To download the Bible reading plan that our faith family started on January 1st, visit this site. There is also a guide to personal worship that you can download from that site. If you haven’t been reading along thus far, no worries! Jump on in with the current day’s reading.

Readings for This Week
Genesis 43-49, Mark 13-16, & Luke 1-2

Where We Are In The Story ~ Old Testament (Genesis)

As the first book of the Bible, Genesis explains that God is the all-powerful Creator who cares about His creation even when they disobey Him, and it teaches that God takes evil and transforms it for His glory (Gen. 50:20). Written by Moses when Israel was wandering in the wilderness, Genesis 12-50 specifically emphasizes the development of the nation of Israel by focusing on their founding fathers – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

This week’s readings focus on the life of Joseph. His story is instructional in how it emphasizes obedience to God’s instructions, the contrast between the righteous and the wicked, the sovereignty of God in the midst of suffering, and the ultimate blessing of the righteous. Despite persecution from family, slavery, false accusations, and imprisonment, Joseph continues to profess faith in God and acts righteously. Genesis 50:20 provides the thesis of the entire book, for from the Fall to the life of Joseph, God continually demonstrates His sovereignty. Nothing happens outside of His knowledge or control. In Genesis 45, Joseph reiterates these truths as he tells his brothers that “God sent me” (Gen. 45:5, 7, 8, 9).

In Genesis 49, Jacob blesses his sons, identifying the twelve tribes of Israel (Gen. 49:28). Instead of there being a tribe of Joseph, Jacob named Joseph’s two sons Ephraim and Manasseh as recipients of his inheritance (Gen. 48:1-6). So Jesus received a double portion of inheritance, so his two sons would be equal to Joseph’s brothers. When doing the math, this adds up to thirteen tribes, but since the tribe of Levi was the priestly tribe and did not receive any inheritance of tribal land when Israel reached the Promised Land, this tribe is not typically included in the list of twelve. These prophecies from Jacob in Genesis 49 would remind his descendants of their history and their inheritance.

Included in the blessing of Genesis 49 is a prophecy regarding Judah. Although he was the fourth son of Jacob, he received his father’s blessing instead of his older three brothers because Reuben had slept with his father’s concubine (Gen. 35:22; 49:4) and because Simeon and Levi had murdered the male villagers after the defiling of their sister Dinah (Gen. 34; 49:5-7). The prophecies regarding Judah involve a line of kings (Gen. 49:10), and Matthew 1:3 and Luke 3:33-34 inform us that Jesus descended from the line of Judah. Genesis 49:11-12 depicts a time of plenty, for a foal tethered to a vine and garments washed in wine would only occur in a season of abundance and blessing. These descriptions apply to a golden age of rule by the line of Judah.

Where We Are In The Story ~ New Testament (Mark & Luke)

As the shortest and the earliest of the four Gospels, The Gospel of Mark focuses on Jesus’ identity, and Mark 1:1 introduces Him as human (“Jesus”), the Messiah (“Christ”), and the Son of God. Although Mark emphasizes Jesus’ identity, he consistently records Jesus silencing those who state Who He is. By focusing on this question of Jesus’ identity, Mark demonstrates Who Jesus is and how He fulfills the promises of the prophets.

Mark 8 presents a shift in this Gospel, for in Mark 8:31, Jesus begins teaching His followers about His purpose, death, and resurrection. Peter’s confession in Mark 8:29 reaffirms this Gospel’s theme – Jesus’ identity as the Christ, the Promised Messiah. Mark reiterates this declaration of Jesus’ identity at the climactic end of his Gospel when the centurion sees the death of Christ and proclaims, “’Truly this man was the Son of God!’” (Mk. 15:39).

In Mark 13, Jesus teaches about the end of the age and foretells of His death and resurrection, and Mark 14-15 details the Passover and His betrayal, arrest, trial, and death. Mark 16:1-8 tells of Jesus’ resurrection, and the remainder of the chapter (Mk. 16:9-20) is introduced by a statement saying, “some of the earliest manuscripts do not include 16:9-20.” How do we treat this portion of Scripture as well as another like it in John 8? Although Mark 16:9-20 expresses some content not otherwise found in Scripture, it does not alter our understanding of Jesus or contradict biblical truths. The reason for this note in our Bibles has to do with important early manuscripts (Vaticanus and Sinaiticus) not containing these passages, while other manuscripts do include them. Mark 16:9-20 was likely added by someone other than Mark because 16:8 presents an awkward and abrupt ending to Mark’s Gospel. While no doctrine is threatened by this passage, we must read it carefully and thoughtfully.

In Luke 1: 1-4, Luke explains why he wrote this book – for his friend Theophilus (and for us) to have certainty regarding the identity of Jesus and the beliefs that Christ-followers commit themselves to. While Matthew focuses on Jesus as the Promised Messiah and Mark emphasizes that He is the Son of God, Luke depicts Jesus as Savior. Even the name that Gabriel gives to Mary in Luke 1 points to this role, for Jesus’ name means “God saves.” The stories of John the Baptist and of Jesus as a child set the stage for the salvation theme of this Gospel. The prophecies fulfilled by John the Baptist indicate that he would be the forerunner for the Messiah, directing people to turn to the Lord (Lk. 1:16-17) and giving knowledge of salvation to the people (Lk. 1:77). Even the story about Jesus being presented in the Temple reveals that He was recognized as God’s salvation as an infant (Lk. 2:22-38).