~ Click on this link for today's readings ~
Genesis 16:1-18:15 ~ Matthew 6:1-24
Psalm 7:1-17 ~ Proverbs 2:1-5
Old Testament - Today in Genesis chapter 16 we get another potential Jesus sighting in the OT! :) (Similar to our "potential" with Melchizedek yesterday.) I'll keep you posted on all our "potential" Jesus sightings in the Old Testament - as seen by some commentators. Some believe that the angel that appears to Hagar in the desert could be Christ pre-incarnate. Why? Because the angel seems to be speaking in the first person, as if the angel is God - (and Jesus is God) - but yet the angel is not described as God the Father. Check out verse 10 on this point - ""I will give you more descendants than you can count."" Next point is that later in this chapter Hagar seems to be giving the angel a bit more credit of the angel "just being an angel", as you'll see here in verse 13 - "Thereafter, Hagar referred to the LORD, who had spoken to her, as "the God who sees me," for she said, "I have seen the One who sees me!"" I guess I can see how some commentators go down this path... Whaddya think? Below is an oil on canvas painting by the Spanish artist Giovanni Battista Tiepolo from 1732 titled "The Angel Succouring Hagar" -
In Genesis chapter 17 we read about the second Abrahamic Covenant, which is a conditional divine pledge from God to be Abraham's God and the God of his descendents. The condition? Obedience and consecration to God as symbolized by circumcision. In verse 23 I think we see another example of Abraham's prompt obedience to God's will for his life - "On that very day Abraham took his son Ishmael and every other male in his household and circumcised them, cutting off their foreskins, exactly as God had told him." Abraham does not hesitate - does not wait one more day - he and every other male in his household get circumcised that very day! Are we prompt with our obedience to God's will in our lives? Or do we wait a day to move forward on what God is calling us to do? Or do we even wait a week? Or a year? Or a lifetime? What is God calling you to do? Will you be promptly obedient? Below is a stained glass image from England made in the year 1435 showing God giving this covenant to Abraham -
In Genesis 18 we see some amazing hospitality from Abraham to God and two angels that appear. Hospitality for strangers was important back in Abraham's day. How are we with our hospitality toward strangers today? Do we react as Abraham did toward these 3? Remember that Jesus says to us in the New Testament, "whatever you do to the least of these, you do unto me." So, yes, maybe Abraham realized he was being hospitable toward God. But - Jesus seems to infer we should be hospitable to everyone - particularly "the least of these" - for in doing so, we will be providing hospitality to Jesus. Who are the "least of these"? Are we being hospitable to strangers and to the least of these in our lives today? Below is an oil painting by the artist Murillo from 1667 titled "Abraham and the three angels" -
New Testament - Our readings in Matthew chapter 6 today seem to be focusing quite a bit on the interior motives of why we do things - and to do things sometimes in secret, where only God will know what we are doing. And by giving, praying, and fasting with pure interior motives and in secret, God will reward us! I think there is so much truth in this... I think when we give anonymously or pray for others quietly or fast privately, we are really worshipping God. We are in essence saying, "God I am doing these things because of who you are, how great you are, and to let you know how much I love you. I don't need to let anyone know about this act of worship between me and you. You knowing is more than enough." Now, I do think there are times for communal giving, praying and fasting - but I love that Jesus challenges us to make sure we find private ways to worship God and God only - and not to bring glory to ourselves through public praise.
What a blessing to read the Lord's Prayer in today's readings! I have to confess, I don't say this prayer very often... and Jesus seems to indicate pretty clearly that this is a good way to pray. :) I do pray often throughout the day - but usually it's pretty immediate stuff - bless this meal, thank you for this day, bless my time at work, etc. etc. What a great thing it would be if I could remember to actually pray the Lord's Prayer a bit more... I do think it is good to pray things beyond the Lord's Prayer - in fact, just take a look at the Psalms for some ranges of prayer. :) You might infer from verse 7 that we should stick only to the Lord's Prayer when praying - ""When you pray, don't babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered only by repeating their words again and again." However - I read a commentary that this verse was admonishing against the polytheistic religions where people prayed to every single god's name they could think of, and would continue to repeat all of the gods names over and over, in hopes that this "babbling" would work to where one of the gods would respond to their pleading. So - I think God loves and enjoys hearing us pray to Him in whatever way we do so - as long as we're praying to Him and not some other "god" of course. :)
Verse 24 has always always been a verse that's convicted me and still does today - "No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money." There is so much truth here in these 3 little sentences... Who are we serving in our lives today? I once read that one good indicator is to take a look at your monthly budget. Where does the money go each month? Interesting way to look at this. Maybe another way to look at this is how you spend your time each week. How much time is spent at work, volunteering, being with God, being with family/friends, taking a Sabbath, etc. Maybe looking at how we spend our time and money is a good way to see who or what we are worshipping? Do you believe that it is true that we cannot serve two masters? Who are you serving?
Psalms - Today in Psalm 7 verse 10 we read - "God is my shield, saving those whose hearts are true and right." What stood out to me here is that it does not say that God saves those who "do" what is true and right. It says that God saves those whose "hearts are" true and right. As discussed in yesterday's Matthew 5 post, below, this is getting toward our interior motives and thoughts and hearts - the important thing is not what we do on the "exterior", but who we are on the "interior". And then certainly if our hearts are true and right, a natural outflow of this is doing good things on the exterior. But, it's the interior - our hearts - that matter most. How is your heart these days? Is it true and right? And do you believe that God is indeed your shield?
Proverbs 2 verse 2 stood out to me today - "Tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding." This reminds me of the band Switchfoot's song - "if we're adding to the noise - turn off this song!" The point being - there is so much noise and static and distractions in our modern world today that it can be hard for us to "tune our ears to wisdom & understanding." With our 24 X 7 society, we can go 100mph and just kind of feel like we're doing fine... but are we really doing fine when we are going that fast and going all the time? Can you find ways in your life to slow down and "tune in" to God? I think reading the Bible each day is one amazingly great way to do this. What are some areas of your life that you can "tune out" so that you can spend more time "tuning in" to God and His wisdom?
Comments from you & Question of the Day - Based on our Matthew 6 readings today about the Lord's Prayer, let me ask you this: How do you pray? Or, in how many different ways do you pray? Do you pray specific prayers regularly, like the Lord's Prayer? Do you keep a list of people by your bedside to pray for regularly? Do you pray through writing in a journal? I actually had one friend share with me that each day of the week he would pray for a specific segment of his life and our world. For example, on Sundays he'd pray for his church and pastors and the worldwide church. On Mondays he'd pray for his family and coworkers and friends. On Tuesdays he'd pray for politicians and world leaders. And so on... And he'd repeat this pattern each week. This way he tried to be intentional about praying - otherwise he said he'd just end up lobbing up a few prayers each day - and usually just for himself. Interesting approach I thought! Please post up some thoughts on your prayer life? Also, what verses or insights stand out to you in today's readings? Please post up by clicking on the "Comments" link below!