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Duddingston Kirk, Edinburgh

Sunday Services at 10 am and 11.30 am

Bible Reading Notes

These notes were compiled by the Reverend Dr James A P Jack. You will find reading the Bible rewarding and encouraging, but reading the Bible is not always easy!

These guidelines may help you.


September 2018

The Story of Joseph

September 1      Genesis 37:1–11

Today we begin reading of a young man with a most remarkable life story, yet his early years were not very attractive. He is a telltale; he is spoilt by his father; he is unpopular with his brothers; he is a dreamer and he is also conceited because in his dreams he sees himself as the ‘big chief’ with his parents and brothers playing supporting roles. What can God do with such an unattractive youth?

September 2      Genesis 37:12–36

If Joseph was not a very attractive person then his father and brothers were not much better. Notice how bitter and vengeful his brothers were. They wanted to kill him, and, if in the end Joseph was taken away into slavery; that could often be a fate worse than death itself. Notice also Jacob’s selfish grief. He was not sorry for his son but for himself.

September 3      Genesis 39:1–23

Slavery must have been a shock for Joseph who had known such a pampered boyhood. Yet Joseph adapts to his changed circumstances remarkably well. He works so hard and so well that his master rewards him with some responsibility. Even when he was arrested and put in prison, he did not complain but continued to work to the best of his ability. Joseph has now grown up both morally and spiritually.

September 4      Genesis 40:1–23

We do not know how long Joseph was in prison. The baker and the butler were both in prison ‘a long time’, yet Joseph was there before them and remained after they left. Not only that, but he was given menial tasks to do. But there is no word of complaint. Little did Joseph realise at the time that in fact God was quietly preparing him for the great task ahead. Those whom God chooses often have a long preparation before they are ready for service.

September 5      Genesis 41:1–36

Joseph’s time of preparation has come to an end. His ability to interpret dreams in prison was the means of bringing him to the attention of the king. We have already seen that tale-telling was responsible for Joseph being in prison, now his boyhood ability of interpreting dreams has set him on the path God has chosen for him. To what extent do our childhood circumstances influence our later development?

September 6      Genesis 41:37–57

What a transformation in his fortune! From prison, Joseph rises to become a most important leader in the nation with great responsibility. He also receives an Egyptian name, and a high-born wife! Those whom God chooses, and who remain faithful to him, God honours. Joseph’s task is to conserve the riches of prosperity for the years of famine. How easily he could have used this time of personal prosperity to compensate for his own years of famine, but he is too big a man for such petty spite. He gives to his high office the same careful attention and labour as he gave to the menial tasks of earlier years. This is the mark of a truly great man.

September 7      Genesis 42:1–24

The famine was widespread and many came from other lands to buy grain from Egyptian storehouses. Among them were Joseph’s own brothers from Canaan. What a strange quirk of fate, or can the hand of God be seen in this? Joseph recognised them and decided to ‘play a little game’ with them. The sins of our earlier years, unless fully expiated, can still trouble us – even into old age!

September 8      Genesis 42:25–38

Is it possible for us to understand the consternation as they discovered the money hidden amongst the grain in their bags? They had earlier forced their brother into a situation of fear and terror. Now they are being led into a similar situation. How can they face the ‘big man’ in Egypt again, yet the famine is such that they must return to Egypt or starve.

September 9       Genesis 43:1–23

What a graphic description of a divided family! The sons know what must be done – the father’s sole concern seems to be for his own sorrow. On the other hand the brothers cannot say too much for they know that they are responsible for the loss of the other son, Joseph. They resort to bribery (v.11). Notice the fear and anxiety as they arrive in Egypt. What a blessing it is to have a clear conscience and a steady faith!

September 10      Genesis 43:24–34

What a tense atmosphere there must have been around that table! Joseph’s heart bursting with a desire to reveal himself to his brothers; Benjamin trying to understand why he was specially favoured; the others unable to understand how they had been seated according to their ages; while the Egyptians present wondered why their governor should make such a fuss over these particular beggars from Canaan.

September 11      Genesis 44:1–17

Joseph continued to torment his brothers. They must have been sick with fear and anxiety. They are in Egypt pleading for grain and they know that the Egyptians are under no obligation to sell it to them. Now they stand under the charge of being thieves. After receiving such lavish hospitality from the governor, Benjamin is found to have the governor’s silver cup in his sack. How can they go home and tell their father what has happened to his favourite son?

September 12      Genesis 44:18–34

One of the brothers, Judah, now assumes the role of leader. Not only is he a spokesman, but he offers himself as a slave that the others might go free. Here is something that frequently recurs throughout history; the willing sacrifice of the individual or group for the good of the family or nation. This can be seen in different areas of life. There are the professional soldiers, sailors and air force members who risk death or injury for the sake of their native land. There are those who spurn wealth or leisure that the truth might be known and preserved. And there was God’s own Son who died on Calvary that ‘all who believe in him might not perish, but have eternal life’ (John 3:16).

September 13      Genesis 45:1–15

Is it possible to imagine the astonishment, joy and ecstasy as Joseph reveals himself to his brothers? Joseph can now see the early events in his life as part of God’s plan for his whole life. He can now see his life not as a series of haphazard events, but as something having a purpose. This can be true in all our lives, if we faithfully seek to be obedient to God at every turn.

September 14      Genesis 45:16–28

The past is now forgotten and forgiven. It is time to make preparation for the future. No wonder Jacob was stunned when he heard the news (v.26) – but v.28 shows Jacob still thinking only of himself. ‘My son is alive; “I” must go before “I” die.’

September 15      Genesis 46:1–7, 28–34

Now the whole family moves to a new life in Egypt. We see the promise of God. In spite of our human frailties, God is still prepared to reveal to us the ways of righteousness.

September 16      Genesis 47:1–12

For Jacob and his family the years of famine are now over. The famine itself is not over, but they now enjoy the security of Egypt, and they are related to a most important man in that country. For them the future is secure. If Jacob only knew, an even greater hardship was building up for his children and descendants.

September 17      Genesis 47:13–25

In these verses we see the sheer desperation of people whose very lives depend on the harvest. When famine strikes, they have no reserves. There comes a point when they must sell themselves into slavery. It is quite impossible for us to imagine the horror of such a situation, yet even today such famine is not unknown abroad.

September 18      Genesis 48:1–12

Jacob realises that his earthly life is drawing to its close. There are many who refuse to face up to the reality of death, yet it is the one certain fact of life. We have the choice of ignoring death and pretending that it will never happen to us (some people are foolish enough to believe that!), or preparing for that event so that we and our loved ones may avoid the trauma of sudden separation. See Philippians 1:21.

September 19      Genesis 48:13–21

It was believed that a blessing passed through the right hand had a greater power than a blessing passed through the left. Joseph placed his sons carefully before his father so that the right hand naturally would be placed upon the elder, while the left would be placed on the younger, but Jacob crossed his hands so that the situation was reversed. When Joseph tried to correct him, Jacob explained that, although the elder would one day be a great man, yet the younger would be even greater.

September 20      Genesis 50:15-21

After Jacob’s death, the other brothers felt insecure. Their guilty consciences still reminded them of how they treated Joseph so long ago. Joseph was big enough to forgive, but what needless suffering those who err in life bring upon themselves. Even after the immediate danger is past, there is still the guilty conscience that will not go away. Complete forgiveness is the only cure, and God alone can forgive our sins.

Out of Egypt

September 21      Exodus 1:1–22

A new king now ruled and he was concerned at the large number of aliens in his land. He saw them as a threat. Fear of a large immigrant population is not something that only belongs to modern Britain! Notice how the king dealt with his ‘problem’, first by slavery, then by population control of a most savage kind. One is reminded here of Hitler’s ‘final solution’ of the Jewish problem.

September 22      Exodus 2:1–10

Chapter 1 ends with the king’s order that all Hebrew boys be killed at birth; chapter 2 begins with what this means for one particular family. They cannot bear to think of their newborn son being killed, and so he is hidden near the river, where he is later found by the king’s daughter, who arranges with the child’s own mother to look after him during his infancy. Here is the beginning of a great drama where God’s plan and purpose can be seen in a wonderful way.

September 23      Exodus 2:11–24

Although Moses was a Hebrew by birth, and spent his first years in a Hebrew home, yet his main upbringing was in a royal palace, so that he was regarded as an Egyptian. His natural qualities of leadership sought reconciliation among those who fought, although his sense of justice led him to kill a murderer. For this rash act he had to flee to the wilderness where he settled and worked as a shepherd. Here is the third phase of God’s preparation – in the quietness of the hills he had time to reflect and mature. It is interesting to consider how often those chosen by God are first led into what is known as ‘a wilderness period’.

September 24      Exodus 3:1–10

The call to Moses came while he was going about his daily work, but it came in such a way that he had to turn aside. To how many has God called over the ages, but they have been so deaf that they never heard; or if they heard, they were unwilling to ‘turn aside’? God is aware of the circumstances under which his people are suffering; God is going to do something; and God knows the man through whom this is to be accomplished.

September 25      Exodus 3:11–22

Note Moses’ reluctance. He is only too aware of the seeming impossibility of the task ahead of him. See the answer God gives: ‘I will be with you’. Also note that God already knows what to do. God always knows what is going on, and what God plans to do about it.

September 26      Exodus 4:1–17

Moses continues to raise excuses or difficulties, but two things happen. He is faced with a situation which seems utterly impossible, but God shows him that the ‘impossible’ can be done. Also Moses learns that his brother will be with him and their natural gifts and talents will complement each other. God never calls someone to do a task without, at the same time, providing them with the means by which it can be accomplished.

September 27      Exodus 5:1–14

Moses begins his task but the king of Egypt is not impressed. Moses only succeeds in making things worse for his fellow Hebrews. Very often a person, seeking to do his or her best, only manages to make matters worse, but God always honours those who honour God. Perhaps Moses made matters worse himself by not being completely open with his request. God wants His people to go free, but Moses only asked for them to be allowed to hold a festival in the wilderness. How often we make matters worse by being less than open with those around us!

September 28      Exodus 5:15–6:1

Now Moses is being criticized by the very people he is trying to help! The whole Bible is a record of how God’s servants have been rejected. Moses comes now to his fourth stage of learning, that of learning to rely wholly on God.

September 29      Exodus 6:2–13

God reminds Moses of how God has been with God’s people in past generations. Moses is only too conscious of his own utter inability, but God shows him that what he is being called to do is part of the unfolding pattern of history.

September 30      Exodus 6:28–7:13

Now begins a long struggle between Moses and the king of Egypt. The king is obviously not going to listen to a reasoned request, and so fear must be instilled in him through supernatural means. First it begins on the level of magic – an art in which the Egyptians had gained some mastery – and so in the early stages they are able to do what Moses does. It is only later that the king will discover that he is dealing with a Power that is infinitely greater than anything he has known before.