Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Genesis 46 - Stopping for Directions

Jacob's heart no doubt leapt on hearing that Joseph was alive and living so well in Egypt. He had already made up his mind to go that way since he had packed up the family and set out, but when he got to Beersheba, he felt compelled to offer sacrifices and to thank God for this provision.

Maybe in his prayer he also asked for confirmation from God about this journey, but even if he didn't God graciously came to him in a vision and let Jacob know this was part if his divine plan and that one day God would bring them out of Egypt. See God knew the end from the beginning.

Jokes have been made about men's aversion to asking for directions, but Jacob has no issue with it. Not only did he ask God for directions (v. 1) - when he got to Egypt he asked Joseph for directions to Goshen (v. 28)! Jacob wanted to know he was doing right.

Another striking thing in this chapter was that Goshen was prime land; the best of Egypt and yet it was left to the shepherd who were considered detestable. How like God to bless us with the best when others might see it as suitable for the despised. It teaches us to consider our bounty from God's eyes and not from mans.

The lesson we can apply for ourselves in our stewardship here is that God may introduce new directions for your life but it is wise to stop and ask him for wisdom and to seek the counsel of trusted advisors. They too are a blessing from God and if they are wise they will seek God's face together with you.

Are you faced with new circumstances or a decision to be made? The God of Jacob is alive and well today. He has knowledge of what will come and can give you wisdom beyond human ability. Also build into your network trusted advisors who will pray with you and will look for Gods clear direction for you. Once you have God's direction for you, don't forget to praise him for his blessings and for the trials that have developed his character within you. He knows the end of your story and it is intertwined with his story to bring glory to himself.

Jacob enjoyed the deliverance from famine at God's hand, and later the nation of Israel would be delivered from Egypt and return to God's land of promise. We too have blessing here in earth at God's hand, but our true blessing lies in the hope of Heaven offered in the deliverance provided by Jesus Christ. Only God could work out the salvation we needed since we are sinners through and through. Believers receive a new nature from God -his spirit to live within us and the promised land of eternal peace with him in Heaven.

If you do not know that you have this hope, I pray you will look for directions in God's word, seek his forgiveness and even speak to another believer about your questions. You could have this same assurance for yourself.

May God richly bless you as you seek him and as you serve him.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Genesis 45 - Divine Jackpot

Just when it seemed it could not get any darker - when surely Jacobs sons would forever be separated from him and he would die of a heartache - light breaks through and God provides for a miraculous delivery. Joseph's brothers were not only about to be delivered from the penalty for stealing, for selling Joseph into bondage and lying, but they were going to be delivered from death and starvation at Joseph's hand. Joseph foreshadows the deliverance that God would one day bring to the world through his son Jesus.

At the beginning of the Chapter, Joseph is so moved by Judah's confession and pleas for mercy that he is brought to tears. Judah was willing to sacrifice himself for the sake of his father and his brothers. This was evidence of the changes God had brought about in Judah's thinking. Joseph so touched he wept in front of his brothers. Then he reveals the truth - he is their brother.

Joseph explains that all the suffering his brothers brought to him was all part of Gods plan to position Joseph to be able to deliver a remnant of God's chosen people. The famine in the land was also part of God's divine plan to renew Jacob's dependence and delight in God, but also as a demonstration of God's future deliverance from sin in sending Messiah. For us today, I think it keeps us assured of God's final deliverance after Jesus' millennial reign.

This was more than an incidental event. This was God's divine jackpot where all the things that are deserved (death, destruction, despondency) are overshadowed by God's amazing grace. A bounty of blessing. Jacob would be given the best of the land and would live out his days in the presence of his beloved children.

Joseph directs his brothers to go and get their wives and his father. They didn't need to worry about moving everything because it would all be replaced from the generous stores of Egypt. Joseph sends provisions for the journey both ways.

Then Joseph says something strange, "don't quarrel on the way". It would seem there would be no cause for quarreling, but Joseph knew his brothers well and knew that even lavish grace could not change their character.

There are some lessons we can take from this passage for ourselves.

1. If you are in the midst of trouble and hardship, God may be using this to accomplish his purposes for you. Look to God for wisdom, comfort and strength to see you through your struggle. The day may dawn soon.

2. God's purposes are for his glory and not for ours. God delivered his people as a demonstration of his power not merely to place abundance into the hands of children. The real blessing is in the deliverance and not the bounty. If God sees us through, our faith is increased and we trust him more for the next challenge.

3. God's blessing here is temporal. Our blessing in eternity is forever. No matter how high we live here, the riches are incomparable with God's riches in Heaven. We are sojourners here; this is not our home. So we need to be careful that we don't value abundance here so much that it hinders our relationships. We need not quarrel with our brothers and sisters about the blessings we have received. God is all sufficient to meet our every need and his plans for us are perfect.

4. Jacob was convinced of the truth when he saw the evidences Joseph sent. He went to Egypt not for the abundance, but to be with his son. We have opportunity to fellowship with God through his son Jesus. He has provided the evidences of his love and the hope of salvation in Jesus Christ. Will we value that time as greater than pursuit of wealth and business? We have our own choice to make.

May God richly bless you as you seek him and as you serve him today.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Genesis 44 - Rock Bottom

This chapter reveals Judah's insight into Divine providence. So sure that they had done nothing to sleight the Egyptian Lord (their brother Joseph) that when they were accused of taking items from the palace, the brothers were bold enough to state their innocence and offer themselves as slaves if any brother were found with stolen items.

To their horror, Benjamin's sack was found with Joseph's cup. The boy they had sworn to protect with their lives was now holding evidence of their guilt. They would never return to their father and they would all die in slavery.

In verse 16, Judah says something insightful. He says "God has uncovered your servants guilt". Here he is not referring to the cup but to all the lies and injustice they had brought on Joseph and their own father. Judah sees God's hand of justice being placed on the brothers therefore Judah pleads in humility before Joseph fully confessing the truth of what happened to Joseph and how his father never knew the truth.

Judah offers himself as a living sacrifice so that Benjamin may be spared and his father, Jacob might not die from the loss of his beloved son. Judah has true compassion for his father and realizes that God has brought him to account for the wrongs committed. Like Jesus, he was willing to give himself as a substitutionary sacrifice - but unlike Jesus he was fully guilty and deserving of the condemnation that befell him.

Judah realizes that God sees everything and is able to order events to hold us accountable for sins. He realizes that mercy is his only hope and places himself at Joseph's command knowing even in that God can work and perhaps make a way of forgiveness.

When we consider our circumstances, can we see God divinely ordering events to bring about his purposes? Judah got that this was not about him, but about God and he trusted in God's lovingkindness toward his father and in humility pled for forgiveness undeserved.

Our Heavenly Father may bring us to a place of humility, but not because of his vengeance. He wants that all would repent and come into his offer of restoration. He sent his Son to pay the penalty for our sins so that we could be in fellowship with God and receive His Holy Spirit. We were fully guilty and deserving of eternal punishment, but God intervened.

Consider again Judah's confession. Are there some skeletons in your past that you need to confess before God and receive His forgiveness? Is there a past you thought you left behind but continues to plague your soul? Like Judah, confess your guilt before God - leave nothing hidden and place yourself on the lovingkindness of the King!

May God richly bless you as you seek him and as you serve him!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Genesis 43 - The Humility of Desperation

This passage could also be entitled God's Unexpected Answers. So much unfolds in this story and many lessons could be drawn from this chapter. Joseph had instilled fear in his brothers - so much so that they dared not return without Benjamin and without repaying all the silver that was stashed in their sacks from the first visit.

Jacob in his fear of losing the only remaining son his beloved Rachel, refused to let Benjamin go. He would suffer rather than submit his son. Note: there is no record that he prayed to God for direction. I suppose there was no need to pray if your mind is made up. God will not be thwarted, however. God allows Jacob to suffer need to bring him to the place of humility so that he will do that thing he feared most but was part of God's plan all along.

As for Joseph's brothers. They too had to face their fears. When Joseph invited them to his place for lunch, they were certain that this was not an honor, but a means to enslave them for taking the Egyptian silver.

They didn't put the prices together when the brothers were lined up according to age and Benjamin was given five portions, but they began to question and accepted the bounty placed before them. Things were certainly turning out differently than they imagined.

In my own life and probably in yours as well, God has brought me to places of dryness and even suffering before I would yield my way and do that thing I was most afraid of doing at God's direction. Maybe it is witnessing to a stranger or giving some money I believed I needed or forgiving someone who was unrepentant.

Only at my place of total surrender did God show himself to be more than sufficient. He moves in ways I couldn't have imagined. And so it is with Jacob and his sons. When they gave up conniving and scheming, God blessed them.

What are you hanging on to? Is there something God has asked of you, but you are afraid to yield? Take courage from this recounting if history here. God may take you in places of blessing you never envisioned.

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Genesis 42 - High Cost of God's Plan

Living in Canaan, Jacob and his sons began to realize the extent of this famine. This was not just a time for tightening your belt and foregoing desserts - this famine had the potential to decimate his flocks and his family.

Hearing that there are store in Egypt he sends his sons (all but Benjamin). They meet Joseph (but don't know it) in his position of Governor of the land and ask for to buy food. Joseph appears to deal harshly with the brothers and doesn't reveal his identity but tells them to bring Benjamin from Canaan.

As a pledge for their return, they leave Simeon in jail. The remaining brothers return to Canaan to ask Jacob to release Benjamin. Reuben even offers the lives of his sons to demonstrate how committed he is to protecting Benjamin on this journey. In the end, Jacob clings to Benjamin and will not release him. Jacob speaks of Simeon as if he were already dead when it was within his power to release him. But the price was too high.
Jacob would do without rather than give into the demands of the Egyptian.

We too want our desires without having to sacrifice to get them. We set boundaries around which we will not cross ostensibly even at God's command. Our pride tells us we should not have to suffer or sacrifice and if it is required it must not be from God since He doles out blessing after blessing.

Like Jacob unwilling to show His youngest son in order to obtain food and the release of Simeon, we sometimes choose to take our stand to our own detriment. Jacob didn't know that God was working out a plan for his good and that He would use this demand to reunite him with his beloved Joseph and to provide for his needs for food.

Nowhere in the passage do you see Jacob look to God for his direction. He had made up his mind and set his boundaries. To go to God would leave his boundaries open for redirection.

I am not against boundaries. We should have good boundaries and the Bible helps us to set those wisely. But if we are unwilling to let God direct the affairs of our lives we have effectively switched sides and are now working against God's plan for us.

Pride keeps us from submission to God and from looking to him for wisdom. We think we know the way - when in reality God may be working out a plan different than what we envisioned for ourselves.

Consider the plans you have and even some of the stresses that keep you from enjoying life as you know it. Is it possible that you have determined not to pay the high price of God's plans and are staying within your comfort zone where life is safe and controllable?

If you belong to God, He will not let you go. But that doesn't mean He will modify His best plans for you to allow you to take the easy way out. God may even bring you to a place of humility to help you change your thinking and to accept His plan for you as we will see in the be next lesson.

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Genesis 41 - Reputation

Joseph was once again mistreated. The cupbearer who got his job back conveniently forgot to bring Joseph's case before Pharaoh. When Pharaoh has dreams two years later, the cupbearer (probably because it had the potential to improve his standing before Pharaoh) remembers Joseph's ability to interpret dreams.

Sending for Joseph based on his reputation, Pharaoh eagerly awaits the interpretation of his dreams. Joseph did not take credit for this ability but said that only God could interpret dreams. Joseph gave credit to God and counseled Pharaoh that the matter was urgent because the dream was given in two forms.

If Joseph had stopped there he still would have been a hero, but Joseph continues to give his captors advice beneficial to weathering the financial storm that was about to befall Egypt. He recommends appointment of a wise man to be in charge of Egypt to store up grain to feed the country in lean years. (The first mention of an emergency fund).

Pharaoh, realizes that Joseph is speaking truth only God can give and from God has great wisdom from above, so he appoints Joseph and gives him authority only surpassed by Pharaoh himself. From imprisonment to Vice President in a day!
Only God could so raise a person.

Joseph now would apply the financial principles he received from God to sustain that nation through lean times. Just one more principle to apply- Joseph didn't offer the people handouts during the lean times. He sold the grain to the people and retained the benefit to the country.

Where ever you have been placed, you have an opportunity to point others to God a d let them know whatever our distress, there is a God in Heaven who cares for his people. Do you have that reputation?

When people recognize good character in you, do you place the credit with God who gave you your skills and talents? Do you look to him to answer the questions that are beyond our abilities?

I believe that the lean years our nation has encountered are nothing compared to what will come in the future. Are you preparing for a future need? Are you preparing enough to help others as well when that time comes?

When our story is written, will we have a reputation like Joseph or like the cupbearer? Joseph applied himself to benefit others while the cupbearer took benefits for himself.

God may be looking for the next Joseph to lead with his wisdom in times of famine and hardship. Can we depend on him alone for our advancement and look to him for the wisdom to sustain the domain he has given us to serve?

May God richly bless you as you seek him and as you serve him.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Genesis 40 - Hardships Reveal Character

The extremes of life tend to reveal more if our character. I believe that the affluence of America has revealed more of our selfishness than our generosity. It has birthed a sense of entitlement unparalleled in other cultures.

Likewise when we are faces with illness, injustice or poverty, our true nature reveals itself to the world around us. We let down our guard and excuse misbehavior blaming our circumstances. Or we may rise to face adversity with grave and integrity.

Consider Joseph imprisoned unjustly after being enslaved by his own brothers. If there was ever a cause to be bitter, Joseph had it. Yet he rises to favor even in prison because of his integrity and I believe his lovingkindness to his captors.

Furthermore when given charge of the cupbearer and the baker in prison, he didn't lord over them, but when they we downcast because of disturbing dreams, Joseph takes time to hear them, give God glory for dream interpretation and even boldly tells them the interpretation of the dreams as God had revealed.

God gave Joseph a supernatural power to see the dreams' meanings because his fellowship with God remained intimate no matter what he faced. Joseph was mistreated, but he didn't complain to God. He merely continued in faithful service no matter where he was. Now that is true character!

Today you may be faced with either blessing or hardship. No matter what we can serve The Lord faithfully because we know that like the cupbearer and the baker and like Joseph, or destiny is in God's hands. Can you let go of your control and trust Him to lead you? Who knows what God can do with your service as you dedicate yourself to faithful obedience.

May God richly bless you as you seek him and as you serve Him.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Genesis 39 - Honor over Prosperity

Joseph, sold into slavery had every right to feel victimized, abused, bitter and angry. This was not the stuff of the dreams he had been given by God where his brothers bowed down to him. Instead he was taken against his will and made to be a servant. Yet Joseph looked to God instead of dwelling on the unfairness of it all he focused on living well for God in his new circumstances.

Verses 2 - 6 outline how God remembered Joseph. Verse 2 he prospered; verse 3 the Lord granted him success; verse 4 he found favor and was given responsibility, verse 5 the entire household was blessed, verse 6 great authority given. Joseph had the entire package. We see he was even well built and handsome.

Joseph had what almost everyone prays for. Yet, when he was offered the forbidden fruit of his master's wife, his faith enabled him to reject it and flee even though it meant losing everything - prosperity, favor, authority and blessing. The only thing it seems he kept was his good looks. Joseph lost the respect of his master and quickly became imprisoned.

The character Joseph demonstrated only comes with a close walk with God. Our faith grows stronger as we consider how God moved in the lives of his servants throughout history and challenges us to follow their example.

Are you where you dreamed you would be as a youngster? Have your dreams fallen flat? Perhaps it is not a problem of our circumstances as much as our perspective. Joseph didn't know how God would work to bring his dream to pass he just knew it was directly from God and that He would bring it to pass. I believe even if Joseph had been given the dream of enslavement and hardship he still would have served God with all his might.

Living a life of character without compromise is an enormous undertaking and few succeed. The pull of our own selfish nature, the influences of the world and even Satan our enemy would press us to doubt, become discouraged and to give into the path of least resistance.

Joseph was not afraid of resistance because he was assured of the strength of his God. Romans 8:31 (NET)
"What then shall we say about these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?" Joseph knew this principle well and we can too if we will diligently apply ourselves to live only for Christ.

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Genesis 38 - God's Way or Ours

Judah having just taken part in the deception of his father, Jacob, regarding Joseph decides to separate from his clan. Away from his family he chooses to marry a Canaanite (gentile) woman and begin a family there. Clearly, Judah is choosing a path for himself that is not God's prescribed plan.

During the course of time he fathers three sons. In this gentile country, the first son, Er gets a wife. Here we see that Judah's godly influence on his family was faint at best. Judah had adopted the practices of the land and his sons now had pursued wickedness to its conclusion. God strikes Er and then later Onan dead because of their wickedness.

Living for ourselves and treating God casually is an affront to God and demonstrates a lack of love and dedication to the God who formed us and who has provided so abundantly for us. Judah had done just that as did his sons.

Shelah, Judah's third son apparently was significantly younger and not of age to marry. It was expected that the younger son would marry the widow and father children on behalf of his brother. Judah is afraid that his third son will die as the other two had so he keeps his son to himself.

Tamar, the widow of his sons waits in her father's home for the time when she will be given in marriage. Judah's wife dies and Judah still after this long time does not fulfill his promise to Tamar, so she takes matters into her own hands dressing as a prostitute and offers herself to her father in law. She then obtains his seal and his staff from him.

When Tamar is found pregnant it is reported to Judah. In a rage he passes sentence in her - burn her to death. This would be very convenient for Judah to have this woman out of his life and to be free to give his son, Shelah, to another. But caught in his own trap, Tamar produces the personal items she collected to prove the paternity of the child.

Interesting that Judah, from God's chosen family would sink to such great depths and amazing that a gentile woman would be the one to work justice. Almost none of the affairs, relationships were honoring to God and yet in Matthew 1:3, Tamar and the child she bore to Judah are listed in the lineage of Jesus.

You may have made some terrible choice that are clearly not God's plan for you. You may have squandered possessions, developed friendships with people of poor influence and followed their leading contrary to God's leading in your life. But there is good news! God can bring himself glory even in the mess and can restore fellowship with you if you will confess your sin and turn from it. Jesus has already paid your penalty and forgiveness is available only if you will accept it.

Judah sure made a mess of things but God never took his hand off his own. If you have gone your own way and allowed the world to influence you rather than you influencing it then stop, confess, and turn back to righteousness.

If you have never known the blessing of fellowship with God, today could be your day. All if us have gone our own way and deserve the penalty of death - eternal death. But Jesus, the only perfect man paid that penalty and rose again so that YOU can have life here and forever being grafted into his family tree. It's yours for the taking and haven taken it, you will never be the same again.

It is never wise to go against God. But if you have, it is not too late to find forgiveness. May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him.