Thursday, January 19, 2012

Sermon preview--Notes from a Scandal

We’re reading through the Bible chronologically this year, and right now we’re in Genesis. If this is your first time to read the Bible, you may find yourself wondering why certain passages are there. Why spend most of a chapter, for instance, giving us a long genealogy full of names of people we’ve never heard of? Don’t worry; the really confusing parts are still to come. In Exodus and Leviticus, you’ll get to read the entire Hebrew legal code, the instructions for building the tabernacle and the clothes that priests should wear, and the precise way each Jewish religious festival should be celebrated. The first four chapters of Numbers are nothing but lists of, well, numbers; how many people were in each Israelite tribe, to be exact. And there are several more genealogies to come, as well. You may find yourself wondering, “Why do I need to read this? What does this have to do with my life?” It’s helpful to remember that the Bible is not an instruction manual for life. It’s a revelation of who God is and how we can know Him through a record of His dealings with people just like us. It’s also helpful to remember that the Bible is inspired by God. Everything in it is very intentional, not just for us but for past generations. So when you come to one of these confusing parts of the Scripture, ask yourself, “What would this have meant to the people who first read it?” Then ask, “How does this fit into the overall plan of God in Scripture?” For example, those laws we’ll be reading soon were very important to the people who first read them. They were the only way for those original believers to know how to relate to God and live in a way that is pleasing to Him. Even though we don’t follow those laws or celebrate those festivals, we can still learn from them about God’s holiness and His desire for us to know Him. And the instructions for building the tabernacle may seem pointless to us, but once we get to the New Testament (especially Hebrews) we see that many of those details point directly to the person and work of Jesus Christ. They show us God didn’t send Jesus as some sort of emergency rescue mission; The redeeming, atoning Son of God was the plan all along.

The story we’ll look at this Sunday is one of those kinds of passages. Next week, you will read some amazingly entertaining, inspiring stories. Then you’ll get to Genesis 38. Quite frankly, this chapter doesn’t seem to fit. Genesis 37 is all about Joseph, a story familiar to many of us. Joseph is the favorite son of his father Jacob. He gets the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat while his brothers are all wearing Dickies overalls. Then his jealous brothers, miles from home, throw him in a well. They consider murdering him, but Judah comes up with a plan—let’s get rid of our brother AND make a profit. So they sell poor Joseph into slavery. They sling blood all over his spectacular coat so that their dad will think he’s been killed by a lion or bear. Meanwhile, Joseph becomes the slave of a high official in Egypt. And just when the story is getting good, just when we’re wondering if Joseph will ever see his father again, will ever get revenge on his brothers, all of sudden we get this bizarre and rather seedy story about Joseph’s brother Judah, the one who sold him into slavery. We read this story because it’s there, and frankly the seamy details are intriguing to our baser instincts, but it doesn’t make a lot of sense to us. In this message, we’ll see what possible reason God had for recording this scandalous story for all time. It tells us something about God—and about His plans for us—that we need to know...something that could change your life.


Makettles said...

I hope you will keep writing as you go along with the reading. You see I have tried many times to read from start to finish. The 'numbers' geneology always makes me feel like just turning to the gospels or psalms and stay with it. I may actually blog about it!!!! :)))About going back to the same old flavor everytime! Not trying new and challenging things!

Jeff Berger said...

That's what I'm planning on doing! Stick with those readings...we're all in this together.

Anonymous said...

I guess I am one of the few who actually enjoys reading the'begots'. As a beginner genealogist, I have developed a respect for the importance of all those who came before us and the recognition that God is able to use any of us, with all our faults, for His good. Past is a prelude to the future. I even enjoy reading the laws because it reminds me that we are under grace, not law.