Monday, January 31, 2011

The Tabernacle set up

The readings today finish up Exodus, chapters 39 & 40.

This section is also full of details. First the breast piece that the priests would wear, with jewelry that represents the 12 tribes.

In the last section the Tabernacle is completed. As you read you'll note how the individual pieces are arranged. The Tent of meeting has two parts: The first part is the place of the table of show bread, the candlestick and the altar of incense. The curtain separates this section from the second part: The Holy of Holies which contains the Ark of the covenant.

The outside has the altar for burnt offerings and the large basin of water that was used for the priests to wash in before entering the Holy place. Surrounding it all is the wall of curtains that surround the whole structure. It was the Tabernacle in the wilderness that would last until the Temple is built under Solomon some 400 years later.


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Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Tabernacle

The readings today are Exodus 36, 37, 38

I wanted to post some pictures of what these various parts of the Tabernacle looked like. It's not the easiest read in the world, but if you persevere through it, you can get a picture of all the different pieces that made up the tabernacle.
It is a replica of the various parts of the Tabernacle in the Wilderness:

First thing in the chapter listed is the outside of the tabernacle which consisted of curtains tied together and put on cross bars through loops.


Next at the beginning of 37 is the table and lampstand:


Also, the altar of incense:

And, the altar for the burnt offering which was in the courtyard:

Finally, the courtyard which made it all come together:

Hope that helps with what it might have all looked like. Most importantly, this was their "place" of worship they were building. I hope you have a great day of worship.


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Saturday, January 29, 2011

God's Presence

Today's readings are from Exodus 33, 34, 35

I have to admit, chapters 33 & 34 are two of my favorites. In this first part we find the essence of life with God on earth...a plea for "knowing" God and for "living" with his presence. It is Moses' plea that reveals his heart:

"If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people."

And it is God's response that reveals his desire:

The lord replied, "My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest."

I want that also...to know God deeply and to experience his presence that leads to the Sabbath rest of heart, mind, soul.

But Moses is not content with that alone, as good as that would be alone. He also asks of God:

"Then Moses said, "Now show me your glory."

How do we experience God's glory? It is in experiencing Him in his real person. For God is anxious to share his presence with us and when he does we experience all of the person of God:

"And the lord said, "I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion."

He is goodness, compassion, mercy, grace, love and forgiveness and more. I love these passages and the beauty of what unfolds in dialog between Moses and God.

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Friday, January 28, 2011

The Golden Calf

Today's reading is from Exodus 30, 31, 32

The first part of this reading continues with descriptions on a few more of the elements of the tabernacle worship. sometimes it's hard to read sections like this, but there is a richness in discovery awaiting the persevering reader. An example of that is in noting that gold overlays the ordinary - probably wood in most cases. The very precious gold acts as the covering over - much like our worship which is precious takes place in the ordinariness of our humanity.

All of the elements of these chapters have to do with worship, and it relays the principle that worship is not haphazard, nor made up of our own, but is deliberate, intentional and has a God honoring orientation.

The last chapter tells the story of the incident of the Golden calf. Moses' long stay on the mountain with God causes some to question whether or not he'll ever return. Creating an idol for worship is not untypical for them. Note the contrast in the beginning where they are told to bring their gold, jewelry, etc...and it's put in a fire, then hammered out and made into the image of a calf (Probably reflective of a so-called Egyptian deity). Later when Moses' comes down to deal with their disobedience, Aaron says that it all just happened spontaneously! It's a point worth noting...most people would never say they worship an idol, but this sort of worship never "just happens", it's always a par to of the fabric of untruth.

Peace to you, in Christ.


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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Consecration

Today's reading is from Exodus 28 & 29.

These two chapters begin a rather lengthy, and difficult to comprehend, section of the Old Testament. We start getting into the design, setting up, ritual and sacrifice section of the law...Not easy to always stick with. Many a "I'm going to read through the scripture" gets sidetracked at this point...so persevere.

To the person who perseveres there are rich treasures of insight into themes of worship, the character of God and the design of serving. Today we see the consecration of Aaron and his sons into the Priesthood. The Ephod, the Breast piece, the belt and tunic and robe all were to set apart - which is what consecrate means - a group of people (Aaron's descendants) for service as priests. The reason this is all done? Exodus 29 ends with the words...

"So I will consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar and will consecrate Aaron and his sons to serve me as priests. Then I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God."

Whatever the form of worship...and we've certainly done away with lots of the forms of "priestly" worship described here... the design or purpose is the same - to understand that God is with us and we can live our lives as continual consecration to him.

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Tabernacle

The readings today are from Exodus 25, 26, 27

This section needs some help. As you read the description of the tabernacle it helps to have a picture of what is being described. The tabernacle was a moveable, transportable place of worship. Everything was put together with the idea that it would be able to be picked up, packed up and moved to another location, where it would be set again.
A picture of what the Ark of the Covenant might have looked like:




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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Beginning of Israel's Laws

Today's readings are in Exodus 22, 23, 24

Trying to read through the law can seem like taking a walk in a bog. It's not easy, and sometimes all you can think of is "get me out of here". Over the years I've learned to appreciate the depth of the law as it relates to the development of the nation.

One cannot help but notice how much of the law has been adopted by democracies even to today. While some of it seems antiquated, it is in principle the basis for how a society of people should live. For Israel it was the development of their nation. It touched on social relationships, class differences, laws to protect property, laws for families, for education, for governing, etc... As you read the law take note of the various categories a law could be put in...it's interesting.

Also note the beginning of Israel's identity as a kingdom of worshippers. The seasonal festivals and sabbath times were meant to remind them/us that life isn't about the accumulation of things, but it's a stewardship of things before God who provides them.

Peace to you this day.


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Monday, January 24, 2011

At Sinai

Today's readings are from Exodus 19, 20, 21

The children of Israel have traveled to the place God told Moses to bring them when they were delivered from Egypt. Think about this - The meeting of the children of Israel at Sinai begins the development of this, formerly "slave people", into a "Nation of the People of God".

The children of Israel have lived close to 400 years as slaves (America by contrast from George Washington to President Obama are just 235 years old). They are gathered at this mountain to meet with God. Moses leads them to listen to what God has to say to them:

"...you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites."

God's design is for a people who will be Kingdom priests...The character of the nation is not as religious people, or even holy people, but as people who understand the heart of God in relation to his Kingdom.

The ten commandments that follow and the beginning of the giving of the law address the needs of the nation. What will be the ways in which we do education? Marriage? Property rights? Crime? Health? Education? Social needs? and on and on it goes. As we now begin to read the laws, remember this is the beginning of the establishing of a nation of former slaves.


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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Desert beginnings

Today's readings are in Exodus 16, 17, 18.

The children of Israel with Moses as their leader have journeyed about one month from Egypt. They are a clan of 1.5 to 2.0 million people - no small group to be camping out in the desert. They move from the north of the Sinai peninsula towards the south - using desert oasis spots for more extended stays. It doesn't take long though and they are grumbling, complaining about what they don't have - not looking at what they do have.

"The Israelites said to them, "If only we had died by the lord's hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death."

How easily they forgot that just a couple of months before they were being treated as slaves by the Egyptians. Even in the complaints God acts on their behalf. First a shower of quail for meat to eat, and then the miracle of the bread - manna.

"The people of Israel called the bread manna. It was white like coriander seed and tasted like wafers made with honey...The Israelites ate manna forty years, until they came to a land that was settled; they ate manna until they reached the border of Canaan."

God's provision was this "bread from heaven". Interesting isn't it, since Jesus is the bread of life God sent from heaven also. This manna came day by day and needed replenishing...Jesus came once and for all - the living bread that when anyone eats of it they never hunger.




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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Today's reading is from Exodus 13, 14, 15.

The account today is of the Exodus from Egypt, through the Red Sea - a miraculous event. The passage begins with the declaration of the Consecration of the first-born, of everything, to God. Along with that is the details of the "Feast of Unlevened Bread" that accompanies Passover. These symbols would remind the generations of Israel to follow of their identity as God's redeemed people.

The rest of the chapters deal with the deliverance through the Red Sea. It has become fashionable in recent times to discount this as a myth...the sea could not divide like this, they probably walked through marshes and that's how they got out. It's pretty phenomenal that Pharaoh's army could be drowned in marshes! Why is it modern skepticism should so easily dismiss miracles?

The song of Moses and Miriam, his sister, reminds us that all that God is, and does, should lead us to worship.

Our reminders today of this miracle of redemption? Our worship, baptism (the Red Sea), Lord's Supper (unlevened bread), even the dedication of our children serve as memorials and symbols to remind us of God's work in our lives.


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Friday, January 21, 2011

Passover and Deliverance

Today's reading is from Exodus 10, 11, 12.

This is the account of the last three plagues that God sent against Pharaoh, and more specifically the Egyptian gods. The plague of locusts, followed by the plague of darkness which last for three days - both covered the land. Each time the text says, "God hardened Pharaoh's heart". Pharaoh was unyielding in seeking to keep the Egyptians as slaves, and God was unyielding in his plans for deliverance. The text begins:

"Then the lord said to Moses, "Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his officials so that I may perform these signs of mine among them."

All of the nine before the last one were severe in themselves; but nothing was more horrendous than the last of the plagues - the death of the firstborn of everything not under the Passover blood.

"So Moses said, "This is what the lord says: 'About midnight I will go throughout Egypt. Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the female slave, who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well."

The festival of Passover is Israel's memorial of redemption. God tells Moses that the death of the firstborn will not occur among the Israelites because of the blood of the lamb put on the doorposts of the homes. As the angel of death passes through the Egyptian nation, he will "pass over" the houses of those that have the blood of the lamb on their doorposts.

What a symbolic and prophetic picture of the death of Christ for the remission of sins to those who receive him as Savior. Death is universal but to the believer who has Christ's blood there is nothing of death but a doorway to eternity. Christ's blood is sufficient for the penalty of our sins and those who have him as savior have their own "passover".

As this story continues, the Passover festival becomes a yearly marker point in Israel's identity:

"The lord said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, "This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year. Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household...
This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the lord's Passover... The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.

To all of Israel, for generations to come, God's Passover was the highpoint of the calendar year. It was their IDENTITY... that we are a people of God who were redeemed by the outstretched hand of God and the enemy of false gods was defeated decisively - this is the God we serve!

"And when your children ask you, 'What does this ceremony mean to you?'
then tell them, 'It is the Passover sacrifice to the lord, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.'" Then the people bowed down and worshiped."

Jesus is our Passover lamb. He came into the world to deliver us from the bondage, slavery of sin, and his blood is sufficient for the total payment of our sins...in fact, it is the only payment for our sins that God accepts. That blood overcomes everything...hallelujah.



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Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Plagues and Pharaoh's Heart

Today's reading is from Genesis 7, 8, 9.

Almost all of the reading today concerns the plagues that hit the Egyptians as Moses repeatedly let's Pharaoh know that he must let the Israelites go.
Each of these plagues are significant and tie directly into the text when Pharaoh is said to "harden his heart", or "God hardens his heart".

A couple of quick notes:
1. Each of the plagues relates back to a "god" in Egypt. In fact, Pharaoh is believed to be a god, and so each plague, in essence, becomes a contest between the gods of Egypt and Israel's God - Yahweh.
Blood
Frogs
Gnats
Flies
Disease on Cattle
Boils
Hail

2. Pharaoh's hard heart. The text is clear, Pharaoh's heart was inclined to reject Yahweh as The God of the universe, and exalt the pantheon of gods, including himself, as the gods of the universe. The text repeatedly defines his heart as either "God hardens", or "Pharaoh hardens" his heart.

Early on in chpt. 7, God says:
"But I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in Egypt,"

After the confrontation with the rod that turns into a snake the text says,
"Yet Pharaoh's heart became hard and he would not listen to them, just as the lord had said."

After the first two: The Nile river (thought to be a god) and the Frogs (why anyone would think a frog was a god, I don't know); the remark is the same:
"But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the lord had said."

There's one time in the remaining text where God is said to harden Pharaoh's heart; but in all of the rest of the cases it is Pharaoh who is said to harden his heart towards the signs God displays through Moses.
People have chosen sides in this - some claiming it was God who hardened Pharaoh's heart, others that it was all Pharaoh. What is clear from the text is that in the vast majority of times, Pharaoh is the one who makes the decision, and choosing to ignore, deny, even despise God is based on his own false assumption that he was simply dealing with a "god" like his own. What God does is confront the lie, and the plagues gave Pharaoh plenty of opportunities to turn in repentance and faith towards Yahweh...he chose not to.

Peace.

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Arguing with God

The text today is from Exodus 4, 5, 6.

Most of the text is to set up the environment of confrontation that is going to take place in Egypt between God and Pharaoh's gods.

Moses is given a picture of the power of God that will accompany him when he goes before Pharaoh. Three "signs" were given to Moses by God to show him that it was not going to be through his own power, or eloquence, or maneuvering that deliverance would take place. Still, Moses is unsure and he begs for someone else. God grants him Aaron, his brother to be a spokesman for him. What does Moses mean when he is slow of speech? We don't know. Some have suggested he stuttered; others that he was afraid of being thrust into such a role after 40 years in the desert. We don't know what the reasons are, but the fact that God grants him Aaron's help must mean there was something he was dealing with.

The next two chapters set up the confrontation we are about to read. Moses returns with Aaron, and after a meeting with the elders of the tribe he goes to Pharaoh - who promptly denounces his request - which by the way was for a three day journey into the wilderness to hold a festival, not a wholesale leaving of Egypt. Was that Moses' idea? Maybe. Still, Pharaoh ratcheted up the demands...i.e., things got worse instead of better. That leads to a confrontation between the tribal leaders and Moses. All of this probably makes Moses wonder if God is going to be faithful to what he told him to do.

As the readings end, the writer takes us through a picture of the genealogies. Why the genealogical detour? Genealogies were important to keep family lines of authority and purpose clear. I noticed this one this morning in vs 20:

"Amram married his father's sister Jochebed, who bore him Aaron and Moses. Amram lived 137 years."

Vs 18 before this had stated that Amram was a son of Kohath. Vs 16 had said that Kohath was a son of Levi. So, Moses is a Great-Grandchild of Levi. We are three generations removed from the sons of Jacob, or to say it another way, it's the fourth generation of Israelites. Lifespans are sometimes listed, and most are in the 130's. It is now several hundred years from when Joseph went to Egypt and the rest of Israel followed. After many years of slavery, God was about to take them back to the land he had promised Abraham would be theirs.

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Moses' story

Our readings shift to Exodus, today: chpts. 1, 2, 3.

The opening of Exodus frames the problem and foretells the solution.
Exodus 1 opens many years down the road from the ending of Genesis.

"Now Joseph and all his brothers and all that generation died...,
Then a new king, to whom Joseph meant nothing, came to power in Egypt."

The Israelites are no longer identified as a favored group because of Joseph, they are now a perceived threat to the Egyptians, and so they are subjected to slavery.

As chapter 2 opens the story shifts to the birth of Moses. Protected by Pharaoh's daughter the story quickly shifts to when he is an adult, and he mistakenly thinks the way to help his people is to kill off the Egyptian oppression. It only leaves him fleeing to the desert of Midian...the place where he will eventually lead his nation. There he lives as a shepherd, marries, and has children. He settles down and puts his Egyptian past behind him. The book of Acts tells us (probably in round numbers) that Moses grew up in Pharaoh's court and lived in privilege for 40 years, and then after fleeing to the desert, he lived there for 40 years. He is near 80, 2/3 the way through his life when the plot shifts.

"During that long period, the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God."

One day Moses is doing his normal work, shepherding, and God manifests his presence to him. The angel of the Lord appears in a burning bush that does not burn up and Moses goes to check it out:

"When the lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, "Moses! Moses!" And Moses said, "Here I am."

The response of God is indicative of Moses' future as a King/Priest to the nation of Israel:

"Do not come any closer," God said. "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground." Then he said, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob." At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God."

God, who is holy, acts on the covenant promises of his people. God is a covenant God, making and delivering on the promises of salvation to his people. Read the text and note the many times God invokes the promises made to Israel's fathers in acting to deliver them. When Moses wonders out loud why the Israelites would listen to him - a fair question when we realize he's been gone for 40 years - God responds in covenant language:

"God also said to Moses, "Say to the Israelites, 'The lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.' "This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation."

The language is worth slowly meditating on. This is the revelation of "Yahweh" - "I am that I am" - the name the Israelites would not speak aloud
out of reverence for his holiness. He is God - Elohim - the great and awesome God, King of the Universe. He is lord - Adonai - the very presence of compassion and care in the suffering of his people.

Exodus opens with a forgotten people, and Moses flees as a forgotten man; but God does not forget. Peace.

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Monday, January 17, 2011

Genesis - the end


The story of Genesis ends today read chapters 48, 49, 50.
We've been talking about "blessings" at church lately. The significance of blessings is never more clear than in the 48th chapter, as Jacob details the blessings to each of his sons. Notice how he does not confer headship in the clan to Reuben, and neither to Simeon or Levi, but rather goes to the fourth born, Judah.

"The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations shall be his."

He blesses Judah's role as the head of the tribe, and behind all that he says, he prophesies the coming of the Messiah through the line of Judah.

The death of Jacob leads to an elaborate honoring of his burial. That is followed quickly by the concerns among Joseph's brothers that Jacob's death may lead to Joseph's retribution...not so. Joseph's character is firmly rooted in the character of God. He states:

"You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives."

As the chapter ends, think about this: Genesis began in a garden where God walked among his people; and it ended in graves...a lot happened in between, but the lesson is that sin is destructive and redemption is costly.


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Sunday, January 16, 2011

In Egypt

The passages today are from Genesis 46 & 47.

They recount the settling of the clan of Jacob, the Israelites, in Egypt. Notice the words in 46:

"All those who went to Egypt with Jacob—those who were his direct descendants, not counting his sons' wives—numbered sixty-six persons.
With the two sons who had been born to Joseph in Egypt, the members of Jacob's family, which went to Egypt, were seventy in all."

To Abraham God had promised generations of thousands upon thousands to follow. It seemed impossible to any reasonable person...but here we are two generations later. To Abraham God had promised "a land, seed, and blessing..." at this Pontiac everything has begun to appear, but there is so much more to come.

We should realize the same...God has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in Christ, Paul says in Eph. 1... It's only begun.

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Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Revelation

Today's readings are in Genesis 43, 44, 45.

The story of the brother's journey back to Egypt comes about because of the first verse in 43:
"Now the famine was still severe in the land."
We find out at the end of the reading that only 2 of the 7 years has passed, and yet after two years even Jacob, now Israel, is desperate enough that he allows his sons to go back, even with Benjamin accompanying.

When they arrive in Egypt more surprises await. Joseph, perhaps for several reasons, after having a mysterious meal with them, sends them back with their silver in their sacks, and with his silver cup in Benjamin's sack, so that his soldiers can track them down and take Benjamin back. Why does he do it? Perhaps because he's not sure he can trust his brothers and wants to have Benjamin near. Perhaps because he knows the ultimate test of whether they have grown up and matured at all is what they'll do when Benjamin is taken from them. We don't know, the text doesn't explain his reasons and we're left to guess; but perhaps one of the greatest passages for any Father to think about in relation to raising his children is right here:

"How can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? No! Do not let me see the misery that would come on my father."

As a young Father I wanted to live in such a way that my children knew God was good and that they could trust him, even as they saw their parents trusting him everyday.

Finally, Joseph reveals himself to his brothers. I can imagine the looks on their faces...disbelief, shock, awe, perhaps fear...but all of that is quickly alleviated:

"So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt."

An interesting part of this is that Joseph states that God has made him a father to Pharaoh...suggesting that this Pharaoh was a younger man, or even a boy when all of this occurs. Still, the story and lesson is in seeing Joseph's faith...he never stopped believing that God had a purpose in all of what was happening, and that faith is the real stuff we hope for, even though we do not see it at the present. Have faith.

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Friday, January 14, 2011

Joseph and His brothers, pt 1

Today's reading is from Genesis 41 & 42.

God's purposes in Joseph's life begin to unfold. Pharaoh's dreams become the tool that opens the prison doors and moves Joseph from a prison cell to Pharaoh's Prime Minister. Dreams are a part of most people's lives, but it seems so obvious that God is the instigator of these dreams and they become the vehicle for Joseph to become known. What I love is Joseph's remark to Pharaoh, that He, Joseph, doesn't know how to interpret dreams, but God does...his character has been forged in those years of prison.

Then in the next chapter the famine brings Joseph's brothers - except for Benjamin, his own brother - down to Egypt. They haven't changed that much over the years, so Joseph knows immediately who they are. Joseph has changed. He was probably a teenager when he was sold into slavery, and now he is in his 30's...and not only that but he is dressed in the garb of Egyptian royalty, so his brothers do not recognize him. His accusations of treachery are just a vehicle to make sure they haven't done to Benjamin what they did to him. As the brothers travel back home, minus Simeon, the discovery of their silver in the bag only further confuses them and their explanation to their father, Jacob, leaves us at the end of the chapter in limbo.

It's hard to not think the chickens have come home to roost. They are all finally getting what they deserve; but that would be a mistake. It is not about the brothers, it is about God's purposes being fulfilled for the sake of the nation of Israel and the Kingdom of God.


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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Joseph with one Interruption

The readings today come from Genesis 38, 39, 40.

With the first chapter's interruption, the story has shifted to Joseph in Egypt.

That first interruption is a strange story...Tamar is a daughter-in-law of Judah, one of Israel's sons. He's obviously an older man when he fathers the twin boys that are named. Why does this story get included in the Genesis story? Perhaps because it bears witness to the genealogies, especially the families of tribe that might exist in the land after Moses (who of course wrote this) leads the children of Israel back to. Either way, it reminds me that scripture is a true witness, unvarnished in telling truth.

The next two chapters give us the beginning story of Joseph in Egypt. He is going to spend about 14 years in prison...something he didn't deserve. He didn't deserve being sold into slavery first of all; and he doesn't deserve the punishment inflicted on him because of his character. He is a faithful person regardless of the situation. He tells the first dream to the cupbearer, perhaps with a smile on his face; and then tells the truth about the second dream, even though it is not something to smile about.

Faithfulness is a noble part of our character. Someone once called it: "Who you are in the dark." Who we are when no one is around who can applaud or jeer. Character is that quality of God's character we take on as a child of God, simply because we want to grow up in him.


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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Jacob, Esau and Joseph

The passages in today's reading come from chpts 35, 36, 37.

Chpt 35 recounts the settling of Jacob's family in Bethel. Bethel means "The House of God" and it was here - some 20 years before - that Jacob had seen the staircase to Heaven (chpt 28). It was here, 20 years before, that Jacob made a vow to God, that if He would keep him safe, protect him, be with him, that he would come back and worship...and so he does!
At Bethel, God confirms the name change...(vs 10),
God said to him, "Your name is Jacob, but you will no longer be called Jacob; your name will be Israel." So he named him Israel.

In chpt 36, Esau's generational line is recounted. From Esau would come the Edomites. Genealogies meant everything in terms of tribal succession, so while lists of names have very little appeal, remember, they are not names unknown to God.

Finally, in chpt 37, we are introduced to the next and last part of the Genesis story - Joseph. The elder of the two sons born to Rachel, Joseph is "loved" by Jacob more than the others. As a parent it is not wise to place favor on one child over another, but we all admit some children are easier than others to raise. Was Joseph one of those children? Or is it because he came from Rachel as the first born? Either way, Joseph dreams. His dreams and visions are going to be integral to who he is. He dreams prophetically, so none can appreciate either him or the dreams. Notice the brother's posture in all of this. Reuben, who earlier had slept with one of Jacob's concubines, is the one who seemingly seeks to save him. Judah, the family line of Jesus, is the one that suggests selling him...it's not a very pretty picture.

So, here we are again. At the end of 37, Joseph, rather than Jacob, is in another country...and once again God is going to use a long sojourning period to create this nation - Israel. They came from Haran in the North (modern day Northern Iraq), traveled back to Bethel, and within a few years Joseph is in Egypt, and soon his family too...and then for almost 400 years. God is not in a hurry to create in us the character and qualities of holiness that will mark out our lives.

Peace to you wherever you are.


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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Home's Precarious Beginnings

The Reading today is from Genesis 32, 33, 34.

32 and 33 recount the story of Jacob moving his family towards the land and the encounter he has with his brother Esau. By this time, 20 years has past, but Jacob has no idea of what he is going to encounter when he sees his brother. When they last left each other, Esau had vowed to kill him, for his deception in getting the family heritage conferred on him (Isaac's blessing).
Now he returns with two wives, two servant women, and 11 children born to them. Not only that but he has hundreds of cattle, sheep, goats, and other animals such as camels...i.e., he is a wealthy man.
The encounter with Esau goes above and beyond what Jacob imagined. Esau is welcoming and there is no hint of the hatred that had consumed him twenty years before. Esau's offer to accompany Jacob is met with more of Jacob's style - deception. He tells him he'll join him in Seir, a land in the south and east of Israel (as we know it); but in fact, he does not go that way at all, but ends up in Succoth - an area to the east of the promised land, and here he sets up booths (Sukkah's) and altar and calls upon the name of the Lord.
Perhaps what is most significant in the early section of these three passages is the development of his relationship with God. In chpt. 32, the night before he meets his brother, he "wrestles" with God during the evening. It's a wrestling match that leaves him with a permanent injury and a limp that will serve as a visual reminder of that night. Here God speaks and changes his name, giving him the name we will always relate to the 12 tribes - Israel.

Then the man said, "Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome."

Finally, chapter 34, tells the story of the beginning of struggles that are going to accompany the Israelites as they live in the land. They now have moved across the Jordan and in the land in a place called Shechem. Dinah, Jacob's daughter is raped by a Canaanite, and he then pleads for her hand in marriage. The deception of Jacob is learned well by his sons, and Levi and Simeon. These are sons of Leah, and Dinah is the youngest child. It is a sad story of deception that leads to murder. More than anything is signifies both the "separateness" of the Israelites from the Canaanite culture - which was a good thing - and, the precarious relationship that the Israelites would have in claiming this land of promise. It seems to be a history of struggle and pain - never easy.

Maybe that in the end is the lesson: this world is full of suffering, and the creation groans, waiting for redemption. This is not our final home, and it will never make peace with God's purposes until redemption in Christ is come.


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Monday, January 10, 2011

Jacob Going Home

Today's reading is Genesis 30, 31.

The first part of this story is the births of seven more of the 12 children of Jacob that are going to make up the 12 tribes of Israel. The story of Reuben finding the mandrakes has always raised questions among students of scripture.
Mandrakes are tubular plants and in themselves are poisonous. Still they have been linked in lore with the ability to conceive. What is clear from the text is that God was the one who made it possible for Rachel to conceive.
It is the birth of Joseph that is the outcome of the story. The other children born of the two maidservants are the outcome of a culture that believed in the birth of boys as necessary for the survival of the family or tribe.

The second part of the story is Jacob taking his family, or by now, his tribe, back to the land of Israel. Nothing Jacob does is easy and neither is this. He "steathily" leaves Laban and after Laban realizes he goes after him. It takes seven days, but in the end, God intervenes and Laban eventually makes peace with Jacob's leaving.

Thus, in the end, the children of Jacob, soon to be the children of Israel, are back in the land. Tomorrow we'll read how they enter, but think about what has happened of recent. Jacob left out of fear for his life, and after twenty years, he returns to the same land but now with a great deal of wealth, family, and possessions.

God works through the "messy" humanity we bring to him.


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Sunday, January 9, 2011

Jacob

Reading - Genesis 27, 28, 29

Today's reading are about Jacob. He's a man who deceives his way into control by deceiving his father for the "blessing". What is it? The family blessing conferred rulership of all the family to the one male heir designated by the head of the family - usually the eldest son. Remember the prophecy of Jacob and Esau's birth? "the elder shall serve the younger...". Well Rebekah and Jacob don't wait around for God to make it happen, which is always a bad thing to do.

In 28, Jacob's flight leads him directly to God. The picture of the stairway to heaven and the promise of God to him, cements God as the one who will make Jacob succeed, not Jacob.

Finally in chpt. 29, we begin to see the family of Jacob begin. After he realizes he's met his match with Laban he begins to have the first of his twelve sons - Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, are all born of Leah...and realize that they are principle in Israel's future.

It's a great story. Men and God...it's messy, but moves along in purpose anyway.

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Saturday, January 8, 2011

Isaac and Jacob

Today's reading is short: Genesis 25 & 26

It's the story of Isaac and Rebekah's twins: Jacob & Esau

Notice twice in chapter 25 the phrase "this is the account of...". It's that generational marker. The story shifts fairly quickly to Jacob, but there are some notable Isaac moments, such as God's word to Isaac:

"That night the lord appeared to him and said, 'I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bless you and will increase the number of your descendants for the sake of my servant Abraham.'"


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Friday, January 7, 2011

The test

Today's reading is from Genesis 22, 23, 24

The story of God asking Abraham to sacrifice his son, the promised log-awaited Isaac, is a great picture of Jesus. Read the story and think about the parallels between this story and Jesus' death on the cross.

Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, "Father?"
"Yes, my son?" Abraham replied.
"The fire and wood are here," Isaac said, "but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?"

Abraham answered, "God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son." And the two of them went on together.

That's the Gospel. God himself has provided the sacrifice - Jesus!



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Thursday, January 6, 2011

Abraham Continued

Today's reading is a mixture of events...some strange, as they continue to tell the story of Abraham's life and journey.

Read Genesis 19, 20, 21

The story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is legendary. What's perhaps not clear is "why". Lots of speculations have been given, but it remains something in the justice of God that relates back to their depravity and seems to imply from the text the sexual perversion of the whole area.

What perhaps is even more important in the story is the offspring of Lot that emerge at the end of the chapter. The Ammonites and Moabites were two of Israel's great enemies.

The birth of Isaac - whose name means laughter - almost appears quietly in the text, surrounded by stories of Abraham's journeys through the area of the Philistines.

This section along with what lies after highlights this ongoing story of the principle character of Genesis.


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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Abraham you're not too old!

Today's reading is a continuing of the Abraham story:

Genesis 16, 17, 18 tell four main stories:

1. The story of Hagar and Ishmael is the story of the other side of Abraham's heritage - the Arab side is also children of Abraham.

2. The story of the covenant of Circumcision that accompanies the re-declaring of God's promise to Abraham to make of him a great nation... and this is when his name is changed from Abram to Abraham.

3. The story of God's visitation to Abraham at age 99, 25 years after he was originally told by God he would have a "seed", a family line, to follow him, where God announces by "this time next year" you'll have a son.

4. The final story of Abraham's plea with God to spare Sodom and Gomorrah, if only 10 people could be found in the city that heeded God.
That story doesn't finish until tomorrow.


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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Abraham!

The story of the Bible unfolds in Genesis 12 today with the beginning of the story of Abraham. He is the central character in the unfolding drama of salvation.
Read today: Genesis 12, 13, 14, 15.

Note: God's promise to Abraham in early part of chpt. 12. "I will..." God says to him. The promise is of "a land, a family, a blessing". Notice Abraham's faith unfold. He's human and yet shows real faith. Good passage to meditate on as you go through the day.

happy reading


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Monday, January 3, 2011

Today's reading

Hi friends,

Today's reading is from Genesis: read chapters 8, 9, 10, 11.

Notice in chapter 10... "this is the account of...". That is another of those generational markers I mentioned before.

Have a great day.


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Sunday, January 2, 2011

Today in scripture

The scripture reading today continues from yesterday in Genesis. As you read note the words in chpt 5.... "these are the generations, or families,". Watch for those words again and again in Genesis... It is a repetitive phrase that is used to describe the shift of emphasis in the story. Anyway read and enjoy:

Genesis 4, 5, 6, & 7


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Saturday, January 1, 2011

Starting the New Year with a Bible reading plan

Have you ever wanted to read the Bible the way it would have been written? Come along with me and log in as often as possible and we'll read thru scripture "HISTORICALLY".

Today, we start at the beginning:

Genesis 1 - 3

Here's something you might not see. Genesis 1 is a Chiastic poem...what does that mean?
Day 1 matches day 4
Day 2 matches day 5
Day 3 matches day 6
Day 7 is the primary end. Read and notice how they compliment each other.


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Location:Kikkert Ct,Cambria,United States