Other comments on this day's readings can be found here.
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
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"
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
"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
"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).