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Week 05

Red Couch Theology Podcast

Sermon Conversations with Alex and Aaron

There’s only so much we can cover in a Sunday morning gathering!
Each week, you’re invited to tune into our podcast at 11 am on Thursdays – recorded (and sometimes prerecorded) for later, online viewing.

What can you expect? Pastors Alex, Aaron and the occasional guest, having a casual conversation diving deeper into ideas related to last Sunday’s teaching.

Ask questions about the sermon series, Sermon on the Mount,
“What Is Your Heart Language?”
at https://redcouchtheology.com/ or
by texting 720-316-3893 prior to, or during the “LIVE” podcast.

Blog sites:

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLCWnNSTN-6XA7oYy6TBfS0LAxqxPvxVjH

Apple Podcast: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/guys-drinking-tea/id1616539767

Red Couch Theology Podcast2023-10-08T15:05:39-06:00

God Desires Our Heart

For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:20 NIV

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:4-9 NIV *The Shema

* Sh’ma: literally means listen, heed, or hear and do (according to the Targum, accept).

Some may think that only the New Testament presents the idea that God desires a relationship with us. I have been impressed, intrigued and challenged by the many times the word “heart” occurs in the Bible and especially in the Old Testament. Often it is used in a way that describes an intimate relationship and dialogue between a person and the God of the Universe. Here are some examples:

But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul.
Deuteronomy 4:29 NIV

And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the LORD’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?

To the LORD your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it. Yet the LORD set his affection on your forefathers and loved them, and he chose you, their descendants, above all the nations, as it is today. Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer. For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing. And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt. Fear the LORD your God and serve him. Hold fast to him and take your oaths in his name. He is your praise; he is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes. Deuteronomy 10:12-21 NIV

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you. Save me from bloodguilt, O God, the God who saves me, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. Psalm 51:10-17 NIV

Do you see the relationship being cultivated between God and man in these verses? When the Bible speaks of the heart, it is not talking about the physical muscle that beats and pumps blood throughout our bodies, keeping us alive. Instead, it is referring to “the center of the human spirit, from which spring emotions, thought, motivations, courage and action”. * Proverbs 4:23 advises us “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”

* NIV study Bible text note on Psalm 4:7 1985 edition

Of course, the New Testament presents this idea as well. Je.sus quotes the Jewish “Shema” in Matthew 22:37-40 in answer to the question of “which is the greatest commandment?” He also talked of the connection between the heart and our words and actions in Matthew 12:34-35,

“You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.”

I believe the God of the Universe desires our hearts, souls, minds and bodies to be in a living breathing relationship with Him. Amazing! Look at what
Ezekiel said:

I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. Ezekiel 36:25-27

Think of how the Lord Almighty has always desired a relationship with His creation. Think of how He provided the way for that to occur as you pray the Lord’s prayer today. If you want to study some other heart verses, here are some good ones to read, meditate on and pray over: Joshua 22:5, I Samuel 16:7,
I Chronicles 28:9, Psalm 73:26, Psalm 119:2, 10, 36, 58, 69, 161, Lamentations 2:19, Ezekiel 11:18-20, Joel 2:12-13, Acts 1:24, 15:8, 16:14, Romans 10:9-10, Hebrews 4:12
.

God Desires Our Heart2023-10-08T15:12:09-06:00

Pharisees, Sadducees and Scribes

Lo, I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of parents to their children and the hearts of children to their parents, so that I will not come and strike the land with a curse. Malachi 4:5-6 NRSV

Four hundred years passed between Malachi, the last prophet in the Old Testament, and the events recorded in Matthew, leaving a conspicuous gap in Israel’s relationship with the Lord.

In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea,
proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said,

“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord;
make his paths straight.’ ” Matthew 3: 1-3 NRSV

Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

“Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—
the people who sat in darkness
have seen a great light,
and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death
light has dawned.”

From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” Matthew 4:12-17 NRSV

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:17-20 NRSV

Three groups of people opposed Jesus: the scribes, the Pharisees and the Sadducees.

The Sadducees and the Pharisees are both mentioned in Matthew 3:7 when they came to be baptized by John.

The Sadducees were wealthy, religious, elite people who served as priests in the temple. They were firmly committed to the Torah (the first 5 books of the Bible). They did not believe in the resurrection, life after death or prophecy. They were politically involved with the Roman leaders.

The Scribes knew the law and the prophets well, as they did the copying of the scrolls that would have been used in the synagogues that spread around the country. They could teach the words, but their lives didn’t match what they said.

The Pharisees were conservative zealots of the middle class. They taught in the synagogues and they knew the law and the prophets well, but they, along with the scribes, had amended the law without regard to God’s concern for and care of the people.

On the Website, “gotquestions.org“, I found much history about what was happening to the Jews during those 400 years. I recommend checking out the intertestamental period.

As you continue this week, praying the Lord’s Prayer, imagine how each of these three Israeli groups would respond to Jesus telling them that this was how they should pray.

Pharisees, Sadducees and Scribes2023-10-08T08:20:00-06:00

Dismantle, Deconstruct, Dismiss?

“Do not suppose that I come to dismantle the Law or the Prophets. I do not come to dismantle but to fulfill. For truly I say to you until heaven and earth pass away, not one iota or letter stroke will ever pass away from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever loosens the least of one of these commandments and teaches the same of men, he will be called least in the kingdom from heaven. So, whoever does and teaches them, this one will be called great in the kingdom from heaven. For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses more than the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter into the kingdom from heaven.” Matthew 5:17- 20 ESV

The Beatitudes are the preface to the Sermon on the Mount and the above verses are the launching pad into Jesus’ explanation of portions of the Law and the Prophets that had become most convoluted by interpretations and practices of the scribes and Pharisees. Elsewhere Jesus calls those interpretations and practices the “traditions of men” (Mark 7:13 and Matthew 15:9).

Jesus rightly anticipated that his audience might misconstrue his statements, believing he intended to dismantle the “Establishment” religion to start his own sect. Jesus did not intend to deconstruct the foundations of faith found in the Law and the Prophets — he merely clarified what scribes and Pharisees had obfuscated. Instead he reinforced and built on the Old Testament (the selected and recorded revelations, interactions, and conversations Jesus had as the * preincarnate Messiah with those who followed him over the previous centuries.)

* John 1:15, I John 1:1-2, John 8:58, Colossians 1:17, Hebrews 1:1-11 and many other passages

In our era, the suggestion that Jesus was a revolutionary or a deconstructionist has gained traction. As prominent Church leaders follow that model, they almost always propose that the Old Testament is passe or should primarily be selectively gleaned for only its rich narratives.

Just recently, a visible American preacher –- apparently a cowboy –- said Jesus’ followers should “unhitch” themselves from the Old Testament. When trusted leaders so glibly dismiss Matthew 5:17- 20, it seems all too likely they are “grooming” their hearers to detach from culturally uncomfortable or unpopular subjects to replace them with the “traditions of men”.

Of course, dismantling, deconstructing and dismissing Matthew 5:17- 20 is not a recent development; the enemy of our souls has been infiltrating the Church since its inception.

Hopefully, you will take this introduction to the Sermon on the Mount as words of the Master Builder of our faith.

With Matthew 5:17- 20 in mind, continue ingesting the Lord’s Prayer.

…“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.”

Dismantle, Deconstruct, Dismiss?2023-10-07T12:30:50-06:00

Revelation, Interactions, and Conversations

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 5:17- 20

The phrase “the Law and the Prophets” was Jewish shorthand for what Jews call the * Tanach, the whole Old Testament. “Law” was a reference to Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament, and “the prophets” was a “placeholder” for all the rest of the Hebrew Bible. Christians call all of those writings the Old Testament.

* The Hebrew Bible is often known among Jews as TaNaKh, an acronym derived from the names of its three divisions: Torah (Instruction, or Law, also called the Pentateuch),
Neviʾim (Prophets), and Ketuvim (Writings).

In reading Matthew 5:17- 20, I’ve tried to grasp why Jesus seemed so passionate about the value of the Old Testament. When I was new to the faith, I heard Christians talk about the reliability and inerrancy of scripture. Some adherents have acted as if the “beloved” King James translation had been dropped down directly from heaven. That view unsettled me and propelled me onward in my search.

An insight emerged as the most convincing reason for Jesus’ passion for the Old Testament: It is the carefully chosen record of God’s revelation of himself brought about by personal interactions and conversations with his followers over the centuries prior to **Jesus’ incarnation as the Messiah. God has always entrusted his revelations to obedient followers who love him.

** John 8:58, Colossians 1:17, Hebrews 7:3 and many other passages.

Here is a New Testament statement that advances that idea:

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. Hebrews 1:1-3 ESV

This reverence that Jesus had for the Old Testament has been dismissed by more than a few charismatic leaders who believed they were appointed to begin a religious order that supersedes the Bible. Arguably, Muhammed, the founder of Islam, has been most successful in that regard.

A few years ago I encountered a book, Holy Books Have a History, by the scholar Keith E. Small. In that volume, Small shares his investigation of Muslims’ claims about the ultimate authority of the Qur’an. In Chapter 1 he compares those claims about how the Qur’an was delivered versus the way the Bible was written. He observes:

the Qur’an “presents the idea of a dictated book delivered by miraculous means to the prophet Muhammed from a heavenly original…while the Hebrew scriptures and the Christian scriptures…claim that they are the the writings of people on earth who were directed in their writing by God.”

In other words, the Qur’an claims its revelation to Muhammed was intact and basically untouched by human hands. while the tone and words of the Bible integrate the actions and thoughts of God with his people. ***

*** There is much more to say about how each Biblical author had his own style, but this is a short devotional.

As you pray the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-15 ESV) today, meditate on the plural nature of this prayer as well as its inclusive family language. Recognize that for nearly two thousand years this prayer has drawn the allegiance and sentiments of those faithful who were also devoted to the Old Testament.

…“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.”

Revelation, Interactions, and Conversations2023-10-07T12:46:01-06:00

Red Couch Theology

Sermon Conversations with Alex and Aaron

There’s only so much we can cover in a Sunday morning gathering!
Each week, you’re invited to tune into our podcast at 11 am on Thursdays – recorded (and sometimes prerecorded) for later, online viewing.

What can you expect? Pastors Alex, Aaron, and the occasional guest having a casual conversation, diving deeper into ideas related to last Sunday’s teaching.

Ask Questions about the Sermon Series, Out of the Ordinary – “The Lord Meeting With Us in the Ordinary Walks of Life”
by texting 720-316-3893 prior to, or during the “LIVE” Thursday podcast.

Blog sites:

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLCWnNSTN-6XA7oYy6TBfS0LAxqxPvxVjH

Apple Podcast: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/guys-drinking-tea/id1616539767

Red Couch Theology2023-07-18T13:53:26-06:00

The Lectionary for Ordinary Times, July 27

Introduction: For hundreds of years many Christian traditions have read passages of scripture using a tool called a lectionary. During this ordinary season, our devotional team decided to resource you with selections from the Revised Common Lectionary.

Source: the Revised Common Lectionary Year A

(Note. If you desire to read these passages in a different version of the Bible, this link will provide all the readings for week 5 in ESV in Bible Gateway where you may also choose other versions of these passages.)

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
13:24 He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field;

13:25 but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away.

13:26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well.

13:27 And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’

13:28 He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’

13:29 But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them.

13:30 Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.'”

13:36 Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.”

13:37 He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man;

13:38 the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one,

13:39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels.

13:40 Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age.

13:41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers,

13:42 and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

13:43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!

Spend some time enjoying this picture of the parable of the wheat and the tares. It begins on the left with the farmer, who is good and sows good seeds. If you garden you understand this emotion: it is easy to get deeply attached to the things you are growing, and deeply frustrated with the weeds that shoot up amongst them.

In the right side of the scene we watch the moment of the harvest when wheat and tares are separated. Our tendency might be to worry as to which we might be. Are we wheat or tares — good or bad? But that does not seem to be the heart of the parable.

At its heart, the parable encourages us:  to refuse the temptation in this life to judge others, to resist our tendency to make assumptions about those around us. It appears to be an encouragement that we should allow God to be the judge of all, in his good timing.

How do you see yourself in this parable? Which part of it do you identify with?

How are you tempted to judge those around you? What do you think the motivation for that is?

The Lectionary for Ordinary Times, July 272023-06-16T10:37:25-06:00

The Lectionary for Ordinary Times, July 26

Introduction: For hundreds of years many Christian traditions have read passages of scripture using a tool called a lectionary. During this ordinary season, our devotional team decided to resource you with selections from the Revised Common Lectionary.

Source: the Revised Common Lectionary Year A

(Note. If you desire to read these passages in a different version of the Bible, this link will provide all the readings for week 5 in ESV in Bible Gateway where you may also choose other versions of these passages.)

Romans 8:12-25
8:12 So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh —

8:13 for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

8:14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.

8:15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!”

8:16 it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God,

8:17 and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ–if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.

8:18 I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.

8:19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God;

8:20 for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope

8:21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

8:22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now;

8:23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.

8:24 For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen?

8:25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

The Lectionary for Ordinary Times, July 262023-07-15T13:03:09-06:00

The Lectionary for Ordinary Times, July 25

Introduction: For hundreds of years many Christian traditions have read passages of scripture using a tool called a lectionary. During this ordinary season, our devotional team decided to resource you with selections from the Revised Common Lectionary.

Source: the Revised Common Lectionary Year A

(Note. If you desire to read these passages in a different version of the Bible, this link will provide all the readings for week 5 in ESV in Bible Gateway where you may also choose other versions of these passages.)

Isaiah 44:6-8
44:6 Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god.

44:7 Who is like me? Let them proclaim it, let them declare and set it forth before me. Who has announced from of old the things to come? Let them tell us what is yet to be.

44:8 Do not fear, or be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? You are my witnesses! Is there any god besides me? There is no other rock; I know not one.

In this passage God declares his qualities! He is the first and the last! The only God!
Then he states that those who are equal should declare it. And there is no reply. He is the one true God.

In Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, he tells the religious leaders who object to his disciples’ celebrations and songs of worship, that if they were quiet the stones would cry out.

We are called to name God’s praiseworthy characteristics.

What part of God’s character are you thankful for? How would you praise Him today?
Take a walk, or sit outside and observe creation. Enjoy the macro (the sky and the ‘beyond’) and the micro (the tiniest movement). Sing praise to the God who made it all.

Psalm 86:11-17
86:11 Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart to revere your name.

86:12 I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.

86:13 For great is your steadfast love toward me; you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.

86:14 O God, the insolent rise up against me; a band of ruffians seeks my life, and they do not set you before them.

86:15 But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.

86:16 Turn to me and be gracious to me; give your strength to your servant; save the child of your serving girl.

86:17 Show me a sign of your favor, so that those who hate me may see it and be put to shame, because you, LORD, have helped me and comforted me.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

I have long loved the poem “The Road Not Taken”. I have noticed key moments in my life that seem to feel like a moment of choice. In those moments my prayer has reflected the words of Psalm 86:11. To paraphrase it in my own words might look like this:

God, give me wisdom to follow your path.

The Lectionary for Ordinary Times, July 252023-06-15T09:12:03-06:00

The Lectionary for Ordinary Times, July 24

Introduction: For hundreds of years many Christian traditions have read passages of scripture using a tool called a lectionary. During this ordinary season, our devotional team decided to resource you with selections from the Revised Common Lectionary. You will encounter texts from the Psalms, the Prophets, and the New Testament as well as formal prayers.

Source: the Revised Common Lectionary Year A

(Note. If you desire to read these passages in a different version of the Bible, this link will provide all the readings for week 5 ESV in Bible Gateway where you may also choose other versions of these passages.)

Genesis 28:10-19a
28:10 Jacob left Beer-sheba and went toward Haran.

28:11 He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place.

28:12 And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.

28:13 And the LORD stood beside him and said, “I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring;

28:14 and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring.

28:15 Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

28:16 Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place–and I did not know it!”

28:17 And he was afraid, and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”

28:18 So Jacob rose early in the morning, and he took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it.

28:19a He called that place Bethel; but the name of the city was Luz at the first.

When Isaac and Rebecca’s twins, Jacob and Esau, are born, Jacob is born gripping hold of his brother’s heel. Jacob is known as the deceiver, a name that he lives up to. He cheats his brother Esau out of his birthright (the physical gift given to an oldest son) and his blessing (the spiritual gift to an oldest son). Esau is furious and promises judgment.

Jacob the deceiver flees from his homeland towards the land of his mother. A journey of around 500 miles. Beersheba is located down by modern day Jerusalem, while Haran is in modern day Turkey. To put in today’s perspective, it would be like journeying from Littleton to Omaha, Nebraska, on foot. Jacob is terrified of Esau and wants to get as far away as possible.

In the midst of his terror inspired encounter, Jacob has his first encounter with God. He is leaving the promised land that God has led his forefathers to and yet the God of his father and grandfather meets with him anyway.

Have you experienced God in the midst of your own questionable choices? How has God surprised you?

Offer a prayer to the God of Jacob who meets runaways and deceivers with grace.

O God of Jacob, you speak in the light of day and in the dark of night
when our sleeping is filled with dreams of heaven and earth.
May Jacob’s vision remind us to be open and watchful,
ready to discover your presence in our midst. Amen.

Psalm 139:1-12, 23-24
139:1 O LORD, you have searched me and known me.

139:2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away.

139:3 You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways.

139:4 Even before a word is on my tongue, O LORD, you know it completely.

139:5 You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.

139:6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it.

139:7 Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence?

139:8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.

139:9 If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,

139:10 even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast.

139:11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night,”

139:12 even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you.

139:23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts.

139:24 See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Psalm 139 could be Jacob’s prayer of thanksgiving after his encounter with God in Genesis 28. It is a prayer of delight in new found revelation. A prayer that celebrates realization, the realization that you are known by God. Known and loved in spite of your flaws.

What are you glad God knows about you?
What part of your life do you need his gracious words over today?

Read the Psalm again and enjoy God’s good words over you.

The Lectionary for Ordinary Times, July 242023-06-15T09:09:17-06:00
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