The Agora
Daily Bible Reading Exhortations

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November 25

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

Reading 1 - Neh 13

Notice the similarities between the prophecy of Malachi and Neh 13. Malachi was the "messenger of the covenant" (Mal 3:1) ["Malachi" means "my covenant"!] -- who had reported to Nehemiah that the Jews in Jerusalem had forgotten the "covenant" (Neh 10:29-39) they had made with him, and with God:

The "covenant"
Nehemiah finds...
1. Non-payment of tithes
Mal 3:8
Neh 10:32, etc
Neh 13:9,10
2. Temple services largely cease
Mal 1:7,12,13

Neh 13:10
3. Violation of sabbath
Mal 3:14; 4:4
Neh 10:31
Neh 13:15
4. Marriage with alien
Mal 2:11-16
Neh 10:30
Neh 13:23
5. Wood offering

Neh 10:34
Neh 13:31
6. Observance of firstfruits and firstborns

Neh 10:35,36
Neh 13:11,12

Reading 2 - Amos 5:8

"He [Yahweh]... made the Pleiades and Orion, [and] turns blackness into dawn and darkens day into night" (Amo 5:8).

Since Yahweh made the Pleiades and Orion, constellations of stars, He could bring His will to pass on earth too. The rising of the Pleiades before daybreak heralded the arrival of spring, and the rising of Orion after sunset signaled the onset of winter. Since Yahweh brings light out of darkness in the morning and darkens the day at night, He could easily change the fate of Israel from prosperity to adversity.

"The prophet first draws the attention of Israel to the living God who stands behind nature, determining all its movements. The atheist is rebuked by this view of things. The thought of the prophet is full of God; nature does not deny God -- it demonstrates Him. God is. Those who identify God with nature until they confound the personal God with the laws and forces of the world, are also rebuked by the text. Nature is not God. 'He maketh the seven stars and Orion.' And the view that nature is independent of God is equally repudiated. On the contrary, the teaching of Amos is that God acts through nature. The people of Israel are summoned to look up and to behold the supreme, self-existent God, standing before and above the world, acting upon it, acting through it, with sovereign sway. He maketh the seven stars and Orion, and all the rest. But the argument of Amos goes farther than this; he argues that God rules in the midst of the nations just as He rules in the midst of nature, and we must see His hand in human affairs as we see it in the rising and setting of stars, in the ebbing and flowing of seas. He setteth up kings and captains, and casteth them down; He smites the splendour of nations into desolation; and again He restores their greatness and joy. The argument of the prophet proceeds on the assumption that a Divine purpose, a vast design, runs through all the evolutions of nature and all the movements of history' ("Biblical Illustrator").

Reading 3 - 2Ti 2:16-19

"Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have wandered away from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some. Nevertheless, God's solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: 'The Lord knows those who are his,' and, 'Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness' " (2Ti 2:16-19).

In writing, "The Lord knows those who are his", Paul is citing Moses' words in Num 16:5, regarding the rebellion of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.

And the next phrase, "Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness", he is referring to Num 16:26 -- where the Septuagint reads: "Depart, I pray you, from the tents of these wicked men." (It is worth noting that the destruction of Korah and his allies, when it came, came by the hand of God Himself -- not by Moses' hand.)

The imprisoned Paul is concerned for Timothy his beloved son in the faith. How should he discharge his responsible duties in the household? Already men like Hymeneus and Philetus were undermining the doctrine of the resurrection and destroying the faith of some (2Ti 2:17,18). It seemed as though the foundations of the truth were crumbling all around. Was it time to give up hope, to flee like a hireling from the wolves of rebellion and pride and error? No, the answer of the old apostle was clear: "Nevertheless [that is, despite all the difficulties and problems you see on every side]... nevertheless the foundation of God stands sure" (v 19).

How do we know this, Paul? 'You have this seal -- this guarantee: Men may attempt to subvert, to destroy, and to corrupt God's Truth, but they cannot succeed. The Lord knoweth them that are His! In the proper time the others will be dispensed with.'

Paul's words echo those of Moses at the time of the rebellion of Korah and his allies -- "In the morning the Lord will show who are his, and who is holy" (Num 16:3).


"If we can bring ourselves to realize that all is at all times in the unerring and almighty hand of God, and that we are but a small cog in a vast machine, we shall not be trapped into that self-important anxiety that leads to hastiness and harshness.

"When we see worldliness gaining ground in an ecclesia; when we see modern customs making a mockery of Scriptural ordinances... when we see attendance gradually diminishing and worldly things interfering even on Sunday morning; when we see... that shallow and self-important little minds introduce new crotchets and speculations -- we are apt to become despondent and panicky.

"But why should we? Did Paul? No! He says: 'The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal: The Lord knoweth them that are his.'

"And the apostle, far from despondency, sounded out from his prison-cell inspiring words of courage, and patience, and glorious hope. Without bitterness, but with terrible significance, he points out (2Ti 2:20) that in a great house there are not only vessels of honor, but also vessels of dishonor. If a man will purify himself, he shall be among the vessels of honor.

"This may seem a strange way to give encouragement, but it would help Timothy to realize that ecclesial disappointments and difficulties do not necessarily mean an abandonment by God, but are rather a part of the divine wisdom of trial and probation" (GV Growcott).

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