Today's Readings: 1 Chronicles 8 | Ezekiel 21 | Luke 18
Other comments on this day's readings can be found here.
Reading 1 - 1Chronicles 8:34
"The son of Jonathan: Merib-Baal [also known as Mephibosheth]" (1Ch 8:34).
The treatment of the name "Baal" is probably an example of deliberate change, for theological reasons, by the scribes who copied out the scriptures. With personal names that included the word "Baal" (which could simply mean "master" or "lord"), the scribes deliberately replaced "Baal" with "Bosheth" (which means "shame"). To them the idol "Baal", in all his many forms, was a "shameful thing", and any passing allusion to him was to be avoided if possible. Hence, it is likely that Jonathan's son was actually named "Meribbaal", but later scribes made sure that the (by then) hated name of "Baal" was replaced -- yielding "Mephibosheth" (cp 1Ch 8:34; 9:40 and 2Sa 9:6; 19:24; 21:7).
Reading 2 - Ezekiel 21:25-27
" 'And thou, profane wicked prince of Israel, whose day is come, when iniquity shall have an end, Thus saith the Lord God: Remove the diadem and take off the crown; this shall not be the same: exalt him that is low, and abase him that is high. I will overturn, overturn, overturn it: and it shall be no more UNTIL HE COMES WHOSE RIGHT IT IS; and I will give it him' [Eze 21:25-27].
"Here was a diadem to be removed, a crown to be taken off, and a national polity to be completely abolished, as indicated in the triple repetition of the verb, 'overturn,' and as expressed by the phrase, 'it shall be no more.' The prediction related to things Jewish, even to the things which constitute the throne of David; and its fulfillment is notorious to every reader of Jewish history. About a year after its delivery, Zedekiah was uncrowned by Nebuchadnezzar. The nobles were put to death; the nation was partly massacred, and partly carried away captive, and the land given over to desolation. Seventy years after, a partial restoration took place under Ezra and Nehemiah, but not of the throne of David. The Jews existed as a vassal people thenceforward; and after varied political fortunes, were overtaken by a storm which swept away every vestige of their national existence.
"The Romans, under Vespasian, invaded the country, and subdued its fortified places; and Vespasian having transferred the command to Titus, the latter laid siege to Jerusalem, which at that time was crowded with people from all parts of the country. The details of that awful siege are familiar to every one. The city was tediously beleaguered for months; famine arose among the inhabitants; civil dissensions divided their counsels, and led to mutual slaughter; and, finally, the place was sacked and given to the flames, and upwards of 1,000,000 of Jews perished. The remainder were sold as slaves, and scattered throughout the Roman empire as fugitives; and scattered they remain to this day . So awfully has the prophecy been fulfilled, that for the last twenty centuries, the throne of David has been a mere idle phrase -- a tradition of the past; his kingdom has been overthrown, his land in desolation, and his people wandering as homeless exiles, unpitied and unpitying.
"But is this condition of David's throne to be perpetual? Are the Gentiles for ever to exalt their proud horns over the fallen kingdom of the Lord? (See 1Ch 24:23; 2Ch 9:8; 13:8, which affirm the kingdom of Israel to have been the kingdom of God). Nay, saith the prophecy: desolation shall only continue UNTIL -- until what? 'Until HE COME whose right it is.' Who is this? None other than Jesus Christ, to whom the throne pertains of right, both by lineal descent, and special divine bequest. Observe, then, what is distinctly proved, that the things overturned are the things to be given to Christ at his coming. Now, what things were those? The diadem, crown, throne, and Kingdom of David. Hence, when HE COMES whose right they are, he will enter into their possession in as real a sense as they were held by Zedekiah. He will become King of the Jews, and Lord of the whole earth. We thus perceive a striking significance in the words of the angel: 'The Lord God shall give unto Jesus THE THRONE OF HIS FATHER David, and he shall reign over THE HOUSE OF JACOB for ever; and of HIS KINGDOM there shall be no end.'
"Going a step farther in our New Testament enquiry, we come to the birth of Christ, and we note the following incident: 'Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he that is born KING OF THE JEWS' (Mat 2:1).
"The enquiry of the wise men was intelligible in view of all that the prophets had foretold of him who was to be ruler in Israel; but if Christ is only the spiritual Saviour of mankind, in a universal general sense, their words have no meaning. In what sense could Christ be 'king of the Jews,' if he only stood in broad spiritual relationship to the human race as a whole? It may be suggested that he is king of spiritual Jews, who are not Jews outwardly, but in the heart. The reply to this is, that Christ is not king of his own people. Of them he says, 'I call you not servants, but friends.' They are his brethren, 'joint heirs with Christ' (Rom 8:17), destined to reign with him a thousand years (Rev 20:6). They are not his subjects, but aggregately his bride, 'the Lamb's wife' -- signifying the closest communion and identity of relational interest. Christ, therefore, cannot be king of the Jews in any spiritual sense. He is king of those Jews of whom David was king; for he is heir to his throne. That this was the nature of his claim, as understood by his contemporaries, is obvious from what followed the enquiry of the wise men: 'When Herod the king had heard these things he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judea: for thus it is written by the prophet, and thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda; for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel... And (Herod) sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men' (Mat 2:2,3,6,16).
"Now whence all this commotion? If Christ was merely to be a spiritual ruler in the popular sense -- exercising power from heaven in the hearts of men, without at all interfering with the temporal concerns of kings on earth, it is not conceivable that Herod should have been so jealous of him, because Christ's spiritual dominion would not in any way have conflicted with Herod's jurisdiction as a king.
"Assuming, however, that the enquiry of the wise men imported the verity of Christ's character as a king, appointed of God to sit on David's throne, Herod's procedure appears in a natural light. He was at that time ruler in Israel. He was, in fact, 'King of the Jews,' in the name of the Roman Caesar. For him, therefore, to hear of the birth of a rival to that position, was to be touched in the tenderest part, and to have all his jealousy aroused. He would see plainly that if he allowed this infant king to live, the people's allegiance might become diverted, and his own throne would be endangered. He therefore conceived the inhuman project of slaughtering the entire babyhood of Bethlehem, in the hope of destroying the object of his jealousy - -a proof that he recognised in Christ, a prospective claimant of the literal kingship of Israel" (Robert Roberts, "Christendom Astray" ch 11).
Reading 3 - Luke 18:11-14
"The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men -- robbers, evildoers, adulterers -- or even like this tax collector" (Luk 18:11).
Pride is so subtle that if we aren't careful we'll be proud of our humility. When this happens our goodness becomes badness. Our virtues become vices. We can easily become like the Sunday School teacher who, having told the story of the Pharisee and the publican, said, "Children, let's bow our heads and thank God we are not like the Pharisee!"
"But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner' " (v 13).
One day Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, visited a prison and talked with each of the inmates. There were endless tales of innocence, of misunderstood motives, and of exploitation. Finally the king stopped at the cell of a convict who remained silent. "Well," remarked Frederick, "I suppose you are an innocent victim too?" "No, sir, I'm not," replied the man. "I'm guilty and deserve my punishment." Turning to the warden, the king said, "Here, release this rascal before he corrupts all these fine innocent people in here!"