The Agora
Daily Bible Reading Exhortations

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March 19

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

Reading 1 - Lev 27:30

"A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the LORD; it is holy to the LORD" (Lev 27:30).

Originally, the fathers gave tithes voluntarily (Gen 14:20; Heb 7:4). Under the Law of Moses, tithing was compulsory, but in Christ it should be treated as it was by Abraham and Jacob (Gen 14:20; 28:22), and probably by others. Using an analogy from the Law -- about not muzzling the ox who treads out the grain -- Paul encourages giving to support and aid preachers of the gospel in their work (1Co 9). And again he writes, "Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor" (Gal 6:6). But nowhere in the New Testament is tithing commanded.

Reading 2 - Psa 141:4

"Let not my heart be drawn to what is evil, to take part in wicked deeds with men who are evildoers; let me not eat of their delicacies" (Psa 141:4).

It was at a special religious feast at Hebron that Absalom solicited and received support, and proclaimed himself king -- rebelling against his father David (2Sa 15:7-12).

This suggests Jesus' wariness at the social invitations offered him by the Pharisees, whose intent was to watch him closely and if possible catch him off guard (eg Luk 14:1).

To share the close friendly "table" fellowship of certain sorts of men is to become, first by small degrees and then more and more by wholesale lots, like them. In certain social settings, the general standards of courtesy forbid men to express exception to what they see and hear, which at other times they would resolutely shun. And so, almost subconsciously, "bad company ruins good morals" (1Co 15:33) -- and the best of men, unless they are constantly on their guard, tend to turn into the sort of people which mere formality "compels" them to put up with. How dangerous such "polite" associations with worldly men can be!

Reading 3 - Luk 10:19

"I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you" (Luk 10:19).

This promise can be understood either literally (cp Mark 16:18; Acts 28:3-6), or figuratively -- the serpent being symbolic, and "Satan'' (Luk 10:18) being indicative of unrepentant Capernaum (Luk 10:15). Perhaps both ideas have their place. However, no matter which, the words of Jesus are obviously based upon Gen 3:15. The "seed of the woman" has power to crush underfoot the serpent, and he has committed that power also to his servants.

Symbolically, in their own lives now, his followers must "tread upon" the subtle "serpents" of their own natures, thus overcoming the pull of the flesh by the power of Christ's spirit. And in the future, they will be empowered from on high to tread underfoot, without harm, both literal serpents... and the political and religious institutions of which the serpent was the symbol.

The promise of Gen 1:28, that man will have dominion over the earth, and over the living creature that moves on the ground, is fulfilled in the first instance by Jesus himself (Psa 8:2,6,8), and secondly becomes a promise to all believers in him, that ultimately all things will be put in subjection under their feet. The promise to the seventy here in Luk 10:19 was the down-payment, or pledge -- the first installment, as it were, upon the complete fulfillment of these great and precious promises.

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