The Agora
Daily Bible Reading Exhortations

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May 24

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

Reading 1 - Jos 10:13

"So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the nation avenged itself on its enemies, as it is written in the Book of Jashar. The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day" (Jos 10:13).

The Book of Jashar is, of course, poetry (cp 2Sa 1:18-27), and -- like any poetic expression -- this need not be taken in a perfectly literal manner. There are plenty of other examples of Bible poetry, not necessarily interpreted literally: Isa 55:12; Psa 98:8; 114:4,6.

So what happened?: Did the time of "daylight" simply appear to be extended, as measured by the work that was accomplished that day under the influence of God's Spirit?

"The only way in which lengthening of the day could be measured would be by the amount of useful work the men of Israel were able to put into it. Consider Jos 10:9,11,15,17,28, etc. Joshua's army covered 50 miles in one day, fighting all the way, through mountainous terrain" (Harry Whittaker, "Bible Studies" 72,73).

Reading 2 - Isa 14:9-17

Isa 14:9-17 is a powerful figure of speech -- not to be taken as literal truth: the mighty tyrant going down to the abode of the dead, where all the mighty men and monarchs who have preceded this brutal empire-builder into the place of the dead are now portrayed as deeply disturbed at the prospect of having to greet again the haughty dictator who sent them there. Eze 32:21-27 is a similar elaborate figure about dead warriors, buried with all the tokens of their military prowess, greeting Egypt's Pharaoh when he joins their ranks.

"These verses, which appear to be spoken by other pagan kings to a pagan king (Isa 14:9-11), contain several titles and motifs that resemble those of Canaanite mythology, including references to Helel son of Shachar, the stars of El, the mountain of assembly, the recesses of Zaphon, and the divine title Most High. Apparently these verses allude to a mythological story about a minor god (Helel son of Shachar) who tried to take over Zaphon, the mountain of the gods. His attempted coup failed and he was hurled down to the underworld. The king of Babylon is taunted for having similar unrealized delusions of grandeur" (NET Bible notes).

Reading 3 - 1Ti 6:6

"Godliness with contentment is great gain" (1Ti 6:6).

Worldly riches bring with them no guarantee. The only thing worth having in our brief wanderings, the only real "gain" at present, is peace of mind. We should be content with whatever our present state might be from a material standpoint, knowing that we have a treasure that "neither moth nor rust doth corrupt" (Mat 6:19,20; Luke 12:33). Paul beautifully reveals to the Philippians the secret of his divine peace of mind: "I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and how to abound: everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need" (Phi 4:11,12). And to the Hebrews: "Be content with such things as ye have: for He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee" (Heb 13:8).

This contentment or peace or sufficiency was a state of mind that had to come by a process of learning. Jesus said, "Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart" (Mat 11:29). And of the Son of God himself it is recorded, "He learned obedience by the things he suffered" (Heb 5:8). Chastenings and privations are absolutely necessary for those who seek to be the sons of God.

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Phi 4:13). This is the glorious secret of God's plan to which His servants alone have been initiated. Riches and prestige mean nothing. Armaments and political power mean nothing when compared to the power of God, who can in a moment assemble ten legions of angels (Psa 20:7; Mat 26:53). This wonderful access to the infinite power of the Almighty can be ours, regardless of present circumstance. "When I am weak, then am I strong" (2Co 12:9,10). When we most fully realize and are impressed with our utter helplessness and dependence on our Father, then are we most strong through the transforming power of His Son. Then we learn truly to "trust in the living God..." (1Ti 4:10).

How can we consider spending all our precious time in pursuit of the riches that perish? God has guaranteed that if we seek first the kingdom, then everything we need will be given to us (Mat 6:33). Of course, this cannot be used as an excuse for slothfulness -- because among the duties we must perform to God's honor is the providing for ourselves and our dependents (1Ti 5:8). But we cannot let our attentions be always upon attaining a living in this world. And never should our concern be upon bettering our social standing or standard of living. God has promised us a "sufficiency in all things" (2Co 9:8). (The word "sufficiency" is the same Greek word as "contentment" here.)

God has given us all we need of the world's goods, so that we may devote the greater part of our time and energies working for Him. We need only to appreciate the words of David to know this "godliness with contentment", the marvelous peace of mind in the midst of a world of trouble and uncertainty: "The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord; and He delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with His hand. I have been young and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread" (Psa 37:23-25).

Yes indeed, true godliness is a source of great gain, in an assurance that most will never know. Our faith is truly a conviction based upon substance -- a trust in the "Rock" of the wilderness, a heavenly hope transcending worldly baubles and frills. "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall lack nothing" (Psa 23:1).

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