What we are reading this week (beginning Thursday, May 20, 2021):
• Genesis 50 ~ Exodus 1-6
• Isaiah 50-56
• Luke 6-12
• Psalms 50-56
I messed up the Mark/Luke chapter numbers last week (by just one, but still…). Sorry about that!
We finish up Genesis and are closing in on Isaiah.
Notes on Genesis
After Jacob’s death, the brothers try one more big lie to protect themselves from Joseph. He immediately sees right through it, and is heart-broken that they would resort to this (50.15-20). In spite of his wealth and position, Joseph has allowed himself to mature spiritually, and offers them a deep insight: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives (50.20).” What a man!
Notes on Exodus
Many times in the Bible we read about God’s people being sent into exile or some type of oppression or discontent for disobedience. But here in Exodus, the small but quickly expanding family of Israel is about to be sent into a harsh 430-year bondage of slavery for no apparent sin. I’m somewhat baffled by this. There is also in the first chapter a befuddling moral dilemma as God rewards midwives for lying (1.19–21). It does indeed show, however, that God is strongly pro-life! To be fair, these midwives were caught between a rock and a hard place. And they feared God more than they feared Pharaoh (1.21).
Even though not mentioned by name in chapter two, Moses’ sister Miriam comes to the rescue on behalf of her brother. After fearing for his life, Moses’ mother is now paid by the Egyptian government to raise her own child (see 2.7-9). God has amazing ways! The name given to the baby is full of meaning. “Moses” means “to draw out” (2.10). She drew him out of the water, but his purpose in his life was to draw the people of God out of Egypt and bring them to the Promised Land.
The most powerful name of God (imho) is given in 3.14: “I AM that I AM.”
As most of you know, I consider Moses the greatest leader ever (other than Jesus). He had a lot of on-the-job training in the Egyptian government to become the leader he eventually would be, and I find it incredible, seeing what he would eventually be capable of, how weak he appeared earlier in certain respects: “O, Lord, please send someone else to do it” (4.13).
I’m thinking that when the Hebrews were told that they had to gather their own straw (5.11-12), there were some lucky Egyptians who suddenly had a lot more time on their hands every day.
Notes on Isaiah
I simply love the book of Isaiah. In spite of the many “woes” and prophecies of warning, there are continual references to the glorious future of the people of God. See, for example, 51.11: “Those the LORD has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.” If these words sounded familiar, the exact same words appeared back in chapter 35, verse 10. The extended description of the Suffering Servant begins in 52.13 and continuing through the end of chapter 53. This is such a point-on description of Jesus, his life and ministry. It takes a special level of denial to try to explain this away, but many try to. Jewish scholarship generally thinks that this Suffering Servant corresponds to the people of God (Israel), but trying to match these words to that group of people falls apart on many, many levels. Upon the cross, Jesus took upon himself not only our sins, but our pain and suffering as well (53.4). There is a long strand of verses that is some of the richest text in the Bible, in 55.6-12.
Notes on Luke
The centurion we find in chapter 7 is a very intriguing character. Though a “hated Roman”, he not only loved the Jews, but contributed toward the building of their synagogue (7.4). When they tell Jesus that this man deserved a private audience with him, Jesus does not scold them for such presumption, but goes to see the man. Here again, as not only a Gentile, and a hated Roman, and a military guy, Jesus points out that his faith surpasses anything else he has seen. This did not win him any points with his own people. The centurion was able to understand authority in the spirit world, quite a feat for someone who lived outside of the Jewish scholarly world—even though the scholars themselves had no clue. As you have heard me say before, John the Baptist was the only peer Jesus ever had, the only one who truly understood who he was and what he was about. “I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater…” (7.28).
The words of 9.17 are important: After feeding five thousand, “they were all satisfied” and “twelve baskets of broken pieces… were left over,” in case anyone tried to make the case (and some did and still do) that Jesus simply broke the pieces of fish and bread into 5000 itsy bitsy pieces, and everyone had a crumb. The things that claimed about Jesus! Some claimed he was John the Baptist, which is kind of weird since John was still around; Elijah makes a little more sense, but would require a resurrection, as would being one of the OT prophets brought back to life (9.19). Another episode (in 7.48) of Jesus forgiving sins with the exact same response: If he claims to do this, he is claiming to be God. No matter how anyone tries to deconstruct the words of Jesus today, the people of his day clearly understood that he was claiming to be deity (7.47-49).
The Lord’s Prayer always seemed to me to be so brief and even seemingly over-simple in contrast to the way Jesus actually prayed. However, in Luke, right after the traditional prayer is given, Jesus goes on with many more details, instructions, and insights regarding prayer (11.5-13).
Anyone who claims that Jesus was “nice” to everyone never read this gospel (and a lot of other parts of the other gospels). Look at his confrontational style. While speaking to a Pharisee, in the man’s own home, he says, “Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness” (11.39). And then another man, an expert in the law chimes in, in verse 45: “Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us also.” Jesus says, “Oh, I didn’t mean to upset you. Let me explain…” Actually, no. Jesus told him, ““And you experts in the law, woe to you..,” and goes on to insult him even more than the Pharisee, ending with accusations of murder and apostasy. Don’t ever say that Jesus was nice to everybody. It’s simply not true.
Notes on Psalms
Can we ever read Psalm 51 too many times? Can we possibly read it so many times that we cease to be encouraged? I think not!
This is David’s psalm of repentance after committing adultery with Bathsheba and killing her husband in an attempt to cover it up. Sinners by the million have found comfort in the profound grace of God in offering forgiveness to us all: Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow... Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me... You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.