Today's Readings: 1 Samuel 13 | Isaiah 56-57 | Revelation 21-22
Reading 1 - 1Sa 13:13,14
" 'You acted foolishly,' Samuel said [to Saul]. 'You have not kept the command the LORD your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. But now your kingdom will not endure' " (1Sa 13:13,14).
Saul was still king, but his descendants would not rule Israel. Even Saul himself was later rejected (1Sa 15:23) in favor of David. But had Saul not failed, even then his grandsons, etc (perhaps sons of daughter Michal by David) might have reigned in Israel. Note, however, that Michal was childless (2Sa 6:23) -- so that there was no chance of any of Saul's line continuing on the throne in their role as sons of David.
Reading 2 - Isa 56:3
The "foreigner who has bound himself to the LORD" (Isa 56:3) suggests the Gibeonites, willing to be hewers of wood and drawers of water (Jos 9:27). "There are indications that in Hezekiah's time the temple staff of such Nethinim -- that is, those given or appointed to service of Yahweh -- was augmented by the capture of Assyrian and Egyptian prisoners, and also by the gifts of slaves which neighboring countries sent to Hezekiah after the Assyrian overthrow (Isa 14:1-3; 45:14; 18:7; 2Ch 32:23; Psa 76:11)" (Harry Whittaker, "Isaiah").
Reading 3 - Rev 21:8
"But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars -- their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death" (Rev 21:8).
"Some wonder that [cowardice] should be included in such an enumeration of human vices. Yet it has its rightful place. Fear of contingencies or human adversaries is forbidden to the disciple of Christ. 'Fear ye not therefore,' said Jesus to the twelve (Mat 10:26,28,31). He was giving a commandment, not just well-meant advice. On reflection, how evident it is that fear is a sin; for it carries with it the assumption that there are powers of evil in the world, which God cannot cope with. It assumes that Jesus did not mean what he said when he exhorted: 'Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered' (Mat 10:29,30)...
"The special conjunction here with 'unbelief' shews, however, that the warning in Rev is primarily for those who are fearful of the duties and consequences of discipleship. This is the man who says: 'I couldn't live the life.' This is he who has at the back of his mind the uncomfortable query: 'What will my friends and colleagues think about me?' These spineless attitudes spell fear in large capitals. They signpost the way to a gehenna of fire, a second and very long-lasting death.
"The unbeliever who travels the road to a similar destiny is not the poor fool of an atheist or even the blinded patron of religious orthodoxy. He is the man who sees and knows the Truth in Christ, recognizing it for what it is, but who nevertheless prefers his life of worldly ambition to humble striving for the approval of Christ. Or maybe he would rather relax in selfish laziness or easy worldliness than bestir himself in the cause of the kingdom of God. The fearful and the unbelieving belong together.
"The next group -- the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters -- have to be understood against the background of the world, which John belonged to; for the Apocalypse was for the First Century, as well as the Twentieth. All of these were almost commonplace members of the society to which the apostles preached, and have already achieved respectability once again in these Last Days. But today the real scope of these words is in the kind of application such as Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount. Hatred is murder, lust is adultery, eager wealth gathering is idolatry, Jesus said. Would he also have agreed that wire-pulling is sorcery?
"[As for 'all liars'] the mischief has been theirs from the first. And to this day 'speaking lies in hypocrisy' (1Ti 4:2), they still persuade that 'ye shall not surely die.' Not only with this greatest out-and-out falsehood, but in a score of ways they lie by insinuation: 'Yea, hath God said...?' Did He really say this? 'Where is the promise of his coming?' Where, indeed? In the Bible! But who takes the Bible seriously today? If that is where his coming is promised, why take that seriously either? 'Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ?' (1Jo 2:22).
"All such, who nurse atheism in their hearts, and foster it in the hearts of others, will also know the second death, the utter destruction that a lake of fire aptly symbolizes" (Harry Whittaker, "Revelation").