~ Click on this link for today's readings ~
Genesis 48:1-49:33 ~ Matthew 15:29-16:12
Psalm 20:1-9 ~ Proverbs 4:20-27
Old Testament - Today in Genesis Chapter 48 we read about Jacob blessing Ephraim and Manasseh! One thing I thought about when reading this chapter and the next chapter was how interesting it is that blessings had so much importance and significance back in the days of the patriarchs. And I wonder - do we have blessings today that are as significant? Do fathers bless kids or grandkids these days? Maybe so... I guess I just haven't noticed it in my family... :) I do think there are still some "blessings" today that hold some incredible significance today. Wedding vows come to mind and the blessings that come from the pastor/priest/minister during this time. Church ceremonies or rituals come to mind - Communion, Baptism, Funerals, etc. And then certainly above all else, there is the amazing and eternal blessing we receive from Jesus himself - the free blessing and free gift of salvation. What else is there today that I'm missing? Have you been "blessed" by others in some way, like we read about in today's 2 chapters? Have you "blessed" others? Please share in the Comments section below. Below is a painting by the American artist Benjamin West from the early 19th century of Jacob blessing Ephraim and Manasseh - and with his arms appropriately crossed as per the text :) -
In Genesis chapter 49 we read about Jacob blessing his sons - and these are some very accurate blessings he gives as we will see as we continue through the Bible this year. Perhaps Predictions or Prophecies might be the better term for Jacob's blessings in this chapter. Verse 10 is awesome: "The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from his descendants, until the coming of the one to whom it belongs, the one whom all nations will obey." This verse can apply to 2 descendants of Judah - King David and then ultimately and eternally to Jesus. In verse 22 we read this about Joseph: "Joseph is a fruitful tree," And this is certainly true, as his descendants will include Joshua, Deborah & Gideon & Jephthah (3 judges of Israel), and Samuel the prophet. Below is an image of Jacob blessing his 12 sons:
Below is a map that should be helpful to review based on today's blessing from Jacob of his sons. Obviously we still need to get through the Exodus and a few other things before the twelve tribes have this land below :), but this is a nice overview for now of where things are going and correlate with Jacob's blessing in today's readings:
New Testament - In Matthew chapter 16 verses 11 & 12 stood out to me today: "So again I say, `Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.' " Then at last they understood that he wasn't speaking about yeast or bread but about the false teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees." And I wonder today - are there false teachings that we should beware of today? I believe there are... and there have been times in my life where I have bought into false teaching's. How can we know if a teacher is false? That is a great question. I would say that each of you are doing an amazing thing to help discern whether a teacher is false by reading the entire Bible. I believe the Bible to be the ultimate Truthful teaching that we can read - and thus, if you come across teachers that differ radically or go against the teachings of the Bible, you need to be wary. Don't get me wrong - every pastor / minister / priest is going to have some different takes or views or interpretations of the Bible. By slight degrees... If there are major differences, then you should be worried. In addition to knowing the Bible relatively well, the key to discerning false teachers will be the Holy Spirit. If you are getting bad "gut feelings" (hopefully coming from the Holy Spirit) over and over again about a teacher, there might be an issue. Pray to God about this and ask for his guidance. I realize this can be a sensitive issue! I'd say don't freak out about this and start wondering if your pastor is a false teacher.... :) But, be aware. I do believe there are still false teachers out and about today unfortunately. If you ever feel like you are being confused by someone today, keep your eye on the way out of confusion through God's Word!
Bible.org's commentary on today's readings in Matthew chapter 15 titled "A Lesson in Hermeneutics" is at this link.
Psalms - Psalm 20 is a prayer for a king as he goes out into battle - check out verses 1 through 5 again and you can imagine a group of people saying these words to the king. Maybe another way to read this Psalm, personally, is as a prayer for yourself as you go out into battle against a sin or a struggle in your life. And this verse 5 then is for you as you go into this battle: "May we shout for joy when we hear of your victory, flying banners to honor our God. May the LORD answer all your prayers." Amen! Let the banners fly soon in your life!
Proverbs - Proverbs chapter 4 verse 23 holds so much truth... "Above all else, guard your heart, for it affects everything you do." Check out yesterday's posting below for tons more reflections on why it is so critical for us to guard our hearts. How are you doing on guarding your heart these days?
We would do well to obey the teaching of verse 24: "Avoid all perverse talk; stay far from corrupt speech." I have found it sometimes far too easy to be pulled into perverse talk - even if I didn't start it. (look at me - blaming others here! :) I do think we really need to be aware of situations where talk amongst our peers or friends is going in the wrong direction and to realize that we need to get ourselves out of these situations as quickly as possible. Sure, try to do it gracefully. Try to change the subject if you can. But if not, just excuse yourself and get out of Dodge...
YouTube: Not directly related to today's readings, but below is an amazing video from The Bible Experience. I've been listening to The Bible Experience a lot recently, and it is fantastic! I now some of our participants this year are actually going through the One Year Bible using The Bible Experience. Also, fyi there is a new free daily podcast of The Bible Experience that you can subscribe to or listen to the MP3's at this link: http://feeds.feedburner.com/TBEPodcasts
Please join us in memorizing and meditating on a verse of Scripture this week: "I have hidden your Word in my heart that I might not sin against you." Psalm 119:11 NIV
Comments from You and Questions of the Day: Proverbs verses 25 & 26 are powerful and bring up a question I'd love feedback on: "Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you. Mark out a straight path for your feet; then stick to the path and stay safe." One thing that stood out to me in these verses is the ideas of setting goals. Are you a goal setter? I honestly am not really. I mean, I kind of set short-term goals - work projects, ministry projects, etc. But I don't really sit down and write down any big lifetime type goals. Part of my thinking on this is that I want to be as flexible as possible - if Jesus calls me to do something, I don't want to be hung up on some other goal... :) But, I'm not sure if this is the best thinking. This Proverb verse kind of makes me wonder if setting goals helps us keep looking straight ahead? If goals help us mark out a straight path for our feet? And to stay on it? So, let me know in the Comments section below if you are a goal-setter? And to the extent you can share how you set goals? How often? In writing? How often do you check back in on your goals? Do they make a difference in your life? In your spiritual life? I am really curious on this one... I am thinking I might need to be setting some goals here! :) Also, what verses or insights stand out to you in today's readings? Please post up by clicking on the "Comments" link below!