Day 30

Exodus 10 gives us a reason why God is still telling Moses to go to the Pharaoh. Despite all the plagues Egypt has suffered, the Pharaoh will not let the Israelites leave. Under God’s instruction, Moses brings forth a plague of locusts which eat every plant not already destroyed by the hail storm. God tells Moses that he has done all these things (10:1) “… so I can display my miraculous signs among them.”

But the Pharaoh is still stubborn. There is a plague of darkness, but still the Pharaoh refuses. It’s building up to a final confrontation between God and the Pharaoh. Moses is simply a player here. As Joseph was!

Finally, Exodus 12. And the first Passover. The Israelites are given specific instructions on how to prepare a feast and to paint their doors with the blood of the sacrificial animal. God moves through the land and strikes dead every firstborn. From the lowliest servant to the Pharaoh himself. Even the livestock are not spared. In every family, the firstborn is struck down in this plague of death. But the sign of blood on the doors of the Israelites acts as a sign and God passes over their homes.

In Matthew 20, Jesus is telling his followers another parable. It’s the one about the landowner and the workers in the field. All the workers are paid the same at the end of the day. Even the ones who only joined in the work an hour before the end of the day. The imagery is obvious. God is the landowner, the disciples are the workers. All Christians will be treated equally on judgement day. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been Archbishop for 80 years or a tea maker at the City Centre food kitchen for one night.

Once again, Jesus’ disciples miss the point. The mother of James and John even has the cheek to ask for a reservation for her sons. Jesus reminds them that (20:26) “… whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave.” Jesus wasn’t here for himself. And his disciples should know that too!

Psalm 25 talks about choosing the right path. It’s not easy! Sometimes we need God to show us which is the right path. (25:4) “… point out the road for me to follow.”

Proverbs 6 has moved on from giving financial advice. But it’s a warning about people who need (6:10) “A little extra sleep, a little more slumber…” because (6:11) “… poverty will pounce on you…” And how will you defend yourself while you are asleep?

And on that note, I’m off to bed.

Day 29

Exodus 8 and 9 tell of the Egyptian plagues. The Pharaoh is refusing to let the Israelites go. Moses is commanded by God to tell the Pharaoh that Egypt will be afflicted. Frogs, gnats, flies, the death of the livestock, festering boils and finally devastating hail storms. At first, the magicians try to show that they have the same powers, but they fail. Even after the Pharaoh has let Moses take his people (who have not been plagued) out into the wilderness to pray, he still refuses to let them leave Egypt.

Matthew 19:14 is one of the better known of Jesus’ commandments: “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.”

He’s said this before, hasn’t he? We need to be like children. They take things at face value and are without the sarcasm and irony which afflicts modern adults. It’s an Old Testament plague, isn’t it? Have you given someone a genuine compliment lately? Have you told someone how you feel?

“Hi! How are you?” [Please don’t ask. I’m having a bad day but I want to keep it to myself.]

“Oh, fine, how are you?” [My pain is a bit worse today. But I don’t want to burden you. In any case, I’m too busy. I wish you’d never asked.]

“Great, thanks. Bye!” [I almost told them how I am really feeling. Shame I didn’t have more time.]

[Wish I’d said…]

[Wish I’d said…]

Today’s Matthew reading finishes with some difficult words. Jesus tells a rich man that he must give up everything he owns to find treasure in heaven. The disciples are told that they will rule over the twelve tribes of Israel (a rare direct connection with the earlier reading).

He finishes with these words (19:30) “…The greatest now will be the least [when the world is made new]… The least important will be the greatest…”

So don’t be complacent of assuring your place in heaven. It’s something we need to keep working at.

Psalm 24 is one of my favourites. It’s a hymn, but I can’t remember which one at the moment. Perhaps you could let me know? “The Earth is the Lord’s and everything in it.” Who may climb up to heaven? Only the pure.

Proverbs 6 is a bit of a strange one after the readings above. The theme seemed to be clear: be like a child, pure of heart. But then this reading is instructing us in financial advice. Don’t cover a friend’s debt. You will be caught by what you have said. Erase your name from the deed, and don’t rest until you have done it.

Sound advice, but what is it doing here? Don’t tell me: the Bible isn’t just the word of God on matters concerning the spirit. It’s a guide book for sound living too.

Day 28

As the year goes on, certain dates will come and go. January the first was obviously an important date. But today, January the 28th, is one which means a lot to me. It was on this day in 1986 that the space shuttle Challenger exploded just after launch and the crew of seven were killed. I am a keen follower of everything to do with space and spaceflight. I had been reading a lot about this mission, particularly because one of the astronauts was a school teacher. It would have been the first time a private citizen had travelled into space on-board the shuttle.

I was completely devastated when Challenger was destroyed. I felt I knew the crew, especially Christa McCauliffe the teacher. I took the loss very hard and struggled to come to terms with it. They died doing what they believed in. But they knew the risks and accepted them. If the crew died and there was no God and no  heaven, what was the point in the mission? Slowly, as the weeks passed, that old familiar voice that occasionally whispers in my ear made itself heard again.

If there *was* a God and a heaven, then the crew died for a reason. Their mission would go on, just in a different place that’s all. I took comfort in knowing that they lived and died for a purpose. God knows what that purpose is. Literally, God knows. And that should be good enough for me. I still struggled, and took it out on God. And that’s OK, because he understands.

I came out of this time with a firm belief that God exists. That Jesus has made a home for us in heaven. Because the alternative is to think that we are all here day after day with nothing at the end but empty darkness, and that is just to awful to accept. It means that our life here is meaningless and without a goal.

– – – – – –

In today’s readings, we have Exodus 5, 6 and 7. Moses is still having problems with his own people and his pleas to the Pharaoh fall on deaf ears. God tells Moses to show Pharaoh the miracles he has been given. Moses turns his staff into a snake. So do the Pharaoh’s magicians. But Moses’ snake eats the others. Then Aaron, under Moses instructions, strikes the river with the staff and the water turns into blood. Not just the river, but the reservoirs too. It becomes undrinkable and the fish die. But the magicians turn some water into blood and the Pharaoh remains unimpressed. If Moses is going to convince the Pharaoh he will have to try harder.

in Matthew 18, Jesus tells Peter (us!) that we must forgive people who sin against us. Not just seven times, but Seventy times seven! The point he is making is clear. If someone does us wrong, we should forgive them unreservedly and completely. It’s really difficult to do this, but we should try. If you refuse to forgive from your heart, you’re heading for trouble. In Jesus’ parable, the man is sent to prison and tortured until he had paid his debt.

Matthew 19 is not very trendy. It’s one of those times when the interpretation of the passage is open to question. And quite rightly. Only be studying the difficult bits can we be sure we are reading the true word of God. (19:3) “Some Pharisees asked him, ‘Should a man be allowed to divorce his wife?’ (8) Jesus replied, ‘Moses permitted divorce only as a concession to your hard hearts… whoever divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery – unless his wife has been unfaithful.'”

So divorce is a sin? In today’s society, it is not thought to be a sin. In fact, there are couples who would benefit from being divorced. How can we reconcile this? Is it easier to just ignore the bits of the Bible that don’t fit our view of things? Don’t be so hasty. Look back at chapter 18. Divorce may be a sin, but it’s a forgivable sin. 49 times forgiven! And anyone who does not forgive is going to be tortured in the private prison of his own heart.

Psalm 23. The Lord is my Shepherd. A lovely psalm, and probably the best known one. I won’t comment on it here.

And Proverbs 5 continues with a line which backs up what I said earlier. (5:22) “An evil man is held captive by his own sins…”

Don’t worry about the wrongdoings of others. Forgive them. They’ll get what they deserve in time.

So that’s 8% of the Bible done. Almost a tenth of the way through. I’m really enjoying getting stuck into Genesis and now Exodus. And Jesus’ parables mean so much more when read in context. I’m still finding it difficult to squeeze this time into my day, but it is starting to become routine.

But has God spoken to me yet?

I don’t know. Maybe…

Day 27

Exodus 4 continues the story of Moses. He wasn’t always the confident leader. In this chapter is repeatedly tells God that he lacks the qualities that a leader should have. God gives him three signs. He’s already given Moses his name. But still Moses has doubts.

God gives him a staff that turns into a snake, a curable incurable skin disease and the ability to turn river water into blood. Finally in verse 14, God becomes angry with Moses and gives him Aaron (his brother) to be Moses’ spokesman.

Moses returns to Egypt to deal with the Pharaoh who is mistreating the Israelites. But first there’s one of those curious Old Testament paragraphs that don’t seem to make sense. (4:24-26) The Lord threatens to kill Moses. But Moses’ wife circumcised her son. She touches his feet with the blood and God leaves them alone.

What’s all THAT about? It’s symbolic, obviously. The circumcision was a promise that Abraham made way back in Genesis 17:10. So: Moses own son had not been “done”? But why would God threaten to kill Moses because of this? And why did his wife do that with the blood?

Exodus 5 and things are getting worse in Egypt. The Pharaoh now orders the Israelite brick makers to find their own straw to make bricks. Up to now, they’ve had the straw brought to them. Not only that, but  they have to make the same number of bricks per day. (5:17) “But Pharaoh shouted, ‘You’re just Lazy! Lazy!’…” And the Israelites take out their frustrations on Moses and Aaron.

In Matthew 18, Jesus gives us some lovely verses about how to treat children. But he’s not talking about children, is he? Well, not JUST children. A child is someone who trusts and believes instinctively. They are pure and sinless. Can we be like children? It’s not easy with all the temptations around us everyday. But Jesus understands this, (18:7) “… Temptations are inevitable, but what sorrow awaits the person who does the tempting.” So it’s not us who need to worry, it’s the ones who tempt us. If we can stay away from evil, we will be like children.

Psalm 22 continues the prayer for guidance. It’s more like a plea than a prayer. (22:20) “Save me from the sword; spare my precious life from these dogs.” The Psalm finishes with words of encouragement that the future lies with the children, and even those as yet unborn. Remember what Jesus said? Children are pure and without sin. And that’s the future.

Proverbs 5 continues its comparison of sin as a wicked woman. So who can you trust? Your own wife, obviously. She is not wicked! And that famous line: (5:15) “Drink only from your own well…” You know what happens when people are temped to drink from somewhere else?

Don’t you just love these Old Testament analogies? If only I could work out the one about Moses and his son…

Day 26

So, I’m back on track after that confusing weekend. This IS Day 26 on day 26!

Exodus 2 gets straight into the action with Moses now a grown man. Have I missed a day? No! We have jumped straight from the baby in the bulrushes to the man on a mission. The Israelites, still living in Egypt, are having a miserable time. This new Pharaoh wants to make life as difficult for them as possible. Moses kills an Egyptian who was beating up one of Moses’ people, so he flees to nearby Midian. There he meets a priests’ daughter by a water well. He saves her and her sisters from a bunch of shepherds. Her father is so grateful he invites Moses to stay for tea. Well, some time later, Moses marries the woman called Zipporah. They have a son, Gershom. The years pass and even thought the Pharaoh died, the Israelites are still being forced into slavery.

Exodus 3 and Moses meets God. It’s the burning bush story. The line that stood out for me here is when Moses asks God for proof. He wants to know God’s name. (3:14) “I Am Who I Am”, which translates as YHWH (Yahweh) or Jehovah. As Christians we have one God in three persons, which is very confusing for some.

I can recommend a short story by Arthur C. Clarke “The Nine Billion Names of God”, which asks the question: what would happen if mankind found out what God was really called? The interesting thing is that Clarke was a life-long agnostic (or atheist anyway) and this story supposes that there really IS a God. But here, in the Bible is the answer to that question. He is who he is, YHWH (Yahweh) or Jehovah, or The Lord, or…

How important is a name? Well, it turns out that names are very important. Only today I had to sign a legal document. But I don’t have a passport (gasp!) and I don’t have a photo driving license (another gasp!) and all our household bills are in my wife’s name. So, legally, I don’t exist. Moses needed God’s name as proof of HIS identification. Otherwise, the Pharaoh would just have him killed.

Matthew 17 is uncomfortable reading for Jesus’ disciples. A man’s son is suffering seizures. The disciples have tried to cure him, but to no avail. Jesus calls them, (17:17) “Faithless and corrupt…” He is clearly annoyed and probably exasperated too. Despite everything they’ve seen, the feeding of the crowds, the boat on the lake, the untold hundreds healed… they STILL don’t have enough faith! After healing the boy, he tells them that even faith as small as a mustard seed would move a mountain.

Psalm 22 is a cry to the Lord for help. And what a surprise. The verses here are the ones spoken by Jesus on the cross. (22:1) “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” and the tortures described by the writer are those suffered by Jesus just before and during his crucifixion. We will return to this Psalm later. But for now, what is the significance of it’s inclusion here, today? Do you feel alone, lost, abandoned? The Lord is not far away. You need to keep the faith. You know, that thing that’s smaller than a full stop. Or a mustard seed.

Proverbs 5 continues with a warning to stay away from the immoral woman. Who is she? How can we recognise her? If we assume the writer isn’t speaking literally, it could be a warning to stay away from corruption. Which appears in many tempting forms. (5:8-11) “Stay away from her! Don’t go near the door of her house! If you do… strangers will consume your wealth… you will groan in anguish when disease consumes your body.”

But it’s never too late. The Israelites suffered years of torment before God stepped in to save them. You just need to keep the faith.

Day 24 (but the same day as “Day 25”!)

It’s not time travel, it’s just me being easily confused. When I started to write the Day 25 blog, it was already after midnight. That meant that my Bible app (You Version) had already clicked over to Day 25. So I read it, commented and switched off. Only then did I realise that I had missed a day! So here is Day 24. On the twenty fifth day!

Genesis 48 and Jacob is failing. Joseph’s two sons (born to an Egyptian woman) are blessed and Jacob claims them as his own kin. So the land Abraham got (Canaan) now becomes their homeland too.

Genesis 49 and Jacob grown weaker. He calls his sons and their families and blesses each one. In fact, what we are given as readers is a potted history of the sons and what they will become. He gives his final instructions and (49:33) “… joined his ancestors…”.

Matthew 15 is a bit confusing for me, having read these two days out of order. There’s a hill. Jesus is speaking to the crowd and it gets late. Who will feed them? Well the disciples don’t have a clue. Have they forgotten already? This time it’s seven loaves and a few fish. This time 4000 people were fed and there were seven baskets left over. And after they’ve had supper, Jesus sends them all home. He could have done that before they ate. He could have done, but he didn’t. He wanted to feed them. Again. Why? Are we the hungry crowd or the confused disciples?

I’m definitely confused today, but a bit hungry too. Jesus is feeding our spirits with wisdom and knowledge. Can we set aside our doubts and eat until we are full? Or are we too busy questioning it all?

In Matthew 16 the Pharisees are trying to catch him out again. They demand a miracle. He says they say they can predict tomorrow’s weather, but they can’t interpret the sign of the times. What does this mean? To take what is before you and not demand proof? Or does Jesus mean something else entirely? To me, this means we should accept certain things as given. Question, by all means, and use the information we can discover. But it’s more important to live in the here and now rather than worry about tomorrow. It’s something which comes up a lot in the Bible and I think that’s what Jesus was saying to the Pharisees.

At the end of today’s reading from Matthew, Jesus has to spell out to his disciples what he has just done because they are so preoccupied by their lack of bread. (16:8) “Why are you arguing about having no bread? (11) Why can’t you understand I’m not talking about bread?” It’s is clearly spiritual food that he’s giving his disciples, and us!

Psalm 20 is an assurance that our prayers will be answered. The writer is praying for us, (20:1) “May the name of the God of Jacob keep you safe from all harm.”

I once watched a documentary about how the brain filters what we see and hear. There’s so much happening around us all the time that we need to ignore most of it. So (for example) arriving in a busy restaurant, your brain will exclude everything except your waiting dinner guest at the other side of the room. The intervening tables, the other diners, the waiters, the food and the sounds will all be filtered out. At that moment, as you stand there, only your guest is in your perception. The tables, etc will be unfiltered as you move to avoid you bumping into them.

Well Proverbs 4 is talking about that filtering process. But we need to apply it spiritually. (4:23) “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” (4:26) “Mark out a straight path for your feet; stay on the safe path.”

So that was Day 24, next it will be Day 26. I can do without this confusion. I should learn to concentrate more!

Day 25

A party tonight. So I wasn’t here to blog. My first failure. I didn’t want to miss a day, so even though it’s after midnight, here are my thoughts for Day 25 in brief.

Genesis 50 and the end of the first Bible book. I have a sense of sadness that the story ends with Joseph’s death. But the story of the Israelites  will continue…

Exodus begins with the birth of Moses. You know that familiar story of the baby in the bulrushes. What struck me was something I knew already, but it’s worth repeating: Moses was adopted my the princess. Was this the first recorded adoption? I have personal experience of the adoption process and what it means to take on someone else’s children as your own. It’s a huge commitment and one which the princess would not have done lightly.

Matthew 16 concludes with these words: (16:26) “What do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?” And Matthew 17 begins with the vision on the mountaintop. As Jesus is praying, there is a bright light and Moses and Elijah appear alongside him.

Psalm 21 is a celebration of the goodness of God. (21:13) “Rise up, O Lord, in all your power. With music and singing we celebrate your mighty acts.”

Proverbs 5 gives me a lovely verse to finish with, (5:2) “[Pay attention] … and your lips will express what you’ve learned.”

Which is what I’m doing here. I’m reading, thinking, learning and sharing. Even if it’s only a handful of words!

Now I’ll have to wait for later today to blog about Day 24! Are you confused yet?