With Father’s Day approaching we think about the men who have played an important role in our lives. Not all of us were raised by our biological fathers, but most of us can think of a man who had a significant impact on who we are today. Even Jesus had a parental figure who was not his father. God chose Joseph, a humble carpenter, to be the earthly male influence for Jesus. Learn more about Joseph from the Every Man’s Bible.
The Man God Picked
What sort of man would God pick to rear his one and only Son, Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world? Would the man have to wield great influence? Amass tremendous political power? Accumulate fantastic riches?
No, no and no. God’s requirements came down to these two items:
He had to be a direct descendant of David (2 Samuel 7:16)
He had to follow directions.
Joseph, a Jewish carpenter, fit both requirements. He traced his lineage to his famous forebear, King David (Matthew 1:1-16; Luke 1:27), and he made it a habit to obey God in all matters, large or small.
Scripture doesn’t tell us a lot about Joseph. He comes on the scene abruptly at the beginning of the gospel story. We learn he is a “good” man (Matthew 1:19) and that he works as a carpenter (13:55). He plans to marry a young woman named Mary. But when he discovers that she is carrying someone else’s child, he decides to break the engagement quietly.
How did Joseph find out about the pregnancy? Did his fiancee tell him directly? Or did he hear the shocking news through friends or family? Did he wonder, Well, if God could send an angel to tell her, why couldn’t he other to send one to tell me?
Whatever the case, he made up his mind to distance himself from Mary. And then a second shock took place: God did let Joseph in on the divine secret. An angel appeared in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (1:20-21).
The angel offered no explanation. He gave no apology, no further instructions or communiques of any kind – and yet Joseph hurried to comply with God’s command. He immediately took Mary home to be his wife and name her son Jesus the moment he was born.
At least three other times Joseph got instructions from an angel in a dream, and all three times he immediately complied (2:13-15, 19-21, 22-23). Today’s readers might thing, Hey, if I got a message from an angel, I’d listen, too. Really? Not everyone in the Bible did. The might King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon ignored the dream God sent him (Daniel 4) – and wound up breakfasting with the bovines. The Roman governor of Jesus’ day, Pontius Pilate, ignored the dream God sent his wife (Matthew 17:19) – and ended up condemning to death the man God had sent to bring life. Joseph, however, leapt to do God’s bidding in both the “small” stuff (Luke 2:39, 41) and the “big.”
That’s the kind of man God looked for to rock his Son’s cradle. And it’s still the kind of man he seeks to rock the world.
This month we will be using the Every Man’s Bible for our monthly Read With Us plan. Sign up here
Read the response from our partners at the Institute for Bible Reading concerning what GQ got wrong in its Bible evaluation. Glenn Paauw is a leading expert on Bible reading and development. Here is what he has to say:
The editors of GQ magazine recently assembled a list of 21 no-need-to-read so-called Great Books, along with a parallel list of recommended alternative choices. [Read the article here.] The point was to challenge the idea that there’s a mandatory list of books that anyone claiming to be well-read will know from firsthand experience. Don’t worry, say these guardians of the hipster style scene, because the whole idea of a canon is, well, already shot.
Many of the Great Books aren’t actually so great, so feel free to take a pass.
The list itself is pretty eclectic, taking aim not merely at older classics from authors like Henry James, Mark Twain, and Ernest Hemingway, but also newer offerings like those of David Foster Wallace and Paulo Coelho. The original sin apparently afflicting all of the list? The snore factor.
No doubt some of the questioning, along with the suggested Plan B, are spot on. Instead of J. D. Salinger’s “not profound” Franny and Zooey, try Willa Cather’s “calm and contemplative and open” Death Comes for the Archbishopinstead. Sound advice there. But sometimes the list limps, as when Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings fantasy novels are relegated to “barely readable” status.
The Bible and the List
It’s probably not surprising that the Bible also made the cut list. These days there is a rather standard list of objections to the Bible, including but not limited to being sexist, violent, and generally approving of all manner of cultural regressions.
It is interesting and worth noting that not so long ago the standard story about the Bible was that it was The Good Book, albeit the one rarely read. Pollster George Gallup called it the best-selling, least-read book in America. Today the Bible remains largely unknown, but now it’s increasingly The Bad Book. And yes, boring too.
GQ’s list is not made up of review essays; it is as it claims to be, merely a list. But a few dismissive comments are included with each entry.
American novelist Jesse Ball’s cool brush-off of the Bible goes like this:
The Holy Bible is rated very highly by all the people who supposedly live by it but who in actuality have not read it. Those who have read it know there are some good parts, but overall it is certainly not the finest thing that man has ever produced. It is repetitive, self-contradictory, sententious, foolish, and even at times ill-intentioned.
So there you have it.
First, the data point is correct: a long stream of research over the last few decades confirms what we all pretty much know anyway: the Bible is not being read very much. Most of those who still interact with it are not really reading it, but using some of its bits and pieces. So in many cases the pro-Bible people do not have a deep acquaintance with the actual content (which we’re actively working to address.)
Ball goes on to claim that once we do actually read it, we quickly discover the Bible’s manifold faults. But here the critique misses, I think, because of what I call the misframing of the Bible. Let me explain. For the Bible to be anything like what it’s intended to be, it is crucial to bring the right kind of assumptions and expectations to it.
Evaluating the Bible On Its Own Terms
Is the Bible trying to be like the other entries on this list? Is the Bible trying to be a captivating novel?
No, it isn’t, so characterizing it this way misleads us about its real purpose. And this can quickly enough lead to its easy dismissal.
Of course those who’ve already committed to the Christian story and its Author will have lots of reasons for wanting to read and reread the Bible. But what about would-be readers from outside the traditions that are honoring their own Scriptures? How does an honest outside evaluation of the Bible get on the right track?
For openers, the Bible must be acknowledged for what it is and what it’s trying to do. The Bible is a library of ancient literature, so the first thing is to set aside anachronistic contemporary assessments which want the Bible to act like a modern book. The Bible’s various literary entries are essentially telling us the story of a particular people from thousands of years ago and their claims to be interacting with the Creator of the world.
The Bible does this using ancient ways of writing and telling, so the only way to appreciate the Bible is to willingly enter into its own ancient world. If we’re going to pretend to sum up the value of the Bible, we at least owe it a fair reading, which means learning the basics of how ancient writings worked on their own terms. Poetry, prophetic visions, earthy wisdom, story-telling, and all the other communicative forms of the Bible are often strange to our modern ears. So the thing to do is learn a little about them and then at least begin by reading sympathetically.
Ultimately, the only decent way to read the Bible is to take it book by book, try to understand first what each one was saying to its own ancient audience, and then start putting the story together. Where does the narrative of the Bible go? We live where the story was going, not where it’s been. This is how the decisive question of the value in the Bible needs to be addressed. Rather than acting as a sourcebook for timeless truths, the Bible claims to be the beginning of a story that has continuing relevance for the world long past its own pages. It does this by making claims about the God of the Bible and what he’s up to.
[clickToTweet tweet=”We live where the story was going, not where it’s been. This is how the decisive question of the value in the Bible needs to be addressed.” quote=”We live where the story was going, not where it’s been. This is how the decisive question of the value in the Bible needs to be addressed.” theme=”style3″]
The Bible itself already has a long record of being a powerful force in the history of the world. It’s hard to think of anything more influential in the Western imaginative tradition of art and literature. This alone makes it worth reading. GQ’s assessment of the Bible was surpassed before it was even printed, and its dismissal tells us more about ourselves and our age than it does about the Bible.
It may be best to offer an invitation, rather than a defense. As the voice urged St. Augustine (no small cultural influence himself), “Take up and read!” Just be sure to read well.
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From Busyness to Purpose
It’s easy to get caught up in the busyness of life and forget the purpose of life. The writer of Ecclesiastes reminds us that God isn’t “all work and no play.” He has given us wonderful gifts to enjoy and he loves seeing his people appreciating those gifts. But of all his gifts, his love is the greatest. As we go about our busy lives take a moment to reflect on God’s gifts, big and small, and thank Him for His amazing love.
Read this passage from Ecclesiastes and reflect on the note from the Every Man’s Bible.
“I came to hate all my hard work here on earth, for I must leave to others everything I have earned. And who can tell whether my successors will be wise or foolish? Yet they will control everything I have gained by my skill and hard work under the sun. How meaningless! So I gave up in despair, questioning the value of all my hard work in this world.
Some people work wisely with knowledge and skill, then must leave the fruit of their efforts to someone who hasn’t worked for it. This, too, is meaningless, a great tragedy. So what do people get in this life for all their hard work and anxiety? Their days of labor are filled with pain and grief; even at night their minds cannot rest. It is all meaningless.
So I decided there is nothing better than to enjoy food and drink and to find satisfaction in work. Then I realized that these pleasures are from the hand of God. For who can eat or enjoy anything apart from him? God gives wisdom, knowledge, and joy to those who please him. But if a sinner becomes wealthy, God takes the wealth away and gives it to those who please him. This, too, is meaningless—like chasing the wind.”
“The alternative to over commitment to work is the enjoyment of life as God’s good gift. This includes enjoying our work while not allowing it to become the key to meaning in our lives. This is the first of the Teacher’s admonitions to take life less seriously and enjoy it more. Life is too short to waste it on the treadmill of ever- increasing professional accomplishments. We need to take the time to enjoy the gifts that God gives us.”
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Scripture Union Africa Sees the Power of a Bible in Ghana
Since 1963, Tyndale House Foundation has been involved in supporting ministry on the continent of Africa.
Scripture Union Africa is one of the many ministries that Tyndale House Foundation supports. The former President of Scripture Union Ghana, Jude Hama, came to Tyndale House Publishers recently and shared the ongoing need for Christian literature distribution in Ghana, West Africa. There are many challenges in reaching the hearts and minds of young people in Ghana, but Scripture Union has seen tremendous success through literature distribution programs and group study—in fact, Scripture Union has a presence in 65%-85% of the high schools throughout Ghana.
Jude said, “We have only two aims in Scripture Union. Sharing God’s good news with children, and encouraging people of all ages to meet God daily through devotional Bible reading. I am very grateful that when our needs were made known, Tyndale House Foundation chipped in. And did so faithfully each year.”
In addition to the support that Tyndale House Foundation gives Scripture Union, Tyndale House Publishers has been instrumental in distributing Bibles to students in Ghana through cause-driven campaigns in the United States and through support of donors like Naadu Mills, the former First Lady of Ghana. 350,000 copies of the New Living Translation were produced and distributed throughout the country, giving students direct access to God’s Word through a Bible of their very own.
Tyndale House Foundation is passionate about building a thriving publishing industry on the continent of Africa—supporting many other ministries and facilitating collaboration between organizations and individuals to meet the goal of publishing Christian books by Africans for Africans. Furthermore, it is our hope that these important works from authors in Africa will also be shared with the entire world.
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Think the Bible Is Boring?
Think the Bible is boring? Think again! The Bible is filled with amazing, powerful stories that make blockbuster movies seem like a yawn. But for kids, sometimes the just sitting and listening can make the Bible seem less engaging. That’s where the Hands-On Bible comes in. Loaded with activities this full-text Bible makes family devotion time into family fun time. Give it a try. Read Genesis 1-2 then as a family try the the suggested activity in the link after the Scripture. We’ve included a few more activities you can try out as well.
The Account of Creation
1In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.*2The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.
3Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4And God saw that the light was good. Then he separated the light from the darkness. 5God called the light “day” and the darkness “night.”
And evening passed and morning came, marking the first day.
6Then God said, “Let there be a space between the waters, to separate the waters of the heavens from the waters of the earth.” 7And that is what happened. God made this space to separate the waters of the earth from the waters of the heavens. 8God called the space “sky.”
And evening passed and morning came, marking the second day.
9Then God said, “Let the waters beneath the sky flow together into one place, so dry ground may appear.” And that is what happened. 10God called the dry ground “land” and the waters “seas.” And God saw that it was good. 11Then God said, “Let the land sprout with vegetation—every sort of seed-bearing plant, and trees that grow seed-bearing fruit. These seeds will then produce the kinds of plants and trees from which they came.” And that is what happened. 12The land produced vegetation—all sorts of seed-bearing plants, and trees with seed-bearing fruit. Their seeds produced plants and trees of the same kind. And God saw that it was good.
13And evening passed and morning came, marking the third day.
14Then God said, “Let lights appear in the sky to separate the day from the night. Let them be signs to mark the seasons, days, and years. 15Let these lights in the sky shine down on the earth.” And that is what happened. 16God made two great lights—the larger one to govern the day, and the smaller one to govern the night. He also made the stars. 17God set these lights in the sky to light the earth, 18to govern the day and night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good.
19And evening passed and morning came, marking the fourth day.
20Then God said, “Let the waters swarm with fish and other life. Let the skies be filled with birds of every kind.” 21So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that scurries and swarms in the water, and every sort of bird—each producing offspring of the same kind. And God saw that it was good. 22Then God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply. Let the fish fill the seas, and let the birds multiply on the earth.”
23And evening passed and morning came, marking the fifth day.
24Then God said, “Let the earth produce every sort of animal, each producing offspring of the same kind—livestock, small animals that scurry along the ground, and wild animals.” And that is what happened. 25God made all sorts of wild animals, livestock, and small animals, each able to produce offspring of the same kind. And God saw that it was good.
26Then God said, “Let us make human beings* in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth,* and the small animals that scurry along the ground.”
In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
28Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.”
29Then God said, “Look! I have given you every seed-bearing plant throughout the earth and all the fruit trees for your food. 30And I have given every green plant as food for all the wild animals, the birds in the sky, and the small animals that scurry along the ground—everything that has life.” And that is what happened.
31Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good!
And evening passed and morning came, marking the sixth day.
1So the creation of the heavens and the earth and everything in them was completed. 2On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested* from all his work. 3And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from all his work of creation.
4This is the account of the creation of the heavens and the earth.
The Man and Woman in Eden
When the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, 5neither wild plants nor grains were growing on the earth. For the Lord God had not yet sent rain to water the earth, and there were no people to cultivate the soil. 6Instead, springs* came up from the ground and watered all the land. 7Then the LordGod formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person.
8Then the Lord God planted a garden in Eden in the east, and there he placed the man he had made. 9The Lord God made all sorts of trees grow up from the ground—trees that were beautiful and that produced delicious fruit. In the middle of the garden he placed the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
10A river flowed from the land of Eden, watering the garden and then dividing into four branches. 11The first branch, called the Pishon, flowed around the entire land of Havilah, where gold is found. 12The gold of that land is exceptionally pure; aromatic resin and onyx stone are also found there. 13The second branch, called the Gihon, flowed around the entire land of Cush. 14The third branch, called the Tigris, flowed east of the land of Asshur. The fourth branch is called the Euphrates.
15The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it. 16But the Lord God warned him, “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden—17except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.
18Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.” 19So the Lord God formed from the ground all the wild animals and all the birds of the sky. He brought them to the man* to see what he would call them, and the man chose a name for each one. 20He gave names to all the livestock, all the birds of the sky, and all the wild animals. But still there was no helper just right for him.
21So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep. While the man slept, the Lord God took out one of the man’s ribs* and closed up the opening. 22Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib, and he brought her to the man.
23“At last!” the man exclaimed. “This one is bone from my bone, and flesh from my flesh! She will be called ‘woman,’ because she was taken from ‘man.’”
24This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.
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