Thursday, February 2, 2017

Daily Reading: Day 2

February 2, 2017: Genesis 4-6Matthew 2

Today's passages contain words of death and words of life. In a world where violence and death are headline news, these particular chapters might not be as shocking to us. A brother killing his brother over jealousy; a man ordering the mass murder of infants; perhaps these don't shock us as they should. Yet, there is a light even in the darkest of passages, because all scripture points us to the redeeming light of Christ.

Genesis 4

The tale of Cain and Able is familiar to most of us. This particular story has been told throughout the generations as a cautionary tale. If you don't give to God what is best, something bad will happen. Or at least that's the way I was taught. 
What is the moral or lesson of the story of Cain and Able in your thinking? How did you come to this conclusion?
Cain and Able both brought gifts to the Lord, but Cain's was not pleasing. The writer of this passage points out that Able brought from the first-lings of his flocks while Cain brought "some" of the fruit of the ground. Able gave from the best, the first, with no guarantee of more to come after. Cain gave from his abundance. I think that is why Able's offering was preferable. Able honored God with his best and Cain fulfilled an obligation.
Cain calls his brother away to the field and then kills him. This is not a fit of passion, it is pre-meditated murder. When God asks Cain about it, he lies. A very human response. My 8 year old's first response to everything these days seems to be a lie, even when it is not an issue of any real consequence.
Why do you think Cain did what he did? How have you responded when confronted with your sin?
God sends Cain away from his family to a life of toil and difficulty. But even in punishment God offers mercy. God gives Cain a mark that will prevent him from being killed and also says that if he is killed he will be avenged seven times over. What follows is a genealogy of the sons of Cain. We learn that Cain finds a wife and has children. Six generations of descendants are listed. Lamech is mentioned here as one who has killed a man for hitting him. The violence in this side of the family tree seems to run deep. After killing this young man Lamech proclaims that he will be avenged seventy-seven times over. 
What might the significance be in telling this story of Lamech? What does it tell us about the state of humanity?
At the end of this chapter we are returned to Adam and Eve, whom God has blessed with another son. After loosing both sons to violence Adam and Eve are given hope in Seth. I struggle with the replacement attitude I read in these words. I don't think a new child can replace the one you have lost. Perhaps, however, this new child rather than replacing Able, replaces some of the hopelessness Eve and Adam had carried. 

Genesis 5

Another genealogy! This one lists the generations of Adam through his son Seth. Note that Seth was made in Adam's image. Given that humanity was made in God's image I find this statement interesting. Perhaps it means that Seth behaved like Adam, or looked like Adam, or was just the opposite of Cain? 
This chapter tells us about the generations of men in Adam's family and their very long lives!
These accounts have people living 300 years, 800 years, 900 years. They say men became fathers at 105 years of age and at 62. These generations did not count time by the Gregorian Calendar, but by any standards these are exceptionally long lives.
Why point out the length of the lives of these men? What do their long lives mean to you?
I find it interesting that Enoch "walked with God and then was no more because God took him." Does this mean Enoch didn't die, but was taken up by God? Does this mean that Enoch's death was different from other men's s because of his walking with God? Something to ponder.
Lamech is the name given to Noah's father. Interesting that these two families would both have descendants named Lamech. This Lamech, however is not a man of violence, but a man of God. When his son is born he proclaims that Noah will bring relief to his people. Lamech lives 777 years. Seven is a number of great importance in the scripture. It is the number of days of creation, and it will repeat over and over again. It is commonly seen as a sign of perfection or blessing. This Lamech lived a very blessed life.
What things do you see as a sign of God's blessing? 

Genesis 6

Chapter 6 begins by telling us that humanity has become wicked. This should come as no surprise after reading about the behavior of Cain's descendants. There is such vile behavior that God decides to start again. This is a picture of a grieving God, one who mourns the loss of the good creation as it started. 
The lesson of Noah and the Ark has been taught so many times and so many ways. I find that for me it is ultimately a story of God's grace. God did not want humanity to continue on its path to ruin, and so God provided a way of salvation. 
I will leave debates about the scientific evidence for and against this event to others. I will state that the story gives us insight into a God who loves creation and refuses to completely give up on the good that was created.
How do you feel about the building of the ark? What questions do you have about this part of scripture?

Matthew 2

Jesus has been born to Mary and Joseph. We as readers are the swept away from the birth to view wise-men traveling form afar. These men (the number is not given) are following a star that tells the good news of the birth of a new king in Israel. 
I have always found these men to be a source of interest. They watched the stars for signs of God's actions on earth. They were not Jewish, yet they were learned enough to know some of what the prophets had said about a Messiah.While there they learn that the Messiah is to come from Bethlehem, and are sent on their way to find him.
What do you think about those outside of the Jewish faith being the first to respond to the birth of the Messiah? What points might Matthew be making by including these foreign-born men?
The caravan of wise men locate Jesus and bring him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. (If you get the opportunity, or are curious, look up these last two items. They are both very popular today in the world of essential oils.) Warned by a dream they return home without visiting Herod.Warned in a dream, Joseph takes his small family to Egypt to live as refugees in a land that once oppressed them. 
Does God still communicate through dreams? 
How might this change how you view dreams?
Herod's response to the wise-men's hasty exit is beyond disturbing to me. The fact that someone would fear so much the loss of power that they would order the execution of infants 2 years and younger, is sickening. This also brings to mind the story of Moses, where Pharaoh ordered all male children 2 and under to be killed so that the Israelite community would cease to grow. Moses was saved and the led his people to salvation. Matthew sets Jesus in the same role.
After a time Joseph learns of Herod's death and brings his family back to the promised land. But again, warned in a dream, they do not return to Bethlehem, instead settling in Nazareth. 

Thoughts

Both of these passages speak of horrific violence and death. Too often I think we read them as prescriptive instead of descriptive. I don't believe God caused or planned for these events to occur. I do however think God's will is not thwarted by the evil done by man or other causes. God's good and perfect will is played out in the lives of humanity, even when sin and death try to change God's course.
How do you view God's action in your life? Where have you witnessed God circumventing circumstance?

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