The Agora
Daily Bible Reading Exhortations

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April 28

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

Reading 1 - Deu 15:2

"This is how it is to be done: Every creditor shall cancel the loan he has made to his fellow Israelite. He shall not require payment from his fellow Israelite or brother, because the LORD's time for canceling debts has been proclaimed" (Deu 15:2).

It was the LORD's time because it was "appointed and commanded by him, and was for his honour and glory, as a God gracious and merciful to the poor, and beneficent to those creditors; and which was proclaimed in his name, by the civil magistrate, according to his order... Now this was typical of a release of debts, or of forgiveness of sins, which is an act of God's grace through Christ, and for his sake. Sins are called debts [because] men are debtors to fulfil the law, and in case of failure, or a breach of it, are bound to the debt of punishment; and these debts are very numerous, and men are incapable of paying them: and by a release of these is meant not a liberty of sinning, nor a freedom from the being or bondage of sin, but from the guilt of it, and from obligation to punishment for it; and is properly the forgiveness of sin, which is expressed by various phrases, as a non-imputation, a non-remembrance, a covering, blotting out, and removing of sin, and here typically a release of debts (see Mat 6:12), and God only can make it; he is the creditor, sin is committed against him, and he only can forgive it, which he does freely, fully, and at once (see Luke 7:41,42)" (John Gill).

Reading 2 - Ecc 7:10

"Do not say, 'Why were the old days better than these?' For it is not wise to ask such questions" (Ecc 7:10).

This seems to refer to the "privilege" and tendency of the older to look back and pine for the way things were done (Job does something similar in Job 29:2-5, although he had perhaps more reason). The memory is very selective and only remembers the nice things, and forgets the difficulties. We are dealing with the matter of discontent. Looking back to "the good old days", is pouring scorn on the present and implying, quite wrongly, that there is no hope for the future. There is always hope for the present and the future, because God is in control! "People have always looked back to the good old days. 'If only we had lived then,' they say, 'we might have done better!' Even Christians sometimes overestimate the early church, the Reformation, or periods of revival. Wise people certainly learn from the past, but they live in the present with all its opportunities. Overmuch dwelling on the past can prevent us from overcoming the world, which often seems so much more wicked today than ever before" (Expositor's Bible Commentary).

Of course, there may have been an immediate context in which this principle was stated -- something in the days of Solomon (or Uzziah, or Hezekiah -- other candidates for authorship of Ecclesiastes) that caused men to think this way. Perhaps comparable to Paul's "present distress" (or 'present crisis') in 1Co 7:26 -- whatever that might have been.

"There is no weight nor truth in it; but men use it to excuse their crimes, and the folly of their conduct. 'In former times,' say they, 'men might be more religious, use more self-denial, be more exemplary.' This is all false. In former days men were wicked as they are now, and religion was unfashionable: God also is the same now as he was then; as just, as merciful, as ready to help: and there is no depravity in the age that will excuse your crimes, your follies, and your carelessness" (Adam Clarke, who wrote almost 200 years ago!).

"It is folly to complain of the badness of our own times when we have more reason to complain of the badness of our own hearts (if men's hearts were better, the times would mend) and when we have more reason to be thankful that they are not worse, but that even in the worst of times we enjoy many mercies, which help to make them not only tolerable, but comfortable. It is folly to talk up the goodness of former times, so as to derogate from the mercy of God to us in our own times; as if former ages had not the same things to complain of that we have, or if perhaps, in some respects, they had not, yet as if God had been unjust and unkind to us in casting our lot in an iron age, compared with the golden ages that went before us; this arises from nothing but fretfulness and discontent, and an aptness to pick quarrels with God himself. We are not to think there is any universal decay in nature, or degeneracy in morals. God has been always good, and men always bad; and if, in some respects, the times are now worse than they have been, perhaps in other respects they are better" (Matthew Henry, who wrote about 350 years ago!).

Have things been in an absolute decline for 3,000 years -- every successive generation a little bit worse than the previous one? Or does it merely appear that way when we look back with a nostalgic eye to the (more or less) immediate past? Or... is our age, right now, really worse to a very considerable degree than 25 or 50 or 75 years ago... because we are truly living in the Last Days? 1Ti 4 and 2Ti 3, and so forth. Maybe so. But the funny thing (or not so funny!) is that Bible expositors of 200 or 350 years ago (and Bible authors of as much as 3,000 years ago) were writing that men in their own days thought the same thing -- and pointing out that it was not wise to dwell on that too much.

Reading 3 - Acts 5:2

"With his wife's full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles' feet" (Act 5:2).

"Kept back" is, literally, to hide away, that is, "to embezzle". The same word is "steal" in Tit 2:10. It is used also of Achan (Jos 7:1, LXX). Compare the incident of Elisha and Gehazi (2Ki 5:25). We have sold our "old man" and laid the proceeds at Christ's feet. Did we keep back part of the price? It is a question we can ask ourselves every day.

"If the current of our mind is not continuously in God, then our profession is hypocrisy, and our performance is sham. It is just a sometime thing. It is not solid and permanent and real. If we truly have the Truth, it will possess us totally. It will be a continuous ringing in our minds and fire in our bones. Don't be a half anything -- and certainly not in things pertaining to God and eternity. Be total. Go all the way. Give it everything. In the other way lies frustration and unhappiness, and -- at last -- dreadful, inescapable remorse. Why jeopardize eternity with half-ways?" (GV Growcott).

Indeed, why barter away eternal life for 30 pieces of silver?

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