Saturday, 22 January 2011

Dividing Grace

Genesis 46-47 Whilst 70 are numbered as settling in Egypt from Jacob's house, he would nevertheless have had a massive extended household. Conservative estimates put it at 500 servant-warriors, not to mention their families, and 20000 head of livestock. No wonder Pharaoh gave them the land of Goshen to settle in, a valley would no way have been big enough.

I can only think that in saying that shepherds were detestable to the Egyptians, they were referring to some religious / ritual uncleanness, rather than some absolute prejudice. No doubt they loved meat, (note that Pharoah has his own crew of shepherds) so perhaps they saw shepherding as a necessary evil, like washing up. I don't know. Do share in comments if you have any wisdom.

Jacob would not live as long as his (grand)father Abraham. Even now the tightening grip of the curse, which was brought about by the Fall of Gen 3 is being felt in the very fabric of biological life.

So the family all settle there, living of Joseph's provisions.

Some have questioned Joseph's morality in that he taxed the people for their grain during the times of plenty, but then had the "cheek" to sell it back to them when they were starving, turning them eventually into slaves. Jordan makes the point that however tyrannical that my seem to our modern ears, tyranny, no matter how bad, is biblically always to be preferred to anarchy. In difficult times, there's nothing more destabilising to social fabric than the unpredictability of the mob.

Psalm 21 All I'll say here, is that if this Psalm is a picture of Christ, then verse 4 has echoes of John 5.

Matt 9:1-13 When it says that Jesus "saw" their faith, it could mean that he perceived something in the Spirit, just by looking at them, but it could mean (more likely) that he had had a bit of a conversation with them first. In the Bible, seeing is synonymous with judging. Having met them, Jesus "judged" their faith to be of the good kind and so declares to the paralytic that his sins are forgive.

So, Jesus does two impossible things - he heals a lame man and he forgives his sins. Impossible that is unless you are God. As all sin is ultimately against God then, only the one sent from God is able to declare pardon. See the authority of Jesus here, acting under the delegated authority of his Father, bringing grace upon grace to those who seek him and stirring up the envy of those who hate him. You can't have one without the other.

Acts 13:1-25 Note that prayer and fasting are not an add on to church life, they are the engine room out of which all her power for mission flows.

Like in our Matthew reading, grace divides. The Proconsul believes, stirring up the envy of Elymas the Sorcerer, who no doubt saw the apostles as a threat to his position in the power structures of Cyprus. Whilst Paul and Barnabas are not out looking for spiritual confrontations like this, they don't shy away from then either, exercising the same delegated authority that only Jesus once had, but now through the cross, resurrection, ascension and giving of the Spirit has been conferred on the Church.

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