(Genesis 41, Mark 11; Optional Psalm 30, Proverbs 8:12-18)
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GENESIS 41 – Most of the time clues showing us that years are going by have been vague (see Gen 40:1, 4. But after Joseph interpreted the cupbearer’s dream and asked him to bring up Joseph’s case to Pharaoh (Gen 40:14-15) we hear an exact time in Gen 41:1 – “After TWO WHOLE YEARS…” I’m guessing that Joseph was filled with hope at first, wondering if God was about to set him free from his unjust imprisonment…
Gen 41:8-14 – But it was not God’s timing for that until TWO WHOLE YEARS more had gone by, and God used the cupbearer’s forgetting (Gen 40:23) and then remembering (Gen 41:14).
Gen 41:14-16 – This is Joseph’s big chance to impress Pharaoh and let him know how vital he is, to ensure he’s let out of prison. And yet he correctly diverts Pharaoh’s attention to GOD in Gen 41:16, 25, 32. Remember Abraham in Gen 22 – after many years of waiting for God to fulfill His promise, Abraham and Sarah have their son of promise and then God commands Abraham to put his beloved son on the altar. Is GOD our hope, or His gifts?? This is also the question in the book of Job, and a consistent theme throughout Scripture.
Gen 41:39-44 – When it was God’s timing, Joseph went in ONE AFTERNOON from prisoner in the dungeon/pit (Gen 41:14) to second-in-command of a world power (Gen 41:57).
Gen 41:46 – When you compare this with Gen 37:2 we see that God’s unexpected school of leadership and greatness in His kingdom took 13 years of “hardship” and “affliction” for Joseph (see Gen 41:51-52 and compare Gen 40:14-15). But it happened ONE DAY AT A TIME – compare Jesus’ words about how to avoid worry: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matt 6:33-34, ESV). Also see Lamentations 3:21-24 – when God was pouring out His judgment on Jerusalem for their idolatry and it was so awful that the prophet went up and down the streets weeping, he encouraged himself that God’s mercies are NEW EVERY MORNING. The hymn “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” comes from this Lamentations text in the middle of intense sorrow and learning to hope IN THE LORD HIMSELF.
MARK 11 – Three times in Mark, Jesus prophesied His upcoming death and resurrection, the disciples respond in a wildly inappropriate way, and He teaches them yet again (Mark 8:29-38, 9:31-35, 10:32-45). Now He rides into Jerusalem at the beginning of the week where He will lay down His life. Because the people quote Ps 118:25-26, recognizing Jesus as the Messiah (“Hosanna” is Hebrew for “save us, we pray”) we often hear this called the “Triumphal Entry.” But don’t forget that Jesus WEPT on this day (see Luke 19:41-44) because most were hoping that Jesus would save them from the ROMANS and had no interest in a Messiah to save them from their SINS.
Mk 11:12-33 – Jesus’ only destructive miracle stands out as an enacted parable warning about the fruitlessness of what Judaism had become. Jesus weaves His condemnation of the fruitless fig tree in between confrontations with the Jewish leaders and cleansing the Temple.
Mk 11:12-14 – Why did Jesus curse the tree, if it wasn’t the season for figs? Many point out that when figs have leaves you can expect edible early figs. Others think Jesus did this just to be memorable – that it would have stood out even more to the disciples because it was so unexpected. Some think Jesus was contrasting the fig tree which could only bear fruit in its season to the Temple which SHOULD always bear fruit to God’s glory. When you compare this acted-out parable to the story Jesus tells in Mk 12:1-11 (especially see Mk 12:2), it’s CLEAR that Jesus is condemning the Jewish leaders for fruitlessness. When there should have been fruit from Israel, instead they killed the messengers that the master of the vineyard sent, leading up to killing the beloved son (Mk 12:5-9).
Mk 11:17 – Although Jesus came first to call ISRAEL to turn from their sins and be saved, don’t miss this missionary quote from Isaiah 56:7.
Mk 11:23-27 – What is this teaching on prayer doing here? The disciples were amazed at the quick withering of the tree and its permanent fruitlessness, and Jesus teaches about TWO REASONS for fruitlessness in prayer: 1) lack of FAITH (v 22-24) and 2) lack of FORGIVENESS (v 25-26).
Some wrongly act as if v 23-24 as the complete instruction on prayer and faith. We ARE powerfully reminded by Jesus here that a key component of faith is believing that God CAN do what we ask (compare Mk 9:22-24 and the dad’s prayer “I believe; help my unbelief”). But in Mk 4:35-41 the disciples obviously believed Jesus COULD stop the storm or they wouldn’t have woken Him. They were rebuked there because they lacked the other component of faith – they didn’t believe that Jesus CARED enough to do what was right (see Mk 4:38). And don’t forget Mk 5:18-19 and Mk 14:35-36 where requests were NOT granted because they didn’t fit God’s ultimate sovereign plan (also see 2 Cor 12:7-10). So Mk 11:23-27 is certainly NOT the full teaching on prayer. I like this summary from the ESV Study Bible:
[“Some have misused this verse by telling people that if they pray for physical healing (or for some other specific request) and if they just have enough faith, then they can have confidence that God has already done (or will do) whatever they ask. But we must always have the same perspective that Jesus had—that is, confidence in God’s power but also submission to his will: “Father, all things are possible for you.… Yet not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36).”]
Optional Psalm 30 – A celebration of God’s rescue. If you’re in the middle of a season of sorrow, remember that FULL deliverance and ETERNAL JOY are the END of the story for every believer (compare Rom 8:18, 2 Cor 4:16-18).
Ps 30:4-6 – This is why we can praise God even in the midst of our tears. The weeping is temporary, but the joy is eternal!
Ps 30:11-12 – A beautiful description of how God will (in His time) turn “my mourning into dancing”! And verse 12 says WHY God rescues us – “that my glory may sing Your praise and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to You FOREVER!”
Optional Proverbs 8:12-18 – In Prov 1:7 we’re told that wisdom and knowledge BEGINS with proper “fear of the LORD”. In Prov 8:13 we’re given a definition. Bible study tip: It’s good to have a key Scripture where you can jot down other vital verses on a topic. Since I’m tracing the vital theme of proper fear of God through Scripture and this is a central definition, I’ve written “** F” next to this verse. And over time I’ve jotted down other important verses about the fear of God. And in my Bible study app, when I find a helpful Scripture, article, or reflection on the “fear of God” theme, I add it to my digital notes that I’ve connected to this text.
Don’t miss that wisdom can be seen both in what we HATE (v 13) and what we LOVE (v 17).