Bible reading for September 25.
2 Samuel 21.
"Now there was a famine in the days of David for three years, year after year. And David sought the face of the LORD. And the LORD said, 'There is bloodguilt on Saul and on his house, because he put the Gibeonites to death.'" (2 Samuel 21:1)
WHO'S RESPONSIBLE? Here we read about judgment upon the house of Saul for breaking covenant with the Gibeonites. God is concerned for the just treatment of all people. The Bible teaches that there is both an individual human responsibility (Deut 24:16; Jer 31:29-30; Ezek 18:4, 20; Rev 20:15) and a corporate human responsibility (Ex 34:7; Josh 7:24; Rom 5:12-21). For example, we are sinners by our own choices and actions, but we also have sinned "in Adam" and thus are born sinners (Rom 5:12). The flip side of this corporate connection is that when we are "in Christ" his righteousness and life becomes ours. There are times in Scripture where family, or people connected to guilty parties, are included in judgment. Perhaps these families in some sense endorsed or validated or continued the injustice of the first guilty party, which is likely the reason in Achan's case (Josh 7:24). There's a tension here and we should be careful not to jump too quickly to apply this to current conflicts. History is a long litany of crimes of one people against another and it would be most difficult to know where one people's blame, and another people's right, would begin and end. David is guided by special revelation in the case of the Gibeonites and Saul's family. Likely, since this occurred in the same locale and within a generation of time, that the sons judged were in some sense participants in Saul's treachery, or at least perpetuated the murderous hostility against the Gibeonites. This was not a matter of reparation (v 4) but of delayed justice for genocide.
THE GIANTS KEEP COMING. More battles with the Philistines are recounted, and four giants are listed. Obviously there are some mutations going on among the Philistines. The "Goliath" of verse 19 is elsewhere named "Lahmi", the brother of Goliath (1 Chron 20:4-8). Either the name was dropped for some reason in the 2 Samuel account or perhaps Goliath was a family name. Anyway, David (now aging) and the Israelites still have to fight giants. And so do we, every day until Christ returns or until we are called home to the Father's house! As a young believer in college I remember hearing a saying that some of the guys would recite to summarize the Christian life: "Love God. Hate sin. Kill giants. Take the land. Preach, pray, and plug away." Good motto.
"Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen." (Galatians 1:3-5)
MESSING WITH THE GOSPEL. Paul wrote this letter about AD 48 to the churches he had planted on his first missionary journey: Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe, situated in southern Galatia (Acts 14:1-23). Judaizing teachers had followed after Paul and told the churches something like, "If you want to be saved you not only need faith in Jesus, you need to be circumcised and follow the law of Moses". Paul, and later the Jerusalem council of AD 49 (Acts 15), saw this as negating the gospel. Paul says, the Lord Jesus "gave himself for our sins". Thus, we do not rest on our circumcision, nor our good works, but upon God's completed work in Christ. It's interesting to note how other religions that claim to be true, or even Christian, often have as their foundation a "revelation" from an angel. But Paul says, even if "an angel from heaven should preach to you" a contrary gospel, let him be accursed (v 8; cf 2 Cor 11:14). Grace is the heartbeat of the gospel.
PAUL THE ANOMALY. He calls himself "one untimely born" (1 Cor 15:8). His call did not come on the roads of Galilee, following Jesus in his earthly ministry, but on the road to Damascus, when he was struck down by the risen Christ and pressed into service for the Lord. We sense both from Galatians and Acts that Paul's relationship with the original disciples may have been strained at first. But soon he was welcomed by the other apostles, and in God's providence Paul is what the early church needed. Over time it could have been easy to dismiss the original disciples as unlearned, common folk who were gullible enough to think that Jesus was the Messiah. But Paul was an educated, multi-lingual, Roman citizen who was rabbinically trained. How do you account for his faith in Jesus? In this letter Paul shares a bit more of his own story.
REFLECT. Some differences in teaching may be understandable within the household of Christian faith. For example, when or how to baptize those who trust in Christ, and should their children be included? We may differ on this as long as we agree that salvation is wholly by God's grace received through faith (Eph 2:8-10). But if we say that baptism itself saves, or that our good works are necessary for salvation, then we have changed the gospel itself from a gift to some kind of behavior-based probation. As soon as we add something WE do to something CHRIST has done, we've turned Christ's work into a component of salvation rather than salvation itself. Consider Martin Luther's words in his commentary on Galatians...
"We must learn that forgiveness of sins, Christ, and the Holy Spirit, are freely granted to us at the preaching of faith, in spite of our sinfulness. We are not to waste time thinking how unworthy we are of the blessings of God. We are to know that it pleased God to freely give us His unspeakable gifts. If He offers His gifts free of charge, why not take them? Why worry about our lack of worthiness? Why not accept gifts with joy and thanksgiving?” (Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians)
For more on topics related to Galatians see my posts at readinggalatians.blogspot.com
We are following the Robert Murray M'Cheyne (RMM) two-year reading schedule, as arranged by D. A. Carson. Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. One recommended resource is NETBible.org, a ministry of bible.org.