Day 22, January 22, 2021
Scriptures: Genesis 39-40, Matthew 16
Interpreting the signs and the times
It is curious to me how there has been some fun connections, helpful connections throughout our reading so far. Perhaps it is a lot like when you buy a new car. You never noticed before, but suddenly, everyone has a similar vehicle as you. You thought you were original, but you are not!
I say that as a precaution that not everything we look at will be what the NT writer had intended for us to hear and understand. But where the connection is, let us be prayerful that the Holy Spirit would lead us properly. I pray we see the goodness and glory of God, in Jesus, all the more clearly as we walk with Him and study His Word.
I enjoyed today’s reading, as I humorously thought about the baker’s request for Joseph to interpret his dream. What a let down! I know its wrong to laugh, but I picture the guy thinking, “hey, the cupbearer got a good interpretation, how about me?”
Joseph, “Yeah, Pharaoh is going to have you impaled.” Yikes!
Jumping ahead to Jesus, in Matthew 16, we see Jesus is asked to show a sign from heaven. Jesus rebukes the Pharisees and says of them, “You can interpret the skies, but you can't figure out what’s happening right under your nose.” (My paraphrase)
The rest of the chapter, Jesus interprets what has happened and what will happen. He is preparing them to understand that the resurrection is coming, but it is all a part of God’s plans and this new age of the kingdom that is upon them.
Jesus is explaining to them about the kingdom and bringing to light His Lordship.
Jesus turns the table, and he asks them to share who it is that people believe him to be. A question, of sorts, about how the general public is doing at interpreting the times. They are close, but not getting it. Peter, he interprets who Jesus is, correctly, and it is said by Jesus, “God has revealed this to you.”
Peter becomes an interpreter of truth, just like Joseph had the dreams revealed to Him. The dream of the Messiah who would come and rescue the world, well Peter gets it. He tells us how to see Jesus clearly.
And the church would be built on this certain truth; Jesus is the Messiah, our Lord and Savior.
We are invited at the end of the chapter, to carry our cross and follow Christ. Joseph would suffer for doing what was right. We can anticipate that we are in a similar situation. It is not easy to declare Jesus as Lord. But we can know, that despite great difficulty, Christ will be with us, and we will have life in. His kingdom.
Take up your cross today!
Day 21, January 21, 2021
Scriptures: Genesis 37-38, Matthew 15
“What goes into your mouth does not defile you, but what comes out of your mouth, that is what defiles you.” – Jesus (Matthew 15:11)
What comes out of your mouth, that’s what defiles you. Jesus, in the context of his disciples not washing their hands before they eat. The Pharisees and the disciples momma’s were disappointed.
The story of Joseph’s brothers gives a nice illustration of what actually defiles. The brothers plot the death of their brother. Their anger, bitterness and frustration come from their lips. “Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more.” (Genesis 37:5)
Jesus further commentary on what actually defiles us, brings to light what comes from within: “17“Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these defile you. 19For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20These are what defile you; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile you.”
The brothers of Joseph certainly make for a good case of the evil that comes from the heart. False testimony, and potential murder pour out of the brothers, in attempt to thwart Joseph’s dream.
Of course, Joseph’s dream is going to turn true. And God is going to work in miraculous ways to bring about provision and protection for God’s people. God is going to work through Joseph’s misfortunes to bring about His purposes. He will rescue the Israelites from the famine that is coming, and provide a place for them to grow and prosper as a nation.
In our Gospel reading, Matthews thoughts on food and stomach take him to an important account regarding the provision of God. Jesus has compassion on the crowd, Jesus says to the disciples that these folks have been with us for three days, they don’t have anything to eat.
Jesus once again provides for them all. Today’s reading helps me to see my own depravity, my own brokenness and sin, the things that have come out of me and truly defiled me. But I also see the gracious, compassionate provision of God, through Christ.
I know the rest of the story, my familiarity helps me put this part of the reading into perspective. I know that God is going to act. I know that God is going to ultimately do something to help and care for Joseph. I also know that God is going to do something for the condition of my heart. His Son is going to go to the cross, and offer forgiveness of sins. He’s going to give me a new heart, so what flows from it is more like the Holy Spirit, than this heart of stone I was born with. Out of the overflow of a heart for God, my mouth will speak of His Praise and Glory.
Praise Him and His Gracious provision!
Day 20, January 20, 2021
Scriptures: Genesis 36, Matthew 14
Well, the exciting genealogy of Genesis is back again. It is difficult to glean from and today, well, in regard to the connections to our NT passage, I’m coming up a little short. A curious thing that I had forgotten about though, comes from Genesis 36:7 “Their possessions were too great for them to remain together; the land where they were staying could not support them both because of their livestock.”
Jacob and Esau, and their respective families, part company because their wealth becomes to great, and the land couldn’t support them. Thus, Esau goes the way of Edom. Which will have consequences throughout the Old Testament.
What a joy it is to have Matthew 14 as a part of today’s reading. Several important stories that have helped us in our faith, over and over again. Jesus retreat to prayer, disrupted by crowds trying to find him. Jesus mourning the death of his friend, yet still having compassion on the people who are seeking Him.
There is a lot that could be said from Matthew 14. But I’d like to draw our attention to Peter, walking on water, and sinking.
Jesus saves Peter, and asks a question, “Why did you doubt?”
I know we’ve all been through quite a lot lately, and this question Jesus asks Peter could also have been asked of me several times over the last year. When things weren’t going right, when I looked at the storm, when I felt like I was definitely sinking, Jesus could have asked me repeatedly, “Why doubt?”
Because sometimes the storm is scary. Sometimes I turn my focus off of you. Sometimes I’m just plain afraid.
I doubted because I no longer felt like I had control.
Jesus rescues Peter, brings him into the boat, and everyone who is there realizes that Jesus is the Son of God. They worship Him. Jesus is greater than the storm.
My hope is that God would rescue us from the storm, as He always does, and we would know that Jesus is the Son of God.
Jesus is greater.
Day 19, January 19, 2021
Scriptures: Genesis 35, Matthew 13
Thank you for joining along with the reading. We are 19 days in, and by now, we are developing what is hopefully a steady routine of spending time reading the Word of God.
In our Genesis reading today, we see the death of Isaac and Rachel. It ends with Esau and Jacob coming together to bury their father. What has been a tumultuous relationship throughout the last several chapters result in them coming together to honor their father, Isaac.
Within this chapter as well, we see Jacob’s sons, the children of Israel. In the ongoing narrative of Israel, this is a fundamental piece to understanding Israel and the Bible story. These are the 12 tribes of Israel, and their names will be of critical importance to the rest of the way.
Jesus’ preaching ministry is on display in Matthew 13. A common theme in all of the parables is concerning the kingdom of Heaven. A short comment here, I believe the Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of God to be referencing the reign of God over heaven and earth. Matthew is reverencing the name of God and using “heaven” to refrain from overusing the name of the Lord. The Kingdom of God/Heaven is the reign of Jesus as Lord and King, and we belong to it, and live within it, because we believe Jesus to be Lord and King, the Messiah. This calls for all of our loyalty, hope and allegiances.
The message throughout the parables, similar in its various forms, is that the Kingdom is worth giving everything we have, to be a part of and belong. The Kingdom of God started in humble beginnings, like a mustard seed, and it grows and grows, enough to the point where it will encapsulate and entire new creation and new hope for the world. Weeds will grow within it, to discourage, and hinder the growth of this kingdom, but the weeds will not prevail!
It is quite similar to the humble beginnings of a Promise given to Abraham, that results in a son Isaac, who has two sons, Esau and Jacob. Jacob who has 12 sons, will grow to become a great nation, and out of that nation, a King who will be born. And all of creation will call him King Jesus.
Included in this wonderful chapter of Matthew is the Parable of the Sower. The parable reminding us of the importance of hearing and obeying the Word of God. To let it sink in and bear good fruit in our lives.
The connection today, importantly, is our connection to the sons of Israel, the inheritance of the Promise given to Abraham, and the hope of the Kingdom of God. Cultivate the field that you might hear this and find your hope in Jesus alone. Cultivating the field to be open to the Truth of God’s Word, and letting it bear a good fruit in our lives for the glory of God and His Kingdom.
You belong to the King and have a place in His Kingdom.
Day 18, January 18, 2021
Scriptures: Genesis 34, Matthew 12, Psalm 64
The violence and depravity of humanity is on full display within the story of Dinah in Genesis 34. This tragedy of rape, death and deceit, disturbs our righteous sensibilities. How does a story like this get redeemed? What lessons do we learn?
Jesus offers us a commentary of sorts. “Good people bring good things out of the good stored up in them, and evil people bring evil things out of the evil stored up in them.”
“Out of the overflow of our heart, our mouth speaks.”
Jesus teaches us that what’s in us, comes out of us. We see this as truthful as we reflect on our daily lives, and consider what we see and hear on our social media sites, our conversations with coworkers, friends and family. We hear, often times the anger, the frustration the bitterness, it pours out from all of our hearts.
The only solution is to make the tree good. I read a long time ago, in a book, “The Great Omission” by Dallas Willard something that has helped me quite a lot in my journey with Christ. He says, in light of Matthew 12, “If you tend to the tree, the fruit will take care of itself.”
Dallas’ point is that if you give your heart to Christ, if you open yourself to Him and His presence and Spirit, the fruit will change. A good tree will bear good fruit. We join with David, in Psalm 64
“The righteous will rejoice in the Lord
and take refuge in him;
all the upright in heart will glory in him.
All Glory be to Christ,
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!
Jordan Ickes, Minister of Etna Green Church of Christ.