Sunday February 7, 2021 Thoughts

One of the simultaneously fun and sad things about the internet is that there is never any shortage of crazy things to be found while perusing web pages for cat videos and Bernie Sanders inauguration memes.  It’s fun to watch the madness unfold in real time, but it’s also a sad thing to see the kinds of corners that some folks paint themselves into.  One such thing that I saw recently was a post proclaiming that the vaccines being developed these days were actually the Mark of the Beast – yes, that one from Revelation…
At first blush this seems like maybe it has something to do with politics.  I can see how politics might feed into the discussion about everything having to do with the ‘Rona, but I don’t think this fear is really about politics.  I think it’s about not understanding all of what John is trying to communicate to believers through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in his book.
In truth, Revelation is a hard book to understand.  It has many many layers of meaning and tons of references to old testament and apocalyptic literature. We modern readers don’t always pick up on those references because we often haven’t read the books John read, or we sometimes miss things because they aren’t as clear once translated out of the original language of the text.  So I don’t think there’s any reason to judge someone who may never have had Revelation presented to them outside of a very flawed context.
I think what makes a lot of people worry about the ‘Rona vaccines is the notion that they may have heard bandied about the internet that at some point the vaccines could become mandatory for people to participate in public life or economic activity.  I can see why that notion would bother them.  It’s a scary thing for someone else to mandate what goes into your body, right?  But on top of that, it does sound a bit like what John writes in Revelation 13:16-17.
So here you have a bad combination of pandemic fears, political division and inflammatory rhetoric, the internet’s unique ability to fan the flames of controversy and rumor, and some factors that line up with one of the scary bits of John’s book.  Doesn’t John say that everyone with that mark ends up spending eternity in the fires of God’s wrath?  If the vaccine is the mark then maybe the ‘Rona is the better option…
Except that the vaccine isn’t the mark.  Read Revelation 7-14.  The “seal” and the “mark” that John describes are identifications of 2 groups of people – Those who follow God and those who follow the beast.  This is a binary choice that John is presenting.  No one can be on both sides (sort of like the pineapple on pizza thing).  So whatever the “mark” is that John describes, it must be something that is incompatible with worshipping God and it must identify the marked individual as someone in league with the beast.  It does the opposite thing in contrast to the “seal” that identifies the followers of God.  The two are incompatible with each other,

So ask yourself this: Do you have to reject Christ and worship an idol to get vaccinated against the ‘Rona?  Nope.  No one is going to make you do that.  You can if you really want to, but it’s got nothing to do with getting vaccinated.  If the vaccine isn’t incompatible with following God, then it isn’t anything to be worried about in an apocalyptic sense.


Podcast – Genesis 45

Welcome back podcast fans!  Today’s chapter is the continuation of the cliffhanger story that we left off from in chapter 44 when we were wondering if Joseph would indeed make his brothers go home without Benjamin.  Would Jacob survive the shock?  Would Judah really go through with it?  Who knows!?

Turns out, Joseph couldn’t hold out any longer and he told his brothers the whole thing.  I suspect he had wanted to spill the beans the whole time, but he just had to know if they had changed or if they were still the same people he had grown up with.

There’s another issue at work here that’s very interesting to me and that’s the notion that sometimes God does things with our disobedience that end up being to our benefit in the end.  Notice that God doesn’t reward the brothers for the way they dealt with Joseph.  God does forgive them on the basis of grace, which was to be paid for later by Christ, but rather God does wait for them to take responsibility for their sin.  So, it’s not that God winks at what we do, it’s that sometimes God has better things waiting for us in the wings after we come clean.  Grace is pretty cool, right?

Thats all for now.  See you next time!

Podcast – Genesis 44

Welcome back!  Today we’re looking at one of the most tense moments in Joseph’s story.  I love where the chapter divide falls between Genesis 44 and 55, because it’s such a cliffhanger moment.  Since it’s so well set up for me, I might as well go ahead and use it to make you all come back for the next episode to find out what happens right?  Or, alternatively, you could just see for yourself in the Bible, right?

Again in this chapter we see the changes that have happened in the life of Judah.  This guy has a very different character than he has displayed in previous chapters and episodes of his life, which is interesting to me.  This is interesting because Judah hasn’t really been the main player in much of what’s happened.  He’s never been the good guy in any of the material that we have covered, so we haven’t seen much of the process of change in his life, yet here we are presented with the results.  I think there is a good lesson in this.  God isn’t going to give us an outline of how and when and in what order He will do what He does.  He just does it and we see the results.  It’s better for us to get to know Him better than it is for us to try to understand the outline and the process.  We like to think that if we know the process that we have some control over the outcomes, but we don’t.  Better to know and trust the One who does.

Podcast – Genesis 43

Hello again, and welcome back!  So, it turns out my plans to do three recordings last week didn’t work out… That’s life! Wednesday ended up being such a bad day that it took out part of Thursday on the way down, so this week I will hopefully be able to get back on my planned schedule.

Anyway, back to the Bible.  This chapter is interesting to me because of the changes we finally see in Judah.  This guy has been a bad, bad guy in previous chapters, but here he’s taking responsibility and doing the right thing for his family.  When all of the brothers thought that they would be made into slaves, instead of trying to fight or trick their way out they told the truth.  That’s behavior that we really haven’t seen from Joseph’s brothers very much in previous chapters.

The reason this is so interesting to me again has to do with the parallels between Joseph and Jesus, and the story of Joseph as a precursor to the story of the Gospel.  If Joseph foreshadows Jesus, the Judah foreshadows believers, and if God would turn Judah from the sort of person he was into the man we see in this chapter, then God would do the same with believers as well.  In the sort of world we live in with all of it’s faults and rotten places (which we have to admit that we’re responsible for in the first place…), that’s a comforting realization.  The world doesn’t have to be the way that it is.  It can be better.  It’s not through political maneuvers or legislation, though.  It’s through the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that we can see this accomplished.

Podcast – Genesis 42

Hello again, and welcome back!  Today’s episode is something that would be perfectly acceptable in a soap opera plot.  It’s got twists and turns and stunning revelations.  All that’s missing is a cast of unrealistically pretty people in softly lit rooms.

It can be tempting at times in this and the coming passages to assume that Joseph’s motive is revenge.  That would be the soap opera way, but this isn’t that kind of story. Remember, Joseph is foreshadowing Christ, so there will be an element of the Gospel at play here.  I think in this case that element is the test of faith.  Joseph’s father and brothers have to have faith that if they do this seeming impossible thing that is set before them instead of trying to save their own skins, then Joseph will set their brother free.  What will they do?  Will they be reunited?  Will the family fall apart?  You’ll have to either tune in tomorrow for the next episode, or else just read the next chapter yourself.

Podcast – Genesis 41

Hello again, podcast fans!  Today we finally get to read about something going well for Joseph.  He’s finally remembered in prison and he gets moved out of there and into much bigger and better things.  It’s a pretty good time in his life!

As I mentioned before in previous episodes and pointed out in today’s recording, there are a number of parallels between Joseph and Jesus.  Joseph is used as a foreshadowing character to point to the ministry of Jesus that would come in the future.  So, just as Joseph was betrayed, Jesus would be as well, and just as Joseph was raised up to save the people on Egypt, Jesus would be raised up to save the world, and just as Joseph was made a ruler over all of Egypt, Jesus would be given authority over the whole of creation by The Father.  There are more parallels, to be sure, but these are a few to get you thinking.

That’s all for me this week!  Check back in on Tuesday for another episode and have a good weekend.

Podcast – Genesis 40

Wow!  It’s been a long time since I have posted something, which was not what I intended to happen, but life is like that.  So, here we go with the next chapter of Genesis!

What I like about this chapter is that it shows that even the heroes in the Bible go through periods when disappointing things happen to them.  They are presented with moments that must have been utterly depressing,  yet God inspired their story to record only their faith.  I know Joseph wasn’t perfect, and he probably had some rough prayers in prison, but when his story gets recorded what God remembers and expresses is that Joseph trusted God even when things didn’t go his way.

And then on top of that, God eventually does something bigger than what Joseph wanted anyway!  I won’t get into that any further now, and I spoiled the story anyway in the recording for today, but it’s an important point.  When God doesn’t give us what we want, even when we want good things, it’s for a reason. We don’t always get to know that reason, but we know the One who does the reasoning and we know He is good.  That’s good enough for me.

Podcast – Genesis 39

Hello again, podcast fans.  This morning we’re back on track with Joseph as the main subject of our story after our brief interlude yesterday with Judah.  The events in this chapter are pretty famous, and you’ve probably heard them before at some point, so I’m not going to write a whole lot about them.  What I would like to point out, though, is that there are times in all our lives when we feel caught between a rock and a hard place, though not perhaps as dramatically as Joseph was, and yet we know that God is still taking care of us.

How can those two conditions coexist?  How can it be that we’re stuck somewhere that we feel we don’t belong, and at the same time it’s obvious that God is taking care of us in a big way?  Can it be that God wants us to be in bad circumstances?  I don’t think so.  I think that it’s easy to come to that conclusion, but it’s also easy to forget that God has a longer view than we do.  God doesn’t want us to languish in places where we don’t belong any more than He wanted Joseph to rot in prison.  However, God sometimes uses the circumstances to bring us to where we do belong in the end.  I think the reason we sometimes find ourselves taking the hard way to get to where we need to go is that if we had the choice, we’d never start the journey, but God knows that it’s something we would regret not doing, even though it is sometimes painful.  Joseph would never choose to go to prison, but I sure bet he would regret missing out on the opportunity to do what he will in the upcoming chapters, and he himself will explain that it’s all for the best in the end.

Podcast – Genesis 38

Happy Wednesday, Internet friends.  Today we’re studying a really weird chapter in Genesis, which talks about an absolutely scandalous relationship between Judah and his daughter-in-law Tamar.  It’s a crazy story, and there isn’t really anyone in it that can be considered “good” or “right” in what they do.  So, what’s the deal with this story?

I think the deal is that God uses whomever He chooses to accomplish His goals.  God turns people with ugly hearts into His people and He uses people with bad intentions to accomplish great good.  This isn’t to say that God approves of what they do.  God gives people the freedom to be evil if they want to.  Rather, it is to say that God works things out in the end so that His will is done.

Yes, this is a mysterious and often counterintuitive process.  That’s why we’re not God.

Podcast – Genesis 37

Hello again an welcome back for the first episode this week in the life of Joseph, a very important Bible character.  His story is of course famous, so you probably know what’s going to happen already.  However, as we begin this part of the Bible, I want to point out that Joseph is used as a type character in order to foreshadow the life of Christ.  So, Joseph has a special role to fill in the narrative of the Bible that points forward to the coming of the Messiah in the first century.  As such, the Bible isn’t going to record any of the sins he committed, not because he was perfect as Christ was, but in order to not obscure the reference to Jesus.  Jesus was totally unique, and Joseph serves in the text just as an indicator of Jesus’ coming advent, rather than a perfect duplicate.

So, then, as we move forward in Genesis, try to look for parallels between Jesus and Joseph.  There are a bunch of them to find if you think about it, though of course obviously not everything about these two people will be the same.  I think this is a really interesting thing to do along with the reading, because it serves to show that Christ is all over the Bible.  Even the oldest parts of it in Genesis that record the early history of the Jews are pointing to the coming of Christ.

We’ll talk more about this later.  For now, have a great day, and post some comments to let me know what you’re thinking about these passages of scripture.