Reading 1 - Jos 13
"This chapter commences a new section in the record of Joshua. The great pioneer had brought tremendous zeal to his work, defeating Jericho, overcoming the trial of Ai and the judgment against Achan, upholding the covenant of the Gibeonites, and bringing the defeat of the powerful Canaanite kings to a successful conclusion. Small pockets of resistance still remain, but it now was the responsibility of the individual tribes and families of Israel. The army of Israel could now be disbanded.
"Each man was required to 'go in and obtain' his inheritance. In a spiritual sense, to 'work out his own salvation.' Joshua, like the Lord Yahshua, had done his work in leading the way and making possible each individual inheritance. But there are two verses remarkably significant. The first is Jos 13:14, in which the Levites are given no inheritance with the other Israelites. Their inheritance is Yahweh Elohim Yizrael.
"And further, the inheritance is a sacrifice 'made by fire.' Jericho was such a offering. It was to be 'accursed' (Jos 6:17), but the word means 'devoted' (as in the mg). It was devoted by fire, for fire is one of the three purifying principles in the Word. So the city was 'burnt with fire' (v 24), and now the Levites were similarly to be an offering of fire (Jos 13:14). The offering of fire was found in every part of the Tabernacle service. The lampstand was fired by oil (The Word); the table of shewbread was graced by the fire of frankincense (Activity), the golden altar was fired by the coals of incense (Prayer). Thus the Levites were to show a fire of a unique character: The 'zeal of mine House hath eaten him up'; 'the zeal of Yahweh Tzvaoth shall do this'; 'he was clad with zeal as with a cloke.' The second reference is in Jos 13:33. The Levites were to find their inheritance in Yahweh Elohim Tzvaoth and all that this majestic Name means. A grand inheritance awaits the true Levites, for what we now do, not only points to the sacrifice of Christ, but to the joy of a future in which we will abide for evermore" (GEM).
Reading 2 - Isa 17:14
"In the evening, sudden terror! Before the morning, they are gone! This is the portion of those who loot us, the lot of those who plunder us" (Isa 17:14).
This was precisely how judgment fell on the Assyrian host: "Then the angel of the LORD went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand men in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning -- there were all the dead bodies!" (Isa 37:36).
"Again it has to be emphasized that the real value of this prophecy is in its meaning for today. Syrian Damascus, along with Edom and Moab, Egypt and Tyre and all the other Arab marauders, will combine with the great northern enemy to devastate and ravage Israel for its persistent faithless materialistic godlessness and worship of sex. And yet through the penitence of a faithful remnant there will come sudden Messianic deliverance. The destroying angel of the Lord still has much work to accomplish -- and he has not forgotten how to achieve it overnight!" (Harry Whittaker, "Isaiah" 222).
Reading 3 - 2Ti 4:6-8
"For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith" (2Ti 4:6,7).
"There can be little doubt that [though he had been acquitted once] he appeared again at Nero's bar, and this time the charge did not break down. In all history there is not a more startling illustration of the irony of human life than this scene of Paul at the bar of Nero. On the judgment-seat, clad in the imperial purple, sat a man who, in a bad world, had attained the eminence of being the very worst and meanest being in it. A man stained with every crime, a man whose whole being was so steeped in every nameable and unnameable vice, that body and soul of him were, as someone said at the time, nothing but a compound of mud and blood. And in the prisoner's dock stood the best man the world possessed, his hair whitened with labours for the good of men and the glory of God. The trial ended: Paul was condemned, and delivered over to the executioner. He was led out of the city, with a crowd of the lowest rabble at his heels. The fatal spot was reached; he knelt beside the block; the headsman's axe gleamed in the sun and fell; and the head of the apostle of the world rolled down in the dust" (Easton's Bible Dictionary).
"Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day -- and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing" (v 8).
"Crown" is the Greek "stephanos" -- the coronal wreath of laurel symbolizing victory, echoing the name of Stephen, whom Paul had killed years earlier! Paul's last words here echo those of Stephen: as Stephen had prayed for those who sought his death (Acts 7:60), so Paul now prayed (2Ti 4:16). Like his forerunner Stephen, Paul had now come to the intended completion of his work and witness, and the crown which he now knew would be his was that of Stephen -- the crown of martyrdom for witnessing to the truth of Jesus!
The head that rolled in the dust that somber day will one day wear a crown, and Saul of Tarsus -- Paul the apostle -- will one day rule as a king and priest with his Lord and Master Jesus Christ... forever.
But where will Nero's crown -- and Nero himself! -- be in THAT day?