24 01 2011

DAY TWENTY-FOUR : Genesis 47 v. 13 – 48 v. 22; Matthew 16 v. 21 – 17 v. 13; Proverbs 3 v. 1 – 10

GENESIS 47 – first people gave all their money for food, then their livestock, then their land, and themselves (into servitude). 
Verse 24 – is this the first record of a ‘tax’ ? One fifth to be given to Pharoah.
Verse 29 – there’s that ‘put your hand under my thigh’ promise / vow thing again. Must try that sometime !

GENESIS 48 – Jacob elevates Joseph’s sons (Manasseh and Ephraim) as his own, but switches their order of superiority (why ?), and Jacob blesses Ephraim, Manasseh and Joseph.

MATTHEW – no sooner have we had the high point of Peter’s profound and high confession that Jesus is the Messiah, than Jesus spells out that the Messiah must suffer, die and be raised again. When Peter ‘rebukes’ Jesus for such talk, he has to hear Jesus speak His harshest. “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me….”
Here, though, Jesus is talking to Satan, the evil-tempter. He has heard this temptation before (one which will confront Jesus throughout His ministry), that there might be a pain-free, without-suffering, way to achieve what He was here for. He heard it in the wilderness, will do battle with it in Gethsemane, and will confront it head on on the cross. There is no other way. He is the Way.

THE COST OF DISCIPLESHIP – verses 24 – 28 are vital for our discipleship. ‘Taking up the cross and following’ is a denying of self, offering of all, bearing the burden (which should, in Christ, feel light) of the cross. We must be willing to lose our life, our ‘rights’, our control, to gain life in all its fulness. If we hold onto life, our ‘rights’, control, then we will never be fully the person God has created us to be. It’s a learning process, emptying self to be filled with the Spirit of Christ.

“What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?
  Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?”

THE TRANSFIGURATION – what a series of highs and lows and highs again, for Peter !! Now he finds himself standing on top of a mountain, with James and John (the inner core of Jesus’s friends) for a spiritual experience they’ll never forget.

Jesus meets with Moses and Elijah for a chat. Each of them glowing in glorious brightness.
Peter, ever practical, offers to set up camp for them. “Three shelters, Lord ? One each for you ?”
God answers back from a cloud of His presence, re-affirming Jesus’s status with words like those at His baptism,
“This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased. Listen to Him.”
Lord, may we continue to hear Your voice, and listen well to all You say, that You  may be the Way, the Truth and the Life for us today….

FACEDOWN – how frequently we’ve seen this, that the only reaction to knowing the presence and the voice of God is to fall facedown, in awe. Jesus, of course, tells them not to be afraid. He suggests that the Elijah figure who was expected to return before the Messiah, had come in the form of John the Baptist, setting the scene, preparing the way for Jesus. The disciples are simply learning all this stuff as they go along. That’s a mark of discipleship – openness to learn, because there’s always more, a lot, lot more, to learn.

PROVERBS – God’s wisdom for us today.
“Trust in the Lord with all Your heart and lean not on your own understanding.
  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.
  Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil….
  Honour the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits…then your barns will be filled to overflowing..”

My re-created thoughts :

Life-long learning
Yielding to You
Learning to let go
Taking up the cross
Knowing Your blessing
Falling face down
Exchanging self-made ambition
For a God-given crown.

Learning to lean on Your, Lord
Learning to trust
Learning to receive
Learning to LIVE.

Help me to learn from You today
Help me to learn to be like You
Help me to take up the cross today
And to walk Your way.


All is revealed……and oh, so many tears….

23 01 2011

DAY TWENTY-THREE : Genesis 45 v. 1 – 47 v. 12; Matthew 16 v. 1 – 20; Psalm 14 v. 1 – 7

This Sunday feels like ‘revelation’ day. Joseph reveals who he is to his brothers (and there is so much weeping). Simon Peter answers Jesus’s question about who He is by revealing “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Other points I noticed :
Genesis 45 – Joseph is bursting to tell them, and bursts into tears as he does. The brothers are terrified at first. Joseph is able to see that God’s hand has been in all this, steering Joseph to this very point,
“it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you…”
“God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.”
A place is prepared for Jacob and all the family to relocate to Egypt.
Lots of kissing and weeping as the brothers are reunited. Not a hint of bitterness towards them.
Pharoah promises the best land for Joseph’s family. “The best of all Egypt will be yours”.

I love the fact that when he sends his brothers off back to Canaan to fetch Jacob, Joseph tells them, “Don’t quarrel on the way.” Ahh, he know his brothers well, eh?

Jacob (Israel) is stunned, but his “spirit is revived”, and he determines to go to see Joseph before he (Jacob) dies. His son had been lost to him for well over 20 years. It reminds me to pray for all those parents of ‘missing’ children, that in their pain, they might know the love, peace, strength and hope of God.

Genesis 46 – As Jacob offers sacrifices, God speaks to him, bringing to life again the promise to Abraham and Isaac about making these people a great nation. The phrase “and Joseph’s hand will close your eyes”, is beautiful for the elderly Jacob to hear.
66 men (same no. as books in the Bible) were in the Jacob entourage (sons / grandsons) who travelled.
Very emotional reunion for Jacob and Joseph (more tears, ‘ for a long time’).
The symbolism of this ageing Hebrew shepherd father blessing the Egyptian Pharoah is both touching and awe-inspiring.

MATTHEW – “Red sky at night, shepherds’ delight; red sky in the morning, shepherds’ warning”, Jesus more or less quotes to get them to realise how slow they are to read the signs of the age. Jesus talks to His disciples cryptically / parabolically about the dangers of being influenced by the Pharisees / Sadducees – the ‘yeast of the Pharisees’. Just as there’s a good yeast, a good influence in the dough, so there can be a bad yeast / influence.
Be on your guard, says Jesus. Be careful what you listen to (even impressive sounding religious teachers).

THE KEY QUESTION – when Jesus asks the disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” it is a question which reverberates down the ages and comes to us today. Who is Jesus ? Peter is led to an amazing confession that he believes, he sees that Jesus us the Son of God, the Messiah. Jesus points out that Peter (and we) can only know this as a result of God revealing Himself to us.
Jesus says that He will build His church, a church which will be able to withstand all that hell might throw at it.
Peter (and the other disciples?) will be given the keys of the kingdom (hence, St. Peter often pictured at the pearly gates) – keys to loose, to set free, to release
keys to bind, to hold captive, to lock away
ours is the task to set people free – may we unlock people and potential every day.
Jesus is cautious about who knows what at this stage, so tells them to keep it under their hat.

THE PSALMIST TODAY – is struggling to see or experience any good. He/she longs for God to bring salvation, to restore the land, to bring a season of rejoicing and of happiness.


They are happy tears
the tears that roll down my cheeks
at the sight of family reunions
long lost relatives reconnected.

They are happy tears
the tears that roll down my cheeks
as the penny drops, it hits home
and all is revealed, laid bare.

They are happy tears
the tears that roll down my cheeks
as Jesus becomes known as Christ,
Messiah, Redeemer, Saviour, Friend

They are happy tears
the tears that roll down my cheeks
face to face with a God who
calls and attracts one life at a time
one family at a time,
one community at a time.

They are happy tears
the tears that roll down my face,
as  I realise, like Joseph did,
that God is in charge
wherever we are, whatever we face.
And a brighter day is coming….

23 01 2011

DAY TWENTY-TWO : Genesis 43 v. 1 – 44 v. 34; Matthew 15 v. 10 – 39; Psalm 13 v. 1 – 6

SECOND JOURNEY TO EGYPT – Judah manages to persuade Jacob to let him take Benjamin to Egypt. Judah, partly responsible for Joseph being sold into slavery now seeks to make amends by promising “I myself will guarantee his safety.”
Joseph invites them all for a special dinner (and they are all afraid of the favour they are bing shown, suspicious of Joseph’s motives.
Joseph is choked with emotion to see his younger brother, Benjamin, and to see all the brothers bowing down before him.
“Joseph hurried out and looked for a place to weep. He went into his private room and wept there.”

THE HIDDEN SILVER CUP – the trick….a silver cup is placed in Benjamin’s sack. When it is discovered, all the brothers return to see Jospeh, as the risk is that Benjamin will become a slave in Egypt (as Joseph had, of course). Judah pleads for Benjamin and offers himself in exchange. How he has changed…

MATTHEW – Jesus states that the Pharisees just don’t get it – they don’t see it ! ‘If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.’
Jesus states that ‘eating with unwashed hands’ does not make us unclean, but the stuff within (evil thoughts, murder, adultery…). 

THE CANAANITE WOMAN – this passage has always intrigued me. It appears she helps change Jesus’s mind that He is not here just for ‘the lost sheep of Israel’ but for all. Certainly her faith is an inspiration to us, to keep seeking Jesus. Her daughter is healed.

JESUS FEEDS FOUR THOUSAND – repeating a previous ‘trick’. Another great crowd, all gathered for healing miracles, have been with Him for up to three days. Jesus takes the bread, gives thanks, breaks the bread and passes it out (this pattern of blessing, breaking and passing bread around will be repeated many, many times over).

PSALM 13  – the psalmist’s cry is ‘how long, O Lord’ before we see some of the things we hope for.  ‘But in Your unfailing love I trust; my heart rejoices in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, for He has been so good to me.’

My recreated thoughts :

Bread is blessed, broken, shared
The cup of salvation is bought at a price
Freedom is what……..?
Freedom from what……?
Jesus wants us to be completely free…..
How ‘ bout you ?

21 01 2011

DAY TWENTY-ONE : Genesis 41 v. 41 – 42 v. 38; Matthew 14 v. 22 – 15 v. 9; Psalm 12 v. 1 – 8

Great readings today – Joseph’s role in saving Egpyt from the famine, Joseph sees his brothers again (they don’t recognise him); Jesus walks on the water (and so does Peter, briefly); teaching about ensuring any “traditions” we inherit or develop exist only to fulfil God’s word (commands) not to skirt around, ignore or disobey God’s word; and a psalm of God’s perfection and protection.

GENESIS 41 – Joseph once again has a fine robe, this time placed on him by Pharoah; the whole “Make Way” thing, of course speaks to me of the whole John the Baptist “Prepare the way of the Lord” motif; Joseph is now 30 (same age as Jesus when He began His public ministry), which means it is 13 years since he was ‘sold’ by his brothers (13 years of slavery and imprisonment); Joseph manages well the seven years of plenty and the seven years of famine, still glorifying God
(naming one of his sons, “God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering“)

GENESIS 42 – Jacob sends his sons (except Benjamin) to Egypt for food; it is interesting to watch Joseph test his brothers, he must be wary of them, feeling somewhat vulnerable, and must be wrestling with feelings of anger and bitterness; seeing them bow down before him reminds him of his teenage dreams; touching moments when Joseph hears the brothers, temporarily held in prison, discussing their remorse for the way they’d treated Joseph,
“He turned away from them and began to weep…..”
he sticks to his guns, asking for the youngest son, also to be brought to him, and sends all but Simeon off back home for Benjamin, filling their bags with plenty of food for the journey. The brothers are stunned by all that is in their bags, and wonder what God is up to….
We end the story today with Jacob refusing to let Benjamin (who is clearly now the ‘favourite’ being the son born to Rachel who died during childbirth) be taken to Egypt. Jacob has most to lose but most to gain too, if he only knew it.

MATTHEW – it’s a stormy night on lake Galilee, and Jesus comes to the boat, walking on the water; the disciples are petrified of this ghostlike figure; “have faith, not fear” He says to them, over and over again; Peter’s faith and courage are inspiring,
“If it is you, tell me to come to you on the water.”
There is both the intense excitement that Peter actually does get to walk on water, yet the ovewhelming fear when he sees the wind and waves..; perhaps Jesus sounds harsh with His, “You of little faith”, yet He is constantly teaching Peter and the others to keep their eyes on Him, not on the circumstances around (see my re-created thoughts, later); once all back in the boat, the wind calms down (teaching moment is over!) and they all worship Jesus as Son of God; Jesus heals many sick people, even those who just touched the hem of His garment – one touch from the master changes everything.
Lord, heal me with Your touch today, and conquering all fear, inspire greater (water-walking) faith in me.

(fantastic book, if you’ve not yet read it – thoroughly recommend it !!)

CLEAN AND UNCLEAN – the battle between human traditions, and God’s timeless commands, His Word. It is a warning to us to ensure that we don’t simply do things ‘because we’ve always done them’, but that everything is checked under the authority and guidance of God’s Word. The Pharisees are being accused here of ‘twisting’ God’s Word to suit their ends, a bad tradition which has developed. Again, Jesus’s charge is hypocrisy, for He sees the heart, the motivation:
“These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.
 They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.”
ancient words from Isaiah which were contemporary in Jesus’s day, and are just as contemporary today.

PSALM12  – the psalmist also speaks of flatterers, liers, whose lips betray hypocrisy and evil within; God is heard to say,
“I will protect them from those who malign them”. The words of the Lord are flawless, like silver refined in a furnace of clay, purified seven times”
Lord, please do keep us safe and protect us, we pray, today and always.A

My re-created thoughts today:
Just last year, I penned these words in a song “Fix my eyes”, for while Peter’s eyes were on Jesus, he could walk on water; as soon as his eyes fell on the windy waters, he sank. First lesson here :

Fix my eyes onto You,
my author and perfector;
Fix my eyes onto You,
my great protector;
not looking left, not looking right,
unafraid to fight the fight,
Fix my eyes onto You,
King of kings (Lord of lords).

There are times when faith is high,
when I could touch the sky
and I could walk on water with You, Lord;
and there are times when faith is low,
and I don’t know where I should go,
I sink beneath the waters, crying out to You :

Fix my eyes onto You……

(had the privilege of singing this in a boat on Galilee last October – awesome ! Looking forward to being there in November – would love you to be there too, if you’re interested / able – people are beginning to book their places now).

Happy birthday, your majesty…what do you desire ?

20 01 2011

DAY TWENTY : Genesis 40 v. 1 – 41 v. 40; Matthew 14 v. 1 – 21; Proverbs 2 v. 12 – 22

(picture of an image of bread and fish from the church near the Galilee lakeside where Jesus is believed to have fed more than 5,000) 

Isn’t it fascinating how sometimes the stories from the old and new testament have common themes.
Here today, in Genesis and in Matthew, the king is holding a birthday party feast (Pharoah and Herod) 
Here today, in Genesis and in Matthew, someone loses their head (the baker, hanged, and the baptist, beheaded).
Here today, in Genesis and in Matthew, food features strongly (plenty and famine in Egypt; hunger and feeding more than 5,000 in Galilee)

GENESIS – the line that hit me in Gen. 40 was about the cupbearer and baker needing a dream interpreter, when Joseph says,
“Do not interpretations belong to God ? Tell me your dreams”.
There is an awful lot in the bible about God using dreams to convey His message. Sometimes the person understands full well what the dream means, othertimes an interpreter is needed. Joseph is in the right place at the right time and interprets these dreams accurately. What a terrible responsibility to tell the baker it meant he had three days to live !!
There is, of course, renewed interest in the meaning of dreams, and I have been fascinated by some of the discoveries in recent months of God still speaking to people through dreams, and of early Methodism providing space for people to share their dreams and seek their interpretation.

JOSEPH FORGOTTEN FOR TWO YEARS –  I find it hard to believe that the cupbearer forgets about Joseph all that length of time, and we know nothing of Joseph’s forgotten years in prison. There must have been really low points for him in all that. St. Paul urges us to remember those in prison as if we were there with them. I have people I’m thinking of today. Let us not forget.

PHAROAH’S DREAMS – double dreams for Pharoah (just can’t help but see the Elvis-like Pharoah in “Joseph and His Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat” – fab !!!).
It is Joseph’s God-given gift of dream intepretation which brings him his freedom, and elevates him to high office.
God, please reveal to us Your gifts in us for ministry and mission, to bring freedom, purpose and glory to You.

I love the little touch in v. 14, where Joseph has a shave and changes his clothes before appearing before Pharoah….because he’s worth it !!!

In v. 16, Joseph clearly states that it’s God, not he, who interprets the dreams, and in bringing the interpretation, Joseph states, “God has revealed to Pharoah what He is about to do…”
God is choosing to reveal to the mighty king of Egypt, through a lowly Hebrew prisoner, Joseph, what is about to occur, so that the Egyptians may prepare for famine, and not be wiped out (you would think that later Pharoahs may have learned a lesson about listening to lowly Hebrews bringing a word from God….might have spared themselves plagues and all sorts !!).

I can’t help but see a twinkle in Joseph’s eye when he tells Pharoah that what he needs is a very special man to help steer them through this. A man with incredible foresight and planning. He then proceeds to lay out precisely the plan which would work. Pharoah asks, “Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God ?”
Surely EVERYONE is pointing at Joseph at this stage, who, no doubt, has a look of “Who, me ?”
Great stuff !!

Is this the first time an individual is describe as having the spirit /wind / breath of God within them ?
Wonderful testimony to Joseph, that he is seen in this light.
Lord, may people see something of Your spirit-breath in us, today.

MATTHEW – It appears that John the Baptist had spoken out about Herod’s marriage to his brother’s wife (common practice in Genesis days, of course). Although Herod wants to kill John, he is afraid of what the people might do, as John is revered as a prophet. It is Herodias who puts her daughter up to asking for John’s head on a platter (yeuch!!).

JESUS – needs time on His own when He hears of His precious cousin’s death. What must have been going through Jesus’s mind ? He knew the dangerous path His own life was on. He knew what was ahead for Himself. He knew that He and John were co-workers in one sense of heralding the coming Kingdom. And, He loved His cousin dearly.

(I loved this image of the Miracle of the Feeding from the Coptic Christian Church in Egypt. Another neat link between our old and new testament stories today, and a reminder that we need to pray for our brothers and sisters in Egypt.)

FEEDING 5,000(+) – Jesus is never solitary, alone, for long. A large crowd gathers, and Jesus is occupied with healing the sick. The disciples notice it getting dark, the people needing food, and encourages Jesus to send them away. Jesus’s words stun them,
“You give them something to eat.”
Jesus is always challenging us to look to God for resources which are not immediately apparent.

(God provided the ram for Abraham to sacrifice, setting Isaac free;
 God provided a Joseph for Pharoah, to protect the nation from famine;
 God provided Joseph with a gifts of interpreting dreams, for Joseph’s freedom, and God’s mighty purposes;
 God provides for us, and has so much more to give, as we learn to depend on Him)

Just look at what God is able to do with five loaves and two fish.
More than 5,000 fed, and a symbolic twelve baskets full of leftovers. Abundance to excess.
Faith, or fear ?

Jesus is showing them that there is a WISDOM (see the Proverbs passage today) which is beyond this world, a WISDOM to save us, and a WISDOM to keep us on the safe path.
Jesus is that WISDOM embodied. The Way, the Truth, the Life.

My re-created thoughts today :




Harsh realities….good and evil

19 01 2011

DAY NINETEEN : Genesis 38 v. 1 – 39 v. 23; Matthew 13 v. 36 – 58; Psalm 11 v. 1 – 7;

The overarching theme today is one of God judging those who are good (the righteous) and those who are evil (the wicked).
I confess to having found Genesis 38 one of the strangest chapters so far, sandwiched in between the story of Joseph being sold and taking up his post in Potiphar’s house, telling a sordid tale of Joseph’s half-brother, Judah and his daughter-in-law Tamar.

JUDAH AND TAMAR – My little chuckle today was that Judah called his firstborn son “Er”.  I was just imagining the conversation :
Shua : What shall we call our newborn baby boy ?
Judah : I don’t know, let’s think….we could call him…er….
Shua : That’s it…..Er. We’ll call him Er.
Judah : Don’t you think that sounds a bit hesitant ?
Shua : But don’t you think we’ll have some fun with that name.
Judah : Since when were names supposed to be funny ?
Shua : Grandad Isaac – Grandad Laughter ?
Judah : Okay. You got me there. Er it is.

(and then their third-born son they call Shelah….looked so like Sheila to me !!).

But that’s where the chuckles stop today.
Culturally, of course, Judah is doing the acceptable, ‘good’ thing by passing Tamar to her brothers-in-law when her husband, Er, dies, however wierd that sounds to our ears today. I guess at one level it was a form of protection for Tamar, keeping her within the family. When Judah withholds his youngest son from her, Tamar plots Judah’s downfall, dresses as a prostitute and traps him by taking some of his possessions as a “pledge”.
The practice of visiting shrine-prostitutes, however culturally normal, is so abhorrent to me, and leaves Judah sleeping with his daughter-in-law, in her becoming pregnant, in Judah getting trapped in his own self-righteous pronouncement
“Bring her out and have her burned to death”. Tamar cleverly brings out Judah’s possessions, confirming him as the father, and Judah’s response is
“She is more righteous than I”.
People, alone, are poor judges of what is “good” and what is “evil”, at times. Judah’s statements seem poles appart. Firstly he is condemning the pregnant prostitute to death (his own daughter-in-law), and next extolling her virtue. He is trapped in his own self-made web of deceit, he is as wrong as anyone in this story, but is pronouncing judgements on who is good and who is evil. Humanity, eh ?

The story of the birth of the twin boys conceived through this liaison is just bizarra, scarlet ribbons and all !! 

ON THE OTHER HAND, JOSEPH – Judah’s brother, Joe, on the other hand is working hard for Potiphar, and is an excellent slave / servant, rising to the rank of being in charge of everything in Potiphar’s household. Potiphar had nothing to worry about. Yet, here in Chapter 39 there is another scheming woman, Potiphar’s wife, who fancies Joe and throws herself at him again and again. Joe is a model of virtue, and resists her advances, until she causes a stir and lies about him to her husband, and Potiphar, feeling deceived and angry has Joe thrown in prison. Even in prison, God’s favour is evident as Joseph is entrusted with the charge of all those being held.
So, Joseph is a victim now of injustice…..slavery and injustice…..and he takes it all without it seeming to twist, taint or embitter him. To the Christian, Joseph is a model forerunner to Jesus, exemplifying goodness, shining out amongst wickedness and evil, surrounded by God’s favour, and his faith getting stronger through every challenge.
“Go, go, go Joseph you know what they say
 Go, go, go Joseph you’ll make it some day…..” 

MATTHEW – Jesus explains the parable of the weeds and answers my questions of yesterday. The harvest is the end of the age and the harvesters are the angels. There are different end results for those judged wicked (fiery furnace) and those judged righteous (shining like the sun in the Kingdom).
God is watching. 
God is judge.
And as for us, the little parables of the hidden treasure and the pearl of great price, are beautifully tantilising short stories (Just two-sentence stories, both of them) draw us into a priority search in our lives for what really matters, what really counts, discovering God’s kingdom around about us, seeking it with all we have, willing to give all we are for the greater prize.

It’s a God-given focus, which we see clearly in evidence in Joseph, and clearly lacking in Judah.
And when we understand the secrets of the kingdom (even the little we do grasp), we have a calling, a duty to pass it on – to bring out new treasures and old (reminds me of the new wine passage).
Our God is always doing new things, and yet His truths are ‘of old’, timeless.

HARSH REALITIES TODAY – in the news yesterday was the harrowing story of a father and son who trafficked young girls from Romania into prostitution in Britain. The women were treated appaulingly. I easily judged their actions to be totally evil. Genesis 38, though a horrifying chapter, is still lived out daily in people’s experiences of evil, wickedness today.

O Lord, let us have ears to hear what you are saying

O Lord, let us shine like the sun in your Kingdom on earth
O Lord, let us seek after truth, justice, mercy, love, purity, joy, the priceless qualities of Your kingdom
O Lord, help us, in our own way, to bring freedom and release from slavery, from injustice to those who are mistreated
O Lord, continue to judge good and evil

as the psalmist writes today:
“The Lord is in His holy temple….His eyes examine them (the sons (and daughters) of men)
 On the wicked He will rain fiery coals and burning sulphur;
 For the Lord is righteous, He loves justice;
 the upright will see His face.”

Have a ‘good’ day !

Time for a sing-a-long…’Way, way back many centuries ago….’

18 01 2011

DAY EIGHTEEN : Genesis 36 v. 1 – 37 v. 36; Matthew 13 v. 18 – 35; Psalm 10 v. 12 – 18

ESAU’S DESCENDANTS – Ooh, a very long list of names, tracking Esau’s family tree. The only notable things for me :
Esau and Jacob give each other some space for their families and herds to grow and spread out.
Anah (v. 24) famed for discovering hot springs in the desert whilst grazing donkeys….let’s hear it for Anah !!
Anah (v. 25) gets his daughters’ names mentioned (in long, long lists of men)…Dishon and Oholibamah. Great names. You don’t hear those names very often, do you. The second made me smile. Sounds like “O holy Obama !”.

JOSEPH’S DREAMS – If I’m asked who my favourite characters are in the Bible, Joseph has always been right up there in the top three (with Jesus and Jeremiah….just love that letter ‘j’). This is a GREAT story, of God’s purpose against all odds, holding onto the promises and visions from God, and of family reconciliation and lives transformed.

As a seventeen year old, when we pick the story up, Joseph is alienating himself from his brothers – giving Dad bad reports about his older brothers; accepting the “richly ornamented robe” Jacob gives him, which sets him apart as the favoured son; and then the dreams which can only be interpreted as his brothers bowing down before him (even Dad is rather perturbed at the suggestion in one of the dreams that his Mum and Dad will also bow down).
The brothers’ jealousy goes through the roof, and they plot Joseph’s downfall (Dad will forever blame himself, I guess, for sending Joseph out to check out how his brothers are…). There’s even a mystery man who points the way for Joseph when he can’t find where his brothers have gone. Great touch of suspense there. Will he even find them? Well, he does.


Reuben (the eldest) urges them not to kill him, planning to rescue him at some later stage, if they throw Joseph into a cistern. They do, but grab the chance to sell him to some passing Ishmaelite traders.
Myrrh is one of the fragrances the traders are carrying….an interesting aroma linking to some future story to be told !!
20 shekels is the price they get for Joseph….30 pieces of silver for Jesus. The price of betrayal after inflation ??

I love the line, where the brothers’ consciences are pricked, “Come, let’s sell him…and not lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood.” Oh, sell him then, that’ll make you feel better off ? Twenty shekels better off !!
Reuben is horrified to hear what they’ve done.
The brothers take the precious robe back to Jacob, having smeared it in blood, and Jacob goes into mourning for the loss of his favoured son, at the hands of a ferocious beast.
Well, maybe he wasn’t far wrong there – Joseph’s brothers collectively had acted like a ferocious beast – and I can’t help but reflect today on a main news item from yesterday about the trafficking of youngsters (teenage boys and, of course, many, many girls / young women) around the cities of our country and throughout the world. Those who treat these youngsters so violently and abusively for their own gain continue to act like ferocious beasts.
I feel prompted to show my support for the work of ‘stop the traffik’, seeking to raise awareness and combat human trafficking today.

Joseph is sold into slavery, and ends up at Potiphar’s house (an official to Pharoah).

MATTHEW – Jesus explains the parable of the sower, and I return to considering the soil of my life, into which God’s word is sown. Am I too readily the victim of the evil one, who snatches God’s promises from me at the earliest opportunity ?
Am I like the path, where there’s not enough space or time for the word-seed to take root, and it too easily whithers away under pressure, when troubles come ?
Am I so distracted by the worries of this life, wealth, possessions etc., that, like thorns, the word-seed is choked ?
Or am I like fertile ground, good soil, yielding up to 100 times the seed sown.

Note to self from the other parables today
(i) it is not the servants, but the harvesters (at harvest-time), who get to separate the wheat from the weeds. Although the ‘enemy’ is at work in the weeds, the ‘sower’ will not risk his servants rooting up wheat, along with the weeds, by mistake. Who are the harvesters, and when is the harvest ?

(ii) the yeast permeates the whole dough, making it rise; the tiny mustard seed can become a sizeable bush – don’t despise the power of small things, don’t underestimate the influence of small steps; faith as small as a mustard seed can move mountains !!

(iii) such parables “reveal things hidden since the creation of the world” !! I love the notion of Jesus being the great revealer of mysteries; after all, He was there at the creation of the world…..

THE PSALMIST – after the gloomy first half of the psalm yesterday, the hope for a nasty situation is found in the God who sees trouble and grief, and takes it in hand. As I consider the plight of the victims of human trafficking, I find myself praying the words at the end of this psalm :
“You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted;
  You encourage them, and You listen to their cry,
  defending the fatherless and the oppressed,
  in order that man, who is of the earth, may terrify no more.”
  AMEN and AMEN. May it be so, Lord.

My prayer for today :

Father God, clear the ground in my life,
that I may be fertile soil for Your word,
yielding much fruit for You.

Clear the path,
attack the weeds and thorns,
and keep the evil one from his destructive work.

For elsewhere Jesus calls, You,Father, the Gardener.
Do Your pruning work in me, today.
For Your glory.