Day 17 – January 17, 2021
Scriptures: Genesis 32-33, Matthew 11, Psalm 131
In the book of Genesis, our reading tells the story of Jacob wrestling with God. God gives Jacob a chance at a fair fight. At the end of the wrestling, God touches Jacob and gives him a hitch in his giddy-up.
In our Matthew reading, John’s disciples are intrigued about Jesus. They wonder if Jesus is the one who is the Messiah, the one who will make the world right. Jesus tells the disciples of John to let John know that "the lame walk, the blind can see, the poor are lifted up, the Gospel is being proclaimed.”
That’s enough info to know that Jesus is the Messiah, the one that John had been preparing Israel for throughout hjis ministry.
Jacob is now known as "Israel." This shapes the rest of the story of Scripture. After wrestling with God, he gets the name, and is also given a limp. In Jesus, those who come in contact with him, they are restored, the lame now walk! “Israel” is a name given by God to say that God will struggle to make them who He desires them to be. There will be one wrestling match after the next between the people of Israel and God. This difficulty and suffering is leading Israel forward. We find ourselves in this story, realizing that we have a lot in common with Israel. God wrestles with us, to become what He desires us to be.
The verse that continually makes its greatest impression on me, and I imagine for many others, is the invitation to rest from all the wrestling, and embrace the way and life of Jesus. Wrestling or Rest. What will it be?
Come to Jesus, all who are weary, and embrace the rest of God.
Day 16, January 16, 2021
Scripture: Genesis 31, Matthew 10
In the story of scripture today, we come across a story about allegiances and listening to God. There is a great cost to following Christ.
It is now time for Jacob to leave Laban behind. Laban’s feelings for Jacob have soured.
Jacob shakes the dust off of his feet, and goes on his way.
Following Jesus is comparable here. While the story of Jacob is unique, and not much for us to try and emulate, we ought to look to his example only in that Jacob is following the leading of the Lord. “Go back to the land of your fathers, and to your relatives, and I will be with you.” (Gen 31:3) He is called to leave Laban, the father of Rachel and Leah, and head back to his own family and relatives.
The expectation set out for the disciples of Jesus, are that they would go. Disciples are expected that they would share the good news of the kingdom with others. They would go and announce the peace of God and let it rest within the homes they visited and were welcomed within.
But times would come for them in which they would be rejected, and God’s people would set out to the next town and village.
There will be much difficulty for those who choose to listen to the Lord and follow him. The demands are great, the hating of father and mother are necessary to seeking first the kingdom. And there is certainly some challenges here, but what we need to come away from the text remembering is that God calls us to a loyalty to him. It’s not that we dislike or have a burning hatred for family. Rather, it’s about loving of Jesus more.
There will be times when we have to leave. To walk away from the familiar, to walk away from what we care about, and have to choose to “hate.” To walk away from the familiar and comfortable and follow where the Lord is leading.
The disciples must learn what it is to trust in the Lord, and walk with him.
We are called each day, to do the same.
God be with you today, as you listen and walk with him.
Day 15 – January 15, 2021
Scriptures: Genesis 30, Matthew 9
Rachel and Leah display sibling rivalry at its finest in Genesis 30. Rachel longs to have a child, and she simply cannot. Her sister on the other hand, Leah, has many children. Eventually, we see that the Lord remembers Rachel and blesses her with a child, Joseph. Joseph will play a big role in the rest of the Genesis story.
The two chapters are unrelated, but the theme here is something to pick up on, and is critically important to our study of the scriptures. The role and dignity of women in society.
In Matthew 9, Jesus is on his way to heal a dead girl. On the way, a woman, who has been suffering from hemorrhaging for years, reaches out and touches Jesus and she is healed.
Rachel and Leah offer a glimpse of a world where a woman’s worth was determined by her fertility, or lack thereof. Rachel felt forgotten and ignored by God because she was barren. It wreaked havoc on her life and self-respect.
The bleeding woman, would no doubt have been ostracized in her own community. Somehow, Jesus heals her and is near enough to her that she can touch him.
There is a lot of ink spilled on the pages of history about the mistreatment of women. But one thing is incredibly clear to me, Jesus healing the girl who dies, and healing the woman who was bleeding, is clearing the way for women’s dignity, purpose and for their honor to be restored among us all.
As a man, I desire to honor my wife, honor my mom, honor my daughters, honor all women with love and dignity. I love the encouragement of Jesus:
“Take heart, daughter”
Day 14, January 14, 2021
Scriptures: Genesis 28-29, Matthew 8
I’ve said in my writing with you that the Gospel is for all. In Matthew 8, we see the faith of the Centurion, a faith not found in Israel.
As we see the story and life of Jacob progress into blessings and many children. We simultaneously hear of a frustrated Esau, who sees the displeasure a Canaanite woman brings his father Isaac, and chooses a Canaanite woman as his bride.
Here heightens the division of nations, the frustrations that will follow for centuries afterward between the descendants of Isaac and Ishmael.
The anger and frustration felt in Esau will continue to be a part of the story. Isaac’s walk with God takes a delightful turn, where he is given a promise that God will be with him and bless him and his offspring. The swindler has somehow found himself in a position of receiving God’s blessings.
And here in Matthew 8, we see an unlikely hero. A centurion soldier, with great faith, advocating for his servant. Somehow, God’s blessing is on the unlikely servant.
There is the call to take up your cross and follow Jesus in Matthew 8. This call to discipleship is of critical importance to us as we walk through the Gospel. Jesus is calling us to give our lives to him and seek the kingdom of God.
Isaac knows about sacrifice and service.
Isaac teaches us that time flies when you are in love. He was willing to do whatever he had to, to be with Rachel. No matter how costly, his desire to be with the one he loved was greater.
I think there is something to be said about loving Jesus, and the joy of serving for the one we love.
Jacob gives his life to service to have the one he loved.
Let’s lay down our life for the One who has loved us from the beginning. We love because he loves us.
Day 13, January 13, 2021
Scriptures: Genesis 26-27, Matthew 7
The wise man builds his house on the rock.
A good tree bears good fruit.
The shrewdness of Jacob, stealing the blessing from his brother Esau, runs contradictory to Matthew 7.
In the blindness of Isaac, he couldn’t see the true identity of his son. He blesses Jacob, believing him to be Esau.
Jesus’ rebuke on our righteous attempts at trickery, are plainly clear. You can put on the charade, but for some, he will say, “I never knew you.”
It’s honestly a frightening text. It can strike fear into our hearts that we haven’t done enough, that we haven’t convinced God that we are with Him and on His side. We want God to feel our arms, smell us, and know that we are who we say we are, one of His beloved children.
I don’t have a simple answer to assuage our guilt from this text or the fears over our self-awareness of our sin and brokenness.
What we have though, is the whole breadth of a sermon that calls us to prayer, generosity and love. It’s a call to keep the commands of God, to love God and others.
I can choose to live in the fear of being one who says, “Lord, Lord” and He not knowing who I am. Or, I can rest and work and love, knowing full well that I am following the teaching of Jesus. I am draped in the goodness of Jesus and I can share that goodness with others. I love Him and He loves me.
He knows me, and I know Him.
If I’m seeking the Kingdom, I know this to be true.
Bear the fruit of a life with God, today!
Day 12, January 12, 2021
Scriptures: Genesis 25, Matthew 6 and Psalm 127
Our story progresses along in Genesis, the line of Abraham expands exponentially. And much can be said about the aftermath of the difficulty presented in Ishmael and Isaac. In the end though, I believe God is looking to reconcile all of them, every last one of them, into the family of God and life in His Kingdom. The Gospel of Jesus is for ALL People.
Thematically, I see an important connection between Esau and Matthew 6. It comes at the end of Genesis 25 with Esau who is famished. He is so hungry that he feels like he is about to die.
I have always been pretty unsympathetic to Esau in this regard. I lack the empathy required to fully understand what it was that he was experiencing. I don’t know of a hunger where I felt like dying. I imagine very few of us ever have, or ever will. And praise God for it!
But Esau, most certainly did feel like he was going to die, and Jacob, the shrewd brother that he was, took advantage. That’s going to be a theme, the shrewd nature of Jacob to take advantage of situations to get ahead.
When we contrast the desperation of Esau, with the reality that Jesus is presenting in Matthew 6, we get an entirely different worldview. Esau believes in scarcity, whereas Jesus believes in the abundance of blessings in the Kingdom of God.
This stands as a great reminder that we can seek first the kingdom of God. It is really easy to get wrapped up into the struggles of the world. We’ve been reminded of this, over and over again it seems, the shortage of life, the insufficiency of what is good, the scarcity of sustenance. We live in a land of fear. Fear of sin, viruses, death, separation and so much more.
But Jesus points us forward, to seek first the Kingdom of God. To look at the trees and the fields and the flowers and the birds. He gets us to look away from our present desires and needs, and simply see how God meets the needs and desires of the flowers, birds and fields.
As he teaches us to look at the care of God over His creation, he also commissions us to seek first the Kingdom. To seek His righteousness. To seek what is good in the world. Teaching us to trust that as he cares for His creation, he is going to certainly care for the crowning achievement of His creation, those who were created in His image!
We don’t have anything to worry about. We have all we need in Him. We don’t need to sell our birthright to get what we need. We get to, celebrate our new birth, into a right relationship with God, and know that we have all we need in Jesus, and more.
I’ve just reread what I wrote, and I have another thought. It might sound a little contradictory.
I do know the feelings Esau experienced of being famished to the point of death. I can be sympathetic with Esau. I do know what it means to be so famished that I might die, spiritually. While I’ve never felt a hunger so deeply that I might die, I do know what it is like to be so empty of life, that I might die. The despair of death, the loneliness of sin, the tragedy of sorrow and grief.
I have been spiritually famished. I know what it is like to be so empty that you know you are lost and broken and have nothing. You can have all the material things in the world, all of the comforts and be filled with pain.
There is a hard reality out there, when left on our own, we cannot do enough to save our own skin.
When we realize our brokenness, when we realize just how famished we actually are, we might come to the One who can give us what we truly need. The soup of God’s abundant love, mercy and grace. In our famine, we are given Jesus.
We give up our birthrights of this world, filled with famine, despair and darkness, and have a new birthright, in the family of God.
Seek first the Kingdom of God today!
Day 11, January 11, 2021
Scripture: Genesis 24, Matthew 5
Isaac gets a bride. Jesus begins preaching the Sermon on the Mount.
What’s the connection? I’ve thought for a while about this and it dawned on me, Isaac had to marry a Hebrew woman. God’s desire is to keep the Israelites separate from other nations. One of the ways God approaches this is by expecting that they don’t intermingle with other nations.
This may not seem all that important to us in the 21st century, that a nation keep from marrying people from other nations. But a part of the way that God is working through the Israelites, a part of how God is working in them to bear witness to the world is by separating them from all other nations. Their distinctiveness, set apart, holiness is critical to the plan.
Jesus is the fulfilment of all of this and more. Jesus is the fulfillment of the law. Jesus stands before the watching world as the true holy one. In his distinctiveness, he now invites all to come and belong. And now, he can stand before a group of people and announce the good news that is for everyone. He can announce that Blessed are the peacemakers, merciful, poor in Spirit, and persecuted. All of those who never once were considered blessed, now have a place in the Kingdom of God.
Isaac marrying Rebekah, begins an early framework of setting apart a people for a distinct purpose. Jesus preaching the Sermon on the Mount marks the beginning of announcing that all people can be distinctively set apart as God’s people. Jesus opening with the blessed is opening the way for all people to come and be a part of the light, to be the city on a hill. All are welcomed to come in and shine for the glory of God.
You are the light of the world, shine for God today!
Day 10, January 10, 2021
Scriptures: Genesis 21-23, Matthew 4
Theme: On the Mountain of the Lord, He provides!
In Genesis 21-23, we have life and death. The life of Isaac, the potential death of Isaac, the life of Sarah, the death of Sarah. In the midst of life and death, Sarah finds her joy complete in what God has given her. She has had laughter. She never thought she would laugh, and those who knew her well, they certainly would not attribute joy and laughter to her name.
But she has a son, in her ripe old age of 90 and she delights and laughs with joy, that God has provided her a son.
Abraham would have a test come some years after the birth of Isaac. The leading question, will the Lord again provide? The test on Abraham is to see if he will sacrifice his son Isaac. The question I’m sure perpetually on the mind of Abraham is, “will the Lord provide?” God provides a ram, caught in the thicket. They named the location, “The Lord Provides.” A big question of why this is necessary remains with us. But certainly having the recent narrative fresh in our minds, Abraham has had problems trusting in the provision, power and presence of God. He doesn’t trust God to provide a son, so he sleeps with Hagar. Doesn’t trust in God’s provision, power and presence in Egypt, and tells others that Sarah is his sister, and not his wife. There is stark evidence that Abraham is having difficulty trusting God. For all the times he believed in the Lord, there are equal, if not more times that he failed to trust. I suppose we know what that is like.
In today’s New Testament reading of Matthew 4, we see Jesus, tempted in the wilderness. The aim of this temptation, I see a fairly similar test that was given to Abraham. That temptation being, at its most foundational level, questioning: “Will the Lord provide?” Test one: Turn these stones into bread. It begs, “Will the Lord provide for my hunger?” Test two: Will the Lord provide protection if I were to jump from the temple? It asks, “Will the Lord provide His protection?” Finally, Test three: Will the Lord provide power or should I take the easy path? It leans in to Jesus’ identity, “will the Lord provide me power or do I achieve it through some other means?”
And Jesus, deeply and intimately familiar with the story of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the life of Israel, Jesus knows the Lord will provide. He can trust Him! And he puts it on display. And will display that trust in the provision of God through the rest of his earthly life and ministry. Even unto death.
And from that time on, Jesus began to preach the Good News of the Kingdom of God. The good News that God is providing a way forward for us all. A way of comfort and strength, a way of God’s power, presence and provision in our everyday lives. Shortly he will tell us to “Seek first the Kingdom of God, and everything will be provided” (My paraphrase of Matthew 6:33). This is Good News. The Lord Provides. He did for Abraham, He certainly did for Jesus, and in the kingdom of God, He will for you too.
The Lord will Provide!
Day 9, January 9, 2021
Scriptures: Psalm 11, Genesis 19-20, Matthew 3
Theme: The consequences of sin is death. But the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus!
The very real problem of sin comes to the foreground in our Bible reading today. Enough to make your skin crawl, we have the terrible story of Lot, His family, and townspeople bent on evil acts.
The grotesque nature of the story, makes it a difficult read, for certain. But we are reminded that there is a way forward, there is One who redeems and saves. God rescues Lot, and while not everyone makes it out, Lot and His daughters are rescued.
The Moabites and Ammonites are going to come into the picture soon enough in the grand narrative of scripture. The Israelites will continuously be in contention with them. Remember that Ruth is a Moabite woman. So we will see that the narrative of Scripture will continuously bring about these people and it is important to know their origins. That’s why we get it here.
But the sin, the ugliness of what is happening and the heartache of the death that comes, to Sodom and Gomorrah, the unrighteous getting what is coming to them…this whole scene is heart wrenching.
Matthew 3 comes as a reprieve, a cooling balm on the burning angst over Genesis 19. There is one in the desert announcing the Good News of one who is greater than him, who is coming to make things new. John the Baptist is preparing the way for Jesus and announcing the Good News of the Kingdom of God.
Instead of destroying the cities filled with corruption, God is rescuing them, calling them out, to bear fruit worthy of repentance.
The Savior is coming, and so John baptizes people after they confess their sins. They begin to bear the fruit that is worthy of repentance.
This is how God is dealing with sin in the world today. There is a way out of our certain death. We are also encouraged to bear fruit that is worthy of repentance. We don’t look back with fondness of our previous life that brings death. We look ahead, we look to the cross, we look to Christ! There is a rescue plan in place. Look to Christ, the one who is greater!
Remember your baptism!
Day 8, January 8, 2021
Scriptures: Genesis 16-18, Matthew 2
Another great connection between the Scriptures today, Genesis 18:13–14 “Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son.” “
Is anything too hard for the Lord?
As we skip forward to Matthew 2, we are reminded of the powerful work of God, to bring about His purposes. We have a child born, from the virgin Mary. We are reminded that God is doing something special.
The rhetorical question, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” Emphatically, “No!, Nothing is impossible for the Lord!”
What an important reminder of what God is doing in the scriptures and history, to accomplish His purposes.
It’s this connection, but even more, the Promise is reinstated. Despite the failures and miscues from Abram with Hagar, thwarting the purposes, God is merciful, patient, forgiving.
Genesis 18:18–19 “Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. 19 For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.”
Jesus is the fulfillment of this blessing. All nations will be blessed through Abraham, through Jesus.
I don’t know what encouragement you need today, but it is an important reminder that we find ourselves in the midst of this story. The nations are blessed, all peoples are blessed through Abraham. A Promise given by God, is fulfilled by God. Despite the failures of humankind, over and over again, the plans of God aren’t thwarted. God works in them in such a way, to redeem us and save us.
You are blessed!