The Agora
Daily Bible Reading Exhortations

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July 26

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

Reading 1 - 2Sa 12:7

"Then Nathan said to David, 'You are the man! This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: "I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul" ' " (2Sa 12:7).

"It was the story of the slaughter of a lamb which exposed the immensity of David's sin. It is the story of the slaughter of the Lamb of God which exposes the immensity of our sins. Isn't it amazing that David was so blinded by his own sin that he could not see it? It was by means of the story of the slaughter of a poor man's pet lamb that David was gripped with the immensity of the sin which was his own. David could see his own sin when he heard the story of what appeared to be the sin of another.

"That is precisely what the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ does for us. We were dead in our trespasses and sins (Eph 2:1-3). We were blinded to the immensity of our sins (2Co 4:4). The coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, his perfect life, his innocent and sacrificial death, his literal and physical resurrection are all historical events.

"But the gospel is also a story, a true story. When we read the New Testament, we read a story that is even more dramatic, more amazing, more disturbing than the story Nathan told David. When we see the way unbelieving men treated our Lord, we should be shocked, horrified, and angered. We should cry out, 'They deserve to die!' And that they do. But the Gospel is not written only to show us their sins -- those who actually heard Jesus and cried, 'Crucify him, crucify him" -- it is written so that the Spirit of God can cry out in our hearts, 'Thou art the man!' When we see the way men treated Jesus, we see the way we would have treated him, if we were there. We see how we treat him today. And that, my friend, reveals the immensity of our sin, and the immensity of our need for repentance and forgiveness" (Robert B. Deffingbaugh, "Biblical Studies").

Reading 2 - Jer 16

"[In Jer 16] Jeremiah becomes a man apart, setting an example to display the divine displeasure at the attitude of the nation. He was forbidden to marry (vv 1-4). Fruitfulness was promised as a blessing under the Law (Deu 28:4), but ceased to be so under the difficult times now impending in Jerusalem. Further, he was forbidden to enter the house of mourning (vv 5-7). Times of trouble were about to break over the nation to cause normal mourning to be superfluous. He was forbidden to enter the house of joy (vv 8,9), for it would be a folly in view of the impending judgment. But the people stood opposed to the prophet, and therefore he answers the people (vv 10-13), giving a glimmer of hope to a faithful remnant (vv 14,15). Yet punishment upon Israel must first be experienced (vv 16-18), and would lead ultimately to the conversion of the Gentiles (vv 19-21). It is significant that this remarkable chapter concludes with the Covenant Name. So the Gentiles, by manifestation of divine power in the latter-days, will be brought within the covenant. Jeremiah's experience is not only typical of the suffering servitude of the Lord Jesus, but an example of faithfulness in today's apathy. The brotherhood, with the world, is facing the day of judgment, and needs to follow the pattern of Jeremiah in his dedicated service and unstinting sacrifice for the cause of the Truth, notwithstanding the opposition of the ecclesia" (GE Mansfield).

Reading 3 - Mat 27:32

"As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross" (Mat 27:32).

Simon was the father of Alexander and Rufus (Mar 15:21; Rom 16:13). So evidently Simon became a follower of Christ (Mat 10:38,39). This day, he began the trip (Mat 5:41) which he continued all the rest of his life.

"Clement of Alexandria, who lived about the end of the second century, declares, that Mark wrote this Gospel on St Peter's authority at Rome. Jerome, who lived in the fourth century, says, that Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, being requested by his brethren at Rome, wrote a short Gospel.

"Now this circumstance may account for his designating Simon as the father of Rufus at least; for we find that a disciple of that name, and of considerable note, was resident at Rome, when Paul wrote his Epistle to the Romans. 'Salute Rufus,' says he, 'chosen in the Lord' [Rom 16:13]. Thus, by mentioning a man living upon the spot where he was writing, and amongst the people whom he addressed, Mark was giving a reference for the truth of his narrative, which must have been accessible and satisfactory to all; since Rufus could not have failed knowing the particulars of the Crucifixion (the great event to which the Christians looked), when his father had been so intimately concerned in it as to have been the reluctant bearer of the cross.

"Of course, the force of this argument depends on the identity of the Rufus of Mark and the Rufus of Paul, which I have no means of proving; but admitting it to be probable that they were the same persons (which, I think, may be admitted, for Paul, we see, expressly speaks of a distinguished disciple of the name of Rufus at Rome, and Mark, writing for the Romans, mentions Rufus, the son of Simon, as well known to them) -- admitting this, the coincidence is striking, and serves to account for what otherwise seems a piece of purely gratuitous and needless information offered by Mark to his readers, namely, that Simon was the father of Alexander and Rufus; a fact omitted by the other Evangelists, and apparently turned to no advantage by himself" (JJ Blunt, "Undesigned Scriptural Coincidences" 4:19).


Let us imagine the man Simon, now much older, reminiscing upon this turning point in his life:

There is no mark of course, but I have felt
Here on my shoulder to this very day
The grinding weight where that rough timber lay
And left, an hour or two, its burning welt.
I had no thought, no patriotic zeal,
That morning there a hero's part to play;
Only, I saw his eyes which, as he lay
Down in the dust, held mine in mute appeal.
"A curse on you, Roman dogs," I cried,
And never felt the lash the soldier swung;
Then we went together side by side,
My back bent double as we climbed the hill
To Calvary where on the cross he hung;
And I am proud to say I feel its burden still.

(Adapted, from Wadsworth)

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