Other comments on this day's readings can be found here.
Reading 1 - 1Ch 25:1
"David, together with the commanders of the army, set apart
some of the sons of Asaph, Heman and Jeduthun for the ministry of prophesying,
accompanied by harps, lyres and cymbals" (1Ch 25:1).
Interestingly, the priests and Levites here are designated by
a military term: they are, in effect, the "captains" ("sarim") of the LORD's
"host" or army ("tsaba"). In other words they are "warring the warfare" of the
Temple! Just as the whole nation of Israel was organized into the semblance of
an elaborate military encampment in the wilderness, the tabernacle -- where the
glory of the LORD dwelt in their midst -- was the "campaign headquarters.
This figure of speech -- of the worship and service of God
being a military service -- is also prominent in the NT, where for example Paul
exhorts Timothy: "I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies
once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight"
(1Ti 1:18), and tells the Corinthian brethren: "For though we live in the world,
we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the
weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish
strongholds" (2Co 10:3,4). In fact, he pictures the believer in the likeness of
a Roman soldier, fully equipped and armed to fight the battle of faith (Eph
And thereby the deadly nature of the enterprise of the
Christian life is underlined: those who follow Christ are engaged in a fight to
the death against sin, both inside and outside!
Reading 2 - Eze 34:7-10
"Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: As
surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, because my flock lacks a shepherd
and so has been plundered and has become food for all the wild animals, and
because my shepherds did not search for my flock but cared for themselves rather
than for my flock, therefore, O shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: This is
what the Sovereign LORD says: I am against the shepherds and will hold them
accountable for my flock. I will remove them from tending the flock so that the
shepherds can no longer feed themselves. I will rescue my flock from their
mouths, and it will no longer be food for them" (Eze 34:7-10).
It was the shepherd's responsibility to make good any loss
that resulted from his negligence -- this was alluded to by Jacob in talking
with his father-in-law Laban: "I have been with you for twenty years now. Your
sheep and goats have not miscarried, nor have I eaten rams from your flocks. I
did not bring you animals torn by wild beasts; I bore the loss myself" (Gen
In the spiritual realm, a similar responsibility rests upon
the spiritual shepherds of God's flock -- who are to warn their charges of
imminent danger, so as to save their lives (Eze 3:18). So believers are
exhorted: "Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over
you as men who must give an account" (Heb 13:17). Those who serve in such a
selfless way will ultimately receive the commendation of the Chief Shepherd when
he appears: "To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of
Christ's sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be
shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers -- not
because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not
greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to
you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you
will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away" (1Pe 5:1-4).
As the Good Shepherd, the Lord Jesus accounted for the entire
flock placed in his charge: "While I was with them, I protected them and kept
them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to
destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled" (John 17:12). A tremendous
responsibility rests upon those who assume the authority over the ecclesial
flock -- for surely they walk in the footsteps of the Master. Such duty should
never be undertaken lightly.
Reading 3 - Phi 2:12,13
"Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed -- not
only in my presence, but now much more in my absence -- continue to work out
your salvation with fear and trembling" (Phi 2:12).
"Working out our salvation" can sound so much like "a mistaken
form of muscular Christianity", unless we remember that God "energizes" us in
this work (v 13)! Our work (the Greek "katergomai") is an intensive labor; God's
work is an "energizing". All together, this describes the way in which "we are
laborers together with God" (1Co 3:9; cp Eph 2:10).
"For it is God who works in you to will and to act according
to his good purpose" (Phi 2:13).
How does God work in us? God could act in some mysterious (and
ultimately unknowable) way directly upon our minds. But then how would we differ
from automatons, or robots, preprogrammed and responding without free will? On
the other hand, God creating or redirecting circumstances in our lives; and
causing trials which may strengthen character; or even opening our minds to
certain positive and spiritual thoughts -- any or all of these could surely have
the same effect to change us for the better... IF we are exercised thereby (Heb
12:11). The difference being: in these instances, we have the choice. Whether or
not we ARE exercised thereby is (or certainly seems to be) entirely up to us.
God CAN work any way He chooses, for our ultimate good, and
for His ultimate purpose. Who are we to tell Him how He should operate, or limit
what He does? But, logically, it seems that God will not (generally? or ever?)
act in a way to override the basic principles of His self-revelation. And it
does appear that He wishes us to CHOOSE Him, out of a feeling of love and
Why should He need, why should He even want, to force us to
choose Him (which is a contradiction in terms, anyway)? -- He doesn't NEED
forced obedience or coerced "love"; that would be no choice at all, and could do
Him no honor.
Look at it the other way around: Suppose I pray, "God, make me
a better person without any effort on my part -- just 'reprogram' me that way,
please!" Isn't that the same as saying, "God, just fix me, but don't make me a
part of the process." IF He did such a thing, would that new "thing" be me, or