The Agora
Daily Bible Reading Exhortations

Previous Index Next

April 25

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

Reading 1 - Deu 10:18

"He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing" (Deu 10:18).

"This wide compassion is part of our understanding of God. He giveth His rain to the good and evil, and causeth His sun to shine on the just and unjust. So the Israelite must love the Israelite and the stranger, having compassion on every man who was oppressed. In this Jesus our Lord excelled: his words to the Samaritan woman at the well, to the Syrophoenician woman whose child was sick, to the woman who was a sinner, were all examples of his extensive mercy on those in need. If we would capture this spirit our lives would be enriched. It would increase our understanding of men, invigorate our preaching, and free us from the sin of 'respect of persons' which besets us in a variety of forms" (Harry Tennant, "Moses My Servant" 176,177).

Reading 2 - Ecc 4:1-8

"Again I looked and saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun: I saw the tears of the oppressed -- and they have no comforter; power was on the side of their oppressors -- and they have no comforter. And I declared that the dead, who had already died, are happier than the living, who are still alive. But better than both is he who has not yet been, who has not seen the evil that is done under the sun. And I saw that all labor and all achievement spring from man's envy of his neighbor. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. The fool folds his hands and ruins himself. Better one handful with tranquillity than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind. Again I saw something meaningless under the sun: There was a man all alone; he had neither son nor brother. There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth. "For whom am I toiling," he asked, "and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?" This too is meaningless-- a miserable business!" (Ecc 4:1-8).

These verses describes the emptiness of many who make it to "the top". This is not a plea for mediocrity in and of itself: it IS possible to be successful and happy -- but it is difficult. The problem with the people described here soon becomes clear; they have no fear of the Lord. They have lost sight of God, and for all practical purposes they have no God (Psa 14:1; 53:1) -- because, whatever faith they might profess to others, it is a sham, and they act as though God does not exist!

For people like this, indifference to others -- and finally tyranny and abuse of others -- may become a way of life. Since they view people as pawns, or rungs in the ladder of success, it's easy for the powerful to become abusive.

Sadly, those whom they oppress often have no one to help or comfort them (v 1). Their lot is so painful that the observer concludes that the dead or unborn are better off than the oppressed. If all of this sounds familiar, it's because these verses capture much of the history of the human race.

That's why those who strive for success must also strive for compassion. "Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you... Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter" (Jam 5:1,4,5): remember your Maker, and listen to Him before it's too late!

Another reason many successful people feel empty is that their success has been driven by "envy" of others (v 4); they see others as competitors to be beaten rather than as companions to be embraced. It isn't easy to make friends under those conditions. That's why those who strive for success must also strive for companionship.

The overachiever can also feel empty because success may bring with it a pack of problems he hadn't expected. For these people, the advice in v 6 is worth heeding: "Better one handful with tranquillity than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind." That's why those who strive for success must also strive for contentment. Pause along the way to smell the flowers. Look around you; look up. Put things in perspective. Remember the One who has truly given you all your blessings!

So the final picture in this section (vv 7,8) is a sad one: a "successful" person -- like the fabled Scrooge -- alone with his money. Yet his loneliness and frustration drive him even harder: "There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth. 'For whom am I toiling,' he asked, 'and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?' This too is meaningless -- a miserable business!" A person like that needs help! That's why those who strive for success must also strive for cessation -- knowing when enough is enough... and knowing that "a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions" (Luke 12:15). As Charles Dickens saw and expressed so profoundly, the wealth hoarded for self-indulgence turns at last into chains that bind and imprison!

Lord, deliver us from the miserable business of money-grubbing; teach us how to trust in You alone.

Reading 3 - Acts 1:11

"Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven." [Acts 1:11]

For what purpose would he come? Num 14:21 (to fill the earth with glory); Isa 45:18 / Psa 115:16 (to inhabit the earth); Gen 1:26,27 (to have dominion); 2Sa 7:12,13 / Isa 9:6,7 / Luk 1:32,33 (to rule on throne of David, forever).

"They had learned their lesson; they knew that although the heavens had received him, he was with them still. With great joy in their hearts they returned to Jerusalem to offer their lives in his service. Two thousand years later we find ourselves in their place, the disciples of Jesus: loving the Lord they loved, serving the Lord they served. The world has changed strangely since their time, but the Gospel has not changed, nor has the commission. Where they failed, we find ourselves slipping. In the fountain of their strength we find the source of ours: the words of love that sustained and comforted them bring us peace and joy. As throughout their troubled lives they looked beyond to the final glory, so we echo their words, 'Even so, come, Lord Jesus' " (M Purkis, Life of Jesus p 360).

Previous Index Next