The Agora
Daily Bible Reading Exhortations

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October 26

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

Reading 1 - 2Ch 23

"Jehoiada gathered his forces for a counter-revolution. It was significantly in the 'seventh year' (v 1), a type of the greater millennium 7th period, in which the forces of Truth will be exercised against the Sin-power. With Jehoiada were 'captains of thousands', and Yahshua the Anointed will similarly gather his great ones, the saints of the covenant, with him. The men of Jehoiada went about to attract others to their policies (v 2), as the Lord has been gathering out of the Gentiles a people for his Name. Priests, Levites and military were used. They were divided into thirds as was normal. Under Jehoiada, the priesthood was raised to an importance it never afterwards lost. Through the priesthood the lineage of David had been saved, and the worship of Yahweh restored. During the minority of Joash, Jehoiada reigned as King-Priest, and was regarded as the second founder of that order (Jer 29:26). The wicked Athaliah was removed from power (2Ch 23:15). Disturbed by the noise Athaliah emerged from the palace to see the Levites and guards in military order. Hastening to the temple she entered the court to be barred by the guard (v 10). The whole scene described in v 13, met her startled gaze, and soon she was removed: as will all those who elevate the power of the flesh for personal gratification and prestige. All opposition being crushed, the people were again called together to enter into a solemn covenant with Yahweh and His viceroy on earth (2Ch 23:16,17), typical of the covenant of immortality to be enjoyed by the people under Christ (cp Joh 3:3-6). Thus the full worship was restored (2Ch 23:18,19). All sacrificial arrangements were ascribed to the Law; all musical and temple appointments to David. Thus Jehoiada restored a Davidic form of worship on the basis of the Law, as it will be under Christ (cp 2Ch 24:17)" (GE Mansfield).

Reading 2 - Dan 4

"Let his mind be changed from that of a man and let him be given the mind of an animal, till seven times pass by for him" (Dan 4:16).

The Bible tells us generally that men who know not God, or who treat other men in a brutal fashion, are no better than "beasts", and that they will ultimately perish like beasts (Psa 49:12,20; Ecc 3:19,20). This is probably the rationale for Gentile oppressors of God's people being characterized as "beasts" of prey, in Daniel and elsewhere. The great "Beast" of Rev 13, with its 7 heads and 10 horns, also is said to have the number of a man (v 18), perhaps indicating that it represents a particular man. At least one man in OT times was actually made by God to be like a "beast". This was the great king Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, who recognized himself in the "head of gold" in the image of Daniel 2, and whose great pride and arrogance brought upon him an unusual judgment from the Almighty: see Dan 4:16,25,32,33. Only a coincidence? Or does this suggest that the "Beast" of the Last Days will be Babylonian, as was the "Beast" Nebuchadnezzar?


"The decision is announced by messengers, the holy ones declare the verdict, so that the living may know that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of men" (v 17).

" 'God ruleth in the kingdom of men and giveth it to whomsoever He will.' It is this that imparts to political occurrences the character of signs of the times, in the discernments of such as are enlightened in the scriptures of truth. These occurrences, which to the natural man are the fortuitous changes of the hour, are to the other class the open and public expression of the secret and divine will which is moulding all public affairs, with a view to the appointed climax when all things will be gathered together under one head, even Christ. The recognition of this fact makes all the difference between the mere newspaper point of view, which is that of scientific Paganism, and the point of view of the Scriptures, from which we are able to see things as they appear to Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will, and who is guiding them to a determined end -- even the end proclaimed in the gospel of the kingdom and the promises made to the fathers in the beginning" (Robert Roberts, "Ways of Providence" 335).

"Daniel tells us, in a sense that does not conflict with the Gospel of the kingdom, that He ruleth in the kingdoms of men, setting up some and putting down others. The kingdoms, now existing, are provisionally of God's appointment. God's purpose to make the earth a habitation of order, love, intelligence, and glory, requires a preliminary prevalence of evil, and yet the evil must be regulated. If evil were allowed to run riot, it would make the world a desert, in which it would be impossible for the preliminary work of trial in patient obedience to be done; we could never assemble here this morning if evil were not controlled in its operations. There is a necessity for a certain machinery to exist, and God has appointed that machinery, but only for mechanical service. It is, so to speak, but the scaffolding for the erection of the future building. They are a crude work, the saints are called to a higher work in all respects. Even now it is highest work to preach the Gospel of the future kingdom" (Robert Roberts, "Seasons of Comfort" 116).

Reading 3 - Acts 2:38,39

"Peter replied, 'Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off -- for all whom the Lord our God will call' " (Acts 2:38,39).

Can we determine exactly what was the "gift of the Holy Spirit" outside of the context of these verses? Or should we read the whole context for the best picture? Undoubtedly the latter.

Firstly, the main "gift" that anybody received that day was the gift of forgiveness of sins: hearing all that Peter and the apostles preached to them, the men of Israel were "cut to the heart" (v 37) -- they knew they were sinners, murderers even! And their only hope was to repent and be baptized; then their sins would be forgiven!

In the context, this was an absolutely extraordinary thing -- in fact, it was the most extraordinary thing imaginable! Here was a man offering them the means by which all their sins could be forgiven: something which the Law of Moses could not really do, could never do -- because the continual offering of sacrifices only served as a reminder of past sins, and had to be repeated time and again, and never quite accomplished the trick!

We may tend to downplay this aspect, not because we don't know it is the most important, but because we almost take it for granted: that's what God does, through Christ -- He forgives our sins. It needs to be stressed as much as we possible can: THROUGH CHRIST, GOD FORGIVES OUR SINS! This IS the doctrine of grace.

Compare the incident in Mark 2, where Jesus tells the lame man, "Your sins are forgiven." Those who are watching are shocked: "Who can forgive sins but God alone?" To which Jesus replies: "Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up, take your mat and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins... (He said to the paralytic), I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home' " (Mark 2:8-11).

The point is: anybody can SAY, 'Your sins are forgiven', and who's to know if those words have any power? In other words, there is no visible sign to prove that one's sins have been forgiven. But not anybody can SAY, 'Get up and walk!' and see it happen.

So the miracle of healing was the visible sign of the power of God, in Christ, to forgive sins. The visible miracle confirms Christ's power to perform the invisible miracle!

Something similar is happening in Acts 2: the forgiveness of sins was THE great gift of God -- always has been, always will be... BUT it was (and is) very useful for men and women to SEE some visible sign of God's presence and power so as to truly believe that their sins have been forgiven.

Now it would be simple for us if, in Act 2:38, the "gift" of the Holy Spirit meant (a) the gift brought by the Holy Spirit, which is forgiveness of sins, instead of (b) the gift of God, which is the Holy Spirit. But, according to the textual authorities, it doesn't -- it means plainly (b) and not (a). What the authorities call a "genitive of apposition"; the gift consists of the Holy Spirit.

So in Act 2:38,39 there are two things happening, not just one: there is forgiveness of sins (plainly the most important), AND there is the Holy Spirit being given.

But to whom? and how? It is useful to note, in the last part of Acts 2, the description of the new life of the baptized believers:

"They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved" (Act 2:42-47).

Notice all the things they did, and all they were blessed with... but -- look! -- the wonders and signs were all done by the apostles... not by all the other believers. It looks like some might complain, 'They (the apostles) got all the good stuff!' But who's complaining; forgiveness of sins was the object greatly to be desired) -- and they ALL had that! Everything else (even wonder-working power) was secondary.

So how did they all receive the gift of the Holy Spirit? Was it simply in seeing and witnessing that God's Holy Spirit power was truly and actively working in their midst, to confirm the power of God to forgive their sins? I think that about covers it!

And would their generation and future generations receive the same promise? Surely. The forgiveness of sins. A forgiveness of sins attested by Holy Spirit signs and wonders (at least for the second -- and possibly third -- generation), and a forgiveness of sins (attested by church history and the written word and fulfilled prophecy, etc) for all succeeding generations, up to and including ours.

And... don't forget... God's Holy Spirit power would still be at work, in less visible and less obviously miraculous ways, in each successive age... BUT the real gift was the forgiveness of sins.

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