I suggested back at the start of January reading a Psalm every day plus one chapter of a Gospel.
After Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, I read Acts as well as it relates what happened after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension. In brief, the Holy Spirit empowers the Apostles and other believers to witness and the Church begins to grow rapidly!
Now Psalm 117 is coming up. It won’t take long, it’s just two verses, while Psalm 119, at one hundred and seventy six verses, might take a few days. It stretches over five pages!
This week I’ve started Matthew again at ch 1 which contains the genealogy of Christ and the bit about Mary’s fiancé Joseph, and also noted the closing lines of Psalm 114: ‘Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob, Who turned the rock into a pool, the hard rock into springs of water.’
As we reflected last Sunday in church, it is only wise to have a healthy reverence for Almighty God, the Maker and Ruler of the heavens and earth, the Giver, and Taker, of life!
This Psalm refers back to the Exodus about four hundred years earlier when the Lord punished the Egyptian slave drivers with plagues, delivered Jacob’s descendants and guided them to the ‘Promised Land’ of Canaan, miraculously causing streams of water to flow from the desert rock to refresh them enroute.
Words like ‘epic’ and ‘awesome’ should really be reclaimed for this kind of rare wonder.
By comparison, the family tree in Matthew 1 initially seems dull, just a list of names, many of whom we know little or nothing about.
But do a little homework and we learn that Jacob had two wives and two others with whom he fathered twelve sons. Judah slept with his daughter in law, thinking she was a prostitute. Solomon was the son of King David and Bathsheba, whose relationship began as adultery. Hezekiah was a godly man, but his son Manasseh was extremely wicked, practising witchcraft and child-sacrifice.
The Son of God became incarnate as part of a very mixed human family! Some heroes, some villains, all flawed by definition, but many of them actually quite unremarkable.
Like Joseph, whose tiny part in the New Testament comes before the end of Matthew 1. Just an ordinary guy, a carpenter by trade, getting on with village life in unremarkable Nazareth. Understandably grieved when Mary turns up pregnant and not by him. But Joseph is described as a decent man who has no desire to shame Mary with public scandal. Just an ordinary guy, trying to get along. Trying to make the best of a bad job in a broken world, like most of the others on the list before him. Remembering the past, trying to learn lessons for the future, passing on the word of God and His grace that had kept the people together this far.
Not one word from Joseph is recorded in Scripture. No sermons. Just a quiet, faithful, decent life, doing the part given him by God.
About thirty years later, God’s Son, Who is a preacher second to none, stands up and says, ‘If anyone is thirsty let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.’ (John 7 v 37-38)
God, the Lord Who made fresh water flow from hard rock does just as amazing things in human hearts. He restores our souls to practise faith. He comforts us in the valleys. He gives the Holy Spirit in no small measure so that flawed, ordinary people like those on this list, like Joseph, like you and me can find the courage and inspiration to do the right thing and more.
All we have to do is return to Jesus the Rock, and penitently trust in Him to give us forgiveness and new life, and refresh our hearts again and again with His redeeming love.