The Agora
Daily Bible Reading Exhortations

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January 15

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

Reading 1 - Gen 27

"God's purpose succeeds, in spite of human weaknesses. The characters in this narrative are the four members of the patriarchal family. Two of them -- Isaac and Esau -- seek to frustrate the revealed purpose of God. Rebekah and Jacob seek to carry it out, but by wrong methods. Each of the four is rebuked and disappointed. Isaac is deceived and frightened. Esau loses all. Jacob has to flee. Rebekah loses her favorite son (Pro 19:21). So the record shows that the divine purpose is worked out through a tangled skein of human weakness and deception.

"In all these circumstances, Jacob was a timid man, dominated by a desire to serve God and obtain the divine blessing (Gen 28:17-34). His timidity seen in this incident reveals him as dominated by his mother, in awe of his father, and in fear of his brother. Divinely contrived circumstances purifies the character of Jacob, and strengthens it" (GE Mansfield).

Reading 2 - Psa 32

This is one of the penitential psalms (Psa 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143). These psalms probably refer to David's sins with Bathsheba and Uriah, and the aftermath. The probable order of some of these psalms:

"Maschil" means Instruction. But there is nothing particularly academic here. What a man, a sinner, needs to learn is the facts of his relationship with God. And how often, as in David's case here, does he learn not only by the counsel (v 8) of the searching wisdom of God's Word, but also (and especially) in the harder school of experience. Vv 8,9 chime in with this "instruction" theme.

This is the first of the 13 Maschil psalms (Psa 32, 42, 44, 45, 52-55, 74, 78, 88, 89,142).


"Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered" (Psa 32:1).

This word "blessed", as in Psa 1:1, emphasizes more than the idea of receiving good things. It suggests happiness, even exhilaration -- cp v 7: "songs of deliverance". Such a "blessing" may be the possession of the man who is without sin (Christ only -- Psa 1:1!) and the man whose sins have been pardoned (all the rest of us -- Psa 32:1!).

"Forgiven" is the Heb "nasa", signifying to be lifted up or away, as a burden being removed (cp Joh 1:29).

WHOSE SINS ARE COVERED: Men, aware of their sin, seek to hide it (cp v 3 with Gen 3:8), but God is willing that it be covered (cp v 5 with Gen 3:21; see Psa 51:2,3). The sins of God's people are... "Covered" (Psa 32:1), "Removed" (Psa 103:12), "Cast behind God's back" (Isa 38:17), "Blotted out" (Psa 51:1; Isa 44:22), "Washed away" (Psa 51:2,7), "Remembered no more" (Jer 31:34), "Sought for but not found" (Jer 50:20), "Cast into the depths of the sea" (Mic 7:19).

David is convicted and confesses and repents: 'Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered'... It could be read like a cold theological declaration from a list of doctrines, but in fact it was a gasp of relief: 'Oh the blessedness -- the sheer joy, in fact -- of realizing that your black sin is covered and forgiven.'


"Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit" (v 2).

COUNT: Impute or reckon. A key word in Paul's theology. Used in Rom 4:1-8 to establish that righteousness was reckoned to Abraham because of his faith (Gen 15:6) and to David apart from works ("I said, I will confess..."). The word does not mean a pretended absolution, but a very real removal of sin. The truth of the matter, in Bible expression, is that a man whose sins are forgiven is consequently sinless. Not only does God treat him as though he were sinless, but he IS sinless! "As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us" (Psa 103:12).

IN WHOSE SPIRIT IS NO DECEIT: Psa 34:17,18. Not like Jacob the deceiver (Gen 27:36; Joh 1:47), but like Jesus (Isa 53:7; Rev 14:5). A spirit free from self-deception ('If I don't think about it, it will eventually go away'): v 11; Luk 11:34. (2) Cp Isa 53:7,9: Christ is the lamb brought to the slaughter, in whose lips there was no guile (1Pe 2:22,23). Contrast Zec 13:3, and -- as for those in Christ -- cp Zep 3:13 and Rev 14:5.

Reaching this state of sinlessness is conditional, upon being free of guile. That is something utterly crucial. David knew that his guile had been a barrier to pardon, an impediment to peace, an obstruction on the road to reformation. It keeps the prison shut -- it is an iron bar, a lock with only one key. Strangely the key is in the hand of the prisoner. The key is this -- quit the hypocrisy, stop the window dressing, open the heart and make the confession.


"When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long" (v 3).

WHEN I KEPT SILENT: That is, concerning my sin. Compare the sinners in Eden hiding from the presence of the Lord (Gen 3:8). And compare David not wanting to see the point of Nathan's parable until it was forced upon him: 2Sa 12:1-5. So here is the silence of deception, as David attempted to push out of his conscience the memory of his offences. But the joy of life and fellowship with God was gone. David found himself in the condition of his first parents, who had tried to hide in the garden from the Elohim. He had placed a heavy lid over his conscience; but beneath the lid, the caldron boiled. It was only a matter of time before his sins would "blow the lid off"!

MY BONES WASTED AWAY: Literal? Or deep-seated anguish idiomatically expressed as the consumer or breaker of bones (Psa 22:14; Job 30:17,30; Pro 12:4; Hab 3:16).


"For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer" (v 4).

FOR DAY AND NIGHT YOUR HAND WAS HEAVY UPON ME: Psa 38:2,3 has the same background. The "hand of the Lord" often refers to an inflicted disease: Exo 9:3; Deu 2:15; Act 13:11.

MY STRENGTH WAS SAPPED AS IN THE HEAT OF SUMMER: When God's hand was upon him, he wilted like a frail plant in the heat of summer. Contrast Psa 1:3. But the Hebrew here is obscure; the LXX has "while a thorn was fastened in me" -- with possible reference to the crown of thorns in Mat 27:29 and Mar 15:17.

Reading 3 - Mat 17:20

"Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you" (Mat 17:20).

"Faith is trust in God, and this implies knowledge of God's will. A faith to achieve what is not in the will of God is both fruitless and futile. But living faith, in harmony with God's will, is, Jesus teaches, charged with power of accomplishment. Jesus gave the same illustration of faith's power when the disciples had expressed surprise that the fig tree had withered away (Mat 21:21). On another occasion (Luk 17:7) he used the rooting up of a sycamore tree instead of moving a mountain, as a figure of difficulty. He had been speaking of forgiveness to an unlimited number of occasions on repentance; and as the disciples regarded this as difficult to perform, they begged of him, 'Lord, increase our faith.' This was answered by the reference to faith as a grain of mustard seed. A living seed has power -- that power is the expression of its life and is comparable to the power of faith in man. The spirit that forgives is the expression of the living faith of the disciples of Christ" (John Carter, "Parables of the Messiah" 124,125).

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