The Agora
Daily Bible Reading Exhortations

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May 11

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

Reading 1 - Deu 28:2-6

"All these blessings will come upon you and accompany you if you obey the LORD your God. You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country. The fruit of your womb will be blessed, and the crops of your land and the young of your livestock -- the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks. Your basket and your kneading trough will be blessed. You will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out." (Deu 28:2-6).

"It was part of the promise under the national covenant of Israel, that God would bless them in basket and store if they were obedient; and that disobedience would bring blasting and poor harvest. It was part of an arrangement of national life, where material prosperity, expressed in an agricultural community in the terms of the produce of the land and of cattle, was the blessing of their Divine Ruler. We might be drawn to entirely wrong conclusions if we determined a man's standing in divine favor in these days of industrial activity, by the vast accumulations of wealth beyond contemplation for others than rulers in simpler ages. We would also be misled in following the prevailing temper of the present day in regarding all laws of nature as explicable by natural science, and being in no way subject to divine rule. While it would be a mistake to relate all natural happenings, good harvests, wet seasons, earthquakes and storms, to the divine will, to exclude them from God's operations if He so desired would be a greater mistake" (John Carter, "Prophets After the Exile" 205).

Reading 2 - Song 8:6

"Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy [or 'ardor'] unyielding as the grave" (Song 8:6).

The "seal" signifies the impression made by a signet ring. In the ancient Near East, the signet ring was used to denote ownership and was thus very valuable (Jer 22:24; Hag 2:23). Seals were used to make a stamp impression to identify the object as the property of the seal's owner. Seals were made of semi-precious stone upon which was engraved a unique design and an inscription, for example, "l' mlk" = "belonging to king" The impression could be placed upon wet clay of a jar or on a writing tablet by rolling the seal across the clay. Because it was a valuable possession its owner would take careful precautions not to lose it and would keep it close to him at all times. Seals were often hung from bracelets or necklaces.

The Bride's figurative request draws on two actions associated with the seal. First, a seal was rolled on wet clay in order to leave its impression, thus identifying the person to whom the object belonged -- so she wanted to be impressed on his heart. Second, a seal was attached to one's arm in order to keep it safe -- so she was asking that her Lover keep her in a close relationship, which would never be lost.

The sepulchre that was "sealed" shut by men (Mat 27:66, the same word in LXX) was "sealed" open by an angel (Mat 28:2)! This is the seal of our salvation, and the seal of our Bridegroom's love for us!

Also, the wounds our Saviour received, in hands and feet and side, may serve him too -- even now in heaven -- as the "seals" by which he remembers us, whom he loved even unto death. They are like the twelve stones upon the breastpiece of the High Priest (Exo 28:15-21), which represented the twelve tribes of Israel, and which he took with him into the Most Holy Place, into the very presence of God.

Zion, or Jerusalem, said about her God, "The LORD has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me" (Isa 49:14).

But the LORD responded, "Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands" (Isa 49:15,16).

And the glorified Son of God so speaks to us, the "New Jerusalem": 'Never think that I have forgotten you. I have indelible seals, upon my hands and in my side. Though healed now, they are ever with me -- and it is as though your names, each and every one of you, are engraved upon my very person. My love for you is stronger than death, my passion more unyielding than the grave! Never fear: you are mine. I WILL REMEMBER YOU!'

Reading 3 - Acts 26:10

"And that is just what I did in Jerusalem. On the authority of the chief priests I put many of the saints in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them" (Acts 26:10).

Literally, "I paid down a pebble (psephon) against them." Paul is referring to the black pebble of guilt or condemnation, in contrast to the white pebble of innocence or acquittal -- which is referred to in Rev 2:17:

"He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it."

"It was the custom, in the days of the Apostles, to vote in judicial trials with either a white or black pebble; the former for acquittal and the latter for condemnation, From this ancient custom there has arisen the saying that one has been 'black-balled'... A white stone was also the symbol of victory in the Grecian games. Thus, in the Apocalypse the white stone represents victory and acquittal at the Judgement Seat" (HP Mansfield, "Apocalypse Epitomised").

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