Thoughts for Wednesday 29th July 2020

Psalm 65:8-13; Genesis 46:2-47:12; Mark 4:30-34

Wednesday 29 July

At 58 verses, our Old Testament reading today is an extremely long one. Don’t let that put you off. Often when we read these lists of names like this, we tend to gloss over them. However, like the whole of the rest of Scripture, careful readings can elicit nuggets, and this is something I was once shown on a visit to the Methodist Church’s Urban Theology Unit in Sheffield. The passage we were studying was Matthew 1:1-17 (The Ancestors of Jesus Christ), which I initially dismissed as a bit boring. But then, it’s not at all, because when you do look a bit more closely you can see that the women who are mentioned are: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and ‘the woman who had been Uriah’s wife’ i.e. Bathsheba. This is a very interesting group indeed, Matthew, it seems, making the point that Jesus’ descent was very much one of shades of grey in that it included a prostitute, a spy, a foreigner, and an adulteress.

It seems reasonable to suggest that what Matthew has done is to base his genealogy on that here in Genesis. For, here, as well as all Jacob’s boys, we also have an unnamed Canaanite woman at verse 10, Dinah (who, all we really know about Dinah is that she was the victim of a rape) at verse 15, and a daughter of Potiphera, an Egyptian priest, at verse 20.

At the end of chapter 46 we have, ‘shepherds are detestable to the Egyptians,’ and this is a puzzle. Is this maybe a warning by Joseph that, like elsewhere, there can be prejudice against travellers? Later on at Exodus 1:11, these same Israelites build cities instead, including Rameses, and its mention catches our attention today. While it’s impossible to completely marry the Biblical record with archaeological findings, underneath modern-day Qantir there is evidence of a city thought to have been the capital of Egypt in the days of Ramesses the Great, who has often been identified with the Biblical Pharoah of the Exodus. It may be that Jacob’s family settled at that site, and were then forced to build a city on it, before leaving from it too (see Exodus 12:37).

Another name for Ramasses the Great is Ozymandias, and in light of that I think it’s worth having a look – not at Shelley’s famous poem of that name, but – at his friend and fellow poet, Horace Smith’s, poem, which has the exact same name. The two poems are the result of some friendly competition between them:

In Egypt's sandy silence, all alone,
Stands a gigantic Leg, which far off throws
The only shadow that the Desert knows:—
"I am great OZYMANDIAS," saith the stone,
"The King of Kings; this mighty City shows
The wonders of my hand."— The City's gone,—
Naught but the Leg remaining to disclose
The site of this forgotten Babylon.

We wonder,—and some Hunter may express
Wonder like ours, when thro' the wilderness
Where London stood, holding the Wolf in chace,
He meets some fragment huge, and stops to guess
What powerful but unrecorded race
Once dwelt in that annihilated place.

Let us pray:

A Mustard Seed

It's impossible your head tells you.
There's just too much to do.
Everything's a mess.
Hope is lost.

But still . . .

Don't you have at least a little bit of faith?
A tiny seed.

Inside there's a plan,
A hope, a dream of great possibilities.

Within a small seed of faith
Resides all the power of God.

Plant the seed. Water it carefully,lovingly,
Then let the Lord take control.

In even just a shred of faith in God
You'll find promises -

Of Christ's victory in your life,
Of faith moving mountains,
Of the resurrection,
And a heavenly destination.

Life eternal begins today.
Start living it now.

Then join with others living in the Spirit,
Each on giving all through a grain of faith
Countless mountains, moving across nations
Building up the glorious Kingdom of God,

Amen.


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