The Agora
Daily Bible Reading Exhortations

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May 19

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

Reading 1 - Jos 3:1,2

"Early in the morning Joshua and all the Israelites set out from Shittim and went to the Jordan, where they camped before crossing over. After three days..." (Jos 3:1,2).

And so they camped before the Jordan, that impassable obstacle, for three full days (v 2).

"Those three days before that unfordable river were the necessary preparation for what followed -- the background from which the following miracle might be the more evident to and the more appreciated by Israel. Man's extremity furnishes the most suitable opportunity for God to display His power. And it is not until man is made painfully aware of his extremity that he turns unto the Lord and seeks His intervention. That truth is writ large across the 107th Psalm, which forcible illustrates and exemplifies what we have been seeking to express. 'Hungry and thirsty their souls fainted in them. Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble' (Psa 107:5,6). 'There was none to help: then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble, and He saved them' (Psa 107:12,13). 'They draw near unto the gates of death: then they cry unto the Lord' (Psa 107:18,19). They 'are at their wits' end: then they cry unto the Lord' (Psa 107:27,28). They are brought into a desperate situation, to the end of their own resources, and then it is that they -- not merely utter a few cold and formal petitions, but -- 'cry unto the Lord', and such a cry is ever responded to by His deliverance.

"Do not close your eyes to the Jordan -- the problem, the difficulty, the obstacle -- that confronts you, but face it. Do not attempt to minimize it, but take its full measure. Continue contemplating it until you plainly realize your own helplessness to cope with the same, and then trustfully turn unto Him who is capable of dealing with it" (AW Pink).

Reading 2 - Isa 9:6

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace" (Isa 9:6).

THE GOVERNMENT WILL BE ON HIS SHOULDERS: The government of Israel is here symbolized by one of its emblems: the royal robe fastened at the shoulder. In Jdg 16:3,4: Samson possesses the gate of his enemy Dagon, carrying it on his shoulders to Hebron. (The gate, especially of one's enemies, also symbolizes governmental power (Rth 4:1, and other refs).

When we come to the New Testament, reference to the royal shoulder suggests the shoulder of Jesus, that bore the cross (John 19:17). THAT was HIS emblem of office!

WONDERFUL COUNSELOR, MIGHTY GOD, EVERLASTING FATHER, PRINCE OF PEACE: This is probably intended to be all one name, like Maher-shalal-hash-baz (Isa 8:1). Following the Soncino Bible, this could be read: "Pele-joez-gibbor-el-abi-ad-sar-shalom" = (perhaps) "The wonderful counselor, the mighty God, IS the everlasting father of the prince of peace". (Some of these same "names" are combined elsewhere: in Isa 28:29; 25:1, for examples, about God Himself.)

COUNSELOR: Used by Micah in Virgin Birth prophecy (Mic 4:9). "Counsel" refers to the personal fellowship between God and His Son: Psa 16:7; Mar 1:35; Joh 6:15; 5:19,20; 8:28; 12:49; 14:10. True counsel, wisdom, only from God: Jer 10:23; Job 12:13; Isa 40:12-14; 11:2-4. Christ brought God's counsel (Deu 18:15-18), as "one having authority" (Mat 7:29). See also 1Co 1:30; Col 2:3; Zec 6:12.

MIGHTY GOD: "El Gibbor" = "mighty hero" (Moffatt). The Father has given His own Name to His Son as well (Phi 2:9; cp Psa 45:3,6; Heb 1:8). In general Scriptural terminology, one who acts on behalf of God may be called "God": (a) angels: Gen 16:13; 18:13; Exo 23:20,21; Hos 12:3,5; (b) men: Exo 22:28; 22:6; 21:8 (elohim); Psa 138:1; Joh 10:34 (cit Psa 82:1,6); (c) the Messiah: Isa 8:13,14; 61:1,6; 64:4; 65:16; Zec 12:10; Mal 3:1; Joh 20:28; Heb 1:8.

EVERLASTING FATHER: In Hebrew idiom, "father" may signify "master, leader, teacher" (ie, Isa 22:21; Gen 45:8; 2Ki 5:13; Jdg 18:19; Gen 4:20,21). So, literally, this phrase may mean "father of the age to come" (LXX).

PRINCE OF PEACE: As was Melchizedek (Gen 14; Heb 7). "The peace" -- or the "prince who brings peace" -- "when the Assyrian comes into the Land" (Mic 5:5). Compare the angels' testimony at the announcement of Jesus' birth: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth PEACE to men on whom his favor rests" (Luk 2:14).

Reading 3 - 1Th 5:4

"But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief" (1Th 5:4).

The "thief-like" advent is not so much to the unheeding world as to the "brothers", that is, the saints, who are unprepared. The coming of Christ SHOULD not surprise any believers, but it WILL surprise some: Rev 3:3; 16:15; 2Pe 3:9,10.

What IS the point of Paul's simile "as a thief" in regard to believers at the return of Christ? When a burglar has broken into a house and slipped away with all the money and the choicest items of wealth it contains, the householder suddenly awakes to the fact that what he deemed to be his most treasured possessions are gone forever. For those who are not prepared to meet their Master, his coming will be most unexpected and most unwelcome. It will bring a day of acute self-awareness, as though they awake from a dream. Things will have been turned upside-down, and nothing can be "put right" again! Everything that once seemed so important will be suddenly both useless and meaningless, as though it had been stolen by a thief: cars, clothes, homes, bank accounts, hobbies, entertainments -- all vanished! And he who was perhaps put second, or even ignored at times, will be all-important.

"But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My Lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to smite his fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; the Lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, and shall cut him asunder and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Mat 24:28-51).

Those who speak (or, even more to the point, those who act) as though they are indifferent to the Lord's coming (cp 2Pe 3:4 -- "Where is the promise of his coming?") are within the church, and not its critics on the outside! Of course, no "responsible" believer ever denies the second coming in so many words; not a few deny faith in it, sadly, by their actions (or inactions?).

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