The Agora
Daily Bible Reading Exhortations

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December 17

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

Reading 1 - Job 21:27-34

Job 21:27-34, summarized:

In listening to the crude and insulting words of Zophar, it becomes apparent to Job that his friends are not interested in objective truth, and certainly not in comforting him, but rather in attacking him, personally and individually. They have obviously envied him from a distance, and now that he is in "trouble", they mock his previous wealth ("the great man's house": v 28). And in their limited and narrow view of things, they generalize from their supposed "wisdom" in observation of the very specific. If only they had talked with those who had traveled and thus had wider knowledge of human affairs (v 29), then they would know that -- contrary to their theory -- suffering often overtakes the righteous, while the wicked live long and prosperous lives (vv 30-33).

Reading 2 - Zep 3

In the last section (Zep 3:1-20), the prophet Zephaniah looks again at the sins of Judah, but this time with a remedy. First the sins:

The sins of Jerusalem were four, and the reasons for those sins were likewise fourfold:

The sins (Zep 3:2)
The reasons (Zep 3:3,4)
1. No obedience
1. Wicked princes
2. No correction
2. Wicked judges
3. No trust
3. Wicked prophets
4. No atonement ("drawing near")
4. Wicked priests

In Zephaniah's day, all the kings and princes (except Josiah) were wicked men who could not lead a wicked nation into obedience. "Like princes, like people." The judges were accustomed to bribery and graft, and did not teach "correction" or "instruction" (AV mg). With the exceptions of Zephaniah and Jeremiah, the prophets were false and wicked men, who trusted in the arm of flesh and not God. And the priests, who "profaned" the sanctuary, could not help in the least to draw men back to God.

It was a sorry state, but there was yet hope. As the sins of the people fell under four headings, because of the failures of all four classes of national leaders, so God's remedy for His nation (and for the world) is also seen in four parts -- all involving Christ. The recurring theme through the last section is:

"The LORD -- Yahweh -- is in the midst of you!" (vv 5,12,15,17).

Christ was once, and will be yet again in greater scope, the manifestation of the LORD or Yahweh upon the earth. He will be "in the midst" of men once again, in the capacity of righteous leader, when he returns to set up his Father's Kingdom. At that time, he will be:

  1. A righteous JUDGE (vv 5-7) -- who will do no iniquity himself, but will instruct the world in righteousness.
  2. A righteous PROPHET (vv 8-13) -- who will bring to mankind "a pure lip" or language (v 9), with which they will call upon the LORD, and "the meek and humble" will "trust in the name of the LORD" (v 12).
  3. A righteous KING (vv 14-16) -- who will deliver his people from evil and lead them in the ways of obedience.
  4. A righteous PRIEST (vv 17-20) -- who will save his people, and bring them back to oneness, or atonement, with God.

Reading 3 - 1Jo 4:8

"Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love" (1Jo 4:8).

"In those grand old ages, which are the heroic period of the Christian religion, this double mark was clearly to be seen in all believers in Jesus; they were men who knew the love of Christ, and rested upon it as a man leaneth upon a staff whose trustiness he has tried. The love which they felt towards the Lord was not a quiet emotion which they hid within themselves in the secret chamber of their souls, and which they only spake of in their private assemblies when they met on the first day of the week, and sang hymns in honour of Christ Jesus the crucified, but it was a passion with them of such a vehement and all-consuming energy, that it was visible in all their actions, spoke in their common talk, and looked out of their eyes even in their commonest glances. Love to Jesus was a flame which fed upon the core and heart of their being; and, therefore, from its own force burned its way into the outer man, and shone there. Zeal for the glory of King Jesus was the seal and mark of all genuine Christians. Because of their dependence upon Christ's love they dared much, and because of their love to Christ they did much, and it is the same now. The children of God are ruled in their inmost powers by love -- the love of Christ constraineth them [2Co 5:14]; they rejoice that divine love is set upon them... and then by force of gratitude they love the Saviour with a pure heart, fervently" (CH Spurgeon).

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