Welcome to Week 8, 2018 – Reading thru the Bible, Getting to know God

As we start this new week together, let’s focus again on our main purpose for reading the Bible: to get to know God, our Father in heaven. We will always have questions, but the more intimate we become with Him, the fewer loose ends we tend to have. So enjoy. Grab your cup and let’s begin.

DAY ONE – Exodus 33-36

It was not without pain and shame that Israel was restored by God’s grace. In the aftermath of the chaos Yahweh dispatched Moses to lead Israel to the land promised to Abraham and offered to send an angel in His place to help them gain the land and settle in it. When Israel heard that Yahweh didn’t want to be among them, they mourned and stripped off all signs of celebration and gaiety. Moses continued to go outside the camp to commune with the Lord and intercede for the nation. He made two major requests that we all do well to emulate throughout our lives. Exodus 33:13  Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your way, that I may know you, so that I may find favor in your sight: and consider that this nation is your people.”  Exodus 33:18  He said, “Please show me your glory.” 

 

Moses learned at Sinai that this nation-developing was not gained easily, and that he was not properly qualified to continue the work without a fresh, God-centered education from Yahweh Himself. Hence, his requests. In both cases the Lord answered positively and acted accordingly, giving fresh revelation to Moses and preparing Him for the long journey and life ahead. In revealing Himself to Moses, the Lord announced: Exodus 34:5-8  Yahweh descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed Yahweh’s name. 6  Yahweh passed by before him, and proclaimed, “Yahweh! Yahweh, a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger, and abundant in loving kindness and truth, 7  keeping loving kindness for thousands, forgiving iniquity and disobedience and sin; and who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, and on the children’s children, on the third and on the fourth generation.” 8  Moses hurried and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshiped. In this manner they started over. God chiseled new engravings on the replacement tablets that Moses brought to the mountain; and when he came down, he gathered the people together and appointed the God-gifted men Bezalel and Aholiab to begin the development of the Lord’s sanctuary in the wilderness, commonly called the ‘tent of meeting’ or the ‘tabernacle.’  This entire experience demonstrates that God is merciful and gracious; that He hears and responds to intercessory prayer; and that He is willing to move forward with us as we humble ourselves in His Presence and seek His face earnestly and sincerely.  It is not an event but a way of life; may we learn God’s ways and mirror His true character to our generation.

NOTE: It appears from these encounters between Moses and Yahweh that God does not change His overall plans but is willing to change His mind as to how He will move forward with us.  Discipline is intended to humble us, not destroy us. When destruction does occur, it is among those who are rebellious and stiff-necked. In spite of that we may receive new mercies and learn more of God’s ways.

DAY TWO – Exodus 37-40

Exodus 39:42-43  According to all that Yahweh commanded Moses, so the children of Israel did all the work. 43  Moses saw all the work, and behold, they had done it as Yahweh had commanded, even so had they done it: and Moses blessed them.  Soon Moses set up the entire edifice exactly as Yahweh had instructed him, establishing a meeting place for Yahweh among the nation of Israelis. When it was done, Yahweh’s Presence came down upon the tent, appearing during the day as a cloud and at night as a fire. So intense was Yahweh’s Presence that Moses could not at first enter the tent. And now the nation of God’s people had their law, their culture, their religion and their meeting place–all given by Yahweh in order to set them apart and distinguish them from all other nations around them. This circumstance would remain for the next forty years, so long as they were on the journey to the land promised Abraham 400 years earlier.

They could see with their eyes all that God had done–

  • The miracles in Egypt that caused the Pharaoh to let them go as Yahweh commanded.
  • The miraculous parting of the Red Sea enabling Israel to cross on dry ground but drowning the Egyptians as they tried to pursue.
  • The unforgettable manifestations of God on Mt. Sinai when their Law was given by Yahweh.
  • The particular and minute specifications for the Tent of Meeting which point forward to the coming of Messiah–though at the time they had no clue!
  • And finally God’s fiery cloud to indicate that He was there, directing and watching over their future.

Their exodus is now complete, and their journey will soon commence. In a very short time God has built a nation–and it still exists with its original language, religion and relevance to the rest of the world!

DAY THREE – Leviticus 1-4

“Leviticus is a most interesting and important book; a book containing a code of sacrificial, ceremonial, civil, and judicial laws, which, for the purity of their morality, the wisdom, justice, and beneficence of their enactments, and the simplicity, dignity, and impressive nature of their rites, are perfectly unrivalled, and altogether worthy of their Divine Author. All the rites and ceremonies of the Mosaic law are at once dignified and expressive. They point out

  • the holiness of their Author,
  • the sinfulness of man,
  • the necessity of an atonement, and
  • the state of moral excellence to which the grace and mercy of the Creator have destined to raise the human soul.

“They include, as well as point out, the gospel of the Son of God; from which they receive their consummation and perfection. The sacrifices and oblations were significant of the atonement of Christ; the requisite qualities of these sacrifices were emblematical of his immaculate character; and the prescribed mode in the form of these offerings, and the mystical rites ordained, were allusive institutions, calculated to enlighten the apprehensions of the Jews, and to prepare them for the reception of the Gospel. The institution of the high priesthood typified Jesus, the Great High Priest, called and prepared of God, who hath an unchangeable priesthood, and is able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him.” (Book Introduction from Treasury of Scripture Knowledge) The beginning of the book is all about offerings: who, what, how. The offerings are regulated by Yahweh, although they appear to be voluntary in nature. The regulations further allow discretion in the offering itself, determined perhaps by the person’s economic advantage and/or the kind of property he has. It might be from the herd, or the flock, or even a bird. In the end, it must represent a person’s ‘all;’ that is, all of the offering must be sacrificed on the altar. It must be burnt with fire, consuming that part which is specified by Yahweh, so that to Him it may be ‘a sweet aroma.’

From these chapters we discover things about God–His reasonableness, flexibility, willingness to allow personal choice, and the reasons behind whatever He prescribes. This is our God, bent on doing everything within His power to provide redemption, protection and a plan for future blessings–all descriptive of His character and purpose. God initiates, we respond; He instructs, we obey; He works, we benefit from all He has done and is doing. I love the Lord  and I pray every day that His kingdom will increase in my sphere of existence. May His kingdom come, His will be done here and now.

DAY FOUR – Leviticus 5-7

wor·ship – n.  — The reverent love and devotion accorded a deity, an idol, or a sacred object.  1) The ceremonies, prayers, or other religious forms by which this love is expressed:  2) Ardent admiration or love; adoration

v. — 1) To honor and love as a deity.  2) To regard with ardent or adoring esteem or devotion. (From <http://www.thefreedictionary.com/_/dict.aspx?word=worship&h=1&w10app=1)

Leviticus is primarily a book about worship, especially the worship of Yahweh God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Each of those men, upon discovering the favor that God was adding to their lives, and wanting to acknowledge His Creatorship, built an altar and offered sacrifice to Yahweh, often several times throughout their wanderings and journeys. Reverent love and devotion toward God is a response not easily developed, as God must always take the first step to initiate relationship and show His nature to the respondent. And so Yahweh took the first, second and additional steps to reveal His good plans and purposes; to demonstrate His excellent character; and to facilitate a reconciliation and redemption toward mankind in general. So He is certainly worthy to be worshipped.

These chapters in Leviticus show the preparations to be undertaken by Israel in the course of worship, in order to satisfy God’s holiness and be acceptable to Him. And the first observation we must make is the BLOOD…so much blood! The blood of every animal was to be poured at the base of the altar designed by God for animal sacrifice. Imagine that many people bringing their offerings to the Lord to be presented by the priests at the designated location of the altar. It was a virtual slaughterhouse as the priests were kept busy in their work before God. And the blood flowed, day after day; and the fire burned, day after day; and the mess had to be cleaned up, day after day; only to be repeated again. Any thinking person can see the liability that sin has placed upon us, and the necessity of worship to God who saves us according to His own grace and mercy. Leviticus 7:37  This is the law of the burnt offering, of the meal offering, and of the sin offering, and of the trespass offering, and of the consecration, and of the sacrifice of peace offerings; 38  which Yahweh commanded Moses in Mount Sinai, in the day that he commanded the children of Israel to offer their offerings to Yahweh, in the wilderness of Sinai. 

DAY FIVE – Leviticus 8-10

The previous chapters outlined the detailed instructions for the Theocracy–God’s rule and government among the Israelis. Now it was time to implement everything. Moses brought Aaron and his sons to the newly-assembled tent of meeting and carried out the CONSECRATION of the tent, of Aaron and his sons. And, of course, it involved the shedding of blood in copious amounts, along with burnt offerings, sin offerings, and consecration offerings. The manner, the place and the ceremony were all specified in minute detail. Moses carried out his part of the ceremony, then had Aaron and his sons copy his actions on behalf of the people–God’s congregation. So they were all consecrated that day–everything and everybody–to demonstrate that they now belong to God and they are ready to enjoy His holy presence. Theoretically, at least, God’s rule is in place and the people are going to demonstrate to the rest of the world how wonderful God is through His work in their midst. Don’t we wish…

 

WEEK 7, 2018 — Through the Bible, Getting to Know God

DAY ONE – Exodus 14-18

Israel is out of Egypt, and Pharaoh is a raving lunatic! How could he have allowed such a thing? The Israelis did all the heavy lifting for Egypt, and now they are gone; they must be brought back. So Pharaoh amasses his chariots, captains, army and whatever else to pursue and recapture Israel. Bad move. On their part Israel is freaked out; they can see the Egyptian army in close pursuit, and they are quickly running out of time. There is no way of escape–at least none visible; and they cry to Yahweh God while they rail against Moses and Aaron. The Israelis feel totally powerless after decades of slavery to resist their tormentors, let alone deliver themselves from them. But God IS in control… Exodus 14:14-18  Yahweh will fight for you, and you shall be still.” 15  Yahweh said to Moses, “Why do you cry to me? Speak to the children of Israel, that they go forward. 16  Lift up your rod, and stretch out your hand over the sea, and divide it: and the children of Israel shall go into the middle of the sea on dry ground. 17  Behold, I myself will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall go in after them: and I will get myself honor over Pharaoh, and over all his armies, over his chariots, and over his horsemen. 18  The Egyptians shall know that I am Yahweh, when I have gotten myself honor over Pharaoh, over his chariots, and over his horsemen.”  God has already gotten victory over the ‘gods’ of Egypt. They were no help to the Egyptians during the nightmares of the plagues. NOW God has determined to extend that victory over Pharaoh himself so that no doubt remains as to who the LORD is! Not only that, but Israel must also be retrained and brought to a new reality to go with her new status. Following the victory of the Red Sea, Moses led Israel in a song of praise to Yahweh… Exodus 15:11-13  Who is like you, Yahweh, among the gods? Who is like you, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders? 12  You stretched out your right hand. The earth swallowed them. 13  “You, in your loving kindness, have led the people that you have redeemed. You have guided them in your strength to your holy habitation. This is the REDEEMED nation, bought back from slavery by God to become a free people who live in the Presence of Almighty God! No one will be able to mess with them if they live in the relationship that God is offering them: “I will be their God and they shall be my people.” So the Red Sea incident is LIFE to Israel and DEATH to Egypt. It is the final rite of passage, as Paul also explains: 1Corinthians 10:1-2  Now I would not have you ignorant, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; 2  and were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea… Redemption and baptism seal the deal. Israel now belongs to God and must learn to live as this newly recovered nation under the blessings of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God’s COVENANT is now in full effect for an entire nation of people who will never be the same as they live in the community of nations.  Their God sets them apart and makes the distinction in no uncertain terms.

So Israel’s song is our song, and it begs to be sung at regular intervals to remind us with Whom we are in relationship. Exodus 15:1-3  Then Moses and the children of Israel sang this song to Yahweh, and said, “I will sing to Yahweh, for he has triumphed gloriously. The horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea. 2  Yah is my strength and song. He has become my salvation. This is my God, and I will praise him; my father’s God, and I will exalt him. 3  Yahweh is a man of war. Yahweh is his name. We go forward; we have a destination; our God is leading us; He has always proved victorious and will again. What part of “don’t be afraid” do we not understand? It’s time, and it’s time NOW. The kingdom “suffers violence, and violent men take it by force.” Men and women of God, move forward in His Presence!

DAY TWO – Exodus 19-21

Living in a pagan culture has diminished Israel considerably. Being slaves to a nation of pagans has further eroded their sensibilities. Among other things, the sanctity of life is no longer understood clearly. So three months after God has delivered Israel from Egypt they arrive at the Mountain of Sinai, where the Lord intends to introduce Himself in a more personal demonstration. He has Moses sanctify the people and prepare them to meet God, after a fashion. On the third day a trumpet blast, long and loud, announces the momentous event, and the mountain begins to tremble as smoke and fire descend on the mountaintop. The blast continues, becoming louder and louder until everybody is trembling and wondering what’s next. With commands and warnings, God summons Moses and Aaron to the mountain and begins to speak. The discourse that follows is commonly called The Ten Commandments, although they are embellished with additional instructions and explanations. In essence, Israel is beginning over again, this time with Yahweh present and active among them to give them distinction and status among the nations. When the Lord is finished with the ceremony, Moses will possess two stone tablets with the 10 commandments etched in them by God’s finger (so to speak). A new understanding of life and relationships will grow out of these instructions, and a new measure of accountability will attend to them. A new degree of civilization will grow out of godly wisdom and training as they move toward their physical destination. It is understood that Yahweh God, who claims to be THEIR God, has done a wonderful thing and intends to see it through by remaining among them.

The instructions guide their relationship with Yahweh and with each other. They will learn the value of life and how to maintain civility in the culture. They will understand when and how to punish unacceptable behavior. Their sense of longevity will grow along with their knowledge and understanding of Yahweh. The end game is that they will procreate a long line of priests and kings who will accomplish God’s will on earth and further Yahweh’s future plans for mankind. For now, however, much of that remains obscure. There is too much to be grasped so soon, and coming generations will need constant reinforcement by Yahweh to keep from scuttling His long-range plans. God’s wisdom always has an invitation to go deeper into His wonderful nature and work with Him to sustain His efforts to salvage mankind and fulfill eternal purposes in His creation. We are privileged to receive His grace and mercy which results in salvation and a rich future with Him. The man of God wisely counsels– Psalm 90:12  So teach us to count our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. 

DAY THREE – Exodus 22-24

There are foundations upon which all societies are built. The Judaic tradition was pieced together from the instructions Yahweh gave through Moses to the people. It was a powerful beginning. First the plagues of Egypt caused the Pharaoh to release the entire nation of Israel to Moses to lead them away. Then at the Red Sea, with no place to go and the Egyptian army close behind, Israel saw the sea open and the water form two walls on either side of a dry passage through the sea. When the Egyptians tried to follow them across, it wasn’t dry anymore!  Now here they are at Mt. Sinai, and the top of the mountain is on fire! Moses is up there with God, and he has witnessed to the people all that God has told him concerning their new life as a free nation. God is a nation-builder, and He fashions the laws and customs of a land to reflect His sense of justice and righteousness, revealing in the process that He is a gracious God. It’s obvious that Yahweh God wants us to be like Him as much as possible. Foundations included property rights, how to live with and among each other, how to regard others fairly and righteously, and how to resolve differences without perverting justice. Once again it’s obvious that God doesn’t show partiality among those who are following and living by His precepts and statutes. He wants all to have a fair shake at life and enjoy the best we can. This is a good God. As Moses received from Yahweh all the ‘law’ for the people he wrote it down and preserved it for posterity. Soon the nation would leave Sinai and continue toward their destination which, four hundred years earlier, had been promised to Abraham and his seed. God is doing everything He said He would do. The people are asked only to fear and obey Him, especially the Angel He would send with them on the journey. When they arrive at their place, the Lord Himself will help clear out the land, remove the current inhabitants and purge the evil that has gone on there for generations. Then they may settle in peace and enjoy what God has done!

The whole Bible reveals the Creator God who made everything and has persisted throughout the millennia to save mankind from a disastrous end of everything. Salvation is everywhere we look, if we are looking for it. God is behind all that is good, if we are considering the good. The natural world isn’t natural; it’s spiritual, for it contains the stamp of God’s creative wisdom everywhere we look. He is All in All, and I take time each day to worship and give thanks. So our ‘journey’ continues into the known future.

DAY FOUR – Exodus 25-28

Religion is God’s gift to man. After Adam and Eve rejected God and were disconnected from their True Source of life, God said to them, “Without shedding of blood there is no remission (or, forgiveness).” That occurred when He had to kill an animal for its skin to cover the first couple, who now knew they were naked. That was the beginning of religion–God’s requirements  to create a bridge for mankind to come to Him. From that time to Noah, very little was revealed by God as to how religion would be carried out on earth. When Noah came out of the ark, he built an altar to God and gave thanks. In return, God added religious context by stipulating the blood theme in religious covenant. People were not to consume the blood of a sacrifice; it was to be poured out as an offering. They were not to eat meat strangled with the blood still inside; it was to be drained from the sacrificial animal. Why? Because ‘the life is in the blood.’ This is what God said. We can thus conclude that all religion that God approved was initiated by Him, not by people. And now we are at Mt. Sinai with the Israelites, and God is downloading to Moses the ONLY religion He ever gave to the world, which means that the hundreds of religions we see among the peoples of the world are the creations of men, not of God. Since all of mankind has historically maintained some worldview that includes God, or god, or gods, religion has proliferated among almost all societies and nations, even if in primitive form. But be clear: the ONLY religion given by God to men is Judaism, for in it is contained all the revelation of God’s salvation being offered through Abraham and his descendants. Religion is God’s way of preparing mankind for His salvation, and Judaism was the beginning of that revelation. It would culminate with Judaism’s replacement, which is salvation through a Person rather than a religion! Jesus would become THE BRIDGE God would offer the world to replace mankind’s efforts to placate God or find a way to come near to Him.

Since we live in a visible, external world, all the religious instruction contained in these chapters creates a visible representation of God’s requirements and can be carried out in a visible and perfunctory manner. So Yahweh God has created a means of access and reminder with repetitive actions that will hopefully keep His people in a healthy relationship with Him…and all of this without them ever really seeing God as He is. External religion will have to suffice until the next part of the plan unfolds. Faith and obedience were needed then, and they are needed now.

DAY FIVE – Exodus 29-32

There is always a beginning. These chapters describe the beginning of Judaism, God’s gift of religion to the descendants of Abraham. However, what is begun as represented in this story is to continue throughout the generations until and unless God Himself provides something better. We repeat with emphasis that Judaism is the ONLY religion ever given by God to the world. All other religions are imposters and attempts of mankind to appease God or be acceptable to Him.

The first noticeable action in this story is the killing of a bull. And that’s only the beginning. Animals will be slaughtered daily throughout the generations by the designated priests of Yahweh to demonstrate the deadly effects of sin on mankind. To also demonstrate the hope associated with their religious observances, Yahweh designates Aaron (Moses’ brother) as high priest, and his sons as priests who serve at God’s tent of Presence, commonly referred to as the ‘tabernacle.’ Their lineage will be successor priests in coming generations. An elaborate ceremony is instituted by God to initiate their priestly service. It is external, observable. The people will SEE what is going on and hear the meaning as explained by Moses.

  1. The priests of God will wear special clothes for their service.
  2. They will operate in a physical facility whose very design, materials and dimensions are specified by Yahweh.
  3. They will be cleansed and anointed in special ceremonies.
  4. They will carry out the sacrifices and offerings–many different kinds–as specified by Yahweh.
  5. They will be set apart from the other tribes as God’s representatives for service.

As to the sacrifices themselves, they will consist of animals, grains, oil, spices, etc. They will occur annually and daily. There will be incense and smoke. Lamps will be lit throughout the night. The sounds of animals being slaughtered may be observed every day. The sights and smells of offerings being burned and otherwise administered before God will be a constant reminder to the people of the consequences of sin and its deadly power over mankind. This wonderful, gracious God of Creation is applying a remedy to sin and offering a BRIDGE over troubled waters so that all mankind may seek Him and find Him. And the first step is to SEE the religion God gave them. It was the first step to experiencing a relationship with Creator God, to entertain His Presence and blessing in their midst; and to remove the threat of extinction that has always existed.

As a footnote to the unfolding of this dramatic story, before Moses could even come down from the mountain with the tablets of stone engraved by the finger of God, the people had made an idol–a gold calf–and held a debauched festival to celebrate their ‘god’ who brought them out of Egypt! Thousands died in that melee, but merciful God salvaged His plan and moved forward with Moses and the Israeli nation.

Are you keeping a journal or notebook? You might be surprised at the insights you are gaining. Your notes will bring you great blessings in the years to come! And if you get behind in the reading, don’t panic; just pick up at our current location and keep moving. You can always go back later. May God add abundant grace to you!

If you live in the Chico area, you are still invited to our discussion group which meets on Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m., 1137 Arbutus Ave. – Chico First Assembly (no meeting February 14)

WEEK SIX – 2018, A Journey thru the Bible

DAY ONE –  Job 37-39, Psalm 19

What Elihu and Job’s three friends had to say all had some truth, but they couldn’t know what was not yet known. Mankind’s disconnection from God left him, so to speak, ‘in the dark.’ Wisdom was tainted when mankind turned from the Creator to the creation to find answers to cosmic mysteries. All science is based on suppositions and theories, and even discoveries are precipitated by poking in the right places. So even though knowledge has increased exponentially, mysteries still abound. What we ‘know’ is what the Creator chooses to reveal. It would seem then, that people would want to foster a relationship with Creator in order to understand His creation!

Yahweh God finally weighs in on the conversations that have gone on for days. And when He does, He addresses only Job.  Where were you, Job? Yes, where were you when I did… well, fill in the blanks. God takes credit for the creation. He claims original wisdom for all that exists–how it got here, how it stays here, how it all works. You know so much, Job–were you there when I did this…and that? What do you have to say for yourself? Well, Job doesn’t have much to say, except: “I am vile; What shall I answer you? I lay my hand over my mouth. Once have I spoken, but I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further.”

And King David, after exclaiming over the creation, gains wisdom and prays, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.” (19:14) In Your sight… yes Lord, that’s my desire, to be okay in Your sight. It’s all that matters. Matthew 6:33-34  But seek first God’s Kingdom, and his righteousness; and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore don’t be anxious for tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Each day’s own evil is sufficient. 

DAY TWO – Job 40-42, Psalm 29

Job’s predicament has now reached crisis proportions. He is, as it were, face-to-face with God Himself. This is a private audience! And God now demands that Job answer Him; He proceeds to ask Job where He has been all the time God has been at work in creation. Using examples of behemoth and Leviathan, God suggests that Job stick to things he can manage and not try to go above his pay grade! Job 42:1-6  Then Job replied to the LORD: 2  “I know that You can do anything, and no one can stop You. 3  You asked, ‘Who is this that questions My wisdom with such ignorance?’ It is I—and I was talking about things I knew nothing about, things far too wonderful for me. 4  You said, ‘Listen and I will speak! I have some questions for you, and you must answer them.’ 5  I had only heard about You before, but now I have seen You with my own eyes. 6  I take back everything I said, and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance.” 

Behemoth seems to represent strength and confidence. Leviathan suggests pride and invincibility. While both of these qualities are given to mankind as well, to enable us to conquer and rule, pride will destroy both us and our machinations. We need a clear vision of the Almighty God to keep us from exalting ourselves in a destructive manner. Psalm 29 is clearly the antidote to pride; it can be summed up in a simple command: Give God all the glory! Go to God’s temple (any place of worship, indoors or outdoors) and meditate on His glorious virtues and traits. Devour the Word of God with prayer for greater wisdom. Try a little dust and ashes, just to be different! God doesn’t want us weak, but He does want our pride under control for His greater purposes.

Conclusion: We may never fully understand the causes and reasons for suffering and pain, but we may be fully assured of God’s great love and care for us in any and all circumstances. Trying to speak for God is especially fraught with potentially risky results; better to simply quote the scriptures and let the Holy Spirit do the speaking for God! After all, He alone knows the mind of our loving Heavenly Father.

Summary: Having found Job’s faith and trust intact, in spite of the suffering the devil put Job through, Almighty God held Job’s friends accountable for their destructive religious philosophies which they piously spouted to Job, while blessing Job abundantly with double all he previously had! Who says Bible stories don’t have magical endings?

DAY THREE – Exodus 1-4

You would hardly call it an auspicious beginning, since Moses was born under a death threat (Auspicious means favorable, fortunate.) But then aren’t we all, since the wages of sin IS death? However, the scriptures are replete with God’s plans and efforts to bring us back from death to life. Here His plan to redeem Israel unfolds through a young Egyptian prince (actually a son of Levi) who has fled Egypt and lived another life until Yahweh God manifests through a burning bush.

Yahweh explains that He is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. All Israel is His son, his firstborn, by right of covenant. So Yahweh has watched over them carefully until this time.  Exodus 2:23-25  In the course of those many days, the king of Egypt died, and the children of Israel sighed because of the bondage, and they cried, and their cry came up to God because of the bondage. 24  God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. 25  God saw the children of Israel, and God was concerned about them. 

Exodus 3:7 -10 Yahweh said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows. 8  I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey; to the place of the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Amorite, the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite. 9  Now, behold, the cry of the children of Israel has come to me. Moreover I have seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. 10  Come now therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh, that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” 

God’s favor often attaches to His purposes–hence, Moses is raised as an Egyptian prince, suddenly loses favor with the Pharaoh, flees for his life, only to be apprehended by a burning bush some years later when he is near eighty years old. From the bush Yahweh identifies Himself, remembers the patriarchs of Israel, acknowledges the great deliverance that is about to occur, and calls Moses to be a Deliverer. In the same manner, each of us is purposed and called by God to be part of His plans and efforts to redeem all of mankind. Where and how we serve depends on God’s favor over our life and the circumstances in which we have arrived.

Take heart, Dear One; our Lord remembers us in every situation and retains great plans for the future. As unlikely as it may seem, all suffering is temporary and cannot endure beyond this current physical existence. Our God, Yahweh our Savior, has created a Promised Land that is within reach through our faith. Whatever the Spirit of God is saying to you about your life, be encouraged. Trust Him fully to finish what He has started. You are in GOOD hands!

DAY FOUR – Exodus 5-9

The beginning of signs, wonders and plagues before Pharaoh by Yahweh, God of Israel– even though the Israelites had no faith in Yahweh, they were willing to go along with Moses until the Egyptians upped the ante and caused their toil to become severe, with torture. Now everyone in Egypt is waiting to see what the standoff between Yahweh and Pharaoh will produce. Moses and Aaron begin working the signs given them by God, and the Egyptians begin to suffer under the heavy hand of the God of Israel. The Egyptian gods mimic some of the signs through their sorcerers in order to harden Pharaoh’s heart. When it becomes apparent after several signs that Yahweh trumps all the gods of Egypt, Pharaoh’s sorcerers let him know they’ve done all they can do, because this is ‘the finger of God.’ Hardened by his early successes, Pharaoh continues to resist God. Tension mounts throughout the land, especially when Yahweh creates a distinction between the neighborhoods of Egypt and Goshen, where the Israelites live. The plagues stop at the border of Goshen! What will it take to convince the Pharaoh that he is not a god?

Indeed, what does it take to convince any generation that there is a True God, Creator of all there is? The world has created its own gods, fed by demonic doctrines and lies. Darkened and confused, mankind persists in his own ways, carelessly ignoring the pleas and overtures of our loving Heavenly Father. Hardness takes many forms, but maybe the sufferings of the present age will cause many to call out for help to a God they don’t yet know. We pray so.

DAY FIVE – Exodus 10-13

God made clear to Moses that by the time He was finished, all Egypt, especially the Pharaoh, would know for sure that Yahweh God, the God of Israel, was more powerful than all the gods of Egypt. A progressive destruction occurred under the plagues of Yahweh, consuming vegetation, crops, cattle, and everything valuable. As God had made the Pharaohs rich under Joseph in order to save all Israel in Egypt, now He decimated them, taking away their riches and their strength. During the siege Moses was elevated in the eyes of all the Egyptians. Egypt was destroyed, Goshen sat pristine and undamaged. The Egyptian people must have wondered how long the Pharaoh could hold out against Yahweh; they were all ruined.

But the ‘piece de resistance,’ the last plague, was the showstopper–God’s masterpiece of sovereignty. In preparation for that fateful night, every Israeli household slew a perfect lamb and sprinkled its blood on the doorposts of their dwellings. They roasted the lamb and ate it in Yahweh’s presence with the prescribed meal. They ate fully clothed and with their sandals on–a state of readiness for departure at Yahweh’s word. It was THAT night that the destroyer–the death angel–was coming. He would strike every household in Egypt, and the firstborn would die, even in the cattle stalls. But Yahweh was the Protector of the households in Goshen, where the blood was sprinkled on the doors. Yes, the death angel was coming, but Yahweh was covering the doorway and preventing the destroyer from harming any Israeli.

One more bit of divine justice–as Egypt prospered through and by the slavery of the Israelis, so God turned the tables. Frightened out of their wits, the Egyptians loaded their Israeli neighbors down with every kind of wealth–gold, silver, jewels, clothing, everything they asked for. Thus the Israelis received eighty years’ worth of back pay and left Egypt with excessive wealth to start a new life!

Creator God, Yahweh, is the father of all creation and the Father of all who put their trust in Yahshua (Jesus), God our savior. Because God is the same now as He was then, we can expect all the blessings of which we read in scripture, as children of the Covenant, the New Covenant of our Lord Jesus. As Jesus taught us to Pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, in earth as it is in heaven.” My heart and soul cry out for the works of God to be seen again in the land, for our children to see again the great signs and wonders of God Almighty, for His Spirit to again light up the body of Christ with His glory.

REMINDERS:

  • To SHARE whenever you feel appropriate.
  • To COMMENT and give a little feedback on how we’re doing.
  • To join our discussion group in Chico at First Assembly Wednesdays, 6:30 p.m.
  • To CONTRIBUTE if you are motivated.

THANK YOU FOR BEING PART OF OUR 2018 JOURNEY THRU THE BIBLE!

WEEK 5, 2018… Finding hope in God

DAY ONE – Job 14-17

Is there hope, or not? If there is, where do we find it? Job 14:6-9  Look away from him, that he may rest, until he shall accomplish, as a hireling, his day. 7  “For there is hope for a tree, If it is cut down, that it will sprout again, that the tender branch of it will not cease. 8  Though its root grows old in the earth, and its stock dies in the ground, 9  yet through the scent of water it will bud, and sprout boughs like a plant. A story is told of single grain of wheat found in a tomb, its home for 3,000 years. When the wheat berry was planted, it acted like any other seed. Its outer shell gave way to the wet, warm earth, and from within the berry a sprout shot forth and grew into a stalk of wheat! Hope lies in the life that is written into all creation. Yes, things die, but God’s life within His creation does not die. Hope rests in God who created us. IN Him is life, and we connect to His life through faith. The ‘scent’ of water is the life that is in God Himself. Therefore, there is hope… always hope, no matter how evil the day may seem to become. Romans 8:38-39  For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39  nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from God’s love, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Hope. Jesus. Hope.

DAY TWO – Job 18-21

“Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” Ah, not true. The soul as well as the body may be broken… and often by words. Words seem to find a life of their own and merge with the life of the person to whom they are spoken. Job’s ‘comforters’, his friends, unfortunately turned out to be his tormentors. No matter how well-meaning they might have been, their words were like arrows which pierced not his skin, but the matter of his soul. Job could have covered his ears, I suppose, and said, “Na na na na na…!” But the contentious nature of their words struck him hard and forced him to try to give meaning to his unspeakable suffering. He couldn’t. And sometimes neither can we. When offering comfort to our friends and associates, we do well to simply remind ourselves that hope lies within God, not our circumstances. As we point away from ourselves to the One who created and loves us, our words may actually heal more than hurt. Wouldn’t that be nice!

DAY THREE – Job 22-25

If the world’s accusations against Job sound familiar, it is because we hear the same accusations in our religious circles. Ignorance of God’s character and of the Scripture, combined with the pain of living in a broken, fallen world, fashion the philosophies and theories which make God out to be either unconcerned or at fault for all the world’s pain, suffering and problems. The devil’s most successful attack against our Lord is defamation, libel and slander. If we can be persuaded to believe that 1) God is not available or approachable; 2) God doesn’t care; 3) God created good and evil and administers both as He wishes; 4) we will never understand God, so why bother… then the problem of pain and suffering will always take us down, without remedy. At that point we can only try to stay on top of life with all the resources we can muster, and hope that we are ‘lucky’ enough to escape the worst.

After more ‘logical’ diatribe against Job, Bildad finally summarized the problem: “How then can a man be righteous before God?” (25:4) Until we properly answer that question we can’t understand the problem of pain and suffering. Let’s remind ourselves that the Creator God, Yahweh by name, made everything good and pleasing, the Garden of Eden being a place of incredible blessing and profuse sufficiency. The first two people, Adam and Eve, forfeited all of that when they wanted to elevate their awareness of themselves. Instead, they lost the immediate Presence and awareness of God. We are all still trying to get that back.

DAY FOUR – Job 26-28

Chapter 28 deals with wisdom–what is it, and where does it come from? Both Kings David and Solomon wrote about  it in their writings. But Job said it first (28:23-28): “God understands its way.” “…and to man He said, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.'”  If we deal with pain and suffering in this manner–to fear God and depart from evil, we are on the right path in our earthly quest.

And as Job rightly notes, most people tread the surface of the earth and find all they need. But to discover the riches this planet has hidden away, one must go deep–he must descend to the depths to bring out treasures that are not readily accessible. Gold, silver, minerals, precious stones, fossil fuels–are all beneath the surface. Deep mining in fearful places–the product of sweat, blood and tears–often results in hidden riches. Will we do no less in our attempts to find God and discover the true riches of His nature, the unfathomable depths of His love?

DAY FIVE – Job 29-36

If we learn anything from this incredible book, it might be…

  1. Satan was permitted to remain in cosmic darkness and hide his evil deeds from mankind, masking the real source of evil in the universe.
  2. Mankind, though he was aware of God, didn’t know God with any sense of intimacy. The Creator was as mysterious as life itself.
  3. It appeared that God blessed the righteous and struck the wicked, but nobody could seem to define the parameters of such an arrangement.
  4. Morality and justice were thought to be related to a righteous God who was in total control of the universe and all its goings on, who could act in any manner he pleased at any time.
  5. Mankind had no satisfying explanation for any of this.
  6. Job’s three friends thought he sinned and deserved God’s wrath.
  7. Job thought he hadn’t sinned and could not understand God’s treatment or His silence.
  8. Elihu, who had listened at length to all the conversations thought that he should come to the defense of Almighty God, since no one else had properly explained all that was happening.
  9. Trying to understand the mind and actions of Almighty God falls completely short when we are not CONNECTED to Him as the original Adam and Eve were.
  10. The plight of mankind as to suffering, pain and logic is utter failure so long as God remains in obscurity. There is no cosmic explanation, therefore there is no real hope. God alone retains the initiative and power to connect with mankind and to reveal himself as He will.
  11. We MUST treat the ancient world with its understanding of God as only the partial revelation it was, until the time God Himself was pleased to come down from heaven to walk among us as an earthly man with heaven in His soul. Jesus Christ is the revelation of Heaven living among us by the Spirit of God working among us. Gal 2:20 -21 I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I that live, but Christ lives in me. That life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself up for me. 21  I don’t reject the grace of God. For if righteousness is through the law, then Christ died for nothing!” 

Thank you for following INSIGHTS. You can receive an email link every week when I publish if you simply scroll all the way to the bottom of the post and check the box. My hope is that hundreds of our friends will read the bible through this year and be greatly strengthened and encouraged as we journey together.

WEEK FOUR, 2018, Reading God’s Word

DAY ONE – Genesis 44-46

We all love stories with happy endings. But getting to the ending isn’t always pretty or happy. Although Joseph was aching to reveal himself to his brothers, he put them through one more grueling situation in order to reveal their true character. In so doing, he forced them to come clean before God and everyone concerning their heinous crime against Joseph. It’s true we make messes at times; we sometimes try to sweep our mess ‘under the rug’ and move on; but the mess still has to be cleaned up, and we have to take responsibility for our own mess! By the time Joseph’s brothers had their backs up against the wall, they made a clean breast of everything, admitting to God, themselves and Joseph their guilt and sorrow. Twenty years… that’s how long ago they had sold their brother as a slave, and now he was about to save them, their families and all their living. Joseph’s dreams had come true, and Yahweh God had engineered the whole thing–over twenty years in the making! If God can do that, back then, what can He do now… with you… with your mess? What has He been planning for any of us, in order that our story will have a happy ending? And how do we know what that ‘happy’ ending should look like, until the moment of revealing? The brothers didn’t ‘get away’ with anything; neither do we. But what they found, to their amazement, is that God never gave up, their brother didn’t get lost in the mess, and he, Joseph, had forgiven them and gone on to greatness in God’s wonderful plan. Joseph is the example of saving grace–a grace that not only forgives, but actually saves and restores, as we see in the last scenes of our reading. The brothers are sent back to get their father, their children, grandchildren, and everything they own, in order to go to their new home where they will grow from a family of about seventy persons into a great nation of millions.

And what did Jacob do? On the way to Egypt he stopped at Beersheba and built an altar to Yahweh God–the Lord. After worshipping with his sacrifices, he heard the Lord once again repeat the promises and expand them to include what was yet to come. God can ALWAYS be trusted to work tirelessly and without impediment to implement His plans and fulfill His purposes in our lives. Jeremiah 29:11-13  For I know the thoughts that I think toward you,” says Yahweh, “thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you hope and a future. 12  You shall call on me, and you shall go and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13  You shall seek me, and find me, when you search for me with all your heart. 

DAY TWO – Genesis 47-50

This completes the story of Joseph–how he was treated by his brothers, by Potiphar’s wife and Potiphar; by the chief cupbearer, and others. Yet in all this, Joseph did not sin or accuse God. He remained faithful and became a great deliverer of all Egypt and his own family. And yet once again I am deeply moved by the story of how Yahweh caused His words to be fulfilled, blessing those He chose and eliminating those He found to be wicked. Even Pharaoh was used by God to bless the Lord’s people and nurture them through a deadly famine. In the unfolding, Jacob raised an altar to Yahweh on his way to Egypt, then lived seventeen more years, dying at one hundred forty seven. Before his eyes closed for the last time, he blessed his sons and prophesied things to come for each of them. He was buried by his family and an entourage of Egyptians in the family burial plot in Canaan.

Epilogue:  Genesis 43:8 -10 Judah said to Israel, his father, “Send the boy with me, and we’ll get up and go, so that we may live, and not die, both we, and you, and also our little ones.  Psalm 118:17  I will not die, but live, and declare Yah’s works.  Ezekiel 18:21, 28  “But if the wicked turns from all his sins that he has committed, and keeps all my statutes, and does that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live. He shall not die… 28  Because he considers, and turns away from all his transgressions that he has committed, he shall surely live. He shall not die. 

DAY THREE – Job 1-5

In the beginning only God knew of the evil that had entered His universe, His dominion. With deadly prejudice did the devil, Satan, begin to foment rebellion toward God in order to frustrate and bring to an end God’s handiwork of creation, both earth and mankind.  So the Lord instructed Adam concerning his future, promising that in the day he rebelled against the word of God he would die. It was never God’s plan that mankind would know evil. Yet it happened, the day the ‘serpent’ tempted Eve; and she and Adam ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. No, it was not God’s plan, but it happened anyway, and mankind began to die, slowly but surely. Once evil was out of the bag, and the couple were out of the Garden of Eden, it was now necessary for God to reveal the extent of the evil rebellion against Him so that mankind could find real salvation.  Job became God’s example to teach us all about good and evil.

The Book of Job opens with the story of a righteous man who fears God and carefully serves Him. The man’s knowledge of evil is extremely limited because the Lord has blessed him abundantly, and life is just good. Enter the devil in the Presence of God, filled with accusation against Job and determined to defeat God’s goodness. With permission the devil sends untold suffering and depletion against the unaware and unarmed man. We must remember mankind witnessed evil but knew little about it, so it was easy to blame God for both good and evil. The first five chapters of Job dispel this myth.

FACTS REVEALED:

  1. All of God’s actions toward Job were good. Job was blessed every which way by God–this is the Lord’s essential nature: goodness.
  2. From the beginning the devil’s intent was evil; he hated Job because he hated God.
  3. God protected Job from the evil.
  4. God temporarily lifted His protection so that mankind could learn how extensive evil is apart from God.
  5. Bereft of everything as the devil persecuted him, Job maintained his integrity toward God.
  6. Job’s friends were aghast at his calamity, then pressed for a rational explanation of Job’s suffering.
  7. Their obvious first response is that Job must have sinned, and God must then be punishing him. The nature of evil was totally misunderstood, and God was blamed for both good and evil!

DAY FOUR – Job 6-9

Job was both suicidal and defensive, so great was his suffering. Yet he knew that there was nothing in his humanity that could successfully argue a case with the Almighty. So he instead shrank into hopeless despair, knowing all the while that God could do something if he chose to. The ‘why’ remained intact–“What have I done to You, O Watcher of men? Why have you set me as your target?” (7:20)

(Bildad the Shuhite) God doesn’t subvert judgment or pervert justice, so you need only repent and get right with him if you want to recover! This is the logical approach, but logic works only when the suppositions are correct.

Job has already asked why, now he wants to know ‘how’ a man can be righteous before God. He is at least asking the right questions! After I have done all I can do, it will not be enough. Nor can I answer Him properly, seeing He is not a man as I am. Where is my mediator?  All great questions; we MUST find the answers!

DAY FIVE – Job 10-13

Sparring between Job and his ‘comforters’ seems endless. Nothing new emerges, just the same, tired philosophies such as we hear today between people of different persuasions. Job is innocent of great transgression in his own eyes; no, say his friends, he is guilty as sin, otherwise God would not have stricken and punished him. Job wants to die, wonders why he was born, wishes the grave would overtake him quickly, wonders why God has singled him out for persecution. Job wants an audience with God but realizes that those things just don’t happen within the world of mortals. But it’s the loss of control, the dark night of trial, the horror of pain and grief, and the overwhelming hopelessness that is consuming Job. His friends on the other hand, desperately want him to admit his guilt so they can say, “See, we told you so! Why couldn’t you just admit it?” So it is a standoff. Where will it go?

As I read Job, I want to shout out, “Wait, you’re missing the most vital truth–the Creative goodness of God!  He is good and stands beyond all reproach. God didn’t do this to you, Job; the devil did. Why can’t you see that there is a personification of evil in our world? God is good; He isn’t evil…ever. But we cannot help Job, for the truth that he seeks has not yet been added to the arsenal of man’s wisdom, and Job has no idea that this truth will soon burst into the human consciousness through, of all people, him. Yes, God has singled him out…but for his righteousness, not his sin! The Lord has allowed him to become conspicuous in his suffering in order to bring a greater revelation to all of humankind–that there is a greater evil, and it is NOT in God. A cosmic rebel appeared in antiquity to fight against the Almighty God and His Creation–the devil himself; no, he is not God, but he is the god of this created world, the imposter god, the usurper god, exalting himself and seeking to turn good and righteous people away from the Lord.

God Himself identified Job as the most righteous man of his generation, and then the devil prophesied, falsely, that Job would curse God and die when all his blessings were removed and his health was stolen from him. He was a liar then, and he is a liar now. There is no truth in him, for he lives and moves in darkness, outside the light. We MUST, no matter the circumstance, worship the Creator in His goodness and love, resisting the lies and accusations of the enemy. We are wise to the devil’s schemes; we stand our ground, as Paul declares, armored up and ready to fight in any manner necessary, with all the spiritual equipment and gifts the Lord has endowed us.

Congratulations! We are well into our plan to read the whole Bible in the following months for the sole purpose of getting to know the God whose loving heart wants to save the world! One day at a time… that’s how we gain success.

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WEEK THREE, 2018 – Getting to know God through His Word…

DAY ONE – Genesis 27-29

With his mother’s help, Jacob continued his deceptive ways, getting for himself all he could from his father. By cunning he stole the birthright from Esau, then managed through a deceitful plot concocted by his mother to get the patriarchal blessing as well. Of course at this point Esau hated him, having pleaded in vain, with tears, for a blessing from his father. So he schemed in his heart to kill Jacob as soon as Isaac had died. Intervention came once again from Rebekeh as she counseled Jacob to flee to Padan Aram and her brother’s house for a season. Jacob went out still virtually a boy and had an encounter with Yahweh at a rock which he named Bethel. After a very realistic dream in which angels were coming and going from heaven, Jacob promised God that if the Lord would keep him, protect him, and bring him back safely to his father’s house that he would serve God and give him a tenth of all he had. He had no premonition of the trouble he was about to encounter. Interesting, isn’t it, how Yahweh God can continue His plans even through a ‘dysfunctional’ family! Surrounding the world’s mess is a loving, patient, merciful God sending forth blessings, causing a light to shine, and helping us pick up the pieces of our own broken dreams as we continue to move forward with Him.

NOTE: Isaac blessed Jacob again before he left home–“…and give you the blessing of Abraham.” (28:4) By the time Jacob will arrive back (20 years later), he will be fully aware of all that Yahweh God has done for him. Time and experience frequently grant us a new perspective on things we thought we already knew! How is God revealing His mercy and grace to you as we enter this new year?

DAY TWO – Genesis 30-33

At his Uncle Laban’s house Jacob met his match. Falling in love with Rachel in the first month he was there, he agreed to work seven years in Laban’s employ to earn her as his wife. At the appointed time Laban substituted Leah for Rachel under the ruse of local custom. So Jacob agreed to work another seven years for Rachel and was married to her a week later. Since our customs approve of only one wife for a man, we don’t really have a sense of what it must have been like for Jacob’s two wives–sisters, no less! One felt unloved, the other was childless. Each had a heavy burden to carry in life. Yet somehow God turned the ‘impossible’–so it seemed to each of them–into circumstances that made life bearable. Shouldn’t we remember that the sun actually does rise each morning and go to its place each evening, though clouds may obscure its light and warmth? So we must remember that the Lord Yahweh has said, “I will never leave you; no, not by any means will I ever forsake you.”

After fourteen years God appeared again to Jacob to instruct him to return home; but since he had no wealth to support his growing family, he received instructions in a dream from God as to how to amass large flocks and herds of goats, sheep and camels. At the end of twenty years it was time to go, and the man Jacob–for he had by now become a stronger man and a leader–picked up and left by night to return to Isaac with a large entourage. Laban, now angry and afraid of his future with Jacob gone, pursued him for seven days, insisting that he owned all that Jacob had. But God intervened in a dream to Laban, warning him not to do anything stupid! The encounter resulted in a feast covenant of peace between the two men. With that dread behind him, Jacob faced another when he learned that his brother Esau had heard of his coming and would soon arrive with four hundred men! Fearful once again for his life, Jacob spent a night alone in which he wrestled with an angel of God until morning, then asked for a blessing. The man certainly never lost his nerve! His name was changed by God to Israel–no longer the deceiver but now a prince. The meeting between the twin brothers was emotional and powerful and peaceful. Jacob was a worrier! But God was always one step ahead of him, as He is with us as well.

What is to be learned?  1) God initiates covenant, as He did with Abraham, Isaac and now Jacob. 2) God blesses those who are faithful and obedient in the relationship. 3) God turns bad situations around so that they become blessings. 4) God always acts in accord with future plans to accomplish what is best for mankind. And he is still doing it!

DAY THREE – Genesis 34-37

In fairness to Esau, and to demonstrate the sovereignty of God among all peoples, Esau’s genealogy is included in this section, naming his generations and indicating their locations, as Luke speaks in Acts 17:26–God determines the times and places for all peoples. Nations come and go, but the Lord’s sovereignty remains intact.

A tragic incident in Jacob’s family involved Dinah and her two brothers Simeon and Levi. Shechem, son of Hamor, raped the girl but then sought to marry her, offering whatever price to Jacob’s family. By subterfuge the two brothers, attempting to avenge Dinah’s honor, persuaded all the males in the city to be circumcised, then came upon them while they were sore and killed all of them! God chose this critical moment to appear to Jacob once more and instructed him to build an altar at Bethel. So he went up with all his family and worshipped there. God renewed his promises to Jacob. On the way back Rachel died giving birth to Benjamin and was buried.

Enter Joseph, 17 years old. A drama now begins to unfold with two dreams God gave him, which he related to his brothers and father, suggesting delusions of grandeur. Hated by his brothers over his father’s favoritism, Joseph was kidnapped by his brothers and thrown into a pit, while they cavalierly sat down to a meal. Some passing traders bought Joseph and went on to Egypt, where they sold him to Potiphar, an officer in Pharaoh’s household. So the incredible story commences.

Throughout the generations that have appeared from Adam to the time of Jacob, it is imperative that we keep in view not the God of mystery, but the God of revelation. True, Yahweh God was virtually unknown to the ancients, but a faithful man was always found by the Lord who believed God’s word and remained faithful. Through these individuals God continued to work His inimitable plans and prepared the world for saving grace.

DAY 4 – Genesis 38-40

“The Lord was with Joseph”–spoken three times in chapter 39–in Potiphar’s house into which he was unjustly sold; in the prison to which he was unjustly confined; and generally in all that he did. Romans 8:28-29 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them. 29  For God knew His people in advance, and He chose them to become like His Son, so that His Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. This readily explains Joseph’s success and rapid advancement to Prime Minister over all Egypt. Joseph’s own testimony as we read on will confirm that he believed that God was in control of his circumstances; and that the Lord was surely WITH him in his many pursuits. As a matter of fact, Joseph is often referred to as a TYPE of Christ, raised up by Yahweh God to bring salvation to his father’s house and posterity. While we are not a type of Christ, we are still his brothers and sisters who indeed are intended to become like Him by the work of the Holy Spirit and God’s word. This is all happening as we are fulfilling our ‘created purpose’ ordained in God’s infinite wisdom. How were you made? Why were you made? Those are discoveries we enjoy along the way in our relationship with and service to God. Hold fast, dear Ones, to your faith in Jesus; don’t be quickly upset by the incredible turning and speed of events happening around us. There is no solid foundation left in and of this world. As we used to sing, “On Christ the solid Rock I stand.” See Ephesians 6:10-18 as a powerful reminder of how we get on in these days. We can do this… together.

DAY FIVE – Genesis 41-43

When God writes a story, it is a zinger! I can hardly stop reading long enough to share the joy in my heart as I realize how wonderful the Lord is in this story of Joseph. God’s mercy is epitomized in the words of Joseph’s servant to Joseph’s brothers after they finished explaining the money in their sacks on their second trip to buy grain: Genesis 43:22-23  We have brought down other money in our hand to buy food. We don’t know who put our money in our sacks.” 23  He said, “Peace be to you. Don’t be afraid. Your God, and the God of your father, has given you treasure in your sacks. I received your money.” He brought Simeon out to them. They got their money back; they got their brother back (he was kept in prison, remember); now they are at Joseph’s house and are about to have lunch with him. Are these guys dense, or what? They still can’t put it together. But it will get better; they will sit open-mouthed as they are seated for lunch, beginning with the oldest to youngest; and Benjamin’s food portion is five times as much as the others! Joseph is doing all he can to restrain himself from self-disclosure; he is dying for them to share the joy of who he is and WHAT GOD HAS DONE!

Do we have any idea how much joy and pleasure our Father God receives in blessing us and helping us along our way? Do we realize how He plans ahead, sometimes years, to make our circumstances favorable? Do we harbor an inkling of the life with Jesus He is preparing us for… and preparing for us? Surely life in this world can be tough; it may become unbearable at times. But this is a broken and fallen world–look how tough it was on Jesus, our Savior. Look how tough it was on Joseph, who was totally defrauded by his brothers. Yet when the time came, God had prepared Joseph to be the savior of his family and provide a safe and plentiful place for them. Yep, when God writes a story, it IS GOOD! What part of ‘hang in there’ don’t we get? Get up and get moving– Psalm 23:6  Surely goodness and loving kindness shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in Yahweh’s house forever. 

WEEK TWO, 2018 – INSIGHTS with Pastor Ray, reading thru the Bible

DAY SIX – Genesis 12-13

Abram (Abraham) was the first missionary–not in the traditional sense, mind you; but he was sent by God to a new and strange land. He had already migrated with his father Haran from Ur of Chaldea to Haran, which lies north and slightly east of modern Israel (old Canaan). With Haran now deceased, Yahweh God spoke to Abram for the first time, instructing him to leave his people and go to a place Yahweh would show him. His wife Sarai and nephew Lot went with him. So they entered Canaan and began their nomadic journey from there, down to Egypt to escape famine, and then back again, at which time Abram and Lot separated due to their abundance of livestock. Living in the hill country of what is now Israel, Abram was still going on that original word Yahweh had uttered to him in Haran. That is amazing in itself, that one’s whole life might be directed by a single encounter. How awesome is Yahweh God? Enough to change the world through one obedient man. We just left the world of the patriarchs behind–the period from Adam to the flood–and we are entering the world of God’s preparation for the salvation of mankind. This great period will take us all the way through the Old Testament to the New. It begins with a man–Abram–and will soon encompass a small family with a miracle son. As we read through the Bible it will become evident that the Lord Yahweh makes and keeps covenant with humans just like us. Mind you, we don’t make covenants with God, He always takes the initiative and then upholds it with the Word of His Power. Once Abram had separated from Lot, Yahweh God spoke again, this time to promise him descendants as numerous as the sand of the sea; and to give him the land throughout which he was journeying. Abram would never really own any of it, but he would die with the promise of God in his heart. Romans 4:13  For the promise to Abraham and to his offspring that he should be heir of the world wasn’t through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. 

Romans 4:18-22  Besides hope, Abraham in hope believed, to the end that he might become a father of many nations, according to that which had been spoken, “So will your offspring be.” 19  Without being weakened in faith, he didn’t consider his own body, already having been worn out, (he being about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb. 20  Yet, looking to the promise of God, he didn’t waver through unbelief, but grew strong through faith, giving glory to God, 21  and being fully assured that what he had promised, he was also able to perform. 22  Therefore it also was “credited to him for righteousness.” 

Imagine what our Lord might have for you in this life if you combine hope with faith in God’s promises and remain faithful and obedient to God. Later we will see that Abraham always had his eye on something greater… and farther… than his present circumstances.

DAY SEVEN –  Genesis 14-16

When forced to defend his interests, Abram entered a conflict between kings–five against four. The king of Sodom had already been defeated and had fled; so Abram gave pursuit to the other kings with three hundred eighteen men from his household. He put the opposing army to flight, attacking them at night, and brought back all, including his nephew, who was living in Sodom. The king of Sodom offered him all the spoil as his reward, but Abram flatly refused, “lest you should say, ‘I made Abram rich.'” In the very next scene, Abram is asking Yahweh God, “What will YOU give me?” Indeed. Abram really wanted an heir–his own son–but no one could give that to him except God. Continue the conversation, “Your heir will come from your own body.” And Abram believed God. It’s that simple. He believed, but he did ask, “And how will I know?” And God made a COVENANT with Abram. NOTE: God made the covenant. God always initiates; we respond in faith. Enter Hagar, Sarai’s maid; she indeed will be the mother of Abram’s offspring, but Yahweh God did not say that. Now the whole project seems to be at risk; Sarai, jealous of her own pregnant maid, torments her, and Hagar flees. But the story is not over yet.

The angel says to Hagar in the wilderness, “Where have you come from, and where are you going?” Hagar’s response: “I am running away from my mistress.” Whoops. That’s only half an answer. “Where are you going?” To that Hagar has no answer. Running away from trouble is hardly ever a solution; it only compounds the problem. If GOD can give Abram an heir without human interference, then Hagar can find relief without running away. The angel sends her back with the understanding that she is pregnant, the child will be a boy, and God will bless them. When we cannot find a solution, sometimes it is better to slow down, believe, and trust the Lord for His grace in the situation. “Where are you going?” Unless you can answer that question, stay put! God’s word prevails in God’s time. Can we get that? Can we trust Him?

DAY EIGHT – Genesis 17-19

Imagine being called upon to partner with Yahweh God to save the world! And yet this is exactly what happened with Abram; God even changed his name to Abraham to signify that he would be the father of many nations. But there was more; not only did the Lord make covenant with this righteous man, He put a mark on his flesh to demonstrate that Abraham’s offspring through the generations were favored by God. This was the beginning of male circumcision. Abraham was ninety-nine years old! No sooner had this taken place, than the Lord God came to see Abraham and had lunch with Him, then tarried to reveal the plan to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. At this time Abraham uttered a question that has become a foundation for prayer: “Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?” So the covenant is in place, an heir is determined–for the Lord reminded and reassured Abraham that within a year Sarah would have a son, the BEGINNING of God’s salvation. Salvation–an heir to be born. Judgement–Sodom and Gomorrah to be overthrown. For more than five thousand years the generations have come and gone; yet the joy of laughter has been heard in the tents of those favored by Yahweh God, and cries of desperation in the tents of the wicked under impending destruction. Something is happening; things are moving quickly; God’s plans are falling into place rapidly. Look around you–do you see it?

What about your partnership with God? Yahweh raised up Abraham and his descendants after him to bear the revelation of a Savior. Are we not raised up to bear the revelation of that Savior to our world? And how do we do it? We do it by living out our purpose, led by the Holy Spirit, humbled and surrendered into His wonderful hands. We do it by getting up and showing up. We do it by welcoming God’s intervention in our lives, as Abraham did the day he served lunch to God! And we do it by praying mightily every day for God’s will to be done on earth, as it is in heaven.

DAY NINE – Genesis 20-23

“God is with you in all that you do.” (Gen. 21:22) These words were spoken to Abraham by a pagan king. This is the same King Abimelech that Abraham deceived and Sarah lied to! It almost got the king killed when he took Sarah as wife, but Yahweh had mercy on him and warned him in a dream to give Sarah back to her husband. Abraham left that place, but sometime later Abimelech came to him and spoke the words quoted above. Ask yourself: How did Abimelech conclude that God was with Abraham? Do we imagine that our friends and associates might say of us, “God is with you in all that you do”? I certainly pray so. After all, Jesus did say to His disciples that after the Holy Spirit comes upon us we will be His witnesses. I think we have underestimated the meaning of ‘witness.’ It comes from the Bible word for martyr–a person who is willing to die for what he believes. I do suppose that if we are putting our life on the line in behalf of Jesus and His kingdom, telltale signs are going to follow as a witness to the Lord Jesus. Abimelech asked of Abraham an oath that he would not in the future do harm to the king or his posterity; he feared the God of Abraham! Oh friends, pray to the Lord that we rightly represent Him so that the fear of God may return to this generation.

Well, Isaac (Laughter) was born exactly at the appointed time as God had indicated, and a few years later Abraham discovered that Yahweh Provides. It wasn’t a fun discovery. It meant binding his loved son and placing him on an altar to be sacrificed–just as Yahweh had instructed. Only at the last moment did the Lord provide a substitute and then assert that, because Abraham was willing to give up his most treasured son, he would be blessed seven ways from Sunday! You’ve read the story. Read it one more time before you move on, because Father Yahweh wants to bless you as he blessed Abraham. Even if the Lord is not asking of you specifically at this moment, do reaffirm your absolute love and loyalty to His Kingdom.

DAY TEN – Genesis 24-26

When Abraham was old; and after Sarah had passed, he commissioned his oldest servant, the man who ruled over all that he had, to go to Abraham’s family and find a wife for Isaac. There were two prohibitions: 1) don’t take a Canaanite wife; and 2) don’t take my son back to where I came from. Abraham seemed almost violent in his instructions, but why? Why wouldn’t it be okay to take Isaac back to Paddan Aram? Because of God’s oath. God swore to Abraham to multiply his seed and give them the land of Canaan, in which Abraham wandered as an alien for most of his life. It was God’s Word which held Abraham fast in his instructions. God has plans for us which always have an ‘upward’ and forward call; we are on our way somewhere, and His revelation to us beckons us onward…not backward!

The rest of this chapter is one of the most beautiful love stories ever written, for it was planned beforehand by the Lord Himself. God’s angel went ahead and nudged history for the purpose of God’s Creative Plan to fulfill His Word to Abraham. His promises and oaths rewarded Abraham’s faith and obedience with a wife for Isaac and the second step of Messiah’s first advent. From the man had to come a family, and Isaac (Laughter) was God’s man for that! So in comes Rebekeh. Twenty years later, the twins are born, and conflict is born with them. Yet God is seen time and again directing outcomes to keep His promises. We mustn’t ever let our circumstances cause our faith in and trust of God to be eroded. On the contrary, while life may resemble a roller coaster, the very world hangs on the word of God’s power!

A note from Isaac’s story: Genesis 26:2-5  Yahweh appeared to him, and said, “Don’t go down into Egypt. Live in the land I will tell you about. 3  Live in this land, and I will be with you, and will bless you. For I will give to you, and to your offspring, all these lands, and I will establish the oath which I swore to Abraham your father. 4  I will multiply your offspring as the stars of the sky, and will give all these lands to your offspring. In your offspring will all the nations of the earth be blessed, 5  because Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my requirements, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.” 

Congratulations, we are two weeks into the new year. As we settle in for the long haul, stay current with your notebook, recording your own questions and conversations, especially those you are having with God. If available, join our discussion group every Wednesday, 6:30 p.m. at 1137 Arbutus Avenue, Rm. E1, Chico.

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