The Agora
Daily Bible Reading Exhortations

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April 17

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

Reading 1 - Num 36:1-12

The proposed division of the land -- suggested by the census in Num 26 -- brought up a special question of considerable importance to Israel. Zelophehad, of the tribe of Manasseh, and of the family of Gilead, had died -- not in any special judgment, but along with the whole generation that perished in the wilderness. He had left no sons, and his daughters were anxious to obtain a "possession," lest their father's name should be lost among his family. By Divine direction, which Moses had sought, their request was granted, and it became a judicial statute in Israel ever after: that daughters or -- in their absence -- the nearest kinsman should enter upon the inheritance of those who died without leaving sons, and should if possible raise up that would carry on the name of the one who had died.

In all such cases, of course, the children of those who obtained the possession would have to be incorporated, not with the tribe to which they originally belonged, but with that in which their "inheritance" lay. Thus the "name" of a man would not "be done away from among his family." Nor was this statute recorded merely on account of its national bearing, but for higher reasons. The desire to preserve the name of a family in Israel sprang not merely from feelings natural in such circumstances, but was connected with the hope of the coming Messiah. Until he appeared, each family would desire to preserve its identity, and its legitimate claim to its own special portion of the Land of Promise.

Reading 2 - Pro 27:17

"As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another" (Pro 27:17).

"This suggests that even those of equal knowledge and ability can sharpen each other. It is not necessary to have a qualified teacher to enable us to learn. A man's ideas are 'right in his own eyes, but his neighbour cometh and searcheth him.' The neighbour may not be of equal calibre with the one he so 'searches' and yet his criticisms may be of great value. The original idea may need a good deal of modification to make it sound, and the explanatory words may need much clarifying to make them fully intelligible. We may often be surprised at the failure of our friends to appreciate a good thought or to understand language which seems perfectly clear to us. If we are to render service our thoughts must be such as can be appreciated and our language must be easy to understand. A very humble critic may serve us well by misunderstanding us, if he tells us of his difficulties" (Islip Collyer, "Principles and Proverbs").

Reading 3 - John 9:7

" 'Go,' he told him, 'wash in the Pool of Siloam' (this word means Sent). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing" (John 9:7).

So he was sent to wash, even though he could not as yet see!

"Our blind eyes are touched by the ointment prepared by the mingling of the dust of the ground with the moisture from the mouth of him who was sent from heaven. But this does not cure us. We receive the command to go and wash in the waters of Apostleship (John is careful to point out that Siloam means Sent). It is a long and difficult journey. Some do not undertake it at all; some begin only to give it up and resume their begging at the gate. Often it is made shorter and easier by the friendly guidance of one who can see. It is the responsibility of all enlightened ones to listen for the tapping of the stick and the cry to be directed to the waters of Siloam. But faith and obedience are rewarded. With the washing of the waters we enter a new world illuminated by the Sun of Righteousness. This may mean estrangement, persecution and sacrifice, but it will also be an opportunity for witness and loyalty. Jesus will know. He will seek us out and invite us into a fellowship so deep and abiding that all the former relationships are like the phantom sounds and movements of the dark world from which we have been delivered" (Melva Purkis, "A Life of Jesus" 240,241).

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