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Showing posts from March, 2012

Now you see it: Exodus 6

Exodus 5 left us in a spot where things had not turned out as well as Moses and the people expected (see here). If you've been on the journey through this walk through the whole Bible, though, you've seen that life does not always turn out as smoothly as those of us living it hope it would. Exodus 6 (link) gives us a little light for those dark times.1.) We see that light in the reflection of history. Starting with Exodus 6:14 and carrying through the rest of the chapter are the details of some of the families in Egypt. Looking back at 6:3, we see God remind Moses of His appearing to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.One of our sources of light in dark times is the light that reflects from history. It is true that there are some pretty dark spots back there, some grungy places on that mirror. Yet we can see the ways which God worked then, the actions taken. We can see Ruth in the midst of the chaos of pre-monarchal Israel. We can see Irish monks copying books through the Dark Ages. We…

Yeah, that went well: Exodus 5

Exodus 5 (link) represents one of our greatest fears of following God: that we will do what God has commanded and the results will turn out badly. There is a tendency to expect that if we do what God tells us to do, everything will turn out somewhere this side of better than expected. That rainbows and butterflies will surround us and life will go swimmingly.Except it does not work that way, does it? Real life is so much messier. Look at what happens in this situation and then we’ll come back to ours.Moses and Aaron connect and stand before Pharaoh together. They present their case to him, and he shoots them down. He’s fairly dismissive about it, at that, with his comment of “Who is the LORD, that I should obey His voice?” (see today’s nerd note at the end regarding the all-capital letters)Now, if you’ve seen this movie before, you know that Pharaoh is just tempting God by doing this. After all, how many times does the antagonist of a novel or film mock the protagonist? Especially any…

So long, Jethro! Exodus 4

We're still at the burning bush, but we continue in the conversation in Exodus 4 (link) and the bush itself doesn't really come up again. I wonder if we make a bigger deal of the bush and its burning but not burning situation than prior generations did, including Moses' generation.This chapter deals with the conversation between Moses and God. The conversation where Moses tries all the various and sundry excuses he can come up with not to do what God is telling him to do. The conversation where God patiently provides Moses a few answers, then puts His anthropomorphic foot down and says, essentially "I am God. Get to it."For those of us who are Christians, this point comes home to us. Start thinking of the last difficult thing you knew you God had told you to do. Maybe it was something easy, like becoming a brain surgeon. Maybe it was harder, like loving your enemies. The latter, of course, we know God has told us all to do, while the former is more of our decisio…

Burn, Baby, Burn: Exodus 3

Moving ahead Through the Whole Bible,  we find Moses working through a semi-normal nomad life: he's tending Jethro's flocks, being married, raising a family. All well and good, and fairly monotonous. That is, until Moses drifts over to the west side of the wilderness, somewhere in the neighborhood of Horeb. Exodus 3 (link) gives us that story.Today's nerd note: Exodus 3:1 refers to Horeb as the "Mountain of God." Portrayals such as the movie "The Ten Commandments" draw the conclusion that Horeb was always known as this, but it is possible that Moses came to refer to Horeb as the Mountain of God after this experience. Keep in mind, Scripture is not a "live-blog" of an event: historical narratives are written down (or reviewed/edited) after the events happen. Therefore, sometimes later knowledge (like place names) is used to help bring clarity. At least, it would have brought clarity to the original audience.This chapter could be the source of a…

I want my baby back, baby back…Exodus 2

In case you've ever wondered, the chapters are not natural to the original text of Scripture. So, taking a chapter-by-chapter approach is somewhat artificial and tends to cause certain parts to be overlooked while other parts are overdone. Exodus 2 (link) is a good example of that: 40 years of Moses' life are present here. I can't cover them all and keep this post a reasonable length. Read it and study it on your own as well to see what gets left out.The Hebrew people in Egypt have multiplied into a fairly intimidating group of foreigners, leading Pharaoh to install taskmasters to oppress them. Finding that this will not slow down their growth or reduce their cultural identity, he then goes into a policy of population control: the undesirable Hebrews will be killed. The baby boys are the most undesirable, so they are to be thrown into the river.Why the boys? If you eliminate the males and leave the females, then the rising generation has to intermarry with other cultures a…

No Elephants in the World: Exodus 1

Note: I finished Genesis yesterday in Through the Whole Bible. What next? Exodus, of course. I hope to start adding in some New Testament, but I haven't decided whether to rotate chapters or books. If you have an opinion, leave a comment and let me know.Exodus. It's a book about escaping from slavery in Egypt. Many people know Exodus better than any other part of the Old Testament because it makes for great movies and good stories. Yet there's plenty of material here to look back through and consider.Take Exodus 1 (link) for starters. There's a very important message in this passage, and it's one you might have heard preached a time or two. If you have, great! If you haven't, well, maybe you will soon.The first chapter of Exodus details how the family that arrived in Egypt at the end of Genesis went from being met at the Court of Pharaoh to being oppressed in slavery. It also covers some 430 years of time in the span of, well, one chapter. Much effort has gone …

The Mummy Part I: Genesis 50

First a quick note: thanks for sticking with me for 50 posts in Genesis. This blog through the whole Bible, one chapter at a time thing is going to take a while. I’d reward your patience with some cookies, but I haven’t perfected my email-a-snack technology yet. Thank you again for reading.Jacob’s last words were found in Genesis 49, and we looked at that yesterday. Now we move rapidly from Jacob’s death to Joseph’s death. At the beginning of Genesis 50 (link) Jacob dies and Joseph has the Egyptian embalmers prepare his body. In short, Joseph’s Daddy becomes his Mummy…A few notes on this occurrence: the embalmers utilized the entire 40 day process. That indicates a level of respect and a plan to preserve the body. The Egyptians as a people mourned Jacob for 70 days. That’s a lot of time for a foreigner, and it conveys the high esteem for both Joseph and the age and wisdom of Jacob. Then, Joseph, his brothers, and a crew of the high people of Egypt travel back to the cave of Machpelah …

Famous last words: Genesis 49

"Everything is going according to plan.""Don't worry, it will only be a small explosion.""Hey, y'all watch this!""They couldn't hit an elephant at this distance" (Nearly the last words of General John Sedgwick at Spotsylvania in the Civil War. His actual last words were to the man who had just dodged a bullet right in front of him. The, the sharpshooters didn't hit an elephant. They hit the General. Story here)We refer to the dying statements of great people as their last words, and sometimes we speak of those with disdain, as "famous last words" is not a cliché for when someone seems to invite doom by their statements of assurance. Yet what put that idea in our minds was a long tradition of recording the closing words of great leaders and people. There's often a good closing thought—even if the words aren't exactly their last but are, rather, their planned last words.That's what we have from Jacob in Genesi…

Keep your hands where I can see them: Genesis 48

Jacob and family are safely in Egypt, as we've already established. Except that "safely" does not mean that all is well. In this case, Jacob is sick. He's actually sick and dying, and his last acts are recorded in the closing chapters of Genesis. Today, we'll take a look at Genesis 48 (link).Joseph is hard at work, managing the economy of the world's current superpower, Egypt. He gets a message, though, that his father is ill. We're not talking the ill that I've had these past few days of sinuses and fevers. We're talking about a deathly ill. Joseph does what we all would want to do in the situation, and goes to Jacob's side. He takes his oldest two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, with him.Then some events happen that relate to inheritance rights and legalities. I am not an expert on the laws and customs of all the Ancient Near East, but my supposition is that Jacob had removed Joseph from his list of heirs those thirteen years ago when he thought…

High interest loans: Genesis 47

We've safely moved Jacob and family on down into Egypt, and Pharaoh has allotted them space in the land of Goshen. He's even offered jobs for the most capable among them to handle Pharaoh's livestock. It would seem that the purpose of this narrative section has come to end with the opening portions of Genesis 47 (link).It doesn't end there, though. We zoom back out from the focus on Joseph and his family and take a look at the overall situation in Egypt. We see that the famine goes on throughout Egypt and Canaan. We see further that there's a price to be paid for food, and that price is not cheap.First, Genesis 47:14 shows that Joseph gathered all of the money of the people in exchange for food in the opening portion of the famine. All of this went into the treasuries of Pharaoh. The economy of the time was non-monetary, so we're probably looking at rough gold, silver, and other precious items, or specific finished goods made of these materials. It's not ca…

Wagons South! Genesis 46

After last chapter's happy reunion, Genesis 46 (link) has a more tearful, but likely more joyful reunion. Joseph sees his father again after all of their years of separation. Tears flow, and Jacob states that he is now happy to die, having seen Joseph again.This is not an instant happening, though. It takes a little while to make this happen. Why? Well, you've got to remember, there's five more years of famine happening here. Five! In the first two years, Jacob has had to send his sons to Egypt for food twice. How much time and effort will be wasted by the family making annual trips to Egypt?Additionally, it appears that Joseph cannot, at this time, leave Egypt. Take a look through the narrative: he sends wagons, sends brothers, but he does not go until the family is in Egypt. There's nothing textual to give a definite answer, but the explanation is either that his duties do not allow him to leave or that Pharaoh will not allow him to leave. Keep in mind that he was a …

Oh Brother, who art thou? Genesis 45

Now comes the big moment, the one in the story that has been promoted for the last two commercial breaks: we see how the brothers react when they find out that the big man in Egypt is their pesky little brother, Joseph. What will they do? What will he do?Ah! The drama…the pain…the wondering…Put yourself in the sandals of Judah, Reuben, and the boys. For more than a decade they have pondered life without Joseph. Maybe they have expected to see him as a slave somewhere in Egypt or along the caravan routes. Maybe they've remembered his dreams of greatness and have wondered if there would be any fulfillment of those dreams. Who really knows if those were just delusions of grandeur or if they were predictive dreams? It's a mystery what they really thought. I can imagine, though, the dread of encountering Joseph again. Maybe they've talked about trying to buy him back from slavery if they ever find him alive. Perhaps they've talked about how fast to run if they encounter him…

This is not that moment. Genesis 44

In the movie While You Were Sleeping, the Frankenstein Monster and Lone Star have a touching scene over a box of doughnuts. No, wait, that was Frank Barone and President Thomas J. Whitmore. I'm not sure…and I can't find an online clip, so you'll have to pull out that old VHS. It's ok, Sandra Bullock is nice and charming through the whole film.Ox, the father, is talking about how hard he had worked to provide for the family, how much effort went into providing that one moment when it all comes together and then you have peace. Jack, the son, says "This is not that moment." And then the plot goes on from there…Judah and the rest of Jacob's sons are when beginning Genesis 44 (link). They have that moment that they expect there to be peace. The food's loaded up, the Egyptians have been swell, and Simeon's out of prison. Sounds great, doesn't it?Life goes that way for us. Everything gets lined up, the universe is functioning as we think it should, …

Sermon Wrap-up for March 11

Well, I did it again: the batteries in my voice recorder died 2 minutes into Sunday morning's sermon. Being that it was only a 10 minute sermon, you would have missed four-fifths of it. I would like to have posted it just to prove that I can preach that short, but life happens.The reason that I went that short was one of our church family shared his testimony, and I knew from his preparation work that he'd need more than just 5-7 minutes. So, I wanted, this one time, to allow for that and still being done near to the traditional time. Does that time matter? It does when the church family is trying to tackle meeting a few needs for folks on a time schedule. There's more to church life than sermons, folks—much more at times.If you want to know, though, the morning sermon focused on Ephesians 2:4-10 and the grace of God to provide salvation by faith. However you slice it, God's grace saves us and we receive that grace by faith—have you? Will you? Evening sermon was on 2 J…

Once more…with FEELING! Genesis 43

Ever had to do something you dreaded doing? And the only thing that made it worse was the idea that you might possibly have to do it again?That's the situation that faces Judah and the rest of Jacob's sons in Genesis 43(link). Genesis 42 saw the brothers head down to Egypt to buy some grain to survive the famine. We looked at that last week here. That trip cost them a brother: Simeon has remained in Egypt as a hostage to prove that this group of ten Hebrews were not spies. Of course, only nine went home.The famine, though, has outlasted the grocery trip. Egypt still has food available, something that Canaan does not have. This leaves the family with only a few choices: starve, go back to Egypt for more, or move elsewhere. The simplest solution is to go back to Egypt. Well, simplest once you exclude willfully starving to death. Doing nothing is always an option, and often not the best option.That leaves move the whole family to an unknown location or send the boys back to Egypt…

Book: The Big Book of American Trivia

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Today's Book is from Tyndale House Publishers. A free book for a free opinion.Today's book is titled The Big Book of American Trivia by J. Stephen Lang. It's published by Tyndale House Publishers.The Big Book of American TriviaThis was an easy read. Well, sort of. It's a collection of questions of trivia about American History. It's not really a book organized to go through and learn these facts. Rather, it's one to challenge your knowledge and then go scrambling into the answer section to find out what the answer was.We are using this book to challenge our kids during school as well as trying to remember what we learned back in college history. There are questions that come from the important parts of history as well as the lesser parts like entertainment trivia.In all, this is a fun book to have on hand. It's hard to say much else about it—it's a trivia book, so you know what you are getting in it: questions and answers.

I told you so! TTWB: Genesis 42

Crises come in the lives of all people. Even the cave-dwelling hermit has to deal with bats and the occasional spelunker! When we face those crises there are good things to hear, useless things to hear, and absolutely irritating things to hear. Genesis 42 (link) gives us examples of all three types of statements.If you have read the chapter, you know what is going on here. Famine in both Egypt and Canaan, hungry people all around. Going back a chapter, you'll see that Joseph has prepared Egypt with food reserves for these seven years of tough times. There's grain and seed stored up from seven years of plenty in Egypt, brought in by taxing the Egyptian farmers one-fifth of their harvest for those seven years.A few words here might be helpful in understanding the situation. One might wonder how taking one-fifth seven times would provide seven years of food. That only totals seven-fifths, and no matter where you learned math, you should recognize that you're short of seven ye…

Book: How to read the Bible through the Jesus Lens

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Quick notes: Through the Whole Bible will be back either this afternoon or tomorrow. Zondervan sent me a free copy of this book and required that I read and review it, but they didn't require me to like it.Book data: Title: How to Read the Bible through the Jesus Lens.Author: Michael Williams, currently Professor of Old Testament at Calvin Theological Seminary and a member of the NIV Committee on Bible Translation.Publisher: ZondervanList Price: $18.99Cover image:At the outset, I have to make a confession. When Zondervan publicized this blog tour, I had to say which section of Scripture I would focus my reviewing efforts on. Now, though, I cannot remember what I told them I would do. The upside is that I read the whole book. The downside is that I expect a giant "Z" to be carved into my bookshelf for revenge.Overviewing this book, Michael Williams has taken each book of the Bible and provided a brief overview of the theme and narrative of that book. He then provides a se…

Dreamers don't get the job: Genesis 41

Yes, the title is intended to burst your bubble a little bit. As we look at Genesis 41 (link), I hope to explain what I mean. So, progressing through the whole Bible, here we go:The story recap: Joseph is still in prison. Well, that makes it almost sound nice. He's in a dungeon. That sounds better. Whatever you might see on an investigative journalism piece, there is no comparison between any modern American prison and 4000 years ago in Egypt. In an Egyptian prison is just not where you want to be. Last chapter was approximately two years ago. Remember last chapter? Joseph interpreted the dreams of the cupbearer and the baker. The cupbearer was supposed to mention Joseph's ability to interpret dreams when he was restored to his position. The cupbearer forgot that little detail until Pharaoh had a dream two years later, and that dream has Pharaoh troubled.Joseph interprets Pharaoh's dreams of fat and skinny cows, fat and skinny ears of corn. The dreams are a warning of the …

Not my kind of party: Genesis 40

If you know the story of Joseph, you know the basic events of Genesis 40 (link). I'll still give you the quick summary, because I'm a preacher after all: that's what we do. Joseph is in prison. He is practically running the prison, but he's still in prison. While he is handling that end of life, Pharaoh has been offended by his cupbearer and his baker. In fact, so offended he's furious. Pharaoh (king of Egypt) sends them both to prison.While in prison, the baker and the cupbearer have dreams. Dreams, especially ones you remember, are often troubling. These guys had to add in that they believed their gods spoke through dreams and that the dreamer had to figure out: 1.) which god had spoken; 2.)what that god wanted or meant. Christians, there's a good reason to be grateful for the Bible because we don't have to figure out those two questions!Joseph interprets their dreams: cupbearer is headed back to work. Baker? Headed to his death. Both of Joseph's inte…

Book Review: Invitation to Biblical Interpretation

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Today's Book comes from Kregel Publishers. They graciously provided me a free book both to review and drop on my foot. Believe me, read it and don't drop it on your foot.Today's Book is Invitation to Biblical Interpretation by Andreas J. Köstenberger and Richard D. Patterson. It's part of Kregel Publishers' Invitation to Theological Studies Series.Here it is:Invitation to Biblical Interpretation: Exploring the Hermeneutical Triad of History, Literature, and Theology (Invitation to Theological Studies Series)The Bible is a fascinating and wonderful book to read. As a Christian, I would argue that the single most important book to read and understand is the Bible. If the Bible is accurate, then eternity itself rests within the pages of that one book.The Bible, though, is not a book written in 21st century America. It's not even originally written in English. Most scholars agree that the bulk of biblical material was written down no less than 1800 years ago, and s…

Work hard! Go to Prison! Genesis 39

Having made our our departure for a chapter to see what is happening with Judah back in the land of Canaan, the focus of the story returns to Joseph. Genesis 39 (link) recounts how that turned out for him. He arrives with the Ishmaelites and is sold to Potiphar. Potiphar is one of the captains of Pharaoh's bodyguard and a man of some wealth. Joseph works hard, God grans him favor in the eyes of Potiphar, and Joseph becomes the manager of all that Potiphar has. The text does not tell us how long this took, but I would say it took less than a lot of time but more than a little bit.Then Joseph's hard work is rewarded: Potiphar's wife develops an attraction for Joseph. Throughout her persistence, Joseph continually refuses her advances and observes that it would wrong his master and sin against God to do such a thing. One day she catches him alone, attempts to pull him by his garment, and he flees.Now she has physical evidence and traps him with a lie: he came and attempted to…

Why did you want to move?: Genesis 38

Just when you think you've seen it all, along comes Genesis 38 (link) to show you just how bad it can get out there. This supports why we read through the whole Bible, though: you need to see that these are the lives of people just like people today. Lives full of shattered hopes and broken promises, but redeemed by the grace of God.What happens this time around? Judah, the brother who had the idea to sell Joseph and not kill him, moves away from his brothers. We have one brother, Joseph, on his way to Egypt. We have another brother, Judah, separating from the family.The text does not give us a reason for Judah to move away from his brothers. Perhaps he feels guilt over Joseph; perhaps they pressured him to move away lest he slip up and confess his part of the crime; perhaps they want him away so that if the Midianites who bought Joseph come back, he'll be gone. We just don't know.What we do know is this: the twelve sons of Jacob are now down to ten in the household. Judah…

Sermon Wrap-up March 4: Nehemiah 8 and 9

Here are the sermon outlines and audio links for March 4:Morning Audio Link (and alternate) for Nehemiah 8Evening Audio Link (and alternate) for Nehemiah 9Morning outline:Nehemiah 8The Reading of the LawWho comes?1. Men2. Women3. All who could understand (most children)In short, no one is excluded from the Word of GodExplanation by those who knew it...When?From "The light until midday:" 6 hours? Really? Very likely: from sunrise until around noonWhere?In the middle of townWhat happened next?RepentanceWeepingRejoicingThe restoration of the Feast of Booths from Leviticus 23HOW?!1. Unity of the people2. Study of the Word3. Obey what is obvious4. Repent5. Rejoice that God has allowed time for repentance!Evening Outline:Nehemiah 9RepentanceRemembranceResults

Dreaming and losing: Genesis 37

Ever think your family doesn't like you?Try being Joseph. Genesis 37 (link) recounts the first portions of his story, and those portions are just not pretty. You've got parental favoritism, sibling rivalry, snitches, attempted murder, and selling your brother into slavery. Given the plethora of material in this chapter, it's been the source of many sermons. What should we focus on to make one blog post?Let's consider this: the beginning of the chapter has Joseph recounting his dreams to his family. He has dreamed that his brothers will bow down to him, that his whole family will bow down to him. Perhaps not exactly: the first dream was that his brothers' sheaves of wheat bowed down and the second that the Sun, Moon, and eleven stars bowed down to him. It's a good guess, though, that these dreams meant what his family took them to stand for.So, what do his brothers do? Throw him in a well and sell him into slavery. That will bring his dreams to nothing, right?Wr…

Book Review: The Coming Revolution

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Today's Book Review comes from Booksneeze, the blog-reviewer program from Thomas Nelson Publishers. Free book in exchange for a free opinion.Reading Dr. Richard Lee's book The Coming Revolution was something of an exercise in repetition for me. That's not to say it was bad, but neither was it distinctively good. It fits along the line of being a clearly articulated vision of America as a Christian nation. Lee puts forth his case that America began as nation with a predominantly Christian identity and has lost that identity. He further stands with the idea that the liberty and uniqueness of America will be lost if we do not regain that identity.His points are well-crafted. I felt he covered the history well regarding the founding era of the United States. Lee does not whitewash that some of the Founders were not strong Christians, though his focus remains on the Christian influence on even those who were Deists and agnostics.His arguments regarding the history and intention…