The Agora
Daily Bible Reading Exhortations

Previous Index Next

October 5

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

Reading 1 - 1Ch 21:25

"So David paid Araunah six hundred shekels of gold for the site" (1Ch 21:25).

Is there a discrepancy between 2Sa 24:24 and 1Ch 21:25? No. The difference in prices may be resolved in this way: the price of the threshing floor alone was 50 shekels of silver (2Sa 24:24), while the price of the entire "site" or "place" (that is, the holy place or sanctuary) of mount Moriah -- where the threshing floor was located -- was 600 shekels of gold (1Ch 21:25).

Reading 2 - Eze 31:3-9

"Consider Assyria, once a cedar in Lebanon, with beautiful branches overshadowing the forest; it towered on high, its top above the thick foliage. The waters nourished it, deep springs made it grow tall; their streams flowed all around its base and sent their channels to all the trees of the field. So it towered higher than all the trees of the field; its boughs increased and its branches grew long, spreading because of abundant waters. All the birds of the air nested in its boughs, all the beasts of the field gave birth under its branches; all the great nations lived in its shade. It was majestic in beauty, with its spreading boughs, for its roots went down to abundant waters. The cedars in the garden of God could not rival it, nor could the pine trees equal its boughs, nor could the plane trees compare with its branches -- no tree in the garden of God could match its beauty. I made it beautiful with abundant branches, the envy of all the trees of Eden in the garden of God" (Eze 31:3-9).

Assyria is compared to a cedar of Lebanon, which is an emblem of earthly magnificence. It is the favorite tree in Bible imagery to express splendor. In this respect it could be taken as a symbol of a great triumphant empire such as that of Assyria. There is a "splendor" of this world; we should not be surprised when we see the wicked flourishing like green trees (Psa 37:35). They may even attain to the proportions of the cedar of Lebanon.

The cedar was known for its:

There are points in which worldly magnificence surpasses the visible excellence of spiritual goodness -- "no tree in the garden of God could match its beauty" (v 8). The cedar appears huge before the eye of an observer, while the vine seems to cower feebly among the rocks. Yet it is the vine that yields refreshing fruit.

There is a striking aspect in worldly success. Spiritual achievements do not arrest attention in the same way, because they are spiritual. Yet God looks not to worldly greatness, but to spiritual success.

Also, the cedar is unpruned. It grows in wild, rank luxuriance upon the slopes of Lebanon. But the trees in the "garden of the Lord" are carefully pruned, "because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son" (Heb 12:6; cp Pro 3:11,12). Life for the "vines", now, may be far more restrictive and difficult than life for the "cedars" -- but in the end, it will be infinitely more rewarding.

Reading 3 - Eph 2:8-10

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith -- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God -- not by works, so that no one can boast" (Eph 2:8,9).

The word "grace" (Gr "charis") means, most literally, a gift. In Bible terms, it is commonly associated with the gift of mercy, or the forgiveness of sins, which God has provided for believers in His Son. None of us can earn salvation; we are saved by "grace", which is "the gift of God", and not by our own works (Eph 2:8,9).

Being saved by God's grace, we are God's "workmanship" (Eph 2:10). He has made us all that we are; we have not made ourselves. Nevertheless, He has "created (us) in Christ Jesus" for a purpose -- to do good works (v 10). And so, with God working in us in a mysterious sort of partnership we can scarcely comprehend, we do good works -- not to earn or merit eternal life, but in gratitude for the grace or gift already conferred upon us.

According to Paul, then, salvation is not of, or by, works (Eph 2:9), but it is UNTO works (v 10) -- which makes a world of difference. Works are not the means by which we are saved -- that is grace! But works are (and must be) the results of the salvation brought to us by Christ. We must not just obey God as slaves who expect to earn eternal life. Rather, we must obey Him as loving children, offering the only reasonable response of hearts motivated by thankfulness. We love Him because He first loved us (1Jo 4:19).

"For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do" (Eph 2:10).

We are indeed saved by the grace of God, through faith. But the result of such salvation is not just the same old creature with a new name -- it is God's "workmanship... created... to do good works." Hence the strong connection and interaction between faith / grace, on one hand, and works, on the other -- whilst not implying that we are in any degree saved by our works!

Previous Index Next