Friday: The Arrival of the King

By James Boice

Theme: The Only Kingdom That Will Remain

During this week leading up to Easter Sunday, we look at the story of Jesus’ coming into Jerusalem and learn about the nature of his kingdom as seen in his own suffering and death for sinners.

Scripture: Matthew 21:4-5

And then finally, you see the devil tempting Him to a shortcut to a great kingdom. He said to Him, “If you’ll just fall down and worship me, I’ll give you all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.” I’ve noticed the plural there. All the kingdoms of the world and their glory. I supposed that’s a contrast to that little kingdom of Judah. It’s almost as if the devil would say, “Why are you going to waste your time on this little people, this far- off corner of the world? It’s ridiculous. Who even cares who is the king of Judah? But if you’ll fall down and worship me, I’ll give you something that’s worth being king of. I’ll give you the glory of Greece and the grandeur of Rome. I’ll give you the power of Europe in the Middle Ages. I’ll give you England. I’ll give you the United States. All of that can be yours if you’ll just fall down and worship me.”

But Jesus turned His back on that. Not because He didn’t care about a great kingdom but because He had His mind set on a kingdom that was even greater. That’s why He came in the way He did. He came to show that His kingdom is built not with the stir of drums or the clash of cymbals, but by the transformation of the heart in gentle and meek ways.

What I commend to you today is a consideration of that kingdom, because, you see, the value of that kingdom is that it will always remain. We look at the kingdoms of the world with their glory and we look at that which is spectacular, and living in the midst of them we marvel. People are so attracted to the seats of power. And yet we have to realize that all of that will pass away. It is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the invisible kingdom, the kingdom established in gentleness and meekness, based upon His own death and resurrection, that alone that will remain.

When we were in Washington, D.C., for the second Congress on the Bible, on the final evening Chuck Colson was speaking on the kingdoms of the world and the kingdom of God. Near the end of his address, he said something like this: “It’s a nice warm night tonight. The sky is clear. The stars are sparkling. When you leave here, I suggest that you don’t just go back to your hotel room, but that instead you walk on down Pennsylvania Avenue to that point where as you look up the avenue to your left you can see the Capital glistening in the lights at night. And as you look to the right you can see the White House and then the Washington Monument in that direction. He went on to say, “It’s one of the most beautiful sights in the world. It’s my favorite sight in all the world. It represents the power and the glory of the United States of America, something of which I am very, very proud.”

Then he said, “As you stand there looking at it, these great monuments in all their glory, remember this: The day is coming when those monuments, glorious as they are today, will all be ruins. They will all fall away into the dust. And as you think of that, remember that it is only the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ that will remain. I would say that as you stand there quietly, if you listen very carefully you ought to be able to hear the words of Handel’s Messiah which sings of that day when the kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ.”

What Colson said is true. That is what Palm Sunday is all about. Why should we who are Christian people give our lives for human kingdoms? We’re citizens of the world and we have our duty to the state. But to sell your life for that kind of glory is to buy the whole world at the cost of your soul. We build for that which is eternal. When all of this has passed away, those whom God has brought to Himself by faith in Jesus Christ are going to be gathered around the throne of grace. Let’s build for that day. Let’s teach about that king. Let’s proclaim that gospel. Because in the final analysis that is the only thing that will ever transform the world.

Study Questions:

  1. What is the third temptation Satan uses?
  2. What is the significance of Satan’s reference to more than one kingdom that would be given to Jesus in exchange for His worship?

Application: Are you allowing yourself to be captivated by aspects of the world’s kingdom? What affections and aspirations need to be altered or stopped in order to seek first Jesus’ kingdom and his righteousness?


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Think and Act Biblically from James Boice is a devotional of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. It is supported only by its readers and gracious Christians like you. Please prayerfully consider supporting Think and Act Biblically and the mission of the Alliance.

Thursday: The Arrival of the King

By James Boice

Theme: The Nature of Christ’s Kingdom

During this week leading up to Easter Sunday, we look at the story of Jesus’ coming into Jerusalem and learn about the nature of his kingdom as seen in his own suffering and death for sinners.

Scripture: Matthew 21:4-5

There is also a third reason. He came to show the nature of His kingdom. That’s why He came in the way He did. I think here of the great contrast between what Jesus actually did and what at an earlier point in Matthew’s gospel the devil suggested He do. In the temptation of our Lord recorded in Matthew 4, the devil came to Him in the wilderness and suggested that the way He was going about things was inappropriate for one who wanted to be the king of the Jewish nation and of the world besides. He said, in effect, “You’re hungry, here are these stones. You need to get into the miracle business and begin to do spectacular things by changing these stones into bread.”

That was a temptation, as Jesus pointed out, to live by miracles rather than by obedience to the Word of God. As Jesus responded. “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” But at the same time, it was also a great temptation to launch the nature of his ministry along those miraculous lines, because that would quickly draw quite a crowd. We know that this reaction from the people came later because Matthew tells us that on two separate occasions, when He fed the multitudes with only a small amount of food, the immediate reaction was the attempt to make Him king so that he would liberate the nation. The Lord always turned His back on that because although He cared about people, and showed that by His work of healing, He knew that His kingdom was not a kingdom of simply meeting physical needs. Rather, through them Jesus was showing the people the deeper, spiritual needs that they had, which only Jesus could meet. He never wanted that to be forgotten.

The second thing the devil did was to take him up into the temple and tell Him to throw Himself down because God has promised in the Psalms to take care of Him. Doing something that spectacular would cause people to follow Him. Our Lord rejected that as well. He knew it was putting God to the test but He also knew that that was not to be the nature of His ministry.

We had plenty of that kind of political activity today. The devil would make a great campaign manager in the 20th century. He would know how to arrange what we call a media event. Something spectacular is done and the press is there to record it, and then it gets on the six o’clock news at night and attracts a great deal of attention. But Jesus didn’t do that. He knew that His kingdom had to come by a transformation of the human heart.

Study Questions

  1. What other reason is given to explain why Jesus comes as he does?
  2. In Matthew 4, what does Jesus’ temptation by Satan reveal about the true nature of Jesus’ kingdom, as opposed to what others might have thought or wanted?

Application: In what ways might churches be engaging in ministry using elements that are meant to grab people’s attention, rather than focusing on the characteristics of Jesus’ kingdom that we see in Matthew?


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Think and Act Biblically from James Boice is a devotional of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. It is supported only by its readers and gracious Christians like you. Please prayerfully consider supporting Think and Act Biblically and the mission of the Alliance.

Wednesday: The Arrival of the King

By James Boice

Theme: How Does the King Come?

During this week leading up to Easter Sunday, we look at the story of Jesus’ coming into Jerusalem and learn about the nature of his kingdom as seen in his own suffering and death for sinners.

Scripture: Matthew 21:4-5

And yet as much as Matthew presents Jesus as a prophet and priest, I suppose that of all three functions it is the function of the Lord Jesus Christ as king that is most emphasized by Matthew. You can go back to the very beginning of the first chapter of the book to find this idea. There, you have a record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David. David was the great king of Israel, and so when Matthew begins his gospel by saying this is a record of Jesus Christ, the son of David, he’s making it clear that Jesus Christ stands in the royal lineage as the king of this nation, and in fact of the world besides. You find it emphasized in other ways, including in the second chapter, which contains the story of the Magi coming to Jerusalem to inquire of Herod where the king of the Jews was born.

People have pointed out that the Sermon on the Mount, found in Matthew 5-7, talks about the ethics of the kingdom. And then in chapter 13 you have the parables of the kingdom, spoken by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Finally, here in Matthew 21 you have the arrival of the kingdom visibly as Jesus Christ goes up to Jerusalem.

What strikes me about it, however, is that this not the way we would expect a king to come. If we are thinking of a king entering into his capital city in triumph, we would expect him to be riding upon a horse as a symbol of the king’s power. But instead of that we find Jesus entering humbly upon a donkey while His disciples walk alongside, with the people simply crying out to Him, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” It really is a very striking picture.

But if the coming of the king is the great emphasis of Matthew’s gospel, why does Jesus come in such a meek way? There’s several answers that we can give. One is that, as Matthew himself gives, He came to fulfill prophesy. It was written about Him that this is the way He would come. He quotes from Zechariah 9:9, which reads, “Say to the Daughter of Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’” Through the Holy Spirit, God had prophesied in the Old Testament that this is the way He would come. And when the people call out, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord,” unwittingly they are also quoting from the Old Testament and fulfilling prophecy because this is what it says in Psalm 118.

The second reason He came in this way was to provoke the opposition of the leaders and thus trigger the events leading up to His own crucifixion. Jesus had operated in quite a different way before this. When He would heal somebody, it would be characteristic of our Lord to tell them not to speak of Him as the Messiah. He did not want to arouse messianic ideas because the crowds who came to him would automatically assume that the Messiah was going to come and overthrow the Romans. And yet here in Matthew 21 Jesus comes in a fashion that would spark these messianic hopes. After all His confrontation with the religious leaders throughout His ministry, Jesus knew that if He came in a visible display the leaders would get together and conspire against Him, thus producing the events that would lead to His arrest.

Study Questions:

  1. How does the Gospel of Matthew stress Jesus’ role as king?
  2. What reasons are given for why Jesus comes in such a meek way?

Reflection: Contrast the ways the world assumes a proper king should act with how the Bible describes the kingship of the Lord Jesus Christ. What characterizes these two ideas about kingship? What are their aims? What is the relationship between each king and those who belong to their respective realms?

 


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Think and Act Biblically from James Boice is a devotional of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. It is supported only by its readers and gracious Christians like you. Please prayerfully consider supporting Think and Act Biblically and the mission of the Alliance.

Tuesday: The Arrival of the King

By James Boice

Theme: Prophet, Priest, and King

During this week leading up to Easter Sunday, we look at the story of Jesus’ coming into Jerusalem and learn about the nature of his kingdom as seen in his own suffering and death for sinners.

Scripture: Matthew 21:4-5

In thinking about how to summarize the person and work of Christ, the Protestant reformers used a very handy and concise tool for doing just that. It was comprehensive because the reformers were thoughtful men and they went back into both the Old Testament and the New Testament to do it. And it was biblical because it was expressed in the Bible’s own language.

The reformers said that when you talk about the ministry of Jesus Christ, you have to talk about Him, first of all, as a prophet. He is the prophet of God because He is the one who speaks the words of God to us. He’s the one who reveals God to His people. But they said in additional to that, you have to speak of Him as a priest because the Bible also does this. He is the one who intercedes with God for us. Besides that, He is the priest who offers up Himself as a sacrifice. Then they said that you mustn’t forget the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ is a king. Thus they spoke of His threefold office, that of prophet, priest and king, and they pointed out quite rightly that these three offices in the Old Testament were the only three offices in the nation that were set apart by a special ceremony of anointing with oil. And since the Greek word Christ and the Hebrew word Messiah both mean the “anointed one,” this is a particularly apt way of speaking of His ministry.

The Gospel of Matthew is very strong about Jesus Christ being a prophet. As a matter of fact, in chapter 21, which contains Matthew’s version of the entry of the Lord Jesus Christ into Jerusalem on what we call Palm Sunday, at the very end people are wondering who this is who is making such a stir? The crowd’s answer is that this is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee. Even in the midst of the story of the triumphal entry, Jesus is identified by the term prophet. You find it elsewhere in Matthew’s gospel as well; in fact, there are more prophecies uttered by Jesus Christ in Matthew than in any other Gospel. He pronounces woe on the cities that have rejected Him. He speaks of the sign of Jonah which is given to this generation, a sign pointing toward His own death and resurrection.

Then toward the end of the book in chapters 23, 24 and 25 you have a lengthy prophecy as Jesus Christ speaks a message of woe upon His own people for their rejection, and then of the coming age when He will return again and what that is going to be like. Those three chapters in Matthew’s gospel correspond to those chapters in John’s gospel that we call the final discourses but which have an entirely different character. Matthew is very interested in this role of Jesus Christ as prophet, and also as priest as well. Jesus Christ is the one who goes up to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday as the sacrificial lamb to die for the salvation of His people.

Study Questions:

  1. How did the reformers summarize Christ and his work?
  2. Give some examples of how Matthew’s gospel speaks of Christ’s role as prophet?

Application: How do the three offices of Christ apply to you?


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Think and Act Biblically from James Boice is a devotional of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. It is supported only by its readers and gracious Christians like you. Please prayerfully consider supporting Think and Act Biblically and the mission of the Alliance.

Monday: The Arrival of the King

By James Boice

Theme: Who Is Jesus?

During this week leading up to Easter Sunday, we look at the story of Jesus’ coming into Jerusalem and learn about the nature of his kingdom as seen in his own suffering and death for sinners.

Scripture: Matthew 21:4-5

One of the difficult things that I have had to do in working with various organizations is to try to summarize the purpose of the organization in order to focus your energies and sometimes communicate to other people what you’re trying to do. Sometimes when this kind of thing is attempted, one comes up with a comprehensive statement, which is good, but which can also be a bit long. At least in some cases, it is helpful to be able to shorten the purpose statement to make it more effective in terms of recognizing and remembering it.

Some years ago when the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy first began, we spent a whole day working with the people who were part of the council to develop an understanding of what the problem was as we perceived it and how we were going to go about solving it. We wrote a two- or three-page document to describe what the basic objective was to be. But when we finished that we said it was too long, and that we had to encapsulate it somehow. Above all, we said we have to communicate what we believe the authority and inerrancy of the Bible to be, and we then came up with a little statement which we used over the course of the ten years of the organization. The little statement said, “What Scripture says, God says, through human agents and without error.” That has worked very well indeed.

The same thing is true about preaching. Some years ago I heard of a man who was asked how long it would take him to prepare a five-minute summary of a particular doctrine for a certain meeting. He said, “Well, that would probably take me about a week.” And then the person asked, “Well suppose you had 30 minutes to explain it.” He answered, “I could probably do that in a day.” They then asked the question, “Suppose you had an hour to explain the doctrine.” He said, “I’m ready to preach now.”

I give that by way of introduction simply to ask this question: How would you sum up the life and ministry of Jesus Christ? Obviously if it’s difficult to sum up the purpose of a church or an organization, it is much more difficult to sum up the life and significance of the Lord Jesus Christ, the most important individual who ever lived.

Study Questions:

  1. Have you ever had the experience of trying to work with others to summarize the purpose of a particular organization or ministry? How did you go about it? How difficult was it? What challenges needed to be overcome?
  2. How would you summarize the life and ministry of Christ if someone were to ask you?

 


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Think and Act Biblically from James Boice is a devotional of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. It is supported only by its readers and gracious Christians like you. Please prayerfully consider supporting Think and Act Biblically and the mission of the Alliance.

Friday: Righteous Judgment for a Wicked Man

By James Boice

Theme: A Contrasting Portrait of the Righteous

This week’s lessons remind us that those who do evil will eventually receive the judgment of God, and that in response to this truth we as Christians are to praise the Lord for his righteousness and trust in God’s unfailing love.

Scripture: Psalm 52:1-9

We have to be careful at this point, of course, because we are sinners too, and it is fatally easy for us to forget our own evil when we see how others are brought down and find improper satisfaction in it. Which is why we have the third and final stanza. In it David suggests what the proper attitude of the righteous should be, using himself as an example. He says, “But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever. I will praise you forever for what you have done; in your name I will hope, for your name is good. I will praise you in the presence of your saints.”

We know from the story of David’s later life that he did not always live up to a righteous standard. But at the time he wrote this he could honestly say that he was “like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God.” The olive is one of the most lasting of all trees. With its dark waxen leaves it survives even the worse summer droughts, and it is valuable in its ability to produce a yearly crop of olives.

At this point it is difficult not to think back to Psalm 1, of which Psalm 52 is a specific illustration. Psalm 1 contrasted the way of the righteous with the way of the wicked, showing the righteous person to be “like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields fruit in its season and whose leaf does not wither” (v. 3), while the wicked are described as “chaff that the wind blows away” (v. 4): “Therefore,” says the psalmist, the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish” (vv. 5, 6). Assuming the prophecy of Doeg’s eventual end to have been fulfilled, the ways of David and Doeg illustrate that teaching.

Do you and I believe that? Do we believe that God really is in control of this world and that evil will be judged and righteousness will be rewarded in the end, even if not openly in every case right now? If we do, then the last verse of Psalm 52 describes what we will do and be like. In it David does three things. First, he praises God (“I will praise you forever for what you have done,” v. 8). Second, he trusts God for the future (“I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever” and “in your name I will hope, for your name is good,” vv. 7, 8). Third, he bears witness of these truths before others (“I will praise you in the presence of your saints,” v. 8).

Charles Haddon Spurgeon wrote, “Before or among the saints David intended to wait, feeling it to be good both for him and them to look to the Lord alone, and wait for the manifestation of his character in due season. Men must not too much fluster us; our strength is to sit still. Let the mighty ones boast, we will wait on the Lord; and if their haste brings them present honor, our patience will have its turn by-and-by, and bring us the honor which excelleth.”2 That is true. It will surely happen. The honor of God stands behind such an outcome. But when it does happen, make sure you are faithful in telling others about it, as David did.

Study Questions:

  1. What do we have to be very careful about when we see evildoers being punished?
  2. What are the three things David describes in the last verse that we need to remember?

Reflection: Read Psalm 1, and ask the Lord to make you more aware of areas in your life that need to change in order to better reflect the description of the righteous.

For Further Study: Because God really is in control of all things, we can trust him to always do what is right. Download for free and listen to James Boice’s message, “Peace Casting Out Fear.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)

2C.H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, vol. 1b, Psalms 27-57 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1968), p. 428.


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Think and Act Biblically from James Boice is a devotional of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. It is supported only by its readers and gracious Christians like you. Please prayerfully consider supporting Think and Act Biblically and the mission of the Alliance.

Thursday: Righteous Judgment for a Wicked Man

By James Boice

Theme: A Prophesied Judgment

This week’s lessons remind us that those who do evil will eventually receive the judgment of God, and that in response to this truth we as Christians are to praise the Lord for his righteousness and trust in God’s unfailing love.

Scripture: Psalm 52:1-9

Having described Doeg’s evil character, David next prophecies his end. For it is an important principle in the psalms, often stated by David but also by others, that in a moral universe ultimately evil does not prosper but is instead brought down. And by contrast, the righteous excel.

This is not to be taken as a truth with no exceptions, of course, for clearly the righteous sometimes do suffer, even death. After all, Ahimelech and the other priests as well as their families were killed by Doeg. That is the very occasion of the psalm. And the wicked for their part do sometimes flourish. That is one of the things that bothers the psalm writers. They can’t understand why evil people frequently do prosper or why the judgment of God on such persons is often long delayed. The psalm writers were not naive. In fact, they were far more sensitive to these anomalies that we customarily are. But underlying these observations and more basic was their steadfast conviction that in the end the wicked are brought down and the righteous are preserved and blessed by God.

This stanza contains two main ideas: first, what God will do to Doeg eventually, and second, what the righteous will do when at last they witness God’s judgment.

The statement of God’s judgment on Doeg contains four vigorous verbs meant to stress the utter totality of his ruin. The first verb is “bring down.” It has the idea of tearing something down in order to break it into pieces, as when an altar is torn down and demolished. The second verb is “snatch up.” It has the additional thought of twisting something up or out, as trees are sometimes torn out of the ground by twisting them. The third verb is “tear (or sweep) away.” The New International Version reads “tear you from your tent,” but other scholars believe the idea is actually “so you may no longer be a tent,” that is, a family in Israel. As Doeg had destroyed the families of the priests, so he and his family would be expunged from Israel. The final verb, “uproot (or eradicate),” reinforces this idea.

At this point we might expect something about punishment in the life to come, judgment of the soul as well as of the body. But instead we have two verses describing what the righteous will do when they witness God’s judgment on the evil man. They will “see” it and “fear,” that is, they will stand in awe of God’s mighty judging acts. And they will “laugh,” drawing the appropriate conclusion on Doeg’s folly in pursuing evil rather than good, and falsehood rather than truth (vv. 6-7): “They will laugh at him, saying, ‘Here now is the man who did not make God his stronghold but trusted in his great wealth and grew strong by destroying others!’”

It is the lesson drawn from God’s judgment that keeps the laughter of the righteous from being what we would call mere selfish delight at the fall of some mighty enemy. This is not mockery at another person’s misfortune. It is satisfaction at the rightness of things when God intervenes to judge those who have done great harm to others.

Study Questions:

  1. From the lesson, what is an important principle in the psalms that we need to remember in our own day?
  2. How does the psalm describe God’s eventual judgment on Doeg?
  3. What will the righteous do when they witness God’s judgment on evildoers? Here, what does it mean for the righteous to “laugh”?

Application: Pray for opportunities to tell others of the judgment that is coming, as well as the grace of forgiveness and repentance that is now offered in the Lord Jesus Christ.

 


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Think and Act Biblically from James Boice is a devotional of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. It is supported only by its readers and gracious Christians like you. Please prayerfully consider supporting Think and Act Biblically and the mission of the Alliance.

Wednesday: Righteous Judgment for a Wicked Man

By James Boice

Theme: Using Words as a Weapon

This week’s lessons remind us that those who do evil will eventually receive the judgment of God, and that in response to this truth we as Christians are to praise the Lord for his righteousness and trust in God’s unfailing love.

Scripture: Psalm 52:1-9

Doeg used words as his weapon. This is the third aspect of Doeg’s evil character. At first glance this does not seem so bad to us. In fact, it seems out of place. We know that boasting is bad, and loving evil is bad by definition. But words? Words seem relatively harmless. Yet when we look carefully at the stanza we see that this is the vice most emphasized: “Your tongue plots destruction; it is like a sharpened razor, you who practice deceit. You love evil rather than good, falsehood rather than speaking the truth. You love every harmful word, O you deceitful tongue” (vv. 2-4).

This tells us something about the nature of falsehood, deceit and lies, as well as the potentially murderous effects of words. It teaches that words are not morally neutral. They are a powerful force either for evil or good. But the statements of the psalm do something else too. They also bring this denunciation of Doeg’s character closer to ourselves and warn us of the evil of which we are capable.

Believers in Jesus Christ should not be able to see themselves as people who love evil. In fact, if they do love evil rather than the good, they are not Christians. Neither should they be able to be described as those who are self-satisfied, clever or absorbed in their intrigues. But words? Failing to tell the truth? Deceit? These are things that come much closer to where we live and are a rebuke to any loose talk or less than honest and upright conversation.

If this were not a danger for us, why would James have written about the harm the tongue can do in that extensive treatment found in chapter 3? There we read:

The tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be (vv. 5-10).

The whole passage is sobering, but especially those last words: “Brothers, this should not be.” “Brothers” means Christians. So this is a statement that believers in Christ are sometimes guilty of the same vice seen in wicked Doeg and do corresponding harm.

In England during World War II there was a war poster found all over the country that was meant to warn against any unwitting disclosure of troop movements or other military secrets. It contained the words: “Loose talk costs lives.” That is true spiritually as well. So instead of being people whose talk is undisciplined or loose, we should be people whose conversation is constructive and above all truthful.

Study Questions:

  1. Why might people not take their words as seriously as they ought?
  2. Why is speaking evil words the vice that is most emphasized in this psalm?

Application: Read James 3:5-10. Have you recently used your tongue to produce a harmful result upon someone else? Pray for the Lord’s grace to use your tongue to the glory of Christ and for the blessing of others.

Key Point: This tells us something about the nature of falsehood, deceit and lies, as well as the potentially murderous effects of words. It teaches that words are not morally neutral. They are a powerful force either for evil or good.


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Think and Act Biblically from James Boice is a devotional of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. It is supported only by its readers and gracious Christians like you. Please prayerfully consider supporting Think and Act Biblically and the mission of the Alliance.

Tuesday: Righteous Judgment for a Wicked Man

By James Boice

Theme: Portrait of a Very Wicked Man

This week’s lessons remind us that those who do evil will eventually receive the judgment of God, and that in response to this truth we as Christians are to praise the Lord for his righteousness and trust in God’s unfailing love.

Scripture: Psalm 52:1-9

The story of David and Doeg is told in this brief section of 1 Samuel 22 and is never mentioned again anywhere else in the Bible, except in the psalm we are studying, which is introduced, as I noted above, by these words: “When Doeg the Edomite had gone to Saul and told him: ‘David has gone to the house of Ahimelech.’”

Psalm 52 is David’s personal evaluation of Doeg and the tragic events he precipitated. It has three parts: 1) a description of Doeg’s wickedness (vv. 1-4); 2) the prophesied end of this exceedingly evil man (vv. 5-7); and 3) a final contrasting portrait of David himself, showing what he was and what he hoped always to do and continue being.

As we read the first stanza of this historical psalm we find Doeg’s evil character described in three aspects.

He was proud. The word used in the psalm is “boast,” and it occurs twice, both times in verse 1: “Why do you boast of evil, you mighty man? Why do you boast all day long?” The thought conveyed in this Hebrew word is not necessarily that of a person strutting around making extravagant claims to others about his or her abilities. Rather it is that of a smug self-sufficiency that does not parade itself openly simply because it is so convinced of its superiority. Sometimes outward boasting is a cover-up for a person’s inner insecurities, but that was not what Doeg was like. As the British scholar Derek Kidner writes, “The real point is the man’s self-satisfaction. He thinks himself clever, he is absorbed in his intrigues.”1

There is some evidence for this evil element of Doeg’s character in the story itself. For if we read it carefully, we notice that there was a considerable time gap between the day Doeg was in Nob and saw David and when he reported this fact to King Saul. The end of 1 Samuel 21 tells of David’s escape to Achish, one of the rulers of the Philistines, and the start of the next chapter tells of David gathering his mighty men about him while in the stronghold at Adullam. Both of these events intervene between the time Doeg saw David with Ahimelech in Nob and when he reported this to Saul. So it was not a case of the Edomite’s merely blurting out what he knew and at the first opportunity. On the contrary, he knew he had a piece of valuable information and kept it to himself until he knew it would best serve his interests to divulge it. He saw his opportunity when Saul complained that none of his retainers was concerned about him or told him anything.

Doeg loved evil. Verse 3 says, “You love evil rather than good, falsehood rather than speaking the truth.” The fact that Doeg told Saul what he knew would not be proof of his love of evil necessarily. He might simply have been trying to advance himself with Saul. But his ruthless murder of the priests of Nob and their families showed that he actually hated all who stood for righteousness—Ahimelech stood for righteousness and had spoken truthfully when he was interrogated by Saul—and Doeg wanted to eliminate such people and thus advance and align himself with the most evil aspects of Saul’s deteriorating moral character.

Study Questions:

  1. In what way is Doeg proud or boastful? How do we see this piece of Doeg’s evil character in the story?
  2. What evidence is given as proof that Doeg loved evil rather than good?

Reflection: How do we see people delighting in evil today? Can you think of any examples of how the righteous are mistreated as a result?

1Derek Kidner, Psalms 1-72: An Introduction and Commentary on Books I and II of the Psalms (Leicester, England and Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity, 1973), p. 195.


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Think and Act Biblically from James Boice is a devotional of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. It is supported only by its readers and gracious Christians like you. Please prayerfully consider supporting Think and Act Biblically and the mission of the Alliance.

Monday: Righteous Judgment for a Wicked Man

By James Boice

Theme: David and Ahimelech

This week’s lessons remind us that those who do evil will eventually receive the judgment of God, and that in response to this truth we as Christians are to praise the Lord for his righteousness and trust in God’s unfailing love.

Scripture: Psalm 52:1-9

The heading for Psalm 52 gives the historical setting as one of the most bitter experiences in the life of David: “When Doeg the Edomite had gone to Saul and told him: ‘David has gone to the house of Ahimelech.’”

As a result of this report and at Saul’s command, eighty-five of the priests of Nob together with their wives, children and the citizens of the town of Nob were killed by Doeg. David had two responses to this tragic massacre that have been recorded for us. The first is in verses 22 and 23 of 1 Samuel 22, where the story itself is recorded. The second is our psalm. In the first of these responses David recognized and confessed his own unwitting responsibility for the massacre. In the second he documented the primary and deliberate wickedness of Doeg, who is the “evil… mighty man” of the psalm (v. 1).

But first the story. David had been forced to flee Jerusalem after his sad parting with Jonathan in the field outside the city, and he had come to Nob, one of the cities of the priests. Ahimelech was the chief priest, and David presented himself to Ahimelech, asking for help. Ahimelech must have suspected that something was wrong because David had come unarmed and alone, without his customary band of soldiers. We are told that Ahimelech trembled when he saw David. But David lied to him, saying that Saul had sent him on a secret errand and that he had arranged to meet his soldiers later. Then he asked for food and was given the consecrated bread that had been on the Table of Shewbread, presented to the Lord. Because David had no weapon Ahimelech also gave him the sword of Goliath which had been kept in the sanctuary at Nob and was the only weapon available.

In the midst of this story we find the solemn notation: “Now one of Saul’s servants was there that day, detained before the LORD; he was Doeg the Edomite, Saul’s head shepherd” (1 Sam. 21:7).

In the next chapter the scene shifts to a hillside at Gibeah where King Saul was assembled with his officials and personal military guard. The king was feeling sorry for himself and isolated, because he had heard that David was gathering supporters in Judah, he knew that Jonathan was David’s friend and had made a covenant of friendship with him, and no one was sharing any of this with him or telling him what else was going on.

Sadly, Doeg was present, and seeing this as an opportunity to insinuate himself into even greater favor with the king, Doeg volunteered, “I saw the son of Jesse come to Ahimelech son of Ahitub at Nob. Ahimelech inquired of the LORD for him; he also gave him provisions and the sword of Goliath the Philistine” (1 Sam. 22:9, 10). This infuriated Saul. So Saul called for Ahimelech and accused him of conspiring against him.

Ahimelech replied correctly that no one in the kingdom was more loyal to Saul than David. Besides, how was he to know there was a problem between David and the king? When David came to Nob, he assisted David just as he had done many times previously and would expect to do always.

Saul was irrational: “You will surely die, Ahimelech, you and your father’s whole family,” he said (v. 16). But when Saul ordered his guards to kill the priests they refused to do so, considering it sacrilege to lift a hand against the anointed servants of the LORD.

Saul then ordered Doeg to kill the priests, and he did: “So Doeg the Edomite turned and struck them down. That day he killed eighty-five men who wore the linen ephod. He also put to the sword Nob, the town of the priests, with its men and women, its children and infants, and its cattle, donkeys and sheep” (vv. 18, 19). One man, Abiathar, a son of Ahimelech, escaped by fleeing to David, who took him in and protected him. It was to Abiathar that David confessed his own unwitting part in this terrible tragedy: “That day, when Doeg the Edomite was there, I knew he would be sure to tell Saul. I am responsible for the death of your father’s whole family” (v. 22). That is the story behind Psalm 52.

Study Questions:

  1. What is the historical background for this part of the life of David? What is he doing at this time?
  2. Who is Doeg, and what is the connection between him and David?
  3. How do we know Doeg was evil?

For Further Study: James Boice’s studies in the Psalms are not only very practical, but are also instructive in helping us to learn about the various historical settings for when particular psalms were written. Order your copy of his three-volume set, and receive 25% off the regular price.

 


The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals is member supported and operates only by your faithful support. Thank you.


Think and Act Biblically from James Boice is a devotional of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. It is supported only by its readers and gracious Christians like you. Please prayerfully consider supporting Think and Act Biblically and the mission of the Alliance.