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bible reading feb 4

Bible reading for Feb 4:  Genesis 37; Mark 7.

Then he dreamed another dream and told it to his brothers and said, "Behold, I have dreamed another dream. Behold, the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me." (Gen 37:9)

Review: Gen 1-11 covers mainly four events: creation, fall, flood, Babel.  Gen 12-50 covers mainly four persons: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph. 

Enter Joseph (Gen 37).  The rest of Genesis will largely be taken up with Joseph.  He is exemplary in his character, and a man who believes God, a man of integrity.  Note the contrast between the sexual integrity of Joseph in chapter 39 and the immorality of Judah in chapter 38.  Though not in the direct physical line leading to Messiah, Joseph is a "type" (a foreshadowing) of Christ: he is a beloved son, rejected by his brethren, thrown into a pit (a kind of death); he serves, is vindicated, and is exalted to the highest position of the land, not only over his kinsman but over the gentiles.  In this position he forgives those who rejected him, becomes a blessing to his relations, and preserves the family lineage. He is one of the few biblical characters who is portrayed without a serious moral defect. It may seem that he was boasting when he told about the dreams he had, but if in fact they were from God, as they were, then it's truth, and they came to pass. I don't think he was boasting. 


"' vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.' You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men." (Mark 7:7-8)

The tradition trap (Mark 7).  Traditions can be good if it is remembered what they were good for.  Often God's people will make an application of a biblical principle, but over time that application takes on the authority of the principle itself.  Or, a sacred tradition can become a way to avoid obeying God in something else plainly commanded.  Outward worship, or saying and doing religious things, can be a way of not dealing with heart issues.  This is a subtle trap that religiously-observant people can easily fall into.  Sin and defilement then are viewed primarily as a matter of unacceptable behavior.      

What then defiles us?  On the topic of what defiles people, Jesus is very plain: "For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person."  (7:21-23)  It is too easy to look at appearance, and not address the heart. This chapter shows that, though the gospel comes to Israel first, -- "let the children be fed first" (7:27) -- it will soon expand beyond those borders.  Jesus heals a child in Tyre to the northwest of Israel, and he heals a deaf man in the Decapolis to the east.  [See the map below.] Both of these areas would be filled with people that religious Jews would say, "they don't deserve grace." But then again, who does?  And isn't that the point of grace? 

Contradictions or variations?  You will notice that Jesus' words to the Syrophoenician woman in Mark 7 aren't precisely what Matthew reports (Matt 15:21-28).  This is rather common in the gospel accounts. These are variations, not contradictions.  Jesus was speaking in Aramaic and our gospels are written in NT Greek.  So there may have been variation in how to translate certain words.  Also, Jesus's actual conversation may have been longer and each gospel writer would have used that which was best for their gospel.  As well, sometimes paraphrase may have been used if the meaning was not changed. (There were no quotation marks in NT Greek.)  Sometimes clarification might be needed -- for example, when Luke records "blessed are the poor", Matthew may have written "poor in spirit" to make sure his readers knew that Jesus did not mean that merely being money-poor was the way you inherited the kingdom.  Also, some of Jesus' similar messages may have been given on more than one occasion and there may have been variations in those statements.  So any of these would account for legitimate variations in the gospel record. Bottom line: we have the following promise from our Lord Jesus, and this is our confidence: 

"Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away." (Mark 13:31) 
For more information on this topic, check out "Are there contradictions in the Gospels?"

And, "Were the Gospel writers reporting or creating the words of Christ?" by Norm Geisler, here.

And finally, here's a book I recommend: The Historical Reliability of the Gospels, by Craig L. Blomberg (IVP Academic, 2nd ed., 2007). 

Image credit, above: "Joseph's Dreams" by Shoshannah Brombacher (New York, 2008). Courtesy  At right, ESV Bible map. 

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.


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