The Agora
Daily Bible Reading Exhortations

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January 29

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

Reading 1 - Gen 50:26

"So Joseph died at the age of a hundred and ten. And after they embalmed him, he was placed in a coffin in Egypt" (Gen 50:26).

SO JOSEPH DIED...: "Hidden away from human knowledge, in far-off Shechem, still rest the remains of a great man of God. He lived, as few others have ever lived, a God-centred life. Humbly he acquiesced in many an undeserved hardship. His faith in the ways of God's providence never faltered. In everything his unfailing philosophy was: 'God knows best!' Was there ever a servant of God with a more forgiving nature? You who read of all the good and ill that befell him, and of the noble spirit with which he met every testing situation, spare a minute to ponder his fine example and to thank God for the inspiration he imparts to your own life. Especially learn from him faith in God's Promises concerning the Land -- 'Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel' [Heb 11:22]. Learn also faith in the eternal Purpose in Christ which will one day bring saints of God forth from the grave to the Life Everlasting -- 'he gave commandment concerning his bones'. Here was the Christian faith long before Christ, exhibited in the Jesus of Genesis, and written for your learning" (Harry Whittaker, Joseph 89).


Genesis outlines man's fall from grace: It begins with God, and ends with a "coffin in Egypt".

But... the "coffin" is also an "ark" of safety (it is the same word!) Joseph "the Savior of the world" was at the last put into the "ark" of God!

"Under God's guiding hand, and with tremendous effort, this spectacular character, Joseph, son of Jacob, had set the stage, for the great and long trek out of Egypt. He did not wish for an Egyptian monument, or pyramid, which would have been considered appropriate for a man of his position. So his death state, and the manner of his burial, in its impermanence, reminded the Israelites of their impermanence, and honored his God, to the Egyptians. Although dead, his mute witness to the Israelites stood through the testing times, and gave the Israelites courage, until they took him with them under Moses, all those years later, back to Shechem (Josh 24:32) after the 40 years in the wilderness" (Bev Russell, "Kith and Kin").

Reading 2 - Psa 51

"Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me" (Psa 51:10).

"It is the great lesson of the Law of Moses -- over and over and over. Natural man is filthy. God is absolutely pure and holy. Outer cleanness is important: inner cleanness is vital and essential. Cleansing can come only from God, but He requires a mighty effort on man's part -- as man's part. He will clean some; He will not clean others. The difference lies wholly in what they do, and how they submit, and -- above all -- in how clearly they perceive their natural filthiness, and how strongly they desire to be clean. Cleanness of heart, cleanness of thought, cleanness of motive, cleanness of life -- how beautiful and desirable they are! How unclean is the flesh and all its ways! We are washed in the Word (Eph 5:26), and in the blood of the Lamb (Rev 7:14). Let us ever strive for absolute cleanness -- holiness, spiritual purity and beauty -- and never be satisfied with anything less" (GVG).


"Save me from bloodguilt, O God, the God who saves me, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness" (v 14).

"Do not give fair names to foul sins; call them what you will, they will smell no sweeter. What God sees them to be, that you should labour to feel them to be; and with all openness of heart acknowledge their real character. Observe, that David was evidently oppressed with the heinousness of his sin. It is easy to use words, but it is difficult to feel their meaning. This psalm is the photograph of a contrite spirit. Let us seek after the like brokenness of heart; for however excellent our words may be, if our heart is not conscious of the death-deservingness of sin, we cannot expect to find forgiveness" (CHS).


"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise" (v 17).

"Every natural disappointment can and should be a thankful stepping-stone to greater peace with God, for by contrast to all things and persons human it emphasizes the unassailable dependability of that peace. What we grieve over as a loss, or disappointment, or deprivation, may be a great emancipation and deliverance and opportunity, a fresh turn of our lives in a higher and more satisfying direction. God's ways of teaching and correcting us are strange and wise and beautiful. The sweetest, deepest scent is from the crushed flower. Natural disappointment and sorrow can be the golden portal to spiritual joy. Joy that is born of sorrow is a far fuller and stronger-rooted joy. Above all things, never let yourself be sorry for yourself. This is sick, fatal, dead-end folly. That is a reproach on God's love" (GVG).

Reading 3 - Rom 6:17,18

"But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness" (Rom 6:17,18).

Here is the "marketplace" or "agora" metaphor of Paul. Here "sin" is personified: "Sin" becomes the great ruler to whom all the world gives allegiance -- a slave-owner who owns all men. "I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin" (Rom 7:14). In this metaphor Paul is recalling the words of Jesus: "Everyone who sins is a slave to sin" (Joh 8:34).

The figure of speech may be heightened as we imagine an eastern "agora" or bazaar -- this marketplace was the meeting place of the ancient world; it was the center of commerce, entertainment, and social intercourse; it was the source of news and opinions. And always there was the slave-market, with its auction block. Approach that site in our minds, and the brutality, the callousness, and the fear wash over us. We imagine the smells and the sounds with revulsion -- and our memories are stirred in like manner as when we see the old newsreels of Auschwitz... for our modern times have also seen their own particularly ugly forms of slavery.

Here, at the auction block, we see women destined to be slaves to the basest passions of men. And men, doomed to lifelong drudgery to satisfy the greed of their fellow men. Here are wasted, broken lives, dashed hopes, families soon to be torn apart forever.

The slave-market: parable of our world; fleshly, carnal, unspiritual -- and sold as slaves to sin. Everyone who sins is a slave to sin. I sin; therefore I am a slave!

Into this scene comes a man who is obviously apart from others. Striding up to me, he speaks forcefully: "I have bought you; come, follow me." There are no chains, no threats, no blows -- just a simple command. And I follow him.

Right behind him, I walk through the milling and clamorous crowds, and then through the winding streets of the city, until we come to a beautiful house. "Here is where I live," my new master tells me. "And here is your room." It is lovely and wonderfully furnished. Never have I seen such a luxurious dwelling, and this will be my home!

The master excuses himself, but soon he is back. He has brought water, and he kneels to wash MY feet! I should be washing his feet! And he has brought me a new expensive garment. I can throw away my slave's rags; I won't need them any more. With healing oil he soothes the cruel wounds inflicted by my previous owner; and I know that they will never hurt again.

"Now you are as I am," he says; "you are no longer a slave. This is my Father's house, and you are one of His sons!"

A lifetime of fear and hate is washed away, miraculously, and in its place is the cry of a heart set free: "Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, 'Abba, Father.' So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir" (Gal 4:6,7).

Redemption from the slave-market was a concept that would particularly appeal to Paul's converts, so many of whom were themselves slaves (Tit 2:9,10). They might not be able to hope for redemption from their mortal bondage, but they could rejoice in being redeemed from sin: "He who was a slave when he was called by the Lord is the Lord's freedman" (1Co 7:22). And they could live accordingly. In their hearts and minds they were already free from the worst slave-master. And soon their bodies would follow, and they would be truly and absolutely free!

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