The Agora
Daily Bible Reading Exhortations

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August 27

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

Reading 1 - 1Ki 22:7,8

"But Jehoshaphat asked, 'Is there not a prophet of the LORD here whom we can inquire of?' The king of Israel answered Jehoshaphat, 'There is still one man through whom we can inquire of the LORD, but I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me, but always bad. He is Micaiah son of Imlah' " (1Ki 22:7,8).

"An ill-omened alliance had been struck up between Ahab of Israel and Jehoshaphat of Judah. The latter, who would have been much better in Jerusalem, had come down to Samaria to join in an assault on the kingdom of Damascus; but, like a great many other people, Jehoshaphat first made up his mind without asking God, and then thought that it might be well to get some kind of varnish of a religious sanction for his decision. So he proposes to Ahab to inquire of the Lord about this matter. One would have thought that that should have been done before, and not after, the determination was made. Ahab does not at all see the necessity for such a thing, but, to please his scrupulous ally, he sends for his priests. They came, four hundred of them, and of course they all played the tune that Ahab called for. It is not difficult to get prophets to pat a king on the back, and tell him, 'Do what you like.'

"But Jehoshaphat was not satisfied yet. Perhaps he thought that Ahab's clergy were not exactly God's prophets, but at all events he wanted an independent opinion; and so he asks if there is not in all Samaria a man that can be trusted to speak out. He gets for answer the name of this 'Micaiah the son of Imlah.' Ahab had had experience of him, and knew his man; and the very name leads him to an explosion of passion, which, like other explosions, lays bare some very ugly depths. 'I hate him; for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil.'

"That is a curious mood, is it not? that a man should know another to be a messenger of God, and therefore know that his words are true, and that if he asked his counsel he would be forbidden to do the thing that he is dead set on doing, and would be warned that to do it was destruction; and that still he should not ask the counsel, nor ever dream of dropping the purpose, but should burst out in a passion of puerile rage against the counsellor, and will have none of his reproofs. Very curious! But there are a great many of us that have something of the same mood in us, though we do not speak it out as plainly as Ahab did. It lurks more or less in us all, and it largely determines the attitude that some of us take to Christianity and to Christ" (Alexander MacLaren).

Reading 2 - Jer 49:19

" Like a lion coming up from Jordan's thickets to a rich pastureland, I will chase Edom from its land in an instant. Who is the chosen one I will appoint for this? Who is like me and who can challenge me? And what shepherd can stand against me?" (Jer 49:19).

A LION... FROM JORDAN'S THICKETS: Many lions lived in that region, leaving from time to time to prey upon flocks nearby.

WHAT SHEPHERD CAN STAND AGAINST ME?: Or "before me" (AV). God will provide a "shepherd" (Jesus, the Good Shepherd) to defend the "flock" from the "lion" which lurks in the "river of death".

Reading 3 - 1Co 9:24

"The New Testament has several allusions in it likening our life in Christ as a race. This conjures up several images in our head. In today's heavily competitive environment, we might think of many racers jockeying for position and using every possible advantage to beat his or her competitors...

"The story is told of two men who are walking in the forest when all of a sudden they spot a large, angry-looking bear charging at them. As one of the men takes off running, he notices his companion stopping quickly to take off his boots. As he runs on, the first man yells back to his friend, 'What are you doing? You can't outrun that bear!' The man, who has just finished taking off his boots. yells back, 'I don't have to outrun the bear. I just have to outrun you!'

"Although this verse may give us the impression that we are in a competition to outrun one another, taking in the whole counsel of God gives us another lesson altogether. Quite to the contrary, we are not in a race against each other. In fact, only in helping each other along the way can we help ourselves in our own race. Paul's point was to urge the brethren in Corinth, whose main problem was ecclesial schism and factions, that they needed to run this race for eternal life in a much more focussed and determined fashion. The point was not to gauge their progress by comparing themselves among themselves, but to run their very best for Christ -- which would include putting aside these fleshly problems which beset them.

"This important point escaped the apostle's notice for the longest time. For all of Jesus' earthly ministry, they argued who would be the greatest among them. Jesus told them that the one who sought to be the greatest should seek to be the servant. Those who would be first would be last and those who would be last would be first. This turns our notions of competition on its head.

"A few years ago, I had the opportunity to run in a race that more closely mimics the race for eternal life. It was the 'Run for the Cure' 10K race raising money for the fight against breast cancer. It was a run/walk, meaning that you could either run it or walk it. Running time nor athletic ability did not matter. All that mattered was that you finished. What was particularly interesting was that everyone who finished was a winner. By the time I crossed the finish line to the applause of the greeters and my own medal, the first finishers had probably showered off and gone home. However, it didn't really matter. Neither did it matter that when I finished, there were still hundreds of people running their race. We all ran for a common goal which had nothing to do with besting one another.

"We should all endeavor to run our own race for eternal life to the best of our ability. It is not a competition pitting brother against brother. It is a race pitting us against our sinful desires -- one of which is the desire to be the greatest. The author of the Hebrews gives us the perfect racing metaphor here: 'Let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith' (Heb 12:1-2)" (Kyle Tucker).

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