Friday, December 30, 2011

Genesis 50:22-26

Well, we’ve come to the end of this wonderful book! It’s time to say goodbye to Joseph, who lived to be 110 years old, seeing the “third generation of Ephraim’s children.” (Gen 50:23). The older I get, the less attractive that seems to me! Don said something to me the other day about cutting back on my salt intake (I LOVE salty foods - you can keep the sweets - give me chips and nuts!), and I told him my goal is to go out in a blaze and NOT to live forever! Even if I don’t live to see great-grandchildren, I know they will be safe in God’s faithful hands, and I will eventually meet them in eternity!

Anyway, it is the end of Joseph’s life that wins him the mention in the Hebrews roll call of faith:

Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” And Joseph made the Israelites swear an oath and said, “God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up from this place.”

So Joseph died at the age of a hundred and ten. And after they embalmed him, he was placed in a coffin in Egypt. (Gen 50:24-26)

Joseph assures his brothers that God will “come to [their] aid” and lead them out of Egypt eventually, because God, the Promise Keeper, will keep His oath to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This family WILL enter the Promised Land. And Joseph is so sure of it that he instructs them to carry his bones with them. In Joshua 24:32 we find that Joseph’s bones were buried in Shechem, which is where, as a sharply dressed 17 year old, he went searching for his brothers! That just speaks to me of mercy! Amazing!

What do we find, at the end of the life of this amazing man, that God commends Joseph for? For his triumph over the temptation of Potiphar’s wife? For his great management skills in rescuing his family and all of Egypt during the famine? For his willingness to forgive his brothers? No, let’s look at what God commends in Hebrews 11:

By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions concerning the burial of his bones. (verse 22)

It was his FAITH that God commended!

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)

I’ll be harping on this verse throughout the next year, because God has really impressed upon me through this study how important our faith/belief is! That is why we will be moving into the gospel of John for 2012. It really struck me, when having a conversation the other day with a sweet young woman who claimed to have no belief system, that what we believe is ALL important. The correlation between Genesis and John is strong, so I really feel led to go back into the New Testament this coming year. I hope you will join me and bring some friends along, too!

2011 has been a year of extreme highs and lows, both globally and personally. We leave this year with the world still in political crisis: the remnants of revolutions in much of the Arab world, North Korea in flux, and Iran possibly ready with nuclear weapons, threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz! What will 2012 bring? We don’t know, but we DO know the One who holds our future - and He is trustworthy and faithful. So we can be at peace.

One final request for the year: will you all join me in praying for a dear young friend, Erin, who is currently in the hospital with contractions at 31 weeks into her first pregnancy? Please pray that God will hold her little one in that womb for the duration, because this little one is going to need open-heart surgery at birth, and needs all the time possible to develop! I’ll keep you updated!

Thanks for joining me in this journey through Genesis! I have learned so much and been so blessed by the stories of the amazing patriarchs! There is so much encouragement in their dysfunction for all of us! Our God is a merciful God who knows our frailties. His grace covers them all!!!

Blessings to you all!


Friday, December 16, 2011

Genesis 50:20-21

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them. (Gen 50:20-21)

I’m going to have a difficult time leaving this passage because it is so powerful! Today, rather than focus on God’s amazing ability to use EVERYTHING that comes our way - even EVIL things - for good (UNBELIEVABLE!!) - I want to focus on the choice of Joseph. You know, it’s one thing to be able to view a betrayal from God’s perspective, but it is another to then choose to respond in God’s way.

“And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.”

Joseph didn’t just choose to do a mental exercise and put a happy face on the situation; he chose to respond with the heart of God. He actually spoke kindly to them! I find this amazing, but I have experienced God’s power in a similar situation, so I know it’s possible. After all, I can do all this through him who gives me strength (Phil 4:13). I have had a few times in my life in which I’ve been betrayed (worse, watched my daughter be betrayed), and have had to seek God’s power not only to forgive, but to ACT forgiving toward the people. There is no way in our own strength that we can demonstrate love toward someone who has bitterly and purposefully hurt us, unless we take it to God. I have found Him so faithful to give me the desire and ability to ACT OUT forgiveness - even when I could not FEEL forgiving. In fact, the LORD showed me years ago that forgiveness is NOT a feeling - it is an action! God doesn’t ask me to feel all warm and fuzzy toward those who hurt me, but He does expect me to act out forgiveness as His child. The miraculous part of it, is that when we take actions that demonstrate forgiveness, the feelings follow!

There is a companion verse to Genesis 20 that I believe is the other key Biblical principal that God wants us to learn from Joseph’s story. Jesus spoke these words from the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:33-35)

Forgiveness is the overriding principal ALWAYS.

The reality is that ALL of us are miserable, lost sinners! (Rom 3:23) That’s our nature! So why are we surprised when people who are in darkness act that way??? People are going to hurt us, let us down, betray, and abandon us - because they are imperfect people! The problem is spiritual, not personal. In fact, in Ephesian 6:12, we are told that the root cause of our struggles is spiritual warfare:

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

The conflicts we have with people are always spiritual at their core. If we can soak in these ideas - if we can look at our situations with the mind of Christ and rely on His strength to act out forgiveness as Joseph did toward his brothers, we will experience the victory and see God using even hurtful betrayals for good - for the saving of many lives. And isn’t that what we want to see?

WOW! God’s Word is amazing!


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Genesis 50:15-20

When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?” So they sent word to Joseph, saying, “Your father left these instructions before he died: ‘This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.” When their message came to him, Joseph wept. (Genesis 50:15-17)

With their father gone, the brothers panicked! They thought, “Oh my gosh! We’re in for it now! With Dad out of the way, Joseph is sure to take revenge!” A guilty conscience can sometimes cause us to do crazy things - if we don’t actually repent! The brothers appeared to make up the story about what Jacob told them to say to Joseph. I believe Jacob actually understood who Joseph was and knew his integrity. He knew that Joseph was not holding a grudge against his brothers. Therefore, I don’t believe he ever said these words to his other sons.

But when the brothers brought this story to Joseph, it showed Joseph that they really didn’t get him - and it brought him to tears. They had been with him through the years of famine. Not only had they been beneficiaries of his kindness and care, they had witnessed how Joseph did business in Egypt. They saw what he had done to save the people of Egypt. They witnessed the respect that the Egyptians had for Joseph. They should have known who he was. Have you ever been there - where someone completely misunderstands your intentions, because they apparently don’t believe your motives are good and genuine? I have! It hurts and it is so frustrating!

Note, however, that with this story, came the line, “Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.” Are they acknowledging their sins? I believe so. But they have still missed the message of forgiveness. Did they bring God into it just to manipulate Joseph? I don’t know... but Joseph jumps on that to make his point. When they throw themselves at his feet seeking mercy he makes his most important speech to them EVER, and he speaks one of the great truths of the Bible:

But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them. (Gen 50:19-20)

Now, notice that Joseph did not minimize what they had done. He did not let them off the hook. He affirmed that their intentions were evil. They had actually plotted to kill him - but settled for selling him into slavery. There is NOTHING good about that. But Joseph, even though completely abandoned and betrayed, could find God at work in it all. He saw how God had turned around something vile and used it to save His chosen people, through whom would come the Savior of the world. God had a plan and it would not be thwarted. He had promised to bless the seed of Abraham, and He actually used the evil act of Joseph’s brothers to keep that promise.

When Joseph was down in that well, then making the lonely journey with a caravan to Egypt, then up on a market stand being purchased like chattel, working as a servant, completely separated from his father, falsely accused, and languishing in prison forgotten, he learned that God was all he needed. He turned to God for everything and learned that God was faithful.

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good...” Oh, that we would learn this truth deep down in our hearts! Whatever wrongs come our way, whatever intentional hurts others cause us, whatever tragic events come into our lives - ALL of it God will use for good - for His glory and for our eternal benefit! I believe all of us have experienced this truth at some point. Maybe you have been abandoned by someone - a friend, a spouse, or even a parent - and looking back you can see how God used something so painful and awful to make you more fit for His kingdom. Maybe someone at work betrayed you and you saw God turn that around to a blessing. I would LOVE it if you would share that with us all!

God LOVES to turn the tables on evil! The ultimate picture of that was the Crucifixion. Satan had plotted to get rid of this Savior one way or another - and there He was dying a humiliating painful death on a cross! But God received that sacrifice once for all and raised Jesus from the dead, securing our salvation! The victory was the LORD’s!

We have more to chew on in this passage. In the meantime, please take a minute to share with us all how God has turned around evil in your life and used it for good!


Friday, December 9, 2011

Genesis 50:1-14

I can’t believe we are actually at the final chapter of Genesis. I have been looking forward to this one since we started this book in January! It has one of the best passages in the Bible! However, before we get to that, we will be talking about the mourning for Jacob.

When Jacob died, Joseph took charge of all of the funeral details. He arranged for the embalming (which took 40 days) and the transportation up to Canaan for burial. Jacob was given the VIP treatment in death.

So Joseph went up to bury his father. All Pharaoh’s officials accompanied him—the dignitaries of his court and all the dignitaries of Egypt— besides all the members of Joseph’s household and his brothers and those belonging to his father’s household. Only their children and their flocks and herds were left in Goshen. Chariots and horsemen also went up with him. It was a very large company. (Genesis 50:7-9)

This was quite an entourage accompanying Jacob’s body! I love the understatement of the last sentence in verse 9! In those days, you could judge the importance of the departed by the number of days of mourning. The third verse of this chapter tells us the Egyptians mourned Jacob for forty days even before heading up to Canaan. After reaching the burial site, they observed another seven days of mourning, with loud and bitter lamenting (verse 10).

Jon Courson points out that the importance given to Jacob at this time was really because of his relationship to his son, Joseph, who is a type of Jesus in the Bible. So, we are reminded that our worth is directly tied to our relationship to THE Son, also. Courson writes, “Thus, whatever happens in our lives presently and at the end of our lives ultimately will be based not on what we have done or haven’t done - but on our linkage to God’s Son.” (Application Commentary: Old Testament P.225)

The theme in my classroom is “Make Good Choices,” and I am always telling my students how important their choices are in their lives. Most major decisions at this point in their lives are made for them, and they have little or no say (where they live, whether or not Mom and Dad will stay together, etc.). However, they always have a choice in how they respond to their circumstances. The one BIG choice they control at this point is who their friends will be. As they head into middle school, I tell them that who they “hang” with is one of the biggest decisions they make - because they will be known by the friends they keep!

Even as adults, we, too, are known by our friends. If we choose to “hang” with the world - those people who have no interest in the things of God - we will be considered worldly. However, if we choose to spend our time developing our relationship with the Son, we will be identified as His. At this time of the year, it takes a conscious effort to “hang” with Jesus and to not be pulled into the busyness of the season. Let’s choose to start our days with Him and to be mindful of His presence (not “presents”) all day long. I can guarantee that the more time we spend with Him, the more people will recognize our relationship to Him.

Stay tuned - the next lessons are the most exciting in Genesis!!


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Genesis 49:29-33

Then he gave them these instructions: “I am about to be gathered to my people. Bury me with my fathers in the cave in the field of Ephron the Hittite, the cave in the field of Machpelah, near Mamre in Canaan, which Abraham bought along with the field as a burial place from Ephron the Hittite. There Abraham and his wife Sarah were buried, there Isaac and his wife Rebekah were buried, and there I buried Leah. The field and the cave in it were bought from the Hittites.”

When Jacob had finished giving instructions to his sons, he drew his feet up into the bed, breathed his last and was gathered to his people. (Genesis 49:29-33)

Having blessed his sons, Jacob gave final instructions for his burial then “breathed his last.” Jacob lived a long life punctuated with a multitude of mistakes and led a large family, mostly characterized by its dysfunction. We’ve spent a lot of time with this patriarch and his family. We read of his struggles, even from birth, with his twin brother. We saw him trick his father into giving him the blessing that belonged to Esau. Jacob met his match in Laban, who tricked him into working for seven years, only to give him Leah in marriage instead of Rachel. Jacob continued to work for his beloved Rachel - then took on two more wives!

He finally had a personal encounter with God that left him limping and changed. Did that mean he was perfect from then on? Far from it! He continued to struggle as a father. After losing the love of his life, Rachel, he poured his affection into her son, Joseph, creating disaster for all of his sons! So what would his epitaph be? Perfect son, perfect husband, perfect father?? No way! Let’s look at what God’s Word says in looking back over Jacob’s life. What stood out in God’s view?

By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff. (Hebrews 11:21)

Does God remember Jacob’s multiple sins and failures? Does He commend his cunning as a businessman? Does He praise the great love Jacob had for Rachel? No, in the “roll call of faith” found in chapter 11 of Hebrews, God commends Jacob for his final act of faith: the blessing of the sons and Jacob’s worship of God. In blessing his sons, Jacob was making his final declaration of faith in God’s promises to him. He new that God would indeed provide the inheritance to Jacob’s descendants that He promised in Genesis 35:11-12.

And God said to him, “I am God Almighty; be fruitful and increase in number. A nation and a community of nations will come from you, and kings will be among your descendants. The land I gave to Abraham and Isaac I also give to you, and I will give this land to your descendants after you.”

Jacob BELIEVED God, and, ultimately, that was his legacy. That is what God commended. It is our faith in HIM (not in our works or accomplishments) that counts for eternity.

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)

Like his father and grandfather, Jacob did not live to see the fulfillment of God’s promises, but he BELIEVED they WOULD be fulfilled by the God who keeps His promises. So, are we holding onto that belief? Are there things you have been praying for (including the salvation of loved ones) that you have not yet seen? Like Jacob, we may NOT see the fulfillment in our own lifetime, but we can trust the Promise Maker and Promise Keeper. HE is faithful - even when we are not!

One final note: Jacob requested that his burial be with his fathers in Canaan, next to his FIRST wife, Leah. He did not ask to be buried with Rachel! Again, this shows the priority of his faith in God. He would be buried in the land of promise alongside the wife who gave him the son of promise, Judah.

As I push on toward eternity - which seems to be rushing toward me - I think about what I would hope would be said about me when I’m gone. What do I want on my headstone? “Here lies Sally White, beloved wife, mother, and grandmother?” Nope! As much as I LOVE being a wife, mother, and grandmother, what I hope will be my legacy would be, “She believed GOD.” THAT’S what I want my family and friends to remember! :)


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Genesis 49:26-28

The blessing of Joseph by his father ends with an emphasis upon the source of all blessings, the Mighty One of Jacob, the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel, the Almighty. Jacob knew his God intimately. He had wrestled one-on-One with Him until he, himself, had received a blessing. And he ends his blessing to Joseph with a statement that affirms what Joseph had dreamed so many years before:

Let all these rest on the head of Joseph, on the brow of the prince among his brothers. (Gen 49:26b)

And verse 28 sums these blessings up with the first reference to the twelve tribes of Israel:

All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said to them when he blessed them, giving each the blessing appropriate to him.

Don’t you love the fact that each of the blessings was appropriate to the man? As a teacher I totally understand that it is so important to be fair to all of my students. But I also recognize that “fair” is not always appropriate. The student who purposely hurt another student does not receive the same punishment as the one who accidentally injured a student, even if the damage done is identical. Our God knows us so intimately, and He knows exactly what each of us needs and can bear.

After the Resurrection, when Jesus was preparing His disciples for His return to the Father, he gave Peter explicit instructions to feed His sheep, along with a prophecy about how Peter would die (see John 21). Impetuous Peter wanted to immediately know what would happen to John. Jesus basically told Peter to mind his own business - what happened to John had no bearing on what Jesus would do in Peter’s life.

I imagine that the brothers’ heads were spinning at this point as each took in his own message then compared it to his brothers’. Some must have been thinking, “That’s not fair!” We so often compare our lives to those around us. Sometimes it seems like some people have just been given so much to bear, while others seem to remain unscathed by the world’s troubles, and, in fact, seem to be blessed beyond belief! Sometimes we want to shout to God, “That’s not fair!” His Word indicates here that each of us receives what is appropriate and particular to us.

If you are thinking today that your life is not what you dreamed it would be, or that you just cannot bear the “blessings” God has given you, trust that He knows exactly what you need. There isn’t a circumstance in your life that has taken God by surprise. Not only has He allowed certain things to come your way (as with Job), but He has purposely given you others to make you into the person He has designed you to be. Don’t fight it! Trust Him! He is making something beautiful out of you! He is “blessing” you to be a blessing to others. Don’t get caught up in comparing your blessing to anyone else’s. You are unique and so is your blessing!


Monday, December 5, 2011

Genesis 49:22-25

Last time we looked at the fruitfulness of Joseph’s life. Today let’s talk about WHY he was so fruitful, and what other factors made his life so satisfying.

Joseph is a fruitful vine, a fruitful vine near a spring, whose branches climb over a wall.” (Gen 49:22)

What was Joseph’s secret? He planted himself near the well of Living Water.

Blessed is the one
   who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
   or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the LORD,
   and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
   which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
   whatever they do prospers. (Psalm 1:1-3)

Joseph delighted in God and in His promises. He knew the secret of abiding in the Vine. So, just like the branches of an apple tree, he did not need to strain to produce fruit. Fruit just naturally grows on the boughs of a tree that is continually nourished by water. We can be certain that, if we continually seek God, meet with Him each day and study His Word, fruit will grow in abundance. We WILL be changed and grow to maturity.

And not only will WE benefit, but all those around us will be blessed by that fruit. Note how Jacob says that Joseph’s “branches climb over a wall.” That speaks of fruit spilling over into our neighbor’s yard! Surely all of Egypt was blessed by Joseph’s fruitful life. “. . .[W]hatever they do prospers.” That was the hallmark of Joseph’s life - everything he touched prospered, whether in Potiphar’s house, in prison, or in Pharaoh’s court.

With bitterness archers attacked him; they shot at him with hostility. But his bow remained steady, his strong arms stayed limber, because of the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob, because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel, because of your father’s God, who helps you, because of the Almighty. . . (Gen 49:23-25)

Another key to Joseph’s satisfying life was what he DIDN’T do! Jon Courson writes about the “archers” who plagued Joseph throughout his life: his brothers who were jealous; by Potiphar’s wife who was infuriated by his righteousness; and by Pharaoh’s butler who failed to remember him when he was released from prison. Courson says, “Joseph’s brothers fired the arrow of envy; Potiphar’s wife, the arrow of fury, and the butler, the arrow of apathy.” (Application Commentary: Old Testament, P. 219)

Joseph could have surely taken his revenge when he came into power. But he didn’t!Joseph never defended himself. He kept his arrows in the quiver. Would we do that? Don’t we just want to nail those who shoot arrows at us? When falsely accused, don’t you want to grab your attorney and your witnesses and make your case in your defense? What was it that held Joseph back? Verse 24 tells us it was “because of the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob.” WOW! He let God hold him back!

When we let God be God, when we trust in His sovereignty, there is no need to defend ourselves. If we give our hurt and anger and our desire for vengeance to HIM, He will take care of it all in HIS way and in HIS time. We can rest in that! And truly, didn’t God vindicate Joseph? This brought God so much more glory! And it worked to the benefit of all of Joseph’s family.

What was the secret of Joseph’s fruitful life? He remained connected to his God continually. He relied on God for His nourishment, and he relied on God to vindicate him. He let God have His way in his life. Of the twelve sons, Joseph was the only whose faith was acknowledged in his blessing. Don’t we want to be known for our faith in God? Don’t we want to be a blessing of fruitfulness to those around us? Don’t we want others to see that we can be at peace even in times of persecution? Then, like Joseph, we must remain in Him. And we do that by meeting with Him each morning.


Friday, December 2, 2011

Genesis 49:22

A dying man has much to reflect on, and certainly he thinks about the value of his own life - how he lived it, to what purpose - and to what degree he has lived a satisfying life. Certainly Jacob, on his deathbed, has a good perspective on what things truly matter in life. So when he blesses Joseph, he first acknowledges the way Joseph chose to live.

Joseph is a fruitful vine, a fruitful vine near a spring, whose branches climb over a wall.” (Gen 49:22)

We will be spending a few days on the blessing of Joseph, because it is so remarkable in comparison to the others. Jacob immediately sets Joseph apart as being the “fruitful” son. Jon Courson has some great things to say about this in his Application Commentary: Old Testament, so I’ll be sharing some of them. He has an essay on this passage, entitled “The Secret of a Satisfied Life.” Don’t we all yearn for a life of satisfaction? Courson says the Bible is very clear about what will bring us deep satisfaction, knowing we have fulfilled our purpose in life:

You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, 
for you created all things, 
   and by your will they were created 
and have their being.” (Rev 4:11)

First, God created us for HIS pleasure and to bring HIM glory, so when we seek to please and glorify HIM, we end up with a fulfilled life. What is it that pleases and glorifies our Father?

This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (John 15:8)

So Joseph is the example of the “fruitful vine.” Courson says the Bible defines fruit in several areas, including the following: fruit in the winning of souls (Paul speaks of those he led to Christ as his harvest in Romans 1:13); the fruit of holiness (Romans 6:22); the fruit of good works (Colossians 1:10); the fruit of praise (Hebrews 13:15); and, of course, the fruit of the Spirit:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Gal 5:22-23)

How were these fruit evident in Joseph’s life? Did Joseph win souls to God? Of course he did! He saved his whole family from starvation by bringing them all to Egypt. He displayed the reality of his God to Pharaoh and all of Egypt. Are we pointing others to Christ? Are we giving the good news about Jesus Christ to a world that is starving?

Joseph surely had the fruit of holiness in his life. Being holy is being set apart for God. Joseph was surely distinct, set apart the world in which he lived. He chose to honor God through obedience as he resisted and fled from Potiphar’s wife. Joseph set his mind to live in holiness. Would those around us see as as “set apart?” Or do we look just like every other person in the neighborhood, with no distinction in the way we live out our lives?

Talk about good works! Joseph spent his life serving others - Potiphar, Pharaoh, the nation of Egypt, his brothers, and his father. Just like Jesus, he epitomized the servant-leader. Did those works of service make him more loved by God? No - but they did show all those around him that he indeed loved God. While our works don’t save us, they are a testament to God - they show others the reality of God in our lives, bringing Him glory.

Finally, Joseph gave God the fruit of praise, for he always gave God the credit for everything! (Gen 41:16) When someone acknowledges something we have done that pleases them, do we take in the praise or give it right back to God? How I long to be more like Joseph! What was his secret? We’ll look at that next time!


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Genesis 49:13-21

As Jacob continues the “blessings” to his other sons, there are some harsh prophecies made, and they are fairly cryptic. Beth Moore says there is not a lot of certainty among scholars as to the exact meanings of these. But we will do our best!

Zebulun “will live by the seashore... his border will extend toward Sidon.” (vs.13)  Although this seems like a pleasant enough prophecy, Sidon is actually outside of the Promised Land. So I’m wondering if maybe this might have indicated a double-minded spirit - part in and part out. The tribe of Zebulon apparently settled on land between the Mediterranean and the Sea of Galilee, looking toward the sea both to the West and to the East.

Issachar, called a “rawboned donkey” (indicating strength and stubbornness), would “submit to forced labor” in exchange for peace. (vs.14-15)  In other words, this tribe would be exploited by others.

Dan “shall judge his people...” The tribe of Dan did include prominent judges (Samson was from this tribe). [He] will be a snake by the roadside, a viper along the path...”  (vs.16-17)  YIKES! How would you like to hear that one from your father? In fact, Jacob appeared deeply distressed by his own words, for he pauses to plead, “I look for your deliverance, LORD.” (vs.18)

Gad was told “a troop shall tramp upon him, but he shall triumph at last.” (vs.19)

Asher’s food will be rich; he will provide delicacies fit for a king.” (vs.20) At last, something positive! Moses affirmed a positive blessing on Asher’s tribe in Deuteronomy 33:24, so this tribe seems to have had it a little better than the rest!

Naphtali is a doe set free that bears beautiful fawns.” (vs.21) Another rendering of this verse is “he utters beautiful words.” The tribe of Naphtali occupied the land near the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus did so much of his teaching, so surely “beautiful words” were spoken there.

The only prophecies remaining were for Joseph and Benjamin, the sons of Jacob’s beloved Rachel. We will look at these next time. But what is it that we can take from these verses? How do these apply to our own lives? Well, in reading over these blessings for the past two weeks, I am convinced more than ever that our words have power. We daily have the power to bless or curse all with whom we come into contact: our spouses, our children and grandchildren, our coworkers, our neighbors, and anyone God brings into our paths within a day. How important it is that we use our words to encourage. So often they become self-fulfilling prophecies!

Having immersed myself in this chapter a couple of weeks ago, the idea of blessings has truly been on my mind. So, when I met with the parents of my students for conferences the week before Thanksgiving, I tried to make that a time for “blessing” my parents - not with flowery words about their child - although there were lots of those - but about their roles as parents and the modeling they are doing in their commitments to each other, to their child, to the education of their child, and to the community as a whole - in that order. They were the best conferences I’ve ever had! I truly am blessed to teach in such a great community, where I’m able to have the same family several times, so I can really get to know them - so it was easy to “bless” them!

But how much more important to “bless” the hard-to-bless - those whose potential is not quite so easy to find! I have so many struggling students in my class this year, and I need to ask God every morning, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD.” He makes me very aware of the need to speak “blessings” over these kids - even when they show up with no homework done! Only the Holy Spirit can accomplish that in me! Thank you, LORD, for Your faithfulness that overrides the lack of mine!!!

Have a blessed morning!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A break after the break. . .

I have been taking a Thanksgiving break - not from God’s Word, but from writing! When I sat down yesterday morning to start back up in this chapter of Genesis, I saw an email from one of my sister, Susie, telling me about some tragic news that had been delivered to our sister, Jodi. You may remember that 2011 has been a “Job” year for Jodi. Within 24 hours, back in March, she learned that she had cancer and that her 35 year old son, Justin, had died suddenly. Later, this summer, her eldest son, Jenner, and his family (which includes five of Jodi’s grandchildren) moved from Denver (where Jodi lives) to Florida - another loss. Well, yesterday we learned that Jodi’s best friend of about 40 years was killed in a car crash over the weekend. When I saw that news in the email, I was stunned! How can there be MORE bad news piled on??

So, instead of writing yesterday morning, I called Jodi. She is devastated by the loss of this precious friend, a woman with whom Jodi raised her children and in whom she could confide anything. Furthermore, another of her dearest friends is moving away from Denver this weekend. What can you say to someone who has been through so much? God knows her sorrow and grieves with her. All of these things which have been so shocking to her system did NOT take our sovereign God by surprise. So, I know He will be her rock, her fortress, her strength, her deliverer. Jodi is cancer-free right now, and the loss of Justin has been tempered by the joy of the birth of Justin’s baby girl, Johnna. So, I’m thanking God for some amazing sunshine in the midst of the sorrow. This has truly been a year of needing to offer the SACRIFICE of praise!

And it brought to my mind two special scriptures:

Though the fig tree does not bud
   and there are no grapes on the vines, 

though the olive crop fails
   and the fields produce no food, 

though there are no sheep in the pen
   and no cattle in the stalls, 
yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
   I will be joyful in God my Savior. - Habakkuk 3:17-18

Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him... Job 13:15

And that is exactly what is meant by the “sacrifice” of praise!

Please pray for my sister in this latest loss and for the Baer family, who lost their mother and grandmother.  May God redeem this situation for His glory.

Tomorrow we will finish looking at Jacob’s blessings to the rest of his sons (except for Joseph’s blessing, because that one will take a few days). Then we will move to the end of Genesis, finishing up with chapter 50 as we head toward Christmas! Thank you for meeting Him in the morning with me!


Friday, November 18, 2011

Genesis 49:8-12

Today we are going to look at the prophecy concerning the tribe of Judah. We don’t know why God chose this line to be the line of the Messiah, but we see in these verses that this tribe would come to the forefront.

“Judah, your brothers will praise you;
   your hand will be on the neck of your enemies;
   your father’s sons will bow down to you.

You are a lion’s cub, O Judah;
   you return from the prey, my son.
Like a lion he crouches and lies down,
   like a lioness—who dares to rouse him?
The scepter will not depart from Judah,
   nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
until he comes to whom it belongs
   and the obedience of the nations is his.
He will tether his donkey to a vine,
   his colt to the choicest branch; 

he will wash his garments in wine,
   his robes in the blood of grapes. 

His eyes will be darker than wine,
   his teeth whiter than milk.” (Genesis 49:8-12)

As with all of these blessings, this one refers not just to Judah’s immediate family, but to the future of the nation. So much of this passage directs us to Christ and both His first and His second comings. Jesus is called the Lion of the tribe of Judah (Rev. 5:5), so this reference to the lion here points to His preeminence and His power. The “scepter” speaks of His Kingship, His eternal rule. While the tribe of Judah would rule over Israel through David and his line, it would be the final One, “he who comes,” who would be the ultimate King:

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
   and gave him the name that is above every name, 

that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
   in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 

and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
   to the glory of God the Father (Phil 2:9-11)

Yet, His humility in coming as a man is shown in the reference in Judah’s blessing to the donkey. The Son of Man, God the Son entered Jerusalem on the back of a donkey. The allusions to blood and wine point to Christ’s death on the cross. I don’t know about you, but I love the consistency of the Bible, the fact that it is His Story from beginning to end! His presence is seen from the beginning of creation to His return and rule in Revelation. We have to wonder how so many of the Jews missed it at His first coming!
This reminds me that we are entering the time of year when most of the world completely misses His presence, even though He is the reason for season! Let’s not get so caught up in the busyness of this time of year that we miss the point! The Incarnation is central to ALL of history - not just His Story. We need to take time to join the angels in awe of this wondrous event.

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

Focus on and meditate on those names! Wow!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Genesis 49:2-7

“Assemble and listen, sons of Jacob; 
     listen to your father Israel.
“Reuben, you are my firstborn, 
     my might, the first sign of my strength, 
     excelling in honor, excelling in power. 

Turbulent as the waters, you will no longer excel, 
     for you went up onto your father’s bed, 
     onto my couch and defiled it. (Genesis 49:3-4)

When Reuben’s brothers heard this first “blessing,” or “anti-blessing,” as Beth Moore calls it, they must have been thinking, “Uh-oh! What’s coming for us??” Reuben may have hoped that his father had forgotten the events of forty years earlier, when he slept with Bllhah, Rachel’s handmaid and the mother of Dan and Naphtali. But we see here that there were consequences that would remain, not only for Reuben, but for his line because of his rash act. Where Reuben had the potential to “excel,” he had blown that opportunity. He is described here as “turbulent as the waters.” His apparent instability and impulsiveness made him a poor choice to lead the nation of Israel. So, while this “blessing” seems to be a curse for Reuben and his family, it was actually a blessing for the nation that they were spared such leadership. Beth Moore refers to this as a “blessing of restriction,” and explains it this way:

We can relate on both a personal and corporate level. Corporately we are blessed as readily by those who’ve been restricted and disallowed to have authority or power over us as those who have. Personally, God’s decision to disallow us to fill roles we - by temperament or history - are unfitted for is also a blessing. Both what we receive and what we don’t receive can constitute blessings for us and those around us. God is all-wise. He blesses us as surely by what He does not grant as by what He does. (The Patriarchs, P.233)

I don’t know about you, but I’m thinking of praying some “blessings of restrictions” on some of our politicians for the next election year! :) Seriously, though, haven’t we seen how some “blessings of restrictions” have benefitted us, both corporately and personally? I can think of many instances in which God withdrew people from my life, both professionally and personally, resulting in an ultimate blessing. God’s “No’s” have been as beneficial as His “Yes’s.” Where in your life can you see this? Were there people or desires removed from you that you can now see as blessings?

I’m certain, after hearing this first blessing, the rest of Jacob’s sons were paying close attention with some anxiety. Simeon and Levi received their “blessing” next:

“Simeon and Levi are brothers—
   their swords are weapons of violence. 

Let me not enter their council,
   let me not join their assembly,
for they have killed men in their anger
   and hamstrung oxen as they pleased. 

Cursed be their anger, so fierce,
   and their fury, so cruel! 

I will scatter them in Jacob
   and disperse them in Israel. (vs.5-7)

Remember that, after their sister Dinah was raped, Simeon and Levi went on a rampage of revenge, butchering the Shechemites. Here was a stunning consequence: they would be scattered among their people, with no land of their own. However, God did change the course of the Levites, who eventually became the line of priests. They never received any land in Canaan, but they were cared for as God’s priests. What led to the tempering of this curse? When the children of Israel rebelled against God and worshipped the golden calf (while waiting for Moses to return from the mountain top), the Levites were the only ones who remained loyal to God. Nevertheless, they received no land.

As Christians, we know that Christ took the punishment for our sins, so we no longer need fear God’s wrath. However, we know that there are always consequences for our sin, and often, as was the case with the nation Israel, the consequences can be far-reaching. In Exodus 20, we read a familiar verse: “You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me...” (vs.5) This is a solemn curse, and, surely, we have all witnessed or personally experienced how the sins of the parents transfer to the children. Alcoholism, child abuse, adultery, anger, etc. all seem to permeate family trees. This is my parent conference week, and I often think to myself, after meeting with parents, “The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree!” :)

But there is good news in the completion of this thought in verse 6, which finishes this section of Exodus: “... but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.” So, while the consequences of sin will pass on to a few generations, the blessings of obedience and love of God have much farther reaching effects! What a glorious promise - and what an amazing example of God’s grace! It so overpowers the effects of sin!

This speaks to the legacy you can leave your family. No matter what went before in your family line, the curse can be broken by faith in the completed work of Christ. Your faith will leave a much more powerful impact on your lineage. Hallelujah and amen!

More blessings next time!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Genesis 49:1 and 28

In chapter 49 we will see the death of Jacob. As the patriarch of his family, he called his sons to him to give them their final patriarchal blessing. This morning we are just going to look at two verses in this chapter of Genesis, which frame what Jacob spoke to his sons.

Then Jacob called for his sons and said: “Gather around so I can tell you what will happen to you in days to come...” (Genesis 49:1)

... All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said to them when he blessed them, giving each the blessing appropriate to him. (vs. 28)

While what is in between may, at first glance, seem as dry to you as reading genealogies, I hope you will get as excited as I did when I studied them! We will be planted here a while before finishing the final chapter. Looking at these two different verses, one given prior to the blessings and one after, we can note that, according to Jacob, what he said was prophetic. Also, he declared his words “blessings,”although some seem more like curses. We’ll see how even negative prophecy can be a “blessing.” These blessings are not only individual to the sons, they are also corporate, to the twelve tribes, involving not just these sons, but their descendants.

Finally, the blessings are appropriate to each son - perfectly fit to the person. Beth Moore points out that while many of our blessings in Christ are corporate, given to the Church, God does have a specific plan for each of our lives (Jer 29:11). He knows us intimately and has blessings for each us us individually.

Tomorrow we will get into the specific blessings for Jacob’s sons, but this morning I thought we’d look at one of the great passages that describes our corporate blessings as followers of Jesus Christ:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ. (Ephesians 1:3-10)

The wealth of blessings “lavished” on us that Paul details here is just the beginning! We have been given “every spiritual blessing in Christ!” I don’t think we can even wrap our brains around that! He chose us to be holy and blameless in His sight (note that He SEES us as blameless through Christ - not that we ARE blameless). He adopted us as His sons, and He’s freely given us His grace, redemption,and forgiveness! We have been granted the wisdom and understanding of the mystery of his will in His Word. To top it all off, verses 13 and 14 of Ephesians 1 tell us that we have been marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. WOW! We are blessed indeed!

Can’t wait to get into the “blessings” Jacob pronounces to his sons!


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Genesis 48:21-22

Then Israel said to Joseph, “I am about to die, but God will be with you and take you back to the land of your fathers. And to you, as one who is over your brothers, I give the ridge of land I took from the Amorites with my sword and my bow.” (Genesis 48:21-22)

The patriarchal blessing was important and valued in Jacob’s day. It was more than just a wishful pronouncement - it carried with it the weight of prophecy. As Jacob is about to die, what he has to say is extremely significant to Joseph and the rest of Jacob’s family. Here Jacob speaks with assurance about the presence of God with his family. When he affirms confidently, “God will be with you...,” he is speaking a word of faith. I love what Jon Courson says about this passage:

“Because Jacob was one who had lots of failings, tons of shortcomings, all sorts of problems, he was one who knew that God’s faithfulness was not dependent upon his own deservedness. Jacob was a man who knew even when he was failing and faltering, that God would be faithful, that God would come through. And he passed that assurance on to his son.” (Jon Courson’s Application Commentary, Old Testament, Vol.1, P. 48)

What a gift he gave to Joseph here - absolute, Rock solid confidence that the same God who was with him his entire life - through the good, the bad, and the ugly - would continue with Jacob’s family when Jacob was gone! I am so thankful that my salvation does not depend on MY faithfulness, but on the faithfulness of the One who promised.

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. (Hebrews 10:23)

I don’t know I’m saved because of what I have done, but because of what He did for me. Jesus guaranteed my salvation so that I, like Jacob, can know without a doubt where I am headed:

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:27-30)

I have always loved that passage, and I have written next to it, in the margin of my Bible, “The Heavenly Handclasp.” I am not holding onto God with all my might - He is holding onto me with all of HIS might. Jesus says here that we are held in His hand and in the hand of the Father at the same time - and NO ONE can snatch us out of their hands! NO ONE!! This is the confidence we have in Him, and it’s the confidence that we must pass on to our children. THAT is the best blessing of all!

Don’t you want your children to know how faithful God has been to you throughout your life - and how? Tell them! Give them that blessing, so that when you die, they won’t need your life insurance, because they will have your eternal life assurance!

Have a great day reviewing the faithfulness of God in your life!


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Genesis 48:5-20

When I started this chapter I mentioned that it had a lot to say about God’s choices. Because God is God, He is the one who gets to choose how He will carry out His plans. And because His ways are not our ways, He usually chooses to do things in ways we don’t expect. In this passage, Joseph has brought his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, to pay their final respects to their grandfather, and to receive the patriarchal blessing of Jacob. We see a familiar scene played out:

Now Israel’s eyes were failing because of old age, and he could hardly see. So Joseph brought his sons close to him, and his father kissed them and embraced them.

Israel said to Joseph, “I never expected to see your face again, and now God has allowed me to see your children too.”

Then Joseph removed them from Israel’s knees and bowed down with his face to the ground. And Joseph took both of them, Ephraim on his right toward Israel’s left hand and Manasseh on his left toward Israel’s right hand, and brought them close to him. But Israel reached out his right hand and put it on Ephraim’s head, though he was the younger, and crossing his arms, he put his left hand on Manasseh’s head, even though Manasseh was the firstborn. (Genesis 48:10-14)

Just like his own father, Isaac, Jacob now has failing eyesight in his old age, so Joseph moves his sons forward for the blessing and manipulates it so that the right hand of blessing will be on the firstborn, Manasseh, with Ephraim on the left. But Jacob crosses his arms so that the younger will receive the greater blessing. The blessing Jacob pronounces on Joseph and his sons is profound:

Then he blessed Joseph and said,

   “May the God before whom my fathers 
Abraham and Isaac walked, 
the God who has been my shepherd 
all my life to this day, 
the Angel who has delivered me from all harm —may he bless these boys. 
May they be called by my name 
and the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac, 
and may they increase greatly upon the earth.” (vs.15-16)

Here Jacob was honoring the faithfulness of God, his Shepherd, who had faithfully cared for Jacob his entire life, the God who had continually delivered him. When he said, “May they be called by my name,” he is affirming his adoption of Joseph’s sons as his own sons, moving them up the inheritance ladder to be equals with their uncles (see verses 5-6). This would give Joseph’s family a double portion of the inheritance. By giving Ephraim the priority that would normally belong to the firstborn, Jacob is reversing what the custom of his day was. We see this reversal throughout the Bible: Isaac chosen over Ishmael, Jacob honored over Esau, David over his older brothers, Solomon over David’s other sons, etc. Beth Moore reminds us of the significance of the names of these boys in this sovereign choice of God, Manasseh meaning forget and Ephraim meaning twice fruitful:

“Manasseh’s name represented forgetting one’s troubles. Ephraim’s, on the other hand, represented fruitfulness in the midst of one’s troubles. Beloved, in God’s economy fruitfulness trumps forgetfulness every time... becoming fruitful in our troubles has far greater ramifications of blessing than forgetting our troubles... Jacob’s enduring line would not be marked by the troubles they’d forgotten. It would be marked by the faithfulness of God who remembered His covenant and made them fruitful.” (The Patriarchs, P. 229).

When we read the “roll call of faith” in chapter 11 of Hebrews, we see that this was true of all of God’s “heroes.” They were commended for the faith they exercised in the midst of their troubles - that was where the fruit came from! So, Ephraim, the younger, received the greater blessing, and they have been since remembered as “Ephraim and Manasseh” (vs. 20) rather than “Manasseh and Ephraim” (vs. 1).

More about this whole blessing thing next time!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Genesis 48:1-4 PART 2

In this chapter, as Jacob is failing and preparing to die, we see him reminding Joseph about the special encounter that Jacob had with the God of Abraham and Isaac. He was recounting his own special encounter with El Shaddai, God Almighty. I wanted to tell you about another major encounter I had with God that changed the direction of my life.

In my mid-thirties I discovered Bible Study Fellowship. I love studying the Bible, and the discipline and intense challenge of BSF was the perfect place for me. By this time I had been a Christian for about ten years and had been completely involved in children’s ministries at my church (teaching and heading up Sunday School, directing Vacation Bible School, co-directing our mid-week children’s musical program, teaching the children’s sermon during the regular worship services), and in the community (Girl Scout co-leader, on the local Girl Scout Council executive board, classroom volunteer etc.). Being with a bunch of adult women in BSF was a welcome relief! I thought I’d had enough of children’s ministries! My passion had always been teaching women in Bible study, so after my first year in BSF, I was so hoping to be called into leadership as a discussion leader.

However, the LORD had been giving me clues that He had other plans. Over a two-week period I received several calls out of the blue from people just thanking me for working with their children, telling me how much it meant to them, along with a call from one of the church elders also affirming my gift with kids. You’d think this would have encouraged me, but it actually depressed me! I began sensing that God was telling me He wanted me to continue working with kids! Aaaugghh!!

It was not my habit to listen to the radio when driving to BSF, but one morning, while on the way to pick up my buddie, Carrol, with whom I carpooled to BSF, I was listening to Focus on the Family. On this morning, there was a woman being interviewed who was talking about the impact an adult can make in the life of a child. She spoke about a male student teacher who, during her fourth grade year in school, transformed her life in his mere eight weeks in that classroom. She had been emotionally abused by her father, so when this teacher told her that he believed in her and knew that she would do great things, it actually changed the direction of her life. As I waited for Carrol to come to the car, I sat there crying for two reasons: I was so moved by her story, and I was terrified that God was calling me to continue to work with kids!!

I shared my fear with Carrol as we drove to BSF. As the other leader of our scout troop, she totally got it!  Carrol and I had daughters in Kindergarten that year, so we always sat in the back row during the BSF lecture, because we had to zip out early to pick up the girls at the busstop. The teaching leader began her lecture on the passage for that day:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.  Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1-2)

As she attempted to apply these verses to real life, the teaching leader suggested that offering ourselves as a living sacrifice means that we do what GOD wants us to do for Him, not what WE want to do for Him. She said, “For example, some of you may be thinking that you would like to have a ministry with women, but God is calling you to work with children.” Oh my gosh! From about 200 feet away in the pulpit, her words pierced my heart like a sword! Carrol and I just stared at each other with our mouths wide open!

Now, did this confirmation give me peace and joy? No! I was more depressed about it than ever. A couple of weeks later, this teaching leader called me and told me that the leaders group had been praying about me coming into leadership, and they felt I was being called to work as the assistant children’s supervisor! The only plus in my mind was that the children’s supervisor, who would be over me, was an amazing Christian woman whom I greatly admired. She asked me to pray about it, and, wanting her to think I was truly spiritual, I told her I would - even though it was already perfectly clear to me what God wanted me to do.

When I got off the phone, I felt like a black cloud was hanging over my head! I had to go to the grocery store, and there I ran into another dear, dear friend, Pam, who was a fairly new Christian whom I had been discipling. I told her how upset I was about being called to work with kids. And God spoke to me directly through her when she said, “Sally, you know what your problem is? You are not submitting to God! God has obviously gifted you to work with children, and He wants you to obey Him. I know you! You want to be up there giving the lecture, and I have no doubt that someday you will be doing that, but right now you need to obey God!” Wow! That was it! I wasn’t submitting! DUH!!!

So I did answer the call to the children’s program, and it was there that God totally transformed my mind about children’s ministries and convinced me of the absolute priority He gives to the spiritual nourishing of children. Satan is ready with so many distractions for children - and he loves to convince adults that they have no gift for helping in Sunday School. As a Sunday School director, I knew how hard it was to get anyone to volunteer even one Sunday a month to work with the children! So, that’s the roundabout way I eventually went into teaching at the age of 42! And, after 20 years, I still absolutely LOVE my job, and thank God every day for giving me the privilege of working with kids!

Oh, and, by the way, I DID eventually get to give lectures at BSF! After one year with the children, I was called to be the substitute teaching leader. So, four times a year, I did get to teach women the Bible for several years (while I finished up college and earned my teaching credential)! Isn’t God amazing?? My lesson? God knows what is best for me, and it is His good pleasure to use me as HE sees fit! I’ve learned over the years to submit quicker, because that is where the blessings lie!

Sorry about this extra long personal story! I have been convinced by Jacob that we need to tell our stories of our encounters with God to glorify Him for what He has done and for His incredible faithfulness in our lives! Back to Jacob, Joseph, et al tomorrow!  By the way, I'd love to hear YOUR stories of your own God encounters!


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Genesis 48:1-4

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9)

This is the verse that greeted me today on this morning, and I thought it was perfect for this next chapter of Genesis! It reminds us that we are CHOSEN by God - for HIS purposes, not ours: that we might declare His praises because He called us out of the darkness into His WONDERFUL light! We don’t know why He chose us particularly, but we know what He chose us for.

Today’s reading in Genesis is all about God’s sovereign choice - and His way of choosing what we think would be the most unlikely (us, for instance) to receive His blessings. As the chapter opens, Joseph received word that his father was ill, so he rushed to his side with his two sons, Jacob’s grandsons, in tow so they could see their grandfather for a final time. I’m certain that Joseph also realized this would be the time to receive the patriarchal blessing of Jacob.

At this point, Jacob was frail and his strength, as well as his vision, were failing him. But when he saw his favorite son, he was reinvigorated. This was the son who brought him his greatest joy!

Jacob said to Joseph, “God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan, and there he blessed me and said to me, ‘I am going to make you fruitful and will increase your numbers. I will make you a community of peoples, and I will give this land as an everlasting possession to your descendants after you.’ (Gen 48:3-4)

Jacob laid the foundation for the blessing, by recounting the most important time in his life, when God met him and affirmed the covenant that he had made to Abraham, Isaac, and then Jacob to bless this family with fruitfulness. As Jacob was dying, he wanted to impart the most important words of wisdom and blessing that he had to give. So he recounted the faithfulness of God in his life.

Beth Moore challenges her readers to think about your most important encounters with God, when God spoke to you in your heart something so clearly that you never forgot it. And that’s where I’m going today, in the hopes that what God has shown me over the years can be of some help to you.
I can immediately think of four specific occasions when He so clearly directed me at four critical junctures in my life. The first time was in regard to my role as a wife. I had a written list of things that I was praying for Don - things that I assumed were the “sanctified” things a wife should pray for her husband - that he would be the spiritual leader of our home, that he would start going to church regularly and attend a Bible study, and that he would lead our daughters in devotions, etc. Doesn’t that sound good??

Well, one day as I was praying over it, God showed me that my list was actually born from my desire to change my husband, and it represented a discontentment. God almost audibly told me very clearly to cross out that list and start loving Don exactly the way he was THAT DAY, because that was how God loved Him - and how He loved me, too! I took a pencil and crossed out the list and wrote in the margin of the journal, “Thank you, God, for Don just the way he is today!” Wow! That totally freed me to love Don unconditionally and to appreciate all of wonderful qualities he had as a husband and father. He may not have led devotions, but he was the most devoted husband and father I knew! The need to be my husband’s personal Holy Spirit left me that day, and it transformed our marriage.

I’ll share the others in the next few installments. . . off to work!


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Genesis 47:13-31

There was no food, however, in the whole region because the famine was severe; both Egypt and Canaan wasted away because of the famine. (Genesis 47:13)

In the second part of chapter 47, we see how the severity of the famine increased - to the point that the people came to Joseph pleading for food. They willingly gave over to Pharaoh first their money, then their livestock, then their land, and, finally, themselves in servitude. Or as Jon Courson puts it in his four-point essay: each brought to the throne his purse, his possessions, his property, and his person! As they did this, Joseph took care of all of their needs in the midst of a horrible trial. In the same way, when we surrender all, bring everything we have and lay it before the throne of God, He meets all of our needs “according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:19)

While the people became slaves, they were able to keep four fifths of what they produced in crops, giving 20% back to Pharaoh. Did the people resent Joseph for placing them in servitude to Pharaoh? Verse 25 records their response:

“You have saved our lives,” they said. “May we find favor in the eyes of our lord; we will be in bondage to Pharaoh.”

And how did Jacob’s family fare?

Now the Israelites settled in Egypt in the region of Goshen. They acquired property there and were fruitful and increased greatly in number. (vs.27)

I love what Beth Moore says about this as it applies to our own lives:

“Verse 27 makes a fluorescent point: God can cause His children to prosper in the midst of terrible circumstances far from their Canaans. How? Obedience is the key. The Israelites were blessed in Egypt because God sent them there for a season to fulfill His good purposes. The land became their temporary shelter, making Egypt to Jacob what the ark was to Noah.” (The Patriarchs, P.224)

Now, we know that this servitude eventually caused the Israelites to despair of their place in Egypt, enough to be willing to leave and go back to the Promised Land. But it seems that since Egypt was a temporary place of salvation for his family, Jacob worried that they might get too comfortable there and forget God’s promises to Israel. For, in the final verses of this chapter, as Jacob sensed that his time to die was near, he called Joseph to his side to extract an important promise:

When the time drew near for Israel to die, he called for his son Joseph and said to him, “If I have found favor in your eyes, put your hand under my thigh and promise that you will show me kindness and faithfulness. Do not bury me in Egypt, but when I rest with my fathers, carry me out of Egypt and bury me where they are buried.”

“I will do as you say,” he said.

“Swear to me,” he said. Then Joseph swore to him, and Israel worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff. (vs. 29-31)

Basically, Jacob wanted to impress upon Joseph that this was NOT the land of their fathers! By forcing Joseph to swear to carrying his bones back to Canaan, Jacob was assuring that his descendants would not forget their real home.

What about us? Do we feel so at home in our own “Egypt” that we take our eyes off of our eternal “Canaan?” This chapter is a good reminder that our attitudes toward our life here on earth vs. our longing for our heavenly home will impact future generations. What do our children and grandchildren see in us? Do they see us desperately clinging to what we have and where we live? Do we look just like everyone else around us (especially easy to do in South Orange County)? Or do they see that we have fully surrendered it all, considering what God has given us as His to use for his glory? Are we training our families to look toward our real home? Something to think about. . .


Monday, October 31, 2011

Genesis 47:1-12

Jacob and his clan arrived in Egypt, and in this next chapter Joseph first brought in five of his brothers to meet Pharaoh. Don’t you wonder which of the five he chose? I’m guessing that for sure Judah and Benjamin were among the five, and probably Reuben... but who were the other two?? Pharaoh made small talk with the brothers, asking what they did for a living.

“Your servants are shepherds,” they replied to Pharaoh, “just as our fathers were.” They also said to him, “We have come to live here awhile, because the famine is severe in Canaan and your servants’ flocks have no pasture. So now, please let your servants settle in Goshen.” (Genesis 47:3-4)

The brothers were working the family business: they were shepherds! Pharaoh agreed to let them settle in the best part of Egypt, the land of Goshen, where there was good pasture. It amazes me how God moves the hearts of men to grant favor to His people. Haven’t you had moments in your life when you have seen God move someone’s heart to do something of special favor to you? One of my coworkers called me yesterday to tell me that his daughter had received a scholarship offer from a Christian college for an enormous amount of money. I just kept saying over and and over, “It’s a miracle!” It was as if they had won the lottery in these tough financial times! Thank you , LORD!

Joseph then brought in his father to present him to Pharaoh:

Then Joseph brought his father Jacob in and presented him before Pharaoh. After Jacob blessed Pharaoh, Pharaoh asked him, “How old are you?”

And Jacob said to Pharaoh, “The years of my pilgrimage are a hundred and thirty. My years have been few and difficult, and they do not equal the years of the pilgrimage of my fathers.” Then Jacob blessed Pharaoh and went out from his presence. (vs.7-10)

Jacob saw his life in terms of a pilgrimage - as a journey through this short life to his real home with God. Hebrews 11:16 says of the patriarchs, “. . .they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” This heavenly perspective is one that sustains Christians in our journey on earth. The realization that this is NOT our permanent dwelling gives us hope during the tough times. Apparently Jacob, too, was looking forward to being out of this world.

Pharaoh wondered what the secret to Jacob’s longevity was, but Jacob’s answer must have been surprising. At 130, he called his years “few and difficult.” Beth Moore conjectures here that possibly Jacob did not feel his years measured up to those of his grandfather, Abraham (who lived to be 175), or of his father, Isaac (who lived to be 180) - not only in years, but in the measure of their faith to his. Beth writes, “His years were marked by deception. His own. His uncle’s. His sons’. The disappointments brought on by his offspring must have added to Jacob’s sense of failure. No matter how many comforts he’d known, his eyes saw his life colored by the dark shades of difficulty.” (The Patriarchs, P. 225)

Where in your life have you felt that you did not or still don’t measure up? Have you failed to reach the bar you saw set by your parents or a sibling? Are you seeing the dark shades as more prominent than the blessings? Beth reminds us that God can turn those difficult times into blessing and beauty when we ask Him. She writes of how light overcomes the darkness - even in the life of a loser like the thief on the cross next to Jesus: “The blackness of a thief’s entire life was instantly changed by a single drop of faith in the One hanging on the next cross.” (The Patriarchs, P. 226)

Jacob had much to be grateful for: he had been blessed with many sons, including one brought back from “death,” grandchildren, plenty of wealth, and, finally, the best land in Egypt as a place of refuge from the famine! God had indeed been good to Jacob! Can we find His blessings, too?


Friday, October 28, 2011

Genesis 46:28-34

Finally, we get to witness the reunion of Joseph with his father after 20 years of separation.

Now Jacob sent Judah ahead of him to Joseph to get directions to Goshen. When they arrived in the region of Goshen, Joseph had his chariot made ready and went to Goshen to meet his father Israel. As soon as Joseph appeared before him, he threw his arms around his father and wept for a long time. (Genesis 46:28-29)

I love that Judah is sent ahead “to get directions to Goshen.” No GPS or even Thomas Bros. Guide then! Jon Courson reminds us that Judah means praise, so the family would be lead by praise to this reunion. Beth Moore asks us to imagine the necks craning to see Joseph riding on his chariot in the distance, kicking up dust on his way to his father. Remember that Joseph was a 17 year old boy when his brothers sold him into slavery. There were a lot of physical changes to the man Joseph, who at this point in the story was completely “Egyptianized.” He would have had a clean shaven face, unlike his bearded brothers, and Beth Moore speculates that he may even have been “bare-chested and bedecked in brass and jewels. No beast-inflicted scars in sight.” Think Charlton Heston in The Ten Commandments BEFORE the beard.

Now, this I find interesting. We have no record of the brothers explaining to their father how Joseph actually ended up in Egypt instead of in the stomach of a beast. Did Jacob wonder why there were no scars? Why is no one asking the obvious questions? The reality is that the reasons were a moot point once Joseph had his son back. The family was back together again, and Jacob had his precious Joseph in his arms. Joseph was so overcome with emotions, having stuffed them down for so many years, he “wept for a long time.”

Not only had Joseph changed, but Jacob was twenty years older, surely more frail, and showing the marks of grief on his face. He exclaims, “Now I am ready to die, since I have seen for myself that you are still alive.” (vs. 30) Actually, Jacob lived another 17 years in Goshen, which Beth Moore points out gave him Joseph for 17 years before Joseph was sent to Egypt, and 17 years after the reunion, with 20 agonizing years in between. Anyway, Jacob declares he was ready to go home to God anytime now that he had his son back. I totally identify with Jacob here! After the weddings of my daughters, when I knew my girls had married men who loved the LORD and who would love and cherish them, I told God, “You can take me home any time now!” I had everything I’d ever dreamed of for my girls, and my job of raising them in Christ was competed! What joy! Everything else is the cherry on top!

I like that Jon Courson, in showing how Joseph was an example of Christ, asks us to visualize the reunion of the Father and the Son when Jesus returned to the right hand of His Father! Isn’t that a great image to ponder??? Then Courson points out that Joseph, like Jesus, became a mediator before Pharaoh for his family in the remaining verses of this chapter. He managed to get for his family the best land in all of Egypt! I like the idea of Jesus doing the same for me! As the ONLY mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5), He’s my advocate before the Father and His desire for me is always what’s best!

While Joseph and Jacob could never get back those twenty years, I am certain that they made the most of the seventeen they had left! Some of us have had “lost years” that we wish we could reclaim: possibly years wasted in a bad relationship; years spent chasing the things of this world; years we weren’t the parents we wish we’d been, etc. And God actually has a promise for us about this kind of loss:

“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten . . .” (Joel 2:25)

The LORD gave this verse to my mother years ago when she was mourning over the fact that she had not raised her four daughters in the LORD. She came to the LORD very late in life, as a result of my father being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s during his early 60’s, when my mother was only 53! Once she became a Christian, she was so saddened by her neglect to raise us in the faith. However, when she read this verse, she rejoiced that God would somehow redeem those years - and He truly did! In the same way, God redeemed this family from its dysfunction. We’ll see some of this in the next chapter.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Genesis 46:1-27

Before we hop into the moving van with Jacob, let’s look back once more at Genesis 45:27-28 to see the change that had happened to him when he finally decided to believe that Joseph was, indeed, alive:

But when they told him everything Joseph had said to them, and when he saw the carts Joseph had sent to carry him back, the spirit of their father Jacob revived. And Israel said, “I’m convinced! My son Joseph is still alive. I will go and see him before I die.”

Belief in the truth caused Jacob’s spirit to revive, and the father of the twelve tribes, Israel (note the name change), spoke out in faith. Jacob had been emotionally dead to his sons and was most likely feeling bone-dry in his relationship with God all of those years he believed there was no hope. Learning and believing the truth about Joseph positively breathed life back into this old man!

What in your life feels completely dead? Your marriage? Your relationship with your children? Your career? Your hopes for the future? What lie are you believing that is rotting your bones until they are all dried up? Beth Moore quotes Ezekial 37:3-6 in relation to this rebirth of Jacob and to the possibility of a revival of our own dead spirit:

He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”

I said, “O Sovereign LORD, you alone know.”

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the LORD.’”

These verses specifically were a prophecy to Israel that the LORD would one day restore the Jewish nation, which had been taken into captivity. This prophecy was fulfilled when the Jews returned from Babylonian captivity, but it also had another fulfillment when the current nation of Israel came to life in 1948. If God could breathe new life back into Jacob, if he could restore the nation of Israel, surely he can revive what you believe is dead. Believe that the God who raised Jesus can also raise whatever you see as dead!

Back to Jacob. I can’t even imagine the joy that must have surge through him as he began the journey south! We see that as he headed down to Egypt, he stopped to worship his God and experienced another encounter with Him:

So Israel set out with all that was his, and when he reached Beersheba, he offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac.

And God spoke to Israel in a vision at night and said, “Jacob! Jacob!”
“Here I am,” he replied.

“I am God, the God of your father,” he said. “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there. I will go down to Egypt with you, and I will surely bring you back again. And Joseph’s own hand will close your eyes.” (Gen 46:1-4)

Back in chapter 28, when Jacob was leaving home to find his wife and escape Esau, he had his first vision from God.  God had promised him that he would go with him everywhere he went. That would include Egypt. Jacob did not need to be anxious about this move. God was going on ahead of him! I love the promise that his beloved Joseph, himself, would close Jacob’s eyes in death!

Verses 8-27 of this chapter give the names of the direct descendants of Jacob who went with him down into Egypt. Tucked in verse 12 is the royal line of Judah, his son Perez (whose mother was Tamar), and Perez’s son Hezron, from whom the Messiah would come. The total in Egypt, including Joseph and his two sons, was seventy - NOT including the wives! Four hundred and thirty years later, when the Israelites left Egypt, their numbers had grown to 600,000 men, NOT counting the women and children! Yes, God kept His promise! Don’t you love it?


Genesis 45:25-28 Revisited

So they went up out of Egypt and came to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan. They told him, “Joseph is still alive! In fact, he is ruler of all Egypt.” Jacob was stunned; he did not believe them. But when they told him everything Joseph had said to them, and when he saw the carts Joseph had sent to carry him back, the spirit of their father Jacob revived. And Israel said, “I’m convinced! My son Joseph is still alive. I will go and see him before I die.” (Gen 45:25-28)

Before we leave this chapter, I just wanted to revisit Jacob’s reaction to the news that his sons brought him. Like Thomas with the resurrected Jesus, Jacob would not believe the truth that Joseph was alive until he had seen tangible evidence. And even as he was doubting, the evidence was coming toward him in the wagons that Joseph had sent. Jon Courson, in his Application Commentary: Old Testament, has fun comparing these “wagons” with the ones God has provided with us. He writes:

“Like Jacob, many times we don’t believe the Word we heard. But the good news is that Jacob’s disbelief did not derail the wagon train Joseph had sent his way to pick him up and bring him to Goshen. You might be going through dry times right now in which you are spiritually famished. But I have good news for you: The wagon train has been sent your way. What wagon?” (Courson, P.197)

And then Courson lists the five wagons that God has provided for us: the lunch wagon; the station wagon; the welcome wagon; the bandwagon; and the covered wagon. The lunch wagon is the one that brings complete satisfaction for our spiritual hunger and thirst - for FREE!

“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. (Isaiah 55:1)

Jesus affirmed that he is the bread of life, and that all who come to Him will never again be hungry or thirsty (John 6:35). Nothing satisfies like Jesus!

The station wagon is the promise that your family will carry both you and your family:

Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it. (Proverbs 22:6)

Courson writes, “Your kids may have wandered away, but even if you’re pessimistic or full of doubt about them God promised that He will keep that which is committed to Him (2 Timothy 1:12), and will finish the work He began (Philippians 1:6) “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and not only you, but your family will eventually be saved as well,” declared Paul (see Acts 11:!4). The promises of God are intact gang. And even if you don’t believe it, the station wagon is headed in your direction to scoop up you and your family.” (Courson, P. 198)

Courson describes the welcome wagon as the amazing promise of I Corinthians 2:9.

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.”

Add to that the promise of John 14:2 in which Jesus promises that He is preparing a place for you and will, in fact, come to take you there, and you get the idea that we will truly be welcomed to our heavenly home, and that home will be beyond anything we could ever imagine!

The final two wagons Courson mentions are the band wagon (the one that guarantees we will all have a place in the heavenly choir that will be forever praising the LORD), and the covered wagon, that promises that ALL of our sins, past, present, and future, have been completely covered by the blood of the Lamb (Romans 5:1,2; Romans 6:14, and Romans 8:1-3).

My pastor often says, “The truest thing about you is what GOD says about you!” Jacob had believed a lie for more than 20 years. What lies have you been believing about yourself? That you are not good enough for God? That He would never accept you? Or maybe you believe that you ARE good enough on your own merits; that you deserve to be loved by God because you are such a righteous person?? We need to study God’s Word to know what is true about us. It is that truth that sets us free! God understands our doubts, and it amazes me that He so accommodates us! He sends in the wagons, or He allows a doubter to touch Him - whatever it takes! I love Jesus’ response to Thomas: “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29) That’s us folks! We have not seen Him with our own eyes, but we have believed Him by faith.

Tomorrow we’ll see Jacob and his family load up the moving vans and head down to Egypt. Great stuff!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Genesis 45:16-28

Today’s passage demonstrates perfectly the difference between the faith of Joseph and that of his father, Jacob. The good news is that God loved them both and had His hand on both of their lives.

We were witnessing the reunion of Joseph and his brothers, after Joseph had finally revealed himself to them. When Pharaoh learned that Joseph’s brothers were in town, he was excited and made an extremely generous offer to Joseph:

Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Tell your brothers, ‘Do this: Load your animals and return to the land of Canaan, and bring your father and your families back to me. I will give you the best of the land of Egypt and you can enjoy the fat of the land.’

“You are also directed to tell them, ‘Do this: Take some carts from Egypt for your children and your wives, and get your father and come. Never mind about your belongings, because the best of all Egypt will be yours.’” (Gen 45:17-20)

Only God could have opened Pharaoh’s heart to pour out such blessing! They would have not just a prime plot, but the BEST of all Egypt! This reminds me of one of my life verses:

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us... (Eph 3:20)

God is able to do so much more than our puny minds can imagine, and He desires to bless His children. Pharaoh didn’t just offer to squeeze them in someplace - he gave them the very best part of Egypt! So Joseph sent the brothers back to get Jacob and the rest of the clan with wagons loaded with provisions for the journey.

To each of them he gave new clothing, but to Benjamin he gave three hundred shekels of silver and five sets of clothes. (Gen 45:22)

This time, the other brothers apparently had no issues with Benjamin receiving so much more! They had more than enough and there was no need for competition anymore. However, when Joseph sends them off he gives them a final word, probably only half in jest, “Don’t quarrel on the way!” (vs. 24) In other words, “Don’t kill each other!” When they reached home, Jacob showed his pessimistic nature:

So they went up out of Egypt and came to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan. They told him, “Joseph is still alive! In fact, he is ruler of all Egypt.” Jacob was stunned; he did not believe them. But when they told him everything Joseph had said to them, and when he saw the carts Joseph had sent to carry him back, the spirit of their father Jacob revived. And Israel said, “I’m convinced! My son Joseph is still alive. I will go and see him before I die.” (vs. 25-28)

Here Jacob displayed all of the faith of “doubting” Thomas. He had no trouble, years before, believing the bad lie that Joseph was dead, but here he can’t believe the good truth that Joseph is alive. It is not until he sees the carts filled to overflowing that he believes. And I think we can understand this - he had been believing the lie for about 20 years. And all during that time, that lie had affected his outlook on life, to the point that he was unable to enjoy the blessings of his others sons and his grandchildren.

Jacob was the ultimate pessimist, and Satan knew just how to keep his eyes off of God, by keeping him focused on what he lacked, rather than what he had all along. During that same period, Joseph, who had been denied his family and had languished in prison waiting for justice, was focused on God. He relied on God to sustain Him, and maintained his trust in God throughout. Don’t you know people like Jacob? Maybe you are one of those “half empty” kind of people, who is so wrapped up in what trials you have faced, that you cannot imagine God at work in any of it. And don’t you want to be a person like Joseph, who saw God’s hand in it all?

Again, the good news is that God loved them both. Jacob came around when he saw the wagons, and we will look at what Jon Courson has to say about that tomorrow! I’m just thankful that our gracious God is so patient with us when we show the doubts of Jacob!


Friday, October 21, 2011

Genesis 45:6-15

But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. (Gen 45:7)

This is such a big “Aha!” moment for Joseph! The God of the universe had carried out His plan in bringing Joseph down to Egypt for “such a time as this.” While Joseph refers to their deliverance here as being from the famine they were then experiencing, we know this was also prophetic of the “great deliverance” from Egypt, which itself was prophetic of our GREAT deliverance from sin! And, even now, we are waiting for our final deliverance when the LORD comes again in His glory. History is HIS STORY. Everything that happens is within His sovereign plan. And He uses even evil deeds to bring about His plan (Joseph’s being sold into slavery, the crucifixion of Jesus the persecution of the church, your divorce, your financial disaster, etc.). God can and does bring good out of evil as He moves us to the end of history.

The death of Gadhafi yesterday reminded me of what an amazing year this has been historically. So much has happened in 2011, we can barely take it all in! The fall of several dictators last spring and yesterday points to the void in leadership throughout the world. While it was exciting to see these bad leaders fall, so far no one has stepped in to their vacancies to bring order out of the chaos. Where are the leaders ANYWHERE on earth??? This dearth of leadership certainly makes me look up for the return of Christ, because the antichrist can’t be too far behind! There will be such a need for a strong leader, the world will welcome him as their deliverer. Interesting to watch - we live in exciting times!

Back to Joseph and the boys. . . Joseph told his brothers to hurry back to get Dad and the rest of the family and bring them down to Goshen, where Joseph would be able to provide for all of them.

Then he threw his arms around his brother Benjamin and wept, and Benjamin embraced him, weeping. And he kissed all his brothers and wept over them. Afterward his brothers talked with him. (vs.14-15)

Here is the precious reunion we’ve been waiting for! Finally Joseph embraces Benjamin and weeps over him. Then he kisses the other brother and weeps over them. Notice that it says specifically that Benjamin embraced him back, but we don’t see that with the other ten. Beth Moore says, “Not everyone is at the same emotional place at the same time.” Joseph had had more time to digest the reunion with the brothers . The brothers were still stunned by the revelation. “Afterward his brothers talked with him.” Wouldn’t you love to hear that conversation??

There are many more great things to share about this reunion - but they will have to wait until next week! I’m off to work!