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).

    Numbers 30; Psalm 74; Isaiah 22; 2 Peter 3

    Numbers 30; Psalm 74; Isaiah 22; 2 Peter 3

    A few years ago I spent some time in a certain so-called “third world” country, well known for its abject poverty. What struck me most forcibly about the culture of that country, however, was not its poverty, nor the gap between the very wealthy and the very poor — I had read up enough on these points that I was not surprised, and I had witnessed similar tragedies elsewhere — but its ubiquitous, endemic corruption.

    Here in the West, we are not well placed to wag a finger. Doubtless we have less overt bribery; doubtless we have published prices for many government services that make bribes and kickbacks a little more difficult to institutionalize; doubtless there is still enough Christian heritage that at least on paper we avow that honesty is a good thing, that a man or woman’s word should be his or her bond, that greed is evil — though very often such values are nowadays honored rather more in the breach than in reality. Even so , we are by far the most litigious nation in the world. We produce far more lawyers than engineers (the reverse of Japan). The simplest agreement nowadays must be surrounded by mounds of legalese protecting the participants. A fair bit of this stems from the fact that many individuals and companies will not keep their word, will not try to do the right thing, and will try to rip off the other party if they can get away with it. A lie is embarrassing only if you are caught. Promises and pledges become devices to get what you want, rather than commitments to truth. Solemn marriage vows are discarded on a whim, or dissolved in the heat of lust. And of course, if we easily abandon marriage covenants, business covenants, and personal covenants, it is equally easy to abandon the covenant with God.

    Telling the truth and keeping one’s promises in one domain of life spill over into other domains; conversely, infidelity in one arena commonly spills over into other arenas. So, nestled within the Mosaic covenant are these words: “This is what the LORD commands: When a man makes a vow to the LORD or takes an oath to obligate himself by a pledge, he must not break his word but must do everything he said” (Num. 30:1-2). The rest of the chapter recognizes that such oaths by individuals may not be merely individual matters; there may be spousal or family entailments. So for the right ordering of the culture, God himself sets forth who, under this covenant, is permitted to ratify or set aside a pledge; that pattern says something about headship and responsibility in the family. But the fundamental issue is one of truth-telling and fidelity.

    Numbers 29; Psalm 73; Isaiah 21; 2 Peter 2

    Numbers 29; Psalm 73; Isaiah 21; 2 Peter 2

    Few psalms have provided greater succor to the people who are troubled by the frequent, transparent prosperity of the wicked than Psalm 73.

    Asaph begins with a provocative pair of lines: “Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.” Does the parallelism hint that the people of Israel are the pure in heart? Scarcely; that accords neither with history nor with this psalm. The second line, then, must be a restriction on the first. Should those who are not pure in heart be equated with the wicked so richly described in this psalm? Well, perhaps, but what is striking is that the next lines depict not the evil of the wicked but the sin of Asaph’s own heart. His own heart was not pure as he contemplated “the prosperity of the wicked” (73:3). He envied them. Apparently this envy ate at him until he was in danger of losing his entire moral and religious balance: his “feet had almost slipped” (73:2).

    What attracted Asaph to the wicked was the way so many of them seem to be the very picture of serenity, good health, and happiness (73:4-12). Even their arrogance has its attractions: it seems to place them above others. Their wealth and power make them popular. At their worst, they ignore God with apparent total immunity from fear. They seem “always carefree, they increase in wealth” (73:12).

    So perhaps righteousness doesn’t pay: “Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence” (73:13). Asaph could not quite bring himself to this step: he recognized that it would have meant a terrible betrayal of “your children” (73:15) — apparently the people of God to whom Asaph felt loyalty and for whom, as a leader, he sensed a burden of responsibility. But all his reflections were “oppressive” to him (73:16), until three profound realizations dawned on him.

    First, on the long haul the wicked will be swept away. As Asaph entered the sanctuary, he reflected on the “final destiny” (73:17-19, 27) of those he had begun to envy, and he envied them no more.

    Second, Asaph himself, in concert with all who truly know God and walk in submission to him, possesses so much more than the wicked — both in this life and in the life to come. “I am always with you,” Asaph exults; “you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory” (73:23-24).

    Third, Asaph now sees his bitterness for the ugly sin it is (73:21-22), and resolves instead to draw near to God and to make known all God’s deeds (73:28).

    Numbers 28; Psalm 72; Isaiah 19-20; 2 Peter 1

    Numbers 28; Psalm 72; Isaiah 19-20; 2 Peter 1

    One of the features of the psalms that describe the enthronement of a Davidic king, or the reign of a Davidic king, is how often the language goes “over the top.” This feature combines with the built-in Davidic typology to give these psalms a twin focus. On the one hand, they can be read as somewhat extravagant descriptions of one of the Davidic kings (in this case Solomon, according to the superscription); on the other, they invite the reader to anticipate something more than a David or a Solomon or a Josiah.

    So it is in Psalm 72. On the one hand, the Davidic monarch was to rule in justice, and it is entirely appropriate that so much of the psalm is devoted to this theme. In particular, he is to take the part of the afflicted, “the children of the needy” (Ps. 72:4), those “who have no one to help” (72:12). He is to oppose the oppressor and the victimizer, establishing justice and stability, and rescuing those who would otherwise suffer oppression and violence (72:14). His reign is to be characterized by prosperity, which is itself “the fruit of righteousness” (72:3 — a point the West is rapidly forgetting). Gold will flow into the country, the people will pray for their monarch; grain will abound throughout the land (72:15-16).

    On the other hand, some of the language is wonderfully extravagant. Some of this is in line with the way other ancient Near Eastern kings were extolled. Nevertheless, combined with the Davidic typology and the rising messianic expectation, it is difficult not to overhear something more specific. “He will endure as long as the sun, as long as the moon, through all generations” (72:5) — which may be true of the dynasty, or may be an extravagant wish for some purely human Davidic king, but is literally true of only one Davidic king. “He will rule from sea to sea and from the River (i.e., the Euphrates) to the ends of the earth” (72:8) — which contains a lovely ambiguity. Are the “seas” no more than the Mediterranean and Galilee? Should the Hebrew be translated (as it might be) more conservatively to read “the end of the land”? But surely not. For not only will “the desert tribes” (i.e., from adjacent lands) bow before him, but the kings of Tarshish — Spain! — and of other distant lands will bring tribute to him (72:9-10). Moreover: “All kings will bow down to him and all nations will serve him” (72:11). “All nations will be blessed through him, and they will call him blessed” (72:17) — as clear an echo of the Abrahamic covenant as one can imagine (Gen. 12:2-3).

    One greater than Solomon has come (Matt. 12:42).

    Numbers 27; Psalms 70-71; Isaiah 17-18; 1 Peter 5

    Numbers 27; Psalms 70-71; Isaiah 17-18; 1 Peter 5

    Most Christians have listened to testimonies that relate how some man or woman lived a life of fruitlessness and open degradation, or at least of quiet desperation, before becoming a Christian. Genuine faith in the Lord Christ brought about a personal revolution: old habits destroyed, new friends and commitments established, a new direction to give meaning and orientation. Where there was despair, there is now joy; where there was turmoil, there is now peace; where there was anxiety, there is now some measure of serenity. And some of us who were reared in Christian homes have secretly wondered if perhaps it might have been better if we had been converted out of some rotten background.

    That is not the psalmist’s view. “For you have been my hope, O Sovereign LORD, my confidence since my youth. From birth I have relied on you; you brought me forth from my mother’s womb” (Ps. 71:5-6). “Since my youth, O God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds” (71:17). Indeed, because of this background, the psalmist calmly looks over the intervening years and petitions God for persevering grace into old age: “Do not cast me away when I am old; do not forsake me when my strength is gone” (71:9). “But as for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more” (71:14). “Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come” (71:18).

    Doubtless particular circumstances were used by God to elicit these words from the psalmist’s pen. Nevertheless, the stance itself is invaluable. The most thoughtful of those who are converted later in life wish they had not wasted so many of their early years. Now that they have found the pearl of great price, their only regret is that they did not find it sooner. More importantly, those who are reared in godly Christian homes are steeped in Scripture from their youth. There is plenty in Scripture and in personal experience to disclose to them the perversity of their own hearts; they do not have to be sociopaths to discover what depravity means. They will be sufficiently ashamed of the sins they have committed, despite their backgrounds, that instead of wishing they could have had a worse background (!), they sometimes hang their head in shame that they have done so little with their advantages, and frankly recognize that apart from the grace of God, there is no crime and sin to which they could not sink.

    It is best, by far, to be grateful for a godly heritage and to petition God himself for grace that will see you through old age.

    Numbers 26; Psalm 69; Isaiah 16; 1 Peter 4

    Numbers 26; Psalm 69; Isaiah 16; 1 Peter 4

    At one level, Psalm 69 finds David pouring his heart out to God, begging for help as he faces extraordinary pressures and opponents. We may not be able to reconstruct all the circumstances that are presented here in poetic form, but David has been betrayed by people close to him, and his anguish is palpable.

    At another level, this psalm is a rich repository of texts quoted or paraphrased by New Testament writers: “Those who hate me without reason outnumber the hairs of my head” (69:4; see John 15:25); “I am a stranger to my brothers, an alien to my own mother’s sons” (69:8; cf. John 7:5); “for zeal for your house consumes me” (69:9; see John 2:17); “and the insults of those who insult you fall on me” (69:9; see Rom. 15:3); “but I pray to you, O LORD, in the time of your favor; in your great love, O God, answer me with your sure salvation” (69:13; cf. Isa. 49:8); 2 Cor. 6:2); “they put gall in my food and gave me vinegar” (69:21; see Matt. 27:48; Mark 15:36; Luke 23:36); “they . . . gave me vinegar for my thirst” (69:21; see Matt. 27:34; Mark 15:23; John 19:28-30); “may their place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in their tents” (69:25; see Matt. 23:38; Acts 1:20); “may they be blotted out of the book of life” (69:28; cf. Luke 10:20).

    For the sheer concentration of such citations and allusions in one chapter, this psalm is remarkable. Of course, they are not all of the same sort, and this brief meditation cannot possibly probe them all. But several of them fall into one important pattern. This is a psalm written by David. (There is no good reason to doubt this attribution from the superscription.) David is not only the head of the dynasty that issues in “great David’s greater Son” (as the hymn writer puts it), but in many ways he becomes a model for the king who is to come, a pattern for him — a type, if you will.

    That is the reasoning of the New Testament authors. It is easy enough to demonstrate that the reasoning is well grounded. Here it is enough to glimpse something of the result. If King David could endure scorn for God’s sake (69:7), how much more the ultimate King — who certainly also suffers rejection by his brothers for God’s sake (69:8). If David is zealous for the house of the Lord, how could Jesus’ disciples possibly fail to see in his cleansing of the temple and related utterances something of his own zeal (John 2:17)? Indeed, in the minds of the New Testament authors, such passages link with the “Suffering Servant” theme that surfaces in Isaiah 53 — and is here tied to King David and his ultimate heir and Lord.

    Numbers 25; Psalm 68; Isaiah 15; 1 Peter 3

    Numbers 25; Psalm 68; Isaiah 15; 1 Peter 3

    There is more than one way to defeat the people of God.

    Balak wanted Balaam to curse the Israelites (Num. 22-24). Under threat of divine sanction, Balaam stood fast and proclaimed only what God gave him to say. But here in Numbers 25 we discover a quite different tactic. Some of the Moabite women invited some of the Israelite men over for visits. Some of these visits were to the festivals and sacrifices of their gods. Liaisons sprang up. Soon there was both sexual immorality and blatant worship of these pagan gods (25:1-2), in particular the Baal (lit. Lord) of Peor (25:3). “And the LORD’s anger burned against them” (25:3).

    The result is inevitable. Now the Israelites face not the wrath of Moab but the wrath of Almighty God. A plague drives through the camp and kills 24,000 people (25:9). Phinehas takes the most drastic action (25:7-8). If we evaluate it under the conditions of contemporary pluralism, or even against the nature of the sanctions that the church is authorized to impose (e.g., 1 Cor. 5), Phinehas’s execution of this man and woman will evoke horror and charges of primitive barbarism. But if we recall that under the agreed covenant of this theocratic nation, the stipulated sanction for both blatant adultery and for idolatry was capital punishment, and if we perceive that by obeying the terms of this covenant (to which the people had pledged themselves) Phinehas saved countless thousands of lives by turning aside the plague, his action appears more principled than barbaric. Certainly this judgment, as severe as it is, is nothing compared with the judgment to come.

    But I shall focus on two further observations.

    First, Moab had found a way to destroy Israel by enticing the people to perform actions that would draw the judgment of God. Israel was strong only because God is strong. If God abandoned the nation, the people would be capable of little. According to Balaam’s oracles, the Israelites were to be “a people who live apart and do not consider themselves one of the nations” (23:9). The evil in this occurrence of covenant-breaking is that they now wish to be indifferentiable from the pagan nations.

    What temptations entice the church in the West to conduct that will inevitably draw the angry judgment of God upon us?

    Second, later passages disclose that these developments were not casual “boy-meets-girl” larks, but official policy arising from Balaam’s advice (31:16; cf. 2 Peter 2:16; Rev. 2:14). We are treated to the wretched spectacle of a compromised prophet who preserves fidelity on formal occasions and on the side offers vile advice, especially if there is hope of personal gain.

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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