~ Click on this link for today's readings ~
Genesis 46:1-47:31 ~ Matthew 15:1-28
Psalm 19:1-14 ~ Proverbs 4:14-19
Old Testament - Today in Genesis Chapter 46 we read about Jacob and his family's journey to Egypt. I really like that God speaks to Jacob in a vision at Beersheba - the same place where both Abraham and Isaac has worshiped God earlier in Genesis. As Jacob was about to leave Canaan, God reaffirms his covenant promises. Very reassuring for Jacob I am sure! I wonder - sometimes in our lives - as we are about to embark on something big: Maybe a new ministry. Maybe a mission trip. Maybe a new job. Maybe a new marriage. Maybe a new child. Does God speak to us? Does God reaffirm his love to us? Does God tell us that he will be with us on this new thing - as he did to Jacob in this chapter? I can't say that I've verbally heard God speak to me during times of big change in my life. But, I have most definitely sensed amazing peace many times during big changes in my life. I do try to pray more than ever during times of change. I try to stay as absolutely close to God as I possibly can. Maybe I'm kind of like a scared child trying to huddle up to my heavenly Father during times of change. Which I am cool with. :) And - it seems almost without fail, God does "speak" to me with a peace that surpasses all understanding. If the peace is not there... then I do begin to worry if what I am doing is really God's will for my life. If the peace is there - I know without a shadow of a doubt that what I am embarking upon is God's will for my life. I will say this - that even if I cannot discern or sense the peace during a time of change, I still do not doubt that God will be with me. That he will not leave me. That he will be there. Do you believe that God is with you always? That he will go with you wherever you go?
Verses 33 & 34 jumped out at me in today's readings, as Joseph gives his brothers this instruction - "So when Pharaoh calls for you and asks you about your occupation, tell him, `We have been livestock breeders from our youth, as our ancestors have been for many generations.' When you tell him this, he will let you live here in the land of Goshen, for shepherds are despised in the land of Egypt."" I like Joseph's wisdom here. I guess you could look at this as Joseph being manipulative of Pharaoh. But I don't really see this. I see that Joseph is telling his brothers what to say - which is true - and that this will allow the nation of Israel to begin to grow and flourish in the land of Goshen. Removed from the cities of Egypt. It seems like Joseph is definitely catering to Pharaoh's generosity - "let your family come to Egypt!" - and Pharaoh / Egyptians prejudices - "shepherds are despised in the land of Egypt." For a win / win. It's the Stephen Covey win / win principle here! :)
Okay, I gotta say that I absolutely love Bob Deffinbaugh's humor over at bible.org! Check out his commentary on Genesis chapter 46, with the awesome title of "Life Begins at 130." I love it! :)
In Genesis chapter 47 I find it very interesting that Jacob blesses Pharaoh - twice. I haven't studied why this happens. My thought is that Jacob is indeed very appreciative of this current Pharaoh - for literally saving the Israelites by allowing God to move mightily through Joseph. We will see soon that there are future Pharaoh's who are not so kind to the Israelites. So, perhaps Jacob realized that this Pharaoh was deserving of two blessings. Let me know your thoughts on these blessings in the Comments below?
We then read about Joseph's leadership and business skills in the famine - as things get really bad with the famine and people are on the brink of starving. Overall, I initially thought that Joseph was making wise decisions that ultimately ended up saving lives - and in verse 25 the people said the same thing. However, I have one good friend who was in a Bible study with me who felt that Joseph was being way too harsh. I can see both sides... :) Did Joseph have other options / ways to do this? We got into quite a heated discussion on this point in our Bible study on this topic about a year ago. In fact, the two main folks that were arguing the two sides of this issue are both participating in the One Year Bible this year - Hi Heather & Dan! :) What do you think? During this time of extreme famine, was Joseph being too harsh or being wise or maybe even being compassionate?
New Testament - In Matthew chapter 15 today we read about Jesus confronting the Pharisees on their "age-old traditions". I read in Zondervan's & Tyndale's commentaries that after the Babylonian exile (we'll read about this late this year in the One Year Bible!), Jewish rabbis began to make meticulous rules and regulations governing the daily life of people. And that these rules were added to God's law and essentially elevated to the same sacred status by the Pharisees. In 200 A.D. these traditions of the elders were put into writing in the Mishnah. I think what Jesus gets at here in this chapter is that the Pharisees were allowing the "rules & regs" to overshadow the spirit of God's law. They were not honoring their parents because of the practice of Corban - giving $ to the temple. Which is a good thing... but at the expense of a great thing of caring for your parents? I know we all could probably go round and round on what is the greatest good - how should we spend our time and our money and our lives. I like that Jesus basically takes us to the heart. What is the heart of the matter? No matter what the matter is - taking care of your parents, giving to your church, following God's laws, receiving God's grace - what is the heart of the matter? One thing that I have been so blessed to learn over the past few years is that the condition of our hearts matters. Immensely. The motives of why we do something - anything - matters. Immensely. We are called in Proverbs to "guard our hearts, for it is the wellspring of life." If we do not care for the state of our hearts, we can become very regimented or insensitive in our thinking and doing. We might even get to the point in verse 8 of this chapter where Jesus quotes from Isaiah - "`These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far away." How is the state of your heart? Is it close to God?
Jesus continues to speak about the importance of what is in our hearts in verses 18-20 today - "But evil words come from an evil heart and defile the person who says them. For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all other sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. These are what defile you." I think this takes us back again to the Sermon on the Mount - where Jesus teaches us in one example that yes, it is wrong to commit adultery. But, if you commit adultery in your heart, it is just as wrong. Because if you commit adultery in the heart, you have essentially defiled your own heart. And from the heart could come the actual act of committing adultery - which would then shatter several lives. But it all starts in the heart.... So - the good news? Jesus can heal our hearts! Jesus is in the business of heart-healing! Maybe in your life, you might need to refocus a little bit less on some external actions and start focusing on the state of your heart? Maybe by focusing on what's going no inside your heart, the external actions will ultimately change? Maybe allow Jesus to heal your heart - and then your external life will be healed as well? I'm not sure you can go about this the other way - trying to work from the outside back in... I think you may need to start on the inside first and work your way out. But don't do this alone - let Jesus walk this healing path with you.
Psalms - Psalm 19 is one of my favorite Psalms! Every single verse in this Psalm speaks to me in such powerful ways. Rather than me go through this Psalm verse by verse... :) I'm just going to encourage you to read this Psalm again. And meditate upon it. Think about the meaning of each verse. What is each verse saying to YOU? Right now in your life - how is each verse speaking to you? And I'll simply close here with what I think is an amazing prayer in verse 14 that closes out this Psalm - "May the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart be pleasing to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer." Again - notice the "heart"? :) Wow.... I think I actually will say more about this Psalm in my weekly One Year Bible email later today. So, stay tuned...
Proverbs 4 verse 18 reminds me of Psalm 19.... :) - "The way of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, which shines ever brighter until the full light of day." See the parallel? Is your life shining ever brighter as you go forward in life? Are you shining ever brighter for those around you? Are you loving and blessing those around you more and more each day? Are you moving forward toward the full light of day?
What verses or insights jumped out for you in today's readings? Please post up in the Comments section below!