Joseph finally reveals his identity to his brothers. He comforts them with the sovereignty of God: in his providence, God has willed the events of being sold into slavery so that eventually their lives would be preserved through the famine. Through all of the twists and turns, through jail time and living in Pharaoh’s palace, Joseph does not harbor any resentment but looks to God for meaning and purpose. Do you generally turn negative and resentful when unpleasant events take place, or do you joyfully wait to see what God has in store years down the road?
Pharaoh sends Joseph’s brothers back to Canaan with more supplies to get Israel. Israel returns with his sons. God spoke to Israel in a vision telling him not to be afraid to make the journey. God himself with go with him and will bring him back here. What follows is a short genealogy of all Israel’s descendants through his twelve sons. It seems like the genealogy is to make certain the reader understands that all of Israel’s family is or will be in Egypt.
Israel is reunited with Joseph in Goshen in Egypt. Goshen was one of the most fertile plots of land in Egypt, so both animals and crops would be plentiful (after the famine subsided, of course). It was also a good distance from the major Egyptian cities, so Israel and his family could live in relative peace. Since the Egyptians do not highly esteem shepherds, it will be easy to keep the family together in Goshen.
The famine continues to worsen, and the people of Egypt are short on money to buy food. The people began selling animals and eventually their privately-owned land to the Pharaoh, through Joseph, in order to buy food. Essentially, many Egyptians became servants to Pharaoh during the famine out of fear as long as Pharaoh gave them food and safety. The people would continue to contribute 20% of their crops to Pharaoh.
Israel is ready to die and asks to be buried with his ancestors. This would have been Machpelah, where Abraham and Isaac were buried. Even today, the "Cave of the Patriarchs” is a holy site in Judaism. As Israel is dying, he speaks to each of his sons. He speaks first to Joseph and his two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, and tells them about the promise God made to him concerning his offspring and the land of Canaan. Even if Ephraim and Manasseh were born in Egypt, they are still children of the promise.
Ephraim was the younger son, yet Israel gave him the better blessing. Joseph tries to correct his father and have him bless Manasseh, but Israel is acting intentionally. It might be customary to bless the older, but as the younger son who received the better blessing himself, Israel/Jacob is well aware that God uses the lesser/weaker things of this world to work surprisingly great things.
Jacob then proceeds to bless the rest of his sons. Now, some of them do not necessarily read like blessings. They also read like prophecies. Each of his sons will become a tribe. Israel prophecies about the future of each tribe. All of those prophecies came true. Perhaps of most importance is Judah. From Judah’s tribe would come King David and of course Jesus Christ.
Jacob dies and his sons bury him in Machpelah as he requested. Joseph’s brothers are fearful that in the absence of the patriarch, Joseph will retaliate for all of their sins against him. But Joseph comforts his brothers and says that he will not retaliate because he is pleased to be under God’s good purposes. Sometimes those purposes involve situations that involve sin, either our own or others’. Joseph assures them that he is not in the place of God, and only God decides the future. Joseph grows old and dies. Before passing away, he makes his sons swear that they will take his bones to the land promised to his descendants.
The Israelites are settled in Egypt and multiplying throughout the land. There is a new Pharaoh, and he is threatened by the presence of these people with limited loyalty to Egypt. After all, they consider themselves the people of an entirely different deity. He begins to enslave the Israelites into physical labor and the building of cities. The Israelites continue to grow even under the conditions of slavery, so Pharaoh orders the Hebrew midwives to murder all of the male children born to Hebrew women. The Hebrew midwives feared God and not Pharaoh, so they let all of the Hebrew male children live. As retaliation, Pharaoh commands all future born Hebrew males to be drowned. Instead of trusting the midwives, he now commands the Egyptians, his own people, to drown the children and become complicate in his paranoia.
Moses is born. His mother hid him alive for three months, but as with all children, their sheer existence carries with it a certain volume. After she could no longer hide him, she built a basket, placed him inside, and sent him down the Nile. His sister kept an eye on the basket to see what would happen. Pharaoh’s daughter found him and seemingly takes pity on him. There is resistance in Pharaoh’s own house! Moses’ sister offers to find a nurse for Pharaoh’s daughter, and brings her mother to do the job. Not only is a child saved from an evil dictate, but his own mother gets paid to raise him under the nose of the man who ordered his murder.
Mose grows up and feels a burden for his people. He sees an Egyptian beating a Hebrew slave, so he murders the Egyptian. He thinks no one saw, but he is wrong. He flees to a placed called Midian. There, he marries a woman named Zipporah and has a son. Meanwhile, the Israelites are suffering worse than ever in Egypt. But God hears their prayers and is preparing Moses while he is in exile.
While shepherding in Midian, God speaks to Moses through a burning bush. God tells Moses that he has not forgotten his people and will use Moses to bring them to the promised land. Moses is doubtful of his ability, but God promises his presence and power. God tells Moses to tell the people his name is “I Am Who I Am.” There have been many interpretations of this name. The phrase itself simply means something akin to “To Be.” In the face of Moses’ doubts, God describes himself as totally self-sufficient. He is self-sustaining. He is eternal and without end. When you find yourself doubting in God’s existence or God’s goodness, how might remembering his self-sufficiency comfort you?
God instructs Moses on how the exit will take place. Before they leave, which is completely assured, the Israelites will plunder the Egyptians. To make a show of force to Pharaoh, God permits Moses and Aaron, his brother, to perform some miraculous signs. These include turning Moses’ hand leprous and back again, and turning a staff into a snake and back again. Moses again doubtful of his abilities, so as an act of mercy God permits his brother Aaron to speak for him.
Moses and Aaron now go back to Egypt to confront Pharaoh. God promises to harden Pharaoh’s heart. Why might God do that? It seems that he hardens his heart solely to display his power. The Old Testament is always concerned that we make no mistake about who is in control.
However, from the very beginning, God has Moses tell Pharaoh that because Israel is God’s son, God will take Pharaoh’s son if he does not let Israel go. The final plague on Egypt was made perfectly clear at the outset. In response to Moses and Aaron, Pharaoh increases the workload of the Israelites. Another short genealogy legitimizes Moses’ ancestry and right to free the Israelites.
Moses doubts his ability to speak to Pharaoh again, so God outlines how the process will go. Pharaoh will never listen, so they will leave after a series of plagues.
Chapter 7 outlines plague 1, water turning to blood. Chapter 8 covers plagues 2-4, frogs, gnats, and flies. Chapter 9 covers plagues 5-7, the death of livestock, boils, and hail.
The plagues were not arbitrary. The best interpretation is that each plague represents God’s power over the false gods the Egyptians worshiped. The false gods could not stop the plagues; only the word of the one true God could do that. At first, the magicians of Pharaoh’s court could match the signs that Moses and Aaron performed. But once the plagues started, they had no power. Two options are likely: while Moses performed miracles, the magicians performed sleight of hand; or, the magicians, as pagans, were in league with demons and were just the vessels of demonic activity.
Death of John the Baptist (14:1-12)
King Herod (different from the baby-slayer) had taken his sister-in-law as his wife, Herodias. John the Baptist had telling Herod that this was a sinful act. Herod wanted John dead, but all he could do was imprison John because he knew there would be retribution from the people if he had him killed. At Herod’s birthday party, Herodias came up with a scheme to have John killed and get the preacher out of the way. John was killed in prison.
Jesus feeds the 5000/4000 (14:13-21; 15:32-39)
There are two episodes where Jesus feeds several thousand people miraculously. In chapter 14, Jesus withdraws after hearing of John’s death. The people follow him. Even though Jesus wishes to grieve, he has compassion on the people. He orders his disciples to feed the 5000. The disciples bring Jesus The only food they have, which is five loaves and two fish. He gives thanks for what little food they have, and there is enough to distribute to everyone. The passage ends with the note that there were 5000 men who ate. The women and children are not counted. But this was a simple way of counting families. The passage only gives the number of people who ate. So counting men, women, children, and those who may have not eaten, the miracle could have included upwards of 15,000-20,000 people.
The second miraculous feeding is in chapter 15. The crowds followed him for three days with no food. With compassion, Jesus has the disciples feed the people again with what little food they have. This time, they only have seven loaves and a few small fish. Jesus again gives thanks for the little they have, but it will be enough, with God’s provision, to feed them all. In both of these stories, the people were satisfied with the provision of God.
Jesus walks on water (14:22-33)
After feeding the 5000, Jesus leaves the disciples to pray by himself. They are sent on a boat, and a horrible storm arrives. It seems as though they are not terrified by the storm but by seeing Jesus walking on the water. Jesus comforts his distressed disciples. Peter is actually a man of good faith. He knows that he cannot do anything apart from Christ’s command, so he tells Christ to command him to walk on the water. Jesus obliges, but once Peter had to actually do what Christ commanded, he became fearful. He sinks, crying out to Jesus to save him. Now comes when Jesus calls him a man of little faith.
This is how fickle our faith can be. Even Peter, whose faith was firmly fixed on Christ’s command, began to falter when the ground beneath him was ever-moving. We should not castigate Peter. We should learn from him about the nature of faith. When we obey Christ’s commands, we will be supplied with the strength to see it through to the end. When we see what’s against us, like Peter saw the wind, we will falter. Keep your eyes on the prize, not the mockery, abuse, and persecution of the world.
Jesus heals the sick and possessed
(in Gennesaret, 14:34-36; Canaanite woman, 15:21-28, many, 15:29-31; demon-possessed boy, 17:14-20; being sinned against and forgiveness 18:15-20; parable of unforgiving servant, 18:21-25)
Jesus performs many healings and exorcisms throughout these chapters. Sometimes it simply tells us that he healed many people at one time, such as in Genessaret in Galilee. One specific healing that was mentioned is the Canaanite woman whose daughter is possessed by a demon. At first, he reminds the people that he has first sent to Israel, not the Gentiles. That time will come later through the ministry of the apostles. She responds by saying that even the Gentiles (dogs) eat the crumbs from the table (the Jews). Jesus sees her faith and heals her daughter.
There was a TikTok video circulating a while back of a young man using this passage to show how Jesus was a racist but a woman corrected him, proving that even Jesus had blindspots and could be corrected. If that sends you in to a blind rage, you are not alone. Either that young man is twisting Scripture to fit the zeitgeist, or he is completely ignorant of historical and grammatical context. My vote is on both. Either way, nothing stops people these days from putting their ignorance on full display online. Jesus does not denigrate this woman. He is not calling her a dog. The Jews called the Gentiles dogs because of their way of life. They were pagans and rejected God. But this woman did not. She approached Jesus in faith, something the other Canaanites would never do. Jesus was not corrected. He helped a woman of faith.
(traditions, 15:1-9; defilement, 15:10-20; take up your cross, 16:23-28; temple tax, 17:24-27; disciples ask who the greatest is, 18:1-6; parable of the lost sheep, 18:10-14; woe to temptations, 18:7-9)
Jesus’ primary ministry was that of teaching. He healed out compassion. He exorcised demons out of compassion. But he came to teach people what the kingdom of god was like. He often did this in regular, dialectical methods. But his primary teaching tool was the parable.
Jesus interacts with the Pharisees and Sadducees (16:1-12)
The Pharisees were a mixed bag. Many of them became believers. “Conservative” as a description of philosophy is only about 300 years old, but we could say that they were the “conservative” wing of Jewish intellectual leadership. They revered Scripture and taught it faithfully. They looked forward in faith to the resurrection of the just. They believed in the supernatural. Their problem was their hypocrisy. They knew all the right things to say and do, yet they failed to live up to what they expected of others. When the temple was destroyed in AD 70, roughly a generation after Christ’s ascension, it was the Pharisees who would be become rabbis and ensure that Judaism as a religion did not vanish.
On the other hand, the Sadducees were a different breed. Think of them as the “progressives” of their day. They rejected the supernatural. They reinterpreted Moses. They rejected a future resurrection. There was no developed doctrine of the afterlife. As is the case with all “progressive religion”, it vanished. Progressive religion has nothing to offer anyone.
Peter confesses Jesus as the Christ (16:13-20)
Peter’s confession of Christ comes at the middle of both Matthew and Mark’s gospels. In Matthew, Jesus asks the disciples who the people say he is. Then, he asks them who they believe he is. Peter, as head-disciple, replies on behalf of the group. “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus responds by saying that “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church.”
There are great debates on what the “rock” is. Petra, or Peter, sounds like “rock” in Greek. Jesus is using wordplay to make his point. We should not dismiss the clear meaning of the text because Roman Catholicism uses it to justify the papacy. The “rock” is not simply Peter’s confession. That would require different grammar. Jesus is simply saying that he will use Peter greatly, along with the rest of the disciples, to build his church, upon which hell has no power. Peter is the main actor in the first half of the books of Acts. Even though Paul becomes known as the missionary to the Gentiles, it is through Peter that the gospel first comes to them. In the new city in the age to come, the names of all the apostles will be carved into the foundation, similar to how the names of the twelve tribes of Israel will be carved into the gates. We should not misinterpret the passage to avoid a misinterpretation.
What’s missing from this passage is any notion of papal succession. The bishop of Rome has no authority over the worldwide church. To read that into the text is to impose a manmade tradition onto Scripture that isn’t there.
Jesus foretells his death and resurrection (16:21-23; 17:22-23)
It is only after the disciples know who Jesus Christ is that he begins teaching them about his death and resurrection. Peter cannot believe that the messiah would suffer, which is a common theme through the gospels. In chapter 17, we even read that this teaching causes the disciples great distress.
The transfiguration (17:1-13)
The transfiguration of Jesus is like his baptism in that the three persons of the Trinity are present. Jesus is present bodily, the cloud is the presence of God (the Spirit), and the Father speaks. The point of Moses and Elijah also being present is likely that they represent the law and the prophets, which all testify to the person and work of Christ.
The people lived in tents during the wilderness journey for forty years. Once the people settled in the land, this was remembered every year when the people celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles. They would build temporary shelters and live in them for a week to remember the wilderness. It also looked forward to the coming of fullness of the kingdom when they would no longer have temporary shelters, but permanent, resurrection life.
Why did the Father interrupt Peter (17:5)? Because Jesus is not Moses or Elijah. God does not live in buildings made by human hands. Jesus is the tabernacle. He is our temple. He will be the rebuilt temple in his resurrection. In the age to come, there is no temple because we have Jesus Christ. Why would there be any need for future temples or animal sacrifices if Jesus has done away with the temple? When Jesus said that he would rebuild the temple in three days, that means that he was the rebuilt temple even before the brick-and-mortar temple was destroyed forty years later! Moses and Elijah might have benefited from a nice little room with a view, but not Jesus.
Psalm 16: I will rejoice in the Lord because he is all I need.
Psalm 17: The Lord will subdue the wicked in time.
Psalm 18: The Lord has all strength and might to rescue his people.
Psalm 19: God reveals himself in nature and in his law.
Psalm 20: Trust in the Lord and he will care for you.
In chapter 32, Jacob makes his way to meet Esau, from whom he is estranged. Jacob sent a group of messengers to find out if Esau is amenable to meeting again without anything incendiary. All Esau says is that he is willing to meet and is bringing 400 men, which carries with it the ring of a threat. Jacob prays to be spared by Esau. Jacob breaks his whole estate into camps, hoping that if Esau attacks at least part of his estate will be spared.
That night, Jacob wrestled with who Scripture at first calls a man. Jacob thinks he’s alone. He is not with his divided camps, and he has sent his whole family to the other side of the Jabbok river. He’s intentional about being by himself. We aren’t given any indication the origin of this man or why a grappling match broke out. The feat goes on for a good while, and neither man is going to forfeit. The man simply “touched” Jacob’s hip socket, but Jacob continued to wrestle with the pain and what little use of that leg he now had.
The man wants to stop, but Jacob won’t unless the man blesses Jacob. The man asks Jacob his name and then renames him Israel, which means, “he strives with God.” Jacob now asks this man his name, and though he is given no answer he is given his blessing. Seeing God “face to face” is most likely an expression meaning little more than a personal encounter. God later tells Moses that no one can live after seeing his face (Exodus 33:20). Peniel means “the face of God.”
Jacob has lived by scheming his way through every stage of life. He has deceived his brother, father, and uncle. He is on the run from Laban and trying to find the courage to meet Esau; he has it coming on both sides. On either side, Jacob wants to hide. But there is no hiding from God. Jacob comes face-to-face with God, who always brings the hard truth of who we are and who he is. Jacob may fool others about his intentions, but Jacob will not fool his creator. Jacob will forever limp from this experience. God has won. Do any of your cross references show you where this story is mentioned elsewhere in the Old Testament?
Then Jacob and Esau meet. It’s a beautiful reunion, the past is forgiven, and they reconcile. They part ways from there, but there is no lingering animosity.
In chapters 34-36, Jacob and Leah’s daughter, Dinah, is raped by one of the men, Shechem, in whose land they are living. He then tries to marry her by having his father arrange their marriage. Hamor, Shechem’s father, tries to swindle a plan with Dinah’s brothers to let her marry his son. He tells them that all they have to do is name their price. Turns out their price is that every one of the men in the city get circumcised since all of Jacob’s sons are. A city wouldn’t have been very large and would likely have been made up mainly of Hamor’s family. They agree, and as the men are healing up from the operations, Dinah’s brothers come in and slaughter all the men. Jacob seems to have no knowledge of their plan. He is upset with them, not for simply retaliating, but for going overboard and killing all the men and plundering everyone else. Vengeance is not justice. He fears that the other surrounding people groups will attack his family in anticipation of being on the receiving end of another attack.
Jacob has his family throw away all their idols. He and his household return to Bethel. God protects them during their journey, seemingly because of what his sons had just done. On the journey, God repeats the name change from Jacob to Israel. It might seem redundant, but the point is to reaffirm the covenant God has made with Abraham, Isaac, and now Jacob. God is keeping his promises, and he his reminding Jacob of that fact now.
There is a quick recount of the deaths of Jacob’s parents, Isaac and Rebekah, followed by a genealogy of the Edomites (Esau’s descendants).
In chapter 17, Joseph, Israel’s second-youngest son, has some dreams. One of them is of several sheaves of wheat bowing down to a single sheaf, and the other is of eleven stars bowing down to one. The meaning is that one day the brothers will bow before Joseph, and they are quite jealous.
Israel sends Joseph to check on his brothers in the field. As he approaches, his brothers see the “dreamer” and hatch a scheme to kill him. Reuben tries to trick the brothers and save Joseph. He has them throw Joseph in a pit so he can rescue him later. But when his back is turned, Judah convinces the remaining brothers to sell Joseph to some Midianite traders, who then sell Joseph to Potiphar in Egypt.
Chapter 38 is a disruption in the narrative. Judah has already proven himself to be a pretty nasty guy by selling his brother. Just to make that contrast between Judah and Joseph even more stark, Moses includes this story. Judah takes a wife and has three sons, Er, Onan, and Shellac. He marries off his firstborn son to a woman named Tamar. All we’re told is that Er was wicked, so the Lord smote him but good. Judah’s next oldest son, Onan, was supposed to give a son to Tamar in the name of his brother. However, he made sure that didn’t happen. Even today, the term “onanism” derives from this man. Because of that, God also smote Onan. Shelah, his third son, is too young to take over, so Judah tells Tamar to go to her father’s house to wait.
Judah does not abide by his word and does not give Shelah to Tamar. Tamar concocts a plan to humiliate Judah. She dresses up like a prostitute, hides her face, and Judah hires her like a prostitute. Judah is visiting a friend, so he’s far from home. He basically gives Tamar an IOU of a goat. She tells him to leave his signet ring, his cord for his clothes, and his staff as collateral. Judah catches wind that Tamar is pregnant and thinks she’s been involved in a little amorous congress. His worst fears about his black widow daughter-in-law are true. As she is being brought out to be stoned, she shows the collateral Judah had left with her. She is spared from death and gives birth to two sons.
Some have argued that this is an empowering story of a woman getting what she deserves after a man has humiliated her. But sin is never empowering. Only since the moral revolution of the 1960’s and following would a woman pretending to be a prostitute to trick her father-in-law be seen as empowering. Judah was wrong to keep his son from her, and he was wrong to think he could sleep with a prostitute without any consequences. Tamar was wrong for sexual immorality and outright lying. There is no good guy in this story. Judah says that Tamar was more righteous than him, but it’s comparative. That’s the point: everyone is a schemer trying to get “what they deserve.” Judah doesn’t want a third son to die in connection with this woman, and Tamar will wreck a home to get what she needs. God will deal with each in turn.
In chapters 39-44, we get re-introduced to Joseph, but now he is in Potiphar’s house in Egypt. Potiphar is a high-ranking official in Pharaoh’s court, and Joseph works for him. Potiphar put him in charge of everyone and everything in his house but his wife. Potiphar’s wife decides she needs to sleep with Joseph, and she tries to peddle her carnal wares before him. Every time, he refuses because he’s a good man. When she’s had enough of being rejected, she grabs Joseph’s outer garment as he runs away from her. She lies and tells Potiphar that Joseph was the one without any self-control. Potiphar throws Joseph in jail. How does this story compare and contrast with Judah and Tamar?
Because God is watching over Joseph, even while in prison he is put in charge. While there, he meets a cupbearer and a baker who worked for Pharaoh. They both have similar dreams, and Joseph is able to interpret them. The cupbearer will be restored to his work, and the baker will be hanged. Joseph asked the cupbearer to remember him and put in a good word for him before Pharaoh. It takes two years for the cupbearer to remember his promise.
Pharaoh has disturbing dreams, and the cupbearer remembers that Joseph helped him out. He recommends that Pharaoh call on Joseph for an interpretation. Joseph tells Pharaoh that there will be seven years of a great harvest followed by seven years of famine. Pharaoh puts Joseph in charge of gathering and storing food for the next seven years and preparing a distribution plan for the seven years of famine. Joseph has gone from being his father’s favorite, to being sold into slavery, to being second in Potiphar’s house, to jail, to being second only to Pharaoh over all of Egypt. What does a wild ride like Joseph’s teach you about God’s sovereignty?
Once the famine hits, Jacob has to send his remaining sons to Egypt to buy food. All but Benjamin go since he’s youngest. He’s also the only remaining son born to Rachel, Joseph being the other. Once they arrive, Joseph recognizes them. He calls them spies, so he locks them up for three days. The brothers come to think that all of this is because of the way they treated Joseph when he was younger.
Joseph will let them go back home if they leave one brother (Simeon) behind and bring their youngest brother (Benjamin) back. Joseph has not only given them food but has also returned their money. The famine gets worse, and Israel needs convinced to let Benjamin go back with them to buy more food. Yes, it seems like they were totally fine with leaving poor Simeon in custody for however long they were home. What a bunch of heroes.
Joseph prepares a banquet meal for his brothers when they arrive in Egypt. They are about to leave, but Joseph hides his precious silver cup in Benjamin’s bag. His servants track them down claiming that one of them stole the cup. They of course are none the wiser. Once it’s found in Benjamin’s bag, they lose their minds. They recount the entire story of how hard it was to get their father to release Benjamin in their custody and travel to Egypt.
John the Baptist is in prison. He sends some of his disciples to ask Jesus if he’s the messiah they should be waiting for. Jesus responds by rhetorically asking if the things the messiah would do are being done, and of course they are. The crowds think John is a great man, and Jesus agrees. But he also says that John does not bring a kingdom; Jesus does. And the most insignificant person in the kingdom of God is an even greater person that John.
Was it a moment of weakness on John’s part to ask if Jesus was the one for whom everyone was waiting? Wasn’t John the one who baptized Jesus? Shouldn’t he already be convinced of this? Keep in mind that while some religious leaders were following Jesus, many were not. Jesus did not yet have a great crowd of followers, and many were falling away. John may have been in prison for around year by this time for calling out Herod’s marital sin in public. All of these things likely played a role in John’s questioning whether Jesus was the messiah. He was still a human. Public support for a person, for better or worse, plays a role is how we accept them. Sometimes we simply need to hear the gospel again…and again…and again. That does’t mean that we’re not yet saved. It simply means that the news that was good yesterday is good today and will be good tomorrow.
Jesus then says that Gentile cities responded better to the announcement of the kingdom of God better than God’s own people. He also says that the Father has handed all things over to the Son. All of creation has been created by the Son and for the Son. The three persons of the Trinity work together in all things, from creation, to redemption, to restoration. There are only two kinds of people that know God: The Son of God and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal the Father. We have here a clear statement on election and God’s sovereignty in salvation.
The Pharisees try to trap Jesus by what he permits his disciples to do on the Sabbath. But Jesus pulls multiple examples from the Old Testament about what was permitted or exceptions. The Pharisees pick and choose what they throw at Jesus. How did Jesus correct those who questioned him and his motives? What was his authority?
Jesus heals a man on the Sabbath, and the Pharisees try to trap him again. The Pharisees also try to trap him by claiming he performs exorcisms by the power of Satan. Jesus rebukes them by asking them why Satan would cast out his own demons. Jesus says that those who speak against him can be forgiven, but those who speak against the Sprit will not be. In another Trinitarian reference, we see that in redemption, the persons of the Trinity perform part of the work. The Father grants redemption, the Son purchases redemption, and the Spirit applies redemption. To reject the Spirit is to say that you reject the gift of God. How do we hold together the sovereignty God and the responsibility of man?
Jesus refuses to give in to the demands from the leaders for a sign of who he is. The only sign he’ll give them the “sign of Jonah”, which is a reference to his resurrection.
Jesus then gives several parables. Not only that, but he gives the reason for teaching in parables and explains their meaning. He teaches in parables because only those who are already in the kingdom will understand them. Parables are not evangelistic. If you are not a believer, if you read the parables you will only hate God more. If you are a believer, you will read the parables and marvel at God’s mercy in bringing you into his kingdom. Chapter 13 concludes with Jesus finishing his parables returning to Nazareth, just to be rejected by them.
Psalm 11: The only place to flee is to the Lord.
Psalm 12: The world may be full of evil people, but the Lord knows those who are his.
Psalm 13: The Lord may seem distant, but he has been good to me.
Psalm 14: This foolish words hates God, but God is with the righteous
Psalm 15: The one who lives righteously will dwell with God.
In chapter 19, Lot has settled in Sodom. God has already set out to destroy Sodom because of the unrepentant sin of the people, and Abraham has prayed for it to be spared (chapter 18). God says that if within the entire land he can find a meager 10 righteous people, he will relent. Chapter 19 is evidence that he did not find even 10 righteous people, and he reaffirms his intent to destroy it. Two angels meet with Lot to tell him to take his family and get out. The immorality of the townspeople knows no bounds, and they even try to have their way with these angels. The angels send Lot and his family out to a nearby village so he can be safe. But Lot is not much better than the townspeople. Even though he’s saved from the fire and brimstone from heaven, his daughters get him drunk and do what ought not to be done in order to preserve their family line. Total insanity. It seems Lot is only spared for Abraham’s sake.
In chapter 20, Abraham has Sarah tell the leaders of the town through which he’s traveling that she is his sister so that he doesn’t get killed. If this sounds like an instant replay, it’s because the same thing happened in Genesis 12 while Abram and Sarai went to Egypt to avoid a famine. God doesn’t let Abimelech, the king, know Sarah intimately in order to preserve him, just like he did with Pharaoh. What does it say about God that he has preserved these people even amidst their sin? Think of both Lot, his daughters, and now Abimelech.
In chapters 21-22, we finally get to see the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham and Sarah in the birth of Isaac. Hagar, Sarah’s maiden, has already given birth to Ishmael. Sarah becomes indignant of Hagar, so she has Abraham kick out both Hagar and Ishmael to die in the wilderness. But God promises Abraham that even if they kick out Hagar and Ishmael, he will not let them perish. In fact, God will grow Ishmael into his own great nation. But Isaac is the child of the promise, and that doesn’t change. Abraham then makes a treaty with Abimelech so he can live in the land of the Philistines, the land where his posterity will live and God’s promise will be fulfilled.
God then tells Abraham to take Isaac to Moriah to sacrifice him. At the beginning, we are not given any reason. But even though it seems as though the promise of a nation is about to end, Abraham believed God would make a way even if Abraham couldn’t see it. He even tells his servants that he will return from the mountain with Isaac, so he believes he will not ultimately lose his son. Also, Abraham tells Isaac that God will provide the sacrifice for the altar. As Abraham is about to bring the knife down on Isaac, an angel stops him. It has been a test of whether or not Abraham fears God more than anyone else. As Abraham said, God provided a ram that was stuck nearby instead of Isaac. Where else have we read of God providing an animal already (think Genesis 3)? How do both of these stories preach the gospel?
In chapter 23, we read of Sarah’s death. Abraham purchases a cave to serve as a grave for her. This passage shows us that Abraham’s presence in the land continues to increase.
In chapter 24, Abraham sends a servant to find a wife for Isaac. The only stipulation is that his wife cannot come from the land in which they are currently living but must come from Abraham’s homeland. The servant obeys, goes to Mesopotamia, and by divine providence meets Rebekah. They both go back to Nahor, who is Rebekah’s father. They strike up a deal, and Rebekah goes back to Canaan with the servant. Isaac and Rebekah are married.
In chapters 25-28, we read that Abraham marries a second wife since Sarah has died. Isaac and Rebekah have two sons, Jacob and Esau. Rebekah is barren, but God opens her womb. Esau was born first, then Jacob. Esau became a sportsman, and Jacob was more of an “indoor cat.” Isaac played favorites with Esau, and Rebekah with Jacob.
As adults, Esau sells Jacob his birthright for a bowl of stew. In the ancient near east, the birthright was how a father’s estate was passed down to his children. For a wealthy man like Jacob, this was like Elon Musk having to go through all the legal work of making sure his firstborn son inherits complete control of his empire. For Esau to “despise his birthright”, this means he was was somewhat of a brat. He cared so little for his family, his own prosperity, and his own life, that it was as nothing for him to give it up for his immediate, short-term needs. For those of us who need a job just to stay afloat, we can’t imagine how anyone would ever give up immense wealth for a fleeting desire such as an appetite. But where does Jesus tell a parable about two sons who give up what their father has for them, and what is the meaning of that parable?
Jacob, at the behest of his mother, then proceeds to finalize the subterfuge by dressing up as Esau to go visit his blind father in order to make sure he secures once-for-all the birthright from his drama-queen brother. If there isn’t a show on TLC about this bag of nuts, there should be. As all deception goes, the culprit eventually gets found out. Esau wants to kill Jacob, so Rebekah sends Jacob to live with her brother Laban under the guise of finding a wife for him. On the way, Jacob has a dream of a series of steps (literally a flight of steps), likely a massive structure, from heaven to earth with angels going up and down. God stood at the top and reaffirmed his covenant with Abraham’s lineage. Where have you already read about another massive structure from earth to heaven, and what is the difference between these two?
In chapters 29-31, Jacob has a similar experience to his father in terms of finding a wife. He goes to a new place, meets some shepherds at a well, and asks about a certain family. He goes to Laban’s house and meets his daughter Rachel. They work out a deal where Jacob will work for Laban for a time (since Jacob had to flee from his home and has no wealth of his own yet) to marry Rachel. But now it’s time for Jacob to be deceived. Rachel is the younger of Laban’s two daughters, Leah being the older daughter who would traditionally be married first. Jacob is bilked in to marrying Leah and strikes another deal so he can marry Rachel, whom he loves.
What follows is a passage about the children born to Leah and Rachel, who become the twelve tribes of the nation of Israel. Jacob, always the schemer, then comes up with a way of getting out from Laban’s thumb with his two wives and twelve children that involves whittled sticks and speckled sheep. God shows his mercy on Jacob and makes sure he leaves Laban’s home with more than he’ll ever need.
Chapters 6-7 continues the sermon on the mount. Jesus covers hypocrisy, spiritual anxiety, and the kingdom of heaven in general. The whole sermon could be summarized as, “True happiness is found in righteousness.”
Chapter 8 returns to narrative. Jesus performs a series of miraculous healings. First, he heals a leper. In a strange turn, Jesus tells the leper not to tell anyone that Jesus healed him. Jesus wants to make sure that his teaching about his upcoming death and resurrection are the focus of his ministry, not his miracles.
Second, he heals a Roman centurion’s servant. The centurion shows Jesus the kind of faith he has, and Jesus responds that not a single soul in Israel has the faith that the Gentile has. Third, Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law. Fourth, Jesus healed many more and cast out demons.
In chapter 9, Jesus again heals a lame man. This time, the scribes are watching closely. Jesus responded to this paralytic by forgiving his sins, which only God can do. In this exchange we learn what the miracles are for: acting as proof of the person and work of Christ. Only God can forgive sins, it’s easier to pretend to say someone’s sins are forgiven than heal a paralytic, so Jesus just does both! By healing someone’s physical body, Jesus shows that he has authority creation and every part of us. Because only God can forgive sins, Jesus, by forgiving the man’s sins, proves himself to be God in the flesh.
He then calls Matthew to be a disciple. Jesus then shares a meal with Matthew, presumably, and many others who the text calls “tax collectors and sinners”. Again the Pharisees are flabbergasted that someone would willingly engage with such wretched people. In that day, tax collectors were professional extortionists. They had a minimum tax to collect, and Rome gave them authority to collect any amount above that minimum for themselves to act as their pay. Matthew, a Jewish tax collector for the Roman overlords, was a traitor. The Jews hated people like Matthew, lickspittles to the regime.
Why were people like Matthew so willing to follow Jesus at the drop of a hat? Galilee was actually a very well-educated area. Even fisherman like Peter knew the Old Testament quite well. After what we’d call primary school, some would continue on with further religious education with a rabbi. After that, most would move on and pick up a trade and start a family. Some rabbis would seek out their best students and ask if they would consider further training. In a setting that placed a high value on religious education, that was an honor you didn’t reject. Since Matthew was hated by the people, and probably hated himself as a result, having a rabbi like Jesus say “Follow me” was an unimaginable blessing. It’d be like finishing high school and being offered full tuition and housing at Oxford.
Chapter 10 begins by Jesus gathering together the twelve disciples and sending them out to heal diseases, cast our demons, and raise the dead. As they go out in Jesus’ name, they will be persecuted and hated by some. If persecution takes place in one town, Jesus says to flee to the next. But even in persecution, the disciples are not to be fearful of anyone. Our bodies may be killed, but our soul lives on to receive a new body when Christ returns. So, Jesus tells them, do not fear any man. They have limited authority, anyway. The gospel will divide people, but it will divide people because it is true. And people love to believe lies.
Psalm 6: I am spiritually weak and in need of God to hear me.
Psalm 7: Bring an end to evil, Lord, and protect me.
Psalm 8: The Lord has made all things, and in his mercy he watches over us.
Psalm 9: The Lord has done many wonderful things, and he will not forget his people.
Psalm 10: God may seem distant or uncaring, but he promises to bring about ultimate justice.
Welcome to week 1 of our 2022 Bible reading plan! This short entry will give you a quick summary of what you’ll read this week to help you remember more of it. I’ll have some questions for reflection strewn throughout the summary. And at times, if a certain passage is known to be a little confusing, I’ll do my best to make a note of it and offer a short explanation.
If you are not a part of the Church Center reading group, you can join by clicking here. That’s the place to ask any questions you might have about your reading. Don’t post questions on Facebook.
I also want to help you use your Bibles for better personal study. Many of your Bibles have cross-references, which are notes at the bottom of the page tied to the verses above. You may have many different kinds of footnotes, but cross-references are a specific kind.
Cross-references show you where a particular passage is quoted or alluded to elsewhere. Most often, this looks like where the New Testament pulls from the Old Testament.
Jesus and the apostles quoted Old Testament passages all the time. So do you have trouble understanding what you read in the Old Testament? Would a worthy interpreter be helpful? Why not get help from the apostles?
Use the cross-references, especially from the Old Testament, to lead to you to the New Testament. This does not in any way diminish the Old Testament. In fact, what we’re trying to do is understand it even better.
So, on to this week’s summary.
In chapters 1-2, God creates the world in six days and rests on the seventh. Everything is very good in the beginning. Man is the highpoint of all creation, given dominion to rule over it and make more worshipers of God. You read about all kinds of different things that God created, but when did God create angels? Read Job 38:1-7 to see if that helps you answer the question.
In chapter 3, Eve is deceived by the serpent. Adam is with her. Neither does he stop her or reject the offer of the fruit himself. The serpent deceives her by calling into question the exact words that God had said. Why might first-hand knowledge of God’s word be important?
In chapter 4, the first murder takes place: Cain kills Abel. Like his parents, Cain tries to hide from God by saying that he was not responsible for what he did. But God is merciful, and he gives Cain a peculiar mark that would warn people that murdering Cain would result in God’s wrath.
In chapters 5-10, we get the story of Noah and his family. One passage that often raises eyebrows is 6:1-4, when Moses mentions the Nephilim and “sons of God” having children with the “daughters of men”. Every time Scripture uses the phrase “the sons of God”, it is referring to heavenly beings, or angels (Genesis 6:2-4; Job 1:6, 2:1, 38:7; Daniel 3:25). The Nephilim simply serve as a reference point relative to the time Moses is writing. When did God send the flood? In the time of the Nephilim. Genesis 6:4 says that the Nephilim were there “in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them.” The Nephilim were there before the time of the angels marrying women, and they were there after that time. He is saying that the Nephilim are not the offspring of the angels and women. The Nephilim are simply those heroic men from the ancient past. Moses includes them for the purpose of correcting the mythological ideas of the early Hebrews concerning the Nephilim. It serves to remind us not to romanticize the past. Where do we read references to this passage in the New Testament?
In chapter 11, the offspring of the sons of Noah build the tower of Babel. God had given Noah and his sons the same command given to Adam and Eve (Genesis 9:7). The “table of nations” in Genesis 10 is a condensed history of the time of Noah and long after. The episode of the tower of Babel takes place during the genealogy of chapter 10 (Genesis 10:10). Instead of obeying God’s command to multiply and fill the earth, they settle in one location and build a monument to their greatness (read: arrogance). To make sure the people fill the earth (because God is in control), he instantly forms new languages so the people cannot communicate and finish the tower. Where do we read of God making it so everyone can understand each other’s languages in the New Testament? What is God doing there?
In chapters 12-18, Abraham is introduced, along with his covenant with God. Abram (later called Abraham) is a run-of-the-mill idol worshiper. Our only background on Abram is a short genealogy (Genesis 11:27-32). He’s just like everyone else; there’s nothing righteous about him. That is, until God chose him among the other idol worshipers to serve his purposes. How old is Abraham when God called him out of his home (hint: chapter 12)?
In chapters 1-2, we read the genealogy of Jesus back to the time of Abraham followed by the narrative of an angel speaking to Joseph in a dream. Some time passes, and chapter 2 begins with the wise men from the east seeking out Jesus. Because Herod won’t stand for any competition, he has the young boys under the age of two all killed in the region surrounding Bethlehem.
A little less than thirty years pass. In the immortal words of Brother Maynard, “Skip a bit, brother.”
In chapter 3, John the Baptist appears. John is preaching about the coming of the anointed one, Jesus. After being convinced, John baptizes Jesus. Now why would Jesus need baptized? Whatever the reason, if we have an issue with it, then we’re just like John (Matthew 3:14). We need corrected as he did. The answer Jesus gives is simple: it is righteous to do so. We’re never told that Jesus repented of anything or had any sin to wash away. John’s baptism and baptism into Christ are simply different: one looked forward to the work of Christ, and one looks back at what Christ has done. Jesus was baptized as a way of finishing John’s work and beginning his own. In Acts 18, we read that a good teacher named Apollos “knew only the baptism of John” (v.25). He had a baptism-of-sorts, but it wasn’t a baptism into the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit. His first baptism didn’t carry the same meaning as a Christian baptism. Note that Apollos wasn’t baptized twice in the same (Christian) way. Christians are not baptized again and again. You need to remember your baptism, not repeat it. How does remembering your own baptism give you spiritual strength for the present?
In chapter 4, Jesus immediately goes into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan. In each temptation, Jesus confronts Satan with Scripture. But note that Satan responds with Scripture, too. Satan used the word of God to deceive Eve, and if he could, he would use the word of God to deceive the Son of God. Jesus is victorious over each temptation and begins his ministry of teaching by calling disciples. Crowds start following him. Is something keeping you from memorizing Scripture, even a little bit at a time?
In chapter 5, Jesus sees the crowd and begins what we call the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). Many have said that Jesus raises the standard of holiness, but that goes against what he actually says. In 5:17, what many have called the main point of the sermon, he says that he has not come to abolish (or raise or lower) anything but to fulfill the Law and Prophets. Jesus has come to be what we cannot be.
When it comes to the Psalms, I’m not going to summarize them per se. Use these usually short readings simply as a time of worship. I’ll give a quick one-line summary and note how the New Testament references them.
Ps. 1: Intro to the Psalms; call to follow God’s ways.
Ps. 2: God’s anointed will reign forever; quoted in Hebrews 5:5, Acts 13:33.
Ps. 3: God protects his people.
Ps. 4: Do right before God and have peace; quoted in Ephesians 4:26.
Ps. 5: God deals with the wicked but justifies the righteous.