The Agora
Daily Bible Reading Exhortations

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April 22

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

Reading 1 - Deu 5:24

"And you said, 'The LORD our God has shown us his glory and his majesty, and we have heard his voice from the fire. Today we have seen that a man can live even if God speaks with him' " (Deu 5:24).

"God's great design in all His works is the manifestation of His own glory. Any aim less than this were unworthy of Himself. But how shall the glory of God be manifested to such fallen creatures as we are? Man's eye is not single, he has ever a side glance towards his own honour, has too high an estimate of his own powers, and so is not qualified to behold the glory of the Lord. It is clear, then, that self must stand out of the way, that there may be room for God to be exalted; and this is the reason why He bringeth His people ofttimes into straits and difficulties, that, being made conscious of their own folly and weakness, they may be fitted to behold the majesty of God when He comes forth to work their deliverance. He whose life is one even and smooth path, will see but little of the glory of the Lord, for he has few occasions of self-emptying, and hence, but little fitness for being filled with the revelation of God. They who navigate little streams and shallow creeks, know but little of the God of tempests; but they who 'do business in great waters,' these see His 'wonders in the deep.' Among the huge Atlantic-waves of bereavement, poverty, temptation, and reproach, we learn the power of Jehovah, because we feel the littleness of man.

"Thank God, then, if you have been led by a rough road: it is this which has given you your experience of God's greatness and lovingkindness. Your troubles have enriched you with a wealth of knowledge to be gained by no other means: your trials have been the cleft of the rock in which Jehovah has set you, as He did His servant Moses, that you might behold His glory as it passed by. Praise God that you have not been left to the darkness and ignorance which continued prosperity might have involved, but that in the great fight of affliction, you have been capacitated for the outshinings of His glory in His wonderful dealings with you" (CH Spurgeon).

Reading 2 - Ecc 1:18

"For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief" (Ecc 1:18).

The sorrow is in seeing more clearly all human failings and hopelessness. "Great scholars do but make of themselves great mourners" (Henry). Cp Jesus in Joh 11:35; Heb 4:15; Isa 53; Rom 12:15. Yet "wisdom" (proper wisdom) brings life also: Ecc 7:12.

With this agree also the words of Paul in 1Co 1:20: "Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?"

THE MORE KNOWLEDGE, THE MORE GRIEF: "Knowledge puffeth up, but love edifieth" (1Co 8:1). Knowledge of itself and for itself is sterile, and caters only to pride. Truly creation is marvelous, and natural curiosity is continually delighted with its infinite variety, but such knowledge of itself -- though fascinating -- is lifeless and vain.

Even the knowledge of the Scriptures -- though this is the only important knowledge -- pursued simply as knowledge, is empty and dead if it does not transform the character and purify the heart. In fact, knowledge and wisdom of themselves just open up the heart to a greater experience and discernment of grief and sorrow and the utter vanity of all earthly things.

How is this true, that the more we learn, the more we experience sorrow and grief? In several different ways:

This is the sad experience of all who are wise and understand. Jesus wept when he entered into the fellowship of Mary's sufferings (John 11:35), because in that suffering he saw all the suffering of all humanity (cp Heb 4:15; Isa 53). But we may rejoice in the knowledge that the time of suffering will give way, at last, to the time of deliverance and glory (Psa 30:5; 126:5,6; Luk 6:21-23; Rev 21:4).

Reading 3 - John 17:3

"Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent" (John 17:3).

Eternal life is not -- literally -- a present possession; this is a plain Bible teaching: Mat 19:29; 25:46; Mar 10:30; John 12:25; Rom 6:22; Gal 6:8; Tit 1:2; 3:7; Jud 1:21.

But... "eternal" life could be, either: (1) a life that never ends, or (2) a mortal life taken up with eternal things. If I spend my life thinking about eternal things, and living AS THOUGH I were in the presence of God, and AS THOUGH I were in His Kingdom already (because it is so real and meaningful to me, even now), and living in faith that that day is coming... then that is the sense -- admittedly a limited and imperfect sense, but real nonetheless -- in which I have an "eternal" life even now!

This is what may be called the present aspect of eternal life; and may help in appreciating the fulness of some passages in John's writings: ie, John 3:36; 5:24; 6:47,54; 10:28; 17:3; 1Jo 5:11,13.

In this sense, "eternal life" may be thought of as a continuum: a widening experience, beginning in the present death-prone world, but leading on to a fulness of personal knowledge in the age to come.

"In Christ eternal life, the life of God Himself, was brought into the experience of men that they might know it and share in it themselves -- in some measure here and now, perfectly and everlastingly in the day 'when he shall appear' and when by God's grace 'we shall be like him'... It is a truth to ponder upon, to weigh in the mind, to carry with one through all the complexities and uncertainties of this mortal life, to call to remembrance in moments of crisis and decision, to rest upon in the less dramatic routines of daily living" (Melva Purkis, "A Life of Jesus").


"On the other hand [after having stated the obvious Bible teachings about eternal life NOT being a present possession!: GB], what are we to make of those other passages which speak of eternal life in the here-and-now? We cannot, and must not, ignore them. Some endeavours have been made to reconcile them by saying that in these texts eternal life is being spoken of prospectively, so that when we are told we 'have eternal life' it really means 'you will have'. You have become 'heirs of eternal life', and though not possessing it now, you will do so in the Kingdom Age. There are certain texts which could be said to support this view (eg Tit 3:7 and Heb 1:14), though they do not seem to me to completely answer our problem. However, I believe it is possible to see a balance which would take in both aspects of eternal life, without violating either the Biblical view of human nature or the rules of common sense interpretation. The Greek word for 'eternal' has the meaning of 'belonging to the age' (aionios). The basic idea is not so much the quantity as the quality of life. The Kingdom Age will be ushered in by the coming of Christ in glory, when the qualities of God's world will be brought to the world of men in the Earth. The Kingdom of God will embody all the principles of His nature, and His will. The glory of that age will be the glory of God Himself, represented in the very person and presence of His Son. So that 'the glory of God will fill the earth as waters cover the sea' (Hab 2:14). To live in that glorious age the believers will be raised from the dead and receive the gift of immortality. This is 'the promise which he has promised us'.

"In the present life, however, the aionian life, 'eternal life', is that new relationship with God into which the believer enters at baptism. It is, in this sense, living in anticipation of the life of the Kingdom NOW. The new life in Christ is 'eternal life' in terms of quality rather than quantity. By 'eating my flesh and drinking my blood', Jesus declares, 'you have eternal life'. In other words, we become related to the quality of spiritual life which is even now seen in the Lord Jesus Christ, and which will one day be manifested in all the world in glory" (Len Richardson, "Balancing the Book" 82,83).

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