Reading 1 - Gen 47:8-10
Genesis 47 brings into close proximity two figures, each striking in himself, but extraordinary when viewed alongside one another. There is the old man Jacob, burdened down by a lifetime of privations and sufferings and sorrows. And there is the young and eminently powerful "god-man" Pharaoh, lord of the earth. How will these two men -- who have lived in totally different worlds -- behave when they come face to face?
"Pharaoh asked him, 'How old are you?' And Jacob said to Pharaoh, 'The years of my pilgrimage are a hundred and thirty. My years have been few and difficult, and they do not equal the years of the pilgrimage of my fathers' " (Gen 47:8,9).
"Spiritual riches, which can be ours even now, bring no conclusions of disgust or sadness, nor any fear of being robbed. They will not save us from the sorrows of human life, but they will help us to bear the pain. They do not arrest the process of decay in the dark streets of a Gentile city, but they give us hope of a better city to come. The patriarch Jacob illustrated the truth of the matter in the 'few and evil days' of his pilgrimage, He was not cast in heroic mould as a warrior or a king to be admired of men. He was 'a plain man dwelling in tents', without much animal courage or worldly skill. His virtue was the only one that will count in final issues. He had faith in God and tried to serve Him. All temporal blessings brought him sorrow. The good parents from whom he had to part, the riches which aroused jealousy of kinsmen, the wife who was taken from him, the daughter who brought shame, the wicked sons who caused him such grief, and the virtuous one who unwittingly brought the most pain of all. When he saw Joseph again, now honoured and powerful, his eyes were growing dim with age -- and the time for another parting was near. It seemed almost that with the end of bitter trials came the end of life.
"Yet although Jacob perhaps had to endure more pain than ever came to his worldly brother, he was upheld by a spiritual blessing which brought no reaction of evil. He was sustained through all his life by the consciousness of divine control. Even in the time of final parting there was hope, well grounded and sure. He is among the few who are mentioned by name as certain to be in the Kingdom of God.
"Such spiritual blessing may be ours, bringing no addition of sorrow (Pro 10:22), but helping us to bear the evils which are our natural inheritance. It is a comfort to know that God has matters in hand, and the contemplation of the coming Kingdom would be some consolation even apart from the hope of personal participation. Some permanent good will come out of temporary evil, some of our fellow creatures will be chosen and redeemed from among men, and the purpose of God will be accomplished. This thought is a consolation" (Islip Collyer, Principles and Proverbs 192,193).
"Then Jacob blessed Pharaoh and went out from his presence" (v 10).
The elder patriarch blessed the younger ruler, not the other way around: "Without contradiction the lesser is blessed by the greater" (Heb 7:7). With the gravity of old age, the quiet faith of a true believer, and the authority of a patriarch and a prophet, Jacob besought the Lord to bestow a blessing upon Pharaoh. He acted as a man not ashamed of his faith; and one who would express gratitude to the benefactor of himself and his family.
Reading 2 - Psa 50:8-15
"I do not rebuke you for your sacrifices or your burnt offerings, which are ever before me. I have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens, for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird in the mountains, and the creatures of the field are mine. If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it. Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats? Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me" (Psa 50:8-15).
In these verses, God is not rejecting sacrifices as such. What is being rejected is the way in which Israel in its self-appointed sanctuaries went on blithely offering sacrifices ("Your burnt offerings are continually before me": v 8, RSV), while being in spirit completely estranged from the God of Zion. None of these sacrifices were worth anything in terms of real devotion; did not all these animals belong to Yahweh in the first place? (See the related exhortations in Psa 51:16,17; Pro 21:3; Mic 6:6-8; Isa 1:11-13; Jer 6:20; 7:22,23; 1Sa 15:22.)
God is Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth (Joh 4:24). Services of a mechanical sort, as to outward form (whether it be Mosaic ritual and offering -- or Sunday School, memorial meeting, and daily readings) will avail nothing, and are in fact abominations, if not accompanied by sincere devotion of the heart.
Reading 3 - Rom 3:9,10
"What shall we conclude then? Are we any better? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. As it is written: 'There is no one righteous, not even one' " (Rom 3:9,10).
"Our guilt is great because our sins are exceedingly numerous. It is not merely outward acts of unkindness and dishonesty with which we are chargeable. Our habitual and characteristic state of mind is evil in the sight of God.
"Our pride and indifference to His will and to the welfare of others and our loving the creature more than the Creator are continuous violations of His holy law. We have never been or done what that law requires us to be and to do. We have never had delight in that fixed purpose to do the will and promote the glory of God. We are always sinners; we are at all times and under all circumstances in opposition to God.
"If we have never loved Him supremely, if we have never made it our purpose to do His will, if we have never made His glory the end of our actions, then our lives have been an unbroken series of transgressions. Our sins are not to be numbered by the conscious violations of duty; they are as numerous as the moments of our existence" (Charles Hodge).