Showing posts from February, 2014

The Only Bible

Last night I watched White House Down—for the second time. I had seen it on the big screen last year and when I discovered it was on television I decided to watch it again. Throughout the movie I found myself thinking, “This can’t be the same show! I don’t remember this!”

Granted, my memory isn’t always the best, but honestly, though there were parts that I did remember having seen, most of it seemed new to me. But I also caught myself paying closer attention this time to the details. Perhaps in the back of my mind I did remember the story and now, months later, I had enough background tucked away back there to be able to focus on the nuances. Though there is a limit to the depth of most fiction, whether it be on the screen or in some other form, I would probably find something new in the movie should I ever watch it again.

That same kind of thing happens when it comes to the Scriptures. This time we have a true story with depths that we can only begin to fathom. But every time we read…

The Blessing of the Stumbling Tongue

If it were anyone else but God, we’d suspect him of being self-absorbed.

As we begin Exodus 6, God speaks to Moses and makes a series of claims and promises that ought to have silenced the self-doubt of our not-so-intrepid leader of the fledgling nation of Israel.

If you read Exodus 6:1-8, God uses the “I” eighteen times (depending on the version you are reading).

I am the Lord” He says, and then goes on to tell Moses what He is going to do.

Now Moses has been in a funk because Pharaoh won’t listen to him, and the Israelites are angry with him because their work load has increased due to his “intervention” with the Pharaoh on their behalf.

But notice that Moses himself doesn’t listen too well—or should we say that he may be listening but he is not hearing. After all God claims and promises, what is Moses’ focus?

But Moses said to the Lord, ‘If the Israelites will not listen to me, why would Pharaoh listen to me, since I speak with faltering lips'” (6:12). This little gem he repeat…

Wait and See

Somehow it just doesn’t seem right to do everything you have been instructed to do and then end up with a less than a happy result.

It wasn’t that Moses hadn’t been warned that Pharaoh wouldn’t listen to his request to allow the children of Israel to leave Egypt. In his earlier encounters with God, the Almighty had told him: “When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you the power to do. But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go” (Exodus 4:21).

Still, Moses seems upset when, not only doesn’t Pharaoh let the people go, but he increases the burden of their labour, making it impossible to keep up the quotas that their Egyptian taskmasters expected. Moses goes off to complain to the Lord. “O Lord, why have you brought trouble upon this people? Is this why you sent me? Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble upon this people, and you have not rescued your people at all” (Exodus 5:22…

The God of the Bigger Picture

After Israel’s death, the brothers began to wonder if Joseph might take advantage of their father’s absence to get his revenge on them for the evil they had done (Genesis 50:15-17). Joseph’s response to their concern is one that has echoed down the centuries.

Don’t be afraid, Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done” (50:19).

Joseph saw the bigger picture. Sometimes we don’t get the privilege of seeing that bigger picture. Sometimes we aren’t looking for it. We are faced with the realities of life, with the harm people intend, with the evil that touches our health, our families, our fortunes. And we forget that there is a bigger picture.

A friend posted a video on FACEBOOK this morning that I took the time to listen to. Many of you will remember Scotty Hamilton, who won endless gold medals and championships as a figure skater. The video is his story and I hope you will take the time to listen to it.


The Reading of the Will

The family is gathered in the lawyer’s office. The will is about to be read and each person present is eagerly waiting to know who gets what. Some have huge expectations. Others have few expectations but since they were told to appear for the reading, they have complied. Perhaps there will be a token from a dead man left behind for them. We’ve seen the scene on television: the thwarted heir, the surprised butler, the dog that got it all.

When we come to Genesis 49 we find Israel on his deathbed. He has some final words to say to his children. These words have to do with their inheritance but really don’t concern wealth or land or who gets the silverware. He gathers his sons around him to prophecy as to their futures after he is gone. We are not told how these revelations came to him. We can only assume that God whispered in his ear.

Some of what Israel pronounces over his sons is not pleasant—a little like finding out that the deceased didn’t leave you a cent in spite of your expectati…

ONE is a Whole Number

The most natural thing in the world is to want to love and be loved; to marry and have a family. It’s part of the Divine Design ordained before time began and instituted at its most perfect level in the Garden of Eden. “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him’” says Genesis 2:18. With my tongue somewhat in cheek I remind people on occasion that God was talking to men here, and not to women: it was never, “It is not good for the woman to be alone …” But seriously, God meant for people to be in families — even singles — men and women.  “God sets the lonely in families,” says Psalm 68:6. Given that anyone can be lonely even with a spouse and family, the “lonely” can be applied to all of us whatever our marital status — we all need connection, especially if we are going to fulfill God’s great design for our lives.

A short discussion on marriage is foundational to our understanding of singleness.

Apart from the obvious purposes of …

When What Goes Around Comes Around

I wonder what was going through Joseph’s mind when his brothers arrived in Egypt for their second visit? This time they had brought their younger brother, Benjamin, with them as per Joseph’s instructions (Genesis 42:18-20). He could see their fear (43:18). They were about to expose their father’s favourite son to immense danger. They had brought back the silver that they had discovered in their grain sacks—silver that was supposed to have been left behind in Egypt to pay for that grain. They were invited to the Prime Minister’s residence (43:16-20), an invitation they thought was as friendly as being taken into a dark alley by a bunch of thugs.

The brothers were scared. But what was Joseph thinking as he sensed their fear and then, as predicted in the dream he had shared with them as a youth, these frightened nomads bowed low before him (43:28)? Did he feel a moment of triumph, an “I-told-you-so?”

The clue might be found in Genesis 43:26, 27: “When Joseph came home, they presented to …

It Really Isn't All About Me

Sometimes you just have to let things go and move forward. Joseph’s older brothers arrive in Egypt (Genesis 42:3). Famine has spread to Canaan and there is nothing left to do but to leave home turf and try to buy food elsewhere. The brothers are basically unchanged in appearance, older to be sure, and perhaps a lot wiser as well. Joseph has radically changed, taking on the appearance of an Egyptian. So when the brothers are presented to him, they do not recognize him. Of course, neither did they expect to ever see him again.

As Joseph eavesdrops on the conversation among the brothers, he is aware that the jealous siblings who sold him into slavery are not the same men that he once knew. But he determines to test them to be sure. When they arrive back in Canaan they are one brother short (42:24). Simeon is captive in Egypt as surety for the return of the others with their young brother, Benjamin. They also have all the money they took with them to pray for the grain (42:28). They look…

Nobody Knows The Trouble I've Seen...

Joseph arrived in Egypt as a slave when he was seventeen. At the age of thirty he became Pharaoh’s right-hand man (Genesis 41:46). Thirteen years of slavery and imprisonment. We hear nothing about Joseph’s feelings about all that he went through—except perhaps for a brief hint when, as Pharaoh’s Prime Minister, he names his sons.

The firstborn was named Manasseh, which bears a connection to the Hebrew meaning “forget.” Joseph remarked: “It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household” (41:51). Was this a point of no return, the moment when Joseph put behind him any thought of returning to Canaan, or being rescued or released? With a wife and a family, his roots were now firmly planted in Egypt. The reference to “trouble” suggests that Joseph had just glided through all this with some kind of other-worldly detachment. He knew trouble. He’d lived trouble. He’d survived trouble.

The birth of the second son tells us a little more. This boy was named Ephr…

New Name, New Game

He’d been here before—different man, different circumstances. The last time Jacob had visited Bethel he had bargained with God (Genesis 28). Back then, in his flight from the repercussions of his lying and deceit, God had promised to go with him, and to bring him back to Canaan. Now Jacob was instructed to go back to Bethel, this time on his way back to Canaan, just as God had promised. This time, instead of telling God what he would do if God held up His part of the bargain, Jacob acknowledged that God had done exactly what He had promised.

This, I believe, is Jacob’s true moment of “conversion.” When he fled from his father-in-law Laban, Rachel, Jacob’s wife, had stolen her father’s household gods (31:19), which tells us that Yahweh was not exclusively worshiped and served. Jacob appeared to be accepting of this practice even if he didn’t participate in it himself. But now, at Bethel, the picture changed.

Then God said to Jacob, ‘Go up to Bethel and settle there and build an altar t…