25 01 2011

DAY TWENTY-FIVE : Genesis 49 v. 1 – 50 v. 26; Matthew 17 v. 14 – 18 v. 9; Psalm 15 v. 1 – 5

THE BLESSINGS – Jacob knows his sons very well, and nearing the end of his life, he gives each their own specific blessing (a blessing that perceives what will happen in their futures).
Judah gets a very favourable blessing – “The sceptre will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet.”
Issachar’s blessing made me laugh – “Issachar is a scrawny donkey lying down between two saddlebags.”
And then there’s Joseph – “Joseph is a fruitful vine, near a spring, whose branches climb over a wall.” There’s a real sense in blessing Joseph, that Jacob is passing on all the blessings he has received from God.
The phrase that is used of the death of the likes of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, is “he breathed his last and was gathered to his people.” Was this a sense, already, of an eternal dwelling place, or simply a reference to the field which is detailed extensively as the resting place for his body (along with Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah and Leah)?

Jacob’s death is marked by a period of mourning throughout Egypt, and what almost sounds like a state funeral, with Pharoah’s officials on board.

The brothers tell one more lie, to ensure Joseph doesn’t take revenge on them, claiming their father had sent word that Joseph should forgive them. More tears from Joseph ! Again Joseph gives God glory in his words :
“Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God ? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish… the saving of many lives.”
and he promises to provide for them.

The end of Genesis sees the end of Joseph’s life.
A remarkable book – the origins of all creation and the forming of God’s people who will be marked by faith, not fear.

MATTHEW – Jesus sounds fed up in the first story today, as the disciples are reprimanded for their “little faith” which has prevented them from bringing healing to the boy with seizures. The promise to them, and to us is,
“If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to the mountain, “Move from here to there” and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
Again Jesus reminds them of the events which will take place – his death and resurrection. Hard day for the disciples.

The weird story of Jesus telling Peter to catch a fish from the lake, and it will have a four drachma coin in its mouth to pay the temple tax. How exciting it must have been to be following Jesus – you would just have never known what amazing things would happen next.

THE GREATEST IN THE KINGDOM“unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” and “whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
Jesus urges us to see qualities in the life of a little child which might mark out our discipleship, in seeking to be ‘great’ in the kingdom. Qualities such as humility, dependency, trust, hunger to learn, zest for life, innocence, eagerness to try things out (to take risks, and not be shattered by failures / challenges). Some of these qualities adults ‘mature’ out of, but in our walk with God we need to ‘change and become’ again.

RUTHLESSLY ELIMINATE SIN – Jesus again underlines one of the personal goals of discipleship, to become holy / perfect, fearing the consequences of sin more than anything else (beyond holy fear / awe for God). The Wesleyan Methodist movement built in an honest assessment of sin’s grip in our lives by the weekly ‘class meeting’ accountability questions around what sins had been committed, or what temptations were taking hold in people’s lives. There’s a quickening in my spirit, today, to ensure I do not lose sight of this need to be constantly vigilant and honest about the sins which encroach on my life.

PSALM – The picture of God’s holy hill, and those who may walk on it, does sound a little like an answer to the disciples’ question in Matthew about those who are great in the kingdom of heaven.
“Those whose walk is blameless and who do what is right, speaking truth from the heart….”
There could be a basis for discipleship in this psalm, a check-list for an accountability group to look through :
speaking truth from the heart; no slandering; not doing wrong to a neighbour; not casting a slur on anothers character; not allowing ourselves to despise another; honouring God-fearers; keeping our word; not lending for interest; not being bribed or using money in a way that might harm others…..a pretty impressive checklist.

Lord, help me to think, speak and act in a way which pleases You today. I am Your child. May I know Your blessing (more like the blessing of Joseph, than the blessing of Issachar, please), and may I have a mustard-seed sized faith to believe that with You, all things are possible.

My re-created thoughts :
All this talk of holiness, holy living, today, reminds me of the words of a song I wrote a few years ago, for a talk at Summer Fire (Southport Methodist Holiness Convention).

There’s a fire that burns within me
Holy fire from God’s own heart
There’s a flame of pure desire
That He alone to me imparts.

Holy, holy is the Lord of Lords
Be holy as I am holy
Be holy as I am holy
Be holy as I am holy says the Lord.

Still the flame is burning brightly
Blazing strong to purge the soul
Holy fire, inflame my darkness
Make this broken spirit whole.

Holy God, Father of glory
Cleanse my heart and make it true
Hear my cry all the more, Lord
As I give my all to You.