D.A. Carson Posts – The Gospel Coalition https://www.thegospelcoalition.org The Gospel Coalition Fri, 13 Jan 2023 08:00:53 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Genesis 14; Matthew 13; Nehemiah 3; Acts 13 https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/genesis-14-matthew-13-nehemiah-3-acts-13/ https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/genesis-14-matthew-13-nehemiah-3-acts-13/#respond Fri, 13 Jan 2023 06:45:01 +0000 http://tgcstaging.wpengine.com/d-a-carson/genesis-14-matthew-13-nehemiah-3-acts-13/ If one were to read through the book of Genesis without knowing the content of any other book of the Bible, one of the most enigmatic sections would certainly be these few verses about Melchizedek (Gen. 14:18–20). After all, how does he contribute in any substantial way to the plotline of the book?

His presence is precipitated by the decision (recorded in Gen. 13) of Abram and Lot to separate in order to stop the wrangling that was breaking out between their respective herdsmen. Lot opts for the plains of Sodom and Gomorrah. That means he and his family and wealth are taken captive when Kedorlaomer and the petty kings aligned with him attack the twin towns and escape with considerable plunder. Abram and his sizable number of fighting men go after the attackers. The skirmish ends in the release of Lot and his family, and the restoration of the people and goods that had been carried off.  In the verses that follow, Abram refuses to accept any reward from the king of Sodom, a city already proverbial for wickedness, but he gladly accepts the blessing of the king of Salem (which possibly equals Jerusalem?) and in return pays him an honorific tithe.

Historically, Melchizedek (his name means “king of righteousness”) appears to be the king of the city-state of Salem (a name meaning “peace” or “well-being”). He functions not only as Salem’s king, but as “priest of God Most High” (14:18). Indeed, it is in the name of God Most High that he blesses Abram. And Abram so respects him, apparently knowing him from previous dealings, that he honors him in return.

We need not think that Abram was the only person on earth who retained knowledge of the living God. Melchizedek was another, and Abram finds in him a kindred spirit. In a book that provides the exact genealogy of virtually everyone who is important to the storyline, rather strikingly Melchizedek simply appears and disappears—we are told neither who his parents were nor when and how he died. He and his city are a foil to Sodom and its king. Once again, there are two cities: the city of God and the city of man (as Augustine would label them).

Melchizedek is mentioned in only two other places in the Bible. The first is Psalm 110 (see meditation for June 17); the other is Hebrews, where the writer recognizes that the inclusion of Melchizedek in the plotline of Genesis is no accident, but a symbol-laden event with extraordinary significance (especially Heb. 7). God is preparing the way for the ultimate priest-king, not only in verbal prophecies but in models (or types) that provide the categories and shape the expectations of the people of God.

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Genesis 13; Matthew 12; Nehemiah 2; Acts 12 https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/genesis-13-matthew-12-nehemiah-2-acts-12/ https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/genesis-13-matthew-12-nehemiah-2-acts-12/#respond Thu, 12 Jan 2023 06:45:02 +0000 http://tgcstaging.wpengine.com/d-a-carson/genesis-13-matthew-12-nehemiah-2-acts-12/ Genesis 12; Matthew 11; Nehemiah 1; Acts 11 https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/genesis-12-matthew-11-nehemiah-1-acts-11/ https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/genesis-12-matthew-11-nehemiah-1-acts-11/#respond Wed, 11 Jan 2023 06:45:02 +0000 http://tgcstaging.wpengine.com/d-a-carson/genesis-12-matthew-11-nehemiah-1-acts-11/ This passage, Genesis 12, marks a turning point in God’s unfolding plan of redemption. From now on, the focus of God’s dealings is not scattered individuals, but a race, a nation. This is the turning point that makes the Old Testament documents so profoundly Jewish. And ultimately, out of this race come law, priests, wisdom, patterns of relationships between God and his covenant people, oracles, prophecies, laments, psalms—a rich array of institutions and texts that point forward, in ways that become increasingly clear, to a new covenant foretold by Israel’s prophets.

Even in this initial covenant with Abram, God includes a promise that already expands the horizons beyond Israel, a promise that repeatedly surfaces in the Bible. God tells Abraham, “All peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (12:3). Lest we miss its importance, the book of Genesis repeats it (18:18; 22:18; 16:4; 28:14). A millennium later, the same promise is refocused not on the nation as a whole, but on one of Israel’s great kings: “May his name endure forever; may it continue as long as the sun. All nations will be blessed through him, and they will call him blessed” (Ps. 72:17). The “evangelical prophet” often articulates the same breadth of vision (e.g., Isa. 19:23–25). The earliest preaching in the church, after the resurrection of Jesus, understood that the salvation Jesus had introduced was a fulfillment of this promise to Abraham (Acts 3:25). The apostle Paul makes the same connection (Gal. 3:8).

Even when the passage in Genesis is not explicitly cited, the same stance—that God’s ultimate intentions were from the beginning to bring men and women from every race into the new humanity he was forming—surfaces in a hundred ways. In fact, quite apart from this passage, two of the three remaining passages in today’s readings point in the same direction. In Matthew 11:20–24, Jesus makes it clear, in disturbing language, that on the last day pagan cities, though punished, may be punished less severely than the cities of Israel who enjoyed the unfathomable privilege of hearing Jesus for themselves, and seeing his miracles, but who made nothing of it. His own invitation is broad: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). And in Acts 11, Peter recounts his experiences with Cornelius and his household to the church in Jerusalem, leading them to conclude, “So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life” (Acts 11:18).

Christ receives the unrestrained praise of heaven, because with his blood he purchased people for God “from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9).

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Genesis 11; Matthew 10; Ezra 10; Acts 10 https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/genesis-11-matthew-10-ezra-10-acts-10/ https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/genesis-11-matthew-10-ezra-10-acts-10/#respond Tue, 10 Jan 2023 06:45:02 +0000 http://tgcstaging.wpengine.com/d-a-carson/genesis-11-matthew-10-ezra-10-acts-10/ Genesis 9–10; Matthew 9; Ezra 9; Acts 9 https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/genesis-9-10-matthew-9-ezra-9-acts-9/ https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/genesis-9-10-matthew-9-ezra-9-acts-9/#respond Mon, 09 Jan 2023 06:45:03 +0000 http://tgcstaging.wpengine.com/d-a-carson/genesis-9-10-matthew-9-ezra-9-acts-9/ Despite the comprehensiveness of the punishment it meted out, the flood did not change human nature. God well knows that murder, first committed by Cain, will happen again.  Now he prescribes capital punishment (Gen. 9:6), not as a deterrent—deterrence is not discussed—but as a signal that murder is in a class by itself, in that it kills a being made in the image of God. But there are other signs that sin continues. The promise God makes, sealed by the rainbow, not to destroy the race in this fashion again (9:12–17), is relevant not because the race has somehow been shocked into compliance, but precisely because God recognizes that the same degradation will occur again and again. And Noah himself, who with reference to his pre-flood days can rightly be called a “preacher of righteousness” (2 Pet. 2:5), is now depicted as a drunk, with family relationships already breaking down.

But there is another parallel between these chapters of Genesis and what took place before the flood. Before the flood, despite the grip of sin, there are individuals like Abel, whose sacrifice pleases God (Gen. 4); there are people who recognize their great need of God, and call upon the name of the Lord (4:26); there is Enoch, the seventh from Adam, who walked with God (5:22). In other words, there is a race within the race, a smaller race, not intrinsically superior to the other, but so relating to the living God that it heads in a quite different direction. Writing at the beginning of the fifth century AD, Augustine of Hippo in North Africa traces back to these earliest chapters the beginning of two humanities, two cities—the city of God and the city of man. That contrast develops and grows in various ways throughout the Bible, until the book of Revelation contrasts “Babylon” and the “new Jerusalem.” Empirically, believers find they are citizens of both; in terms of allegiance, they belong to one or the other.

The same distinctions re-form after the flood. The race soon demonstrates that the problems of rebellion and sin are deep-seated; they constitute part of our nature. Yet distinctions also begin to appear. While this covenant that God makes not to destroy the earth the same way again is between God and all living things (9:16), Noah’s sons divide, much as Adam’s had. The wearisome cycle begins again, but it is not without hope: the city of God never falls into utter abeyance, but anticipates the more explicit covenantal distinctions to come, now just and around the corner, and the glorious climax to come at the end of redemptive history.

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Genesis 8; Matthew 8; Ezra 8; Acts 8 https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/genesis-8-matthew-8-ezra-8-acts-8/ https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/genesis-8-matthew-8-ezra-8-acts-8/#respond Sun, 08 Jan 2023 06:45:02 +0000 http://tgcstaging.wpengine.com/d-a-carson/genesis-8-matthew-8-ezra-8-acts-8/ Genesis 7; Matthew 7; Ezra 7; Acts 7 https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/genesis-7-matthew-7-ezra-7-acts-7/ https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/genesis-7-matthew-7-ezra-7-acts-7/#respond Sat, 07 Jan 2023 06:45:03 +0000 http://tgcstaging.wpengine.com/d-a-carson/genesis-7-matthew-7-ezra-7-acts-7/ Genesis 6; Matthew 6; Ezra 6; Acts 6 https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/genesis-6-matthew-6-ezra-6-acts-6/ https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/genesis-6-matthew-6-ezra-6-acts-6/#respond Fri, 06 Jan 2023 06:45:02 +0000 http://tgcstaging.wpengine.com/d-a-carson/genesis-6-matthew-6-ezra-6-acts-6/ Genesis 5; Matthew 5; Ezra 5; Acts 5 https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/genesis-5-matthew-5-ezra-5-acts-5/ https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/genesis-5-matthew-5-ezra-5-acts-5/#respond Thu, 05 Jan 2023 06:45:02 +0000 http://tgcstaging.wpengine.com/d-a-carson/genesis-5-matthew-5-ezra-5-acts-5/ Again and again in the fifth chapter of Genesis, one finds the refrain, “and then he died.” So-and-so lived so many years, and then he died . . . and then he died . . . and then he died . . . Why the repetition?

From the beginning, God’s intention had been that the intercourse between himself and his image-bearers would be eternal: Adam and Eve were to experience eternal life with God. Their rebellion put an end to this trajectory (Gen. 3:21–22). Even if death did not fall on them immediately (Adam lived to the age of 930, according to Gen. 5:5), it was inevitable. The chapter before this table of deaths records the first murder—another death. And the three succeeding chapters (Gen. 6-8) record the Flood, in which the human race dies, save only Noah and his family. Whether by murder or by immediate divine judgment or by old age, the result is always the same: “and then he died.” As the wry contemporary expression puts it, “Life is hard, and then you die.”

In fact, by God’s just decree, death is taking hold of the human race. The life spans in Genesis 5 are extraordinary. They cannot last: more years means more evil. By Genesis 6:3, God determines to cut short the life span of his rebellious image-bearers. This decision is implemented gradually but firmly, so that by Genesis 11 the recorded ages have declined considerably, and in later records very few live longer than 120 years. But whatever the age, the final result is the same: “and then he died.”

Contemporary Western thought finds death so frightening that in polite conversation it is the last taboo. Nowadays one can chatter on about sex and finances, and never raise an eyebrow; mention death, and most people are uncomfortable at best. Even many Christians think of their faith almost exclusively in terms of what it does for them now, rather than in terms of preparing them for eternity such that it transforms how they live now.

God does not want us to shut our eyes to the effects of our sin, to the inevitability of death. Nevertheless, this chapter includes one bright exception: “Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away” (Gen. 5:24). It is almost as if God is showing that death is not ontologically necessary; that those who walk with God one day escape death; that even for those who die, there is hope—in God’s grace—of life beyond our inevitable death. But it is tied to a walk with God. It will take the rest of the Bible to unpack what that means.

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Genesis 4; Matthew 4; Ezra 4; Acts 4 https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/genesis-4-matthew-4-ezra-4-acts-4/ https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/genesis-4-matthew-4-ezra-4-acts-4/#respond Wed, 04 Jan 2023 06:45:02 +0000 http://tgcstaging.wpengine.com/d-a-carson/genesis-4-matthew-4-ezra-4-acts-4/ It took only one generation for the human race to produce its first murderer (Gen. 4). Two reflections:

(1) In the Bible, there are many motives behind murder. Jehu killed for political advantage (2 Kings 9-10); David killed to cover up his adultery (2 Sam. 11); Joab murdered out of revenge, and out of the fear of having his privileged position usurped (2 Sam. 3); some of the men of Gibeah in Benjamin killed out of unbridled lust (Judges 19). It would be easy to enlarge the list. On the occasion of the first murder, the motive was sibling rivalry out of control. Cain could not bear to think that his brother Abel’s offering was acceptable to God, while his own was not. Instead of seeking God so as to improve his own sacrifice, he killed the man he saw as his rival.

What is common to all these motives is the assumption entertained by the murderer that he or she is at the center of the universe. Even God must approve what I do; if not, since I cannot kill God, I will kill those whom God approves. Instead of the glorious situation that obtained before the Fall, when in the minds of God’s image-bearers, God himself was at the center, and loved and cherished as our good and wise Maker and Ruler, now each individual wants to be the center of the universe, as if saying, “Even God must serve me. If he does not, perhaps it is time to invent new gods . . . ”

Among the shocking elements in the murder of Cain is the stark fact that Cain’s nose is out of joint because he does not have God’s approval. The fatal sibling rivalry lies in this instance in the domain of religion. No matter: once I insist on being number one, I must be number one in every domain. Sad to tell, if the constraints of culture and fear of the penal system restrain me from outright murder, they are unlikely to restrain me from the kind of hate that the Lord Jesus insists is of the same moral order as murder (Matt. 5:21–26). So while the motives for murder are superficially many, at heart they become one: I wish to be god. And that is the supreme idolatry.

(2) In the Bible, the innocent are sometimes murdered. In this account, Abel is the righteous brother, yet he is the one who is murdered. From this fact we must reflect on two things. First, the Bible is utterly realistic about the horrible cruelty and unfairness of sin. Second, already by way of anticipation, we quietly recognize that if ultimate redress and justice are possible, God must intervene—and the books can only finally be squared after death.

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Genesis 3; Matthew 3; Ezra 3; Acts 3 https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/genesis-3-matthew-3-ezra-3-acts-3/ https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/genesis-3-matthew-3-ezra-3-acts-3/#respond Tue, 03 Jan 2023 06:45:02 +0000 http://tgcstaging.wpengine.com/d-a-carson/genesis-3-matthew-3-ezra-3-acts-3/ In any domain, we are unlikely to agree as to what the solution of a problem is, unless we agree as to the nature of the problem.

The religions of the world offer an enormous range of solutions to human problems. Some promulgate various forms of religious self-help exercises; some advocate a kind of faithful fatalism; others urge tapping into an impersonal energy or force in the universe; still others claim that mystical experience are available to those who pursue them, experiences that relativize all evil. One of the critical questions to ask is this: What constitutes the irreducible heart of human problems?

The Bible insists that the heart of all human problems is rebellion against the God who is our Maker, whose image we bear, and whose rule we seek to overthrow. All of our problems, without exception, can be traced to this fundamental source: our rebellion and the just curse of God that we have attracted by our rebellion.

This must not be (mis)understood in some simplistic sense. It is not necessarily the case that the greatest rebels in this world suffer the greatest pain in this world, on some simple tit-for-tat scheme. But whether we are perpetrators (as in hate, jealousy, lust, or theft) or victims (as in rape, battery, or indiscriminate bombing), our plight is tied to sin — ours or that of others. Further, whether our misery is the result of explicit human malice or the fruit of a “natural” disaster, Genesis 3 insists that this is a disordered world, a broken world — and that this state of affairs has come about because of human rebellion.

God’s curses on the human pair is striking. The first (Gen. 3:16), which promises pain in childbearing and disordered marriages, is the disruption of the first designated task human beings were assigned before the Fall: male and female, in the blessing of God, being fruitful and increasing in number (1:27-28). The second (Gen. 3:17-19), which promises painful toil, a disordered ecology, and certain death, is the disruption of the second designated task human beings were assigned before the Fall: God’s image-bearers ruling over the created order and living in harmony with it (1:28-30).

With perfect justice God might have destroyed this rebel breed instantly. He can no more ignore such rebellion than he can deny his own deity. Yet in mercy he clothes them, suspends part of the sentence (death itself) — and foretells a time when the offspring of the woman will crush the serpent who led the first couple astray. One reads Revelation 12 with relief, and grasps that Genesis 3 defines the problem that only Christ can meet.

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Genesis 2; Matthew 2; Ezra 2; Acts 2 https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/genesis-2-matthew-2-ezra-2-acts-2/ https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/genesis-2-matthew-2-ezra-2-acts-2/#respond Mon, 02 Jan 2023 06:45:02 +0000 http://tgcstaging.wpengine.com/d-a-carson/genesis-2-matthew-2-ezra-2-acts-2/ What a strange way, we might think, to end this account of Creation: “The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame” (Gen. 2:25). Hollywood would love it: what an excuse for sexual titillation if someone tries to place the scene on the big screen. We hurry on, chasing the narrative.

Yet the verse is strategically placed. It links the account of the creation of woman and the establishment of marriage (Gen 2:18-24) with the account of the Fall (Gen. 3). On the one hand, the Bible tells us that woman was taken from man, made by God to be “a helper suitable for him” (2:18), yet doubly one with him: she is bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh (2:24), the paradigm of marriages to come, of new homes and new families. On the other hand, in the next chapter we read of the Fall, the wretched rebellion that introduces death and the curse. Part of that account, as we glean from tomorrow’s reading, finds the man and the woman hiding from the presence of the Lord, because their rebellion opened their eyes to their nakedness (3:7, 10). Far from being unashamed, their instinct is to hide.

This was not how it was supposed to be. In the beginning, “the man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.” The sexual arena stands to the fore, of course; yet there is a symbol-laden depth to the pronouncement. It is a way of saying that there was no guilt; there was nothing to be ashamed of. This happy innocence meant openness, utter candor. There was nothing to hide, whether from God or from each other.

How different after the Fall. The man and the woman hide from God, and blame others. The candor has gone, the innocence has dissipated, the openness has closed. These are the immediate effects of the first sin.

How much more dire are the same effects worked into the psyche of a fallen race, worked into individuals like you and me with so much to hide. Would you want your spouse or your best friend to know the full dimensions of each of your thoughts? Would you want your motives placarded for public display? Have we not done things of which we are so ashamed that we want as few people as possible to know about them? Even the person whose conscience is said to be “seared” (e.g., 1 Tim. 4:2) and who therefore boasts of his sin does so only in some arenas, but not in others.

What astonishing dimensions characterize the salvation that addresses problems as deep as these.

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Genesis 1; Matthew 1; Ezra 1; Acts 1 https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/genesis-1-matthew-1-ezra-1-acts-1/ https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/genesis-1-matthew-1-ezra-1-acts-1/#respond Sun, 01 Jan 2023 06:45:02 +0000 http://tgcstaging.wpengine.com/d-a-carson/january-1-genesis-1-matthew-1-ezra-1-acts-1/ All four of these chapters depict new beginnings, but the first reading — Genesis 1 — portrays the beginning of everything in this created universe.

On the face of it, this chapter, and the lines of thought it develops, establish that God is different from the universe that he creates, and therefore pantheism is ruled out; that the original creation was entirely good, and therefore dualism is ruled out; that human beings, male and female together, are alone declared to be made in the image of God, and therefore forms of reductionism that claim we are part of the animal kingdom and no more must be ruled out; that God is a talking God, and therefore all notions of an impersonal God must be ruled out; that this God has sovereignly made all things, including all people, and therefore conceptions of merely tribal deities must be ruled out.

Some of these and other matters are put positively by later writers of Scripture who, reflecting on the doctrine of creation, offer a host of invaluable conclusions. The sheer glory of the created order bears telling witness to the glory of its Maker (Ps. 19). The universe came into being by the will of God, and for this, God is incessantly worshipped (Rev. 4:11). That God has made everything speaks of his transcendence, i.e., he is above this created order, above time and space, and therefore cannot be domesticated by anything in it (Acts 17:24-25). That he made all things and continues to rule over all, means that both racism and tribalism are to be rejected (Acts 17:26). Further, if we ourselves have been made in his image, it is preposterous to think that God can properly be pictured by some image that we can concoct (Acts 17:29). These notions and more are teased out by later Scriptures.

One of the most important entailments of the doctrine of creation is this: it grounds all human responsibility. The theme repeatedly recurs in the Bible, sometimes explicitly, sometimes by implication. To take but one example, John’s gospel opens by declaring that everything that was created came into being by the agency of God’s “Word,” the Word that became flesh in Jesus Christ (John 1:2-3, 14). But this observation sets the stage for a devastating indictment: when this Word came into the world, and even though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him (John 1:10). God made us to “image” himself; he made us for his own glory. For us to imagine ourselves autonomous is, far from being a measure of our maturity, the supreme mark of our rebellion, the flag of our suppression of the truth (Rom. 1).

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2 Chronicles 36; Revelation 22; Malachi 4; John 21 https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/2-chronicles-36-revelation-22-malachi-4-john-21/ https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/2-chronicles-36-revelation-22-malachi-4-john-21/#respond Sat, 31 Dec 2022 06:45:03 +0000 http://tgcstaging.wpengine.com/d-a-carson/2-chronicles-36-revelation-22-malachi-4-john-21/ Both of our primary readings for this last day of the year convey hope.

The first, 2 Chronicles 36, depicts the final destruction of Jerusalem. The Babylonians raze the city and the leading citizenry are transported seven or eight hundred miles from home. But the closing verses admit a whisper of hope. Babylon does not have the last word. Decades later the Persian empire takes over and becomes the regional superpower, and Cyrus the king authorizes the return of the exiles to Jerusalem and the construction of a new temple. Historically, of course, the Persians established this policy for all the peoples that the Babylonians had transported: they were all permitted to return home. But the chronicler rightly sees the application of this policy to Israel as supreme evidence of the hand of God, and a new stage in the history of redemption that would bring about the fulfillment of all God’s promises.

The hope depicted in the second reading, Revelation 22, is of a superior order. The opening verses complete the vision of Revelation 21. The blessedness of the consummation turns on such matters as these: the water of life flows freely from the throne of God and of the Lamb; all the results of the curse are expunged; God’s people will constantly see his face, i.e., they will forever be in his presence; there are no more cycles of night and day—again, the point is moral, not astronomical, i.e., there will be no more cycles of good and evil, of light and darkness, for all will live in the light of God.

Granted the sheer goodness and glory of this sustained and symbol-laden vision of the consummation and the triumph of redemption, the rest of the chapter is largely devoted to assuring the reader of the utter reliability of this vision, and therefore of the absolute importance of being among those “who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city” (Rev. 22:14). Here, then, is the ultimate hope, such that if one turns away this time, there is no more hope. There is only a fearful anticipation of final wrath. We are not there yet, the author says, but the climax is not far away, and when it comes, it will be too late.

The resurrected and exalted Jesus, the one who is the Root and Offspring of David and the bright Morning Star (Rev. 22:16), solemnly declares, “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End” (Rev. 22:12–13).

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2 Chronicles 35; Revelation 21; Malachi 3; John 20 https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/2-chronicles-35-revelation-21-malachi-3-john-20/ https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/2-chronicles-35-revelation-21-malachi-3-john-20/#respond Fri, 30 Dec 2022 06:45:02 +0000 http://tgcstaging.wpengine.com/d-a-carson/2-chronicles-35-revelation-21-malachi-3-john-20/ 2 Chronicles 34; Revelation 20; Malachi 2; John 19 https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/2-chronicles-34-revelation-20-malachi-2-john-19/ https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/2-chronicles-34-revelation-20-malachi-2-john-19/#respond Thu, 29 Dec 2022 06:45:03 +0000 http://tgcstaging.wpengine.com/d-a-carson/2-chronicles-34-revelation-20-malachi-2-john-19/ In the meditation for November 9, I briefly reflected on the reforming zeal of Josiah, who led the last attempt at large-scale reformation in Judah (2 Kings 22). About three-quarters of a century had passed since the death of Hezekiah, but much of this was presided over by Manasseh, whose reign of more than half a century was almost entirely devoted to pagan evil. Now we return to the same event, this time recorded in 2 Chronicles 34. Here we may pick up some additional and complementary lessons.

(1) The rediscovery of the book of the Law (probably Deuteronomy) in the rubbish of the temple discloses to Josiah how dangerous is Judah’s position: the wrath of God hangs over her head. Josiah tears his clothes, repents, and orders reform. Moreover, he instructs his attendants to inquire of the prophetess Huldah (2 Chron. 34:22) as to how imminent these dangers are. God’s response is that disaster and judgment on Jerusalem are now inevitable—“all the curses written in the book that has been read in the presence of the king of Judah” (2 Chron. 34:24). The pattern of deliberate and repeated covenantal breach has become so sustained and horrific that judgment must come. However, the Lord adds, “Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before God when you heard what he spoke against this place and its people, and because you humbled yourself before me and tore your robes and wept in my presence, I have heard you” (2 Chron. 34:27)—and Josiah is assured that the impending disaster will not occur during his lifetime.

There are two obvious lessons here. First, we are afforded a glimpse of what God expects from us if we live in a time of cataclysmic declension: not philosophizing, but self-humbling, transparent repentance, tears, contrition. Second, as so often in the Bible, precisely because God is so slow to anger and so forbearing, he is more eager to suspend and delay the judgment that is the necessary correlative of his holiness than we are to beg him for mercy.

(2) The picture of the king himself calling together the elders of Judah and solemnly reading to them the Scripture (2 Chron. 34:29–31) is enormously moving. There is nothing that our generation needs more than to hear the Word of God—and this at a time of biblical illiteracy rising at an astonishing rate. Moreover, it needs to hear Christian leaders personally submitting to Scripture, personally reading and teaching Scripture—not in veiled ways that merely assume some sort of heritage of Christian teaching while actually focusing on just about anything else, but in ways that are reverent, exemplary, comprehensive, insistent, persistent. Nothing, nothing at all, is more urgent.

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2 Chronicles 33; Revelation 19; Malachi 1; John 18 https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/2-chronicles-33-revelation-19-malachi-1-john-18/ https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/2-chronicles-33-revelation-19-malachi-1-john-18/#respond Wed, 28 Dec 2022 06:45:02 +0000 http://tgcstaging.wpengine.com/d-a-carson/2-chronicles-33-revelation-19-malachi-1-john-18/ 2 Chronicles 32; Revelation 18; Zechariah 14; John 17 https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/2-chronicles-32-revelation-18-zechariah-14-john-17/ https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/2-chronicles-32-revelation-18-zechariah-14-john-17/#respond Tue, 27 Dec 2022 06:45:02 +0000 http://tgcstaging.wpengine.com/d-a-carson/2-chronicles-32-revelation-18-zechariah-14-john-17/ 2 Chronicles 31; Revelation 17; Zechariah 13:2–9; John 16 https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/2-chronicles-31-revelation-17-zechariah-132-9-john-16/ https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/2-chronicles-31-revelation-17-zechariah-132-9-john-16/#respond Mon, 26 Dec 2022 06:45:02 +0000 http://tgcstaging.wpengine.com/d-a-carson/2-chronicles-31-revelation-17-zechariah-132-9-john-16/ 2 Chronicles 30; Revelation 16; Zechariah 12:1–13:1; John 15 https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/2-chronicles-30-revelation-16-zechariah-121-131-john-15/ https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/2-chronicles-30-revelation-16-zechariah-121-131-john-15/#respond Sun, 25 Dec 2022 06:45:03 +0000 http://tgcstaging.wpengine.com/d-a-carson/2-chronicles-30-revelation-16-zechariah-121-131-john-15/ 2 Chronicles 29; Revelation 15; Zechariah 11; John 14 https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/2-chronicles-29-revelation-15-zechariah-11-john-14/ https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/2-chronicles-29-revelation-15-zechariah-11-john-14/#respond Sat, 24 Dec 2022 06:45:03 +0000 http://tgcstaging.wpengine.com/d-a-carson/2-chronicles-29-revelation-15-zechariah-11-john-14/ With the exception of only a few verses, most of the material in 2 Chronicles 29–31 has no parallel in 2 Kings. What these chapters provide is a detailed account of how King Hezekiah went about reinstituting temple worship that was in line with the Law of God delivered through Moses, and then called the covenant people together not only from Judah but even some from Israel to celebrate the Passover in a way that had not been done for some time.

Here we may focus on 2 Chronicles 29. Paganism had taken such a hold on the people that temple service had fallen into disuse. The temple had become a repository for junk; even the doors needed fixing. Still only twenty-five years old, King Hezekiah, in the first month of his reign (2 Chron. 29:3), opened the doors and repaired them. He found some priests and Levites and instructed them to consecrate themselves according to the rites established in the Law, and then to set about cleaning, repairing, and reconsecrating the temple. Moreover, Hezekiah recognized that the past failures in this respect had invited the wrath of God (2 Chron. 29:6). He was not so foolish as to think the failures were merely a matter of ritual: he saw the larger picture, but perceived, rightly, that the utter neglect of the ritual demonstrated that the hearts of priests, Levites, people, and king alike were entirely alienated from God. His open intention was to reverse this pattern and inaugurate a covenant with the Lord (2 Chron. 29:10).

The rest of the chapter details what was done. More priests and Levites came on board. The musical instruments secured by David were restored to use. Even small deviations from the Law are recorded, such as the permission to allow the Levites to help with the skinning of the animals for the sacrifices, owing to the fact that at this point too few priests were consecrated (2 Chron. 29:32–34).

“So the service of the temple of the LORD was reestablished. Hezekiah and all the people rejoiced at what God had brought about for his people, because it was done so quickly” (2 Chron. 29:35–36).

So it is when genuine revival comes in considerable proportion. Inevitably, God raises up a leader whose prophetic insistence proves irresistible, first to a few, and then to a great crowd. And in the best instances it is not long before men and women look back and marvel at how fast the face of things was massively transformed. They conclude, rightly, that the only explanation is that God himself has done it—that is, that the transformation is not finally attributable to reforming zeal or organizing skill, but to a God who has changed people’s hearts.

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2 Chronicles 27–28; Revelation 14; Zechariah 10; John 13 https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/2-chronicles-27-28-revelation-14-zechariah-10-john-13/ https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/2-chronicles-27-28-revelation-14-zechariah-10-john-13/#respond Fri, 23 Dec 2022 06:45:02 +0000 http://tgcstaging.wpengine.com/d-a-carson/2-chronicles-27-28-revelation-14-zechariah-10-john-13/ 2 Chronicles 26; Revelation 13; Zechariah 9; John 12 https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/2-chronicles-26-revelation-13-zechariah-9-john-12/ https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/2-chronicles-26-revelation-13-zechariah-9-john-12/#respond Thu, 22 Dec 2022 06:45:02 +0000 http://tgcstaging.wpengine.com/d-a-carson/2-chronicles-26-revelation-13-zechariah-9-john-12/ 2 Chronicles 25; Revelation 12; Zechariah 8; John 11 https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/2-chronicles-25-revelation-12-zechariah-8-john-11/ https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/2-chronicles-25-revelation-12-zechariah-8-john-11/#respond Wed, 21 Dec 2022 06:45:02 +0000 http://tgcstaging.wpengine.com/d-a-carson/2-chronicles-25-revelation-12-zechariah-8-john-11/ 2 Chronicles 24; Revelation 11; Zechariah 7; John 10 https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/2-chronicles-24-revelation-11-zechariah-7-john-10/ https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/2-chronicles-24-revelation-11-zechariah-7-john-10/#respond Tue, 20 Dec 2022 06:45:02 +0000 http://tgcstaging.wpengine.com/d-a-carson/2-chronicles-24-revelation-11-zechariah-7-john-10/ 2 Chronicles 22–23; Revelation 10; Zechariah 6; John 9 https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/2-chronicles-22-23-revelation-10-zechariah-6-john-9/ https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/2-chronicles-22-23-revelation-10-zechariah-6-john-9/#respond Mon, 19 Dec 2022 06:45:02 +0000 http://tgcstaging.wpengine.com/d-a-carson/2-chronicles-22-23-revelation-10-zechariah-6-john-9/ 2 Chronicles 21; Revelation 9; Zechariah 5; John 8 https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/2-chronicles-21-revelation-9-zechariah-5-john-8/ https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/2-chronicles-21-revelation-9-zechariah-5-john-8/#respond Sun, 18 Dec 2022 06:45:02 +0000 http://tgcstaging.wpengine.com/d-a-carson/2-chronicles-21-revelation-9-zechariah-5-john-8/ 2 Chronicles 19–20; Revelation 8; Zechariah 4; John 7 https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/2-chronicles-19-20-revelation-8-zechariah-4-john-7/ https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/2-chronicles-19-20-revelation-8-zechariah-4-john-7/#respond Sat, 17 Dec 2022 06:45:02 +0000 http://tgcstaging.wpengine.com/d-a-carson/2-chronicles-19-20-revelation-8-zechariah-4-john-7/ Earlier we witnessed a king who began well and ended poorly (Asa; see December 13–14); still earlier, we witnessed a halfhearted reformer (Rehoboam; see December 11). Now we come across another, King Jehoshaphat, who does not degenerate, nor does he slide along in a gray zone between good and evil, but rather proves to be very good in some areas and not very discerning and even stupid in others—all his life (2 Chron. 19–20).

The two previous chapters (2 Chron. 17–18) can be divided into two parts. Chapter 17 depicts the strengths of Jehoshaphat—the man who diligently seeks the Lord and fortifies the entire southern kingdom. By contrast, chapter 18 depicts foolish Jehoshaphat, enmeshed in a needless and compromised alliance with wicked King Ahab of Israel, almost losing his life in a fight that wasn’t his. Now in the chapters before us, the prophet Jehu, son of the prophet Hanani who had been imprisoned by Asa in his old age, confronts Jehoshaphat: “Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the LORD? Because of this, the wrath of the LORD is upon you. There is, however, some good in you, for you have rid the land of the Asherah poles and have set your heart on seeking God” (2 Chron. 19:2–3).

Then the pattern repeats itself. Jehoshaphat works diligently to rid the judiciary of corruption (2 Chron. 19:4–11). When he faces another military crisis, this time the nations of Moab and Ammon allied against him, he turns to God for help. The culmination of his prayer is intensely moving: “O our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you” (2 Chron. 20:12). In his mercy, God sends his Spirit upon Jahaziel son of Zechariah, who carries a prophetic word to strengthen and encourage Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah and Jerusalem (2 Chron. 20:15ff). The victory they win is extravagant, and the Lord graciously imposes “the fear of God” upon the surrounding kingdoms, thereby giving Jehoshaphat and Judah rest.

So what does Jehoshaphat do? He makes another stupid and unnecessary alliance, this time with Ahaziah, the new king of Israel, and is soundly rebuked by another prophetic word (2 Chron. 20:35–37). Doesn’t the man ever learn?

Today we would probably label such deeply disturbing repetitions “character flaws.” They can occur in people whose lives, on so many levels, are entirely praiseworthy. At one level it is entirely right to thank God for the good these people do. But would it not have been far better if Jehoshaphat had learned from his first mistakes?

Would it be impertinent to ask if you and I learn from ours?

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2 Chronicles 18; Revelation 7; Zechariah 3; John 6 https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/2-chronicles-18-revelation-7-zechariah-3-john-6/ https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/2-chronicles-18-revelation-7-zechariah-3-john-6/#respond Fri, 16 Dec 2022 06:45:03 +0000 http://tgcstaging.wpengine.com/d-a-carson/2-chronicles-18-revelation-7-zechariah-3-john-6/ 2 Chronicles 17; Revelation 6; Zechariah 2; John 5 https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/2-chronicles-17-revelation-6-zechariah-2-john-5/ https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/2-chronicles-17-revelation-6-zechariah-2-john-5/#respond Thu, 15 Dec 2022 06:45:01 +0000 http://tgcstaging.wpengine.com/d-a-carson/2-chronicles-17-revelation-6-zechariah-2-john-5/ 2 Chronicles 16; Revelation 5; Zechariah 1; John 4 https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/2-chronicles-16-revelation-5-zechariah-1-john-4/ https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/2-chronicles-16-revelation-5-zechariah-1-john-4/#respond Wed, 14 Dec 2022 06:45:02 +0000 http://tgcstaging.wpengine.com/d-a-carson/2-chronicles-16-revelation-5-zechariah-1-john-4/ Beginning well does not mean ending well. Judas Iscariot began as an apostle; Demas began as an apostolic helper. We know how they ended up. Asa began as a reforming king zealous for God, a man who displayed formidable faith and courage when the Cushites attacked (review yesterday’s meditation)—but how he ends up in 2 Chronicles 16 is frankly disquieting.

The crisis was precipitated when Baasha, king of Israel, attacked some of Judah’s outlying towns and cities. Instead of displaying the same kind of resolute faith he had shown twenty-five years earlier, when he had to face the more formidable Cushites, Asa opts for a costly political expedient. He strips both the temple and his own palace of wealth, and sends it to Ben-Hadad, ruler of the rising regional power of Aram, centered in Damascus. Asa wants Ben-Hadad to attack Israel from the north, thereby forcing Baasha to withdraw his troops from the southern assault and defend himself in the north. The ploy worked.

This was also linking Judah with Aram in dangerous ways. More importantly, the prophet Hanani puts his finger on the worst element in this strategy: Asa is depending on politics and money, and not on the Lord God. “Were not the Cushites and Libyans a mighty army with great numbers of chariots and horsemen? Yet when you relied on the LORD, he delivered them into your hand. For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. You have done a foolish thing, and from now on you will be at war” (2 Chron. 16:8–9).

Even then the situation might have been retrieved: God so regularly listens to the truly repentant. But Asa merely becomes angry, so enraged that he throws Hanani the prophet into prison. His dictatorial urges multiply, and Asa begins to brutalize the people (2 Chron. 16:10). Four years later he contracts a wretched disease, but instead of asking for the Lord’s help (let alone his forgiveness), he entrenches himself in bitterness and seeks help only from the physicians. Two years of disease later, he dies.

What about all those years of godly reform? We are not in the position, of course, to offer a final accounting: that belongs to God alone. But people can be on the side of goodness or reform for all kinds of reasons other than love of God; phenomenologically, people can have a heart for God for a long time (2 Chron. 15:17) but wilt before demonstrating final perseverance. In a disciplined person, it may take a while before the truth comes out. But when it does, the test, as always, is fundamental: Am I number one, or is God?

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2 Chronicles 14–15; Revelation 4; Haggai 2; John 3 https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/2-chronicles-14-15-revelation-4-haggai-2-john-3/ https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/2-chronicles-14-15-revelation-4-haggai-2-john-3/#respond Tue, 13 Dec 2022 06:45:02 +0000 http://tgcstaging.wpengine.com/d-a-carson/2-chronicles-14-15-revelation-4-haggai-2-john-3/ The reign of King Asa of Judah is instructive on several fronts, and will occupy our attention both today (2 Chron. 14–15) and tomorrow.

Asa’s long reign began with ten years of peace (2 Chron. 14:1), “for the LORD gave him rest” (2 Chron. 14:6). During this time Asa “commanded Judah to seek the LORD, the God of their fathers, and to obey his laws and commands” (2 Chron. 14:4). The people sought the Lord, “and built and prospered” (2 Chron. 14:7). At the end of ten years, Asa faced the devastating power of the Cushite forces (from the upper Nile). Asa could not possibly have forgotten how his grandfather Rehoboam was subjugated by Shishak of Egypt (2 Chron. 12). Asa’s own conduct is exemplary, a foretaste of how his descendant Hezekiah would handle himself centuries later when he faced the Babylonians: he called on the Lord, frankly acknowledging his utter powerlessness against such forces. “Help us, O LORD our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this vast army. O LORD, you are our God; do not let man prevail against you” (2 Chron. 14:11). By whatever means (the text does not specify), the Lord answers, and Asa’s relatively tiny army crushes the Cushite host.

Enter Azariah son of Oded, a prophet with a message of encouragement for Asa and for all Judah and Benjamin (2 Chron. 15:1–2). Reflecting on the terrible years of anarchy under the closing years of the judges and the opening years of the monarchy, when travel and trade were dangerous and when the Levites were not sufficiently disciplined and organized to teach the people, Azariah encourages king and people alike to seek the Lord, for “he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you” (2 Chron. 15:2). Such a message strengthens Asa’s resolve. He proceeds against the remaining idolatry in the land and pours resources into the maintenance of the temple. This is the covenant community, and under Asa it begins to act like one. “They sought God eagerly, and he was found by them. So the LORD gave them rest on every side” (2 Chron. 15:15) for a further quarter century, to the thirty-fifth year of Asa’s reign (2 Chron. 15:19). The “high places” were not removed (2 Chron. 15:17)—a residue of competition with the temple—but for the most part Asa was a straight arrow.

We should not be embarrassed by the blessing of God on integrity and righteousness. Righteousness exalts a nation: it lifts it up and strengthens its hand. This is not merely a sociological inference: it is the way God has structured things, the way he providentially rules. Inversely, corruption attracts the wrath of God, and sooner or later will bring a nation down.

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2 Chronicles 13; Revelation 3; Haggai 1; John 2 https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/2-chronicles-13-revelation-3-haggai-1-john-2/ https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/2-chronicles-13-revelation-3-haggai-1-john-2/#respond Mon, 12 Dec 2022 06:45:02 +0000 http://tgcstaging.wpengine.com/d-a-carson/2-chronicles-13-revelation-3-haggai-1-john-2/ 2 Chronicles 11–12; Revelation 2; Zephaniah 3; John 1 https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/2-chronicles-11-12-revelation-2-zephaniah-3-john-1/ https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/2-chronicles-11-12-revelation-2-zephaniah-3-john-1/#respond Sun, 11 Dec 2022 06:45:03 +0000 http://tgcstaging.wpengine.com/d-a-carson/2-chronicles-11-12-revelation-2-zephaniah-3-john-1/ The chronicler provides some fascinating insights into the reign of Rehoboam, the first king of Judah after the end of the united monarchy (2 Chron. 11–12). We note two of them.

(1) Predictably, many of the Levites who lived in the north drifted south (2 Chron. 11:11–17). Their entire life centered on the temple, and this was the connection that Jeroboam, king over the northern ten tribes, wanted to break. Not only therefore did he establish his own idol gods, but he sacked all the Levites. The effect, at least initially, was to strengthen the hand of Rehoboam (2 Chron. 11:17). Sometimes the principle of “unintended consequences” is quietly used by God’s providence to bring blessings out of what at first appears to be unmitigated disaster. The most stellar example of this, of course, is the cross.

(2) Rehoboam proves to be a mediocre king whose total effect is bad. Certain early elements in Rehoboam’s reign were good. He chose the right son, Abijah, to be his “chief prince” (2 Chron. 11:22), preparing him for the throne. Learning from the stupidity of the initial decision that had cost him the unified kingdom (2 Chron. 10:8; cf. 1 Kings 12:8), Rehoboam worked hard at maintaining contact with the people, dispersing his many sons around the districts and fortified cities of Judah. Sadly, once he had become comfortable, once his kingdom was more or less secure, he drifted away from the Law of the Lord, and so did his people (2 Chron. 12:1). God responded by unleashing Shishak, king of Egypt, against this small nation. The prophet Shemaiah thundered, “This is what the LORD says, ‘You have abandoned me; therefore, I now abandon you to Shishak’ ” (2 Chron. 12:5).

King Rehoboam and the leaders of Israel humble themselves (2 Chron. 12:6, 12). The result is that God does not permit the Egyptians to destroy Judah. Nevertheless, God says that his people will “become subject to [Shishak], so that they may learn the difference between serving me and serving the kings of other lands” (2 Chron. 12:8). This development reminds us of God’s reaction when the people of Israel entered the Promised Land and promptly compromised their faithfulness. The result was that instead of the clean sweep they might have had, they were embroiled in squalid skirmishes for generations.

There is a kind of evil that is not very bad and not very good, not too terribly rebellious yet not hungry for righteousness, a stance that drifts toward idolatry and hastily retreats at the threat of judgment. What it lacks is David’s heart, the heart of a man who, despite failures, sets himself to pursue God with passion and delight. The final verdict on Rehoboam’s reign explains the problem: “He did evil because he had not set his heart on seeking the LORD” (2 Chron. 12:14).

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2 Chronicles 10; Revelation 1; Zephaniah 2; Luke 24 https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/2-chronicles-10-revelation-1-zephaniah-2-luke-24/ https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/2-chronicles-10-revelation-1-zephaniah-2-luke-24/#respond Sat, 10 Dec 2022 06:45:02 +0000 http://tgcstaging.wpengine.com/d-a-carson/2-chronicles-10-revelation-1-zephaniah-2-luke-24/ 2 Chronicles 9; Jude; Zephaniah 1; Luke 23 https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/2-chronicles-9-jude-zephaniah-1-luke-23/ https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/2-chronicles-9-jude-zephaniah-1-luke-23/#respond Fri, 09 Dec 2022 06:45:04 +0000 http://tgcstaging.wpengine.com/d-a-carson/2-chronicles-9-jude-zephaniah-1-luke-23/ 2 Chronicles 8; 3 John; Habakkuk 3; Luke 22 https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/2-chronicles-8-3-john-habakkuk-3-luke-22/ https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/2-chronicles-8-3-john-habakkuk-3-luke-22/#respond Thu, 08 Dec 2022 06:45:02 +0000 http://tgcstaging.wpengine.com/d-a-carson/2-chronicles-8-3-john-habakkuk-3-luke-22/ 2 Chronicles 7; 2 John; Habakkuk 2; Luke 21 https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/2-chronicles-7-2-john-habakkuk-2-luke-21/ https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/2-chronicles-7-2-john-habakkuk-2-luke-21/#respond Wed, 07 Dec 2022 06:45:03 +0000 http://tgcstaging.wpengine.com/d-a-carson/2-chronicles-7-2-john-habakkuk-2-luke-21/ When Solomon finished praying, there was more than silence and hushed reverence. Fire descended from heaven to consume the burnt offerings, and “the glory of the LORD filled the temple” (2 Chron. 7:1). God himself approved both the temple and Solomon’s prayer of dedication. The thousands of Israelites who were present certainly saw things that way (2 Chron. 7:3) and sang again, “He is good; his love endures forever” (2 Chron. 7:3). The festival of celebration described in the following verses (2 Chron. 7:4–10) is peerless.

There is more. Just as the Lord had personally appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—and to Solomon’s own father David!—so now he appears, by whatever means, to Solomon. Note:

(1) “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a temple for sacrifices” (2 Chron. 7:12; cf. 2 Chron. 7:16 and the meditation for November 26, emphasis added). God himself sees the sacrificial system as the heart of the temple. He then summarizes afresh his willingness to respond to his people when they stray and then pray; for this temple, in line with God’s gracious self-disclosure, institutionalizes the various offerings for sin that are the means by which guilty sinners can be reconciled to God by the sacrifices that he himself has both prescribed and provided.

(2) Much of the rest of God’s words to Solomon run on one of two lines. First, in words of reassurance, God says his eyes will indeed always be open to his temple, and he will hear the prayers of those who repent. Second, this appearance to Solomon is also a warning, even a threat. God tells Solomon that if the nation (the “you” in 2 Chron. 7:19; “but if you turn away” is plural) succumbs to rebellion and idolatry, the time will come when God will descend on them in judgment, drive his people from the Promised Land, and so decimate Jerusalem and this temple that people will be appalled; they will hear as the only sufficient explanation that God himself brought all this disaster on them because of their sin (2 Chron. 7:19–22). From God’s perspective, the people receive fair warning; from the chronicler’s perspective, he is preparing the way for the tragic conclusion to his book; from the canonical perspective, Christian readers are reminded that all systems and structures, even those that point to Christ, were bound to fail in this broken world until the appearance of the One to whom they pointed.

(3) The promise of 2 Chronicles 7:14 is often quoted as a universal key to revival. But one should note the linked themes of covenant people, land, and temple—all contextually specific, in this form, to the old covenant. But there is a legitimate extension, grounded in the reality that righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people. God calls on all peoples to repent.

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2 Chronicles 6:12–42; 1 John 5; Habakkuk 1; Luke 20 https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/2-chronicles-612-42-1-john-5-habakkuk-1-luke-20/ https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/2-chronicles-612-42-1-john-5-habakkuk-1-luke-20/#respond Tue, 06 Dec 2022 06:45:03 +0000 http://tgcstaging.wpengine.com/d-a-carson/2-chronicles-612-42-1-john-5-habakkuk-1-luke-20-2/ Solomon’s prayer of dedication (2 Chron. 6:12–42) is one of the great moments of Old Testament history and theology. Many of its features deserve prolonged reflection. Here we pick up on a few strands.

(1) Both the beginning and the end of the prayer fasten on God as a covenant-keeping God, the original promise keeper. In particular (and understandably), Solomon is interested in God’s promise to David to the effect that his line would continue, his dynasty would be preserved (2 Chron. 6:14–17). Similarly the final doxology: “O LORD God, do not reject your anointed one. Remember the great love promised to David your servant” (2 Chron. 6:42).

(2) Although the temple was doubtless a magnificent structure, and although Solomon might understandably feel some sort of justifiable pride in its completion, his grasp of the greatness of God is sufficiently robust that he himself articulates, in memorable terms, that no temple can possibly “contain” the God who outstrips the highest heavens (2 Chron. 6:18). There is no trace of tribal domestication of God.

(3) The principal burden of what Solomon asks may be summarized quite simply. In the future, when either individual Israelites sin or the entire nation sinks into one sin or another, if they then turn away from their sin and pray toward the temple, Solomon asks that God himself will hear from heaven, and forgive their sin (2 Chron. 6:21–39). There are four remarkable elements to these petitions.

First, there is an astonishingly realistic assessment of the propensity of the people to sin, even to sin so badly that they may one day be banished from the land. A lesser man would have been tempted on such an occasion to introduce a lot of sentimental, Pollyanna-like twaddle about undying allegiance and the like. But not Solomon. He is a wise man, and he knows that sinners sin.

Second, however central the temple is to be as a focus for the prayers of the people (not least when they sin), God will hear their prayers not from the temple but from heaven, his dwelling place. Once again, God is not being reduced to the status of the tribal deities worshiped by the surrounding pagans. The phrasing of this repeated request for forgiveness makes the role of God the crucial thing—the God who fills the heavens, not the temple.

Third, insofar as the temple is critical, it is seen as the center of religion and worship that deals with the forgiveness of sin and thus restores sinners to God. The heart of the temple is not the choirs and the ceremonies, but the forgiveness of sin. In this day of ill-defined spirituality, it is vital that we remember this point.

Fourth, Solomon’s vision extends far enough to include foreigners (2 Chron. 6:32–33)—a missionary thrust.

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2 Chronicles 5:1–6:11; 1 John 4; Nahum 3; Luke 19 https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/2-chronicles-51-611-1-john-4-nahum-3-luke-19/ https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/2-chronicles-51-611-1-john-4-nahum-3-luke-19/#respond Mon, 05 Dec 2022 06:45:02 +0000 http://tgcstaging.wpengine.com/d-a-carson/2-chronicles-51-611-1-john-4-nahum-3-luke-19/ Once the temple has been built, the final step before the dedication of the temple is bringing up the ark of the covenant from the old tabernacle, now resting in Zion, the City of David (part of Jerusalem), to its new resting place in the Most Holy Place of the temple. Second Chronicles 5:1–6:11 not only records this transition, but Solomon’s opening remarks to the people before his prayer of dedication (see tomorrow’s meditation). Both the moving of the ark and Solomon’s opening remarks prove important.

The move itself follows the prescriptions of the Law: the Levites alone are permitted to handle the ark. But the move is nevertheless a national event. The elders of Israel and the heads of clans come together from all over Israel for this great celebration. The move is accompanied by such lavish sacrifices that the number of animals killed could not be recorded (2 Chron. 5:6). Finally the ark is lodged beneath the wings of the cherubim in the Most Holy Place. As an aside, the chronicler mentions that at this point only the tablets of the Law still rest in the ark of the covenant. Presumably the pot with manna and Aaron’s rod that had budded were removed when the ark was held by the Philistines. In any case, the orchestras and choirs cut loose, including a 120-piece trumpet section. The singers praise God in the well-known couplet, “He is good; his love endures forever” (2 Chron. 5:13).

Two details deserve special comment.

(1) In the past, the evidence of God’s presence in the tabernacle was a cloud. Now the same cloud fills the temple; indeed, the glory of the Lord so fills the temple that the priests are driven out and find themselves unable to enter and perform their duties (2 Chron. 5:13–14). This demonstrates that God is pleased with the temple; that he himself has sanctioned the move from tabernacle to temple; and above all that if the temple is his temple, it is not to be domesticated by mere rites, no matter how lavish. The glory of his presence is the important thing.

(2) Solomon’s opening remarks also contribute to the sense of continuity. Perhaps some purists were tempted to say that it would have been better to stick with the tabernacle: after all, that is what God ordained on Mount Sinai. So Solomon reviews the steps that have brought the narrative to this point: God’s promises to David, God’s choice of Jerusalem and of this temple site, God’s selection of Solomon over David to do the actual building, and so forth. Thus the temple, far from being a questionable innovation, is the next step in redemptive history and the fulfillment of God’s good promises (2 Chron. 6:10–11).

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2 Chronicles 3–4; 1 John 3; Nahum 2; Luke 18 https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/2-chronicles-3-4-1-john-3-nahum-2-luke-18/ https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/2-chronicles-3-4-1-john-3-nahum-2-luke-18/#respond Sun, 04 Dec 2022 06:45:03 +0000 http://tgcstaging.wpengine.com/d-a-carson/2-chronicles-3-4-1-john-3-nahum-2-luke-18/ 2 Chronicles 2; 1 John 2; Nahum 1; Luke 17 https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/2-chronicles-2-1-john-2-nahum-1-luke-17/ https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/2-chronicles-2-1-john-2-nahum-1-luke-17/#respond Sat, 03 Dec 2022 06:45:02 +0000 http://tgcstaging.wpengine.com/d-a-carson/2-chronicles-2-1-john-2-nahum-1-luke-17/ 2 Chronicles 1; 1 John 1; Micah 7; Luke 16 https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/2-chronicles-1-1-john-1-micah-7-luke-16/ https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/2-chronicles-1-1-john-1-micah-7-luke-16/#respond Fri, 02 Dec 2022 06:45:02 +0000 http://tgcstaging.wpengine.com/d-a-carson/2-chronicles-1-1-john-1-micah-7-luke-16/ 1 Chronicles 29; 2 Peter 3; Micah 6; Luke 15 https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/1-chronicles-29-2-peter-3-micah-6-luke-15/ https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/1-chronicles-29-2-peter-3-micah-6-luke-15/#respond Thu, 01 Dec 2022 06:45:03 +0000 http://tgcstaging.wpengine.com/d-a-carson/1-chronicles-29-2-peter-3-micah-6-luke-15/ The chronicler’s account of David’s death is preceded by the story of the wealthy gifts that would finance temple construction after David’s demise and the prayer David offered in this connection (1 Chron. 29). It is not so much the quantity of money given by David and the others that is striking, as the theology of David’s prayer. The highlights include the following points:

(1) In the opening doxology (1 Chron. 29:10–13), David acknowledges that everything is God’s (1 Chron. 29:11). If we human beings “own” anything, we must frankly confess, “Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things” (1 Chron. 29:12). Hence in the body of the prayer, David says, “Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand” (1 Chron. 29:14); again, as for all this wealth that is being collected, “it comes from your hand, and all of it belongs to you” (1 Chron. 29:16). Such a stance utterly destroys any notion of us “giving” something to God in any absolute terms. It becomes a pleasure to give to God, not only because we love him, but because we happily recognize that all we “own” is his anyway.

(2) Small wonder, then, that the prayer begins with exuberant expressions of praise (1 Chron. 29:10).

(3) David recognizes that all human existence is transient. God himself is to be praised “from everlasting to everlasting” (1 Chron. 29:10), but as for us, “we are aliens and strangers in your sight, as were all our forefathers. Our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope” (1 Chron. 29:15). This passage is extraordinary. The Israelites are in the Promised Land, at “rest”; yet, as in Psalm 95 and Hebrews 3:6–4:11; 11:13, this cannot be the ultimate rest, for they are still “aliens and strangers.” David is king, the head of a powerful and enduring dynasty. Individually, however, monarch and peasant alike must confess that their “days on earth are like a shadow” (1 Chron. 29:15). Here is a man of faith who knows he must be grounded in the One who inhabits eternity, or else he amounts to nothing.

(4) David lays formidable stress on integrity: “I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity.… And now I have seen with joy how willingly your people who are here have given to you” (1 Chron. 29:17). The success of this fundraising is not measured in monetary value, but in the integrity with which the wealth was given.

(5) In the final analysis, David frankly recognizes that continued devotion and integrity of life are impossible apart from the intervening grace of God (1 Chron. 29:18). Thus any possibility of personal hubris based on the amount of money donated is dissolved in grateful recognition of God’s gracious sovereignty.

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1 Chronicles 28; 2 Peter 2; Micah 5; Luke 14 https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/1-chronicles-28-2-peter-2-micah-5-luke-14/ https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/1-chronicles-28-2-peter-2-micah-5-luke-14/#respond Wed, 30 Nov 2022 06:45:04 +0000 http://tgcstaging.wpengine.com/d-a-carson/1-chronicles-28-2-peter-2-micah-5-luke-14/ We have already observed that 1 and 2 Chronicles differ from the books of Samuel and Kings (though the Chronicles cover roughly the same period of history as Samuel and Kings) in placing much more emphasis on the southern kingdom of Judah, after the monarchy divides. Even at this juncture, however, during the period of the united monarchy, 1 and 2 Chronicles greatly expand on anything to do with the temple.

In this framework, 1 Chronicles 28 discloses a little more detail not only of the transfer of power from David to Solomon, but of the origin of the temple’s plans. On the former point, David charges the people with serving Solomon well; he charges Solomon with serving the Lord God with his whole heart: “For the LORD searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever” (1 Chron. 28:9). In particular, David charges Solomon with the building of the temple for which he, David, has made such large provision (1 Chron. 29:10, 20–21). Nothing is reported of the attempt by David’s son Adonijah to usurp the throne before Solomon could be crowned, or of Bathsheba’s strategic protection of her son Solomon (1 Kings 1); nothing is mentioned of the substantial array of other charges David gave to Solomon (1 Kings 2). All the focus here is on the transfer of power as it affects the construction of the temple.

There is a new element of stellar importance. We are told that David gave Solomon “the plans of all that the Spirit had put in his mind for the courts of the temple of the LORD and all the surrounding rooms, for the treasuries of the temple of God and for the treasuries for the dedicated things” (1 Chron. 28:12)—as well as for the divisions of the priests and Levites, the amount of gold or silver to be used in the various instruments, and so forth (1 Chron. 28:13–17). Above all, “he also gave him the plan for the chariot, that is, the cherubim of gold that spread their wings and shelter the ark of the covenant of the LORD” (1 Chron. 28:18) in the Most Holy Place. “‘All this,’ David said, ‘I have in writing from the hand of the LORD upon me, and he gave me understanding in all the details of the plan’” (1 Chron. 28:19).

Here is the counterpart to the constant emphasis in Exodus on the fact that Moses and his peers built the tabernacle in exact accordance with the plan shown Moses on the mountain. That is then picked up in Hebrews 8:5: this proved the tabernacle was only a copy of a greater original (see the meditation for March 14). Implicitly, the same care is taken with the construction of the temple, with David, not Moses, now serving as the mediator.

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1 Chronicles 26–27; 2 Peter 1; Micah 4; Luke 13 https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/1-chronicles-26-27-2-peter-1-micah-4-luke-13/ https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/1-chronicles-26-27-2-peter-1-micah-4-luke-13/#respond Tue, 29 Nov 2022 06:45:03 +0000 http://tgcstaging.wpengine.com/d-a-carson/1-chronicles-26-27-2-peter-1-micah-4-luke-13/ 1 Chronicles 24–25; 1 Peter 5; Micah 3; Luke 12 https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/1-chronicles-24-25-1-peter-5-micah-3-luke-12/ https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/1-chronicles-24-25-1-peter-5-micah-3-luke-12/#respond Mon, 28 Nov 2022 06:45:02 +0000 http://tgcstaging.wpengine.com/d-a-carson/1-chronicles-24-25-1-peter-5-micah-3-luke-12/ 1 Chronicles 23; 1 Peter 4; Micah 2; Luke 11 https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/1-chronicles-23-1-peter-4-micah-2-luke-11/ https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/1-chronicles-23-1-peter-4-micah-2-luke-11/#respond Sun, 27 Nov 2022 06:45:02 +0000 http://tgcstaging.wpengine.com/d-a-carson/1-chronicles-23-1-peter-4-micah-2-luke-11/ In certain respects the structure of Israelite life, including some facets of its religious life, changed when the people entered the Promised Land and were no longer nomadic. The first changes were obvious. The Lord stopped the daily supply of manna: the people had to gather food for themselves and grow things. Urbanization began. The Sabbath laws were increasingly applied to trade and commerce as well as to agrarian life.

Now with the establishment of the monarchy and the impending construction of the temple, much more organization and centralization must take place. In particular, David concerns himself not only with providing Solomon with the wherewithal to construct the temple, but with laying the foundations for the new organizational structures that would be necessary to keep it operating. Such matters are of central interest in 1 Chronicles 23–26.

Already in 1 Chronicles 23 David himself reflects on the changes that are coming. One of the duties of the Levites in the past, begun during the wilderness years, was to pack up and transport the tabernacle in the prescribed way, whenever the Lord indicated it was time to move. David reflects on the fact the Lord has now granted his people “rest”: they are in the Promised Land. Moreover, he has chosen “to dwell in Jerusalem forever” (1 Chron. 23:25), so some of the duties of the Levites must change: “the Levites no longer need to carry the tabernacle or any of the articles used in its service” (1 Chron. 23:26). Meanwhile, new functions are introduced: more thought is given to temple choirs, and thus to schools of music and training.

So the Levites are reorganized. They are divided into major families, minor clans, and so forth. Moreover, the temple and its needs will not be allowed to take over. True, the following chapters focus on the kinds of tasks that those who serve the temple will have to discharge—not only the immediately priestly duties and the obviously menial tasks surrounding the temple, but the major responsibilities of upkeep, maintenance, finance, and administration. But from the beginning the priests were also to teach the people the law, and serve as “officials and judges.” David allots six thousand Levites for the latter tasks (1 Chron. 23:4).

From all of this we derive significant lessons. Most importantly, this is a lesson in contextualization within the canon—that is, how to take the old “givens” of revelation and adapt them to a new context without sacrificing the givens. As the church has expanded outward into new cultural contexts, those sorts of questions have had to be addressed again and again. One party will latch onto mere traditionalism from another culture; another party will start to abandon what Scripture actually says. What we really need is faithfulness and flexibility.

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1 Chronicles 22; 1 Peter 3; Micah 1; Luke 10 https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/1-chronicles-22-1-peter-3-micah-1-luke-10/ https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/1-chronicles-22-1-peter-3-micah-1-luke-10/#respond Sat, 26 Nov 2022 06:45:02 +0000 http://tgcstaging.wpengine.com/d-a-carson/1-chronicles-22-1-peter-3-micah-1-luke-10/ The transition between the account of David’s numbering of the people (1 Chron. 21) and the account of David’s formidable preparations for the construction of the temple that his son Solomon would build (1 Chron. 22) is one verse, the first verse of chapter 22, with no parallel in 2 Samuel: “Then David said, ‘The house of the LORD God is to be here, and also the altar of burnt offering for Israel’” (1 Chron. 22:1).

So the place where the temple was built is the place where David built an altar to the Lord, calling on him with sacrificial offerings (1 Chron. 21:25–27), and where the angel of death sheathed his sword.

So David laid in formidable supplies of building materials and prepared the people to help his son Solomon build the promised temple. “Now devote your heart and soul to seeking the LORD your God. Begin to build the sanctuary of the LORD God, so that you may bring the ark of the covenant of the LORD and the sacred articles belonging to God into the temple that will be built for the Name of the LORD” (1 Chron. 22:19).

There are some lessons to be learned from this siting of the temple.

(1) The place chosen for the temple is the place where a sacrifice was offered and the wrath of God against sin was averted. Of course, the very design of tabernacle and temple was meant to remind people that sin had to be atoned for, that one could not simply saunter into the presence of the holy God, that the sacrifices God himself had prescribed had to be offered by the designated high priest once a year, first for his own sins and then for the sins of the people. But the siting of the temple on this location reinforces the point. Worship and religion are not primarily about offering to God something called praise, something God prefers not to be without. Worship and religion are first of all about God-centeredness—and because we are rebels, that means that worship and religion are in the first instance about being reconciled to this God, our Creator and Redeemer, from whom we have willfully become alienated. The heart of the temple is not its choirs, its incense, its ceremonies. The heart of the temple is about averting the wrath of God, by the means he himself has provided.

(2) The siting of the temple is also a mingling of priestly and kingly lines of authority. Originally, the priests and Levites alone were responsible for the tabernacle; the pillar of cloud determined when it would move. But here the king establishes the site—anticipating the offices of king and priest in one man: Jesus Christ.

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1 Chronicles 21; 1 Peter 2; Jonah 4; Luke 9 https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/1-chronicles-21-1-peter-2-jonah-4-luke-9/ https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/1-chronicles-21-1-peter-2-jonah-4-luke-9/#respond Fri, 25 Nov 2022 06:45:02 +0000 http://tgcstaging.wpengine.com/d-a-carson/1-chronicles-21-1-peter-2-jonah-4-luke-9/ Second Samuel 24, which roughly parallels 1 Chronicles 21, says that the anger of the LORD burned against Israel, so he incited David to number the people, which act was strictly forbidden—and then that act brought down the wrath of God on the nation (1 Chron. 24:1). The passage before us says that “Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel” (1 Chron. 21:1).

The two stances are not mutually exclusive, of course, nor even particularly antithetical. In God’s universe, it is impossible to escape the outermost bounds of God’s sovereignty. Whether his providential will over the Devil is portrayed as permissive (as in the case of Job), or something more directive, God is in charge. As for the moral dimensions of the matter, it is important to recall that even within the framework of 2 Samuel 24, God is not arbitrarily and whimsically tempting David to do evil, and then rather viciously clobbering him for it. Whatever God sanctions is portrayed as God’s response to antecedent sin: God’s anger burned against Israel, we are told, so that certain things took place. In the same way, the mark of God’s anger on the nation of Israel during the waning years of the reign of the Davidic dynasty was more and more callous corruption on the throne and among the ruling elite, with the result, of course, that there was more sin in the nation, and more immediacy to God’s threats of judgment.

Nevertheless, having said this, the feel of these two chapters, 2 Samuel 24 and 1 Chronicles 21, is quite different. In both cases David is held responsible to follow the Scriptures of the covenant, regardless of the temptation or the complexities of its provenance. But the explicit mention of Satan in 1 Chronicles 21 underlines the dimension of the cosmic fight between good and evil. Three other perspectives are also highlighted:

(1) Joab is always portrayed as a considerable military leader, but not as a particularly spiritual or even moral man. Here he stands up to the king with godly advice, and he is not listened to (1 Chron. 21:3–4). Godly counsel may come from a variety of sources. Doubtless one must listen to all of them—but at the end of the day all counsel must be tested by the Word of God.

(2) Some actions have immense repercussions on others. This was especially true under the old covenant, where kings, prophets, and priests stood in a representative relationship with the people. Though the new covenant is configured differently, it is still true, for instance, that the sins of the fathers are visited on the children for three and four generations.

(3) God is more merciful than people. It is better to fall into his hand, unmediated by human agents, than into any other hand.

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1 Chronicles 19–20; 1 Peter 1; Jonah 3; Luke 8 https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/1-chronicles-19-20-1-peter-1-jonah-3-luke-8/ https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/1-chronicles-19-20-1-peter-1-jonah-3-luke-8/#respond Thu, 24 Nov 2022 06:45:02 +0000 http://tgcstaging.wpengine.com/d-a-carson/1-chronicles-19-20-1-peter-1-jonah-3-luke-8/ 1 Chronicles 18; James 5; Jonah 2; Luke 7 https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/1-chronicles-18-james-5-jonah-2-luke-7/ https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/1-chronicles-18-james-5-jonah-2-luke-7/#respond Wed, 23 Nov 2022 06:45:03 +0000 http://tgcstaging.wpengine.com/d-a-carson/1-chronicles-18-james-5-jonah-2-luke-7/ 1 Chronicles 17; James 4; Jonah 1; Luke 6 https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/1-chronicles-17-james-4-jonah-1-luke-6/ https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/1-chronicles-17-james-4-jonah-1-luke-6/#respond Tue, 22 Nov 2022 06:45:03 +0000 http://tgcstaging.wpengine.com/d-a-carson/1-chronicles-17-james-4-jonah-1-luke-6/ First Chronicles 17 fairly closely parallels 2 Samuel 7. In both passages, David expresses his desire to build a “house” for God. The prophet Nathan initially approves the project, and then, after receiving explicit revelation from God, presents David with a very different picture. Far from David building a “house” for God, God will build a “house” for David—that is, a “household” (as the original word is ambiguous, the play on the meaning intentional). The “house” or “household” that God will build for David is nothing other than the Davidic dynasty. David’s line will never suffer the fate of Saul and his line. When David’s line sins, God’s judgments will be temporal (1 Chron. 17:12–14); the line will not be destroyed.

David responds in a moving prayer (1 Chron. 17:16–27) pulsating with gratitude. The prayer is wonderfully God-centered; David is fully aware that if his line is treated so differently from that of Saul, the ultimate difference is grace. So the closing words of the prayer are frankly touching and revealing: “You, my God, have revealed to your servant that you will build a house for him. So your servant has found courage to pray to you. O LORD, you are God! You have promised these good things to your servant. Now you have been pleased to bless the house of your servant, that it may continue forever in your sight; for you, O LORD, have blessed it, and it will be blessed forever” (1 Chron. 17:26–27).

One must not forget, however, that these words must be read as part of a two-volume work—1 and 2 Chronicles—whose storyline ends in unmitigated disaster for the Davidic line—apart from the last two verses of 2 Chronicles, which offers a sliver of hope. Today we automatically place them within the larger framework of the Bible’s storyline, and see where they fit into the pattern that brings forth Jesus, the ultimate Davidic king. But the first readers did not enjoy our perspective; the unknown compiler who put together the court records and other sources, covering about five hundred years of history, into the form of our “1 and 2 Chronicles,” did not enjoy our perspective.

Mere cynicism, or the brutality of their experience under the Exile, might have led them to downplay the words we find here in 1 Chronicles 17:27: “Now you have been pleased to bless the house of your servant, that it may continue forever in your sight; for you, O LORD, have blessed it, and it will be blessed forever.” Instead, the words function for them as a stabilizing promise when all of their recent experience seemed to controvert them. In short, they show us what it means to walk by faith in the promises of God, and not by sight.

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1 Chronicles 16; James 3; Obadiah; Luke 5 https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/1-chronicles-16-james-3-obadiah-luke-5/ https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/1-chronicles-16-james-3-obadiah-luke-5/#respond Mon, 21 Nov 2022 06:45:03 +0000 http://tgcstaging.wpengine.com/d-a-carson/1-chronicles-16-james-3-obadiah-luke-5/ 1 Chronicles 15; James 2; Amos 9; Luke 4 https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/1-chronicles-15-james-2-amos-9-luke-4/ https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/1-chronicles-15-james-2-amos-9-luke-4/#respond Sun, 20 Nov 2022 06:45:02 +0000 http://tgcstaging.wpengine.com/d-a-carson/1-chronicles-15-james-2-amos-9-luke-4/ In 1 Chronicles 15 we find elements of David’s reasoning not found in the parallel passage in 2 Samuel 6.

After capturing Jerusalem, David eventually determined to bring the ark of the covenant up to the new capital city. On the way, Uzzah reached out his hand to steady the ark as the cart on which it was riding jolted its way along the rutted roads—and he was instantly slain. David was both angry with God and afraid of him (1 Chron. 13:11–12), and abandoned his mission. The ark was parked in the home of Obed-Edom the Gittite. During the three months of the ark’s temporary residence there, the household of Obed-Edom was so abundantly blessed that everyone took notice. So in due course David made another attempt to transport the ark to Jerusalem.

This much could have been gleaned from either 2 Samuel or 1 Chronicles. What 1 Chronicles 15:1–24 adds is something of David’s reasoning and arrangements. I shall focus on one point.

Apparently cooling down after the shocking loss of Uzzah, David returns to the Scriptures. True, Uzzah should not have touched the ark. But were David and his people transgressing any other legal prescriptions in the way they were handling it? David’s Bible reading reminds him that only Levites are permitted to transport it, and how they are to do it. So he tells the Levites to prepare themselves for the task, and explains his reasoning: “It was because you, the Levites, did not bring it up the first time that the LORD our God broke out in anger against us. We did not inquire of him about how to do it in the prescribed way” (1 Chron. 15:13). In other words, David concludes that God’s wrath in the matter of Uzzah’s thoughtlessness was the outcropping of God’s deeper displeasure. Transporting the ark was not to be a willy-nilly matter. God expected to be obeyed, and the symbol of his presence was to be handled in line with the covenantal stipulations.

So that is what the Levites did: “The Levites carried the ark of God with the poles on their shoulders, as Moses had commanded, in accordance with the word of the LORD” (1 Chron. 15:15).

Here is a profound lesson. At one level, doubtless God approves childlike praise and enthusiastic zeal. But he expects those with authority among his people to know what his Word says and obey it. No amount of enthusiasm and zeal can ever hope to make up for this lack. Zeal that is heading in the wrong direction never reaches the goal. It must either be redirected in the direction staked out in God’s Word, or however enthusiastic, it is still wrong-headed and misdirected. There is no substitute for faith working itself out in informed obedience.

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1 Chronicles 13–14; James 1; Amos 8; Luke 3 https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/1-chronicles-13-14-james-1-amos-8-luke-3/ https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/1-chronicles-13-14-james-1-amos-8-luke-3/#respond Sat, 19 Nov 2022 06:45:02 +0000 http://tgcstaging.wpengine.com/d-a-carson/1-chronicles-13-14-james-1-amos-8-luke-3/ 1 Chronicles 11–12; Hebrews 13; Amos 7; Luke 2 https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/1-chronicles-11-12-hebrews-13-amos-7-luke-2/ https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/1-chronicles-11-12-hebrews-13-amos-7-luke-2/#respond Fri, 18 Nov 2022 06:45:03 +0000 http://tgcstaging.wpengine.com/d-a-carson/1-chronicles-11-12-hebrews-13-amos-7-luke-2/ 1 Chronicles 9–10; Hebrews 12; Amos 6; Luke 1:39–80 https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/1-chronicles-9-10-hebrews-12-amos-6-luke-139-80/ https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/1-chronicles-9-10-hebrews-12-amos-6-luke-139-80/#respond Thu, 17 Nov 2022 06:45:04 +0000 http://tgcstaging.wpengine.com/d-a-carson/1-chronicles-9-10-hebrews-12-amos-6-luke-139-80/ 1 Chronicles 7–8; Hebrews 11; Amos 5; Luke 1:1–38 https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/1-chronicles-7-8-hebrews-11-amos-5-luke-11-38/ https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/1-chronicles-7-8-hebrews-11-amos-5-luke-11-38/#respond Wed, 16 Nov 2022 06:45:02 +0000 http://tgcstaging.wpengine.com/d-a-carson/1-chronicles-7-8-hebrews-11-amos-5-luke-11-38/ 1 Chronicles 5–6; Hebrews 10; Amos 4; Psalms 148–150 https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/1-chronicles-5-6-hebrews-10-amos-4-psalms-148-150/ https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/devotionals/read-the-bible/1-chronicles-5-6-hebrews-10-amos-4-psalms-148-150/#respond Tue, 15 Nov 2022 06:45:02 +0000 http://tgcstaging.wpengine.com/d-a-carson/1-chronicles-5-6-hebrews-10-amos-4-psalms-148-150/