Monthly Archives: January 2017

Through the Bible, January 31

Read: Hebrews 7

Summary: The Genesis account tells us only briefly of a rather mysterious figure, Melchizedek, king of Salem and priest of God Most High (Gen. 14:17-24).  But in the New Testament book of Hebrews, the writer makes much of the fact that Abraham, from whom the nation of Israel would descend, offered tithes to this man.  Hebrews contends that the high priesthood of Jesus is based on the priesthood of Melchizedek, of whom we know little, and not Aaron of the tribe of Levi, of whom we know much.

Devotional Thought:

A Priest Too

Jesus is our Savior and He is our Priest.

God’s people have had priests before and even we, as Christians, are priests (2 Peter 2:9). But Jesus is different (of course!).

His priesthood is paradoxical–you know, a seeming contradiction that provides depth and breadth of meaning. On the one hand He is just like us.  “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15).

On the other hand, He’s nothing like us. “For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens” (Heb. 7:26).

We need a Savior, and we need a priest.

And in the same way that only Jesus can be our Savior, only He can be the Priest we need.

“But he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:24-25).

Through the Bible, January 30

Read: Psalms 37; 49; 73; 94

Summary: The book of Job (our reading for week 2 this month) is the lengthiest discussion in Scripture addressing the issue of God’s justice.  God sometimes acts in ways we do not understand.  It may not seem to be fair or even right to us.  Those questions plague men today just as they did in biblical times.  Job is far from the only place this issue is contemplated.  Habakkuk is another entire book based on this issue.  Today’s reading is of several of the Psalms that also delve into this difficult question.

Devotional Thought:

What’s At the End?

“Begin with the end in mind.”

Why is that advice so “second-nature” and at the same time so foreign?

When I get in my car I know where I am intending to go before I ever pull out of the driveway.  The “end” or destination dictates everything about the journey.

Nobody has to tell us this stuff.  We just know it.

Then why is this so hard with life?  We go about it without really thinking about where it’s going to end up.  We pull out of the driveway, as it were, and start driving without ever thinking about where we’re headed.  We do what we do just because we want to and never think that this is leading me somewhere. Not smart.

Where we intend to go should influence everything we do and even how we think. Consider Psalm 73 and the trouble of the wicked prospering and the righteous suffering.  That’s a bitter pill to swallow. Or, as the Psalm says, “But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task” (v. 16).

Indeed; “…but then I considered their end” (v. 17).

Where are the wicked headed?  And what about the righteous?  What is their end?

Keeping the end in mind not only keeps life on course but helps us endure the parts that make no sense.

Through the Bible, January 29

Read: Psalm 19:1-6; 33:6-9; 95:1-7; 136:1-9

Summary: Very often our considerations of the creation are from an apologetic standpoint (not as in an apology, but rather a reasoned defense), that is, an effort to defend the biblical account of creation and respond to the theory of evolution.  The Bible’s emphasis is quite different.  The creation is a marvelous work of God, and only God.  It is that which elicits praise and adoration and awe.  We read on January 2, three Psalms that are based on God’s creative work (8, 104, 148).  In today’s reading we’ll read a number of selections from several Psalms that make reference to God’s creative acts.  Also, you might notice how God is so frequently identified as the one who “made heaven and earth” (Psa. 96:5; 102:25; 115:15; 121:2; 124:8; 134:3; 146:6)

Devotional Thought:

A Blessed Nation

Hitler dreamed of a Third Reich that would stand a thousand years based on a superior Aryan race.

Lenin conceived of a perfect world society founded on common ownership of all things.

Our own forefathers brought forth “a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the principle that all men are created equal.”

Every nation that has ever risen has fallen, no matter how noble and wise or how misguided and maniacal, they all have, or will, come to an end.

They also all have something else in common–and it’s not unrelated–all have been conceived and implemented by men. The simple truth is, “The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples” (Psa. 33:10).

By contrast, “The counsel of the Lord stands forever, and the plans of his heart to all generations” (Psa. 33:11).

Why is that nothing more than an empty boast?  Creation.  Verses 6-9 begin this line of thought.  It is by God’s word, His counsel, and the breath of His mouth that it all came to be, “and it stood firm.”   God’s work endures, men’s does not.

Therefore, any nation of men–founded by men and destined to fall–“whose God is the Lord” is blessed (v. 12).

January 29-31 Supplementary Readings

Extra Days: Supplemental Readings

January 29-31

Each month in the year in which there are more than 28 days–that, of course, is all of them except February–we will use those “extra” days for supplementary readings.  These are further readings based on ideas or concepts introduced during the regular reading schedule of the month.  These are intended to provide further insight and illustrate how the Bible is a connected, unified whole–not just a loose collection of religious writings.

Through the Bible, January 28

Read: Catch up day

Thought and Reflection: Today is the scheduled “catch up” day for the fourth week of January (22-28), so no reading is scheduled.  But here are some thoughts to consider.

  1. As Jacob traveled to the family of his mother where he was to find a wife, God appeared to him in the amazing dream of the ladder reaching from heaven to earth with angels ascending and descending (Gen. 28:10-22). Jesus uses this same imagery to speak of God’s work in His ministry. He told Nathanael, “you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man” (John 1:51). What assurances can we take from the knowledge of God’s continued work in the affairs of men?
  1. Joseph did right by Potiphar and his promiscuous wife and he still ended up in prison (Gen. 39). Instead of wallowing in self-pity for the injustice of it all, he rather saw the favor that God showed him (vv. 21, 23). We must remember that God’s goodness to us does not always mean our circumstances will be to our liking.  Serve God anyway. Can you think of any instances when doing the right thing didn’t seem to “work out”?
  2. Joseph was able to see the greater good of God’s work in bringing his family to Egypt instead of focusing on his brother’s malicious treatment of him from years previous. The past is just that—past, and that’s where it should remain. Don’t allow it to become a debilitating weight of anger and resentment in the present. What if Joseph had responded differently? How might our response to personal slights impact the larger working of God?

Devotional Thought:

Like It, Or Not

Life is exhilarating.  Life is dull.  Life is fearful.  Life is rewarding.  Life is hard.  Life is joyful.  Life is disappointing.  Life is surprising.  Life is predictable.  Life is tragic.  Life is…

That’s just how life is, isn’t it?  It’s an ever-changing conglomeration of emotions, circumstances, events, people, places, and experiences.

A glance back over the life of Jacob verifies that assessment:

  • mother’s favorite,
  • taking Esau’s birthright and blessing,
  • escaping Esau’s hatred,
  • love at first sight,
  • marrying the “wrong” girl…then the right one,
  • birth of a son, and another, and another, and…
  • a conniving father-in-law,
  • God’s blessing,
  • afraid to return home,
  • wrestling with an angel,
  • reconciled with a brother,
  • his daughter’s rape,
  • joyful birth of a final son,
  • wrenching death of the favorite wife,
  • death (?) of Joseph,
  • famine,
  • Joseph alive and quite well,
  • move to Egypt.

Here’s the point.  My life is not for my entertainment.  It’s not really even for my pleasure.

You see my life doesn’t even belong to me.  My life is no longer mine to live (Gal. 2:20).  I have “lost” my life (Matt. 16:25).  It has been purchased and is no longer my possession (1 Cor. 6:20).  So whether I live or I die I am the Lord’s (Rom. 14:8).

Whether or not all of the various components of my life combined together are to my liking is really immaterial. What matters is the will of God being accomplished in and through my life.

Through the Bible, January 27

Read: Genesis 46-47; 49:28-50:26

Summary: With God’s encouragement Jacob accepts Joseph’s invitation to move the entire family to Egypt.  There, provided with exceptional favor, they settle to live in the region of Goshen.  Jacob dies in Egypt, but according to his wishes, is returned to be buried at home in the grave of his fathers.  Joseph assures his brothers he holds no malice for their previous ill-treatment of him, understanding that though “you meant evil against me…God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive as they are today” (Gen. 50:20).

Devotional Thought:

From One Little Decision

Many–probably most–of the choices we make seem small and insignificant. We are frequently wrong about that. Others seem hugely consequential, and often turn out to be otherwise.

Jacob had a choice to make. His son, Joseph–that is his recently-discovered-alive-and-second-most-powerful-man-in-the-world son–invited him to move with all of the family down to Egypt.

Jacob balked.  He was living in the land God promised to him, his father, and his grandfather.  Wouldn’t leaving it show a lack of faith in God?  Wouldn’t that seem to go against God?

With God’s encouragement Jacob decided to go (Gen. 46:3-4).  He and the 70 members of his family packed up and went.

Personally speaking, moving your family from one place to another is a big decision.  In the larger pictures it’s really not.  What you do is a bigger deal than where you live.

God, though, made this decision a huge deal.  For it was in Egypt that He took these 70 people and multiplied them until they were “as numerous as the stars of heaven” (Deut. 10:22).

Take care of your choices; even the seemingly small ones.  From one little decision God can cause a chain of events that grows far beyond us, our lives, and our purposes.

Through the Bible, January 26

Read: Genesis 42-45

Summary: God’s providence is at work as He is paving the way for Jacob’s family to come to Egypt.  Remember, God had told Abraham years previous about his descendants’ future experience there (Gen. 15:13).  In fact-is-stranger-than-fiction fashion, the story unfolds of Joseph’s brothers asking him, whom they don’t recognize, for grain so they can endure the great famine.  Eventually, following multiple trips to Egypt, Joseph reveals the secret and Jacob learns his son, long thought dead, is very much alive and remarkably a very powerful and influential man.

Devotional Thought:


Revenge is a dish best served cold; or so it is said.

What is not said is that revenge is selfish, small minded, and godless.

If ever there were the “perfect set up” for exacting revenge it was Joseph’s.  His mean and spiteful brothers–who had sold him as a slave and lied to their father about his demise– clueless to his identity, bowed before him to ask for the grain they needed to live.

Joseph had the power, opportunity, element of surprise, and motive. Perfect.

He also had one more thing: reverence for God.

Just as his reverence for God had kept him from sinning with Potiphar’s wife (see Gen. 39:9), the same reverence allowed him to see the larger picture of God’s providential plan in bringing him to Egypt (Gen. 45:7).  How his brothers had treated him was very small and immaterial compared to the greatness of God’s work in and through his life.

When we refuse to forgive, insisting on “getting back” and “getting even”, we rob ourselves of the incomparable thrill of God working in us.

Insist on what you want, and you just may get it–period.  Pursue what God wants and who knows what will be yours!

Through the Bible, January 25

Read: Genesis 37; 39-41

Summary: Jacob’s son Joseph is his father’s favorite, and it’s no secret.  Why had Jacob not learned the bitter lessons of parental favoritism from his own experiences?  The brothers’ jealousy nearly gets Joseph killed and it does land him in far off Egypt as a slave.  From there, Joseph’s remarkable faith and character and trust take him from slave to prisoner to–unbelievably–second ruler of all Egypt.  Who but God could make this happen?

Devotional Thought:

Not Like Us

We don’t think like God.

We know that don’t we?  Or, at least we tell ourselves that.

Here is the more difficult, related statement: God doesn’t think like we do. That one gives us a whole lot more trouble.

Take this statement from the Bible: “But the Lord was with Joseph and extended kindness to him” (Gen. 39:21; NASB).

How is that true?  We know that by God’s hand Joseph, far away from home and family, was taken from slave to prisoner, all the way to the second-most-powerful man in the world’s most powerful nation.

We agree–God was very kind to Joseph.

But when was this kindness shown?

This statement is made after Joseph landed in prison.  It’s made after he steadfastly refused to sin with Potiphar’s wife and after she unjustly accused him and after Potiphar, in a rage, slapped him in prison.  And before he ever gets out.

God’s kindness did not keep Joseph from an unjust prison term.  Or to put it another way, Joseph’s unfair treatment did not negate God’s kindness.

Obviously, God doesn’t think like we do.

Through the Bible, January 24

Read: Genesis 32-33; 35

Summary: Jacob’s return home means an encounter with Esau, whom he still fears greatly.  It also proves rather momentous in that God blesses him and reaffirms the covenant with him.  This series of events also includes Jacob’s mysterious wrestling match with an angel.

Devotional Thought:

The Same?

We’ve all seen a child following a period of some weeks or months absence from them.   They’ve changed haven’t they?  It’s apparent; their physical appearance is different.

By the same token, we may see an adult following about the same period of absence and they look no different at all.

After a long absence from home, Jacob had changed.

Not his physical appearance, though that may well be true, we just don’t know it. Instead of knowing what he looked like, we know his attitudes and his thinking–that changed.

Compare these two “snapshots” of his character; first, when he was leaving home (see Gen. 28:20-21) and then when he was returning, twenty years later (see Gen. 32:10-12).  Previously he seemed arrogant and proud: an if-you-help-me-I-will-serve-you kind of attitude.  But now it’s humility and thankfulness and petitions for God’s aid. The change is obvious.

What is different about you over the past six months?  year?  five years?  decade? Has your faith deepened? Is there less of self and more of God? Is your own will even further submitted to God’s? Is the Lord’s place in your life larger? Have love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control flourished?

Muhammad Ali suggested that a man who looks at the world the same at age 50 as he did at age 20 has wasted 30 years of living.

Do you look the same today, spiritually, as you did even last year?

Don’t be wasting your life.

Through the Bible, January 23

Read: Genesis 29-31

Summary: Jacob’s search for a wife lands him two, sisters Rachel and Leah.  His experiences with their father, Laban, teach him valuable lessons that help temper his youthful, self-serving attitudes.  Finally, after 20 years, he decides it’s time to return home, now with a family including eleven sons and one daughter.

Devotional Thought:

The God of Bethel

Jacob’s parents had sent him off to find a wife among his mother’s family.  Now, twenty years later, God is sending him back home (Gen. 31:13).

He left home under duress.  Esau, his brother, was so angry and spiteful he wished to kill him.  All his efforts to gain an advantage and advance his position had ended up with increased mistreatment from his father-in-law and having to run away.

Now, God is calling him to return home.  He does so by identifying Himself to Jacob as, “the God of Bethel” (31:13).

Jacob needed reminding of what had happened there.  That is the location where, on the night Jacob had fled from home, God appeared to him in a dream as he slept on a pillow of stones (Gen. 28:10ff).  That dream was of the ladder reaching from heaven to earth with the Lord standing above and angels ascending and descending.  It was the dream where God promised to be with Jacob and He repeated to him what had been said to his fathers, Abraham and Isaac.

The God of Bethel is the God who had not forgotten Jacob.  He was still with him and would be with Him, just as He said.  Now, it was time to go back home.

This wasn’t going to be easy either.  Separating from his father-in-law will be traumatic.  And what about his brother with his murderous intent?

It didn’t matter.  The God of Bethel was there.

The God of Bethel is not just Jacob’s.  He’s ours too, in Jesus (see John 1:51). In uncertain, stressful, troubling, and changing times, we need the God of Bethel.