37 episodes

Read the Bible features devotional commentaries from D.A. Carson’s book For the Love of God (vol. 1) that follow the M’Cheyne Bible reading plan. This podcast is designed to be used alongside TGC's Read The Bible initiative (TGC.org/readthebible).

Read The Bible The Gospel Coalition

    • Religion & Spirituality
    • 4.7 • 121 Ratings

Read the Bible features devotional commentaries from D.A. Carson’s book For the Love of God (vol. 1) that follow the M’Cheyne Bible reading plan. This podcast is designed to be used alongside TGC's Read The Bible initiative (TGC.org/readthebible).

    Leviticus 17; Psalms 20–21; Proverbs 31; 1 Timothy 2

    Leviticus 17; Psalms 20–21; Proverbs 31; 1 Timothy 2

    Two specifications in Leviticus 17 constrained the ancient Israelite who wished to remain faithful to the covenant.

    The first (17:1–9) limited sacrifices to what the mosaic covenant mandates and sanctions. Apparently some Israelites were offering sacrifices in the open fields, wherever they happened to be (17:5). Doubtless some of these were genuinely offered up to the Lord; others easily slid into syncretistic offerings devoted to local pagan deities (17:7). To bring sacrificial practice under the discipline of the tabernacle (and later the temple) was designed simultaneously to eliminate syncretism and to train up the people in the theological structures inherent in the mosaic covenant. Out there in the field it was all too easy to assume that these religious observances would win the favor of God (or the gods!), thereby securing good crops and nice kids. The tabernacle/temple system ideally brought the people under the tutelage of the Levites, teaching the people a better way. God himself had mandated this system. Only prescribed mediators and sacrifices were acceptable. The entire structure was designed to enhance the transcendence of God, to establish and clarify the sheer ugliness and vileness of sin, to demonstrate that a person could be accepted by God only if that sin were atoned for. Moreover, the system had two further advantages. It brought the people together for the thrice-annual festivals in Jerusalem, securing the cohesion of the covenant people; and it prepared the way for the supreme sacrifice in annual sacrifices that trained generations of believers that sin must be paid for in the way God himself prescribes, or there is no hope for any of us.

    The second constraint imposed by this chapter (17:10–16) is the prohibition against eating blood. The reason given is specific: “For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life” (17:11). The passage does not ascribe magical powers to blood. After all, the life is not in the blood apart from the rest of the body, and the strong prohibition against eating blood could never be perfectly carried out (since no matter how carefully you drain the blood from an animal there is always a little left). The point is that there is no life in the body where there is no blood; it is the obvious physical element for symbolizing the life itself. To teach the people how only the sacrifice of life could atone for sin — since the punishment of sin is death — it is difficult to imagine a more effective prohibition. We recall its significance every time we participate in the Lord’s Table.

    Leviticus 16; Psalm 19; Proverbs 30; 1 Timothy 1

    Leviticus 16; Psalm 19; Proverbs 30; 1 Timothy 1

    God is so wonderfully generous in his self-disclosure. He has not revealed himself to this race of rebels in some stinting way, but in nature, by his Spirit, in his Word, in great events in redemptive history, in institutions that he ordained to unveil his purposes and his nature, even in our very makeup. (We bear the imago Dei.) Psalm 19 depicts two of these avenues of divine self-disclosure.

    The first is nature, or more precisely, one part of nature, the heavenly host observed and enjoyed by all of us. “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge” (19:1–2). But just as ancient peoples manufactured complex myths to explain the sun, the moon, and the stars, the shame of our culture is that we manufacture complex “scientific” myths to explain them as well. Of course, our knowledge of how things really are is more advanced and accurate than theirs. But our deep-seated philosophical commitment to the notion of random, purposeless, mindless, accidental, “steady-state origination of everything is horribly perverse — anything to avoid the far more obvious conclusion of a supremely intelligent God capable of spectacularly wonderful design. The evidence is there; the celestial host “pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.”

    The second is “the law of the LORD”: perfect, trustworthy, right, pure, righteous, radiant, reviving the soul, making wise the simple, giving joy to the heart, enduring forever, more precious than gold, sweeter than honey, warning, promising great reward (19:7–11). Here too we manage to trim and silence what God has revealed. Great scholars invest wasted lives in undermining its credibility. Many people choose snippets and themes that soon constitute a grid for eliminating the rest. Cultural drift constructs new epistemologies that relativize God’s words so that they are no more revelatory than the source documents of any other religion. Worst of all, Christians invest so little time and energy in learning what they claim to be the Word of God that it falls away by default. Yet it remains an unimaginably glorious revelation.

    Leviticus 16 depicts another avenue of revelation. God graciously instituted an annual ritual under the old covenant that depicted fundamental principles of what he is like and what is acceptable to him. Guilty sinners may approach him through a mediator and a blood sacrifice that he prescribes: the Day of Atonement is both ritual and prophecy (cf. Heb. 9:11–10:18).

    Respond with the psalmist: “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer” (19:14).

    Leviticus 15; Psalm 18; Proverbs 29; 2 Thessalonians 3

    Leviticus 15; Psalm 18; Proverbs 29; 2 Thessalonians 3

    David wrote Psalm 18 after the Lord had delivered him from the hand of Saul and all his enemies. It is a joyous, grateful psalm. Some of the same themes we found in Psalms 16 and 17 are repeated here. But among the new elements in this psalm are the following.

    First, the language of this psalm abounds in colorful nature metaphors (especially in vv. 7–15) — a fairly common feature of Hebrew poetry. When God answered, “the earth trembled and quaked, and the foundations of the mountains shook”; “smoke rose from his nostrils,” and fire from his mouth. “He parted the heavens and came down; dark clouds were under his feet”: (18:7–9); alternatively, “He mounted the cherubim and flew; he soared on the wings of the wind” (18:10). “The LORD thundered from heaven,” his voice resounded; “he shot his arrows . . . great bolts of lightning.” The “valleys of the sea were exposed” at the blast from the Lord’s nostrils (18:13–14).

    This is marvelous. Just because these are not the metaphors we commonly use today does not mean we cannot appreciate them, or grasp what the psalmist is telling us. God’s power is ineffable; he controls even nature itself, which simply does his bidding; the most terrifying displays of power in nature are nothing more than the results of his commands. The metaphorical language can extend to how the Lord rescued David: “he drew me out of deep waters” (18:16) — though of course David was not in danger of literal drowning. But it must have felt like it more than once, when Saul and the army were hot on his trail.

    Second, while many lines in this psalm describe in wonderful, sometimes metaphorical language how God has helped David, others picture God strengthening David to enable him to do what he had to do. “With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall” (18:29). “It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to stand on the heights. He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You give me your shield of victory, and your right hand sustains me; you stoop down to make me great” (18:32–35).

    Perhaps God does not strengthen us to make war. But in a theistic universe, we confess God gives us strength to write computer programs, to sort out administrative problems, to change yet another diaper, to study the Greek text of the New Testament, to bear up under insult.

    “The LORD lives! Praise be to my Rock! Exalted be God my Savior!” (18:46).

    Leviticus 14; Psalm 17; Proverbs 28; 2 Thessalonians 2

    Leviticus 14; Psalm 17; Proverbs 28; 2 Thessalonians 2

    Psalm 17 is a prayer for vindication. Certainly David knows that he is not always righteous (see Ps. 51!). But in particular circumstances, the believing man or woman may well be certain that he or she has acted with utter integrity, with transparent righteousness. That is the case with David here. If in such instances opponents lie about you or set up a whisper campaign, if like a lion on the prowl they try to hunt you down (17:10–12), what are the righteous to do?

    The first thing necessary is a humble pursuit of the God who vindicates. Indeed, David hopes not only for ultimate vindication, but for something more immediate: “Rise up, O LORD, confront them, bring them down; rescue me from the wicked by your sword” (17:13). Even so, he recognizes that to ask for vindication from this sort of God places him on the side of those who do not simply belong to this world: “O LORD, by your hand save me from such men, from men of this world whose reward is in this life” (17:14, italics added).

    Since God remains sovereign, vindication can only finally come from God: “May my vindication come from you; may your eyes see what is right” (17:2). Indeed, David appeals to God’s faithful love for his own: “Show the wonder of your great love, you who save by your right hand those who take refuge in you from their foes” (17:7).

    These are all important lessons, repeated, in whole or in part, many times in the Bible. Thus we find the apostle Paul telling the Roman believers, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay’ [Deut. 32:35], says the Lord” (Rom. 12:17–19, italics added).

    This is a lesson believers must constantly relearn and apply to themselves. It is easy enough to absorb it when things are going well. But when church members are unfairly attacking your ministry, when gossips are undermining your position in the company for their own advantage, when colleagues in the university department invariably attach the ugliest motives to everything you say and do — that is the test for leaving things in the hands of the God whose care for his own and whose passion for justice ensure final vindication.

    And such faith brings us relief from stress: “And I — in righteousness I will see your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness” (17:15).

    Leviticus 13; Psalms 15–16; Proverbs 27; 2 Thessalonians 1

    Leviticus 13; Psalms 15–16; Proverbs 27; 2 Thessalonians 1

    Observe the pattern of capital letters: “I said to the LORD, ‘You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing’” (Ps. 16:2). In other words, addressing Yahweh (“LORD”), David confesses him “Lord,” his Master; then he adds, “Apart from you I have no good thing.”

    (1) Looked at one way, these words delimit what is good, and thereby almost define the good. Nothing is ultimately good if it is abstracted from God. It may be good in a relative sense, of course. The Lord made the sun and pronounced it good, and good it is: it provides all of this world’s energy. Yet abstracted from the knowledge of God, it became an object of worship among many ancient peoples (called Ra in Egypt — and the covenant community itself could get caught up in syncretistic sun worship, Ezek. 8:16), and attracts a different kind of sun worshiper today. We may enjoy reasonably good health; surely that is a good thing. But suppose we use our energy to do what is selfish or evil, or deploy the blessings the Lord entrusts to us simply to order our lives as autonomously as possible? Apart from the Lord, we “have no good thing.”

    (2) Looked at another way, the text is literally true. Since God is the Creator of all, then no good thing that we enjoy has come to us apart from him. “Every good and perfect gift is from above,” James writes (1:17). Paul asks, “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” (1 Cor. 4:7). So our first order of business ought to be gratitude. Apart from the Lord, we “have no good thing.”

    (3) Yet the text is certainly more visceral than that. Its tone is closer to the words of Asaph: “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Ps. 73:25–26). In comparison with knowledge of our Maker and Redeemer, nothing else is worth very much, whether in this life or in the life to come. Apart from the Lord, we “have no good thing.”

    (4) The text will trigger in some minds other “apart from” passages. Perhaps the best known is John 15:5, where Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (italics added). Apart from the vine, we branches bear no fruit; and apart from him we “have no good thing.”

    Leviticus 11–12; Psalms 13–14; Proverbs 26; 1 Thessalonians 5

    Leviticus 11–12; Psalms 13–14; Proverbs 26; 1 Thessalonians 5

    In this meditation, I want to bring two passages together: “I am the LORD your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy. Do not make yourselves unclean by any creature that moves about on the ground. I am the LORD who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy” (Lev. 11:44–45); “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Ps. 14:1).

    What does holy mean? When the angels cry “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty” (Isa. 6:3; cf. Rev. 4:8), do they mean “Moral, moral, moral is the LORD Almighty”? Or “Separate, separate, separate is the LORD Almighty”? Just to ask such questions demonstrates how inadequate such common definitions of holy really are.

    At its core, holy is almost an adjective corresponding to the noun God. God is God; God is holy. He is unique; there is no other. Then, derivatively, that which belongs exclusively to him is designated holy. These may be things as easily as people: certain censers are holy; certain priestly garments are holy; certain accouterments are holy, not because they are moral, and certainly not because they are themselves divine, but because in this derivative sense they are restricted in their use to God and his purposes, and thus are separate from other use. When people are holy, they are holy for the same reason: they belong to God, serve him and function with respect to his purposes. (Occasionally in the Old Testament there is a further extension of the term to refer to the realm of the sacred, such that even pagan priests can in this sense be called holy. But this further extension does not concern us here.)

    If people conduct themselves in a certain way because they belong to God, we may say that their conduct is moral. When Peter quotes these words, “Be holy, because I am holy” (1 Pet. 1:16), the entailment, in his context, is a turning away from “evil desires” (1:14) and living life “in reverent fear” (1:17). But it is no accident that these words in Leviticus 11 are found not in a context of moral commands and prohibitions but of ceremonial restrictions dealing with clean and unclean foods. For belonging to God, living on his terms, reserving ourselves for him, delighting in him, obeying him, honoring him — these are more fundamental than the specifics of obedience that we label moral or ceremonial.

    Indeed, this stance is so basic in God’s universe that only the fool says, “There is no God” (Ps. 14:1). This is the precise opposite of holiness, the most conspicuous and fundamental demonstration, “They are corrupt, their deeds are vile” (14:1).

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5
121 Ratings

121 Ratings

BrycimusMaximus ,

Superb

I’ve been the book format for a few years... What a blessing to have it available on audio! The narration is excellent. I will be using this every day!

KGB-Smeagol ,

Good devotional guide!

I’ve used this devotional in years past, but it’s a blessing to have it in audio form now delivered daily as a podcast.

Llamacop ,

Please release a little earlier

This is a great idea. But I agree with a previous comment. I am listening from Kenya in the morning, and so an earlier release would be nice.

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