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Today's Readings: Joshua 17 | Isaiah 23 | Hebrew 3-5

Reading 1 - Jos 17:16

"The people of Joseph replied, 'The hill country is not enough for us, and all the Canaanites who live in the plain have iron chariots, both those in Beth Shan and its settlements and those in the Valley of Jezreel' " (Jos 17:16).

In this area lies the 263-foot-high tell of Beth-shean, one of the oldest cities in Bible lands. The remains of 20 layers of settlement have been found going back more than three thousand years BC. The Israelites failed to conquer the city in Joshua's time (Jos 17:16; Jdg 1:27), and the fortified town was still under Philistine control in the time of Saul, the first king of Israel. When Saul and his sons were slain in battle their bodies were hung on the walls of this city by the victors (1Sa 31:6-13).

Beth-shean is included in the cities of Solomon's kingdom (1Ki 4:12). When the Greek empire dominated the area the city was known as Scythopolis. Pliny, the Roman author (1st century AD) mentions the city in his writings. It was one of the cities in the Roman province of Decapolis which was visited by Jesus (Mar 7:31). The city was further developed by the Romans and all around the ancient tell the archaeologists are busy uncovering this large city that was devastated by an earthquake.

Reading 2 - Isa 23:15-18

"At that time Tyre will be forgotten for seventy years, the span of a king's life. But at the end of these seventy years, it will happen to Tyre as in the song of the prostitute: 'Take up a harp, walk through the city, O prostitute forgotten; play the harp well, sing many a song, so that you will be remembered.' At the end of seventy years, the LORD will deal with Tyre. She will return to her hire as a prostitute and will ply her trade with all the kingdoms on the face of the earth. Yet her profit and her earnings will be set apart for the LORD; they will not be stored up or hoarded. Her profits will go to those who live before the LORD, for abundant food and fine clothes" (Isa 23:15-18).

This is a very difficult passage. One possible interpretation: for 70 years, up to Isaiah's day, Tyre had abandoned her previously close association with Jerusalem. But now, driven by the defeat by Assyria, Tyre seeks once again "fellowship" with Judah (compare Psa 87:4; 45:12; 2Ch 32:23). Thus the "wages of a harlot" (that is, her mercantile profits) are now, in some measure, given to the LORD.

"It is remarkable that whereas certain of the Arab powers seem to be marked out for hard discipline or even utter destruction in the time of the end (as in Isa 34; Obad), there is to be a willingness on the part of others to acknowledge God's King in Jerusalem. Is it relevant that there are more (nominal) Christians among the Arabs of Lebanon [the modern geographical equivalent to ancient Tyre: GB] than in any other part of the Arab world? Then, although there has been no friendship in Lebanon for the new state of Israel, perhaps this seventy-year estrangement is due to be replaced with a new spirit of amity and service" (Harry Whittaker, "Isaiah" 255).

Reading 3 - Heb 4:11

"Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief" (Heb 4:11).

"Work, labor, zeal, enthusiasm, effort, striving -- we must get the vital urgency of it, for it is the difference between eternal life and eternal death. We are not here to play, or drift, or while away priceless, irretrievable time, or please ourselves, or pursue ambition, or hoard rotting rubbish. We are here simply and solely to serve God, and build up our spiritual understanding, and totally transform our natural, evil, ignorant fleshly character by the light and power of the Divine Word. We do not have a moment to waste. Every wasted moment is a sin to be repented of, and atoned for by frank confession and earnest prayer and sincere effort to overcome -- or it is a permanent stain that will sink us at last in eternal death" (GVG).


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