Monday, October 25, 2021

"Like Father, Like Son" - Doug Rehberg

I have a friend who’s a great golfer. He played on his university golf team, after being taught the game by his father at an early age.

Occasionally, as he’s playing in a scramble event like the Holly Alm Camp Scholarship Fund, he will turn to one of his partners who is readying to hit a shot and say, “Don’t be afraid to be great.”

Someone has said, “It’s never too late to do something amazing.” At age 77 John Glenn was the oldest astronaut ever to be sent into space. At 82 William Ivy Baldwin was the oldest tightrope walker in history to walk across South Boulder Canyon in Colorado, on a 320-foot wire. At 89 Arthur Rubinstein performed at Carnegie Hall, in one of his greatest recitals ever. At 92 Paul Spangler finished his 14th marathon. At 93 P.G. Wodehouse finished his 97th novel, was knighted, and died. At 99 Teiichi Igarashi climbed Mt. Fuji. And at age 100 Frank Shearer became the oldest water-skier in the world. None of them were too afraid to be great, regardless of their age.

In Genesis 47 Joseph presents his father to Pharaoh as he and his brothers have entered the land of Egypt. There, in front of the greatest Pharaoh in the 3,000-year history of Egyptian Pharaohs, Joseph’s father is asked only one question: “How old are you?” Now, there are several reasons for the question, but chief among them is his advanced age. The average age of Egyptians at the time was a fraction of Jacob’s age. Remarkably, this Pharaoh, Ramses II, will be the longest ruling Pharaoh in Egyptian history and will die at the astonishing age of 90. But Jacob’s already 130-years-old.

So Pharaoh asks, “How old are you?” And Jacob commences whining. As we noted last Sunday, his focus is singularly on himself. He talks as if he’s going to die any minute; and yet, he will live another 17 years.

It’s during these 17 years that some serious changes occur in his perspective. What he says about his life in chapter 48 is in absolute variance to what he says in chapter 47. We are going to dig into all of this on Sunday in a message entitled, “Like Father, Like Son.” The text for the message is Genesis 48:1-16.

In preparation for Sunday you may wish to consider the following:

1. Read Hebrews 11 and note what the writer says about Jacob.

2. What does the writer of Hebrews identify as Jacob’s greatest achievement?

3. What does Israel mean in verse 5 when he says that Joseph’s sons are his?

4. Why does the Bible refer to him as Israel and not Jacob?

5. What’s Joseph’s name mean?

6. How does this passage show us the connections of his name?

7. How does Israel reinterpret his life in verses 15-16?

8. How does he reinterpret the “evil” that has befallen him?

9. What are the elements of his worship of God?

10. How do these verses relate to your life?

See you Sunday!

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

"It's Not Over Till It's Over" - Doug Rehberg

Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra was born on May 12, 1925 in St. Louis, Missouri. He died at age 90, September 22, 2015 in West Caldwell, New Jersey.

Yogi was a Hall of Fame baseball catcher, manager and coach. He played 19 seasons, all but the last one, with the New York Yankees. As famous as he was on the field, Yogi is best remembered for the things he said. “Baseball is 90% mental,” he said, “the other half is physical.” “When you come to a fork in the road,” he said, “take it.” Or how about this one, “You can observe a lot by just watching.”

But among all the Yogi-isms there’s one that is used more often, and by a wider set of people. It goes like this, “It ain’t over till it’s over.” And, it’s hard to argue with that!

It was 1973 and the National League pennant race was in full swing. His team was a long way behind when he first said it. They eventually did rally to win the division title. There’s something elegantly simple about those six words.

It tells people to wait and not make a snap judgment because a struggle or prospective defeat might turn around. Linguistically it’s a tautology that tells you nothing about the word when taken literally. What it does is remind you that there’s hope. It’s a Dunkirk spirit. In its various spellings, you can find Berra’s phrase well over half a million times on Google. At the top of the rankings is the Lenny Kravitz song that uses it as a title. The song insists that a certain love affair still has a spark in it.

It pops up in a bewildering array of places, from a scientific paper on Darwinian theory, to the 2006 comeback of Rocky Balboa. It’s been said by White House officials, the mayor of New York City, countless sportsmen and sportswomen. And we use it this week as the title to a message on the end of Genesis 47.

Here Jacob is standing before Pharaoh when Pharaoh asks him, “How many are the days of the years of your life?” Jacob’s answer is a withering, wearying 2 sentences. The fact that the writer records what he says and attributes it to Jacob is proof positive that his old human nature is speaking. He sounds as though he’s going to die. The truth is that he has another 17 years to live. And it’s in those 17 years that he performs one of his greatest works for the Kingdom of God.

We are going to look at all of this on Sunday as we dig into Genesis 47:7-12, 23-31. We will analyze the PERSPECTIVE of Jacob, the PRINCIPLE of Joseph, and the PROMISE of God. And through it all we will see, with clarity, the heart of God.

In preparation for Sunday, you may wish to consider the following:

1. Someone has said, “When God measures a person He doesn’t put a tape around the head, He puts it around the heart.” Do you agree?

2. What does God mean in I Samuel 16:7?

3. How does Joseph demonstrate this?

4. What does Jacob mean when he says the years of his life have been “few and evil”?

5. Do you think he’s whining about his age?

6. How old is he when he dies? How about Pharaoh?

7. What’s his reason for saying this to Pharaoh?

8. Why does Joseph institute this “tax” in verses 23 & 24?

9. How does this reflect the character of God?

10. Why does Joseph’s father ask him to put his hand under his thigh?

See you Sunday!

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

"How Much Are You Appreciated?" - Doug Rehberg

It’s one of the many stories (parables) that’s been misinterpreted and used as a bludgeon for centuries. A friend of mine once wrote, “Fathers, mothers, preachers, and Christian teachers have used that story for 2000 years to scare the spit out of little boys and girls and everyone else with, ‘You’re not living up to your potential. God has given you so much, and you had better use it or lose it. You don’t want to be kicked out, do you? And don’t you want to hear Jesus say, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant?’”

Here’s a recent bastardization of Matthew 25:14-30 that I came across. Reήe August, a priest in the Anglican Church of South Africa and veteran of the South African antiapartheid struggle was conducting a tour of Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners were banished to work the mineral mines as slaves. For 27 years Mandela worked those mines, with the only profit going to the government of South Africa, the government he resisted as evil.

Standing at the mouth of the quarry, August invited the group of clergy and others to reflect on their lives and their leadership in light of Robben Island and the story Jesus tells of the talents in Matthew 25.

The landowner was ready to leave for a trip and he called three of his servants (douloi in Greek, meaning slaves) to face him before he departed. It was a feudal state. None of these slaves owned any land themselves.

To one slave he gave five talents. To another he gave two talents. To the last slave he gave one. And when he returned the first two presented him with not only the original number of talents, but they had doubled them. As August says, Two of them traded for more money, which further enriched the landowner.”

But the last slave chose a different way, he simply buried the money. So when the landowner received from him his assigned talent August says, “We have been taught to call this last slave the unfaithful one, but notice what the ‘unfaithful’ one says about the landowner. He says, ‘We know that you are a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow…’ In other words, the enslaved man’s resistance speaks. It says, ‘You are an unjust person and I refuse to participate in this exploitive game even if you will throw me crumbs for my efforts.’”

Now Reήe makes a huge leap here. She posits that the third slave’s characterization of the landowner is accurate. Perhaps she is interpreting verse 26 as an admission by the master that he is as the slave describes him. There’s no evidence of that. In fact, it appears to be the opposite. The third guy is falsely biased. This is not a parable to be used as a bludgeon to manipulate by fear.

The truth is that Jesus is making a point about the chief priests and the elders of the people who are plotting His death. One doesn’t kill someone for teaching boys and girls, men and women to work harder. Jesus was telling about the religious leaders and pointing out how they made themselves out to be so pure and righteous and yet, all they do is bury their talent to protect themselves and their own interests. Like that last slave they risk nothing, treating the blessings and treasures of God as if it’s their own.  And if there’s any truth in their characterization of God as a hard, self-aggrandizing sovereign, it’s only their own conjecture. In other words, it’s an honest projection of themselves. It was Blaise Pascal who said, “God created man in His image, and ever since man has been returning the favor.”

There is no truer, clearer picture of who God is than in Jesus Christ. He is the only good and faithful servant. As Paul says, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation” (Colossians 1:15). And what we have in Genesis 47:1-22 is a detailed description of how He treats every one of His servants. It’s stunning. Unlike the false picture Reήe August paints of Matthew 25, the false picture teachers and preachers have been propounding for centuries, the writer of Genesis gives us a true, vivid description of who God is and how He cares for His own.

In preparation for Sunday’s message: “How Much Are You Appreciated?,” you may wish to consider the following:

1. Who do you think is the target of Jesus’ parable in Matthew 25:14-30?

2. Who do you think is qualified to receive the Master’s words in Matthew 25:21?

3. Why do you suppose Joseph took only five of his brothers to stand before Pharaoh?

4. What’s the significance of what they tell Pharaoh in verse 4?

5. What’s the significance of Pharaoh’s edict in verse 6?

6. What’s it mean that they are put in charge of Pharaoh’s livestock?

7. How long does Jacob live in Egypt?

8. What’s the significance of his blessing Pharaoh twice?

9. What’s the significance of what Joseph does in verse 12?

10. What differences can you point out in the treatment of the sons of Israel and the sons of Egypt?

See you Sunday!

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

"The God of Surprises" - Henry Knapp

Why All These Names?

Anyone who has attempted to read the Bible straight through quickly stumbles upon a problem—sometimes the Bible simply isn’t that exciting. There are, of course, stories in the Bible that are gripping, engaging, surprising, and entertaining. And, we know that the Bible is for our instruction, so if we like what we are reading or not, we know that it is for our good; we plow on. But, truth be told, some parts are simply… not very exciting.

Nowhere is this more true than when the Bible provides us with a long list of names—and it seems to do that with annoying frequency. Not just once or twice, but with some regularity, we are confronted by a catalogue of unfamiliar (and unpronounceable) names. Skipping over them seems so easy. As a matter of fact, bypassing entire chapters filled with names seems to be the most prudent way to handle this material.

But, the frequency with which these genealogical recordings occur does prompt a question: Why? Why are we given these lists? What are we to make of them? Are they really that important? Are we really doing anything wrong when we skip right over these?

It should come as no surprise that I do absolutely believe the lists are important. The Divine Author of the Scripture Himself felt that it was important to include, hence, I believe they are intended for us and for our benefit. But, what possible benefit can come from a list of names, many of which we will not recognize anyway?

From our very early studies in the book of Genesis, we have been following the constant repetition of the promises of God to bring a Savior into the world. First stated in Genesis 3:15, that promise becomes anchored in the call of Abraham, and the assurance that, through him and his descendants, the entire world will be blessed. Reaffirmed to Sarah when she was thought barren, spoken again to Jacob numerous times in various ways, and clarified in Joseph’s life and experience, this promise of our Lord—that He will bless the world—takes concrete form in the people of Israel. The plethora of names scattered throughout the Bible is a not-so-subtle reminder of the faithfulness of God. He has promised it, and He will do it!

Belief in this character of God—His faithfulness to accomplish all that He promises—is greatly needed today and every day for the Christian. Consider: What if God were NOT faithful? What if He made us promises, and then broke them? The thought is truly frightening. But that is not who He is, and the Bible demonstrates that for us in many, many ways. And, one of those ways is by showing us His faithfulness to bring about a massive nation, more descendants than anyone could count—all so that He might bring a Savior to bless the world.

In Christ, we are part of that genealogical record; we are on the list. In Christ, we experience the faithfulness of God, His dedication to His promises to bless the world. In Christ, we have an abundant life, just as He promised. Praise the Lord!

In preparation for worship this Sunday, read Chapter 46 of Genesis.

1. As Doug pointed out last week, “Beersheba” is the place where God met with Jacob’s descendants. Why might this be a good place to start a trip (vs. 5)?

2. Verses 5-7 really seem to stress that all of Jacob’s household went to Egypt. Why is this comprehensive character important in the story? What might have happened if only half of the family went to Egypt?

3. Verses 8-25 include a long, long list of names. Glance through them. Are any recognizable? Why?

4. Seventy people in all came from Canaan to Egypt. Seventy seems to be a crucial number here—and it will come up again and again in the story. Seven and ten are both numbers for “completeness” or “totality.”

5. When they met, Joseph “fell on Jacob’s neck” and wept. The phrasing, “fell on his neck,” is odd, but clearly understood. How cool is it, that this same phrase connects the reunion of Esau and Jacob, Jacob and Joseph, and the father with the prodigal son (Luke 15)?

6. The sons of Jacob eventually settle in Goshen, the north-eastern part of Egypt. Fertile lands, yet separated from the Egyptians themselves. How does this describe the Christian’s lifestyle today?