The Agora
Daily Bible Reading Exhortations

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April 18

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

Reading 1 - Deu 1:38

"But your [Moses'] assistant, Joshua son of Nun, will enter [the Land of promise]. Encourage him, because he will lead Israel to inherit it" (Deu 1:38).

"God employs His people to encourage one another. He did not say to an angel, 'Gabriel, my servant Joshua is about to lead my people into Canaan -- go, encourage him.' God never works needless miracles; if His purposes can be accomplished by ordinary means, He will not use miraculous agency. Gabriel would not have been half so well fitted for the work as Moses. A brother's sympathy is more precious than an angel's embassy. The angel would better know the Master's bidding than the people's temper. An angel would never have experienced the hardness of the road, nor seen the fiery serpents, nor led the stiff-necked multitude in the wilderness as Moses had done.

"We should be glad that God usually works for man by man. It forms a bond of brotherhood, and being mutually dependent on one another, we are fused more completely into one family.

"Brethren, labour to help others, and especially strive to encourage them. Talk cheerily to the young and anxious enquirer, lovingly try to remove stumblingblocks out of his way. When you find a spark of grace in the heart, kneel down and blow it into a flame. Leave the young believer to discover the roughness of the road by degrees, but tell him of the strength which dwells in God, of the sureness of the promise, and of the charms of communion with Christ. Aim to comfort the sorrowful, and to animate the desponding. Speak a word in season to him that is weary, and encourage those who are fearful to go on their way with gladness" (CH Spurgeon).

Reading 2 - Pro 28:19

"He who works his land will have abundant food, but the one who chases fantasies will have his fill of poverty" (Pro 28:19).

"This thought applies not only to the tilling of the land but to all humble callings which will give bread. From such humble security men are lured in every year that passes, and many of them follow vain persons to poverty and sorrow. Closely following this passage -- in the next verse [Pro 28:20] -- we have the warning against making haste to be rich.

"The exhortation is needed now as much as ever. Often those who are most bitter in their criticisms of the rich are those who have tried hastily and unsuccessfully to follow in their wake. The Government has had to warn people against 'share pushers'. All such swindlers use a golden bait, and it is surprising how many people who ought to know better have succumbed to their blandishments. There are still plenty of fraudulent enterprises even on the right side of the law, and men ready to take the money of those who 'make haste to be rich' " (Islip Collyer, "Principles and Proverbs").

Reading 3 - John 11

"We turn to Christ in our moments of suffering and trial. Our need is enough for his love. But sometimes he remains away and we do not understand the message he sends. The crisis comes and goes. Perhaps we are left grief-stricken and alone. But one day we shall hear the summons, 'The master is come. He calls for you.' Before the open grave he will show us that he is the resurrection and the life... then we shall see the completed pattern of our lives, and we shall know that the sorrow and the suffering made up the fulness of his love" (M Purkis, "Life of Jesus" 276).


"When Jesus heard that [the illness of Lazarus], he said, This sickness is not unto death" (John 11:4, AV). What a strange thing to say... for of course Lazarus WAS going to die! And this message would have been carried back to Mary and Martha, and given them perhaps a false sense of hope.

But, even though Lazarus DID die, Jesus was still correct. Lazarus might pass THROUGH death, but death was not to be the final end of his sickness. Jesus knew this too!

There IS a limit to every human suffering, and "the limit is tenderly appointed. The knife of the heavenly Surgeon never cuts deeper than is absolutely necessary. 'He doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men' [Lam 3:33]. A mother's heart cries, 'Spare my child'; but no mother is more compassionate than our gracious God. When we consider how hard-mouthed we are, it is a wonder that we are not driven with a sharper bit. The thought is full of consolation, that He who has fixed the bounds of our habitation, has also fixed the bounds of our tribulation" (CHS).

And even though Lazarus died, his sickness was not "unto death".

And even though he died AGAIN (quite possibly at the hands of evil men bent on removing his "witness" to the One who was "the resurrection and the life"), THAT death was not "unto death" either! Not really.

No death of any saint is "unto death".

The voice whispers in our hearts: "Rejoice, I have conquered death. I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live."


"Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies' " (John 11:25).

"All through life the sad story of bereavement goes on. As the leaves are torn from the trees by the rude storm, so those whom we love are plucked away from us. Were it not for the hope that we have in Jesus, these losses would be infinitely sad, without any alleviation. The death of a dear friend is a cause of deep sorrow; such is instinctive -- Jesus wept over the tomb of Lazarus. But the sorrow of those who belong to Christ is a sorrow chastened by faith and cheered by hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again. Those who have fallen asleep in him are not lost for ever; those of you who mourn the loss of a loved one or a dear friend, grasp hold of the imperishable reality, that in the day of resurrection hand will clasp hand again and heart will clasp heart in reunion. The grave is only Winter, and after Winter comes Spring with its wonderful resurrections, in which everything beautiful that seemed lost, springs forth into life" (A Higginson, "Christadelphian" 115:105).

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