the festival he shall provide as a burnt offering to the Lord seven young bulls and seven rams without blemish, on each of the seven days; and a male goat daily for a sin offering. 24 And he shall provide as a grain offering an ephah for each bull, an ephah for each ram, and a hin of oil to each ephah. 25 In the seventh month, on the fifteenth day of the month and for the seven days of the feast, he shall make the same provision for sin offerings, burnt offerings, and grain offerings, and for the oil.
The Lord Our God Is Holy
1 The Lord reigns; let the peoples tremble!
He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake!
2 The Lord is great in Zion;
he is exalted over all the peoples.
3 Let them praise your great and awesome name!
Holy is he!
4 The King in his might loves justice.
You have established equity;
you have executed justice
and righteousness in Jacob.
5 Exalt the Lord our God;
worship at his footstool!
Holy is he!
6 Moses and Aaron were among his priests,
Samuel also was among those who called upon his name.
They called to the Lord, and he answered them.
7 In the pillar of the cloud he spoke to them;
they kept his testimonies
and the statute that he gave them.
8 O Lord our God, you answered them;
you were a forgiving God to them,
but an avenger of their wrongdoings.
9 Exalt the Lord our God,
and worship at his holy mountain;
for the Lord our God is holy!
His Steadfast Love Endures Forever
A Psalm for giving thanks.
1 Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
2 Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
3 Know that the Lord, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;[b]
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!
5 For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.
I Will Walk with Integrity
A Psalm of David.
1 I will sing of steadfast love and justice;
to you, O Lord, I will make music.
2 I will ponder the way that is blameless.
Oh when will you come to me?
I will walk with integrity of heart
within my house;
3 I will not set before my eyes
anything that is worthless.
I hate the work of those who fall away;
it shall not cling to me.
4 A perverse heart shall be far from me;
I will know nothing of evil.
5 Whoever slanders his neighbor secretly
I will destroy.
Whoever has a haughty look and an arrogant heart
I will not endure.
6 I will look with favor on the faithful in the land,
that they may dwell with me;
he who walks in the way that is blameless
shall minister to me.
7 No one who practices deceit
shall dwell in my house;
no one who utters lies
shall continue before my eyes.
8 Morning by morning I will destroy
all the wicked in the land,
cutting off all the evildoers
from the city of the Lord.
SOME OF THE PSALMS ARE grouped into collections. Psalms 93—100 celebrate the
kingship and coming of the Lord. Thematically, however, they range from the exuberant exhilaration of Psalm 98 (yesterday’s meditation) to a more subdued but
profoundly submissive awe. After the unrestrained joy of Psalm 98, there follows
in Psalm 99 a profound reverence. We have moved from a festival of praise to a
The psalm divides into two parts. The theme of the first is established by the
repeated line, “he is holy” (99:3, 5). This does not mean something as narrow as
saying that God is good or moral (though it does not exclude such notions). The
emphasis is on the sheer “Godness” of God—what makes him different from
human beings, what makes him uniquely God. The two instances of the clause
“he is holy” are meant to be statements summarizing in each case the preceding
lines. (a) The Lord reigns; he is exalted above the mighty cherubim (99:1).
Though he manifests himself in Zion, he is no tribal deity: “he is exalted over all
the nations” (99:2). “Let them praise your great and awesome name” (99:3)—and
then the summarizing refrain, “he is holy.” (b) If he reigns over all, he is,
supremely, the King (99:4). He is not only mighty, he loves justice and fairness.
This has been eminently displayed in his own covenant community: “in Jacob you
have done what is just and right” (99:4). There is only one appropriate response
before such a God: “Exalt the LORD our God and worship at his footstool”
(99:5)—and again the summarizing refrain, “he is holy.”
The second part of the psalm contemplates the truth that, however exalted and
holy he is, God chose to disclose himself to human beings. We may be tempted
to think of Moses and Aaron and Samuel as almost superhuman. But the psalmist
carefully places them among the priests and among those who called on his name:
they were not fundamentally different from others. Moreover, they were frail and
flawed like the rest of us. According to verse 8, God was to them (not “to Israel”:
the NIV footnote is correct) “a forgiving God,” even though he “punished their
misdeeds” (here follow the NIV text, not the footnote).
Thus the theme of God’s holiness does not end in mere transcendence, but in
an unimaginably great God graciously disclosing himself to human beings—even
when they rebel against him. We stand in their company. If his holiness is disclosed
both in mercy and in wrath, then we are neither to despair of it nor to presume
upon it. “Exalt the LORD our God and worship at his holy mountain, for
the LORD our God is holy” (99:9).
Ezekiel 46; Psalm 102
The Prince and the Feasts
1 “Thus says the Lord God: The gate of the inner court that faces east shall be shut on the six working days, but on the Sabbath day it shall be opened, and on the day of the new moon it shall be opened. 2 The prince shall enter by the vestibule of the gate from outside, and shall take his stand by the post of the gate. The priests shall offer his burnt offering and his peace offerings, and he shall worship at the threshold of the gate. Then he shall go out, but the gate shall not be shut until evening. 3 The people of the land shall bow down at the entrance of that gate before the Lord on the Sabbaths and on the new moons. 4 The burnt offering that the prince offers to the Lord on the Sabbath day shall be six lambs without blemish and a ram without blemish. 5 And the grain offering with the ram shall be an ephah, and the grain offering with the lambs shall be as much as he is able, together with a hin of oil to each ephah. 6 On the day of the new moon he shall offer a bull from the herd without blemish, and six lambs and a ram, which shall be without blemish. 7 As a grain offering he shall provide an ephah with the bull and an ephah with the ram, and with the lambs as much as he is able, together with a hin of oil to each ephah. 8 When the prince enters, he shall enter by the vestibule of the gate, and he shall go out by the same way.
9 “When the people of the land come before the Lord at the appointed feasts, he who enters by the north gate to worship shall go out by the south gate, and he who enters by the south gate shall go out by the north gate: no one shall return by way of the gate by which he entered, but each shall go out straight ahead. 10 When they enter, the prince shall enter with them, and when they go out, he shall go out.
11 “At the feasts and the appointed festivals, the grain offering with a young bull shall be an ephah, and with a ram an ephah, and with the lambs as much as one is able to give, together with a hin of oil to an ephah. 12 When the prince provides a freewill offering, either a burnt offering or peace offerings as a freewill offering to the Lord, the gate facing east shall be opened for him. And he shall offer his burnt offering or his peace offerings as he does on the Sabbath day. Then he shall go out, and after he has gone out the gate shall be shut.
13 “You shall provide a lamb a year old without blemish for a burnt offering to the Lord daily; morning by morning you shall provide it. 14 And you shall provide a grain offering with it morning by morning, one sixth of an ephah, and one third of a hin of oil to moisten the flour, as a grain offering to the Lord. This is a perpetual statute. 15 Thus the lamb and the meal offering and the oil shall be provided, morning by morning, for a regular burnt offering.
16 “Thus says the Lord God: If the prince makes a gift to any of his sons as his inheritance, it shall belong to his sons. It is their property by inheritance. 17 But if he makes a gift out of his inheritance to one of his servants, it shall be his to the year of liberty. Then it shall revert to the prince; surely it is his inheritance—it shall belong to his sons. 18 The prince shall not take any of the inheritance of the people, thrusting them out of their property. He shall give his sons their inheritance out of his own property, so that none of my people shall be scattered from his property.”
Boiling Places for Offerings
19 Then he brought me through the entrance, which was at the side of the gate, to the north row of the holy chambers for the priests, and behold, a place was there at the extreme western end of them. 20 And he said to me, “This is the place where the priests shall boil the guilt offering and the sin offering, and where they shall bake the grain offering, in order not to bring them out into the outer court and so transmit holiness to the people.”
21 Then he brought me out to the outer court and led me around to the four corners of the court. And behold, in each corner of the court there was another court— 22 in the four corners of the court were small courts, forty cubits long and thirty broad; the four were of the same size. 23 On the inside, around each of the four courts was a row of masonry, with hearths made at the bottom of the rows all around. 24 Then he said to me, “These are the kitchens where those who minister at the temple shall boil the sacrifices of the people.”
Do Not Hide Your Face from Me
A Prayer of one afflicted, when he is faint and pours out his complaint before the Lord.
102 Hear my prayer, O Lord;
let my cry come to you!
2 Do not hide your face from me
in the day of my distress!
Incline your ear to me;
answer me speedily in the day when I call!
3 For my days pass away like smoke,
and my bones burn like a furnace.
4 My heart is struck down like grass and has withered;
I forget to eat my bread.
5 Because of my loud groaning
my bones cling to my flesh.
6 I am like a desert owl of the wilderness,
like an owl of the waste places;
7 I lie awake;
I am like a lonely sparrow on the housetop.
8 All the day my enemies taunt me;
those who deride me use my name for a curse.
9 For I eat ashes like bread
and mingle tears with my drink,
10 because of your indignation and anger;
for you have taken me up and thrown me down.
11 My days are like an evening shadow;
I wither away like grass.
12 But you, O Lord, are enthroned forever;
you are remembered throughout all generations.
13 You will arise and have pity on Zion;
it is the time to favor her;
the appointed time has come.
14 For your servants hold her stones dear
and have pity on her dust.
15 Nations will fear the name of the Lord,
and all the kings of the earth will fear your glory.
16 For the Lord builds up Zion;
he appears in his glory;
17 he regards the prayer of the destitute
and does not despise their prayer.
18 Let this be recorded for a generation to come,
so that a people yet to be created may praise the Lord:
19 that he looked down from his holy height;
from heaven the Lord looked at the earth,
20 to hear the groans of the prisoners,
to set free those who were doomed to die,
21 that they may declare in Zion the name of the Lord,
and in Jerusalem his praise,
22 when peoples gather together,
and kingdoms, to worship the Lord.
23 He has broken my strength in midcourse;
he has shortened my days.
24 “O my God,” I say, “take me not away
in the midst of my days—
you whose years endure
throughout all generations!”
25 Of old you laid the foundation of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
26 They will perish, but you will remain;
they will all wear out like a garment.
You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away,
27 but you are the same, and your years have no end.
28 The children of your servants shall dwell secure;
their offspring shall be established before you.
PSALM 102 IS SOMETIMES WRONGLY labeled a penitential psalm. It sounds far more like the cry of a person whose sufferings are unexplained (like those of Job). At
the beginning the sorrows are private and personal; later they are eclipsed by a
growing concern for Zion. Progress toward Zion’s glory seems slow. This fosters
a contrast between the psalmist’s restricted and fleeting “days” (102:3) and the
Almighty’s eternal “years” (102:27).
But here I shall focus attention on the final verses of the psalm. Regular Bible
readers will recognize that verses 25-27 are quoted in Hebrews 1:10-12, with God
addressing the Messiah, in effect giving him divine status. One may well ask how
the writer of Hebrews construed the Old Testament text in this way.
The answer turns in part on the fact that the original Hebrew of the Old
Testament was composed with what today we call consonants. Vowels were not
included. They were added much later—indeed, the most common vowel system
was added to the Hebrew text about one thousand years into the Christian era.
Usually this presents no problems. Once in a while, however, it is possible to read
the Old Testament consonantal text with a slightly different vowel choice, yielding
a different meaning. In this instance there is no question at all about the consonants.
But the ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint,
shows how those translators understood the Hebrew—and in this passage they
understood it exactly as the Epistle to the Hebrews takes it. The traditional vowel
placement, preserved in our English versions, understands verses 23-24 much as
in the NIV. The thought is parallel to verses 11-12. But the LXX and Hebrews read
it as follows: “He answered him in the way of his strength, ‘Declare to me the fewness
of my days. Do not bring me up [i.e., summon me to action] in the middle
of my days; your years are for generations on end. In the beginning you, Lord,
laid the foundation of the earth. . . .’” The implication of this rendering is that God
is addressing the psalmist, whom God addresses as Lord and Creator. That is how
Hebrews takes it. On this view, the entire psalm is messianic, an oracular psalm
like Psalm 110 (see vol. 1, meditation for June 17). Try rereading Psalm 102 that
way; it makes sense. Compare the use of Psalm 45 in Hebrews 1 (see meditation
for September 4): the Davidic king is addressed as God, and this too is cited in
Hebrews 1. But even if the traditional Hebrew vowel assignments are correct, the
inferences drawn by Hebrews 1 are not far away, though they must be drawn on
quite different grounds.
Ezekiel 47; Psalm 103
Water Flowing from the Temple
1 Then he brought me back to the door of the temple, and behold, water was issuing from below the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east). The water was flowing down from below the south end of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar. 2 Then he brought me out by way of the north gate and led me around on the outside to the outer gate that faces toward the east; and behold, the water was trickling out on the south side.
3 Going on eastward with a measuring line in his hand, the man measured a thousand cubits, and then led me through the water, and it was ankle-deep. 4 Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was knee-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was waist-deep. 5 Again he measured a thousand, and it was a river that I could not pass through, for the water had risen. It was deep enough to swim in, a river that could not be passed through. 6 And he said to me, “Son of man, have you seen this?”
Then he led me back to the bank of the river. 7 As I went back, I saw on the bank of the river very many trees on the one side and on the other. 8 And he said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, and enters the sea; when the water flows into the sea, the water will become fresh. 9 And wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish. For this water goes there, that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes. 10 Fishermen will stand beside the sea. From Engedi to Eneglaim it will be a place for the spreading of nets. Its fish will be of very many kinds, like the fish of the Great Sea. 11 But its swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they are to be left for salt. 12 And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.”
Division of the Land
13 Thus says the Lord God: “This is the boundary by which you shall divide the land for inheritance among the twelve tribes of Israel. Joseph shall have two portions. 14 And you shall divide equally what I swore to give to your fathers. This land shall fall to you as your inheritance.
15 “This shall be the boundary of the land: On the north side, from the Great Sea by way of Hethlon to Lebo-hamath, and on to Zedad, 16 Berothah, Sibraim (which lies on the border between Damascus and Hamath), as far as Hazer-hatticon, which is on the border of Hauran. 17 So the boundary shall run from the sea to Hazar-enan, which is on the northern border of Damascus, with the border of Hamath to the north. This shall be the north side.
18 “On the east side, the boundary shall run between Hauran and Damascus; along the Jordan between Gilead and the land of Israel; to the eastern sea and as far as Tamar. This shall be the east side.
19 “On the south side, it shall run from Tamar as far as the waters of Meribah-kadesh, from there along the Brook of Egypt to the Great Sea. This shall be the south side.
20 “On the west side, the Great Sea shall be the boundary to a point opposite Lebo-hamath. This shall be the west side.
21 “So you shall divide this land among you according to the tribes of Israel. 22 You shall allot it as an inheritance for yourselves and for the sojourners who reside among you and have had children among you. They shall be to you as native-born children of Israel. With you they shall be allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel. 23 In whatever tribe the sojourner resides, there you shall assign him his inheritance, declares the Lord God.
Bless the Lord, O My Soul
1 Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name!
2 Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
3 who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
5 who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.
6 The Lord works righteousness
and justice for all who are oppressed.
7 He made known his ways to Moses,
his acts to the people of Israel.
8 The Lord is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
9 He will not always chide,
nor will he keep his anger forever.
10 He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
13 As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
14 For he knows our frame;
he remembers that we are dust.
15 As for man, his days are like grass;
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
16 for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
and its place knows it no more.
17 But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him,
and his righteousness to children's children,
18 to those who keep his covenant
and remember to do his commandments.
19 The Lord has established his throne in the heavens,
and his kingdom rules over all.
20 Bless the Lord, O you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his word,
obeying the voice of his word!
21 Bless the Lord, all his hosts,
his ministers, who do his will!
22 Bless the Lord, all his works,
in all places of his dominion.
Bless the Lord, O my soul!
ONE OF THE LOVELIEST OF THE PSALMS IS Psalm 103. I reflected on it in volume
1 (meditation for June 11). Here I want to return to several of its themes:
(1) “The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in
love” (103:8). That truth is often expressed in the Old Testament. For example,
when the Lord passes before Moses while the latter is hiding in a cleft in the rock,
he intones, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to
anger, abounding in love and faithfulness . . .” (Ex. 34:6). Yet that is not the
impression that many readers of the Old Testament have of God. Somehow they
think he runs on a short fuse, never very far off from an outburst that can wipe
out a nation or two. Why do they have that impression?
Probably in part because they do not read the Old Testament very closely. Or
perhaps they read the Old Testament impressionistically: there are all those passages
in the prophets where the Lord is threatening judgment, and they can leave
a sour taste and a smell of sulfur. But should we not see the Lord’s mercy in them?
He delays judgment, which may be postponed for years or even decades. On the
first signs of genuine repentance, he turns from wrath, for the Lord is “slow to
anger, abounding in love.” Strict justice would be immediate—an easy thing for
Omniscience! The truth is that God “does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay
us according to our iniquities” (103:10).
(2) “As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion
on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we
are dust” (103:13-14). It is almost as if this God is looking for reasons to be as
forbearing as possible. But it is also true that a human father is likely to be far more
compassionate and forbearing with a son or daughter who “fears” him and basically
respects him. Then each confusion or failure or mistake is likely to be treated
with more forbearance than the conduct of the son or daughter who is profoundly
anarchic. In any case, this heavenly Father knows us better than we know ourselves.
Who better than he can tell us what we are made of?
(3) In our guilt before a holy God, what we need most is to be forgiven all our
sins (103:3), to have them removed far from us: “as far as the east is from the west
[a distance without limit, unlike north to south], so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (103:12). With that assurance, all other blessings of any worth
will one day be ours; without the forgiveness of sins, any other blessing we have
received is worse than worthless: it may be deceptive.
Ezekiel 48; Psalm 104
1 “These are the names of the tribes: Beginning at the northern extreme, beside the way of Hethlon to Lebo-hamath, as far as Hazar-enan (which is on the northern border of Damascus over against Hamath), and extending from the east side to the west, Dan, one portion. 2 Adjoining the territory of Dan, from the east side to the west, Asher, one portion. 3 Adjoining the territory of Asher, from the east side to the west, Naphtali, one portion. 4 Adjoining the territory of Naphtali, from the east side to the west, Manasseh, one portion. 5 Adjoining the territory of Manasseh, from the east side to the west, Ephraim, one portion. 6 Adjoining the territory of Ephraim, from the east side to the west, Reuben, one portion. 7 Adjoining the territory of Reuben, from the east side to the west, Judah, one portion.
8 “Adjoining the territory of Judah, from the east side to the west, shall be the portion which you shall set apart, 25,000 cubits in breadth, and in length equal to one of the tribal portions, from the east side to the west, with the sanctuary in the midst of it. 9 The portion that you shall set apart for the Lord shall be 25,000 cubits in length, and 20,000 in breadth. 10 These shall be the allotments of the holy portion: the priests shall have an allotment measuring 25,000 cubits on the northern side, 10,000 cubits in breadth on the western side, 10,000 in breadth on the eastern side, and 25,000 in length on the southern side, with the sanctuary of the Lord in the midst of it. 11 This shall be for the consecrated priests, the sons of Zadok, who kept my charge, who did not go astray when the people of Israel went astray, as the Levites did. 12 And it shall belong to them as a special portion from the holy portion of the land, a most holy place, adjoining the territory of the Levites. 13 And alongside the territory of the priests, the Levites shall have an allotment 25,000 cubits in length and 10,000 in breadth. The whole length shall be 25,000 cubits and the breadth 20,000. 14 They shall not sell or exchange any of it. They shall not alienate this choice portion of the land, for it is holy to the Lord.
15 “The remainder, 5,000 cubits in breadth and 25,000 in length, shall be for common use for the city, for dwellings and for open country. In the midst of it shall be the city, 16 and these shall be its measurements: the north side 4,500 cubits, the south side 4,500, the east side 4,500, and the west side 4,500. 17 And the city shall have open land: on the north 250 cubits, on the south 250, on the east 250, and on the west 250. 18 The remainder of the length alongside the holy portion shall be 10,000 cubits to the east, and 10,000 to the west, and it shall be alongside the holy portion. Its produce shall be food for the workers of the city. 19 And the workers of the city, from all the tribes of Israel, shall till it. 20 The whole portion that you shall set apart shall be 25,000 cubits square, that is, the holy portion together with the property of the city.
21 “What remains on both sides of the holy portion and of the property of the city shall belong to the prince. Extending from the 25,000 cubits of the holy portion to the east border, and westward from the 25,000 cubits to the west border, parallel to the tribal portions, it shall belong to the prince. The holy portion with the sanctuary of the temple shall be in its midst. 22 It shall be separate from the property of the Levites and the property of the city, which are in the midst of that which belongs to the prince. The portion of the prince shall lie between the territory of Judah and the territory of Benjamin.
23 “As for the rest of the tribes: from the east side to the west, Benjamin, one portion. 24 Adjoining the territory of Benjamin, from the east side to the west, Simeon, one portion. 25 Adjoining the territory of Simeon, from the east side to the west, Issachar, one portion. 26 Adjoining the territory of Issachar, from the east side to the west, Zebulun, one portion. 27 Adjoining the territory of Zebulun, from the east side to the west, Gad, one portion. 28 And adjoining the territory of Gad to the south, the boundary shall run from Tamar to the waters of Meribah-kadesh, from there along the Brook of Egypt to the Great Sea. 29 This is the land that you shall allot as an inheritance among the tribes of Israel, and these are their portions, declares the Lord God.
The Gates of the City
30 “These shall be the exits of the city: On the north side, which is to be 4,500 cubits by measure, 31 three gates, the gate of Reuben, the gate of Judah, and the gate of Levi, the gates of the city being named after the tribes of Israel. 32 On the east side, which is to be 4,500 cubits, three gates, the gate of Joseph, the gate of Benjamin, and the gate of Dan. 33 On the south side, which is to be 4,500 cubits by measure, three gates, the gate of Simeon, the gate of Issachar, and the gate of Zebulun. 34 On the west side, which is to be 4,500 cubits, three gates, the gate of Gad, the gate of Asher, and the gate of Naphtali. 35 The circumference of the city shall be 18,000 cubits. And the name of the city from that time on shall be, The Lord Is There.”
O Lord My God, You Are Very Great
1 Bless the Lord, O my soul!
O Lord my God, you are very great!
You are clothed with splendor and majesty,
2 covering yourself with light as with a garment,
stretching out the heavens like a tent.
3 He lays the beams of his chambers on the waters;
he makes the clouds his chariot;
he rides on the wings of the wind;
4 he makes his messengers winds,
his ministers a flaming fire.
5 He set the earth on its foundations,
so that it should never be moved.
6 You covered it with the deep as with a garment;
the waters stood above the mountains.
7 At your rebuke they fled;
at the sound of your thunder they took to flight.
8 The mountains rose, the valleys sank down
to the place that you appointed for them.
9 You set a boundary that they may not pass,
so that they might not again cover the earth.
10 You make springs gush forth in the valleys;
they flow between the hills;
11 they give drink to every beast of the field;
the wild donkeys quench their thirst.
12 Beside them the birds of the heavens dwell;
they sing among the branches.
13 From your lofty abode you water the mountains;
the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work.
14 You cause the grass to grow for the livestock
and plants for man to cultivate,
that he may bring forth food from the earth
15 and wine to gladden the heart of man,
oil to make his face shine
and bread to strengthen man's heart.
16 The trees of the Lord are watered abundantly,
the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.
17 In them the birds build their nests;
the stork has her home in the fir trees.
18 The high mountains are for the wild goats;
the rocks are a refuge for the rock badgers.
19 He made the moon to mark the seasons;
the sun knows its time for setting.
20 You make darkness, and it is night,
when all the beasts of the forest creep about.
21 The young lions roar for their prey,
seeking their food from God.
22 When the sun rises, they steal away
and lie down in their dens.
23 Man goes out to his work
and to his labor until the evening.
24 O Lord, how manifold are your works!
In wisdom have you made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.
25 Here is the sea, great and wide,
which teems with creatures innumerable,
living things both small and great.
26 There go the ships,
and Leviathan, which you formed to play in it.
27 These all look to you,
to give them their food in due season.
28 When you give it to them, they gather it up;
when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.
29 When you hide your face, they are dismayed;
when you take away their breath, they die
and return to their dust.
30 When you send forth your Spirit, they are created,
and you renew the face of the ground.
31 May the glory of the Lord endure forever;
may the Lord rejoice in his works,
32 who looks on the earth and it trembles,
who touches the mountains and they smoke!
33 I will sing to the Lord as long as I live;
I will sing praise to my God while I have being.
34 May my meditation be pleasing to him,
for I rejoice in the Lord.
35 Let sinners be consumed from the earth,
and let the wicked be no more!
Bless the Lord, O my soul!
Praise the Lord!
“O LORD MY GOD, YOU ARE VERY GREAT; you are clothed with splendor and
majesty.” So we read in the opening verse of Psalm 104. In this psalm the evidence
of the Lord’s greatness is bound up with the created order. Some reflections:
(1) In the opening verses (104:1-4) the string of metaphorical touches is
revealing. God wraps himself in light; he stretches out the heavens like a tent; he
makes the clouds his chariot; he rides on the wings of the wind; he makes winds
his messengers. Pantheism merges god with the universe; robust Christian theism
not only makes God separate from the universe as Creator is to creation, but
in these metaphors suggests that God delights in what he has made. The mood is
not only exalted, but almost playful. If pantheism is ruled out, equally there is no
scope for deism. The created order is alive with God’s presence as he delights in
what his hands have made.
(2) In this psalm there is a strong emphasis on the way all of life depends on
the sustaining providence of the Almighty. God makes springs pour water down
ravines, and in consequence the beasts of the field drink, trees grow, birds of the
air nest in the branches (104:10-12). God is the One who makes grass grow for
the cattle, and makes other plants for human consumption (104:14). The lions
roar and seek their food from God (104:21). As for the sea, with its teeming millions
of life forms, “These all look to you to give them their food at the proper
time” (104:27). The sheer abundance and diversity of life forms testifies to God’s
imagination, power, wisdom, and incalculable wealth. Life itself is sustained by
God’s sanction. If he takes away their breath, they die (104:29-30). The assumption
is not the animism of the pagan world. There is an orderliness to the whole
(note the rhythm of light and dark, 104:19-24) that makes science possible. But
God never withdraws from active, providential rule over every single element of
the universe’s operation, with the result that it is not only appropriate but essential
to confess that all of life is daily dependent on God for its quotidian supply
(3) All the created order elicits delighted and faithful praise from the unnamed
psalmist (104:33). There is just a hint that we ought to be thinking about God in
these terms; we want our meditation to be pleasing to him (104:34). And before
the closing lines of praise, there is a quiet reminder that despite the glory and
beauty of the created order, sin has made this more of a war zone than a museum
or a choir (104:35).
Daniel 1; Psalm 105
Daniel Taken to Babylon
1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2 And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the vessels of the house of God. And he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and placed the vessels in the treasury of his god. 3 Then the king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility, 4 youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king's palace, and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans. 5 The king assigned them a daily portion of the food that the king ate, and of the wine that he drank. They were to be educated for three years, and at the end of that time they were to stand before the king. 6 Among these were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah of the tribe of Judah. 7 And the chief of the eunuchs gave them names: Daniel he called Belteshazzar, Hananiah he called Shadrach, Mishael he called Meshach, and Azariah he called Abednego.
8 But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king's food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself. 9 And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs, 10 and the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, “I fear my lord the king, who assigned your food and your drink; for why should he see that you were in worse condition than the youths who are of your own age? So you would endanger my head with the king.” 11 Then Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had assigned over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, 12 “Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king's food be observed by you, and deal with your servants according to what you see.” 14 So he listened to them in this matter, and tested them for ten days. 15 At the end of ten days it was seen that they were better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king's food. 16 So the steward took away their food and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables.
17 As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. 18 At the end of the time, when the king had commanded that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. 19 And the king spoke with them, and among all of them none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Therefore they stood before the king. 20 And in every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom. 21 And Daniel was there until the first year of King Cyrus.
Tell of All His Wonderful Works
1 Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name;
make known his deeds among the peoples!
2 Sing to him, sing praises to him;
tell of all his wondrous works!
3 Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!
4 Seek the Lord and his strength;
seek his presence continually!
5 Remember the wondrous works that he has done,
his miracles, and the judgments he uttered,
6 O offspring of Abraham, his servant,
children of Jacob, his chosen ones!
7 He is the Lord our God;
his judgments are in all the earth.
8 He remembers his covenant forever,
the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations,
9 the covenant that he made with Abraham,
his sworn promise to Isaac,
10 which he confirmed to Jacob as a statute,
to Israel as an everlasting covenant,
11 saying, “To you I will give the land of Canaan
as your portion for an inheritance.”
12 When they were few in number,
of little account, and sojourners in it,
13 wandering from nation to nation,
from one kingdom to another people,
14 he allowed no one to oppress them;
he rebuked kings on their account,
15 saying, “Touch not my anointed ones,
do my prophets no harm!”
16 When he summoned a famine on the land
and broke all supply of bread,
17 he had sent a man ahead of them,
Joseph, who was sold as a slave.
18 His feet were hurt with fetters;
his neck was put in a collar of iron;
19 until what he had said came to pass,
the word of the Lord tested him.
20 The king sent and released him;
the ruler of the peoples set him free;
21 he made him lord of his house
and ruler of all his possessions,
22 to bind his princes at his pleasure
and to teach his elders wisdom.
23 Then Israel came to Egypt;
Jacob sojourned in the land of Ham.
24 And the Lord made his people very fruitful
and made them stronger than their foes.
25 He turned their hearts to hate his people,
to deal craftily with his servants.
26 He sent Moses, his servant,
and Aaron, whom he had chosen.
27 They performed his signs among them
and miracles in the land of Ham.
28 He sent darkness, and made the land dark;
they did not rebel against his words.
29 He turned their waters into blood
and caused their fish to die.
30 Their land swarmed with frogs,
even in the chambers of their kings.
31 He spoke, and there came swarms of flies,
and gnats throughout their country.
32 He gave them hail for rain,
and fiery lightning bolts through their land.
33 He struck down their vines and fig trees,
and shattered the trees of their country.
34 He spoke, and the locusts came,
young locusts without number,
35 which devoured all the vegetation in their land
and ate up the fruit of their ground.
36 He struck down all the firstborn in their land,
the firstfruits of all their strength.
37 Then he brought out Israel with silver and gold,
and there was none among his tribes who stumbled.
38 Egypt was glad when they departed,
for dread of them had fallen upon it.
39 He spread a cloud for a covering,
and fire to give light by night.
40 They asked, and he brought quail,
and gave them bread from heaven in abundance.
41 He opened the rock, and water gushed out;
it flowed through the desert like a river.
42 For he remembered his holy promise,
and Abraham, his servant.
43 So he brought his people out with joy,
his chosen ones with singing.
44 And he gave them the lands of the nations,
and they took possession of the fruit of the peoples' toil,
45 that they might keep his statutes
and observe his laws.
Praise the Lord!
“[T]HE THIRD YEAR OF THE REIGN OF Jehoiakim king of Judah” (Dan. 1:1) is calculated on the Babylonian reckoning; the corresponding calculation in Judah would have made it his fourth year, i.e., 605 B.C. The first round of deportations took place, then, in 605, and swept up Daniel; the second, including Ezekiel, Jehoiachin, the Queen Mother, the aristocracy, and skilled craftsmen, occurred in 597. The final crushing destruction of Jerusalem was in 587.
Almost twenty years before that took place, then, a number of aristocratic young Jewish men had been transported to Babylon. According to Daniel 1, they were well-treated. The imperial policy was not only generous, it was clever. The empire would pull in these gifted and well-bred young men and give them the best education and social formation in the world, with a string of perquisites to make the prospect still sweeter. In due course they would enter government service, intensely loyal to their benefactors while contributing their youth, skills, and knowledge of the imperial frontiers. The four Hebrew young men mentioned here would eventually become so Babylonian in their outlook that they would forget even their birth names: Daniel would become Belteshazzar, Hananiah would become Shadrach, and so forth.
But Daniel drew a line in the sand. It could have cost him his life. He did not object to the change in his name, nor to royal service on behalf of the Babylonian Empire. But he would not “defile” himself (1:8) by eating food prepared in the royal kitchens. He knew that if he partook, he would almost certainly eat things from time to time that the Law of God strictly forbade. For him it was a matter of obedience, a matter of conscience. In the providence of God, the chief to whom he was responsible, Ashpenaz, was an understanding sort, and the result is reported in this chapter.
For many of us today, Daniel’s stand is vaguely quixotic, but certainly not something to emulate. Why die over sausages? Come to think of it, is there anything worth dying for? Probably not—if all there is to life is found in our brief earthly span, and all that is important is what happens to me. But Daniel’s aim was to please God and to conform to the covenant. His values could not be snookered by Babylon; on this point he was prepared to die. The trouble is that when a culture runs out of things to die for, it runs out of things to live for. A colleague in the ministry (Dr. Roy Clements) has often said, “We are either potential martyrs or potential suicides; I see no middle ground between these two. And the Bible insists that every believer in the true God has to be a potential martyr.”
Daniel 2; Psalm 106
1 In the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; his spirit was troubled, and his sleep left him. 2 Then the king commanded that the magicians, the enchanters, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans be summoned to tell the king his dreams. So they came in and stood before the king. 3 And the king said to them, “I had a dream, and my spirit is troubled to know the dream.” 4 Then the Chaldeans said to the king in Aramaic, “O king, live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will show the interpretation.” 5 The king answered and said to the Chaldeans, “The word from me is firm: if you do not make known to me the dream and its interpretation, you shall be torn limb from limb, and your houses shall be laid in ruins. 6 But if you show the dream and its interpretation, you shall receive from me gifts and rewards and great honor. Therefore show me the dream and its interpretation.” 7 They answered a second time and said, “Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will show its interpretation.” 8 The king answered and said, “I know with certainty that you are trying to gain time, because you see that the word from me is firm— 9 if you do not make the dream known to me, there is but one sentence for you. You have agreed to speak lying and corrupt words before me till the times change. Therefore tell me the dream, and I shall know that you can show me its interpretation.” 10 The Chaldeans answered the king and said, “There is not a man on earth who can meet the king's demand, for no great and powerful king has asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or Chaldean. 11 The thing that the king asks is difficult, and no one can show it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.”
12 Because of this the king was angry and very furious, and commanded that all the wise men of Babylon be destroyed. 13 So the decree went out, and the wise men were about to be killed; and they sought Daniel and his companions, to kill them. 14 Then Daniel replied with prudence and discretion to Arioch, the captain of the king's guard, who had gone out to kill the wise men of Babylon. 15 He declared to Arioch, the king's captain, “Why is the decree of the king so urgent?” Then Arioch made the matter known to Daniel. 16 And Daniel went in and requested the king to appoint him a time, that he might show the interpretation to the king.
God Reveals Nebuchadnezzar's Dream
17 Then Daniel went to his house and made the matter known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions, 18 and told them to seek mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his companions might not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. 19 Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision of the night. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven. 20 Daniel answered and said:
“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,
to whom belong wisdom and might.
21 He changes times and seasons;
he removes kings and sets up kings;
he gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to those who have understanding;
22 he reveals deep and hidden things;
he knows what is in the darkness,
and the light dwells with him.
23 To you, O God of my fathers,
I give thanks and praise,
for you have given me wisdom and might,
and have now made known to me what we asked of you,
for you have made known to us the king's matter.”
24 Therefore Daniel went in to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to destroy the wise men of Babylon. He went and said thus to him: “Do not destroy the wise men of Babylon; bring me in before the king, and I will show the king the interpretation.”
25 Then Arioch brought in Daniel before the king in haste and said thus to him: “I have found among the exiles from Judah a man who will make known to the king the interpretation.” 26 The king declared to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, “Are you able to make known to me the dream that I have seen and its interpretation?” 27 Daniel answered the king and said, “No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show to the king the mystery that the king has asked, 28 but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days. Your dream and the visions of your head as you lay in bed are these: 29 To you, O king, as you lay in bed came thoughts of what would be after this, and he who reveals mysteries made known to you what is to be. 30 But as for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because of any wisdom that I have more than all the living, but in order that the interpretation may be made known to the king, and that you may know the thoughts of your mind.
Daniel Interprets the Dream
31 “You saw, O king, and behold, a great image. This image, mighty and of exceeding brightness, stood before you, and its appearance was frightening. 32 The head of this image was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its middle and thighs of bronze, 33 its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. 34 As you looked, a stone was cut out by no human hand, and it struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. 35 Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold, all together were broken in pieces, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, so that not a trace of them could be found. But the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.
36 “This was the dream. Now we will tell the king its interpretation. 37 You, O king, the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, and the might, and the glory, 38 and into whose hand he has given, wherever they dwell, the children of man, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the heavens, making you rule over them all—you are the head of gold. 39 Another kingdom inferior to you shall arise after you, and yet a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth. 40 And there shall be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron, because iron breaks to pieces and shatters all things. And like iron that crushes, it shall break and crush all these. 41 And as you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter's clay and partly of iron, it shall be a divided kingdom, but some of the firmness of iron shall be in it, just as you saw iron mixed with the soft clay. 42 And as the toes of the feet were partly iron and partly clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly brittle. 43 As you saw the iron mixed with soft clay, so they will mix with one another in marriage, but they will not hold together, just as iron does not mix with clay. 44 And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever, 45 just as you saw that a stone was cut from a mountain by no human hand, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold. A great God has made known to the king what shall be after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation sure.”
Daniel Is Promoted
46 Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell upon his face and paid homage to Daniel, and commanded that an offering and incense be offered up to him. 47 The king answered and said to Daniel, “Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this mystery.” 48 Then the king gave Daniel high honors and many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon. 49 Daniel made a request of the king, and he appointed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego over the affairs of the province of Babylon. But Daniel remained at the king's court.
Give Thanks to the Lord, for He Is Good
1 Praise the Lord!
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever!
2 Who can utter the mighty deeds of the Lord,
or declare all his praise?
3 Blessed are they who observe justice,
who do righteousness at all times!
4 Remember me, O Lord, when you show favor to your people;
help me when you save them,
5 that I may look upon the prosperity of your chosen ones,
that I may rejoice in the gladness of your nation,
that I may glory with your inheritance.
6 Both we and our fathers have sinned;
we have committed iniquity; we have done wickedness.
7 Our fathers, when they were in Egypt,
did not consider your wondrous works;
they did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love,
but rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea.
8 Yet he saved them for his name's sake,
that he might make known his mighty power.
9 He rebuked the Red Sea, and it became dry,
and he led them through the deep as through a desert.
10 So he saved them from the hand of the foe
and redeemed them from the power of the enemy.
11 And the waters covered their adversaries;
not one of them was left.
12 Then they believed his words;
they sang his praise.
13 But they soon forgot his works;
they did not wait for his counsel.
14 But they had a wanton craving in the wilderness,
and put God to the test in the desert;
15 he gave them what they asked,
but sent a wasting disease among them.
16 When men in the camp were jealous of Moses
and Aaron, the holy one of the Lord,
17 the earth opened and swallowed up Dathan,
and covered the company of Abiram.
18 Fire also broke out in their company;
the flame burned up the wicked.
19 They made a calf in Horeb
and worshiped a metal image.
20 They exchanged the glory of God
for the image of an ox that eats grass.
21 They forgot God, their Savior,
who had done great things in Egypt,
22 wondrous works in the land of Ham,
and awesome deeds by the Red Sea.
23 Therefore he said he would destroy them—
had not Moses, his chosen one,
stood in the breach before him,
to turn away his wrath from destroying them.
24 Then they despised the pleasant land,
having no faith in his promise.
25 They murmured in their tents,
and did not obey the voice of the Lord.
26 Therefore he raised his hand and swore to them
that he would make them fall in the wilderness,
27 and would make their offspring fall among the nations,
scattering them among the lands.
28 Then they yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor,
and ate sacrifices offered to the dead;
29 they provoked the Lord to anger with their deeds,
and a plague broke out among them.
30 Then Phinehas stood up and intervened,
and the plague was stayed.
31 And that was counted to him as righteousness
from generation to generation forever.
32 They angered him at the waters of Meribah,
and it went ill with Moses on their account,
33 for they made his spirit bitter,
and he spoke rashly with his lips.
34 They did not destroy the peoples,
as the Lord commanded them,
35 but they mixed with the nations
and learned to do as they did.
36 They served their idols,
which became a snare to them.
37 They sacrificed their sons
and their daughters to the demons;
38 they poured out innocent blood,
the blood of their sons and daughters,
whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan,
and the land was polluted with blood.
39 Thus they became unclean by their acts,
and played the whore in their deeds.
40 Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against his people,
and he abhorred his heritage;
41 he gave them into the hand of the nations,
so that those who hated them ruled over them.
42 Their enemies oppressed them,
and they were brought into subjection under their power.
43 Many times he delivered them,
but they were rebellious in their purposes
and were brought low through their iniquity.
44 Nevertheless, he looked upon their distress,
when he heard their cry.
45 For their sake he remembered his covenant,
and relented according to the abundance of his steadfast love.
46 He caused them to be pitied
by all those who held them captive.
47 Save us, O Lord our God,
and gather us from among the nations,
that we may give thanks to your holy name
and glory in your praise.
48 Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
from everlasting to everlasting!
And let all the people say, “Amen!”
Praise the Lord!
NEBUCHADNEZZAR’S DREAM (DAN. 2) could usefully occupy us for many pages. It
provides insight not only into Daniel and his times, but into our times as well.
(1) The pagan Babylonian Empire had its share of astrologers and other fortune
tellers. Like thoughtful people in every generation, Nebuchadnezzar had his
suspicions about their competence, and put them to this rather brutal test.
Anecdotal accounts of “magical” insight cannot withstand this level of analysis.
(2) Daniel’s bold approach to the king claims nothing for himself and ascribes
everything to God, who knows our thoughts and our dreams. That took courage.
Here is the next stage in the development of Daniel’s character. The courageous
and unshakable old man that Daniel became (Dan. 6) was formed by a young man
who obeyed God even in what he ate, and who was so honest that he would not
take any credit where none was due. He was committed to faithfulness, humility,
courage, and integrity. He has few successors in high places.
(3) Doubtless contemporary psychiatrists would speculate that the colossus
in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream betrays profound personal insecurity.
Megalomaniacal ambition to rule the world may suggest secret doubts about
whether or not one has feet of clay. Whatever the means, God uses the vision to
disclose something more profound—the future of forthcoming empires.
Most liberals have argued that the four metals—gold, silver, bronze, and
iron—represent, respectively, Babylon, Media, Persia, and Greece. After the death
of Alexander the Great, the Greek Empire disintegrated into four territories
squabbling among themselves—hence the feet of clay. Certainly the later chapters
of this prophecy focus not a little attention on that period, and picture the
dawning of the messianic kingdom succeeding it. Nevertheless that view is tied
up with the theory that at the very least the later chapters of Daniel were written
pseudonymously in the second century B.C. Most evangelicals find little evidence
to support that stance. Moreover, they point out that there never really was a
Median Empire. It is better to speak of the Medo-Persian Empire; the Median element
was not much more than a transition team. On that view the four empires
are Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome—and during the latter the messianic
kingdom delivers the mighty blow that ultimately fells the colossus. That seems
to be what Jesus held (Matt. 24:15).
(4) This vision reminds us that in this broken and ambiguous world the people
of God nurture a hope for what God will do in the end. Little in the Christian
way makes sense without such hope; little in our culture makes much sense without
a shared vision toward which to press, a vision that transcends personal fulfillment
Pray for the Church
Praise God for the countless ways He has shown His grace and faithfulness toward us. Ask the Spirit to continually remind us God’s salvation worked and at work in our lives. Confess any idolatry in your life, ask for God’s forgiveness, and thank Him for that forgiveness. Pray for God’s reviving power to be constantly at work among us. Ask for the Spirit to guide us faithful obedience to God’s commands and will. Pray we will consistently live in hope and boldness in the face of whatever circumstances we might face in life.
Pray for the City
This week we are praying for The WellHouse, a Christ-centered nonprofit organization that seeks to rescue and restore victims of human trafficking. The mission of The WellHouse is to provide a safe, residential environment to sexually exploited women, offering spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical support services in order that they might become self-sufficient and recognize their true worth. We are also praying for CrossPoint Church, Trussville and Ryan Whitley, Pastor.
Day 1: Pray for the women who have been rescued and are now living in one of the WellHouse group homes. Pray that the women who do not yet know Christ would cry out to God and trust Him to forgive their sins and make them new. Pray that they would experience the life transformation that only Jesus can provide.
Day 2: Pray for individuals in the community, nation, and worldwide who do not yet understand the personal and societal destruction that is caused by human trafficking. Pray that churches and individuals would be awakened to the reality of this great evil in our own city and that they would be introduced to the mission and ministry of The WellHouse.
Day 3: Pray for the house parents living in each of the WellHouse group homes. Pray that God would provide them with wisdom, guidance, and discernment as they seek to better serve the victims of human trafficking.
Day 4: Pray for parents and caregivers who are raising children in a world where human trafficking is so prevalent. Pray that they might find the words to educate their children, to instill confidence and self worth at a young age, and to train them to be aware of the dangers of human trafficking.
Day 5: Pray for God’s protection over victims who have not yet reached out for rescue or who have been otherwise unable to escape their circumstances. Pray that they may see God’s light in the midst of such a dark time and that, by divine appointment, they would be introduced to the ministry of The WellHouse.
Day 6: Pray for individuals struggling with sexual sin who have exploited women human trafficking victims. Pray that they would repent of their sin, trust in Jesus for salvation, and discover a new life in Christ.
Pray for the World
This week we are praying for our Short-Term trips in 2016. Each year, the Lord provides opportunities for our faith family to serve partners around the world through Short-Term teams. These Short-Term opportunities are designed to strengthen the Long-Term disciple making efforts of field partners in both reached and unreached contexts. Our desire is to see the church established in places where it doesn’t exist and strengthened where it does exist. Ultimately we know it is God who will accomplish his mission of glorifying himself among all peoples. We also know that he has given us the privilege to participate in this mission for the sake of the gospel going forward. Join us this week as we pray for God to use our faith family on Short-Term mission in 2016. We are also praying for our Short-Term team serving in North Africa.
Day 1: There are many field partners who will host Brook Hills Short-Term teams this year. Pray for God to give wisdom to our field partners on how best to utilize Brook Hills to strengthen the work already going on in these strategic areas.
Day 2: Pray for yourself. Pray for God to show you how he wants to use you, your family, and your small group this year on Short-Term mission.
Day 3: Pray for soft hearts among the men, women, and children who will hear the gospel for the first time by one of our Short-Term team members.
Day 4: Pray for our team leaders who lead each of the trips this year. Pray for God to give them wisdom and discernment as they equip their team and prepare to go.
Day 5: Pray for the Global Team as they continue to develop partnerships around the world. Pray for God to use Short-Term teams to strengthen these partnerships.
Day 6: Pray for God to receive great glory from our church on mission this year. Pray for God to call out more people from our faith family to serve Long-Term as a result of their exposure to the world on Short-Term mission.
To the King of glory and light all praises
To the only Giver of life our Maker
The gates are open wide we worship You
Come see what love has done amazing
He bought us with His blood our Savior
The cross has overcome we worship You
Shout hosanna Jesus He saves
Shout hosanna He rose from the grave
Come and lift Him up hosanna
Now let the lost be found forgiven
Death could not hold Him down He's risen
So let the saints cry out we worship You
The same power that rolled the stone away
The same power alive in us today
King Jesus we call upon Your name no other name
(Come and lift Him up) Hosanna
(Come and lift Him up) Hosanna
(Come and lift Him up) Hosanna
His Name is Jesus
All hail the pow'r of Jesus' name
Let angels prostrate fall
Bring forth the royal diadem
And crown Him Lord of all
Bring forth the royal diadem
And crown Him Lord of all
Ye chosen seed of Israel's race
Ye ransomed from the fall
Hail Him who saves you by His grace
And crown Him Lord of all
Hail Him who saves you by His grace
And crown Him Lord of all
His name is Jesus
Risen Lamb for sinners slain
His name is Jesus
All creation sings the praise
Of Jesus' name
Let e'ery kindred e'ery tribe
On this terrestrial ball
To Him all majesty ascribe
And crown Him Lord of all
To Him all majesty ascribe
And crown Him Lord of all
O that with yonder sacred throng
We at His feet may fall
We'll join the everlasting song
And crown Him Lord of all
We'll join the everlasting song
And crown Him Lord of all
In Christ Alone
In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light my strength my song
This Cornerstone this solid Ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love what depths of peace
When fears are stilled when strivings cease
My Comforter my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand
In Christ alone who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless babe
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save
Till on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live
There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave He rose again
And as He stands in victory
Sin's curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ
No guilt in life no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From life's first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
Till He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand
I find my strength I found my hope
I find my help in Christ alone
When fear assails when darkness falls
I found my peace in Christ alone
I give my life I give my all
I sing my song to Christ alone
The King of Kings the Lord of Lords
All heaven sings to Christ alone
To Christ alone
To Christ alone
Christ is Risen
Let no one caught in sin remain
Inside the lie of inward shame
But fix our eyes upon the cross
And run to Him who showed great love
And bled for us
Freely You've bled for us
Christ is risen from the dead
Trampling over death by death
Come awake come awake
Come and rise up from the grave
Christ is risen from the dead
We are one with Him again
Come awake come awake
Come and rise up from the grave
Beneath the weight of all our sin
You bowed to none but heaven's will
No scheme of hell no scoffer's crown
No burden great can hold You down
In strength You reign
Forever let Your church proclaim
O death where is your sting
O hell where is your victory
O church come stand in the light
The glory of God has defeated the night
Singing O death where is your sting
O hell where is your victory
O church come stand in the light
Our God is not dead He's alive He's alive