Thursday, January 21, 2010

January 21

OT: Gen. 42: 18-43:34

Still loving the story. Sometimes in the Bible, people's actions seem inexplicable to me. They just don't respond quite like I would imagine myself responding. In this story, however, there are so many relatable moments. For instance, I can totally see the interchange between Jacob and his sons in 43: 6-7. Jacob: Why did you tell him you had another brother in the first place? The sons: He asked! How were we supposed to know he would say to go back and get him???

Good point:).

I also think it is interesting that Joseph chose to keep Simeon. That kind of backs up my "Simeon and Levi are jerks" theory. Maybe there was a little revenge involved there? And along those same lines, I think it is interesting that Reuben and Judah both dramatically promise their father that they'll bring back Benjamin; Levi is not so inclined. Keep in mind that Levi is older than Judah (as is Simeon). These two just don't seem like great older brothers.

I think Joseph's steward's response in verse 23 is interesting: "It's all right...Don't be afraid. Your God, the God of your father, has given you treasure in your sacks; I received your silver." I wonder if the steward is in on it, if he knows the whole deal. Or maybe he is just reciting what Joseph told him to say. Regardless, it is clear that Joseph's intention is not to terrorize his brothers or to make them suffer. He just seems to be trying to figure out what to do.

I found the scene where he sees Benjamin again to be very moving. Poor Joseph! He had been away from his family for so long...

NT: Matt. 13: 47-14:12

Jesus tells another kingdom parable in 13: 47-50. This time the Kingdom is described as a net that catches fish, which will be separated on the shore. This one is pretty straightforward and seems to be clearly talking about the "full Kingdom" that is coming at the end.

Jesus then asks the disciples if they have understood all these things. Their answer is succinct: "Yes." My answer is succinct, too: "Yeah, right." Keep in mind that these are the same guys who, when Jesus warns them to be on their guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, think he is fussing at them because they didn't bring bread. Figurative language is not their strong suit! I think Jesus kind of sees through it, too, because he immediately throws out another really cryptic zinger: "Therefore, every teacher of the law who has been instructed about the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old." So, disciples, make what you will of that!:)

And what do we make of that? (Like I know.) If nothing else, I think his comparison underscores the fact that Jesus' teachings are connected to the teachings of the Old Testament and are "in line" with them, while at the same time taking them to a new, previously unknown level. I actually kind of saw this in our readings from Psalms and Proverbs today, but I'll talk further about that when we get to those passages.

But first, we have to read about the sad death of John the Baptist. This is one of those stories where my innocent-kid interpretation clashes with what I now think is really going on. As a child, I guess I pictured Herodias' daughter being, like, five years old and coming out in a tutu or something. And now, um, I don't think it was exactly like that. To say the least. It is sadly ironic that the same gross immorality that John the Baptist condemns in Herod is what kills him. And the whole reason for his death is so ridiculous and seemingly arbitrary. It all has to do with Herod's immorality, his big fat mouth, and his unwillingness to be embarrassed. Yeah, those are great reasons for someone to die. Very noble. But, you know what? John's role was over. It was time for him to go. His was a depressing demise, to be sure, but in a way, it was also the best day of John's life.

Mission: accomplished. Now, the "Elijah who was to come" can rest.

Psalm 18: 16-36

Here is the second half of David's victory psalm. What struck me today (besides David's continuing confidence in his morality) was our highlighted verses: "It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the deer; he enables me to stand on the heights." The part that really jumps out is how David acknowledges that it is God who makes his way perfect. See, the Old Testament sometimes gives the impression to me that people can be moral on their own strength. Take God's words to Cain in Gen. 4:6: "...sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it." Or take Moses' "choose life" speech, which he delivers when he gives the people the Law. He tells them, "Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach" (Deut. 30 11). You know, I just get the impression from those verses that people can obey the Law. But David (who, again, was a man after God's own heart) understood the deeper truth that it was God who was responsible for any moral uprightness. And that's what Jesus taught. See? New treasures as well as old...

Prov. 4: 7-10

Here is another "old treasure" that Jesus taught in a new way: "Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding" (7). I don't know about you, but wisdom sounds a lot like the pearl of great price here. I am getting interested in this picture of Wisdom in Proverbs. It is described in similar terms as Jesus describes the Kingdom, and it is also described in similar terms as Christ Himself. For instance, we read earlier that wisdom was a means through which God created the world (Prov. 3: 19: "By wisdom the Lord laid the earth's foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place"). That reminded me of John 1, which talked about Christ (i.e. "the Word"): " In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made." Again, this seems like another "old treasure" that Jesus makes new. Wisdom here is something more than just intelligence, or a logical approach to things, or a "good head on one's shoulders." The wisdom of Proverbs seems like a divine gift, a path to life. (Oooh! That's another one! Prov. 3: 22: Sound judgment and discernment "will be life for you." And the whole book of John repeatedly calls Jesus the "life"). Basically, wisdom is described in similar terms as Christ and His kingdom is. That is cool to me. I feel like there is more there, but that's all I've got right now.


  1. Its funny, you highlighted all the great things I picked up from the Joseph story EXCEPT that I didnt catch that the "God has given you treasure" was said by the steward ..i gotta work on my reading comprehension. I had highlighted it as a great thought, but its even greater knowing it wasnt Joseph who said it.

    It makes me wonder, was it a rehearsed line or had he been impacted by Josephs faith in God? Interesting.

    I did think though, that Joseph must have gotten a little bit of pleasure from making them squirm a bit. Suffer, perhaps not but he had to know that they were gonna be freaking out! :)

    Another thing that caught my attention, is how much the loss of Joseph had affected this family. I thought it interesting that in their bio to Joseph they threw out there they had lost a brother. When they got into a stressful situation, their first thought was of punishment for their sins. And, Reuben (poor, innocent Reuben) says, "I TOLD you not to do that!" (I only said to throw him in the pit, not SELL him and fake his death!). Israel has been crazy attached to Benjamen because of his loss of his FIRST favorite son, and uses that loss as justification for keeping another son in jail for a very long time. Joseph has been missed here ...

    Their immediate connection between their sins and this suffering really tells me they had probably regretting their decision over the years. Perhaps as they watched their father suffer his loss, or been bitter when he clearly gave them some of the blame for it (he had no idea!).

    I just thought all that was ironic ..especially since he was standing in front of them. I cant wait til tomorrow when he drops the next bomb shell on them. I always love to imagine their faces :)

    Matthew - because I didnt comment yesterday, I will say that I have really enjoyed these great Kingdom parables. I think they are so comforting that that several of them speak of growth, spreading out, reaching wide ..its seems so dynamic and alive. I love how he expresses how valuable it is, and how precious to those who "hold" it.

    Psalms - This was the biggie of the day for me. I know its because of where my heart is this morning, but the words in verses 16-18 were powerful ..."He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my POWERFUL enemy, from my foes, who were too STRONG for me. They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me."

    I know those in a dark place, fighting STRONG and POWERFUL enemies right now I wish they would sense that feeling of being reached for, pulled up, rescued, supported and delighted in. That is my prayer for them today.

  2. Good points all around. Matthew 13:52 was a stumper for me, but I think you're right about the Old and New Testaments being in line with each other anyway. Also, I think you're onto something there about wisdom and Jesus. It makes me want to get a better understanding of what the "Word" is.