~ Click on this link for today's readings ~
Genesis 50:1 - Exodus 2:10 ~ Matthew 16:13-17:9
Psalm 21:1-13 ~ Proverbs 5:1-6
Old Testament - Today is a big reading day! We finish up Genesis and begin Exodus! Genesis chapter 50 verses 19 & 20 stood out to me as Joseph spoke to his brothers: ""Don't be afraid of me. Am I God, to judge and punish you? As far as I am concerned, God turned into good what you meant for evil. He brought me to the high position I have today so I could save the lives of many people." Again, I am impressed with Joseph's character here. His brothers seemed to think that Joseph hadn't really forgiven them, and that he was waiting to get back at them after their father had passed away. But, I think we see here that Joseph had truly forgiven his brothers! It was water under the bridge. And not only had Joseph forgiven them, but he saw the power of how God turned something bad into something incredibly good. I wonder about this in our lives today - do we truly forgive other people like Joseph forgave his brothers? Or, do we maybe hold some piece of unforgiveness within us? Maybe we keep bringing up the wrong that somebody did to us? Maybe we do this to make them feel a bit guilty from time to time? Will we instead fully forgive and fully move forward?
One interesting side note in chapter 50 was the embalming of Jacob & Joseph. Embalming was an Egyptian custom - not a Hebrew custom. Some commentaries suggest that Jacob & Joseph were likely being respectful of the Egyptian customs of the day. The Egyptians believed in an afterlife - and believed that the embalming allowed the deceased to utilize their body in the afterlife. Below is an illustration from the 13th century "Psalter of St. Louis" of Jacob´s corpse being laid in the tomb by his twelve sons:
Date: 1420 or 1220 B.C.
Content: The book of Exodus deals with the significant facts surrounding Israel’s emergence as a nation. Moses’ great leadership is described as he accepted God’s call to return to Egypt in order to lead God’s people to freedom. God sent the ten devastating plagues upon Egypt because the Pharaoh refused to obey his command. The ceremony of Passover was established during the last plague and became a memorial of God’s deliverance for all time to Israel. The Israelites crossed the sea and arrived at Mt. Sinai where God gave the Ten Commandments and the plan for the tabernacle, and the covenant was renewed the nation.
Theme: The power of God over evil is clearly shown when God defeats the enemy of his people by delivering them from bondage, but God expects that we trust and obey him in return. Worship in the Tabernacle and adherence to the law were two aspects of Israel’s obedience. (Above commentary is from Tyndale Publishers “The One Year Bible Companion” pages 1-2) Terrific in-depth commentary on the book of Exodus can be found at bible.org at this link.
In Exodus chapter 1 verse 12 is awesome: "But the more the Egyptians oppressed them, the more quickly the Israelites multiplied!" It's amazing how when God wants people to flourish, they flourish! Even in the midst of oppression. This verse kind of reminds me of the flourishing of churches over the centuries and even today where the body of Christ is still often oppressed. It flourishes! Praise God for flourishing his people then - and now!
In Exodus chapter 2 we are first introduced to Moses, who is the author of this book of Exodus - along w/ the overall first 5 books of the Old Testament - also known as the Pentateuch or the Books of Law. A fun little Bible factoid for you in Exodus chapter 2 verse 6 is that this is the only mention anywhere in the Bible of a baby crying! :) "When the princess opened it, she saw the baby. The little boy was crying, and she felt sorry for him. “This must be one of the Hebrew children,” she said."
New Testament - Today we read about Peter’s confession of Christ in Matthew chapter 16. In verse 15 we hear Jesus ask: ““But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” And then in verse 16 Peter replies – “Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” I believe this is a question that is asked of each of us today as well. Who do you say that Jesus is? Is your answer the same answer as Peter’s? If not, will you pray to God about who Jesus truly is? Below is a fresco from 1481 by Pietro Perugino of "Christ Giving the Keys to Peter" from verse 19:
In verse 18 we read - "Now I say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it." Praise God for Jesus instituting the body of Christ, Jesus’ church! And all of the powers of hell will not conquer the body of Christ! Do you praise Jesus regularly for the church you attend? Do you pray for the ministry of your church regularly? Do you pray often for your pastors / ministers / priests? Do you pray for others that attend your church? Do you pray for those that will soon be coming to attend your church? I have to say - I absolutely love my church. I honestly cannot imagine what my life would be like without the church. I met first met Jesus thanks to the church about 6 and a half years ago. And Jesus changed my life forever. Thank God for the church! I realize that some of you may feel that some churches have some issues and so you don’t go to church at all at this time. However, I honestly do believe that we are called to be in community with others in a church – be it a big church, small church, house church, etc. - and that you really can find a great church if you search prayerfully. Trust me, they are out there! If you are not currently attending church - maybe because of bad experiences you had at another church in the past, will you pray about this with Jesus? Will you attend a different church again soon? I honestly believe it will bless you immensely to attend church again on a regular basis. Also, I am reminded of a classic line from Billy Graham – "If you ever find the perfect church, please do not join it. You’ll mess it up!" :) Indeed, there are no perfect people out there, and hence no perfect churches. But let us be the church anyway! The church may be a majestic mess, but it is Majestic indeed! And I do honestly believe that the body of Christ is the "hope of the world". Please be an active participant in this Hope.
Verses 24 - 26 are so powerful today: ""If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross, and follow me. If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for me, you will find true life. And how do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul in the process? Is anything worth more than your soul?" Wow... there is so much going on in these verses... I pray they speak to you powerfully as well? Do you want to follow Jesus? Will you put aside your selfish ambition? Will you shoulder your cross? Do you know what your cross is? Are you trying to "keep your life" in any area of your life? Or, will you give up all of your life - every area - to Jesus so that you will find true life? Is there anything that this world has to offer that is worth more than your soul?
Bible.org's commentary on today's readings in Matthew chapter 16 titled "Peter's Confession and Christ's Church" is at this link and commentary on chapter 17 titled "The Transfiguration" is at this link.
Psalms - Psalm 21 today follows up Psalm 20 from yesterday - yesterday's being a prayer for victory for the king as he goes out to battle - and today's being a psalm of praise for victories granted to the king. I like the credit given to God in verse 1: "How the king rejoices in your strength, O LORD! He shouts with joy because of your victory." The king is not rejoicing in his own strength. He is not claiming victory as his. He is giving credit to God! How about you in your life today? Do you give credit to God for the blessings and gifts he has given you? Do you shout for joy and rejoice simply because God is in your life?
Proverbs - Today we read in Proverbs chapter 5 verse 6: "For she does not care about the path to life. She staggers down a crooked trail and doesn't even realize where it leads." For some reason this year, as we've been going through the One Year Bible, the idea of "paths" keeps jumping out at me over and over again. Every time we read about paths now in the Bible, it stands out to me. And here it does again. The idea of paths in the Bible seems to clearly indicate that there are good paths - straight paths - paths through the narrow gate - paths of life - that we can choose to take. Or, unfortunately, there are also crooked trails and we don’t realize where they lead. Or we can take our eyes off the path. Or we can stumble on the path. How about for you? What type of path are you on these days? Is it a straight path? Are you keeping your eyes straight ahead on the path and focused on the prize? Will you pray to Jesus regularly to keep you on the straight path? Will you allow God's Word, the Bible, be a lamp unto your feet and a light on the path of life that you walk each day?
Comments from You and Questions of the Day: In our Matthew readings today Jesus institutes the church. I'm curious what your thoughts are on the church today? And I'm not talking about any one denomination - I mean church as the overall "body of Christ" Christian churches worldwide. Big churches, small churches, house churches, cathedral churches. Do you personally go to church regularly? Why or why not? Have there been periods of your life where you have not gone to church regularly? Have these been good or not so good periods of your life? What would you say to someone now who might be reading this blog who does not go to church about church? How might you encourage someone to go to church? Why does it matter if they go to church or not? Also, what verses or insights stand out to you in today's readings? Please post up by clicking on the "Comments" link below!