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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WELCOME…WEEK 1 – 2018 – INSIGHTS with Pastor Ray

 

READING THROUGH THE CHRONOLOGICAL BIBLE: 1) Keep a notebook with your own questions and observations. 2) Discuss your insights and findings with a friend. 3) Join our discussion group the following Wednesday of each week in Chico–1137 Arbutus Ave (First Assembly), Rm. E1, 6:30 p.m. Begins January 10.

DAY 1 – Genesis 1-2,  John 1:1-3, Psalms 8, 104

“In the beginning God…” That simple reference frames the context for all existence of which we are aware. If there is more to be said, it will have to be said by God Himself, for we cannot be before the beginning; therefore we cannot know for certain what lies beyond the beginning. Have you ever wondered where God came from? I have; but I quickly abandon the subject, because it is futile to pursue it. God can be known only by revelation, not by observation. However, if we read the account of creation as it was related to us in Scripture, we can know what is intended to be known. And what is that? 1) God created the heavens and the earth. 2) He divided the waters above from the waters below, then gathered the waters on earth into seas. 3) He populated the heavens with things that fly, and the seas with things that swim. 4) On the dry land He created things large and small that move, breathe and procreate. 5) To all this He added the jewel of His creation–mankind. 6) Surveying it all He pronounced it good, then rested from His works. All of this is observable, yet observation of all the works of God doesn’t explain God. It only reveals the magnificence and glory of all that He has done. To see the creation, to study it, to arrange it and try to understand it is laudable and exposes wonderful truths hidden within its mysteries; but it still doesn’t explain God. God can be explained only by God. He exists before and after His creation, but He is NOT His creation; He exists apart from it. Therefore to understand Him, we must FIRST enter into relationship with Him to know Him. He reveals Himself as He wills to do. Therefore it is wicked to try to explain God without God, for it leads to all kinds of mischief with which history is replete!

We are introduced in this study to the Word (Logos) which turns out to be Jesus Christ, who was with the Father God in creation. He made everything. There–it is said. And now we can come closer to explaining and knowing God than we can by any other means, because the divine Logos became flesh and dwelt among us. Being the Incarnation of God, only He can truly reveal God. Studying the creation is a humbling experience, because its greatness can be overwhelming, no matter how much science we employ. So His secrets are made known to the humble, the childlike, the truly inquiring souls. As we read through Scripture, may it be to discover and to know Him, not to explain Him.

DAY 2 – Genesis 3-5

The first child born to a human couple–Adam and Eve–was a murderer! How do we get from pristine creation to detestable wickedness in one generation? We shall later hear this called the ‘mystery of lawlessness.’ And it is truly a mystery. Yahweh God knew of prior evil in the universe, because of a created being we come to know as Lucifer, the devil. In our reading he appears to Eve in the form of a serpent (at that time nothing to be feared). So enticing and deceptive is the proposition he makes to the woman that she eats fruit from the only tree in the garden withheld by God from this wonderful couple. Then Adam joins her and eats as well. It’s a game-changer. Nothing will EVER be the same after that. 1) Their nakedness is suddenly exposed. 2) They are afraid of God. 3) They are making excuses for their behavior. 4) They are stripped of their royalty. 5) God kills an animal to make skin coverings for the pair. 6) They are now outside the garden in an environment that has been cursed with THEIR evil. 7) They are becoming aware of the consequences of their disobedience and will live to eat its fruit when their firstborn kills his brother. Death will now be a normal end of life, though it was never intended to be.

The first generations of mankind typically lived more than nine hundred years, having begun childbearing within the first sixty to one hundred years, give or take. That each person was endowed with the ability to think, act, choose and prefer is obvious. That each person was unique is also obvious; no two were alike. That is an awesome specter; it means that the  fortunes of mankind will ebb and flow throughout history; and Yahweh God will by Divine Sovereignty rule and overrule in the affairs of mankind until His greater purposes have been achieved and fulfilled. Our readings going forward will be rife with interest, sometimes a bit tedious (genealogies); but always with expectation that something wonderful resides within God’s heart toward us, His greatest creation.

DAY 3 – Genesis 6-7

Yesterday’s reading ended on a man named Noah, concluding ‘the book of the genealogy of Adam.’ Noah’s name is typically associated with the ark–Noah’s ark. His father Lamech said of Noah when he was born, “This one will comfort us in our work and in the toil of our hands, caused by the ground which Yahweh has cursed.” The world Noah grew up in was terrible; this is how Yahweh God described it at the time: Genesis 6:5-8  Yahweh saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of man’s heart was continually only evil. 6  Yahweh was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him in his heart. 7  Yahweh said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the surface of the ground—man, along with animals, creeping things, and birds of the sky—for I am sorry that I have made them.” 8  But Noah found favor in Yahweh’s eyes. So what do we know for sure about Noah? 1) He was five hundred years old and had three sons. 2) He walked with God, perfect in his generations. 3) He heard God say that the end of all flesh had come.  4) He was told to make an ark and given the details by God. 5) Yahweh explained what would happen when the ark was finished, which presumably occupied Noah for the next hundred years or so. 6) Noah and his entire family went into the ark when it was done and properly supplied, after which God sealed the door. Then the floodgates of both heaven and earth opened… and everything perished, except what was in the ark. This is remarkable, for until that time rain had never been seen on the earth! Who ever would have believed it might rain?

It’s pointless to debate the flood–it happened. But it’s on point to take note of the flood; for Yahweh God, through both Jesus and Peter uses the event to explain the next great crisis on earth leading to global confrontation, judgment and the second advent of the Lord, Jesus Christ. The generation in crisis will be similar to that in the days of Noah; and that corrupted generation will likewise perish, although in a different manner. Can we… can you possibly stop for the next few minutes to contemplate this wonderful, terrible specter? Check out these references as you do… Matthew 24:37-39, Hebrews 11:7, 1 Peter 3:20, 2 Peter 2:5. And remember Noah.

DAY 4 – Genesis 8-9, Psalm 12

Gen. 8:1  God remembered Noah, all the animals, and all the livestock that were with him in the ship; and God made a wind to pass over the earth. The waters subsided. “God remembered…” That is a most intriguing statement, as if God’s memory is put to the test. It cannot mean what it means to us, we who live in time and must hark back to things of the past to ‘remember.’ There is no past in God, as there is no future. He who says, “I am that I am,” and “I am Alpha and Omega,” doesn’t ‘remember’ as we do. It must therefore mean that He takes note of the present situation or circumstance and determines a course of action which will, for us, bring the past, present and future together into a planned action to serve God’s purposes, which He alone comprehends. I am therefore humbled and grateful when God ‘remembers’ –especially when He remembers my sins NO MORE against me!

Gen. 9:1  God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, and replenish the earth. The only four men left alive on earth ALL heard God speak to them. It is reminiscent of the way Adam started out, even before Eve was brought to him. God blessed, God encouraged, and God instructed. This was a starting over. There were, however, some distinct differences from the original creation. The animals were now afraid of mankind, as they were now given as a food source. Enmity would prevail between mankind and animals. However, a new and permanent law would apply: The life of all creatures–man and animal–is in the BLOOD. The blood would take on new meaning, and man was never to consume or take lightly the blood of ANY created being–man or animal. It was a capital offense. So the stage was set; a COVENANT was struck by God with His creation–Genesis 9:8-11  God spoke to Noah and to his sons with him, saying, 9  “As for me, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your offspring after you, 10  and with every living creature that is with you: the birds, the livestock, and every animal of the earth with you, of all that go out of the ship, even every animal of the earth. 11  I will establish my covenant with you: All flesh will not be cut off any more by the waters of the flood. There will never again be a flood to destroy the earth.” And so a new beginning came into reality. Even though the heart of mankind remained ‘evil’ from his youth, the earth was fresh, the curse on the ground was rescinded, and the rainbow was in the sky. And so it is to this day. Does not this humble us in the Presence of God Almighty, Creator of all there is, Gracious and Merciful in all His ways?

DAY 5 – Genesis 10-11

Welcome to another genealogy; why are they important? Because God is into details–that is, He hasn’t missed a lick since the days He created the heavens and earth. Humankind is traceable, all the way back to Adam, especially but not exclusively, through the Jewish race, the first people of the Bible. Movements, patterns, boundaries, eras–these are all observable through the pages of Scripture. To lose track of, or be ignorant of this history is to miss the most mysterious and awesome characteristics of God’s eternal vigilance over mankind. Not for a moment has He turned His back to the affairs of earth. “For God so loved the world…” That is the first and most wonderful revelation concerning God and His creation, the ‘world’ being the world of mankind. God so loved. God SO loved! If we didn’t go further than this it would be enough to draw us toward the eternal God of the Bible who has been so libeled and slandered that a good portion of mankind believes Him to be other than He has revealed Himself to be.

We get some idea of the ‘image’ of God in mankind when the Lord Himself says that the people have become a threat: Gen. 11:6  Yahweh said, “Behold, they are one people, and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do. Now nothing will be withheld from them, which they intend to do. How God managed to mix up the languages I certainly don’t know, but it’s likely a good thing He did, in order to prevent global conspiracy which would bring about an early extinction of mankind. Time has been extended to every generation to get to know God… Acts 17:26-27  He made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the surface of the earth, having determined appointed seasons, and the boundaries of their dwellings, 27  that they should seek the Lord, if perhaps they might reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. Our great quest is to know the Lord and to make Him known in our time.

CONGRATULATIONS! We have made it through Week One of 2018. Every weekend, the succeeding five days of INSIGHTS will be published. Thanks so much for reading through with us. PLEASE SHARE if you are connecting on Facebook or LinkedIn.