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
How is this true, that the more we learn, the more we
experience sorrow and grief? In several different ways:
The more we learn, the more we see of grief and sorrow in the world.
Knowledge can be a heavy burden.
The more we learn, the clearer we can
think, and thus the more we see is madness and folly.
The more we learn, the
more clearly we may see how easily the things of life could go wrong.
more we learn, the more we see that nothing is permanent.
The more we learn,
the more we understand how little we really know. We may discover whole areas of
knowledge to which we have not even given a single thought; we know nothing of
these things and may never learn.
The more we learn, the more we realize our
inability to control the future.
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"