February 19

February 19.

Moses & the Burning Bush — God calls Moses & Moses gives various excuses.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Exodus 3

Reading 2: Exodus 4

Reading 3: Acts 7:30-36

Today’s reading is a contrast to some of the earlier chapters. For example, Exodus 1 covered a span of many years, and Exodus 2 covered more than 40 years, from the birth of Moses to his fleeing to Midian. Today’s chapters, recording how God starts His plan for rescuing the nation of Israel from slavery, take place over just a short time, when Moses is 80 years old.

There is another contrast with earlier stories too. We have seen how Abram fearlessly leaves his country and goes where God tells him. We have seen how Joseph consistently works diligently and rejects sinful temptations until God releases him into his destiny. But today we see a man who is used by God despite great insecurity and uncertainty. Moses tries every argument he can find to get God to use someone else!

From our viewpoint we can see how Moses was perfectly prepared for the task ahead. He knows Egyptian customs from personal experience, and he has spent forty years dealing with stubborn animals in the wilderness! But from Moses’ perspective the task ahead of him was more than he could handle. After several powerful encounters with God, he is persuaded and goes!

Have you ever felt unqualified and ill-equipped for the task God has given you? Today’s story teaches us that God wins the fight over who knows best!

Have a great day!

Mark.

 

February 18

Pause and Reflect:

Before we go far into the story of Moses, the start of a whole new chapter in God’s Story, let’s pause and reflect on several themes we have seen in recent days.

Blessing: How can you see God’s theme of blessing flowing into your life as it did through the Patriarchs?

Faith: Is there a step of faith that would characterize your calling, just as steps of faith were significant markers in the lives  we have read about so far?

Obedience: Faith is expressed in obedience, releasing blessing. How have you seen that principle in our readings recently, and how can you apply the same pattern to your present circumstances?

Have a Great Day!

Mark.

February 17

February 17.

Moses & his Childhood — The faith of Moses’ parents & Moses flees Egypt.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Exodus 2

Reading 2: Acts 7:17-29

Reading 3: Hebrews 11:23-26

The exiled Israelites have become a nation enslaved by fear and earthly power, but God is preparing a plan for His covenant to be fulfilled. That plan starts small (we have seen, and will continue to see, that God’s biggest plans have the smallest beginnings). A baby in a basket in the River Nile becomes a prince in Egypt, and learns all their ways and customs. What faith Moses’ parents displayed to trust God with their son, and it was that faith which opened the door to God’s plan.

As we read the rest of the chapter, and the explanations in Acts 7 and Hebrews 11, we see how faith continues to be the thread in this story, just as it was for Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. That’s because this story is part of God’s One Story – to form a people of faith who will be His in eternity.

Early in Moses’ story we see a young man who thinks he can demonstrate God’s priorities in his own strength and with his own wisdom (that is also a pattern which is becoming familiar in the stories we have read). But God takes him into a desert place where his priorities and his faith can be formed and refocused. And while that is happening, the suffering of the Hebrews increases, preparing them for what God is about to do.

In our lives we often see such a cycle: immaturity leads to hardship and suffering, which helps us to learn and grow closer to God, whose plan is served by the lessons we learn. And in the end God’s plan wins, whatever the ungodly circumstances around it!

Have a great day!

Mark.

February 16

February 16.

The Midwives’ Dilemma — When should people disobey the government?

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Exodus 1

Reading 2: Acts 4:18-20

Reading 3: Acts 5:26-32

Today we move into the second book of the Old Testament, Exodus, and the focus shifts from the family of Jacob (Israel) to the nation of Israel. Jacob brought 11 sons with him from Canaan to Egypt during the famine. Their families, along with the family of Joseph, grow numerous, causing fear to the Pharaoh and the Egyptians.

Fear mixed with earthly power always causes injustice. Notice that none of that evil trinity is found in God – He is just, loving, and all-powerful. The injustice in this case is the order to the Hebrew midwives to kill the baby boys (this being a male-dominated society). In this ancient echo of the Christian pro-life movement, the midwives chose to obey God (the Giver of Life) rather than Pharaoh (the giver of orders). When government mandates death, it is God’s heart that we choose life.

This is reflected in the two additional readings today, when the leaders of the early church choose to obey God when forced by the authorities to choose. When earthly authority insists we go against God’s instructions, it is our duty to disobey government rather than God.

Have a great day!

Mark.

February 15

February 15.

Joseph & his Death — The fear of Joseph’s brothers vs. the forgiveness of Joseph.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Genesis 50

Reading 2: Ephesians 4:31-32

Reading 3: Hebrews 11:22

You may have noticed that our supplemental readings have often taken us to the Hall of Faith chapter of Hebrews, where many giants of faith are honored. Today is no exception. As we reach the end of the book of Genesis, with the death of the last patriarch, we see Joseph’s lifelong walk of faith ending well. For a start, all the top people in Egypt travel with Joseph to bury Jacob in Canaan – what a send-off!

On their return, Joseph’s brothers are afraid that it was only Jacob who was keeping Joseph from inflicting revenge on them; but instead Joseph makes a statement that has been repeated by many wronged believers since then: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.” What a testimony to Joseph’s faith! A faith formed through many trials.

And then, years later, Joseph knows his time on this earth is short, and his faith comes through even more strongly when he says “Soon I will die, but God will surely come to help you and lead you out of this land of Egypt. He will bring you back to the land he solemnly promised to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. When God comes to help you and lead you back, you must take my bones with you.”

Consider this for a moment – let’s not simply read it and think “Oh yes, I know that happened.” To brush over the statement in that way would be to miss the strength of Joseph’s faith. The famine that brought them together in Egypt is over, and Joseph is still the chief ruler under Pharaoh. The family (now several generations) are comfortably living in Egypt. It seems that God has brought them to a place where they can be comfortable and thrive. That must be God’s will, right? WRONG! God has already promised, generations earlier, that the land of Canaan will be the one He gives to His chosen people as an inheritance. This promise was written deeply in Joseph’s heart, and he wants to be part of it, even though his life has been lived almost entirely in Egypt. So he asks them to take his bones back when God leads them back to The Land.

The Hebrews Hall of Faith describes it this way: “It was by faith that Joseph, when he was about to die, said confidently that the people of Israel would leave Egypt. He even commanded them to take his bones with them when they left.”

Apply that same faith to your own life for a moment: how has God been faithful to you even through hardships and injustice? Has God blessed you in a place you don’t really belong? What about God’s promise of a Kingdom without end – are you longing more for that than for the place of comfort you presently enjoy? This world is not our home. We may die here, but Jesus will take us back where we belong, if we have faith in Him.

Have a great day!

Mark.

February 14

February 14.

Jacob & the Blessings — Jacob passes on God’s blessing before he dies.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Genesis 48

Reading 2: Genesis 49:29-33

Reading 3: Hebrews 11:20-21

In the patriarchal system, great worth is bestowed by blessing from father to son(s) and we have seen the significance of this blessing in earlier stories (especially Jacob and Esau). Now the old deceiver (Jacob), who valued the birthright and the blessing more than his godless brother Esau, is ready to die and blesses his favorite son Joseph, and his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, adopting them as his own.

Interestingly, Jacob deliberately reverses their order, placing Ephraim first, while blessing them both. And the writer to the Hebrews tells us that all this was by faith – in other words trusting God was the source of the actions, and the blessings that followed.

Which bring us to consider our own experiences again. Have you ever been favored more than someone else? Whether you deserved that or not, it was God’s guidance behind the favoring. Now consider the opposite case – someone is favored more highly than you, undeservedly; how would you respond? A lesson for us from this story is that God wants to bless, and even when He does not bless according to our priorities or sense of fairness, He still blesses!

May He bless you today!

Have a great day.

Mark.

February 13

February 13.

Joseph & Caring for Family — God uses Joseph’s suffering (like Jesus’ suffering) for others.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Genesis 46

Reading 2: Genesis 47

Reading 3: Romans 8:28

The story of Joseph is full of encouragement for us, and full of reflections of Jesus too. Today we read how Jacob, the now elderly patriarch, leaves Canaan and travels to Egypt with 70 members of his family. These are God’s chosen people, chosen to foreshadow and ultimately to bring His Son into the world. And just as Jacob had a vision at Beersheba, of a ladder (Jesus) reaching to heaven, so he now has a vision in which God tells him “I will go with you into Egypt, and I will bring you back again” and “I will make you a great nation there” but also “You will die in Egypt.”

There is foreshadowing in these statements of the promise of resurrection, as well as a pre-figuring of the future flight of Jesus and His parents into Egypt for safety, before returning to the land God promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Notice that Jacob still has his original name here, but he has also been named Israel, the name by which the great nation will be known. That great nation is still only 70 strong at this moment, and they are in the midst of great adversity, but God has prepared the way and they will prosper in the hard place, before going through hardship again to bring them out into the place God intends.

And for us too, there is a lesson here. As we have said before, God is God, and we are His, and God brings good from hardships. His plan is greater than the ups and downs of human history (whether personal or geo-political) and so we can prosper in His plan whatever our outward circumstances. As Paul writes to the Romans: “we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”

Have a great day!

Mark.

February 12

February 12.

Joseph & his Revelation — Joseph reveals his identity (like Jesus will) at the second coming.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Genesis 44

Reading 2: Genesis 45

Reading 3: Acts 7:9-13

If you love dramas you will enjoy today’s readings, as the story of Joseph reaches a climax. He reveals himself to his brothers and then sends them back to Canaan to return with his father and all the family. All God’s chosen people are going to be saved through a great trial because one of God’s chosen people learned to obey God despite injustice, work diligently without reward, and submit to great hardship.

We see few such men today because ease has become fashionable, but Joseph is a picture of Jesus who will be revealed when He returns to earth. The hardships will be behind Him and the victory will be complete, just as Joseph’s family is made complete by the events in today’s readings.

There will be parallels for all of us, for life is not without hardships. Whether your testing is over, or just beginning, God will show you His priorities through Joseph’s example, and reassure you with the knowledge that Jesus has already won the victory.

Have a great day!

Mark.

February 11

Pause and Reflect:

We have seen parallels with Jesus in several of our readings recently. Which has stood out to you most powerfully?

How does your life look different if you place it into the historical flow of God’s story and look for reflections of Jesus?

Have a Great Day!

Mark.

February 10

February 10.

Joseph & Meeting his Brothers — Joseph weeping for his brothers (like Jesus did).

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Genesis 42

Reading 2: Genesis 43

Reading 3: Luke 19:41-42

We saw in our previous two readings how Joseph’s character was tested most severely in preparation for the events to come. The famine Joseph predicted from Pharaoh’s dream was now in full force, affecting not just Egypt, but the surrounding nations. The difference was that Egypt was prepared because God had warned them years earlier. Now Jacob sends his remaining sons (except Benjamin) to buy grain. And then Joseph’s dream of the sun, moon and stars bowing to him begins to be fulfilled! But what a different man he is now from the bratty teenager whose brothers had him sold to get rid of him!

As we have considered the stories of Joseph’s life we have compared him with Jesus, and today’s reading provides more comparisons. Joseph weeps for his family several times in these two chapters, just as Jesus weeps for his people in our selection from Luke 19. These are men of God who are moved by the blindness of their kin, and whose emotion fuels their motivation to be the solution to their struggles.

As you read about Joseph’s feelings (and Jacob’s), reflect on your own heart for your own relationship with God and your attitude to others who may not have followed God as closely as you. Joseph continues to be an inspirational example for us, reflecting Jesus centuries before He came.

Have a great day!

Mark.