What Can a Man Give in Exchange for His Soul?

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GENESIS 50:1-26 | EXODUS 1:1-2:10 | MATTHEW 16:13-17:9 | PSALM 21:1-13PROVERBS 5:1-6

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20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. 21 So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them. 

That is what the text tells us about Joseph.  Those were Joseph’s words to his brothers.  That was the kind of person he was.  Reassuring his brothers after their father’s death, Joseph repays them with kindness — not just the brothers, but their entire families.  What amazing grace!

And so, we wrap up the book of Genesis, and begin a new book–the second one in the Pentateuch or Torah–called Exodus.  The title refers to the physical exodus of the people of Israel from Egypt back to Canaan.  The story of Joseph’s life and times has come to an end. 

Joseph dies at the age of 110, and is afforded all the high honors of the land, but soon the memory of this great Hebrew begins to fade in the minds of the people.  Pharaohs come and pharaohs go, and there then comes a time when the reigning Pharaoh begins to notice the prosperity of this expatriate population.  And while this fact ought have been a source of pride and power, it instead makes the Pharaoh insecure to the point of his beginning to scheme to contain this population.

We have here perhaps the very first documented account of ethnic cleansing.  The Pharaoh’s orders are first to kill the male Hebrew children at birth by the midwives, and when that plan doesn’t seem to work too well, he orders that all male children be drowned in the Nile.  Sound familiar?  Herod, king of Judea, removed many centuries later engages in the same practice of killing the male newborns in the hopes that he would prevent the “King of the Jews” from being born.  And yet, out of these dire circumstances, we see the rise of yet another great character:  Moses.

Moses’ story is another fascinating one:  his resourceful mother saves the child, hides it for three months, then prepares a wicker basket, places the baby within it, and makes it so that the basket is discovered by the daughter of the Pharaoh who comes down to bathe in the river.  And what’s more, as providence would have it, the nurse appointed for the baby is none other than the baby’s mother!  I think Pharaoh’s daughter must have known all along what she was doing:  she was defying her father’s orders in rescuing a Hebrew baby and commissioning a Hebrew woman to care for it. 

But that is how things go sometimes:  you are led by a greater power and force that is beyond your own understanding to carry out a mission that you would otherwise never think of engaging in. 

And so, here we have it:  a precious boy rescued from the bulrushes of the Nile by an Egyptian princess who names the child Moses, meaning, I drew him out of the water.

Turning next to our reading in Matthew we find Peter speaking these words:  “You are the Christ,the Son of the living God.”  This is Peter’s proclamation and confession to Jesus, this man who randomly called out to him one day to come and follow him.  This is the same Peter who not too much later will deny all knowledge of Jesus — not once but three times.

And so, Matthew continues his account of Jesus’ life and times.  We see how Jesus continues to travel throughout the region: preaching and teaching about the Kingdom of God. 

And as his time draws near, he says to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save his lifewill lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?

Great question, don’t you think?  What can one give in exchange for the security of your soul?  Can you trade or buy your salvation?  With what?  In case the disciples were wondering as well, they would have surely had an epiphany when a few days later they were given to see the transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain-top and they hear a voice from above identifying him.  Surely, this must be the Son of God!  And here he is within their midst offering eternal life to everyone that believes.

Next, we look to the Psalms, and find David offering these words of praise:

1 The king rejoices in your strength, LORD.
How great is his joy in the victories you give!

And finally, a few verses from the book of Proverbs where Solomon, wise king of Israel, offers these words of exhortation:

1 My son, pay attention to my wisdom,
turn your ear to my words of insight,
2 that you may maintain discretion
and your lips may preserve knowledge.

May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word.  Amen.

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