Bible Reading Blog

Bible Reading Blog

We have weekly blogs that are written based on our congregational bible reading. These are a great teaching tool to supplement our understanding of the readings. Check out this page weekly to read the latest blogs!

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Who is YHWH that I Should Obey His Voice?

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

BIBLE READING: Exodus 5-6

“But Pharaoh said, “Who is YHWH, that I should obey his voice and let Israel go? I do not know YHWH, and moreover, I will not let Israel go.” (Exodus 5.2)

It was a good question. Here was the most powerful man in the world being confronted by two men representing his slaves. For all he knew, YHWH was a man among them leading a new rebellion. “The theme of Pharaoh’s not knowing YHWH follows a certain progression, especially from this point to the end of the plagues. Pharaoh started out not knowing who YHWH was in the sense of not recognizing the name YHWH, and then thereafter he obviously recognized the name but did not realize who YHWH really was, and then finally, before it was all over, he knew very well who YHWH was and was sorry that he had to find out the hard way. In other words, there are two meanings to “Who is the Lord?” (1) “Who are you talking about? I don’t recognize that name.” (2) “What makes you think I would care about obeying YHWH?””  (Excerpt from New American Commentary, Exodus, Stuart, Douglas K., Exodus 5.2).

Many people today ask the same question. Some of this is the proud nature of our society. “God” has become a fluid subject defined by everyone’s concept of a higher power and how they see the world. The thought that an objective, unchanging, all-powerful God exists with expectation is rejected by many. However, some ask this question because they have never truly met the God of the bible. Do we have an adequate answer? Can we show them that God is worthy of our attention, loyalty and total life devotion?

Exodus equips us with the tools to solidify our faith and teach it to others. Here, YHWH repeats and reiterates who he is so that we too might know him. He is…

  1. God Almighty (6.2). In ancient literature, this term denotes someone who devastates and destroys. When God applied it to himself, it was usually in the context of calling someone to himself for their protection against those who he would destroy. In other words, no one can stand against him. His power is supreme and absolute. Which makes his calling and revelation to humanity so profound.
  2. God who keeps promises (6.3-4). He has not forgotten Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Though history has moved on, he has no changed since that point and will continue to be affixed to the promises of these critical relationships.
  3. God who hears and sees (6.5). He is not removed or unconcerned about those less than himself. “The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous and his ears are open to their cry… The righteous cry and the LORD hears them and delivers them out of their trouble” (Psalm 34.15, 17). He is profoundly moved by the needs of the helpless, weak poor and afflicted.
  4. God who delivers and saves (6.6-8). Long before YHWH acts, he communicates what he will do and the outcome. Many assert their abilities but only God can control the outcome. This section presents the plan and Exodus 5-15 proves he can.
  5. God of personal invitation. The deliverance was specific to these people and their situation. The goal was for God to take these people to be HIS people. He was not cold, removed, indifferent or angry. He was aware and involved, desiring the best for people made in his image. So much so that he would make their fight, his fight. He does the same for us, ultimately returning in our form to offer us hope.

Who is YHWH that I should obey his voice? Pharaoh would learn... but have we? These things are recorded for our learning and evaluation. It is upon these unchanging qualities that we rest our hope today.

Fear

Tuesday, June 04, 2024

BIBLE READING: Exodus 1

Both Pharaoh and the midwives found themselves in compromising circumstances. As Israel grew, Pharaoh looked at them with uncertainty. Would they turn against him at some point? How could he manage this threat and establish his power? In fear, he chose to subject them to slavery—a strategic move to satisfy his fearful imagination. However, his plan backfired, and the people only multiplied, causing even more fear among the Egyptians (Exodus 1.12).

As his fear increased, he commanded the Hebrew midwives to kill the baby boys. Would they obey the king and kill their own people? What would happen if they didn’t? In a display of courage, they chose to disobey and preserve the life of the innocent. We’re told they also acted out of fear (Exodus 1.17)— not of Pharaoh but of the LORD. Despite years of slavery, they had not forgotten the promise of YHWH and his power in the beginning. In fear, they let the male children live. “So God dealt well with the midwives” (Exodus 1.20).

Fear is a powerful motivator and can even be righteous if it is properly placed. The problem is we often fear the wrong things. We fear corrupt people with power. We fear situations we cannot control and consequences we don’t want to bear. We fear the future and its unknowns. We fear all the things except the One who made all things. It is interesting the one in ‘power’ (Pharaoh) is the most fearful while the midwives are not. That’s because he had the most to lose. Pharaoh had positioned himself in pride and decided in his heart that things must go his way or else. This is a sure way to fail; but worse it is a terrible way to live. You must always look over your shoulder in fear of someone stronger.

Fear has an impact on each of us; but is it creating the proper result? Think specifically about fear’s impact on this political season. We will see men and women flaunting power to position themselves in the eyes of the masses. But it is the wrong fear driving many of them. We must not get caught up in the narratives they pitch. The psalm will prove true: “The nations rage, the people’s plot in vain, the kings of earth set themselves together against the Lord and his anointed… and the Lord sits in the heavens and laughs” (Psalm 2). Regardless of who is in office, Jesus is still king and we must fear him. “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10.28). What this means practically is we must not allow the present to dictate our morality, our activity or our thinking. “The kingdoms of earth pass away one by one but the kingdom of heaven remains.” If we fear our Maker, we must not fear anyone else. Do not be moved by circumstances or people but learn to “confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13.6)

Joseph Forgives

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

BIBLE READING: Genesis 50

“When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.”” (Genesis 50.15)

Clearly, Joseph’s brothers still felt guilty for their choices towards him years ago. They knew they were wrong (Genesis 50.17) and that they were at the mercy of Joseph. He had voiced his pardon and provided for their needs (Genesis 45.1–47.12), but was it just a show for their father? In fear, they would not even stand before him to ask forgiveness (Genesis 50.16).

When Joseph received their message, he wept (Genesis 50.17b). His desire to be reconciled was obvious. But more importantly he knew his place before God. “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God?” (Genesis 50.19). Despite Joseph’s present power and leverage, he knew it was God’s place to judge. Their past choices had harmed him, but it was God who allowed these events to happen. He had obviously spent time reflecting on these events and God’s hand in it all. That not only convinced him of God’s power but convicted him to love and mercy.

We have walked in the shoes of both parties. When you’ve wronged someone, you can feel powerless. As Joseph’s brothers demonstrate, humility is the best path to reconciliation. Pretense and pride do nothing good for us. Conversely, when you’ve been wronged our natural tendency is often judgment and justice. We want people to get what they deserve. Even in our closest relationships this can play out in negative interactions where we leverage our position with past experiences. But this only leads to more conflict.

The only path forward is in the presence of God. We cannot fathom forgiving someone unless we recognize his priority. It is his place to judge, and he will perfectly. But he also allows negative circumstances to change and position people for a better future. So we need to get out of the way and soften our hearts towards others… because we all need forgiveness at some point.

Forgiveness is one of God’s greatest gifts of mercy. If he were to count iniquities, who could stand? (Psalm 130.4). The answer is NO ONE. We must be profoundly moved by God’s choices. If anyone had the right to withhold forgiveness it would be him. But the scriptures tell us this instead, “He has not dealt with us according to our sins or repaid us according to our iniquities (Psalm 103.10). Not only that but he is willing to completely remove our sins – as far as the east is from the west. God’s forgiveness is deliberate, and it is total.

Like Joseph, we must be moved by God’s mercy towards us. We must learn to accept his goodness comes in many forms as he provides opportunity to know him. Perhaps your situation is being orchestrated for you and others to have a better future. So, in humility and fear of God, let us forgive others as we have been forgiven. 

Impacted By Something Divine

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

BIBLE READING: Genesis 42-45; Psalm 105.16-22

More than 20 years had passed since Joseph had seen his brothers. They did not recognize him, but he recognized them. As a flood of emotions filled his mind, Joseph treated his brothers harshly. (Genesis 42.9). He made wild accusations of them, adding fear to their already troubling situation (Genesis 42.14-17). Finally, he sent them home, but detained Simeon until they returned with Benjamin (42.19-20, 24). To complicate things, Joseph secretly had their money put back in their luggage. When they realized it was there, their hearts failed them (42.28). The whole circumstance was troubling, and they perceived God’s judgment on them for what they had done many years before (42.21-22, 28).

One could easily justify Joseph’s behavior, and really his brothers knew they didn’t ‘deserve’ mercy. However, as the story progressed, Joseph begins to change. On their next visit, he invited them to eat with him and gave them additional goods and money (Genesis 43.16; 44.1). Eventually he revealed his identity and wept with them (see Genesis 43.16, 30; 45.1-15). It is evident his change in demeanor was impacted by something profoundly Divine.   

“…I am Joseph, who you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.” (Genesis 45.4b-5).

This moment revealed the impact of God’s word on Joseph. From the moment his brothers showed up, Joseph remembered the dreams God had given him (Genesis 42.9). He didn’t decry his experiences but realized that God had allowed his circumstances for good. Perhaps forgiveness was not Joseph’s natural bend, but he learned compassion and mercy as he observed God’s bigger plan. Those years in prison both tested and established his faith in God’s purposes (Psalm 105.18-19), and in this moment of resolution it became clear that God’s words changed his heart to forgive.

The fact is, we must learn these things just like Joseph. We will all be affected by the selfish, mean-spirited choices of others. This can seem unfair and may even cause doubts about the goodness of God. That’s because our natural bend is towards self-preservation and vindictiveness. But just like Joseph, we must allow God’s words to temper our behavior. God’s prevailing nature is both mercy and love, and he profoundly shows that despite our bad choices (Romans 5.10). Furthermore, God promises that he is working all things together for good (Romans 8.28). In the moment none of that seems reasonable. But we must have a broader perspective and a strong dose of humility.

We can’t always see how things will play out. We may not see a path ahead for healing or restoration. We may even throw hope out the window and become cynical and negative. But some of that is simply our immaturity and pride. The passage of time and life experience often bring much needed clarity. More importantly, they allow us to see the critical truths about God’s plans and purposes that didn’t make sense at first. God will be faithful, and so we must continue to ground ourselves in what he has said, looking forward to being vessels of his glory.

This is the Lineage of Christ

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

BIBLE READING: Genesis 38

Joseph dominates the end of Genesis. His rise from slavery to become a powerful ruler in Egypt preserves the life of God’s chosen people and sets us up for the critical story of the Egyptian Exodus. But just after Joseph is sold, Genesis interrupts the story to tell us about his brother Judah’s personal life. It started innocently enough. He took a wife and had some kids (Genesis 38.2). He found a wife for his oldest (Genesis 38.6). But then the worldly influence kicked in. His son Er was wicked, and the Lord put him to death (Genesis 38.7). Judah did the honorable thing by giving Tamar to his next son Onan, but he was wicked and the Lord put him to death (Genesis 38.10). In his carnal frame of mind, Judah doesn’t understand what is going on, and treats Tamar as though she’s the problem. He refuses to do what the law said and give his youngest son to her, forcing Tamar into life as a widow (Genesis 38.11; Deuteronomy 25.5-11).

After a while, Judah goes “sheep shearing”, and makes a proposition to a prostitute (Genesis 38.12-19). However, unbeknownst to him, the prostitute is Tamar in disguise. Following their time together, she conceives, and we see Judah once again act based on ‘honor’. He calls for Tamar’s death, until he is confronted with the brutal reality: the child was his (Genesis 38.24-26).

This story is ugly… and yet this is the lineage of Christ, which Matthew specifically cites in his genealogy (Matthew 1.3). This interruption is instructive. It reminds us that God’s people aren’t immune to wicked behavior. Genesis 8.21 is still a present reality; and yet it doesn’t stop God from being faithful. In fact, this ugliness profoundly shows God’s redemptive ability. There is no circumstance too messy for God to work with. However, God’s grace and mercy expose those who are willing to accept it.

Judah made a lot of foolish choices. But in this moment, we see a contrast from his brothers. He doesn’t justify bad behavior. He doesn’t place the blame on somebody else. Instead, we see honesty about his sins. “she is more righteous than I, since I did not give her to my son…” (Genesis 38.26). I believe this was a turning point in his life. When we first met Judah, he was selling his brother into slavery (Genesis 37.26-27). At the end of Judah’s story, he was offering to sell himself into slavery to save the life of one of his brothers (Genesis 44.33-34). God sovereignly turned Judah’s sinful decisions into steps that would lead to the salvation of many people through Jesus Christ.

For Christians, we are promised a place in God’s plan of salvation—to shine the light of Christ out of our own imperfect, weak lives, just like Judah and Tamar. But we must be changed by the grace of his exposure and truth. We must not hide what God reveals to us and the world about our hearts. Instead we must remain humble, deal with reality, and give thanks for God’s mercy and grace to let us be vessels of his wonderful salvation.  

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