The Agora
Daily Bible Reading Exhortations

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November 18

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

Reading 1 - Neh 5:14,17

"Moreover, from the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when I [Nehemiah] was appointed to be their governor in the land of Judah, until his thirty-second year -- twelve years -- neither I nor my brothers ate the food allotted to the governor" (Neh 5:14).

This provision would have been Nehemiah's by right and law, since he was the royally-appointed governor of the land. Note the comparison between Nehemiah and Paul (1Co 9): both had the right to be supported by their brethren, but neither exercised that right. It was Paul who wrote, "And when I was with you and needed something, I was not a burden to anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied what I needed. I have kept myself from being a burden to you in any way, and will continue to do so" (2Co 11:9). Notice that Paul, like Nehemiah, had personal enemies who sought to harm him.

"Furthermore, a hundred and fifty Jews and officials ate at my table, as well as those who came to us from the surrounding nations" (v 17).

Nehemiah kept an "open house", at his own personal expense. In all his work, and his generosity, and his support of others, Nehemiah showed beforehand the work and attitude of the apostle Paul. Consider the following passages:

Reading 2 - Joel 1:3

"Tell it to your children, and let your children tell it to their children, and their children to the next generation" (Joel 1:3).

"In this simple way, by God's grace, a living testimony for truth is always to be kept alive in the land -- the beloved of the Lord are to hand down their witness for the gospel, and the covenant to their heirs, and these again to their next descendants. This is our first duty, we are to begin at the family hearth: he is a bad preacher who does not commence his ministry at home. The heathen are to be sought by all means, and the highways and hedges are to be searched, but home has a prior claim, and woe unto those who reverse the order of the Lord's arrangements. To teach our children is a personal duty; we cannot delegate it to Sunday School teachers, or other friendly aids; these can assist us, but cannot deliver us from the sacred obligation; proxies and sponsors are wicked devices in this case: mothers and fathers must, like Abraham, command their households in the fear of God, and talk with their offspring concerning the wondrous works of the Most High. Parental teaching is a natural duty -- who so fit to look to the child's well-being as those who are the authors of his actual being?" (CH Spurgeon).

"The remembering of the outstanding acts of God on behalf of His people, or in furthering their discipline, must be carried on faithfully from generation to generation. From earliest days Moses had striven to establish this tradition: 'Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons' sons; specially the day that thou stoodest before the Lord thy God in Horeb' (Deu 4:9,10). If these exhortations of Joel and Moses had been heeded, would the day of Babylonian invasion some five generations later have ever happened?...

"You are to establish a tradition in your families, urges the prophet. From father to son to grandson this cherished message must be faithfully handed on. How many generations are involved here? Is it five or six? And how many generations of the Truth faithfully preserved are there in these Last Days, all of them scanning the horizon eagerly for the dawn yet to be seen rising over the Mount of Olives?

"In modern times the five generations of the New Israel, having such a Word, as others do not know and with its fulfilment so nigh unto them are yet content to set their children and their grandchildren a mediocre characterless example of diluted enthusiasm.

"Remember! Remember! Teach! Teach! These should be welcome duties. Yet Moses had learned that neglect might overtake them. Specially pointed and valuable is this precept: 'Teach them thy sons AND THY SONS' SONS!'

"Yet how often it happens that grandparents treat 'their sons' sons' as though they were a box of chocolates -- a luxury to be enjoyed now and then -- and not at all as a holy commission entrusted to their care; [vessels] to be filled with precious jewels of Truth.

"Alas, it is so much more comfortable to write Joel off as out-of-date and incomprehensible, and to bequeath THAT tradition to those whose future is one's own special responsibility!" (Harry Whittaker, "Joel").

This is true, in general, but here the special emphasis is -- not upon the goodness of God's arrangements -- but upon the judgments that Joel is about to describe. So terrible are these that four or five generations cannot remember anything that compares.

Reading 3 - 1Th 5:5

"You are all sons of the light" (1Th 5:5).

The "all" gives reassurance that none need be excluded from the blessings implied; even those with uncertainties about the details of Christ's coming (1Th 4:11,12) or those who are "weak" (1Th 5:14) may take heart.

In Hebrew idiom, to be the "child" or "son" of a certain characteristic or quality means to exemplify it. A "child of light" is one who has experienced a complete transformation through the "light." In this way is the phrase used elsewhere: "While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light" (John 12:36); "for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light" (Luke 16:8); "For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light" (Eph 5:8).

The condition of being in Christ is continually associated with light (Mat 5:14,16; John 3:21; 8:12; Acts 26:18; Col 1:12; 1Pe 2:9, 1Jo 1:7).

The true followers of Christ are "sons of the day" -- even though the "day" has not officially arrived! That "day of the Lord" has cast its radiance ahead with the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, and especially with his sacrificial work. We must remember, and endeavor, to live in that "day", and to exemplify all its qualities, EVEN NOW. In no other way may a people ever become prepared to enter into the glories of that future inheritance, when it does indeed arrive!
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