Bible reading for Jan 30: Genesis 31; Mark 2.
"I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar and made a vow to me. Now arise, go out from this land and return to the land of your kindred." (Gen 31:13)
So, you think your family is dysfunctional? (Gen 31) The Bible is painfully straightforward in showing all the warts of family life, whether of saints or sinners. Deception, possessiveness, envy, and manipulation can fragment any family. Jacob has met his match in his uncle Laban -- twenty years worth -- and now, while Laban is off shearing sheep, it's time to get out of Dodge. Meanwhile, Rachel steals the family's household idols. (I'm not making this up.) Laban and his gang overtake Jacob's caravan, but violence was quelled when God warned Laban in a dream not to say anything "either good or bad" to Jacob (31:24).
Don't touch my little gods. These gods [Heb., teraphim] were table-top idols a family would keep at home. Laban is more upset about losing these, it seems, than losing his grandchildren. Though Laban spoke of the covenant God in public (24:31) he hedged his bets with pocket deities at home to insure good luck, good crops, and healthy flocks. This theft was not Jacob's doing, and his defense in 31:36-42 shows that Jacob not only trusts in the one true God, but that he has grown in maturity and patience. A covenant is made, and Jacob's family is free at last to return to the promised land.
What we learn: idolatry will always bring about strife, because we must fight to protect the things that give us a sense of security, autonomy, and pleasure apart from God. But when we serve the Lord above all else, we realize that he has our back (and front, and beneath, and above) and he can never be lost, nor will he ever forsake us. "Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.' So we can confidently say, 'The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?'" (Heb 13:5-6)
"And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, 'My son, your sins are forgiven.'" (Mark 2:5)
Christ's authority in teaching, healing, and deliverance is generally well-received in his earlier ministry. In chapter 2 we see two claims of authority which will cause increasing opposition throughout the rest of his ministry: the authority to forgive sins, and authority over the Sabbath. The reason is, both of these prerogatives belong to God alone.
He is the Lord who forgives (2:5, 10). Jesus did not come merely to heal people's bodies. His power to heal was a sign, a pointer from the lesser to the greater (2:9-11), that he came to heal our greatest and deepest problem, which is our soul-sickness, sin. He explained it further, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners" (2:17). He didn't come just to patch up old Judaism, but to accomplish something new (2:18-22).
He is Lord of the Sabbath (2:28). The Sabbath was given to mankind that we might rest and reflect. The seventh day was set apart to rest from work, and to reflect on the the goodness of God. The Pharisees made so many rules about Sabbath observance that a person could hardly rest or reflect due to all the regulations and stipulations. God gave the Sabbath (Gen 2), and it was a covenant sign between the Lord and Israel (Ex 31). And so, in claiming to be the Lord of the Sabbath, Jesus is saying that he has a divine right over the Sabbath and its observance. This, of course, like the authority to forgive sins, will bring conflict with the religious leaders.
Image above: Christ cleanses a leper, a Byzantine mosaic, from Wikimedia Commons.
We are following the Robert Murray M'Cheyne (RMM) two-year reading schedule.
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.