What we are reading this week (beginning Thursday, May 14, 2021):
• Genesis 43-49
• Isaiah 43-49
• Mark 14-16 ~ Luke 1-4
• Psalms 43-49
We will finish off our second gospel this week, and be right up against finishing Genesis after this week. We’ve already covered a lot of ground! I hope you are keeping up!
Notes on Genesis
We will see the brothers returning for their second trip to Egypt, this time with little brother Benjamin (chapter 43). This time we will also see Joseph reveal his identity (chapter 44). This story never gets old for me.
Joseph’s brothers continue to bumble along. After finding all of their silver in their sacks after their first trip, they make an utterly foolish bargain the second time, offering death for anyone who would have Joseph’s silver cup in his sack (44.9). This ruse played perfectly into Joseph’s hand, and he milked it for all it was worth, giving his brothers an offer to betray his younger brother just as they had him. They passed the test with flying colors (44.16-34, especially 33). After his stunning revelation in chapter 45 that he was indeed their brother Joseph, the electricity in the room must have been mind-blowing. The brothers, in the presence of the incredibly high-ranking official that their brother had become (the second most powerful person on the planet), could first of all not even imagine that he would still be alive; but then also had to contemplate the horrible ways he would most likely put all of them to death. He did not do this, of course, but sent them on their way back home to retrieve his father. He told them not to quarrel on the way, which I always get a kick out of (45.24). But the worst was yet to come for the brothers. They would need to find a way to explain to their father how Joseph was not dead, and how he ended up in Egypt. This would have been a most intense conversation. It was time to put away pretense and be honest. I’m sure they at least considered a way to explain it away in such words that would keep them innocent. But they knew it would never pan out in the long run. The short family record in chapter 46 records the effects of the sexual misdeeds of the brothers. Simeon has a child by a woman not his wife nor a Hebrew (46.10); We are reminded of the sins of Judah in verse 12. Joseph’s sons Ephraim and Manasseh would become half-tribes in Israel. In many of the lists of the tribes throughout the Old Testament, we will see their two names instead of Joseph (even though Manasseh would often be left out). Ephraim will become so large and influential that the name itself would become an alternate for the name of Israel, particularly for the northern kingdom after the country is divided into the two kingdoms. Isaiah in particular uses this title of Ephraim many times in referring to the northern kingdom. What is interesting is that these two twins were half-Egyptian. I wonder what criteria Joseph used in selecting the five brothers in 47.2 to present before Pharaoh. Jacob had a prophetic gifting, and doled out prophecies to each of his sons as he lay dying on his bed. Many of these were not positive at all. However, the promise of the Messiah is given in his word to Judah (49.10). You hear Jacob gasping for breath as he approaches his end later on this day in 49.18. Benjamin, the sweet youngest brother, would turn out to be rather nasty (49.27). His tribe, his descendants would fall into all kinds of apostasy and trouble.
Notes on Isaiah
We have encountered wonderful words in the prophet’s book over these last two weeks, words of declaration, summarized somewhat like this: “I am the first and I am the last. Apart from me, there is no other. I am God, and God alone.” The rebellion of man and the futility of idol worship is addressed again and again. I really like the opening of chapter 46: “…their idols are borne by beasts of burden. The images that are carried about are burdensome, a burden for the weary.” Anything we choose other than the Lord is going to turn into an unmanageable, fruitless, and frustrating burden.
The folly of the construction of the idol is given in lengthy description in chapter 44. Like the idols of today, when something is man-made, there is something inherently wrong in thinking it will somehow save us. The words of Philippians 2 find their basis here in 45.23: “Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear…” Idols create burdens for us. On the other hand, God upholds, carries, and sustains us (46.1-4). If you are familiar with the message of Habakkuk (written around the same time of Isaiah, maybe a little later), 47.1 is an interesting verse to contemplate and compare with the other prophet’s message. If only we would be completely obedient, how well our lives would go! (see 48.18-19). Another call-out to Israel’s destiny to bring salvation to the entire world. Again, this part would be overlooked almost entirely by the people of God (49.6).
Notes on Mark
Did Peter think that his denial was the fulfillment of Jesus’ prediction that one His own would betray him? (see 14.18 and 14.66-72). RE Barabbas. It seems to me that the traditional vote for the release of a prisoner each year (by Pilate to appease some of the tension between Rome and the Jews) would have involved popular political prisoners of Rome. Barabbas was not one of these. I’m thinking that Pilate, seeing the wrongfulness of the accusations against Jesus, picked the most hideous person he could think of to make it easy for the crowds to choose Jesus (I love the depiction of Barabbas in Passion of the Christ). I also see in the choice between Jesus and Barabbas a reflection of the scapegoat ceremony that the Jews observed every year during the Day of Atonement (see Leviticus 16.5, 7-10).
Notes on Luke
Luke is often referred to as the doctor, and the only reason we know that he was is because of a brief aside in Colossians 4:14: “Our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings.” However, you cannot help but notice how many, many healings he details in his gospel.
Gabriel uses the words of Malachi 4 in explaining John the Baptist’s role to Zechariah (1.17). Zechariah in turn uses the words of Isaiah 40 to describe his son (1.76).
We see the process of purification following childbirth (from Leviticus 12) played out in Mary’s life following the birth of Jesus in Luke 2. Though he was circumcised on the eighth day, she and Joseph did not go to the Temple until day 40 (per Leviticus 12.3-4).
We know that she and Joseph were poor, because instead of bringing a lamb (Leviticus 12.6), she brought two doves (12.8, Luke 2.22-24).
I love 3.1–2: “ In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene— during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness.” All of the important political and religious people, with all of their lofty titles and great influence… but the immortal word of God goes to a lonely man out in the desert. Those who try to claim Jesus as something less than God often go to the argument, “Jesus was the SON of God, but not really God.” However, in his discourse with the devil, Satan himself uses the phrase “Son of God” with full understanding that it implies full deity (4.3, 9).
Notes on Psalms
Psalm 45 is a wedding song. The flow of this sounds a lot like Song of Songs.
Psalm 46 is a powerful piece. I like to meditate on this one.
Clapping is a Biblically endorsed form of worship! See 47.1. Also, shouting and trumpets! Some great prompts to set up God’s wonderful plan of salvation through the cross are given in 49.7-9,13-15.
As I still wait for that magic moment for my life and welfare come together the way that I want, all the while comparing myself to so many that have done so much better than me (usually sans God), I read: “Do not be overawed when a man grows rich, when the splendor of his house increases; for he will take nothing with him when he dies, his splendor will not descend with him” (49.26-27).