Bible Reading Plan for 2017

Bible Reading Plan for 2017
Straight through the Bible in a year

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Canonical Reading for Jan 18, Ex 1-3

Today's reading is Ex 1-3.

Exodus starts about 400 years after the events in Genesis. The twelve sons of Jacob have become a multitude. The sons' descendants have grown into twelve huge tribes of thousands each. They are as rich and prosperous as they are numerous.

Exodus is a stunning testimony to the faithfulness of God in fulfilling His promises. As we move through the book, we'll see Him make Israel a great nation in spite of the opposition of the most powerful nation on earth and the faithlessness of His children. In looking at how Exodus fits into the Bible, we’ve seen God create everything, choose a people and begin to refine them in Genesis. By the end of that book, His chosen people are provided for but live in an uneasy tension with each other. 

What will become clear in Exodus is that His children need to be delivered—more from themselves than from anything else. They need deliverance from their pride, jealousy, deceitfulness and incredibly bad decisions. Genesis reveals the fallen nature of mankind, even God’s chosen people. Genesis also reveals God’s grace and faithfulness. In Exodus, we’ll see the consequence of man’s fallen nature, slavery. Then, we’ll see how God delivers His people out of slavery. Exodus begins to put God’s plan of redemption on display. It is rich with symbolic imagery and the supernatural power and presence of God among His people.

Ex 1:1-6 is a reminder of Genesis and the fact that God sent a small number of His children to Egypt. His promise is being fulfilled as they multiply into a huge nation (Ex 1:7), so numerous that Pharaoh feels threatened. Hardship ensues. This should not be surprising. God told Abraham his descendants would struggle and He would deliver them. As the Hebrew people are enslaved, we read a phrase that will, time and again, ring true of God's people. "But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied..." (Ex 1:12)

As they endure hardship, we see another truth that will remain constant, God's hand of protection and preservation rests upon them.  In this case, we see it when the midwives refuse to murder the Hebrew male babies for fear of God (Ex 1:15-22). The midwives are blessed for their commitment to the Hebrew babies (Ex 1:21). God blesses those who bless His people! 

We meet Moses in Ex 2, a Hebrew who grows up in Pharaoh’s palace but runs in fear from everything Pharaoh and Egypt have to offer (Ex 2:11-15).

Moses, after fleeing Egypt, is living peacefully in Midian when he encounters the burning bush (Ex 3:1-3) on a soon-to-be-significant mountain (Ex 3:12). The mountain is Zion, the "mountain of God" that will dominate events in the Old Testament, particularly in the Book of Exodus. 

God, who has heard the cry of His people, wants Moses to go back to Egypt to lead His people out. God makes it clear that this is not going to be an easy task. Moses feels inadequate and objects a number of times, finally asking God what to say if he is asked who sent him. God says "Tell them I AM!" (Ex 3:13-14), effectively telling Moses, “This is not about you, Moses. You’re just the messenger. Tell them about the one true God. Tell them about My power and glory. Don’t be concerned about what they think of you. Be concerned about what they think of Me!” Moses would eventually come to understand that God’s calling is for His glory, not for the glory of the one who is called.

The burning bush story reveals something about how we relate to our Father in heaven. Many have a desire to hear a word from God. Many hear about the burning bush and think, "I wish God would speak that clearly to me." Yet, what Moses heard was (most likely) the last thing he wanted to hear, "I'm sending you back to Egypt." Ex 2:21 tells us Moses was content right where he was. God upsets Moses in his contentment and calls him to do something so entirely impossible, it can only happen if God moves supernaturally. We should all be careful what we ask for when we think we want God to speak clearly to us. If He does, He may just call us to do the impossible and trust Him to get it done. 

Monday, January 16, 2017

Let's Start Exodus Together On Jan 18!

For those who have been following the "Daily Bread" reading program, we complete Genesis today. We start Exodus on Wed Jan 18. If you haven't been reading along or if you've fallen behind, you can start new with us in Exodus! You can find the daily readings on the WBF fb page.

Here are some tip that may help with your daily reading:

  • Don't feel that your goal is to finish according to the calendar! The goal is to start a new pattern for your day. Nothing will kill a reading plan quicker than getting behind a few days. Some fall behind, see how many chapters are needed to get caught up--and throw in the towel. Instead, if you miss a day or two (it happens to all of us) and you feel like there are too many readings to get caught up, just pick up where you left off. The goal is to develop a daily discipline that will bless you for the rest of your life. You can go over the missed chapters next year 😇.
  • That being said, there is a lot to benefit from in developing a routine. Try to get your reading done before you start your day. It really is worth it to get up 15 minutes earlier and begin your day with your Father, in His word. While the compulsion to check your email and messages can be great, fight it. Just pick up your Bible in the quiet moments of the morning and start reading. If you can adopt this approach and maintain it for a few weeks, you'll never miss a day. 
  • Resist the urge to stop and study. One of the great benefits of a daily reading program can be found in
    familiarizing yourself with the Bible and its story arcs. In-depth study certainly has its place and can be a rich expereince. But, if you allow your daily reading time to stretch into hours, it becomes too easy to get bogged down. Highlight, underline, make a memo and go back after you've finished the daily passages.
  • Don't chain yourself to your favorite physical Bible! If you
    forget it or wait until you have time to pick it up, find your place and begin reading, it will become easy to slip. With all the advancements we have in technology, there are multiple ways to access your plan. I'll list some of them below. 
  • Avoid the temptation to "give it a try". If you can stick with this for a month, it will become an integral part of your day. Once that happens, Bible reading becomes an integral part of your life. It is the living Word of God. We will always learn from it, always be challenged by it, always grow by it, always be comforted by it...but only if we are always reading it. 
Here are some tools that can make it exceptionally easy to do your reading. I've found that I do best when I have multiple ways to access my plan. I use my smart phone, iPad, computer and even...sometimes, my Bible! Once I got over the need to "feel the pages" (our aim is to absorb the Word, not experience a book), I found it was much easier to finish my daily reading. Some of the methods listed will even send you reminders on a daily basis. Another excellent online, multi-platform tool is You Version. There's absolutely nothing wrong with picking up a book and relishing the feel of the pages. But, if we wanted to experience the Bible "the way it was written", we would all be using scrolls and papyrus! Use the technology available to us, God is just a sovereign over pixels as He is over paper!

A great way to get your daily reading in is to listen to
your Bible. Most apps will read the passage from your phone. You can link it to your car speakers and listen on your commute or while you're running errands. You Version  has a great audio feature that can help with this. Some folks use a Bible on CD set to listen. Hearing Scripture while you're in your car beats talk radio, even Christian talk radio!

May the Lord bless you as you read. I firmly believe there is nothing better we can do to improve our spiritual health and yo grow in our sanctification than to learn to read the Bible in a structured, disciplined and dedicated manner. With all the study I get to do in preparing a sermon, counseling and teaching, nothing has impacted me as much as my daily Bible reading. Let's do it together!

Canonical Reading Plan for Jan 17, Gen 48-50

Today's reading is Gen 48-50.

In Gen 48, Jacob calls the sons together to bless them before he dies. He takes Joseph’s two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, as his own, adopting them as his direct heirs. 

Jacob proceeds to bless all his sons (Gen 49) but the blessings are a mixture of prophecy and cautions that remind them of their weaknesses.

For some of them, the sins of their past have an impact on their future. While their sins have an impact on their immediate future, none of them are disqualified from being members of Jacobs family. Nonetheless, we see that there can be earthly consequences the sins of God's people.
·       Reuben, even though he is the firstborn, is denied the double blessing that is his birthright (Gen 49:3-4) because of his impulsive sin and his disrespect for his father (Gen 35:22).
·       Simeon and Levi are paired (Gen 49:5-7) because of their violence at Shechem in defending Dinah (Gen 34:30). They will not have their own portion of land in Canaan. As we will see in the Book of Joshua, Simeon will be allotted land among the tribe of Judah and Levi will be scattered throughout the land.
·       Judah receives a greater blessing than his older brothers. His will be a royal tribe (Gen 49:8-12). Kings will come out of Judah!
·       Zebulon receives his blessing before his older brother Issachar does (Gen 49:13). He will be a trader and importer in lands along the coastlands.
·       Issachar and his descendants will be strong but will always work for others (Gen 49:14-15).
·       Dan is praised for being a judge but is also described as having behavior like a snake (Gen 49:16-18).
·       Gad's tribe will occupy Gilead, an area that lies at the outer borders of the Promised Land. Out of necessity, they will become warriors and defenders of their land (Gen 49:19).
·       Asher’s tribe will prosper and occupy fertile land (Gen 49:20).
·       Naphtali will flourish on their land (Gen 49:21). The description of being doe-like is a compliment but sits in contrast to some of his brothers who are depicted as warriors.
·       Joseph receives the greatest blessings and praises of all the brothers (Gen 49:22-26), exceeding those of Abraham and Isaac (Gen 49:26).
·       Benjamin’s tribe will be a group of aggressive warriors.

In short, a time of abundance and prosperity is prophesied for all the brothers and their descendants. But, many of them will continue to have their struggles. The areas their tribes will occupy reflect the nature of the blessings Jacob proclaims over them. Here's what those areas will look like in Joshua's time, over 500 years later.

Judah dominates the southern region, Manasseh and Ephraim, the north. Simeon’s portion lies amidst Judah’s. The Levites are scattered about. Gad is subject to attack by invaders. Asher, Naphtali, Zebulon and Issachar will occupy the fertile and prosperous lands of Galilee. Reuben will have enemies along its borders. Benjamin will be a buffer between the North and the South. Ephraim will live in the hilly, forested area while Manasseh will have a large area but be divided. Dan will be allotted a prime piece of land but, instead of commandeering it, will slink away to take land in the North not given to them. 

Even more significant, though, are the harbingers of what is to come. Eventually, after Solomon's time, the kingdom will be divided with Benjamin sitting on the dividing line and Judah forming the Southern Kingdom while the rest of the tribes will comprise the Northern Kingdom. Their geographic boundaries are a foreboding sign of what will spiritually impact this family. This band of brothers who have had such a rocky relationship will splinter, fight and butt heads for many generations. 

Joseph's dreams, the ones that angered the brothers so much they wanted to murder their brother (Gen 37:5-11), have all come true and proven to be their salvation. Apparently, no one mentions this. Just as clearly, there are still tensions in the family. Few of the blessings have been metered out according to tradition which would dictate that the oldest received the greatest blessing. Nonetheless, the brothers remain skeptical about Joseph's motives. Rather than being thankful for their new lives, fear, doubt and perhaps some discontent seem to dominate their affairs in this new, rich country. 

To prove the point, with Jacob dying, the brothers become concerned over how Joseph will treat them after their father is gone (Gen 50:15). Joseph utters words that characterize the entire Book of Genesis “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” (Gen 50:19-20). This blessing will become a hallmark of the ongoing journey of God’s chosen people.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Canonical Reading Plan for Jan 16, Gen 46-47.

Today's readings are Gen 46-47

Jacob's family moves to Egypt in Gen 46. God has used all the hardship and struggles of Jacob and his sons to place them exactly where He wants them. He has graciously provided for them when all those around them are starving and dying. He will now use Egypt to build them into the nation He promised they would become. Keep your eye on what God is doing here. It is not by coincidence that Egypt is a synonym for the world and its fallen nature in the Bible. Rather than His people becoming victims of Egypt, this powerful nation will become a tool in God's hands used to refine His people.
Jacob and his family travel to Egypt
God makes a promise to Jacob (Israel). God Himself will take Jacob to Egypt and bring him back to the Canaan. Jacob's son, Joseph will "close his eyes" (Gen 46:3-4). In other words, Jacob will see Joseph again and they will be together until Jacob dies. It sounds as though Jacob will go to Egypt, bring Joseph back to Canaan, then die. But, this is a promise within a promise and shows us that we should be careful how we interpret God's promises. As we will see, God will indeed bring Jacob to Egypt. God will also return him to Canaan (The Promised Land), but not until after he dies in Egypt. He and the nation named after him will be blessed in a mighty way. But, Jacob will die while he is in Egypt and be buried in his homeland.   

As Jacob's life ends, we see that God has used his struggles to bring him closer, to change him, to bless him and those around him. Furthermore, He will do the same with Jacob's sons. Each of them, even though they may have some good points, are as flawed and troubled as Jacob was. God shows us that He is the hope and redemption of a dysfunctional, struggling family. They have been petty, jealous, manipulative, deceitful, disobedient and fearful. Yet God has chosen Jacob and his twelve sons to bless the world. Keep this in mind as the story of Israel unfolds. 

The heads of the twelve tribes have been identified. These are the patriarchs of ancient Israel. Many regard them as pillars of virtue and godliness. But, far from possessing Charlton-Heston-Cecil-B.-DeMille nobility and virtue, they are amazingly normal people. 

Meanwhile, in Gen 47 we see Joseph, the one who was sold into slavery to the Egyptians, now selling the entire nation of Egypt into slavery. As a people, they were unknowingly dependent upon God for the wisdom that saved them, the wisdom God gave Joseph. God provided the food they are eating through Joseph's gift of administration. Now the people of Egypt, who continue to follow Pharaoh, have no possessions and no land. Pharaoh has everything. He appears to be a somewhat benevolent leader. Pharaoh sees something in Joseph that causes him to trust him. Yet, Pharaoh does not follow God and leads the nation in godlessness. Yet, while the world starves, Egypt is blessed.

Egypt has become a picture of God's common grace. As a country, she benefits from God's goodness without calling upon Him as the one, true God. She remains a pagan nation led by a pagan ruler even though Pharaoh has seen God's blessing in Joseph. Pharaoh continues to deny God and follows other gods. God allows this because He is using Egypt for His own purposes in providing for His chosen people. Pharaoh and Egypt will prove to be key in God's promise to bring His people back to Canaan.

It would be easy to look at Egypt and feel offended that God is caring for them. "They haven't earned God's grace and favor!" our sensibilities scream. But, neither has Jacob and his family. In another few generations, God will say to Moses, "I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy." (Ex 33:19) 

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Canonical Reading Plan for Jan 15, Gen 43-45.

Today's readings are Gen 43-45

Judah and Reuben were the ones who tried to defend Joseph against the brothers' plans to do him harm (Gen 37:21, 26). Now they are the two who attempt to save the family and preserve Benjamin. Reuben made his plea in Gen 42:37, Judah in Gen 43:3-5. 

Even as they make wise decisions, the brothers are careful to paint themselves as innocent victims in the way they present the facts to Jacob. Their version of the narrative has subtle changes from the way it was related the first time. They present themselves as blameless. In truth, they offered up the fact that they had a younger brother - without any pressure from Joseph at all (Gen 42:12-13). They exaggerate the harshness of Joseph while portraying themselves as having no choice but to reveal the existence of Benjamin (Gen 43:6-7). The brothers are not necessarily wicked. They are typical in that they find it easy, at times, to portray themselves as far more innocent than what is true.  

Regardless of their petty squabbles and efforts to appear blameless when they’re not, we see glimmers of godliness and maturity in the brothers. Judah offers to take the blame if anything happens to Benjamin (Gen 43:9).

With Benjamin in tow and with great trepidation, the brothers return to Egypt. They are unsure of how Joseph is going to respond. Their fears are unfounded. When they unsuccessfully try to return the money to the steward, he unwittingly utters a truth that should open their eyes, saying, "Your God and the God of your father has put treasure in your sacks for you." (Gen 43:23). 

How easy it is to miss or minimize God's blessing when we are consumed with our circumstances and fear the outcome more than we trust our God! 

As they prepare to face Joseph, the brothers are acutely aware that they are culpable in their circumstances. Regardless of how innocent they have portrayed themselves to be, they still bear the guilt of what they did to their brother, Joseph. They have misrepresented their dilemma to their father and placed their younger brother in jeopardy as well. 

Now, the entire clan finds themselves at the mercy of this unusual but seemingly benevolent and powerful ruler. Nothing seems to go the way they thought it might go. They and their families will die without the food. So, they continue to move forward. But, each encounter with this “Egyptian” seems to worsen the situation. They need grace and protection. They don’t know if they’re going to receive either. It seems they trust God but may be fearful of what He is going to do in their situation. So they, like many of us, try to hedge their bets by repeatedly proclaiming their innocence when the truth reveals otherwise.

Their arrival goes well. But Joseph tests his brothers, this time setting up Benjamin as a thief. When they are apprehended and Benjamin is threatened, Judah, although innocent, offers to take the punishment in his place (Gen 44:33). In Judah's willingness to stand as a substitute for his brother there is the faint echo of another innocent that rises from the Tribe of Judah, One who will one day stand in the place of sinners and receive their punishment on the cross.  

Even when Joseph reveals who he is to his brothers, their reaction is dismay, not rejoicing (Gen 45:3). They fear what they have rightfully earned from their brother, reprisal. Instead, they receive grace along with Joseph's testimony that God was in the middle of everything that happened (Gen 45:5-8). 

God’s sovereignty has been the underlying theme of the entire story arc. Joseph has been repeatedly delivered and blessed. He has remained faithful to his God in extremely difficult situations and in his successes.  As God has been blessing Joseph, He has also been paving the way for the rest of the brothers and their families to receive blessings in Egypt.

The brothers are redeemed, the family is restored, and prospers with the promise of new homes in Egypt. But, keep in mind that they are still human beings and still in need of refinement. Ominously, before they leave on their long journey back to gather their families and father, Joseph admonishes them with, “Do not quarrel along the way.”

At this point, Egypt looks amazingly attractive to people who have been living in a land with no food. The riches with which they are being showered can seem like the answer to all their problems. Furthermore, they still carry the promise of God that they will become a "great nation". All of this will come into play as the narrative develops. 

As we will see, God is bringing them into Egypt, not as a reward for being good and godly people, but to show them that there is still much work to be done in their hearts and lives. They will enter Egypt with all the earthly things they could ever want or need. God wants them to have heavenly things. Those are not nearly so easy to come by. While the brothers may find it easy to believe they are about to arrive, their journey is far from over.