The Agora
Daily Bible Reading Exhortations

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December 21

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

Reading 1 - Job 28:12

"But where can wisdom be found? Where does understanding dwell?" (Job 28:12).

"Even nature in her silent proclamation of God tells us not the truth of this matter. She tells us in her majestic solitudes that there must be a Master somewhere, and a purpose equal to her greatness; but she speaks not of Christ as the answer to her needs. If she only is our teacher, with all the great sky, the mighty mountain, the towering crag, the deep ravine, the thick forest and smiling plain, the opening flower and hum of insect life, the song of the birds and the lowing cattle, the beautiful landscape and the great and wide sea -- she will but fill us with a sense of dreariness as of the emptiness of a majestic and splendid hall interior without an audience or entertainment. To find Christ, we must seek Him where He is to be found, and where, at present, God has appointed He should only be found" (Robert Roberts, "Seasons of Comfort" 157).

Reading 2 - Zec 4:7

"What are you, O mighty mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become level ground. Then he will bring out the capstone to shouts of 'God bless it! God bless it!' " (Zec 4:7).

WHAT ARE YOU, O MIGHTY MOUNTAIN?: Mountains are symbols of large obstacles (cp Isa 40:4; 41:15; 49:11; Mat 17:20; 21:21; Mark 11:23; 1Co 13:2). They are also symbols of kingdoms (cp Isa 41:15; Jer 51:25,26; Dan 2:35,45; Rev 17:5; etc). The whole process of temple restoration seemed like a mountainous job to the few who returned from exile. In addition, there was much opposition to building (Ezra 4:1-5,24), from such as the Samaritans, and the Israelites themselves proved unwilling to persevere in the task (Hag 1:14; 2:1-9).

BEFORE ZERUBBABEL YOU WILL BECOME LEVEL GROUND: God would reduce this "mountain" of difficulty to a flat plain by assisting the workers.

THEN HE WILL BRING OUT THE CAPSTONE TO SHOUTS OF 'GOD BLESS IT! GOD BLESS IT!': Zerubbabel would bring forth the top stone, the final stone on the project, with shouts of "Grace... to it." The joyful cry of the people as they saw the last stone put in place would voice their prayer that God's blessing would now rest on the beautiful structure that His grace had made possible.

Christ is the stone which the builders rejected, but which subsequently becomes the head stone of God's spiritual temple: Psa 118:22; cp 1Pe 2:4-7:

"There will exist contemporary with the resurrection, when Zerubbabel shall stand up again, 'a great mountain' in the political world, which is to be reduced to 'a plain.' But that this will not result by the power and strength of Israel under any organization they might constitute; for at that crisis their power and strength will have been utterly scattered; but it shall be accomplished by Jehovah's Spirit, which will raise Zerubbabel and his companions from among the dead, to be the captains of Israel together with the living believers; and will be the strength and power energizing them all to the complete reduction of the Great Political Mountain of the Gentiles to the level of a summer threshing-floor: even to cause to go forth the Head, or Chief Stone, with shoutings of 'Grace, grace unto him!' " (John Thomas, "Eureka" 1:65).

Reading 3 - Rev 2:14

"Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality" (Rev 2:14).

"The doctrine of Balaam involves a careful study of Num 25 and related Scriptures. Its essence is in Num 25:1. The plan to corrupt Israel by idolatry and its associated unholy alliances was Balaam's (Num 31:16). It involved not only the worship of Baal-Peor (a form of sun-worship; hence v 4), but also ritual fornication (vv 2,3 RV mg, 8 and Hos 9:10), belief in the immortality of the soul (Psa 106:28) and spiritualism (Deu 32:16,17), and orgiastic feasting in the presence of the 'god'. The situation demanded drastic discipline, calling for loyalty to God even at the expense of severity to one's own kith and kin (vv 5,7). Eli in later years failed to supply this discipline when the same evil flourished and thus his line lost the high-priesthood (1Sa 2:22; 3:13). Because the earlier Phinehas was prompt to apply discipline in similar circumstances, God made with his house an everlasting covenant. This danger was a normal part of the 'civilization' of the Roman Empire in NT times. Temple 'virgins' were recruited in hundreds. Temple prostitution was as respectable as going to church or political meetings today. Public banquets and special celebrations such as birthdays were commonly arranged in the pagan temples, so that each course of the meal was a kind of votive offering to the god. These facts explain the tremendous emphasis in the NT against fornication and eating food offered to idols -- the two outstanding features of the Baal-Peor transgression (Acts 15:20; 1Co 6:12-20; 10:14-33; all of 1Co 8; Col 3:5 -- this word 'covetousness' is used several times in the NT for coveting a woman; 1Pe 4:3,4; 2Pe 2... 1Jo 5:21). Rev 14:4 makes utter nonsense until it is read as a reference to temple prostitution. Paraphrase: 'they have not indulged in temple fornication because they are lifelong servants of another god, the holy God of heaven, and must serve Him in His temple'.

"But what was the doctrine of Balaam? It was the argument: 'These wonderful prophecies of blessing which I have been guided to pronounce concerning Israel (Num 22, 23, 24) arc bound to come true. How then can anything which you do interfere with what is the plan of the Almighty? Therefore by all means indulge yourselves in all kinds of illicit enjoyment. Since God has blessed, what curse can come to Israel from Moab?'

"This Antinomianism [the doctrine that salvation is on the basis of "faith" alone, with no regard to morality!] was a serious danger in the early church In Corinth; 'meats for the belly and the belly for meats' was the slogan (caustically quoted by Paul), meaning: 'God has made the body with certain functional powers. Then can it be wrong to use the body in these ways?' But 1Co 6:12,13 shows that it was fornication which was being justified. Cp also the emphasis in Rom 6:1,15; 3:8; 1Jo 3:3,7; Jude 4, which show that the argument sometimes took the form: 'Since we have forgiveness (grace) through the blood of Christ, the more we sin the more sin will be forgiven, and thus the more God will be magnified!' Obviously this argument is wrong..." (Harry Whittaker, "Revelation").

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