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 BibleGateway.com 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. . .