~ Click on this link for today's readings ~
Genesis 44:1-45:28 ~ Matthew 14:13-36
Psalm 18:37-50 ~ Proverbs 4:11-13
Old Testament - In Genesis chapter 44 we read about Joseph instructing his servant to place his silver cup in Benjamin's sack. I guess what struck me about all this is that it seemed to me like Joseph was possibly playing mind games with his brothers. Not to say that they didn't deserve it... but, I wonder if in all of this Joseph had a master game-plan - or if it was simply games he was playing? The weeping we see from him kind of makes me think that he was not 100% sure of what he was doing, game-plan wise. The weeping seemed to indicate that he wanted to reconnect with his brothers and his family. It seems in all of this he has kept at least 1 family member around - or has not let them get very far away. This makes me wonder - do we play mind games with others around us? Should we? Would it have been better if Joseph was honest with his brothers from the beginning on who he was? Would it be better for us if we are simply honest with others from the beginning? And don't play mind games? Below is a painting from 1831 by Russian painter Alexander Ivanov of Joseph's household manager finding the silver cup in Benjamin's sack:
Verses 18 through 34 in this chapter is Judah's amazing speech to Joseph! I don't know what it is about this speech. But I love it! It seems like Judah is finally owning up to being who he was born to be - the forefather of the line of King David and Jesus Christ. Verse 33 is the verse that really stood out to me: "Please, my lord, let me stay here as a slave instead of the boy, and let the boy return with his brothers." What struck me about this is that now Judah is willing to be the slave, in the place of his brother Benjamin - whereas 22 years prior he offered up the idea of selling his brother Joseph into slavery as we read in Genesis 37 verses 26 & 27: "Judah said to the others, "What can we gain by killing our brother? That would just give us a guilty conscience. Let's sell Joseph to those Ishmaelite traders." It seems like Judah in chapter 44 has finally grown up and is acting like a morally responsible adult. Judah with this speech today is finally beginning to look like he might indeed deserve to be referred to as the father of the tribe of the "Lion" of Judah!
Genesis chapter 45 begins with Joseph weeping again - and I think that it makes perfect sense that he does so, in light of Judah's impassioned speech! And I wonder if Joseph in part weeps because Judah is offering to be the slave in the place of Benjamin? Either Joseph is weeping because his brothers did not show him this same mercy 22 years prior - or he is weeping because he is happy that Judah and his brothers seem to be very different people from 22 years prior - or he's weeping for other reasons. :) Let me know your thoughts in the Comments on this. Below is a painting from 1816 by Peter von Cornelius of Joseph revealing his identity to his brothers in today's readings:
Verse 5 in this chapter is a powerfully mature statement from Joseph to his brothers: "But don't be angry with yourselves that you did this to me, for God did it. He sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives." I find this very powerful that Joseph discerned this. He had been sold into slavery for 11 years! He was in a prison for 2 years! And then, yes, things got better for him thereafter - but he was still apart from his family. And yet - Joseph saw God's hand and God's plan in all of this. There was a greater good happening - the preservation of Abraham & Isaac's descendents. The preservation of God's covenant people. I then wonder about this in our lives. Are there times where we go through some hard times - maybe for many years - and in the midst of that, could God be working? Could God's hand and God's plan be moving in the midst of challenging times in our lives? I think it's possible that if I was Joseph that maybe I would have become a bitter man toward my brothers - and maybe done worse than just mind games. But, Joseph was compassionate - he wept - he gave grain in abundance to his family - he forgave his brothers. And more than anything, he saw that God was in control. Do you believe that God is in control of your life? Right now? All the time? No matter how good or how bad circumstances seem? Is God in control? Below is a very unique :) portrait by artist Guy Rowe of Joseph revealing his identity to his brothers and their looks of shock from 45:3: "But his brothers were speechless! They were stunned to realize that Joseph was standing there in front of them."
New Testament - In Matthew chapter 14 today we read about two miracles - Jesus feeding the 5,000 (or really 10,000 to 15,000 counting men, women & children - Matthew just counted men, as his Gospel was written to a Jewish audience, which had men eat separately from women and children at that time/place) and Jesus walking on water. While these 2 miracles are amazing and again confirming that Jesus is God - a couple of other things stood out me. First was verse 23: "Afterward he went up into the hills by himself to pray." If Jesus did this - do you think we should do the same? How often do we get away from the "crowds" or even the "disciples" or loved ones in our life to be by ourselves and pray? Do you do this at least for a few minutes each day? Do you do this for longer periods of time too?
Verses 29 & 30 also stood out to me today: "All right, come," Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. But when he looked around at the high waves, he was terrified and began to sink. "Save me, Lord!" he shouted." These verses made me wonder in our own lives - Are there times or areas our lives where Jesus has said, "Come", and we've moved forward in faith. But then - the waves came... the challenges came... the doubts came... the insults came.... and we started to waver in our faith? Maybe we got scared - and started to sink? Well - I do admire that Peter did cry out to Jesus to save him in this situation - and we then get the reassuring verse 31: "Instantly Jesus reached out his hand and grabbed him." If you feel like there are some areas in your life where you are sinking - will you cry out to Jesus to save you? Do you believe he will instantly reach out his hand and grab you?
Psalms - Today we finish up Psalm 18. (Psalm 19 tomorrow! So excited! :) The closing verse 50 of Psalm 18 today is powerful - and I believe can apply to both David and Jesus: "You give great victories to your king; you show unfailing love to your anointed, to David and all his descendants forever." Are you a spiritual descendent of David? Do you believe that God shows you unfailing love? Do you think that God's Word, the Bible, shows His unfailing love for you?
Bible.org's commentary on today's readings in Matthew chapter 14 titled "The Feeding of the Five Thousand" is at this link.
Proverbs - Proverbs chapter 4 verse 13 was impactful for me today: "Carry out my instructions; don't forsake them. Guard them, for they will lead you to a fulfilled life." I like that last thought - guard God's instructions. Don't forsake them. For they will lead you to a fulfilled life. I think sometimes people think that loving God and following his ways will be BORING. :) This is so not true! It is absolutely the best adventure we could ever imagine. And truly, following God and his instructions is the only way I personally believe that any of us can have a fulfilled life. I do not think there is another way to lead a fulfilled life. Can you imagine a life apart from God being fulfilling? Is this remotely possible?? Today, let us leap into the adventurous life of faith that God is truly calling us to live!
Comments from You and Questions of the Day: Based on our readings in Matthew today where we see that Jesus slipped away from the crowds to pray by himself, do you model this behavior of Jesus' in your life and slip away from the crowds to pray by yourself? How often? Where and How? Also, do you take spiritual retreats? Do you take the retreats alone or with others? Is prayer a central part of the retreats? I'm just curious about spiritual retreats. I cannot say that I have done a prayer-focused spiritual retreat - or even an alone-with-God focused spiritual retreat. I think I might be due. :) Also, what verses or insights stand out to you in today's readings? Please post up by clicking on the "Comments" link below!