Monday, January 22, 2018

January 21 - 22: Genesis 42- 45; Jacob the Whiner

            By this time in Genesis, we’ve seen different phases in Jacob’s life. He started out as the quiet man who obeyed his mother to steal Esau’s blessing. When he moves to Paddan-aram, and is double crossed by his father-in-law, he increases his abilities as a conniver to increase his wealth.
            But something happens to him when he runs from Laban. Though he is obeying the Lord to return home, he does it in fear of Laban. He has a brief time of faith after wresting with God and after being renamed Israel, he meets his brother, Esau.
            He expresses a lack of trust in the Lord when dealing with Shechem’ rape of his daughter, Dinah, even reproving his sons for their action. Yet God faithfully caused the cities to be in fear of him. The Lord also blessed him with the promise given to Abraham and Isaac. He is again renamed Israel, and this name is used of him for a short time.
            However, Scripture again calls him Jacob when dealing unfairly with his sons and favoring Joseph. At the report of Joseph’s apparent death, Jacob will not let his family comfort him but insists he will mourn until he dies (Gen 37:35).
            Now, Jacob favors Benjamin and won’t let him go to Egypt to buy food. The other ten brothers go and return without Simeon. Jacob’s reaction is to blame them all for the loss of Joseph and Simeon and even wanting to kill Benjamin also (Gen: 42:36). He pulls the whining manipulative trait that he has developed and refuses to let his sons return Egypt to free Simeon. He complains that he will die if he loses Benjamin (Gen 42:38).
            He enforces his oh-poor-me attitude on the bothers even though he asks the Lord to give them mercy when they must return to Egypt to buy food (Gen 43:14). The manipulation works as Judah begs Joseph to let Benjamin go in place of himself (Gen 44:18-34). Judah is sure that Jacob will die if Benjamin doesn’t return.
            Manipulators often use this threat of death to lock people into relationships or otherwise get others to do what they wouldn’t normally do. The manipulator doesn’t trust God to work things out the way he knows best. The victim doesn’t trust God either. The manipulator plays a blame game to get what he wants. “You will cause me to kill myself.” Through guilt, the victim take on responsibility for another person’s choices.
            Neither one is doing as Joseph did when he stated that it was God’s plan to send him to Egypt for a greater purpose (Gen 45:7-8). Until we have a view of God’s sovereignty as clearly as Joseph did, we can become manipulative whiners to get our own way or we can be victims. We do have choice to be neither but that means trusting God.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

January 20: Matthew 13:24-30, 35, 37-43; Parable of Weeds and the Rapture

             The parables of Jesus are the mysteries that have been hidden since God created the world (Matt 13:35). One of the greatest mysteries, other than those explained by Paul regarding the Church being the body of Christ made up of both Jews and Gentiles, is the one that many people argue about today. Thankfully, the Lord made the Church clear to Paul so we don’t have to argue about it. However, we still argue about the rapture.
            Some say it will occur before the great tribulation of the earth. Others say it will occur in the middle or the end. Some even say there is no such thing but a heresy made up in the last 200-300 years. Since the word rapture doesn’t even exist in the Bible, maybe we shouldn’t use it but then we would also have to stop using the word Trinity to describe God.
            Some of the parables create conjecture because they are not explained. But the parable of the weeds (Matt 13:24-30) is clearly explained by Jesus (Matt 13:27-43) so we don’t have to guess who is who or what is what. The key issues of this parable a that Jesus is the one who sows the seed and children of the kingdom of heaven are the good seed. This doesn’t take a lot of explanation. Christians, believers, disciple of Jesus, and followers of Jesus are all terms used to describe children of the kingdom.
            Likewise, those who don’t belong to the kingdom are the weeds and are children of the evil one. They have been planted by the devil. Paul makes it clear that we were all in that family before Jesus brought us out (Eph 2:1-9).
            Jesus didn’t put any time frame on when he sows or the devil sows. Thus, the sowing part of this parable represents all time. It could even include the time before Jesus appears because it is still God who gives us new hearts and the ability to have faith and Jesus is God. During this time, the Lord allows evil people to exist along with the children of the kingdom. Note that he allows this so that the wheat will not be destroyed along with the weeds (Matt 13:29).
            The harvest is the close of the age. It is the time when evil will be taken out of the world and burned like weeds. Now comes the problem with rapture theories. Jesus clearly says that the weeds will be taken out before the wheat (Matt 13:30). Just to make sure we don’t miss the order, he will tell the reapers, the angels, to gather them first. Then they will gather the wheat into the barns.             Doesn’t this stand the pretribulation rapture on its head? Evil is eliminated before the rapture. Jesus also says that immediately after the tribulation he will come and gather his elect (Matt 24:29-31).
            Revelation 14:14-20 describes two harvests of the earth. There is no mention of anything like the rapture until this point in the book. Even these two harvests are not clearly identified with Jesus coming back. The point of including these is that the first harvest appears to be taking believers out of the earth because the fate of those is not mentioned. Contrary to the first harvest, the second harvest is thrown into the winepress of God’s wrath, which is similar to the harvest of the weeds. The problem here is that the order of the harvest is reversed from the parable.
            The common explanation for those who believe in a pretribulation rapture is that the parable of the weeds, Jesus’ return in Matthew 24, and Revelation 14 are describing the separation of only those who have come to Christ after the rapture, which occurred before the tribulation. Since Paul describes what we call the rapture in 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17 and also in 1 Corinthians 15:50-53, we know that some people will not die but be transformed into immortality. This is only half of the story because those who are alive will be taken up only after the dead in Christ are resurrected (1 Thess 4:16).
            The biggest problem with pretribulation or even midtribulation rapture is that Revelation 20:4-5 very clearly says that those who die during the tribulation will come to life after Jesus’ return. “This is the first resurrection” (Rev 20:5). If this is the first resurrection, then what do we call the clearly described resurrection Paul mentioned? I for one, will not say it is the first and the one in Revelation is really the second resurrection. That would be changing the words of the book and that is a dangerous thing (Rev 22:18-19).
            The bottom line is that this is still a mystery because we can’t fully understand it without conjecture. We can’t let this divide us either. Rather than spending too much time on it, I simply want to be one who is ready at any time doing what the Lord wants when he comes back.

Friday, January 19, 2018

January 19: Genesis 39 – 41:16; Joseph’s Lesson in Slavery – Bitter or Better

             Joseph had every worldly right to be an angry and resentful slave. He was sold by his brothers, of all people! They hated him. The slave traders were distant relatives, the Ishmaelites. So much for growing up in a loving family. Joseph did have a couple of things going for him, he was good looking and had a strong body.
            Those two things are what got him into trouble with his master’s wife. He was too good looking and she wanted him sexually. The other thing that he had going for him is that the Lord was with him and this not only protected him from becoming bitter and angry, but it kept him from letting his good looks, position, and unfair treatment by his brothers give him the “right” to some illicit pleasure.
            But God wasn’t finished with Joseph’s training in being a servant. His integrity cost him his posh job as head of Potiphar’s house. For a slave, Joseph had it made. It could have gone to his head, but he repeatedly refused his mistress’ advances. He even had to run from her leaving his garment behind.
            Now, think about the movies you’ve watched or books you’ve read. How many worldly people would have refused the opportunity she presented? If you have to be honest, you know that when things get tough, especially at home, men and women tend to find their escape in extramarital affairs.
            But Joseph ended up in a prison instead. He continued to be a servant and the Lord was still with him. The Lord used his servant spirit to become the one to minister to two of Pharaoh’s officials who were in prison. He is concerned for them as people, he sees they are downcast. He can tell they are worse off than normal being in a dirty rotten prison. You have to really notice that when he hears about their dreams, he doesn’t put forth his own dream expertise, but give the credit to God. He hopes that when the cupbearer is released he will have someone to plead his case to Pharaoh.
            But here comes the last disappointment. The cupbearer forgets about him. Two more years pass and Joseph is still in prison. Sold by his brothers, imprisoned by his master, forgotten by the cupbearer. Wouldn’t a normal person be angry with God? Wouldn’t he want to be bitter about the life he has lead. He is 32 years old and has spent almost half of his life as a slave and a significant amount of that time as a slave in prison.
            The truth of Joseph’s faith in God is seen not only in giving credit to God when interpreting the dreams of the cupbearer and baker, but even more so when he addresses Pharaoh. Pharaoh directly gives credit to Joseph for interpreting dreams. A worldly person would suck that up and accept it. But not Joseph, he quickly says that it isn’t him but God who will give Pharaoh the answer to his dreams.
            The lesson is to trust God in all times, good and bad. The lesson is to give credit to the Lord for whatever we do. If we really know the Lord, then we know that our abilities, our position in life, everything we have and do is all from the Lord. It isn’t easy to give the Lord glory for it all when someone complements us, but that is what we are called to do (1 Cor 10:31; Col 3:17). If we are in bad times, then we still give him the glory instead of becoming bitter or angry, because we know that he is preparing us for something, just as he prepared Joseph. We may not know what it is until we reach heaven, but if we trust the Lord, then we can live our lives like Joseph did.