Text: Exodus 25-27
OBSERVE: The Tabernacle was a giant tent, a portable sanctuary for God’s presence to be with his people. It was an arrangement that almost didn’t happen due to the sin of the people although God would remain faithful to his promises to Abraham. God gave Moses detailed designs for the Tabernacle, saying, “Have the people of Israel build me a holy sanctuary so I can live among them. You must build this Tabernacle and its furnishings exactly to the pattern I will show you” (Exodus 25: 8-9). Since it was similar to the tents they lived in, it showed how close God was. This was the blessing of the covenant: God was with his people, and they were with their God. At the same time, since the Tabernacle was so elaborate, it reminded them the God was separated from them by his holy majesty. God also gave specific instructions for everything that would go inside the Tabernacle (Exodus 25: 10-11, 16-18). In the innermost part of the Tabernacle was the Most Holy Place where God descended to dwell with his people. This is where the Ark of the Covenant was located.
INTERPRET: The Ark of the Covenant was an earthly symbol of the heavenly reality of God’s intentions for his people. It pictured what would ultimately make it possible for him to be reconciled with sinners who seek him. God would dwell above the Ark, in all his holiness, enthroned between the cherubim. Underneath was the law of God that exposed Israel’s sin. And in between was the mercy seat, where an offering was made by the high priest for the atonement of sins for the whole community. In between a holy God and the law of God came the blood of the atoning sacrifice. In this way, when God came down to dwell with his people, he would not see them in light of the law that they had broken, but instead would see them through the saving blood of an atoning sacrifice.
APPLICATION: Thousands of years before Jesus came to live among us, God purposed that there be a Tabernacle in order that there would be One who would fulfill the meaning of that Tabernacle and would be the true Tabernacle (John 1: 14). Every detail of the Tabernacle pointed to some aspect of the character and work of Jesus Christ. The Cross of Christ is our mercy seat. It is the place where the blood of an atoning sacrifice reconciles us to God by coming between his holiness and our law breaking (Romans 3: 23-25). Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is sufficient and permanent for all who have faith in him. Jesus (the true Tabernacle) gives us access to God and invites us into his very presence.
APPLICATION QUESTION: What comes to mind when you contemplate the incredible gift we have been given to be able to be in the presence of God? How does this truth impact your prayer life and worship?
PRAYER: Gracious God, I come boldly to your throne, confident that you see me not in my sin but covered by the atoning blood of Christ. There I will receive mercy and find grace. I desire to know you more each day and to be continually transformed by your glory.
WORSHIP SONG: Here I am to Worship (Marantha)
The chapter titles in my ESV Bible do a good job of providing a summary of the events in Exodus 16-18. That is, Bread from Heaven, Water from the Rock, and Jethro’s advice. The Israelites set out from Elim as they continued their journey from Egypt to the promised land. It wasn’t long until they started complaining and wishing that they had died by the hand of the Lord in the lands of Egypt where they were enslaved but had plenty of food. The Lord, in his goodness and provision, rained bread, known as mana, from heaven and gave instructions as to how it ought to be stored and shared. They were to take and work with only what they needed and warned not to try and save some for the next day. Some disobeyed and found that the mana spoiled over night.
Again the Israelites grumbled and mumbled against the Lord and complained to Moses about their thirst. Moses pleaded with the Lord who told him to strike a rock with his staff which would spill forth water. Shortly after, the Amalekites came out to fight the people of Israel. The Lord told Moses to hold up his hands with his staff and the Israelites would defeat their foe. Moses’ hands grew weary so Aaron and Hur propped him up.
Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses came from his home land In Midian for he heard all the things the Lord had done. He brought with him Moses’ wife and their two sons, Gershom and Eliezer. The two made burnt offerings and ate with Aaron and the elders of Israel before God. The following day, Moses was sitting in judgement for the people and did so from morning to evening. Jethro saw this and offered sage advice, saying that Moses will burn out easily if this burden of judgement falls to him alone. He says Moses must delegate his responsibilities to trustworthy leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. Shortly after Jethro returns to his homeland.
In these three chapters we find many prime examples of how the Lord provides for his people. He is aware of and acts on the needs of the Israelites in the wilderness and shows immense patience with them as they grumble and moan and quarrel amongst themselves and against Moses and, worst of all, God. They have had their bonds of slavery and oppression burst by the mighty hand of God, yet they long to return to captivity because it was predictable and familiar.
It is all too easy to draw a line between their actions and ours as we examine our walk with Christ. It was the Son of God himself that purchased our freedom acting in his Father’s mighty plan, and he made many promises about how he would look after those whom he frees from the slavery of sin. For example, John 6: “Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” Jesus promises to be our bread. Again in John 7 – “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”
God consistently shows his faithfulness in that he not only provides for his people in Exodus but anyone and everyone who comes to him. He also takes special care of Moses and his daily wellbeing and has his earthly father give sage advice on tedious things like judicial administration. We have only to look at John 14 and see how he lovingly provides for us in this area too: “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”
It is a common thing to think that if we had been there to see what they had seen we would not have grumbled against God, but we are frequently dissatisfied with the way God has provided for us even today. He was faithful then despite their failings and is faithful now despite ours. We must make sure that we remove all bitterness from among ourselves that gives in to grumbling, gossip, and quarrelling. We must learn to recognize all the ways in which God has provided and give him the praise and worship he deserves – then we can truly live lives of thanksgiving!
Spending time each day in contemplation of the goodness of God and practicing gratitude is a deeply underrated practice. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.” When we recognize all that the Lord has done for us in both our daily provisions and with our eternal needs, we find ourselves wonderfully humbled and joyfully centered on the right thing: Jesus Christ. Thankfulness and gratefulness are powerful weapons against despair and bitterness, against quarrelling and grumbling.
I know for myself it is far too easy to move from one prayer to the next and to miss the ways in which the Lord has answered my prayers and taken care of things. It takes a keen eye to see how the Lord is working on a given day, but over time he teaches us to stay attuned to him and sensitive to his word – as his sheep, let us come to know the voice of our Good Shepherd.
I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart;
I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.
I will be glad and exult in you;
I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.
Psalm 9: 1-2
You might find yourself in a barren wilderness today, but God has not forgotten you and will always provide what you need. He has brought you out of slavery and into his glorious light and made us alive in him. For that and so much more he deserves our constant praise! Let us turn away from grumbling and focus on the light that has come in to the world.
What comes to mind when you think of your bonds of sin being burst? What does it look like to live a life of praise and thanksgiving? Can you identify the ways in which you may have grumbled against God?
Thank you Lord for breaking the chains of sin and death from around us and bringing us into your glorious new life. I pray that you continue to lead me into a deeper relationship with you and that my life would reflect your goodness. Thank you for not leaving me where I was but for doing infinitely more for me than I could ever do for myself!
He will hold me fast (<---- Click there)
Observe: The avenging angel has completed the work. Before they leave, God commands His people to dedicate the firstborn of their sons and animals to Him to redeem, to worship; Passover becomes memorial to His deliverance. Israel exits Egypt, fists defiantly raised. Knowing their fickleness, God leads them into wilderness, avoiding the direct route to Canaan, His cloud and fire to guide. Suddenly, Moses receives a strange order. Turn around, camp in a specific place beside the Red Sea, right in the line of Pharaoh’s troops (he rued his decision to let them go), right in the line of God’s plan (formed before time). Pharaoh moves swiftly, God-hardened heart pounding as loudly as his chariots.
The people see them coming -- and trust that God is near to rescue? Not. Afraid, they panic, whine, accuse. Moses says, in effect, Be still, and know that He is God. Yet even Moses hesitates (remember Lot?) until God roars, in effect, Don’t just sit there – MOVE!! They move, all right.
Moses obediently holds his staff over the sea. That night, God sends a preparing wind. Water-walls rise up, lining a dry path. Then, daytime -- men, women, children hurry across to safety, Pharaoh in hot pursuit, chariots breaking down, horses panicking! Moses again holds out his staff as God makes the walls come crashing down over the enemy! Dead -- silence. Awestruck, they witness God’s breathtaking deliverance -- His glory!
And then? Well, what else? Praise, of course! Sing this extraordinary event to the last detail, dance with tambourines in sheer delight at God’s miracle. Direct to the Promised Land? Not.
Wilderness again, more whining and kvetching (ingratitude has a short memory) til they hit an oasis. Bad water but another promise: if they obey Elohim Rapha, God the Healer, they will never have the diseases the Egyptians had. Moving on, they reach Elim; good water, palm trees, momentary rest. God’s love shown, yet again.
Interpret: The Genesis stories often point back to the beginning, to recall God’s acts. Think of the wind blowing over the Red Sea: nephesh, Hebrew for wind/breath/spirit, His Spirit hovering over chaotic waters (1:2). God separating the waters from dry land (1:6-10). Disobedience, deception, blame (3:1-13) – and His mercy, both tender and severe (3:21,23-24).
From the start, God promised a Saviour (3:15). He repeats His covenants -- obey His laws made for their good and good will follow -- all for love of His image-bearers. Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, all failed God at some point. Models for the greatest of Saviours? Really? The stories grind on, pointing to the promised Saviour. The God of love persistently works out His ways, however puzzling, in His time.
Apply: We convince ourselves we can manage very well thank you on our own. When things fall apart, we panic, question, doubt, second guess God. Following Him is hard! And how we grumble when things don’t match our preferences, or we don’t like His way of doing things, or the sacrifices required, or change, or… We make hash of His plans so often, yet He persists in rebuking, calling, forgiving. Loving, always.
Ask: “Red Seas come in all shapes and sizes. What is the Red Sea [of difficulty] you’re facing now?”
-Where is God’s pillar of fire leading me in this present greyness?
- The Israelites, in awe, praised God for His deliverance. How did God lead me out of my “Red Sea” difficulty? Write 2 reasons for praise!
Pray: Lord, we are so in need of Your leading and Your mercy. Guide us by Your radiant Spirit. Deliver us from resisting Your will so we may walk humbly in Your way, remembering Your grace and persistent love far exceed our failures. In Jesus’ name we ask, amen.
1. Red Sea Rules. Robert J. Morgan
The Objects(s) of our Worship by Pastor Dave
“So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said to him, “This is what the Lord God of the Hebrews says: ‘How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me? Let my people go that they may worship me.’”
Exodus 10: 3
Exodus 10 - 12 (Psalm 20)
The two key matters that we focus on this morning are that of Worship and the Passover (the Passover being an act of worship in itself).
All through the interchanges in these opening chapters we see the questions: who is God; who is to be worshipped; whose people are the Israelites; and who are they to obey? God continually calls on Pharaoh to free His people so they can worship Him. Pharaoh, seeing himself as a deity refuses to humble himself before God and release the people. God shows Himself to be the one true and Almighty God. He brings judgement on the gods of Egypt (12: 12), His people obey, bow down and worship Him (12: 27). They then find freedom. We see that what we worship impacts, binds and controls us. Only God is due true worship, in that worship and service of Him we find real freedom.
The Passover is a demonstration of God’s salvation over judgement. Blood is shed and a life lost to provide that protection. Their salvation became a celebration in which they were blessed and freed. A journey began for them on route to their promised land. This event foreshadows Christ’s sacrifice and the offer of salvation for us. The three days of darkness compares to the time at the crucifixion (Matthew 27: 45), Jesus becomes the Lamb of God who takes away our sins as His blood is shed on the cross and a new life and journey begins for those who humble themselves before Him and obey. He is not the unleavened bread but the bread of life that now sustains us.
We need to consider what we worship in our lives. There will be obvious matters that we can identify but often it is the more subtle ones that have huge and unrecognized control over us. For example: the desire for self; finances; affirmation from others; food and drink; achievement; fear of others or failure; and self-justification to name a random few. If we humble ourselves before God, repent and worship Him we can receive freedom by His grace through faith. We can then begin a life of obedience and service sustained by the life giving Spirit of Jesus Christ as we journey to eternity.
The Question of Application
What do we worship in our lives, what has control over us? How might we submit to God today and find true freedom?
Almighty and everlasting God, who in your tender love towards the human race sent your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ to take upon Him our flesh and to suffer death upon the cross: grant that we may follow the example of His patience and humility, and also be partakers of His resurrection; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
At the Cross (Love ran red) by Chris Tomlin
Nothing but the Blood of Jesus
Text: Exodus 7 - 9
Observe: God has heard the cry of the Israelite slaves in Egypt. These are the twelve tribes of Israel that were descended from the twelve sons of Jacob. They had been in Egypt for 400 years and endured all manner of hardship. They cried out to God to save them, and Moses was chosen as God’s ambassador to Pharaoh. God promised that he would be with Moses and make him “like a god to Pharaoh”, so that he would be convinced to release the captives and Aaron would be “like a prophet to Moses”. They both would be the agents of the miracles God performed to convince Pharaoh to let His people go.
But Pharaoh isn’t accustomed to receiving demands from anyone, least of all from someone who claimed to be the ambassador of the God worshipped by his slaves. Pharaoh was counting on his own magicians to match any “miracle” that Moses could perform. Then he could refuse Moses’ demand and send him away as an inconsequential irritation. Moses and Aaron visited ten plagues on Egypt, seven of which are found in these verses. They brought the plague of blood, the plague of frogs, the plague of gnats, the plague of flies, the plague of the death of the Egyptian livestock, the plague of boils on the Egyptian people, and a plague of very large hail. Each time the Israelite people living in Goshen were spared the plagues as a sign that they were protected because they were God’s chosen people. With each successive plague, Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he refused. Even when he agreed to let them go and asked Moses to intervene with God on his behalf to remove the plagues, he would renege on his promise.
God told Moses this would be the case that He would harden Pharaoh’s heart and he would not let the people go.
Interpret: The story of Moses and Pharaoh is really about the consequence of disobedience to God, but it is also a story about belonging to God. Moses obediently followed God’s instructions and went to Pharaoh to demand that he release the slaves so they could worship Him in the desert where He would lead them. But Pharaoh didn’t much feel like letting the slaves go because, after all, they were the basis for much of the Egyptian economy. Slaves performed all the hard work necessary to plant and bring in the crops, and to construct the buildings and statutes Egypt was famous for. Moses was up against Egypt’s very economic foundation as well as a powerful and haughty ruler. But he had God on his side. Moses obeyed God every instruction while knowing full well that Pharaoh could at any time have him imprisoned or killed for making demands on him or threatening to bring plagues against his kingdom. However, Pharaoh humoured Moses at the start confident that his magicians could easily duplicate any miracle Moses could do. Whatever his first impression of Moses and Aaron might have been, they were soon dispelled as Aaron’s true miracles bested anything his wise men could do. Yet still his heart was hardened as the Lord said, not because of anything that God did to Pharaoh, but because Pharaoh didn’t like being bested by anyone. Moses and Aaron faithfully contended with Pharaoh time and again, plague after plague, in an effort to change his heart and mind, but still he refused or he went back on his word. Pharaoh continually defied God, and you could almost see him shaking his fist at God daring Him to do anything else, and each time he did so, a worse plague was unleashed on his land and his people.
Moses and Aaron obeyed God, risking Pharaoh’s wrath in the process, but the people of Israel were spared any of the effects of the worsening plagues. They were set aside and protected by God. He promised Abraham that his descendants would become a mighty nation, that they would inherit a pleasant land, and that they would be His chosen people through whom the whole world would be blessed. This episode clearly shows God collecting His chosen people in order to keep His promise.
Application: In these chapters, we see the consequences of disobedience to God’s will. Over and over, God tells Pharaoh to let His people go. Each time he refuses and the consequences become worse and worse. That’s often how our own lives play out. We hear God’s call on our lives to bend our will to His, yet we refuse. We know that His will is perfect and He promises to make our lives meaningful and fulfilled in ways we can’t imagine, but our hearts are hardened. We don’t want to wait on His timing for things to happen. We don’t trust that He will provide for all our needs. We decide that we know what is in our best interests. We have tasted the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and we have charted our own path in life. And we have suffered the consequences of that defiance in our broken relationships, in our unfulfilling lives, and in our in our constant chasing after the “next big thing”.
Moses on the other hand, obeyed God’s call on his life and accomplished what must have seemed impossible. With God’s power and authority, He convinced an absolute monarch to give up the economic foundation of his kingdom, freed the slaves, and set them on the road to the fulfillment of the God’s promise for them as His chosen people, who would eventually bless the world with the birth of the Messiah. In our own lives, we will never know what opportunities lie before us if only we would hear God’s calling and take the first on the road to His freedom. You may not free an entire people, but think about what you might accomplish for your family, your church, your neighbours, or those in need around the city and around the world.
Questions: Have you ever thought about whether you have a heart that is hardened to what God may be calling you to do? How do you think you would you know if you were actually answering His call?
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for Your unfailing faithlessness and mercy. You have plans for us from before the foundations of the world were laid. Give us the courage and patience to follow your will for our lives and in our church fellowship. In the mighty and merciful name of Jesus, Amen.
Text: Exodus 4-6
OBSERVE – In God’s instructions to Moses, we see the heart of a Father who longs to be with his child. God commanded Moses to say these words when confronting Pharaoh: “This is what the Lord says: Israel is my firstborn son. I commanded you, “Let my son go, so he can worship me” (Exodus 4: 22-23). We see here that God cared very much about what happened to the Israelites. Out of all the nations of the world, he went to great lengths to rescue them from slavery. The Egyptians had made the Israelites their slaves and appointed slave drivers over them, hoping to wear them down with crushing labor. The Israelites had cried out in distress and their Father had heard their cries.
INTERPRET – Here we see that God cared so much about what happened to the Israelites. Their loving Father wanted to rescue his children so that they could be together with him as a family. God wanted to lead them to a place that they could worship him and that he could dwell with them. God wanted to be able to share his fatherly love with his children. God would later describe his longing for Israel through his prophet Hosea: “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and I called my son out of Egypt” (Hosea 11:1). This care and concern for his children was evident to them when Moses and Aaron had shared everything the Lord had said “And when they heard that the Lord was concerned about them and had seen their misery, they bowed down and worshipped” (Exodus 4: 31). But God’s son Israel always proved to disappoint. Often God’s son grumbled and complained and rejected the Father who loved him. The people of Israel simply could not live up to their Father’s standard. Another Son was needed who would be about his Father’s business, accomplish his Father’s purpose, display his Father’s likeness and demonstrate his Father’s love.
APPLICATION – From his early days, Jesus seemed to understand his unique purpose, as well as his unique relationship, as God’s Son. When Jesus’ parents found him in the temple courts at age twelve, he said, “Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?” (Luke 2: 49). Jesus was everything that God the Father had ever wanted in a Son. By his perfect obedience to his Father, he did what Israel could never do. And because of what the Son of God accomplished in his obedience at the Cross, everyone who comes to him in faith becomes a true child of God. Paul wrote to the Galatians, “You are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3: 26). Despite his incredible love for them, the Israelites’ disobedience prevented them from being a family. And despite our own best efforts, we too will disappoint God on our own merits. However, God sent his Son to rescue us so we can one day be together as a family. When we put our faith and trust in the One True Son, we can be a part of God’s family and know with certainty that we will arrive home safely. “Jesus died for sinners to bring us safely home to God” (1 Peter 3: 18).
QUESTIONS – Do you ever try to please God on your own strength and merit just to end up feeling like you disappointed your heavenly Father? What changes when you remember everything that God did for you through his Son? Does this change your attitude in regards to how you serve God?
PRAYER – Loving Father, you have rescued me so that we can be together as a family. I know the day is coming when, because of what your beloved Son has done, we will all be together in the place you are preparing for us, safe at home with you. AMEN.
SONG - 10,000 Reasons (Matt Redman)
What we see in these two chapters is the long-awaited family reunion between Joseph and his father along with the rest of his family. After so many years, so many heartbreaks, Jacob finally sets his eyes on his long-lost son. On the way to see Joseph in Egypt, Jacob, bringing with him all he has, stops at Beersheba and offers sacrifices to the God of his fathers. The Lord appears to him in a vision and speaks to him, telling him to not be afraid to go down to Egypt. He promises him that he will make Jacob into a great nation, that he will go with him to Egypt, that he will bring Jacob up again, and that Joseph will close his eyes. This is followed by a list of the descendants of Jacob, a total of seventy people.
Joseph then makes haste with his chariots to meet his father and the two have a tearful reunion. Jacob declares he is then content to die in his old age now that he has seen his son and knows he’s still alive. Joseph tells his brothers that he will go make introductions to Pharaoh and instructs them as to how they ought to make themselves known as shepherds were not popular among the Egyptians.
Five of Joseph’s brothers approach Pharaoh who gives them permission to dwell in the land of Goshen. Jacob is then presented before Pharaoh, an aged patriarch who, when asked about the days of his life, answers “The days of the years of my sojourning are 130 years. Few and evil have been the days of the years of my life, and they have not attained to the days of the life of my fathers in the days of their sojourning.” Jacob then blesses Pharaoh and departs at which point Joseph settles his father and brothers possession in the best land of Egypt.
The famine that had been predicted in the previous few chapters settles on the land, not just Egypt, but the surrounding country as well. Many peoples come to Egypt for food and things get worse and worse. People pay for the grain stockpiled by Joseph using coin, and when that runs out they trade their livestock, and when they have no more livestock they give their land and themselves to be the possession of Pharaoh. The chapter ends as, seventeen years after coming to Egypt, Jacob sees the time of his death approaching and has Joseph promise to him that he would not bury his father in Egypt but take his body to be buried with that of his fathers.
We see in these chapters much of what God has promised come to pass. At long last, there is reunion! The plans made for evil have unexpectedly made way for good as, finally, there is a moment of rest for this beleaguered family. Jacob was presented before Pharaoh who, in the eyes of the Egyptians, was a god himself. It was a measure of respect for this aged patriarch that he let Jacob bless him. Jacob then reflects that his days have been few and evil.
I was taken aback by that phrase. At first glance, things have really turned out for Jacob: he was prosperous, full of many days, and had many children and grandchildren. Why would he say they are evil? Firstly, he refers to his time on earth as a pilgrimage, he is a sojourner here on earth and knows full well that his eternal destiny is not on the shores of this land but a different, heavenly one. As a man on a journey and after a life of much heartache (his brother, his marriages, Rachel’s death, his son’s behaviour, a famine, a wounded body, etc.) he was undoubtedly weary. This was not helped by the fact that old age had come upon him much sooner than his father and grandfather. As for the evil days, this is especially tangible when one is so near death and thus close to eternal life with a holy God. Jacob must have been all too aware of his foolish acts and hard-headedness as a youth.
As a man who lived a rebellious youth, it is true that though there is forgiveness and healing in all things when one comes to Christ, memory fades slowly and some things stay with us for a long time. It is vital to remember that we are here as sojourners only for a short time before we stand before God Almighty and we need to live in that truth each day. As Josh Garrels says –
“One day when the sky rolls back on us,
Some rejoice and the others fuss
‘cause every knee must bow and tongue confess
The Son of God is forever blessed!”
We are more than simple creatures of the Earth, we have a spirit and bear the image of God. We need to be fed with heavenly food. Just as the people of Egypt sold everything they had that could not feed them, even selling themselves over to the king so they might live, so we too need to do away with anything that hinders our walk – yes, even our very selves – to God Almighty that we might live. If we know whose we are and recognize the way in which he promises to bless and provide for us, it will make our pilgrimage here that much more blessed and effective. These days may be evil, but God is forever GOOD.
The many pushes and pulls of our daily lives threaten to consume all of our attention. We can become so focused on the here and now that we can completely ignore the eternity toward which Christ has called us. God provides here, today, for all our needs, but everything around us is temporary. It is of the utmost importance that we are sufficiently heavenly minded and ground all that we do in Jesus. As Christians we have been bought by the blood of Christ and it is on his terms we now live. We have given ourselves over to him that we might live – a free gift of salvation! It is with that eternal perspective by which we approach the temporal. We are sojourners, exiles and strangers to this world, in the world but not of it. Whatever we face here and now ought to be tempered with a reminder of the eternal salvation that is already ours!
Application question –
Have you reflected on the nature of this life compared to the promise of eternal life? How does knowing we will be with our good God forever, no matter what this life throws at us, encourage us day to day?
Thank you Father for walking through this world with us and for not leaving us when things are difficult. Thank you for having the entire world in your hands and for binging us to be with you when our time on earth has ended. We thank and praise you for your provision and goodness, now and forever. Amen!
Song – Farther Along, Josh Garrels
TEXT: Genesis 43-45
In these chapters, we see the continuation of Joseph’s “roller-coaster” story when he is reunited with his brothers. However, he tests his brothers’ remorse (or lack of) with the demand that they bring their youngest brother, Benjamin, if/when they return for more grain, knowing that his father Jacob would be reluctant to let go of his youngest son. For if Joseph had been the favourite son, Benjamin was the second-favourite. After a second test of the brothers’ attitude with hiding Joseph’s own cup among their sacks of grain, demanding its return and imposing punishment that Benjamin be kept as hostage, Joseph was able to trust his brothers sufficiently to reveal himself to them. After a very emotional reunion, he sent them back with the food and requested them to bring his father Jacob, and to move to Egypt.
A major thread in this story is that of repentance and forgiveness between Joseph and his brothers. A second major thread is that of God’s sovereign arranging of circumstances in our individual lives, i.e. “you meant this for evil but God meant it for good”.
We can put off our regrets and past poor choices and our sins but they come back to haunt us. Or perhaps it is God who is bringing them to our remembrance and is reminding us that we need to deal with these deeds we thought were history and gone from our lives. God cares about our deep healing which requires us to repent of our past mis-doings and seek forgiveness. We need to seek God’s forgiveness and seek forgiveness from our brothers and sisters, our parents, and our children.
We may be reluctant to proclaim that God is active in our lives, thinking that he is far away and we don’t know that he really cares about us. This story of Joseph and his interpretation of what God is doing in his life ought to challenge that kind of wrong thinking. God cares for each person. God cares enough to order our life’s circumstances so we can experience his goodness.
Oh Lord God, we pray that your Holy Spirit would reveal to me areas of sin and bitterness so I can repent. Forgive us oh Lord, in our distress and cause us to forgive those who have sinned against us and whom we’ve sinned against. Forgive the guilt of our sin, (Psalm 32:5). Our times are in your hands oh God. Save us in your steadfast love, (Ps.31:14-16).
No Longer Slaves (Jonathan David and Melissa Helser)
How deep the Father’s Love for Us (Fernado Ortega)
‘“How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Look on me and answer, Lord my God.’”
Psalm 13: -13a
Genesis 41 – 42 (Psalm 13)
Two more years of imprisonment have passed for Joseph but then Pharaoh has a set of dreams and the Chief Cupbearer remembers Joseph. He is brought before Pharaoh and interprets the dreams and suggests a way forward. Pharaoh and the Court agree and suddenly Joseph is the Prime Minister, second only to Pharaoh, and responsible for seeing the country through the next fourteen years. Good times follow with plentiful harvest, marriage and children. Food is stored up for the difficult times to come and they do arrive. The famine is widespread and soon neighbouring peoples come to Egypt for help. Amongst these visitors are Joseph’s brothers. A painful reunion occurs although the brothers do not realise who Joseph is. Simeon is kept imprisoned by Joseph to ensure his brother Benjamin comes on the next visit. The brothers return home with grain but their silver is returned, unbeknown to them, in their sacks. This increases their fear and tension. Their father Jacob is distraught, unwilling to let Benjamin return with them to Egypt; it’s a real ‘nightmare’ of a situation.
I don’t know about you but I think I could have interpreted those dreams, so maybe there is fear in Pharaoh’s courts and no one is willing to step up. Joseph, however, takes the opportunity presented but it is a much humbled character; straight away he gives credit to God, ‘“I cannot do it,” Joseph replied, “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.”’ God has been working on his heart and personality during the time of affliction (Psalm 119: 67, 71 & 75). After the interpretation is given though, Joseph does use his God given wisdom to confidently propose a way forward. He was humbled for a period then God lifted him up at the right time for a specific work (1 Peter 5: 6).
Seeing his brothers is painful for Joseph and in some ways he seems to exact a form of revenge but as this plays out over the next chapters we see that there is more to this than meets the eye. His brothers clearly carry guilt, they blame each other but some step up and show that they want to make amends.
Similarities with Joseph and Jesus continue. Both went through approximately 30 years of preparation for their God ordained purposes. Both were blessings to people who did not all recognise or accept them; both were God’s means of big picture salvation
Dreams are much misunderstood, maligned or over emphasized, yet God will clearly speak through them, “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams,” Acts 2: 17. We must submit them to God and test them against His Word and the truth of Jesus (1 John 4: 1-3).
Reaping what we sow is a clear biblical principal (e.g. Galatians 6: 7-9). We see it in the life of Joseph both in his character and his actions (use of the plentiful harvest). We see it in the family relationships also. The brothers especially have inherited jealousy and bitterness from their early years that caused them to act in a terrible way. They have carried guilt and bitterness for a long time that has impacted their lives and relationships. We will reap what we sow in our lives and relationships; in emotions, actions, motives and words.
The Question of Application
What are we sowing and reaping in our lives and relationships? Do we need the reconciliation, healing and forgiveness Jesus offers for ourselves and others?
Lord Jesus, freely we have received from you so enable us to freely give. As we reap reconciliation, healing and forgiveness in our relationship with you so may we sow in your love to bless, forgive and reconcile, empowered by your Holy Spirit within. All to your glory. Amen
From Matthew 10: 8b and John 20: 22-23
Freely, Freely by Maranatha
Genesis 38 - 40
Observe: These verses in Genesis contrast sin and righteousness. After Joseph had been sold into slavery, his older brother Judah, from whose line Jesus would eventually be born, went his own way and married a Canaanite woman. Together, they had three sons named Er, Onan and Shelah. As was the custom, Judah found a wife for Er named Tamar, but Er was such a wicked man that God killed him before he could have children with her. Onan, the second son, was then told by Judah to fulfill his duty to his dead brother and have a child with Tamar so that Er‘s line could continue. But, Onan refused to have a child with Tamar because it would not considered his own, so God killed him, too. Judah then promised Tamar that she could marry Shelah when he was old enough, but Judah failed to keep his promise because he was afraid his youngest son would also die if he married her. After Judah’s own wife had died, he mourned and moved on. Tamar realized that Judah had cheated her, and decided to get even by disguising herself as a prostitute so he would sleep with her and give her a child that way. They negotiated the price of goat, but Tamar didn’t trust Judah, so she asked for a pledge of his signet ring, cord and staff. Judah agreed, the deed was done, and she became pregnant. When Judah found out Tamar was pregnant, he wanted her killed for immorality, but Tamar him the pledge he left her, so Judah knew that his own sin had been found out and didn’t have her killed. Judah realized that Tamar was more righteous than he for not marrying her to Shelah. Tamar later gave birth to twins, Zerah, and Perez.
The story then switches back to Joseph who was sold by his brothers to the Egyptian, Potiphar. Potiphar saw that Joseph was successful in everything he did because the Lord was with him, so he put Joseph in charge of his whole household. Potiphar’s scheming wife tried to get Joseph to sleep with her, but Joseph refused because he didn’t want to wrong Potiphar and, more importantly, he didn’t want to commit sin against God. Rejected, Potiphar’s wife grabbed Joseph clothing, but he ran away leaving a piece of his clothes in her hand. She used Joseph’s clothes to frame him, so he was sent to prison. But, even here the Lord was with him and Joseph was put in charge of all the prison’s activities. While in prison, God enabled Joseph to interpret the dreams of two fellow prisoners: the pharaoh’s cupbearer and the pharaoh’s baker. He interpreted that the cupbearer would be soon be returned to his former position in Pharaoh’s court, but the baker would be executed in three days. He asked the cupbearer to remember him when he was returned to his position. Everything happened just as Joseph said it would, except the cupbearer forgot him.
Interpret: The story of Judah and his dysfunctional family is quite graphic and not a little disturbing. Scripture doesn’t tell us what Er did that was so wicked, but it must have been very serious for God to just strike him dead. Then, there is the description of Onan who would “spill his semen on the ground” whenever he slept with Tamar. In the culture of his day, if a man’s married brother died without having any children, it was his duty to take in his sister-in-law and give her children so his line could carry on. But, Onan didn’t want to give Tamar a baby, because that child would be considered Er’s, and would have all the privileges of first born children over his own. He didn’t seem to have any problem with his own self-gratification, but he wasn’t going to fulfil his familial duty. So his crime wasn’t that he removed himself from Tamar, his crime was not fulfilling his oath. Judah too, seems to have been a morally ambivalent person. First he takes a Canaanite wife, then he deliberately doesn’t allow Shelah to marry Tamar, he hires a prostitute, and finally, and hypocritically, he tries to have Tamar killed for immoral behaviour. Fortunately, Judah eventually does recognize his own sinful ways, and never harms or touches Tamar again. These last verses appear to show a turning point in Judah’s life.
These verses also highlights the contrast between the sexually driven Judah and the chaste Joseph, who we catch up with in the next chapter. Even though Joseph finds himself in one bad situation after another through no fault of his own, he maintains his trust in the Lord, and the Lord remains with him and makes him successful in everything he does. Joseph didn’t want to dishonour his employer, he didn’t want to sin against God, and he gave all the glory to God for his interpretation of dreams. Nevertheless, he goes from being Jacob’s favoured son to being sold into slavery; from being wrongfully thrown into prison to being in position of authority; and from being a prisoner to being the second most powerful person in Egypt. God allows him to experience all the bad as well as all the good things in life in order to be humbled before becoming a great leader.
Application: In these chapters, we see the continuing downward spiral of human sin and disobedience on the one hand and God’s faithfulness in keeping His promises to His chosen people on the other. In Judah, through whose line God will eventually raise up the saviour of all people, Jesus Christ, we can see our own human failings highlighted in his leaving his brothers and family behind to pursue his own way. He falls in with an ungodly crowd, lies to his daughter-in-law, commits adultery and is a hypocrite in pointing out the sin in others while engaging in it himself. In the story of Joseph, we see a whole series of bad things happen to a good man, but ultimately he triumphs over the hardships because God is with him. God continues to keep His promises to His people, and is faithful to us no matter what happens. The stories of these two brothers, Judah and Joseph, laid out side by side, show us the differences in how we can respond to God. One runs away and does his own thing, while the other waits on God to do His will. One is fearful of losing what he has, while the other trusts God to provide what he needs. One gives in to immorality, while the other maintains his integrity. We see that doing things in our own way doesn’t usually turn out veryat well, but when we wait on God to unfold His plan for us, it succeeds so much better. Although Pharaoh’s cupbearer forgot Joseph, God never did. Even Judah, with all his faults, God still fulfilled His promise to bring about the salvation of the peoples through the line of Judah in his greatest descendant, Jesus.
Questions: Have you ever regretted doing something your own way, even though you knew it wasn’t the right way? Have you ever waited patiently on God to show you the right way path to follow? How would you explain the difference to someone who doesn’t know Jesus?
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for Your unfailing faithlessness and mercy. You have plans for us from before the foundations of the world were laid. Give us the courage and patience to follow your will for our lives and in our church fellowship. In the mighty and merciful name of Jesus, Amen.
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