Genesis 26:17-27:46 ~ Matthew 9:1-17 ~ Psalm 10:16-18 ~ Proverbs 3:9-10
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Old Testament - Today's Genesis chapter 26 readings open up with Isaac digging wells - and then moving on when the Philistine's contest the wells. This shows an incredible amount of patience on Isaac's behalf. In this arid region of Gerar, water was like gold and people often battled over water. Filling in someone's well was akin to declaring war. Below is an aerial map of where Gerar and Beersheba are located, just on the northern edge of the Negev desert (see lower left corner of map):
Verse 22 stood out to me in these readings about the wells: "Abandoning that one, he dug another well, and the local people finally left him alone. So Isaac called it "Room Enough," for he said, "At last the LORD has made room for us, and we will be able to thrive."" For me this was reminiscent of Abraham giving Lot the choice of lands when there was disputes between their herdsmen. Abraham was confident that God would provide even with "2nd choice" of the lands - and Isaac here seems to be following in his father's footsteps of wisdom. I also like the naming of the well - "Room Enough." I think sometimes in our world today we can get so competitive with each other, thinking that there is a limited sized pie and we have to get our piece of it! "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" author Steven Covey calls this the "scarcity mentality" - and he encourages us to instead operate with an "abundance mentality" - that there is ultimately enough pie for everyone. That there is Room Enough. (perhaps we do need to do a better job sometimes of sharing our pieces of the pie however... see our Psalms & Proverbs today on this point) How do you find yourself operating in your own life - more often out of the scarcity mentality or the abundance mentality? Do you see the risk of the scarcity mentality? And the blessing of the abundance mentality? Do you believe that there is Room Enough? Below is a modern day photo of a well near the entrance to Beersheba that is believed to be the well Isaac and his servants dug in chapter 25 verses 23-25: "From there Isaac moved to Beersheba, where the Lord appeared to him on the night of his arrival. “I am the God of your father, Abraham,” he said. “Do not be afraid, for I am with you and will bless you. I will multiply your descendants, and they will become a great nation. I will do this because of my promise to Abraham, my servant.” Then Isaac built an altar there and worshiped the Lord. He set up his camp at that place, and his servants dug another well."
Genesis chapter 27 today is a very interesting and challenging chapter... both Jacob and Rebekah are deceitful. And Isaac is suspicious of the whole charade. And yet, Jacob receives the verbal blessing from Isaac, which was binding back in those days. I think this chapter is challenging in that it can bring up the question of sin - and can sin be used to fulfill God's will? You know I'm going to defer to our resident-expert on Genesis - Bob Deffinbaugh from bible.org. :) Check out this quote from Bob in his summary of this chapter: "The purpose of God as expressed to Rebekah in Genesis 25:23 was perfectly accomplished without one alteration. The sins of Isaac and Esau and Rebekah and Jacob did not in any way thwart God’s will from being done. In fact, their sins were employed by God in such a way as to achieve the will of God. God’s sovereignty is never thwarted by man’s sin. To the contrary, God is able to achieve His purposes by employing man’s sinful acts to further His plans." Then, check out everything Bob has to say on this challenging chapter at this link. Surf down to Bob's Conclusion at this link if nothing else - it is very intriguing! Please let me know your thoughts on this chapter in the Comments below. Below is an oil painting from 1639 by Dutch Baroque painter Govert Teunisz Flinck (who was a pupil of Rembrandt) of Isaac blessing Jacob:
New Testament - In Matthew chapter 9 we read about Jesus not only healing - but also forgiving sins. This is a power and an authority - forgiving sins - that only God could truly have. It is true that Jesus would be blaspheming, per the teachers of religious law in this passage, if Jesus was not God. So, perhaps for some reading this blog, this might be a good point for you to ask yourself: do you believe that Jesus is God? If this is your first go through the Bible or the gospel of Mathew, you may not feel ready to answer this question yet. But ask it of yourself now - and again as you continue to read this gospel: do you believe that Jesus is God? Do you believe that Jesus, as God, could not only heal the paralytic but forgive his sins as well?
In today's readings, Jesus calls Matthew (or "Levi"), the author of this Gospel, and a Jewish tax collector at the time of his call. Note that while Jerusalem was under the authority of Rome at this time, Rome would hire Jews to collect taxes from other Jews that would be paid to Rome. The Jewish tax collectors were allowed to keep a commission or percentage of the taxes they collected - however, they were notorious for overcharging and making more than they should have in their collections. As such, Jewish tax collectors were typically not allowed to be in the temple - nor were they even trusted as witnesses in trials. And this is our Gospel writer! :) (yes, I still trust Matthews writings - he, like us, was forgiven & changed after meeting Jesus) Below is a painting of Jesus calling Matthew at his tax collector booth - I love how Matthew is very attentive in this image toward Jesus in the midst of all the chaos around him. Are you this attentive toward Jesus in your life today?
In this chapter Jesus has a meal with "tax collectors and other notorious sinners." And the religious leaders ask Jesus why he eats with such "scum." I do hope that you see that this is such an amazing thing about Jesus - he will have a meal with anyone - the "scum of the earth" as one translation calls sinners who believe in Jesus in one of Paul's letters. Jesus loves the "scum". And he gets frustrated with the religious leaders who are righteous in their own eyes. Why the difference? I think verses 12 & 13 answer this well: "When he heard this, Jesus replied, "Healthy people don't need a doctor--sick people do... For I have come to call sinners, not those who think they are already good enough." So, this leads to some questions we may want to ask ourselves today. Are we spiritually healthy or are we sick? Do we need a spiritual doctor? Do we need Jesus? Are we sinners? Or, do we think we are already "good enough" on our own? Like Jesus, will we talk and dine with "sinners" in our lives today?
Bible.org's commentary on today's readings in Matthew chapter 9 titled "The Authority to Forgive Sins" is at this link.
Psalms - I love Psalm 10 verses 17 & 18 today: "LORD, you know the hopes of the helpless. Surely you will listen to their cries and comfort them. You will bring justice to the orphans and the oppressed, so people can no longer terrify them." The Psalmist here tells us that God knows the hopes of the helpless. Do we? Do we care? The Psalmist says God will listen to their cries and comfort them. Are we listening? Are we comforting? God will bring justice to the orphans and the oppressed, so people can no longer terrify them. Should we do this as well? Will we? Will you?
Proverbs - Proverbs 3:9-10 teaches us today: "Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the best part of everything your land produces. Then he will fill your barns with grain, and your vats will overflow with the finest wine." This is a wonderful reminder to bring our tithes and offerings to God, and he will bless us immensely. We are not called to bring our leftovers - but our first fruits. Are the first checks we write each month our tithes and offerings? Do we write these checks with a joyful and thankful heart to God for this opportunity to give back to Him? Or do we wait and see what we have left over to give each month... and maybe give not so joyfully or thankfully? Which way is the most honoring to God?
Worship God: Jesus' forgiveness of sins in our Matthew readings today reminded me of the incredible song "Jesus Paid It All," performed here live at Passion 2006 by Kristian Stanfill:
Did Jesus Pay It All for you? Click here for redemption!
Please join me in memorizing and meditating on two verses of Scripture today: "Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine." Proverbs 3:9-10
Prayer Point: Pray about your tithing to God. Ask God if you are tithing in the ways and in the amounts He would have you. Pray that God would lead you to the specific amount you should be tithing each month and to the specific church(es) and ministry(s). And pray that you would be obedient to God's leading in your life in the area of tithing.
Comments from You and Questions of the Day: From our Matthew readings today, Jesus dining with sinners did make me wonder this question, which I posted above: Like Jesus, will we talk and dine with "sinners" in our lives today? Or, do we consider ourselves somehow "above" talking and dining with sinners? One thing that I have to be careful of - and maybe all of us do - is not getting myself stuck in the "Christian bubble" or the "Christian ghetto." Meaning, I think we can sometimes find ourselves just spending time, just talking with, just dining with our Christian friends. And then after a while find ourselves completely removed from the world that needs to experience Jesus' love and light and truth through us. I think we are called to minister in the world. Yes, there is a time and place for sure to fellowship with our Christian brothers and sisters. But, I think we do well to find some occasion to talk and dine with "sinners" (not so unlike ourselves, also sinners...) like Jesus did. So, how are you doing with finding time to talk and dine with folks who perhaps do not yet know God or Jesus? Do you think this is something you should be doing? Also, what verses or insights stand out to you in today's readings? Please post up by clicking on the "Comments" link below!