Genesis 41:17-42:17 ~ Matthew 13:24-46 ~ Psalm 18:1-15 ~ Proverbs 4:1-6
Today is January 20th. Welcome to the Daily Audio Bible. I’m Brian. It is a pleasure to be here with you today. We’re sneaking up on completing three full weeks of the new year, chasing down our hearts as we chase down the stories in the Bible. Right now in the Old Testament, we’re chasing the story of Joseph.
So Joseph has been sold into slavery by his family, has become a slave, has been put in prison, all for doing really the right thing and now he finds himself standing before the king of Egypt, the pharaoh, who has had a dream which has summoned Joseph from the dungeon. Genesis chapter 41, verse 17 through 42, verse 17 today.
There is so much we could talk about today. Let’s just recap this story that is ongoing with Joseph because he’s come face to face not only with brothers he hasn’t seen in over a decade, but with the very people that trafficked him, that sold him into slavery, his own family. So you can imagine the conflict going on in his heart, the joy and the pain all mixed together into this terribly bittersweet moment.
Where we leave the story today is as if Joseph is about to get his vengeance. He’ll get his vengeance on the people that sold him into slavery. “You are spies.” And they are freaking out because they are a lot of things, but they are not spies. They just need food. Josephs says, “You’re going to stay here in prison except for one of you. Go get your brother. Prove that you’re telling the truth.” It is like Joseph is going to get his true blood brother from the same mother and father, bring him to Egypt and then do away with the brothers or have some sort of vengeance, do a big reveal and give them their just desserts while he has his brother safely tucked away. That might actually be justice, but is that what he’s going to do? We’ll have to wait to find out.
We leave our Old Testament reading today in the story of Joseph with everything upside down. God has been faithful to Joseph and Joseph has followed God and stored up for the whole nation of Egypt and provided for them through this famine. People are coming from all over the region so Egypt is becoming incredibly enriched because of the commerce. Joseph is doing a good job. He’s always done a good job in spite of the injustice of what has been happening to him. But seeing his brothers, that flips things upside down. His brothers, their lives are flipped upside down too because they’ve just been accused of spying by the second in command only to the pharaoh of all of Egypt. Their hope for survival with food goes through this guy and this guy is accusing them of being spies and has taken them into custody. It is a bad situation, but it is not the end of the story and we’re starting to see things come full circle. As we look at the story of Joseph, we begin to look at our own lives and see the places that we’ve been true, only to seemingly take steps backward. But there is always more going on than we know about and as things start to come full circle, we need to be aware of that.
In the book of Matthew, Jesus is discussing the kingdom of heaven, something he discusses all of the time. So what is the kingdom of heaven? What do you think about when you think of the kingdom of heaven and what it is like?
All my life growing up in the faith I would hear discussions of the kingdom of heaven and that somehow I’m a part of the kingdom of heaven, the ongoing kingdom of heaven, but in my mind the kingdom was this thing to come. Jesus would show up on a white horse, all of the host of heaven with him, and all of the bad guys would get beat up and done away with and the good guys would prevail and this new kingdom would be established under the rule of the king, King Jesus. And if I lived my life right, then I could be there. I could be there on that day somehow, whether because I was alive at the time or because I had come with Jesus to be a part of that kingdom. That was just kind of my loose perception of things, that this was something to come. It was esoteric. How could you know what that is actually going to look like and prepare for that? But I will come and I will be there one way or the other.
What does that look like for you? And just as important, what was that like for the people Jesus was talking to? This idea of this kingdom of heaven was something that they longed for as well. They were expecting it to happen as well. There were prophecies that it would happen, so they were looking for this person, a person that they called the Messiah. This person hadn’t shown up yet, but one day a Messiah, a person, a chosen one would come and he would rise through the ranks and become a leader among them and he would be the anointed one. He would be devout but also able to communicate and rally the people together to rise up and bring this kingdom, this restoration to God.
Without going on too much of a bunny trail, it is important to kind of contextualize this whole thing based on where we’ve been in the Bible thus far. So there is this man whose name is Abram. He becomes Abraham. A promise is given that his offspring would inhabit a certain land, the land that he was in, and that his offspring would be vast and a nation would be formed, God’s chosen people. So we’re in the midst of moving into that story and seeing how that came to be in the Old Testament. And it will come to be. But it won’t last. So it will happen, but it won’t last. The people will all be carried away into exile.
As we move into the New Testament, the time of Jesus, it has been a long time, centuries since everyone was carried away. There has been no promised land and chosen people for a long, long time. What the Hebrew people of Jesus’ time are looking for is someone to take them back to that place where they had their own land and they were God’s chosen people again. So when Jesus shows up with signs and wonders and talks of a kingdom of heaven, they are listening. They are wondering could he be the chosen one, the anointed one? Could he be the Messiah? Even the religious leaders and Pharisees are looking to see if he could be the one. At first they are not against him, but he is not for them. He is actually confrontational toward them because they have become confrontational toward him because he’s bucking the system. He is dismantling so many of the traditions that give them power over the people. But even to the most devout, he is bucking the system and breaking with tradition.
So back to the original question. What is the kingdom of heaven? What does that look like? I had my ideas growing up. These people had their ideas based on the worldview that they understood. But neither one of those things seem to be the kingdom Jesus described. Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away.” And as he fleshes out the description, the owner of the field decides to let the wheat and the weeds grow up together all the way until the harvest time and then they will be separated so that the wheat will not be pulled up with the weeds. In other words, the kingdom that Jesus is talking about is already happening and it is growing in and among everything else. It is everywhere among everything else. The weeds and the wheat are growing up together. In other words, the kingdom is happening right now. It is something to come and yet it is also something already here and we have to understand whether we’re wheat or whether we’re weeds. If we’re completely unaware of the fact that we are a part of something that is happening right now, oh, then we have to consider what we are in this analogy, wheat or weeds.
Then Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed which a man took and planted in his field and though it is the smallest of all seeds, when it grows it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” So if you’ve ever seen a mustard seed, you know it is a tiny little thing, but if you plant and cultivate that thing, it will become a large branch that birds can come and sit in. But once that happens, you’re going to have a hard time finding the mustard seed. It will be untraceable, and yet this little tiny seed grows up to support an entire ecosystem around it. Is that what we’re doing, we as individuals? Little insignificant seeds that are growing to support an entire ecosystem of the kingdom around us? Because that is something that is now. That is something that is happening. Are we a part of that or are we waiting for something to come that isn’t coming the way we think it is?
Then Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about 60 pounds of flour until it worked all the way through the dough.” If you’ve ever cooked with yeast, then you know its effect on a loaf. But once the loaf is baked, you can’t find the yeast anymore. If you didn’t have the yeast, the loaf would be radically different. Jesus is describing a kingdom that you cannot put your finger on and point to, which he will explicitly explain later. It is growing up all around us and we are supposed to be a part of it right now. We’re not waiting for it to start. We are it.
That, my friends, is a game changer because all of a sudden we realize there is more going on to this story. Just like the story of Joseph, there is more going on than we know about. And we are a part of something really important and really big to what happens in our world. Whereas Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount that we read, “You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world,” we are a part of something really big. Are we living like we are a part of something really important? Or are we stuck in just what we can see in front of us, not realizing that there is more going on than we’re aware of? We’ll never figure it out without walking with God and being led by his Holy Spirit within us. How will we ever know what is going on without God being able to take us into his confidence and tell us what is next for us in his kingdom? Which is exactly what we read in the book of Proverbs just a couple of days ago. “The Lord detests the perverse but takes the upright into his confidence.”
So we are a part of a kingdom to come, but we are a part of a kingdom that is now. We have a role to play in this kingdom. We will not ever figure out that there is more going on than we can see if we do not walk with God loyally, trustworthy, so that he has been taken into our confidence and we have been taken into his. This is a larger story than we have ever dreamed and we are smack in the middle of it. It hasn’t been a great mystery like we’ve lived for so long. It has been in the Bible telling this to us for thousands of years. What if here on the 20th day of the year, just as we reach the cusp of three weeks into the Bible, we finally open our eyes and take breath into our lungs and realize this is a big deal? That I am here right now is a big deal and this small story, all of these things that I keep twisting myself into, these webs and these relationships and these addictions and these obsessions, these are small things in comparison with what I’m invited to be a part of. And I need to get about the business of extricating myself from the things that do not matter so that I can give my heart to the things that do. I need margin in my life because I am a part of the kingdom of heaven and that matters right now.
May we wake up. It is no small thing to be the salt of the earth or the light of the world. If we are to be either of those, we have to be awake, alert and aware.
Father, we invite your Holy Spirit to speak into that in our own lives. What does that look like to us? Because we’re each writing our own story and it has its own twists and turns and it is not one size fits all. We invite your Holy Spirit to enter into the story we have been telling with our lives and may this day be a day that the plot has a huge twist in it, that we turned away from the directions we were going that would only harm us and moved intentionally toward wholeness. To be what you’ve created us to be we need a whole heart and we need to love you with all of it. So come Holy Spirit, we pray. In the mighty name of Jesus we ask. Amen.