Bible in One Year: Day 12

I’ve currently got a stinking cold and I’ve lost a day lead so I’m only one day ahead. I didn’t get to write this one up before today so I’ve got up early, head aching and nose dripping, in order to get it done. I’m hoping to do a bit of catching up today.

  • Proverbs 1:20 – 33
  • Matthew 10:1 – 31
  • Genesis 25 & 26

In Proverbs, it tells us to accept wisdom before it’s too late. There are people that get disaster packs ready in advance in case some calamity befalls on their country, full aware that if disaster does strike, they would not be able to collect together the needed resources in the chaos. Although the passage seems a bit cruel, it works on the same idea. You need to find wisdom and become wise before you need to use such wisdom. You can’t suddenly hope that you will have the answers when problems that require a wise response crop up. It’ll be like turning up to a race having done no preparation and hoping you have the strength to complete it.

Not pursuing the wisdom of God and not fearing the Lord is “complacency”. It shows a disregard for and lack of understanding of our need of God. However, those who listen “will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm”.

The Matthew passage has quite a few warnings in it too. It tells us to be on our guard, as followers will be hated because of Jesus. But we are not to be afraid of death; but we are to have a fear of the Lord. However, God cares for us so this is another reason not to fear. There is a balance to be struck.

I’m pretty sure that teaching about fearing God has gone out the window. Worship songs, sermons and books all focus in the loving, softer God. He is that, but he is clearly also to be afraid. We often think the “fear” is reserved for Old Testament and we’ve moved on. However, it’s an idea that is obviously a part of the New Testament teachings as well.

I love the conversation in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe between the children and Mr Beaver about Aslan.

“Aslan a man!” said Mr Beaver sternly. Certainly not. I tell you he is King of the wood and the son of the great emperor-beyond-the-sea. Don’t you know who is the King of the Beasts? Aslan is a lion – the Lion, the great lion.”
“Ooh!” said Susan, “I’d thought he was a man. Is he – quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”
“That you will, dearie, and no mistake” said Mrs Beaver; “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”
“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.
“Safe?” said Mr Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

CS Lewis, The Lion, the Witch & The Wardrobe (Penguin, 1950)

We should appear before God with an awareness that no, he isn’t safe, but yes, he is good. However, I often feel we fall into the “else just silly” camp.

Genesis 26 shows the benefits of walking with the Lord. You get given instruction but also others see that you are blessed and treat you accordingly.

Bible in One Year: Day 11

I didn’t manage to wake up at 5 am for this one, so it’s a good job that I’m doing it a couple of days early. I did find doing it just before bed seemed to be conducive to restful sleep.

I am really grateful for the devotions provided by Nicky and Pippa Gumbel. It does make the reading longer, as you have to read the devotions too, but they help prepare me to be more reflective before I start reading the passages. Also, using the YouVersion app means I can listen as I read, which means I’m less likely too skip bits or to read superficially. So, I’ve definitely found the experience meaningful and helpful.

Nicky Gumbel noted that the Genesis passage mentions success five times and that, in some way, all the passages were linked to success. Success is a blessing from God. It makes me wonder how much do I rely on myself for success and how much do I rely on God. Also, it makes me wonder how I measure success. At the start of the year, I did a couple of lessons about attitudes towards work with my students. I told them that their success is not up to them, so they needn’t worry about it. It’s up to God. It’s his problem so let him deal with it. They just need to be obedient and commit their work to God. I definitely need to preach to myself as well.

Psalm 8 repeats the idea of Genesis 1 that humans are the pinnacle of creation. It’s weird to think that humans are God’s greatest success. It’s strange that in one hand we have humanity as sinful and destructive and terrible, whilst in the other hand we have humanity as God’s pride and joy. There’s something to be learned in seeing the potential and the current reality and living in that tension. I think that’s something that as a teacher I have to attempt every day. I don’t think I manage it as well as I should.

I loved this bit of Psalm 8:

Through the praise of children and infants
    you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
    to silence the foe and the avenger.

Psalm 8:2

How powerful are the praise of children and infants! God uses them so mightily: they defeat the enemy. As teachers, especially now as I work in a school that caters for the very little kids to the big kids, do we realise the amazing phenomenon that happens before us?

Matthew 9:16-17 has always been a source of confusion to me. I don’t really understand it in it’s given context. I think that’s an action point for a later date.

Verses 18-26 an interesting passage, as Jesus blesses the whole spectrum of the society of his day: the religious elite to the social outcast. I’m also amazed that people laughed at Jesus. I’m more amazed that we are fearful of being laughed at. Shouldn’t we expect it, after all? Also, if Jesus can deal with it, with the help of the Holy Spirit, so can we.

Again, my interest in mission makes the final verses of the Matthew reading particularly resonant.

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 3Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

Matthew 9:35-38

I love the sense of cooperation: we are to join in with God sending his workers through prayer and through being sent. It’s great that we can be a part of God’s global plan for the church.

I’m struck by how exceptional the characters are of the Genesis passage. The servant is faithful and obedient and wishes to be successful for the benefit of his master. Rebekah is awesome and generous. Pouring water for a bunch of camels is no mean feat. She gives a lot of herself to this complete stranger. Her brother seems like a great guy too: he cares for the servant and he considers his sisters thoughts and feelings.

It’s also amazing how quickly God answers the prayer: before it had even been finished. I wonder how often God sets into motion the answer to our prayers before we even finished (or, in some cases, started) praying them. As we don’t have the eternal and omnipotent perspective of God I guess we often don’t know.

Dear God

Grant us success. This is not for our benefit, but for the glory of your son, Jesus Christ.

In his holy name,

Amen.