Bible reading for Feb 1: Genesis 33; Mark 4.
"There he erected an altar and called it El-Elohe-Israel." (Gen 33:20)
Naming places. You've noticed by now that when people encounter God in the Old Testament they often give the place a name. They may name a well, erect a stone memorial, or build an altar. Hagar names a well, "the God who sees" (16:14); Abram names the mount of sacrifice, "the Lord will provide" (22:14); Isaac names a well, "God has made room for us" (26:22); and Jacob names the place of his dream, Bethel ("house of God")(28:19), and the place of his wrestling with God, Peniel ("the face of God")(32:30). Here Jacob builds an altar to God and calls it "God, the God of Israel." Giving names to sites was a way to recognize God's providence and to proclaim something about his character.
Jesus, God's Son, is the place where all the attributes of God are fully manifested. He himself is the place where God's kindness, holiness, mercy, grace, and deliverance is revealed. It is also good for us to recognize places in our lives where God has answered our prayers or intervened in some remarkable way.
Do you and I recognize the providential dealings of God in our lives? Do we recognize and name them for what they are? Do we recognize these dealings as ways God reveals his nature and character to us? Do we name this or that event in our lives as "here was God's wisdom" or "God has shown kindness to me" or "here his power delivered me" or "the Lord had mercy on me there"?
"Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you." (Mark 4:24)
The four soils (Mark 4). I have used this passage many times in follow-up sessions, especially to help younger Christians understand the dynamics of Christ's kingdom. They need to know there will be temptations to be inattentive to God's word, or to give up when things get hard, or to get tangled up with the anxieties of this age. People can have hard hearts, shallow hearts, or thorny hearts in dealing with God and his word. Fruitfulness is the goal. I would ask, which of these soils best represents your heart right now?
As Jesus gives parables about the Kingdom, he tells them to "pay attention". Note what follows. He says, "let us go across to the other side" (v. 35). Now it seems that every time the disciples embarked on the sea of Galilee they were tested! And sure enough, in the storm they panicked and said, "don't you care that we are perishing?" Jesus answered, "Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?" In other words they hadn't been paying attention to what Jesus has been saying. If he said they were going across to the other side, then that was where they were going. They were not going to drown. Sometimes we get in a panic, calling on God, when what we need to do is to think through what the Lord has said, and to let that truth take root deep in our hearts.
Image credit, above: memorial stones, by Shutterstock. Below, photo of Sea of Galilee, by Dave Herring / Unsplash.
We are following the Robert Murray M'Cheyne (RMM) two-year reading schedule, as arranged by D. A. Carson. A PDF copy is available here.
Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.