The Agora
Daily Bible Reading Exhortations

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July 17

Other comments on this day's readings can be found here.

Reading 1 - 2Sa 1

"At long last, the man who had hounded David from pillar to post around Israel and indeed had driven him from Israel, was dead. He was the man who had made family life for David impossible. It is likely that David never again saw his mother and his father after he joined Saul's court. He was hounded out of Israel, and the most frightful impact on this faithful man was his lament to Saul, 'You have driven me from the heritage of the LORD, saying, Go, serve other gods!' His life hung on a thread on more than one occasion and he had been mercilessly harassed and ill-treated by Yahweh's anointed. Saul's death might have been an occasion for joy and relief. It might have been time to allow the huge grudge against Saul to be lifted. It might have been time to reward a bragging Amalekite. At last, life could return to normal.

"But instead... what a lament! 'The beauty of Israel is slain upon the high places! How are the mighty fallen!.. Saul and Jonathan were lovely and pleasant in their lives, they were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions. Lovely? Pleasant? Saul???' David's magnanimity and love for one who had harassed, threatened and sought to kill him for so long is breathtakingly beautiful and immensely moving. He loved one who was undeserving of his love. In the face of condemnation, evil talk and murderous intent, David was not easily provoked and answered not a word. His love covered a multitude of sins.

"A fitting example of his greater Son. And a fitting reminder too of what it means to be a man or woman after God's own heart" (Ken Chalmers).

Reading 2 - Jer 7

"This chapter reveals the hypocrisy and false confidence of Judah in their religious formalism. It is typical of the reign of the flesh within the community of the faithful. It was probably proclaimed before the second reform of Josiah, when the people were enthusiastically contributing to the restoration of the temple, and when an apparent willingness to honour Yahweh was presented. But it was an empty facade. The spiritual perception of the people was soon to manifest itself in the feasting and debauchery of the gods of the land. The people were involved in a religion of deceit, with false prophets contradicting Jeremiah's warnings, and turning from his appeal for righteousness in the land. Instead the false leaders preached peace and unity, where there was none. Jeremiah stood in the very court of the temple and courageously declared the divine will.

He told them...

What a sad end to a monarchy that commenced with the courage and faithfulness of David, and now saw the abandonment of the royal sons of David when ultimately Zedekiah assumed the throne. When the pioneers of the ecclesia are ignored; the people become wilful in their folly (cp 2Pe 3:3-4)" (GE Mansfield).

Reading 3 - Mat 18:10

"See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven" (Mat 18:10).

"Personal" angels are mentioned or alluded to in Heb 1:13,14; Psa 34:7; Dan 10:12; and Zec 3:7.

It would appear that even (or especially!) the little children have THEIR angels! Thus there is angelic and providential care even before baptism. Apart from its spiritual significance to the "little ones" who are believers, who should be "like" little children, Jesus seems to be saying that even small children -- themselves unbaptized -- may such care:

"Unnumbered comforts to my soul
Thy tender care bestowed,
Before my infant heart conceived
From whom those blessings flowed."

And the words of the Psalmist in Psa 22:9,10 suggest the same: "Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust [or 'kept me in safety': AV mg; RSV] in you even at my mother's breast. From birth I was cast upon you; from my mother's womb you have been my God."

"The face of my Father" suggests Jacob in Gen 28:17-19; 32:30: first realizing that he was in the "house of God" (Beth-el), and then later seeing the "face of God" (Peni-el) after wrestling through the long night. We may see a "Beth-el" wherever a child is found!

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