~ 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 had 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? Below is a wonderful engraving by Gustave Dore of Jacob traveling to Egypt:
Verses 33 & 34 stood out to 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 a Stephen Covey win / win business principle here! :) Below is a map showing Jacob's family's journey from Canaan to Goshen:
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? Below is an image of Jacob blessing Pharaoh:
We then read about Joseph's leadership and business skills during 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 actually got into quite a heated discussion on this point in our Bible study on this topic a couple of years ago. What do you think? During this time of extreme famine, was Joseph being too harsh or being wise and even being compassionate? Below is a Victorian era painting from 1874 by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema titled "Joseph, Overseer of the Pharaoh's Granaries":
Okay, I have to 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" at this link. I love it! Bible.org's commentary on Genesis chapter 47 titled "A Proper Perspective of Poverty and Prosperity" is at this link.
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 the exile 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 were 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 & regulations" 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, giving $ to the temple is a good thing... but at the expense of the 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 it 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, obediently following God's will, 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 today? Is it close to God? Does your heart yearn for Jesus?
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 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 from some external actions and start focusing on the state of your heart? Maybe by focusing on what's going on 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 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. Let Jesus tattoo your heart with his healing love! (very interesting name of the theater in the image below, based on our Genesis readings today... :)
Psalms - Today we read Psalm 19, which is one of my favorite Psalms! In large part this Psalm is one of my favorites because one of my former pastors taught from this Psalm 3 a few years ago in such a powerful way. Have you had this type of experience? Where you hear a sermon on a chapter of the Bible and then that chapter becomes one of your favorites? I do hope that this One Year Bible experience will allow you to tune-in a little bit more whenever you hear your pastors or ministers or priests teaching you from the Bible in church. I know this is the case with me. Thanks to reading the Bible each day, I now have better context of what is being taught from the pulpit and it makes going to church a richer experience overall. I also now often catch some Bible verses in the worship songs or hymns we sing as well. And this adds a lot to my worship of God now through music. This year, as you go through the One Year Bible and as you go to church, will you tune-in to the sermons and the songs in church more than ever and look for and appreciate how they tie in to the Bible?
Back to Psalm 19 – I do encourage everyone to really read through and meditate on every verse in this Psalm of David and how this Psalm might be speaking to you this week. Please do take a few minutes to go through the Psalm twice if possible and really reflect upon it. You may even want to journal to God some thoughts or ideas or prayers that come to you through reading this Psalm. I find verse 14 in this Psalm to be so powerful – again in large part because one of my former pastors often sang a worship song that simply repeats this verse over and over again – and what a beautiful prayer it is for each of us to repeat over and over again as well: “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” Are the words of your mouth and the meditation of your heart pleasing in God’s sight? Is God your Rock? Is God your Redeemer?
Bible.org's commentary on Psalm 19 is at this link.
Proverbs - 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?
Comments from You and Questions of the Day: In Matthew 15 verses 10 & 11 today we read: "Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear.