The Agora
Daily Bible Reading Exhortations

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June 21

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

Reading 1 - Rth 3:11

"And now, my daughter, don't be afraid. I will do for you all you ask. All my fellow townsmen know that you are a woman of noble character" (Rth 3:11)

"A virtuous woman" (AV). Virtuous women may sometimes be found in situations -- through no fault of their own -- which might naturally expose them to suspicion (like Ruth with Boaz on the threshing floor). But if their former behavior has been uniformly virtuous, then they have every right to be absolved of any suspicion. It is true: all sins may be forgiven. But this blessing (freedom from suspicion) is one continuing value of an exemplary and virtuous life.

The word "virtuous" (or "noble") implies force of character, and strength of mind: it describes the ideal wife in Pro 31 (cp Pro 31:10,29). In the Old Testament, elsewhere, the phrase is applied only to Ruth. Notice that the virtuous woman of Pro 31 is very wealthy, as was Boaz (this is implicit in Pro 31:13-18,27-31). Is it farfetched to suppose that Ruth was the prototype of the "virtuous woman" in Pro 31? That her descendants David and Solomon had her in mind when these words were spoken, and written?

Perhaps in this lovely cameo of Pro 31 we get a glimpse of the remainder of Ruth's life with Boaz: continuing to show diligence (and faith!) in nurturing and encouraging her husband, in rearing her children, in providing for her household, in managing and instructing her servant girls, in running an estate and a business. A woman of means, who uses those means to help others and to glorify God!

Notice also: the same diligence Ruth showed as a destitute gleaner, she also shows as a rich wife! Wealth didn't turn her into a member of the "leisure class"; she doesn't spend her remaining days sitting on soft cushions and munching dainty cookies! Whether poor or rich, one could never tell by her level of activity, and her diligence in doing her duty -- whatever that might prove to be! And the reason for that diligence? the best reason of all: "Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate" (Pro 31:30,31).

Reading 2 - Isa 45:1

"This is what the LORD says to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I take hold of to subdue nations before him and to strip kings of their armor, to open doors before him so that gates will not be shut" (Isa 45:1).

Not really about the Gentile idolater Cyrus, but rather another prophecy about the true Anointed of Yahweh -- that is, in the first instance Hezekiah, and then, of course, the Lord Jesus Christ.

"Cyrus" is Elamite for "shepherd" (cp Isa 44:28). His original name was Agrodates. But Jesus said, "I am the good shepherd... all that came before me were thieves" (Joh 10:11,8), including Cyrus!

So how did the name of "Cyrus" come to be in the text? There are several possibilities:

(1) Misguided rabbinical comment which has crept into text;

(2) Misreading of Hebrew for "God's workman", suggested by JW Thirtle;

(3) The name may have been deliberately inserted by Jews (ie, political Zionists) to influence the real Cyrus into helping them back to their homeland [In just this way, Josephus unscrupulously sought to influence the Roman Vespasian -- by his own admission; other Jews similarly attempted to influence Gentile rulers -- see Harry Whittaker, "Isaiah" 396,397];


(4) "To Cyrus", by slight change, becomes "to the heir, my shepherd" (Ibid 396).

All the prophecies of Isa 40-66 are built on Hezekiah and his times. The sudden insertion of one small section about Cyrus would be completely out of character and away from the main purpose of this part of the book: to use Hezekiah in order to foreshadow the Messiah.

All through Isa 40-53 "my servant" is another title for "Jacob-Israel" (eg, Isa 41:8; 44:1,2; 48:20; 49:3). This is evident also in two places (Isa 44:21; 45:4) in the section about "Cyrus". Is it reasonable that in the midst of all this, there is a sudden solitary reference to the pagan king and general as "my servant"?

It is now known for certain that Cyrus was not a monotheist, but an idolater (Ibid 394). In such a context (where idolaters are castigated so severely), is it reasonable that God would call the idolater Cyrus "my servant"?

The mandate given by Cyrus to the captive Jews in Babylon is introduced (Ezr 1:1-3) with a pointed allusion to relevant Jeremiah prophecies. But the Isaiah prophecy is given no mention!


"It is contrary to all analogy that Isaiah should have foretold the coming of Cyrus: incredible that any prophet, inspired to write the preceding paragraph (in Isa 44) ridiculing idolatry, should give to one, who boasted himself a worshiper of Merodach, the titles 'My Shepherd and Anointed'. It is almost incredible that scholars, who know the facts about Cyrus and believe the Spirit of the Holy One spoke through the prophets, should have acquiesced so long in the abominable insult to the most inspired of seers, which results from the Deutero-Isaiah hypothesis" (WA Wordsworth, cited in "Isaiah" 397,398).

Reading 3 - Rev 1:3

"Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near" (Rev 1:3).

Is the saint who reads the prophecies of Revelation and understands only a little before, and maybe a bit more as it happens, not "blessed" (Rev 1:3)? Suppose he (or she) understands that Revelation is God's final promise that, one day, the kingdom of men will become the Kingdom of God and His Son? Suppose he understands that Christ will return, the elect will be gathered together to him, and given immortality, and will reign with him over the earth for 1,000 years and beyond? Suppose he understands (though he doesn't need Revelation at all to understand this -- many other passages tell him plainly) that there are corrupt systems in the world today -- political, religious, materialistic -- that he should have nothing to do with, because their "fellowship" is inconsistent with the "fellowship" of the Father and the Son? Suppose he then waits faithfully for a future coming, the details of which he is still not sure of, nor the order of coming events? Suppose he dies in this faith, not having seen or appreciated the detailed fulfillment of many steps of the divine plan, but having seen its final consummation "afar off"? Is he not "blessed" simply because he might have understood more or better?

Now perhaps he (or she) would be somewhat better off if he understood more perfectly every step God takes in preparing the world and all its nations for that final consummation. But to the extent he spends more and more time trying to understand every last detail, to that extent he might probably run afoul of other prophecy students who have their own ideas -- which would inevitably clash with his. This "search" might require more and more time, and the point might be reached where the time expended in the search for prophetic details, and in listening to every new theory, and in defending his own theory, and in reworking and modifying his own theory, might take valuable time away from other "pursuits" which would fit him more, on a spiritual level, to wait and watch and pray and preach and live a Truth-based life.

In short, he might find that "playing the guessing game" was getting in the way of "living the Christian life".

Now, obviously, every individual believer has his or her own "pain threshold" in dealing with uncertain details of the fulfillment of Bible prophecy (which may not be uncertain to some, but are certainly not first principles)... depending on: (1) personal preference, (2) academic attainments, (3) intellectual inclination and ability, (4) health, (5) work, (6) family concerns, and (7) other obligations in the Truth. It's not right that others should be made to feel guilty if they can't or don't "master" Revelation.

There are probably many in the Brotherhood who would say, "I have no head for prophecy." To them we would reply, "Perhaps not, but do you have a heart for Christ? Surely if you love Christ, you will love his appearing although you think you have no capacity for prophetic exercises." An affectionate wife may have no head for her husband's business affairs, but she has a heart for his return from the office each evening. His appointment book or his notes about business affairs may baffle her, but she knows his footstep and recognizes his voice. The saint who feels lost in the realm of Revelation should not take pride in his ignorance, of course. But neither should he be unduly discouraged. If only he has affection for his Lord and Master, and a firm resolve to keep his commandments, even the novice may entertain the most fervent desire to see him. The paramount hope of each of us is to be accepted by Christ when he comes, not to guess correctly what will happen before he arrives.

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