Jan 23: Gen 38 | Psa 41-43 | Matt 25

Reading 1 - Gen 38

There is an intended, and striking parallel, and contrast, between this chapter and the next. Where the elder brother, Judah, free and at ease, had sinned (Gen 38), the younger Joseph, in bondage, remained sinless (Gen 39). In this Joseph typifies Jesus, tempted in all points like his less righteous brethren, yet without sin (Heb 4:15).


Reading 2 - Psa 42; 43

David and Christ: A Meditation on Psalms 42 and 43


His tired eyes had seen more than their share of troubles. Now they stared into the depths of murky Jordan; he saw mirrored there the turmoil of his own life. It had come to this: his own son and an army of his own men in hot pursuit of him. "The sword shall not depart from your house," Nathan had well said (2Sa 12:10). The young men were beside him now. "Arise and go quickly!" Must it always be so quick? He glimpsed the panorama of the years, the scenes tumbling over one another -- a shepherd boy in the hills of Judea, a bear and a giant, a jealous king, a beautiful woman, intrigue and murder, a wrathful prophet, sorrow and tears... and now an old man by a dark river. "Then David arose, and all the people that were with him, and they crossed the Jordan" (2Sa 17:22).


"As a hart longs for flowing streams, so longs my soul for thee, O God. I am as a hart, timid and fearful, as powerless as he to reach the pure underground streams of thy peace. When shall I return to your house, to behold your face again? Have I gone forth for the last time from 'the city of the great king'?


"Before thee, O God, my life is poured out as the blood of a sacrifice. Yet I remember still, what painful memories! Dancing with the throng, in joyful procession, with glad shouts and songs of thanksgiving, a multitude celebrating your festivals. With what merriment we brought the ark into the city of David (2Sa 6:12-18)!


"But now my very soul is cast down within me. I go mourning from one brief refuge to another, dogged by deceitful and unjust men. But worst of all, by far the worst, they say of me, 'Where is his God?' It is a deadly wound that penetrates my inmost parts. I am the same man; I am that David who slew his tens of thousands, and Yahweh was with him. I stood before that 'behemoth' of a Philistine in your Name! I fought your battles; I gathered the materials to build your house! Why have you forgotten me... me of all people? Why have you cast me off?


"But no, I don't believe it can be. You are the God in whom I have taken refuge at every crisis of my life. You will defend my cause. I walk in darkness without you. O send forth your light and your truth; let them lead me. And I will come again to your holy hill... even to your altar. How false and baseless are my fears. My God, I cast myself upon you alone, waiting for the morning."


* * * * *


His eyes strained through the darkness. Under the great trees some distance away, his friends were sleeping. It was very late and he was very tired, but it would not be long now; his time was measured in hours. It had finally come to this: there was no man to stand with him. Through the valley and up the hillside there came a procession of lights. "I have not come to bring peace, but a sword." Those had been his own words; now he would live them out. "Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand." Quickly it would go now, with no opportunity for quiet retrospect. The scenes rushed by: the child of Nazareth, the young carpenter, then the stirring proclamations, the outstretched hands -- "Master, have mercy upon us!" The hands were outstretched again, but this time they held swords and shackles. "Then they seized him, and led him away."


"As a hart longs for flowing streams, so longs my soul for you, O God. I am entrapped by ungodly men; they have encircled me like a pack of wild dogs. O Father, is it possible to see your face in this mad multitude?


"Once I went with the throng into the holy city, riding upon an ass. In joyful procession we went to the house of God, accompanied by loud Hosannahs and festive palm branches. With glad shouts and songs of thanksgiving they cried, 'Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord' (Mat 21:9).


"But now my very soul is cast down within me. Tears have been my meat and drink this night. The quietly flowing stream of pure communion with you has become a thundering cataract. I am plunged into its depths; your waves and your billows, as the sea, have gone over me. Now is my soul exceeding sorrowful.


"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? It is the deadliest of wounds, that which my enemies inflict upon me: 'This is the one that trusted in God! Let us see now if his God will deliver him!' But I am the same man; I am your Beloved Son. All my life I have sought refuge in you alone. I know you will not leave me to the confusion of my face and the reproach of your Name."


* * * * *


"Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour." And he prayed the more earnestly, "O send out your light and your truth, let them lead me." The Father in heaven heard his prayer, and his last mortal moments were brightened by a divine light. He was the beginning of his Father's new Creation, accompanied by the divine directive: "Let there be light."


"May your light and your truth bring me to your holy hill, and to your dwelling. Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy." The last and greatest trial was faced successfully. Led by God's light, his Son approached the altar of the Father's presence and poured out his life-blood. The hill of death, Golgotha, was made forever holy by that blood. God at last had fashioned and perfected His mercy-seat, where He might dwell with man.


"It is finished." The last words were a cry of triumph. The old creation of God was plunged into darkness, but on the horizon could be seen the dawn of a new day. God's new creation was just beginning.


*****

Beneath the verdant, woodland roof,

A small gazelle

With stately tread of cloven hoof,

Paused by the well;

Deep down, unseen, the waters burst

Across the shaft.

Oh! how it longed to slake its thirst,

In one sweet draught.


The Psalmist felt like this ofttimes,

Through toiling days,

In deep descents and upward climbs,

Along life's ways;

And in his thoughts he stood beside

The panting hind.

Like him, to quench the thirst, he tried

His God to find.


And when I'm weary, when I'm weak,

I fain would go,

Like them that lovely place to seek,

Where waters flow;

And take my fill at length within

The water brooks,

And find eternal strength within

The Book of Books.


NP Holt


Reading 3 - Mat 25:30,40

"And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Mat 25:30).

"Nothing we have ever experienced in this life will be one thousandth as terrible as rejection at the judgment seat of Christ. And that rejection is a looming possibility if we do not have the wisdom to give ourselves entirely to God in this present brief period of opportunity and probation. It's not so much what we accomplish, but rather the totality of our love and dedication and effort to obey Him and please Him. For the rejected, there will be physical suffering, certainly, but -- however severe -- that will be but a minor aspect. Many can accept physical suffering with joy in the enthusiasm of a good cause. The real and dreadful depths of the suffering will be mental -- the awful, gnawing, unremitting bitterness of hopeless remorse and regret and self-condemnation for the utter stupidity of playing and self-pleasing when God lovingly asks us to work full time in the Vineyard, and become an eternal part in His glorious Purpose. How mockingly meaningless will then seem the juvenile things we waste our time and interest on today while precious time slips away! What vain, anguished poundings then on the forever shut door of Joy and Hope! God loved us, and abundantly manifested that love, and sought the totality of ours in small return. Like a spoiled child, we accepted the benefits of His love, but did not reciprocate it in the fulness of devotion that true love must of its very nature bring forth. Our 'love' went not beyond self-interest, and now we reap as we have sown. Mercifully, this dreadful, hopeless anguish will sooner or later end in the then sought-for and at last welcomed relief of eternal death.


"The secret of total happiness and total contentment is total love of God. This is the whole meaning and purpose of life. This is that for which we were created and are divinely destined. This solves all problems and assuages all sorrows. This is peace" (GV Growcott).


*****


"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me' " (v 40).


"Help the old and sick as much as you possibly can: especially those whom you think deserve it least, for they are likely to be the ones everyone neglects. Christ's command to do it is not because of their merit, but because it is the will of our Lord and a test of our love and obedience to Him. Helping those who are in need of help is far more important to Christ than catering to our own comforts and desires, though somehow the latter seems quite important to us at the moment. The flesh is very self-centered, and serving the flesh will never give us life. We shall be asked about this matter at the judgment seat. It may be rather a sticky question, and it would pay to have a good answer ready. Better yet: to have a good record ready" (GVG).

 

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