~ Click on this link for today's readings ~
Genesis 41:17-42:17 ~ Matthew 13:24-46
Psalm 18:1-15 ~ Proverbs 4:1-6
Old Testament - Today in Genesis chapter 41 we read about Joseph interpreting Pharaoh's dreams - and not just interpreting them, but offering a solution! Joseph suggests finding a wise man to administer a program to collect crops during the 7 years of plenty to save up for the 7 years of lean. Verses 39 & 40 in this chapter tell us - "Turning to Joseph, Pharaoh said, "Since God has revealed the meaning of the dreams to you, you are the wisest man in the land! I hereby appoint you to direct this project. You will manage my household and organize all my people. Only I will have a rank higher than yours."" Notice that Joseph did not ask for this position. He probably could have, in light of interpreting the dream and offering a solution. But he didn't. The position was simply thrust upon him. And I wonder in our lives - are we like Joseph - humbly offering our gifts and skills with no need of a payback? Or, do we expect something in return? Do we want to be put in charge? I do wonder this about myself - if I was put in charge of all of Egypt, would I still remember God? Or would the power go to my head and would I think it is all about me? And then I wonder if there are similar, smaller temptations like this in my life - in my work or ministries or in my social circles. Are there times where I offer my skills & gifts, and expect to be put in charge of something, forget about God, and think it's all about me? How about you? Do you give freely and humbly from your God-given gifts with no need of a payback? Great commentary on Genesis chapter 41 titled "From the Pit to the Palace" is at bible.org at this link. Below is an image from a modern day production of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" of Pharoah appointing Joseph to be #2 in the land (and giving him his signet ring... and dressing him... and giving him the royal gold chain... and giving him the chariot... and renaming him... and giving him a wife... think all this would possibly inflate one's ego? It really does scare me to think about me being put in this type of position...) -
In Genesis chapter 42 Jacob sends Joseph's brothers to Egypt for grain. Verse 4 stood out - "Jacob wouldn't let Joseph's younger brother, Benjamin, go with them, however, for fear some harm might come to him." As you'll recall both Benjamin and Joseph were Rachel's only sons. And Jacob loved Rachel dearly. It seems that in light of Jacob already losing one of Rachel's sons, he didn't want to lose the other. Or - I wonder - did Jacob maybe have some sort of mistrust in the back of his mind of the other 10 brothers? (as obviously Joseph disappeared when going to find the 10 brothers many years back) This is outside of the text I realize. Just a thought. Below is an etching by Rembrandt from 1637 of Jacob and his son Benjamin -
Verse 6 stood out - "Since Joseph was governor of all Egypt and in charge of the sale of the grain, it was to him that his brothers came. They bowed low before him, with their faces to the ground." This fulfilled the dreams Joseph had in Genesis chapter 37 verse 6 & 7 - "He said to them, "Listen to this dream I had: We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it." And verse 6 was 21 years after Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers at the age of 17 - Joseph has spent 11 years as a slave, 2 years in prison, and 7 to 8 years in charge of Egypt (through the 7 fat years of the harvest, and now they are likely in the first year of the famine). And even after 21 years Joseph recognized his brothers immediately. I read a commentary that his brothers probably didn't recognize Joseph because he was decked out in Egyptian robes & garb, he may have been speaking through an interpreter, and he was likely clean shaven - Egyptians shaved, whereas Hebrews typically wore beards. So now, Joseph's reuniting with his brothers and what takes place next begins... Below is a painting from 1745 by the Austrian decorative painter Franz Anton Malbertsch of Joseph meeting his brothers once again after 21 years apart -
New Testament - In today's Matthew readings we go through 5 parables that begin "The Kingdom of Heaven is like..." Great way to start these parables! They do indeed give us a glimpse of what the kingdom of heaven is like. Do these parables speak to you as you read through them? I know they do for me. Sometimes in encouraging ways. Sometimes in convicting ways. I love verses 31 & 32 - "The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed planted in a field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but it becomes the largest of garden plants and grows into a tree where birds can come and find shelter in its branches." I think if we can have faith in the seed that Jesus plants in our hearts - the Gospel - we will see an amazing plant grow that will ultimately bless others. From the tiniest beginnings, with patience and faith, can come the largest of plants. Will you let Jesus plant a mustard seed in your heart? And will you be patient and allow the seed time & space to grow? And will you water and care for the seed of the Gospel planted in your heart so that one day it will be a beautiful tree of life for yourself and others you come in contact with?
I love the last 2 parables in today's readings! The treasure buried in a field and the pearl of great price. And the thought of being willing to give up absolutely everything to be a part of the Kingdom of Heaven. How about for you? Are you willing to give up absolutely everything to be a part of the Kingdom of Heaven? Is there a price too high that you would not be willing to pay? I will share with you this - yet another random tangent... :) I had this really interesting jog several years ago. And it was before I was a Christian, so I didn't equate my thinking with the "Kingdom of Heaven" at this time. But, here were my thoughts that night on the jog. As I was jogging I thought to myself - I am a "billionaire"! Why? Because I am blessed with this opportunity to jog, and to check out the beautiful night air around me, and more than anything because of this wonderfully complex thing in my skull called the brain. :) The brain that allows me to do all these things and to simply think and enjoy life. And I thought to myself - at what price would I give up the ability to use my brain? Would I sell my brain for 1 billion dollars? And the answer is obviously no - because there would then be no point to living in this life without the brain. So - I reasoned with myself, well - "Then I am a billionaire!" I have a billion dollar asset in my skull! :) I hope this isn't too random of a tangent. Maybe you'll realize that you are a billionaire today too though? :) To tie this back to the Kingdom of Heaven. Would I sell of my rights to the Kingdom of Heaven for 1 billion dollars. No. So - I guess then technically, I am a multi-billionaire now! 1 billion asset value for the brain + 1 billion asset value for the Kingdom of Heaven! The point being... or maybe the question to you. Which would you prefer - 1 billion in cash, or the Kingdom of Heaven? Is there any price you would place on giving up the Kingdom of Heaven? If not - will you pursue the Kingdom of Heaven with all of your worth? And will you then share this amazing "pearl of great price" with others around you?
Psalms - Psalm 18 is an amazing one! We'll get it for the next 3 days of readings, which is great. And then comes Psalm 19 which is off the charts awesome! Verse 1 today is so beautiful - "I love you, LORD; you are my strength." How often do you tell God that you love him? One thing that one of my former pastors does when he prays publicly, which absolutely moves me, is that he closes out just about every prayer with "God we love you. And we pray all of this in the name of your son Jesus Christ." The last line of course is the powerful line! But, that second to last line... is just beautiful. Just telling God that we love him. I'm not sure I tell God that I love him often enough. God may not "need" to hear it. But I think that I need to say it more often. I love you God!
Proverbs - Proverbs 4 today are some wonderful verses from Solomon reminiscing on instructions he received from his father David! Below is a stained glass image of David giving instructions to Solomon - we can imagine that David was even telling Solomon verses 4 through 6 - "My father told me, "Take my words to heart. Follow my instructions and you will live. Learn to be wise, and develop good judgment. Don't forget or turn away from my words. Don't turn your back on wisdom, for she will protect you. Love her, and she will guard you."
Comments from you & Question of the Day - Okay, back to all of my fretting above about if I was given all that Joseph was given by the Pharaoh in today's readings... :) What are your thoughts on this - if you were given all of these things, would it inflate your ego possibly? Would you possibly forget about God? It's interesting to reflect upon the devil's temptation of Jesus in the wilderness, from our earlier readings this year in Matthew - the devil was tempting Jesus with a lot of "stuff" - and Jesus refused it all! I'm just wondering if even today in our modern world if we need to be careful about being tempted by too much wealth or power or pride, etc.? But then I also wonder if sometimes God elevates us to important positions, like Joseph, so that we may be a blessing to many. I do think this is possible for sure - I just think maybe the richer we get or the more powerful we get, the more we need to pray and stay as absolutely close to God as possible. Would you want to be in Joseph's type of situation today? Think you could handle it? I pray that each of us could, and will, no matter what position in this life we are called to. Also, what verses or insights stand out to you in today's readings? Please post up by clicking on the "Comments" link below!