Today’s readings are from Genesis 48, Luke 1:39-80, Job 14 and 1 Corinthians 2.
When Jacob was close to dying, Joseph went to him with his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim (Gen. 48:1). Jacob recounted how God had made a covenant with him like the covenant with Abraham (vv. 3-4), then gave a blessing to Joseph’s sons, claiming them for his own (v. 5). When it came time to give them his blessing, we find him choosing Ephraim (the youngest) over Manasseh…
13 And Joseph took them both, Ephraim in his right hand toward Israel’s left hand, and Manasseh in his left hand toward Israel’s right hand, and brought them near him. 14 And Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on the head of Ephraim, who was the younger, and his left hand on the head of Manasseh, crossing his hands (for Manasseh was the firstborn).
This, of course, mirrored his own experience, being second-born, but receiving the birthright and blessing (through manipulation).
This completes a wonderful work regarding Jacob’s recognition of God’s presence his life.
- I am with you (Genesis 28:15): God gives the young believer every possible assurance of His presence and grace
- I will be with you (Genesis 31:3): God expects the growing believer to trust He will be with us, even when we only have the promise of His presence
- God . . . has been with me (Genesis 31:5): God gives a glorious testimony to the mature believer, able to say how God has been with us, even when we haven’t felt His presence in the way we wished
- God will be with you (Genesis 48:21): God gives the mature believer the opportunity to encourage others with the promise of God’s presence
In Luke 1:39-45 Mary goes to visit Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, “the baby leaped in her womb,” when Elizabeth explains in v. 44 as the joy of John over meeting his Lord (v. 43).
Notice that Elizabeth did not call this response movement within her as her own body, or some inanimate tissue, but “the baby.” It is the ordinary Greek word for baby (brephos) and is the same word used in Luke 2:16 to refer to Jesus outside the womb. Here is a picture at week 6
You cannot possibly say that this is a piece of tissue. It is a human being at a young stage of development, but still a human being.
Earlier, in Luke 1:14-15 the angel said, “And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.” So that leap is not only a leap of joy but a leap of Holy-Spirit-inspired joy. Only persons can be filled with the Spirit.
After this meeting comes Mary’s Magnificat (Luke 1:46-56) in which she praises God for choosing an insignificant person like her, echoing the prayers of Hannah in 1 Samuel 2. Then, John the Baptist is born (Luke 1:57-66) and Zechariah’s sings his song of praise (1:67-80).
The whole song naturally falls into two parts. The first (verses 68-75) is a song of thanksgiving for the realization of the Messianic hopes of the Jewish nation; but to such realization is given a characteristically Christian tone.
The second part of the canticle is an address by Zechariah to his own son, who was to take so important a part in the scheme of the Redemption; for he was to be a prophet, and to preach the remission of sins before the coming or the Dawn from on high. The prophecy that he was to “go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways” (v. 76) was of course an allusion to the well-known words of Isaiah 40:3, which John himself afterwards applied to his own mission (John 1:23), and which all three Synoptic Gospels adopt (Matt. 3:3; Mark 1:2; Luke 3:4).
In Job 14 Job ponders the grave and the afterlife. Life is fleeting (v. 2). The days of his life are in God’s hands (v. 5). Job’s conception of the afterlife is nothingness (v. 10), spent in Sheol (v. 13). Job wonders if there could be a resurrection (v. 14a), but waits for some kind of “renewal” or “change” (v. 14b). There does seem to be hope expressed in v. 15.
But, when Job considers the power of God, he seems to despair (Job 14:16-22). David, a millennia later, will have a more hopeful expectation of the afterlife, saying things like…
8 I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. 9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. 10 For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. 11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:8-11)
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever. (Psalm 23:6)
15 But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol, for he will receive me. Selah (Psalm 49:15)
24 You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.(Asaph, Psalm 73:24)
1 Corinthians 2 begins by exalting God’s wisdom above man’s (2:1-
2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
H. B. Charles, at Together for the Gospel 2018, told a story of a church which had the motto “We preach Christ crucified,” but after a couple of years, the word “crucified” was covered up by ivy, then the word “Christ” until finally only “We preach” was showing. Charles then said, “People can hear a lot of sermons and miss Christ crucified.”
Here is H. B. Charles’ message The Message of the Cross from T4G 2018.
If you know Christ and him crucified, you know enough to make you happy, supposing you know nothing else. And without this, all your other knowledge cannot keep you from being everlastingly miserable.
–George Whitefield, in a sermon on 1 Cor. 2:2 in 1739, in The Sermons of George Whitefield (ed. Lee Gatiss; Crossway, 2012), 2:238
I heard of a young pastor (obviously not St. Paul!) who was trying to impress the congregation with his clergy vestments and what he had accomplished in order to wear them. So during the children’s sermon he asked the kids, “Why do I wear this white collar?” One child answered loudly, “Because it kills fleas and ticks for up to five months.”
It is the Holy Spirit who reveals God’s wisdom (1 Cor. 2:6-16). Without the help of the Holy Spirit, spiritual messages (the Word, the message of the cross) cannot be received. It is like a radio that cannot tune in and receive what has been transmitted. Until the Holy Spirit opens the spiritual ears (through regeneration) a person cannot hear the gospel. Oh, they can hear it (sound waves hitting their ears) but cannot understand and believe it.
“Human ears cannot hear high-frequency radio waves; deaf men are unable to judge music contests; blind men cannot enjoy beautiful scenery, and the unsaved are incompetent to judge spiritual things, a most important practical truth.” [Note: S. Lewis Johnson, “1 Corinthians.” In The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, p. 1233.]