Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Bible in a Year - Day 12

A busy few baby days, so the following is a round up, rather than a deep look at each day's readings.

Day 9 - Genesis 23 & 24; Matthew 8
Today's verses of note show: 

- God's faithfulness and His approval of those who believe:
Abraham was now very old, and the Lord had blessed him in every way. (Genesis 24:1)
“Praise be to the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who has not abandoned his kindness and faithfulness to my master. As for me, the Lord has led me on the journey to the house of my master’s relatives.”(Genesis 24:27)

- And Jesus' love for those who needed Him: 
When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. (Matthew 8:16)

Day 10 - Genesis 25 & 26; Matthew 9:1-17

God is faithful and trustworthy in His love for us. He loved Isaac because He loved Abraham:

Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and will bless you. For to you and your descendants I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham. I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because Abraham obeyed me and did everything I required of him, keeping my commands, my decrees and my instructions. (Genesis 26:3-5)
As a mother, I find it wonderful to discover that our children can be blessed through our own faithfulness. Abraham did what God asked of Him, and because of this Isaac witnessed how to obey God. This enabled him to remain within God's promise. It's wonderful, but it's also a reminder of the huge responsibility that lies on the shoulders of parents, to demonstrate and teach about the love of God. Thank God that He loves us enough to help us, and loves our children enough that when we do a less than perfect job, He is there to be their Heavenly Parent!

Jesus is just Love personified. The past few days of readings have been full of Jesus' love for the sick, the needy, the poor. Today we read about his love for sinners. When sin is causing any number of problems in our lives, we can go to Jesus and in His love for us He forgives us.
Some men brought to him a paralyzed man, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.”(Matthew 9:2)

In Jesus' time, tax collectors were despised, the lowest of the low, because of the way they treated those they took taxes from, cheating them and keeping the extra. But Jesus could even rescue tax collectors and forgive them.

As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. (Matthew 9:9)

I love the following verse:  
But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners. (Matthew 9:13)
It's about our hearts. We can act out being perfect people, doing without frivolities and looking good to those around us, but if we are not merciful, offering the same forgiveness that we have received, then what is the point? And if we were already perfect, then we wouldn't need Jesus. I love that He loves me in my imperfection.

Day 11 - Genesis 27 & 28; Matthew 9:18-38
Today we have a promise from God. 
I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you. (Genesis 28:15)
This is a wonderful reassurance that God remains with us, faithful and loving, and always ready to draw us back onto the right path.

Not only does God promise to watch over us - He always has time for us too. There may be times when we feel God has forgotten about us, but this can reassure us that He is always watching over us. The woman in Matthew today must have thought God had forgotten her. For twelve years she had been bleeding. In Jewish culture this made her unclean. Anyone she touched would also be made unclean.

I have a beautiful book - Women of the Gospels by Mary Ellen Ashcroft - in which Jesus' female followers have gathered together after His death, and they tell their stories. One of these is the bleeding woman. She describes her plight:
I came to believe God was against me. Because of the law of Moses, I could never touch or be touched by a man. I couldn't enter a neighbour's house without making it unclean. I could not have guests come to a meal because the food I prepared was unclean. All the restrictions that you, my sisters, have once a moon, I knew as my life's reality. I could never go to worship - Sabbath after Sabbath I heard the children on their way to the synagogue, the parents, talking quietly. (pg21-22)

In the middle of a bustling crowd, she spotted Jesus. He was busy, talking to someone else. And she couldn't expect Him to want to touch her. She was unclean after all. So she decided that if she could just touch the edge of his cloak, that she would be made clean again, that she would be healed.

Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed from that moment. (Matthew 9:22)

Ashcroft describes what happened in a way that shows how much God loves women:
As Jesus touched (her), he performed an act of ritual cleansing, washing from womanhood the fear and degradation with which most religions have fouled it for centuries. (pg24)
And if you want to check out more about why Christianity is (ought to be) the woman-friendly religion, read this fab series of blog posts.

Jesus is never too busy for us. That is reassuring. He loves us.

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (Matthew 9:36)

Day 12 - Genesis 29 & 30; Matthew 10:1-23

 I struggled with Genesis 29 & 30 today. The verses I found that showed God as loving are bitter-sweet. It seems that being able to have children is a sign that God loves and has blessed you. The reverse then would be that being infertile implies you are not loved by God, or that you are being punished. This is something I find difficult. I don't see how this is fair. I know children are a blessing from the Lord (Psalm 127:3).

However, perhaps it would be more helpful to think along these lines: the stories of success over infertility in the Bible are usually there to show God's power. Sarah, Rachel, Hannah, Elizabeth would not have been the only women in those days who were unable to have children. But they were women God chose to bless as a sign of His power and to show the sacred in His promises. So other stories of infertility weren't included because they weren't relevant. I don't think we are meant to read this and come to the conclusion that infertility is a curse, but rather that it is another result of the Fall.

In Matthew there were two verses of note. One showing how God the Holy Spirit helps us: not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. (Matthew 10:19-20)
And the other telling us what our response to being loved by God should be:
Freely you have received, freely give. (Matthew 10:8)

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