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Teaching An Important Lesson

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cropped-3248978863_0482ce14fe_o.jpgToday’s Bible reading: Genesis 48, 49; Matthew 15:29-39; Psalms 20:1-9; Proverbs 4:20-27

Jacob prepares to die in today’s Genesis passages. In the presence of Joseph and two of his grandsons, Jacob tells the story of God’s faithfulness in his life. Jacob was not always faithful as we have seen. But God never left him or gave up on him. Jacob realizes this.

Jacob’s speech in beginning of this chapter is not just an old man talking. He is giving a lesson to Joseph, Manasseh, and Ephraim. He is teaching them that God is faithful. He is reminding them of the promises God has made. This is a good lesson to us today (isn’t everything in the Bible?). We should let the younger generation, our children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews know about our relationship with God. If we are honest with them about our own unfaithfulness towards God as well as God’s faithfulness to us, we will be teaching them an important lesson. So many people think they can’t have a relationship with God because of their past or who they are today. But that is not true at all. God loves us all despite our flaws. We’ve been seeing that in the Bible so far this year. This is a lesson that needs to be taught.

We should also pray for other people, especially younger people, in their presence as Jacob does here. This will display not only God’s love for them but our own love for them as well. I don’t know of anything more powerful that we could do to help build the spiritual lives of the younger generation than to pray for them right in front of them.

Before Jacob dies he gathers his sons to tell them what will happen to them in the future. Due to their previous sins Rueben, Simeon, and Levi are disowned (Rueben slept with Rachel’s maid and Simeon and Levi attacked Shechem). Notice that Jacob speaks about their anger in the present tense (Genesis 49:7) saying their anger “is” fierce and their wrath “is” cruel. Apparently they had not repented of their previous faults and had not changed their ways.

Judah, on the other hand, had also committed some pretty bad sins, but had repented as we saw when he went down to Egypt and was dealing with his brother. It is Judah who will be blessed rather than this older brothers. I found it interesting that Jacob did not even mention Judah’s sins. That is just how God works. God will convict us of our sins but if we acknowledge them, ask forgiveness, and repent, God will mention them no more.

In Genesis 49:10 we read another reference to Jesus. Jesus will be a descendant of Judah’s. It is He to whom Jacob refers when he says “The one” (or “him” in some translations) twice in this passage. The Bible is all about Jesus. He appears in every book of the Bible, including here (and other places) in Genesis. Note that Jacob not only believes in God’s promise of the land of Canaan, but also God’s promise to provide a savior.

Descendants of Jacob’s 12 sons will go on to leave Egypt and enter the Promised Land (modern day Israel) and will be known as the 12 tribes of Israel. We will read all about this over the next few weeks.

Jesus heals more people in Matthew today. Again notice that He heals “all” the people who came to Him. Jesus turns no one away. The crowd was so appreciative that they gave praise to the God of Israel. And if you are truly saved, isn’t that the effect your life should have on people? You and I cannot give sight to the blind or cure diseases. But nevertheless our lives can be, and should be, a great witness to God. We should not be living for our own glory but to bring glory to the One who created us and saved us.

In Matthew 16 we see the religious leaders once again wanting to see a miraculous sign from Jesus to “prove” His authority. They had already seen plenty of signs but remember they were accusing Jesus of working for Satan. They now ask for a sign to prove that Jesus’ miracles come from the power of God.

Notice also how this time the Pharisees and Sadducees are working together. On previous occasions (e.g. Matthew 12) only the Pharisees were following Jesus criticizing Him. We are seeing more and more people starting to question Jesus. Soon pretty most everyone will turn against Him. I think we have seen this happening in the United States over the past few decades. The Bible was a big part of our culture as recently as the 1950s. I’ve seen speeches by President Eisenhower in which he references “Our Lord”. But Jesus is no longer popular in our society. Can you imagine an president today mentioning Jesus in a speech? Sadly neither can I. His name is repugnant to so many people that it is now politically correct not to mention His name. But that cannot stop us from telling others about Him. So many are misinformed about who Jesus is. And this is information they desperately need.

Jesus tells these religious leaders that it is evil to demand a miracle. But He does tell them that He will give a sign in the future similar to Jonah. This sign will be Jesus being in the earth for 3 days (after being crucified) just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale for 3 days.

I found Matthew 16:12 very interesting today. A few verses before Jesus told a parable which is explained here. Jesus is warning His disciples against the “deceptive teaching” of the religious leaders in that culture. We have the same thing today. The Bible tells us that there will be many false teachers and false churches right before the second coming of Christ. I think we can certainly see that today. We have churches that have distorted the Word of God for the sake of appealing to our flesh by proclaiming acceptance of sinful practices like homosexuality. Not to mention the many mainstream denominations that teach that we go to heaven or hell based on how good or bad we have been on earth. These false teachings are very dangerous because they make sense to a fallen world that never opens a Bible. People need to know the truth. And that truth comes only from Jesus.

Psalm 20 is a prayer. Verses 1-5 are requests on behalf of the reader of the Psalm. Everyone one of us will face times of trouble and distress in our lives. God will answer (verse 6). God hears every prayer.

Many nations take pride and put their trust in humanity (verse 7). But a believer’s pride and trust should be in the name of God and nothing more. One thing I thought of while reading this verse… believers in Jesus are a “nation”. We don’t have territory with borders because our home is in heaven. But we are a nation, none the less, with a Leader in whom we should take pride.

Very true words in Proverbs today. We must guard our heart above all else. The status of our heart will determine how our life goes. Whether our heart if full of bitterness or joy, peace or envy, or whatever… it will define us. So we must be careful and take care of the spiritual health of our heart.

Finally, I really liked verses 25-27. We need to keep our eyes fixed on what is before us – Jesus! If we keep our eyes on Him our heart will be healthy, our path will be straight and safe. Verse 27 rightly implies that if we stray off course we will be tempted to evil. The righteous road is narrow and is surrounded by sin. Its not easy to stay on the narrow road as we all know. But getting off-course is a recipe for disaster. We all get off course at times in our lives. But we need to get right back on it by setting our eyes back on Jesus. I think of it like walking on a tightrope or balance beam. If we keep our head up and our eyes focused on a point in the distance, we can walk that narrow path.

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