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.
OBSERVE – By the time Joseph was born into Jacob’s family there was already a household full of siblings. However, we read in Genesis chapter 37 that “Jacob loved Joseph more than any of his other children because Joseph had been born to him in his old age” (Genesis 37:3). Joseph lived a life of privilege in the house of his father Jacob. But his father’s favor served only to kindle his brothers’ resentment. “When Joseph’s brothers saw him coming, they recognized him at a distance. As he approached, they made plans to kill him” (Genesis 37:18). The jealousy of Joseph’s brothers eventually led to a conspiracy to kill Joseph. But rather then kill him, they sold Joseph into slavery and he was carted off to Egypt, where he became a servant in the house of Potiphar.
INTERPRET – Joseph went from being the favored son in his father’s house to being a servant in a foreigner’s land. Joseph never would have willingly left the home of privilege he enjoyed with his father who loved him dearly, to become a servant in a foreign land. However, he did foreshadow the One who was willing to leave his home in heaven, where he enjoyed the love of his father, to become a servant in a foreign place. Jesus willingly “gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a servant” (Philippians 2:7). Jesus was also the beloved Son of his Father. Three times a voice from heaven affirmed God’s love for his Son. “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy” (Matthew 3:37; Matthew 17:5; see also John 12:28). Jesus too, was hated by his physical half-brothers as well as his larger brotherhood for claiming God as his Father. In addition, Joseph and Jesus were both conspired against to be put to death.
APPLICATION – Joseph prefigured Jesus in many ways. However, the big difference was that Joseph did not become a servant by choice while Jesus willingly gave up his divine privileges to take the humble place of a servant. Despite being hated and conspired against by those whom he was serving, Jesus still humbled himself all the way to death on the cross. This should generate great love and praise for Jesus, since we all know how hard it is to be kind to others who insult and harm us. We need to focus on the example of Jesus to help encourage us to serve others. If Jesus can serve (until his last breath) those who conspired against him, then surely we can serve others who upset us, especially our brothers and sisters in Christ.
QUESTION – How does the story of Joseph help you understand what God did by coming in the flesh as Jesus? How does Jesus’ example of ultimate servanthood encourage you to serve others? Are you willing to leave your places of privilege (like Joseph and Jesus) to follow plans that God has for you?
PRAYER –Jesus, how I desire to have the same attitude you had, willing to let go of your divine privilege to come as a servant, humbling yourself in obedience to death. My knee bows before you and my tongue confesses that you are Lord, to the glory of God the Father. AMEN.
SONG: Make Me a Servant (Maranatha Singers)
Chapters 25-28 of Genesis begin with a list of Abraham's new wife and their descendants, the generations following Ishmael, and the death of Abraham before coming around to the birth of Jacob and Esau. From the womb itself it is evident that the sons of Isaac will not get along – the Lord tells Rebekah as much. Sure enough, one day Esau sells Jacob his birthright for a bowl of lentil stew.
There is another famine in the land and Isaac settled in Gerar, the land of the Philistines at the direction of the Lord who reaffirms the covenant made with Abraham – that he (the Lord) would bless Isaac and all his offspring, make them as numerous as the stars in the sky and give them all the land. Isaac settles in the land and makes a very familiar mistake; he tries passing off his wife Rebekah as his sister, fearing that if the people of Gerar knew she was his wife they would kill him. The king of the Philistines, Abimelech, figures out what is going on and confronts Isaac who then secured a promise from the king that whoever touches Isaac or his wife would be put to death. Isaac then goes about in the valley of Gerar, re-digging the wells his father had dug, wells that had been filled in by the Philistines.
Chapter 27 tells of Isaac’s old age and how Jacob, with his mother's prompting, steals his brother's blessing before his father dies. Esau is angry with Jacob and plots to kill him. This is made known to Rebekah who insists that Jacob flees to the dwelling of his uncle Laban. On the way there, Jacob spends the night isolated and alone, his head resting on a rock for a pillow. As he was asleep the Lord met him in a dream showing a ladder from heaven to earth with angels ascending and descending on it. The Lord speaks of Jacob and reaffirms the covenant made with Isaac and Abraham.
“Good men have gone very wrong when they have thought of aiding in the fulfillment of promises and prophecies. See how Rebecca erred in trying to get the promised blessing for Jacob. We had better leave the Lord’s decrees in the Lord’s hands.” (Spurgeon)
Are we beginning to see a pattern? How many times thus far in Genesis have people strayed from the Lord’s commandments and taken matters into their own hands? In these few chapters we see a remarkable amount of self-centeredness. Jacob (which means he cheats or supplanter) is too clever for his own good and lives up to the meaning of his name, Esau spurns his spiritual birthright and sells it for some stew, Isaac makes the same foolish mistakes his father had made earlier, and Rebekah manipulates things behind the scenes to get the best outcome for her favourite child.
Two things stick out to me: first is the flippancy with which Esau regards his spiritual birthright which he sells for no more than a meal (of lentils, no less). He does not take into consideration the far-reaching implications of giving up the blessing given him as the firstborn, the inheritance of the promises made to his father. He only truly mourns when he finds that his physical blessing, the one that would let others serve him and put him above his brothers, has been snatched.
The second is how God works his purposes despite the actions of the people he has called. His faithfulness and forbearance are on full display as he patiently brings his plans to fruition. Even in the covenant made with Jacob at Bethel, Jacob responds with his own conditions in Genesis 28:20-21 “Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God …” Jacob can’t help but make himself the focus of this covenant instead of the Lord, but we’ll see in the next few chapters just how effectively the Lord humbles him and rids him of such selfishness.
It is so easy to be inward focused on our walk with Christ. It is easy to forget the importance and meaning of our adoption into his kingdom, our birthright. So often we can lose sight of what and who is most important: that we live our lives for God in his timing and at his direction for his purposes, not our own. Both Jacob and Esau were too caught up in getting what they wanted that they failed to value the one who does the giving of all good things!
How have you let personal ambition and desire overcome your desire for more of God? If you take all your hopes, dreams, and plans, could you lay all those things down for Jesus’ sake? Does he have your trust? Is he enough for you?
Thank you, Father, for not giving up on your promises. Thank you for bringing me along in the security of your love, for your Holy Spirit, and for adopting me into your kingdom. Help me to not lose sight of you and keep me from letting the things of this world blind me to what you would have me do. I pray all these things in Jesus’ name, amen!
Mountain – by Strahan (click here to listen)
Text: Genesis 22-24
After Abraham miraculously received his promised son, Isaac from the Lord, God tested Abraham by commanding him to take Isaac to the mountains of Moriah and sacrifice him there as a burnt offering. Abraham immediately obeys. On the way there, Isaac notices that they have the materials necessary to prepare a sacrifice, but no lamb for the offering. When he inquires of his father, Abraham explains, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering.” After Abraham builds the altar, he binds Isaac and lays him on top of the wood, he lifts the knife to slay him…but then! the angel of the Lord calls out to stop him. “Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” Abraham then sees a ram caught by its horns in a thicket and sacrifices it instead of Isaac. Then God promises Abraham that He will bless him and make his descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and that they will take possession of the cities of their enemies. Furthermore, all nations of the earth will be blessed by Abraham’s obedience.
After this, Sarah dies and Abraham purchases land to bury her in a cave. Abraham sends his servant back to his homeland to find a wife from among his relatives for Isaac. He repeatedly emphasizes to his servant that Isaac is NOT to return to that land, because God has promised Abraham’s descendants the land of Canaan. The servant prays in his heart that God will grant him success in his mission and asks for confirmation through a sign. He prays that the girl who responds to his request for water from the well with, “Drink, and I’ll water your camels too” be the girl God has chosen as Isaac’s wife. This is precisely what happens and Rebekah, the daughter of Abraham’s brother’s son, returns to Canaan to be Isaac’s wife. Isaac loves Rebekah and is comforted by her after the death of his mother.
Although Isaac was the manifestation of God’s promise, Abraham ultimately did not place his hope and faith in the manifestation of the promise, but rather he placed his hope and faith in the Giver of the Promise. It was his relationship with the Lord, his knowledge and trust of God’s character that enabled Abraham to surrender his beloved son Isaac.
Abraham’s obedience to God’s command to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, led to him receiving many blessings, including that all the nations of the earth would be blessed through him. Abraham likely didn’t realize the prophetic implications of his words, “God himself will provide a lamb for the burnt offering.” This is an incredible foreshadowing of another only son, Jesus, the Lamb of God, dying on the cross, taking the punishment for the sins of the world upon himself. In Hebrews 11:19, we are told that when Abraham was tested, he walked by faith, fully prepared to offer Isaac as a sacrifice, reasoning that God could raise the dead. How right Abraham was! God raised his only son, Jesus, from the dead and through this event, saves “all who call upon the name of the Lord” (Romans 10:13). This salvation through Jesus is the blessing to all the nations of the earth that God promised!
After Abraham passed this test of faith, God’s promises to him really began to manifest. He purchased land to bury Sarah and thus made the first claim of ownership in the land God promised him. What else is needed to fulfill a promise of “descendants as numerous as the stars”? A wife for Isaac, through whom more descendants can come! The specific way God led Abraham’s servant to find Rebekah shows us further God’s determination to be faithful to the promises he made to Abraham.
We understand through today’s reading the timeless truth that God blesses the posture of surrender and obedience. He is faithful to His promises, no matter how contradictory it might seem in the present circumstance. When we surrender everything and put God first, we can trust that He will orchestrate our circumstances for blessing. When God asks his people to do something, it might not always make sense, but willingness to obey Him demonstrates our faith and He will bless us for it!
How do the timeless truths from today’s reading encourage you to prioritize obedience to God? Might He be asking you to surrender anything to Him?
Thank you, Lord that I can trust your character. You are so good to me. Come have your way in my life; help me to put you first in everything. Reveal to me any thing that I need to surrender so that you are my first priority. I want your blessing, so I commit myself to obeying you completely. Amen.
I Surrender (feat. Lauren Daigle) - Hillsong UNITED
“Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath. Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint; heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony.”
Psalm 6: 1
Genesis 19 - 21
The account of humankind continues. After the meeting with Abraham the angels continue to Sodom. Remember how Abraham pleaded for the city (18: 16-33). On their arrival they are met by Lot who beseeches them to stay at his house for their own safety. The house is soon surrounded by the men of the town who demand that Lot brings them out so they can have sex with them. The Angels intervene and blind the men. Lot can only persuade and take his wife and two daughters to safety; less than the minimum of ten agreed by the Lord for the salvation of the city (18:33). Sodom and Gomorrah are destroyed in an incredibly powerful way and Lot’s wife is turned to a pillar of salt as she looks back (19: 25-26). Lot and his daughters move in fear to a cave where incest occurs at the instigation of the daughters with a drunken, unaware Lot, in order to preserve their family line.
The account moves back to Abraham who has moved on to Gerar where he again has Sarah identified as his sister. King Abimelech took Sarah but was warned by God in a dream not to go near her. Abraham is confronted, admits his sin and then prays for the healing of Abimelech and his household who had suffered in illness because of Sarah.
God’s promise and words are fulfilled as Isaac is born and circumcised. Ishmael and Hagar are sent away but under God’s protection and with a future. Abimelech returns to see Abraham to seek and secure a treaty as he is aware of God’s power and fears for his kingdom
Once again we are confronted with a myriad of issues that we could interpret and focus on; this will be the normal state of affairs as we move through God’s Word. Narrowing it down, I will focus on the issues of our failings, God’s judgement and His faithfulness. We see a trend in these three chapters that we will see regularly in the Scriptures. It is the inclination of those in a relationship with God falling foul of sin. This is followed by some form of consequence and judgement from God that brings the people back to Him and solves the matter. In this process we see God’s amazing faithfulness, patience and love. For example Lot chose to live in Sodom, a city seemingly fully opposed to God and wicked, a city that caused him (Lot) great torment, yet God saved him (2 Peter 2: 7-8). He soon failed again in fear and incest. Then there is Abraham who with whatever motive did not trust God and put Sarah at risk. Also put at risk was the family line for the promised Messiah. God intervened and saved all. Finally we see the consequences for an earlier lack of trust that led to Abraham having a child, Ishmael, with Sarah’s servant, Hagar. The two were sent away with the promise of God’s blessing and protection (21: 12).
When we consider the absolute holiness of God, His patience and grace with us is astounding. Think of the sinful city of Sodom; He would have spared the city for the sake of ten righteous people. Consider the continual failure of His creation and His faithfulness. This should encourage us massively as we face the sin in the world and in ourselves. There is though, a warning to heed in this. In Matthew 11: 24 Jesus spoke of towns where He had performed miracles and how they had rejected Him and His Kingdom. He warned that it would be worse for them than for those in Sodom on the day of judgement. This tells us something about judgement! There is an accounting for all of us before the Lord. On that day we need to be standing in the white robes of righteousness purchased for us by Jesus Christ and worn by faith.
The Question of Application
Do you truly grasp the holiness of God and the sinful nature of humankind? If we did we would understand the punishment Christ has taken for us and the grace bestowed upon us when we place our faith in Him. Does this generate immense gratitude in your heart? What will change in your life today?
Almighty God, through the birth, life, death and resurrection of your Son you have poured on us the new light of your incarnate Word. You have shown us the fullness of your love and the depth of your faithfulness. Help us to turn from our sin and failings to walk in His light and dwell in His love that we may know the fullness of His joy. All to your glory. Amen
He is Faithful sung by Jesus Culture
Genesis 16 - 18
Observe: In Gen 16 we see that several years have elapsed since God promised Abram that his descendants would be more numerous than the stars in the night sky, yet he and Sarai still had no children because of their advanced years. Sarai then devises a plan to have children through her maid servant and gets Abram to have a child with Hagar. Things don’t go well, and conflict arises between them when Hagar becomes pregnant. So Hagar runs away into the desert, but returns to Sarai after an encounter with the Lord. More years pass and the Lord once again appears to Abram and tells him that he would have a son by Sarai around that same time the following year, and changes their names to Abraham and Sarah. As a sign of the covenant, all the male members of Abraham’s household must be circumcised. Shortly thereafter, the Lord again visits Abraham as He is on His way to destroy the towns of Sodom and Gomorrah because of their sinful ways. Abraham pleads with the Lord not to destroy the towns if He finds any good people there, and the Lord agrees if he can at least 10 good people, He will not destroy them.
Interpret: Like many people, Sarai is a bit impatient and decides to help God carry out His part of the covenant by giving her slave Hagar to Abram as a second wife, and hopefully thereby getting the children promised by God. She wasn’t willing to wait for God to fulfill His promises in His good time. Her unfaithfulness led to the family strife seen in her relationship with Hagar. Hagar, on the other hand, demonstrated her faithfulness when she returned from the desert to Sarai as the Lord told her to, even though it was to certain harsh treatment at the hands of her mistress. Abram, for his part was also guilty of unfaithfulness when he agreed to Sarai’s scheme instead of waiting on God’s good time to bring about what He had promised, and gave in to the desires of his flesh. But, we see that God in His mercy, is still faithful to Abraham and intends to keep His part of the covenant. As an outward sign of this covenant, God requires all the males of Abraham’s household to be circumcised, which will separate and identify them among all the other peoples. Abraham had this done the same day that God pronounced it, and showed his renewed obedience.
Then there is the matter of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah for the evil and sin committed by the people there. God tells Abraham what He is going to do and why, yet Abraham actually bargains with God over the fate of the cities, as if God didn’t already know how many righteous people lived in them. God had waited patiently for the people to repent of their evil ways, but they just kept getting more and more evil. “The LORD said to Abraham, "How great is the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah and how very grave their sin! I must go down and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me; and if not, I will know." Genesis 18:20. Abraham was interceding on behalf of the people in those cities, asking for God’s mercy on them, but having found not even ten good people among them, the cities were destroyed in His righteous judgement.
Application: God continues to keep His promises to His people, and is faithful to us no matter how we respond. His timing may not suit ours, but anytime we get ahead of God and try to do things on our own, they usually don’t turn out so well. His timing usually calls for us to be patient – “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” 2 Peter 3:8. Regardless of what we do, He will fulfill His promises and purposes, and that should strengthen us with hope, confidence and faith to wait on Him. And when Abraham interceded on behalf of the townspeople, he showed us that our prayers can make a difference.
Questions: Have there been any situations in your life when you were impatient waiting on God to answer a prayer or keep a promise? Did you ever go ahead with your own plans because things just weren’t moving along fast enough for you or going in the direction you wanted? How did that work for you? Have you ever just waited on the Lord and then thanked Him for His grace extended to you?
Prayer: Heavenly Father, forgive my impatience and faithlessness. You are the one true God, who never fails, who is always faithful, and who is the one true giver of all good things. Help me to be still and know that you are God. In Jesus name, Amen.
OBSERVE - In the first eleven chapters of the book of Genesis we see a steady spread of sin from its origin in the Garden of Eden. Five times God pronounced a curse on sin and sinner. But in Genesis chapter 12, God began the process of re-creating for himself a people by pronouncing a fivefold blessing on Abram: “I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families of the earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12: 2-3).
INTERPRET - These are the promises the entire nation of Israel was built upon. It was these promises they held on to and believed God would be faithful to when their circumstances seemed to give them no evidence that they would come true. These promises to Abram encapsulated God’s vision not only for the children of Israel but for all of humanity. They were an expression of his love flowing over and enriching a guilty and dying world, starting with Abram; expanding to the nation of Israel; moving on to Israel’s greatest Son, Jesus Christ; flowing on to the church and reaching out to all the nations.
This blessing on Abram was the first big step of the promised rescue plan of God mentioned in Genesis 3:15. God has continued to fulfill this promise over time and will continue to fulfill all of his promises. When the angel came to Mary and told her she would give birth to the Son of the Most High, she recognized this moment as God fulfilling his promise to Abram/Abraham (Luke 1: 55). Her relative Zechariah understood it that way too, and he prophesied, “Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has visited and redeemed his people…He has been merciful to our ancestors by remembering his sacred covenant – the covenant he swore with an oath to our ancestor Abraham” (Luke 1; 68, 72-73).
APPLICATION – God has continued to keep his promises no matter how many times humanity has failed. We see that Mary and Zechariah had held on to these promises many years later no matter how difficult their situation had become. Although it is not always easy to see God’s promises in the middle of the storm, God’s promises will help us to find calmness and clarity in the storm. Understanding God’s promises and God’s continued fulfillment of his promises should give us incredible faith no matter what situation we are in.
QUESTION – Knowing that God has fulfilled and will continue to fulfill his promises, how does this help you handle difficult times and/or situations? Are there any particular times and/or situations where you find it harder to lean on God’s promises? Why?
PRAYER – Jesus, all my happiness is tied up with and produced by God’s covenant grace extended to me in you. You are the Promised One. You are the blessing of my life.
SONG: Goodness of God (Bethel)
Bible Blog 2022
This year the blogs are focused on the Psalms and are posted on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.