12th January 2021 Canvey Methodist Church Bible Studies

Canvey Island Methodist Church Bible Study 12th January 2021


 

Genesis 28:10-22;

10 Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Harran. 11 When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. 12 He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13 There above it[a] stood the Lord, and he said: “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. 14 Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring.[b] 15 I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

 

16 When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” 17 He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.”

 

18 Early the next morning Jacob took the stone he had placed under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it. 19 He called that place Bethel,[c] though the city used to be called Luz.

 

20 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear 21 so that I return safely to my father’s household, then the Lord[d] will be my God 22 and[e] this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.”

 

Footnotes

 

a.Genesis 28:13 Or There beside him

b.Genesis 28:14 Or will use your name and the name of your offspring in blessings (see 48:20)

c.Genesis 28:19 Bethel means house of God.

d.Genesis 28:21 Or Since God … father’s household, the Lord

e.Genesis 28:22 Or household, and the Lord will be my God, 22 then

 

Micah 4

New International Version

The Mountain of the Lord

 

4 In the last days

 

the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established

    as the highest of the mountains;

it will be exalted above the hills,

    and peoples will stream to it.

2 Many nations will come and say,

 

“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,

    to the temple of the God of Jacob.

He will teach us his ways,

    so that we may walk in his paths.”

The law will go out from Zion,

    the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

3 He will judge between many peoples

    and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide.

They will beat their swords into plowshares

    and their spears into pruning hooks.

Nation will not take up sword against nation,

    nor will they train for war anymore.

4 Everyone will sit under their own vine

    and under their own fig tree,

and no one will make them afraid,

    for the Lord Almighty has spoken.

5 All the nations may walk

    in the name of their gods,

but we will walk in the name of the Lord

    our God for ever and ever.

 

John1:43-51.         New International Version.  Jesus Calls Philip and Nathanael

 

43 The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.”

 

44 Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. 45 Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

 

46 “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.

 

“Come and see,” said Philip.

 

47 When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”

 

48 “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.

 

Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”

 

49 Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.”

 

50 Jesus said, “You believe[a] because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.” 51 He then added, “Very truly I tell you,[b] you[c] will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’[d] the Son of Man.”

 

Read full chapter

Footnotes

 

a.John 1:50 Or Do you believe … ?

b.John 1:51 The Greek is plural.

c.John 1:51 The Greek is plural.

d.John 1:51 Gen. 28:12

 

Comment: 

 

New Beginnings- The rather muted celebrations of New Year 2021 with its colourful fireworks and innovative dancing illuminated sky drones, all lighting up the sky over London together, are events now nearly two weeks back, and perhaps the newness of this first month of 2021 is beginning to wear off slightly. Perhaps contributing to this diminishing freshness are the tarnishing effects of the news bulletins that seemingly are coming at us from every side daily ; These include such events as the troublesome implementation of new post eu membership rules, the grim harsh realities of crowded covid hospital wards, the strict social mixing restrictions affecting us all, and the unwelcome somber news of increasing death rates amongst those who are ill with Coronavirus. These combine to form a worrying backdrop to the new year.

And yet, even this sputtering start to 2021, has with it, also the welcome hope of brighter things to come with the “roll out” of the freshly approved covid vaccines across the populations of the UK and beyond.

To put all of this into a wider context, the history of the world and of humankind itself, is full of reports of troubled endings, of fallen empires and peoples, of new era’s and beginnings; pre to post ice age, BC to AD, Pre War to Post War, and Iron Curtain to the fall of the Berlin Wall. Empires and tyrants have both come, and gone. Even the Universe is stamped with the same processes of change built in, with death and resurrection of Stars; with Supernova to Star Creation (as Hydrogen condenses, fusion reactions occur and new flaming solar masses are formed).

The Bible too, is full of such endings and beginnings, but when we look closer and turn its pages on these events, we find something extra that makes the heart leap and the spirit to rise in hope. For, this is not an account of a loveless, inert or random set of cosmic processes or events relentlessly pursuing a course of reactive change. Rather, woven throughout the timeline of creation, from its beginning to end, is to be found a divine golden thread of loving intention, pure justice, eternal presence and an incarnation of sacrificial grace. This is a panoramic vista of the presence of Almighty God, creating, loving and redeeming a universe and people whose free choices and intentions sadly have been frequently flawed, and often destructive in nature.

Highlighted in our Bible readings today is the Old Testament character of Jacob, who, having fallen out with his older brother Esau, (by the stealing his father Isaac's  blessing by deception), set off from Canaan to seek his fortune in Paddan Aram, with his Uncle Laban. It is an exciting story so please do read the rest in Genesis 28 and 29 to find out what happened. However, despite this unpleasant, morally doubtful start to his New Beginning, we find that Jacob went on to have a personal encounter with Almighty God himself in a dream where heaven and earth met with Jacob committing his life to making Yahweh his God.

 

Throughout the Old Testament this golden thread of God’s care, guidance and presence is encountered through the lives, words and actions of kings and prophets, all who looked to the time when the temple of God would be on the mountain of the Lord, and His word would go out from Jerusalem.  At such a time, said the prophet Micah, peace will come, “They will beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks.  Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore”.(Micah 4:3).

Micah’s understanding of being at peace was for “Everyone to sit under their own vine  and under their own fig tree, where no one will make them afraid”. (Micah 4:4)

 

As we turn from the Old to the New Testament we find the fulfilment to part of Micah’s prophecy; the eternal word became flesh and the temple of the Lord came to earth. Yet recognition was not instant and some nearly missed him completely. John1:43-51 describes such a situation as Jesus drew his band of disciples together. Jesus was leaving  for Galilee when he found Philip who he invited to follow him. Phillip was so convinced that Jesus was the Messiah that he went looking for his friend Nathaniel and when he had found him he enthusiastically tried to get him to follow Jesus as well. He told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” (John 1:45). 

 

It’s strange isn’t it that entrenched perceptions and prejudices can so easily end up robbing us of blessing if we are not careful!. We might smile when we hear that the reason why Nathanial doubted Philips' recommendation of Jesus was because Jesus came from Nazareth. However, such geographical stereotypes are not uncommon around the world. It seems that every society has a region or a nation that is regarded as being less than worthy. For us in the UK it is not coming from Nazareth that is perceived as diminishing a person's credibility but, …… what about “Ireland”, France”, Tendring, or, dare I say it, “Canvey Island”. Can anything good come from those places. The answer is, of course, that by God’s Grace, good can come from anywhere !

What made the difference in this instance for Nathanial? Did Nazareth get a sudden “makeover” in his perception? No!  It was by Philip's invitation to him,  to “Come and See”........To Come and see for yourself if you don’t believe me!

And Nathaniel did and was immediately convinced, and, in the process, became the first person to publicly state that Jesus was “the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.” He exclaimed.(John 1:49).

 

Notice that Jesus made reference to two deeply significant statements about Jewish identity in his conversation with Nathanial that would have really “struck a chord” with him.

First, Micah's “Fig Tree” vision of peace when Messiah came.

Secondly, Jacob's encounter with heaven with Angels moving up and down the ladder between the two.

 

50 Jesus said, “You believe[a] because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.” 51 He then added, “Very truly I tell you,[b] you[c] will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’[d] the Son of Man.” John1:50;

 

With Jesus, Nathanial would see even greater things than these events surrounding his first meeting with Jesus.

 

And that is the message that is left with me as I read these passages. No matter what the circumstances are, no matter what the difficulties may be that I have encountered, no matter how hopeless the situation may seem to be, when Jesus is in the picture, there is a hand to hold, a love that cares, a presence that abides and a conduit of grace between heaven and earth where strength, peace, resilience and power, flow freely from nail pierced hands.

 

As I write today, UK coronavirus deaths have risen by 1,243 - with 45,533 new cases reported in the past 24 hours, some of us have relatives and friends who are affected and anxiety and worry presses down on our chests as we lift them up before the Lord for His touch.

 

Conversely, many church friends have now received the CoronaVirus Vaccine and more are to receive this very soon.

 

  Together, we share each other’s burdens; together we celebrate God’s goodness, and together we move on into the new beginning of this Year knowing that God is with us all in “EVERY” circumstance.

 

May each of us know this truth for ourselves that God is still weaving His golden thread of grace through today’s timeline of history through you and through me.

 

Yours In Christian Love.

 

Colin