The Agora
Daily Bible Reading Exhortations

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May 18

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

Reading 1 - Jos 2:1

"Then Joshua son of Nun secretly sent two spies from Shittim. 'Go, look over the land,' he said, 'especially Jericho.' So they went and entered the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there" (Jos 2:1).

Possibly they met her at a well outside the city walls, entering the gate in her company so as not to arouse suspicion. Only later would they discover that she, of all Jericho, had faith in the God of Israel (Harry Whittaker, "Enjoying the Bible" 23).

Reading 2 - Isa 8:6

"This people has rejected the gently flowing waters of Shiloah" (Isa 8:6).

Through the sacred page flow two very different streams. The raging torrent, the seasonal river overflowing its banks, is used by Isaiah as a figure for the advancing Assyrians (Isa 8:7,8). The waters thereof roar and are troubled; proud billows and lashing waves, lofty as hills, sweep aside mountains in their path (Psa 46:3). But in their tumultuous course the wild waters come at last against the immovable height of Zion (Psa 125:1): "Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further: and here shall thy proud waves be stayed" (Job 38:11).

For here, beneath Zion's hill, flows another stream which is the secret of her survival. It is not harsh and overpowering; its waters go softly (Isa 8:6) through the rock-hewn channels of Hezekiah's conduit (2Ki 20:20) into the pool of Siloam (John 9:7). It brings life to thirsty watchmen on Zion's walls. In its silent, unerring course it symbolizes the sure and certain purposes of God. Its whispering waters speak in a still, small voice of the blessings of faith in God. This is the river of life, the streams whereof make glad the city of God, the holy places of the tabernacles of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; God shall help her; the Lord of Hosts is with us -- here is the promise of Immanuel again (Psa 46:4,5,11). Let us drink of this stream; its quiet waters will restore our souls and bring us inward peace in the midst of stormy trials.

Reading 3 - 1Th 3:6-10

"But Timothy has just now come to us from you and has brought good news about your faith and love. He has told us that you always have pleasant memories of us and that you long to see us, just as we also long to see you. Therefore, brothers, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith" (1Th 3:6,7).

There can be no question that Paul loved these people more than life itself. He prays for them continually, and desires more than anything to be with them. They have suffered together, and out of that shared experience of adversity they have developed an unshakeable bond of fellowship (1Th 1:6). Surely this is the "fellowship of his sufferings" to which Paul refers in Phi 3:10.

Although Paul is constantly moving about to preach in new areas, he never abandons the ecclesias he has established. Paul at Athens and at Corinth still feels obligated to the believers in Galatia and Thessalonica. All of his ministry is marked by such concern: although he is heavily involved in the concerns of the Gentile ecclesias of Europe, he nevertheless works hard at taking up an offering for the material needs of the Judaean brethren. Paul's faith is a global faith, an international faith that ignores (or breaks down, if necessary) the cultural and ethnic barriers that exist in the Roman Empire.

Paul's strategy takes risks with the newly established ecclesias. It leans heavily upon faith in and prayer to the Father through the Son, and that the Holy Spirit they control can work in ways unrecognized by men to strengthen and comfort believers. Paul cannot be everywhere and do everything himself; with a reasonable view of his own limitations, he instructs and trains (and then trusts!) his assistants in the work -- young men like Timothy and Titus. This benevolent responsible attitude allows them in turn to grow to their full potential, and become more useful "fellow-laborers with God."


"For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord. How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith" (1Th 3:8-10).

Until the wonderful news of vv 6,7, Paul was a dying man (perhaps even literally so). But now he has found a new lease of life. Like John, he could experience no greater joy than to learn that his "children" continued to walk in the Truth (3Jo 1:4).

"Life" (ie, v 8) and "death" take on new symbolic meanings for the believer. In his struggles against sin and human adversaries he expects to "die daily" (1Co 15:31) -- for he bears about in his body "the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest" in that body (2Co 4:10-12). The believer is a continually changing compound of the old man, who is (or should be) dying, and the new man, who is continually being born or "created" (Eph 4:22-24; Col 3:8-10). And even as the physical body is wasting away day by day, so the inner man is being renewed (2Co 4:16).

The business of serving Christ intensifies the daily experiences of life. Literally everything about one's life is now seen to hold the potential of affecting eternity. Thus we see Paul cast down and afflicted because of thoughts of problems of other people many miles away. And we then find him, in a moment, overjoyed at the good report about them. "Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not?" So it must be small "deaths" and small "resurrections" each day -- for one who takes upon himself the care of all the ecclesias (2Co 11:28,29). Is this a difficult way of life? Most assuredly. But can there be any other way for a true follower of Christ?

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