Other comments on this day's readings can be found here.
Reading 1 - 2Samuel 17
"The spirit of Judas against Christ is revealed in the wicked and treacherous action of Ahithophel against David. Ahithophel conspired with Absalom as Judas did with the rulers of Judah. He offers a seven-point situation to Absalom. But Absalom was not convinced that this advice would achieve his designs on the throne (vv 1-4). He was doubtful of the genuineness of the advice of David's former counsellor, and sought confirmation by Hushai (vv 5,6). David's future trembled in the balance as the court waited to hear the counsel of Hushai. But Hushai was able to sway Absalom (vv 8-14). Contemptuously brushing aside the previous advice as unsound, he drew a picture of the extreme difficulties it presented, then sketched a plan for a general campaign. It succeeded. A warning was sent to David (vv 15-20). There was a near escape as an anonymous sympathiser of David in this apparently bitter and hostile city sent a message, causing David to retreat over the Jordan (vv 21,22). The result of Hushai's advice caused Ahithophel to commit suicide, as did Judas after him (v 23). As a result civil war erupted in the Land (vv 24-26), whilst the remnant with David was strengthened in exile (vv 27-29). Here is a picture of the experiences of the multitudinous Christ as they, with their Lord David, wait in exile until the great King will return to Zion" (GEM).
Reading 2 - Jeremiah 21:4,5
"This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, 'I myself will fight against you with an outstretched hand and a mighty arm in anger and fury and great wrath' " (Jer 21:4,5).
The very powers exercised on Israel's behalf in days gone by (Deu 4:34; 5:15; 26:8) were now to be turned against them.
Contrast Jeremiah's firmness of conviction, here, with his timidity in Jer 1, and his bitterness of spirit in Jer 20:14.
Reading 3 - Romans 7:18,24,25
"I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature [or 'my flesh']. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out" (Rom 7:18).
This statement repudiates any theory in the mind of Paul's readers concerning "inherent goodness" as being an innate possession within "flesh"; the "flesh" is radically bad!
In Victor Hugo's story, a ship is caught in a storm. The frightened crew hears a terrible crashing sound below. Immediately the men know what it is: a cannon has broken loose and is crashing into the ship's side with every smashing blow of the sea! Two men, at the risk of their lives, manage to fasten it down again, for they know that the unfastened cannon is more dangerous than the raging storm. Many people are like that ship -- their greatest danger areas lie inside, not outside!
Instead of "lives" in Rom 7:18, the word might better be rendered "dwells" (AV): it is "nothing good" that "dwells" in me! The invader -- which is "sin in the flesh" -- has managed to secure more than a foothold; he roams the place, considering it his home. In putting the matter like this, Paul has moved from a consideration of outward acts to an emphasis on the unwanted tenancy of King Sin. With this alien master in control, no matter how strongly a man wants to do the good, he finds himself checkmated. He cannot carry it out.
"What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?" (Rom 7:24).
Paul felt that he bore a loathsome, leprous nature which he called "a vile body" (or a body of humiliation: Phi 3:21). Such a nature is incurable.
"There seems to be an allusion to the ancient custom of certain tyrants who bound a dead body to a living man and obliged him to carry it about, till the contagion from the putrid mass took away his life" (Adam Clarke).
"Thanks be to God -- through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin" (Rom 7:25).
V 25 is a summary of the whole chapter. "My mind" is a synonym for the intellectual assent of the believer; and "the sinful nature" for the human, sin-prone flesh he bears.
"Paul was human and he knew the difficulties of life. His apostleship did not exempt him from any conflict that is the common lot of all. His early efforts to keep the law of Moses, combined with his later knowledge of God's purpose, must have given him a fearless and honest power of introspection. While it is one Paul, he yet recognizes that he is under two influences. In Galatians he says 'I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me' [Gal 2:20]. [But] here he says, speaking of failure to do as he would have liked, 'It is no more I, but sin that dwelleth in me.' There is a danger of these words being used to get rid of personal responsibility. They will always remain true when every effort has been made to follow righteousness, but should only be used when that effort has been made, when the words from Galatians can also be used. To follow a way of sin and excuse it by putting the blame on 'sin that dwelleth in me' is as far removed as possible from Paul's position. In fact, it would seem that those only can rightly use his words who are trying most to be followers of Paul as he was of Christ" (John Carter, "Romans").