Day 32, February 1, 2021
Scriptures: Exodus 5, Psalm 41, Matthew 26
It’s going to get worse before it gets better.
In the Exodus story, the Israelite's have good reason to complain. Since Moses announced God’s plan to deliver the Israelites, their lives have gotten much worse. Work production needs to increase, and the supplies to aid in production are decreased. They cry out, “You’ve made it much more difficult!”
In the life of Jesus, he is communicating to the disciples, in a way, “It’s going to get worse, before it gets better.”
The Son of God will be sitting at the right hand of the Lord in Heaven, soon, but not yet. For now, everyone is going to betray him. Even Peter, who can hardly believe it, and renounces the idea, altogether completely.
Yet he does betray. He does reject knowing Christ.
We know that things will get worse for Jesus. We know that they get worse for the Israelite’s as well.
It is in the incredible pain and suffering that both the Israelites and Jesus experience, that gives us the hope for what is ahead. David captures it well,
Psalm 41:1,3— 1 Blessed are those who have regard for the weak; the Lord delivers them in times of trouble. 3 The Lord sustains them on their sickbed and restores them from their bed of illness.
We must have illness to know the joy and comfort of healing. We must have death in order to fully appreciate life. We must have difficulty, to know the joy of ease.
We must have Israelite’s who no longer wish to live in Egypt, they will wander back if it is better than where they are heading. We must have a crucified Lord, abandoned by His closest friends, to understand that he truly knows great suffering, and offers incredible forgiveness.
It’s going to get worse before it gets better.
But it will definitely be Better!
Day 31, January 31, 2021
Scriptures: Exodus 4, Matthew 25
Exodus 4:31 (TNIV) — 31 and they believed. And when they heard that the Lord was concerned about them and had seen their misery, they bowed down and worshiped.
Matthew 25:40 (TNIV) — 40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Showing concern for others.
We’ve been reading about the story of the Israelites, and at the same time, seeing the progression of Jesus’ ministry. Here in Matthew 25, he gives instruction that the disciples of Jesus would care for others. As they care for brothers and sisters, they also, are caring for Jesus the King.
It is curious that it is brother and sisters. An argument can be made that this is about caring for one another in the church. I agree. I also see it as a genuine posture towards all people though, as well. That I would be concerned and caring for those who are hurting.
It is the Exodus story, where the Israelites are cared for by God. The tables have turned, and in the Old Testament story, it is the Israelites who feel forgotten, no longer. The Lord was concerned for them.
A simple encouragement today, for each of us, is to be concerned for one another. Care about each other. As we care for one another, we might help one another in whatever difficult circumstances we are in. We will be a cool refreshing drink, to a dry and wearied world.
You are blessed to be a blessing.
Day 30, January 30, 2021
Scriptures: Exodus 2-3, Matthew 24
It is interesting that a day and hour that is unknown to Jesus, is known to so many who can read the signs of the times and tell us of the immanent destruction and decimation of the world.
Jesus doesn’t know the day, but these prognosticators do. Eyeroll.
But here Jesus offers fair warning. Of a day that is coming, one in which you should pray that you aren’t a nursing mother, because the days will be difficult.
It feels, not unlike the days of Exodus where it was arguably pretty bad to be a Hebrew woman and a nursing mother as well. God calls Moses, who was delivered by an Ark of his own. Only two times is it used in the bible, and here in Exodus, Moses’ is laid in an ark basket, the same word used of Noah’s Ark.
A fun little connection there too, just like in the days of Noah, people were going about their lives, when all of a sudden it was flipped turned upside down.
We also see Moses flee after he kills an Egyptian harming a fellow Hebrew. Word gets out of his murder, and he runs to the hills. There he is called by God for a special purpose. God reveals His name. “I am.”
Anyways, we are uncertain of exactly what is transpiring in Matthew 24. But Jesus is giving fair warning, be ready for the return of the Son of Man. Be ready for the kingdom to come and be fully at hand.
NT Wright uses this as an opportunity to tell us that Jesus is talking, in part, about the destruction of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem. Which seems plainly clear when they are literally walking away from the temple and then the company of believers turn around and look at the buildings and Jesus says, “a day is coming when there will be no stone left unturned.” The temple is destroyed in AD 70. So it appears that this is the case, and it would be a desperate situation for the people to run and flee to save themselves.
As the teaching progresses, it still remains though, that Jesus is potentially talking about a greater day. A day in which all things will be turned over, and the upside-down kingdom of God will be set right-side up.
We don’t know the day of Christ’s return. We simply wait, and must be ready. Moses will deliver the people Israel out of slavery. They will have to act in a hurry, a rush as well. God is always ready to move and carry out his purposes. Let’s ready ourselves as well for what God will do.
Be ready and watchful.
Day 29, January 29, 2021
Scripture: Genesis 50, Exodus 1, Matthew 23
Matthew 23:23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law--justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without nseglecting the former.
The end Joseph’s life is a picture of the righteousness God desires. One of the best Old Testament stories, comes to a close, with the incredible understanding of God and difficult circumstances, “But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them. (Genesis 50:19-21)
Micah 6:8, asks of what is required of people. It isn’t more sacrifice, rather it is “To act justly, love mercy and to walk humbly with the Lord.”
Joseph displays a true understanding of justice, “Am I in the place of God?” Rhetorical question as it is, certainly, he is not God. It’s God’s role to bring about justice. Joseph has lived long enough to know that God is at work, even in difficult circumstances. He can think of multiple occasions in his own life, where he perhaps wanted to exact revenge and bring harm to others. Yet he chose mercy. To give control and justice making/keeping to God, who knows all. Joseph became one who understood walking humbly with the Lord.
The pressure will come on the people of God. Joseph will pass away. His story will be forgotten, and the Israelites will become a threat to the power and reign of Egypt. They look to suppress them through slavery and the killing of their firstborn boys. What Pharaoh intends for harm, will become the ingredients used by God to miraculously deliver His people. What people intend for harm, God can use to strengthen and accomplish His purposes.
The connection to today’s world is an important one. As we navigate our faith in the world today, it is just as important that we not neglect the important matters of the law, justice, mercy and faithfulness. Though it may become increasingly difficult, and the pressures we face may become more and more difficult, God will use it for His glory.
So, Love the lowly, forgive as God has forgiven you, and walk humbly with the Lord.
Day 28, January 28, 2021
Scriptures: Genesis 48-49, Matthew 22
Matthew 22:32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”
Jacob dies at the end of the Genesis reading today. Offering us, in the waning chapters of Genesis, a bit of closure on the Promise given to Abraham. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, these Promise bearers, have now all passed away. Offering their blessings from one generation to the next.
The above quote comes from Jesus while he is in the midst of interrogation by the Sadducees, who are sad, you see, because they don’t believe in the resurrection from the dead.
Of course, Jesus believes in the resurrection, and He references a quote from Exodus, between God and Moses. When Moses hears this exact phrase, from God, Moses looks away in fear of his own death.
If Abraham, Isaac and Jacob all died, how is God, the God of the living?
I think what God is saying to Moses, and what Jesus intends to convey to his detractors is something along the lines of the living hope of the Promise given to Abraham. The God who spoke to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, is still alive and speaking to Moses. And now, he is alive and speaking to the Sadducees, in the person of Jesus. God is the God of the living.
I might be wrong on that, either way, what I’m seeing is a whole group of people who are shut down in the conversation and don’t know what to say after Jesus quotes the same thing God says to Moses. To refute the resurrection is to say, now, that the God of Abraham, who had a child in his old age, from a dead womb, God brought life. To Isaac, who was about to die, at the sacrifice with his father, God provided a ram. And Jacob, who had many sons, and grew into a great nation, this Jacob who was Israel, who wrestled with God…well this God is alive, and he was with Moses, and he is with them now, in Jesus.
The story is putting together for us the life we can have in the Promise given to Abraham, life in the Kingdom of God.
We are told what the greatest way of life is , the greatest commandment, the most important thing is; Love the Lord our God with all of our heart, with all of our soul, all of our mind and all of our strength. And to love our neighbor as ourselves. That’s the whole thing., the whole law, in its summation and purpose. Love God, love others.
This teaching, leads us forward as followers of Christ. The practical connection between these chapters and into our every day lives is pretty simple, and vitally important. Do I love others? Do I listen to them, encourage them, support them, give time, energy and resources to them? do I pray for them? Do I treat them kindly, give them attention and concern? Am I patient with them? Do I care?
When we get a hold of the greatest commandment, we get a hold of real life. We understand a little more fully that God is the God of the living. His ways bring life.
Love the Lord your God.
Day 27, January 27, 2021
Scriptures: Genesis 47, Matthew 21
Jacob’s children settle in Goshen. This is the culmination of an incredible story of God working in Joseph’s life through terrible circumstances. Joseph was sent away from his family, only to provide for them a place to live and ride out the terrible famine.
This incredible story comes to an end. And within all of it, we see Pharaoh increasing in incomparable power. The famine becomes one of the largest land grabs in history. Joseph provides the wisdom necessary for the kingdom of Pharaoh to expand larger than ever imagined.
As we enter again into our Gospel narrative, we are following the story of Jesus. It is time for him to enter into Jerusalem, and these are the final days leading up to His death on the cross. It begins with much fanfare. Jesus is celebrated as an arriving King. The hopes are high, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”
The people of Israel are ready to crown this man king. They are set and ready to take back what was rightfully theirs.
Just as Pharaoh and Egypt went about a large land grab, in the midst of human suffering, every empire after has followed suit. In the case of Jesus’ lifetime, it was the Roman empire. It too was expanding. It was even more aggressive in taxation than a fifth of the crops of Egypt.
Israel is primed and ready in anticipation that Jesus is the earthly king who will set their world right. And oh, He Will. Just much more than they ever imagined. And not at all like they had hoped.
Jesus will set the world right, and he will become king, but not through sword. Not through incomparable power of His own.
He will lay down His life. He will be struck and killed. He will take the very worst hit he can, by the most powerful nation of its time, and render it powerless.
The people expect the Son of David to take his thrown, and it doesn’t work out as expected. They wanted a physical reign of Jesus. They were looking to crown him king.
Of course, Jesus has something far higher and grander in mind. He is King of kings and Lord of lords after all. And that means, not just reigning over Jerusalem, but over all creation.
The connection to today. Well, it’s pretty easy to see empires still running the world through land grabs, and taxation, and the powerful seeking more power.
This won’t work out for Joseph’s people. They will become the slaves in Egypt. The tables will turn against them. So we are wise, to set our hearts and our minds, not on earthly gain, but heavenly purposes. We fix our eyes on the King of Heaven and earth, over all creation. We pray the Lord’s prayer, “May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
May the Lord accomplish his purposes in us today!
Day 26, January 26, 2021
Scriptures: Genesis 45-46, Matthew 20
Joseph finally reveals his true identity. His brothers can hardly believe it, but it is made clear to them that he is in fact, the brother they sold into Egyptian slavery.
And it is clear to Joseph, that while these brothers acted harshly towards him, it was all within God’s plan. His dream was coming true, and he saw God working within all of it, to accomplish His purposes.
In our Gospel reading, we have another parable. The workers in the vineyard express their frustration that some have worked the entire day, while others only worked part of the day, but they enjoy the same payment.
The gift of the kingdom is going to come to us all, despite when we arrived on the workforce.
I suppose Joseph’s heart has something to teach us here. He endured much, became a slave, and found himself in a position to bless others. He saw God at work within all of it. Jesus gives us this parable to get a good sense of what is to come for the Gentiles. The Gentiles will be the late arrivals to the workforce. But they too will have a place in the kingdom. Israel did all of the early work, carrying the burden of the promise and the law, but the Gentiles will get an inheritance too.
We have a place in the kingdom. It’s all a part of the Good News. We are all invited to become servants of God, in the Kingdom of God, inheritors of a new hope.
We all want to be great in the kingdom. But Jesus changes our focus. James and John’s mom, wanted for her boys to have a great spot in the kingdom. Perhaps, number 1 and 2 to Pharaoh, like Joseph. Like Joseph’s situation, that’s for God to grant. Jesus says, “We are past all of this gentile lordship, high official nonsense… whoever wants to be first must be your slave –just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
We are called to serve. We have a place in the kingdom. And it is not about moving upward in importance, stature, and power. It’s about simply having a place on the workforce, a part of the family of God. Like Joseph, he became a slave, and was given an opportunity to bless others. Let’s do the same!
Join the team!
Day 25, January 25, 2021
Scriptures: Genesis 44-45, Matthew 19
Matthew 19 brings us an important development in the plot of Israel. “28Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. 30But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.”
There might be a connection, when considering the rich young ruler, following all of the law, and needing to give up everything to follow the whole law. The young man turns away, saddened because he has great wealth. Joseph’s brothers are going to have to turn from the land of Canaan, and go to Egypt. They must give it all up to have a place of protection and provision from God.
We are invited, in Matthew 18, to take up our crosses to follow him. And here in chapter 19, we draw our attention here:
23Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for the rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
25When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”
26Jesus looked at them and said, “With human beings this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Joseph perhaps can echo this statement, “with human beings, this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Joseph will be able to do the impossible. Provide for his brothers a place where they can have provision and protection. They will give it all up to come and be with him there in Egypt.
Friends, when we come to Christ, we turn from the comforts of this world, and we find that we have everything we need in Jesus and His Kingdom. We may not see how it is humanly possible to have all we need. And that’s true, it’s not humanly possible. But with God, all things are possible through Him.
The connection from the scriptures to our world, today. Perhaps we remind ourselves of the times that God has graciously provided for us, even when it was seemingly impossible.
He is with you. He is faithful.
Day 24, January 24, 2021
Scriptures: Genesis 42, Matthew 18
Forgiveness. Joseph hasn’t forgiven his brothers yet. At this point, he’s playing a bit of a game with them. Joseph is messing with his brothers, before the big reveal that he is still alive. Forgiveness will come, eventually. For now, let’s make them sweat a little. He can’t make it too easy.
Joseph starts out like the unmerciful servant, and he eventually will become a merciful brother, forgiving the brothers and welcoming them into Egypt, and the gracious provision of God.
The lesson of Matthew 18 is to find ourselves also, a forgiving people. If Joseph can forgive his brothers for all that they did to him, then it seems reasonable on our part to forgive as well.
After all, we’ve been forgiven much, we ought to be forgiving of others.
The connections between the scriptures, ought to remind us to connect it to our everyday life as well. I’ll try to improve on that piece of the devotions. The connections today are easy, who do you need to forgive? Who needs mercy? Who do you wish to reconcile with?
It’s an important question to consider as we seek the Lord and His kingdom today.
Forgive as Christ forgave you.
Day 23, January 23, 2021
Scriptures: Genesis 41, Psalm 40 and Matthew 17
“This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to Him!”
This is it. This is the passage that reminds us that Jesus is God’s Son. God’s provision for salvation and deliverance. He’s the Son, He is loved by the Father, in turn, he will lovingly lay down His life for the world. And while the disciples still don’t understand this message, we see it with the crucifixion and resurrection in mind. We know what is ahead. We know of the famine that is coming.
When we look back at the interpretation of Pharaoh’s dream, we see another moment, another instance of God providing, God caring for His people. Joseph is ousted by His brothers, falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife, imprisoned, and forgotten. Suddenly, Joseph is before the mightiest of emperors, Pharaoh, and he can offer him help and counsel. God will use this to help the nation Israel when the famine comes.
God will provide deliverance and help for the people of Israel. God will do this through the difficulty that Joseph has faced.
Jesus has come, and he will rescue the people of Israel, and all of creation. He will rescue us. Jesus will undergo similar treatment; he will be falsely accused, he will be imprisoned, albeit briefly, he will be forgotten and abandoned by those he helped. God will work in this as well, and will accomplish His purposes, and rescue us.
The response is to simply remember, “This is the Son of God, Listen to Him.”
Jordan Ickes, Minister of Etna Green Church of Christ.