Exodus 3 begins with the familiar story of Moses and the burning bush. What a way to meet up with God. Walking through the area and then a fire in the middle of a bush that doesn’t burn up anything. It would tend to grab your attention wouldn’t it. Moses is out taking care of the sheep, minding his own business and then God shows up. But more than the fire that didn’t consume the bush, God speaks to Moses. God tells Moses to take off his shoes and recognize who was speaking to him. God has heard the people’s cries and is ready to move to set them free. “I know all about their pain” God says. He knows the situation and is ready to take action and Moses is His choice to lead.
So what is the response? “But why me”? That is what Moses says. “What makes you think that I could ever go to Pharaoh and lead”? Oh how often we duck when God calls us to do something outside our comfort zone. Right? Been there before? I sure have. God gives me an assignment and opportunity to make a difference for him and I choose not to trust Him. What was God’s response to Moses? The same as it is to you and me: “I’ll be with you”. God doesn’t call us to do something He does not equip us and provide us the needed resources to be successful. God calls us to obedience and to leave the results up to Him. Moses doesn’t want to go there. The excuses continue. “What will I tell them”? God is clear and His answer is the same to us today. Tell them “I AM who I AM”. God is God and we don’t need to defend or explain Him. He doesn’t need us to do any more than just obey his direction and walk with Him in faith. He handles the details. What God originates, God orchestrates as Andy Stanley says it. God calls Moses to go and lead his people to freedom. Moses argues and says the people will never follow him. God assures him they will. God gives Moses a picture of what the future will look like – a land flowing with milk and honey. All he has to do is step up and be obedient. Why do we resist God’s direction? Why do we insist on things being done our way? Oh that we would just walk with God and let the details rest in His hands!
Exodus chapter 2 is the very familiar story of Moses birth. He is born to a Levite woman who hides him to keep him alive for three months. But when she realizes that plan won’t work long term, she puts him in a basket and floats him down the Nile. Pharaoh’s daughter finds the basket as you recall, rescues baby Moses and raises him as her adopted son. This is a rather significant piece of the story because in the last chapter Pharaoh had ordered all new baby boys be drowned in the Nile. Moses future was not very secure until he was adopted by the daughter of Pharaoh. Moses grows up in the life of Pharaoh and is pretty oblivious to what is happening with his people. “One day he went and saw his brothers, saw all that hard labor”. Remember that his people were slaves and being forced to do intense hard labor for the king. He sees an injustice against one of his brothers and makes a decision that is life changing. He kills an Egyptian that was hitting one of his relatives and buries him in the sand. Life changes at that point forever for Moses. “The next day he went out there again”. You probably recall that Moses sees two Hebrews fighting and he asks “why are you hitting your neighbor”. Of course they ask if he is going to kill them like he did the Egyptian and Moses knows the truth is out. Pharaoh hears and “tried to kill Moses”. What a life change a simple decision can make. Moses does what seems right, and now he moves from being part of Pharaoh’s household to being an enemy of the state. He takes off to save his life.
Of course Moses heads down the road and comes to a well. A group of seven daughters comes to water their father’s sheep. The local shepherds “came and chased the girls off” but Moses saved the day and helped them get the sheep watered. They get home and dad asks how it happened so quickly. They tell the story of Moses help and Reuel tells them to go get Moses to come eat with them. That leads to him staying, settling and then marrying Zipporah as his wife. She bears a son Gershom to Moses. Pharaoh dies but the Israelites still “groan under their slavery and cried out”. A series of things are recorded here regarding to what happens. Pay close attention: “God listened….God remembered….God saw….God understood”. What a progression of interaction. Far too often we never even get to the place where we cry out to God. When things get difficult we just try to deal with it on our own. The people of Israel have been in slavery for a long time. They have been doing hard labor, getting up day after day working dawn til dusk. But they didn’t really live in relationship with God. Scripture doesn’t give us any indication they were seeking His hand til now. And when they did – He responded. I love how the Message captures this series of steps ending up with God understood. God knew all along the plight. He knew exactly what was needed. But it comes into action when they cry out dependent upon Him. We need to be in communication with the Father. We have to get into relationship. We need to ask!
Exodus 1 starts a changing of the land of Pharaoh. Joseph and all his brothers have now died and the next generation is now doing what God had said would happen – having babies. “The children of Israel kept on reproducing” and were very “prolific” in their growth, a “population explosion” right there in Pharaoh’s land. Things changed on the other side of the ledger as well as there was a “new king came to power in Egypt who didn’t know Joseph”. Not sure where this new king came from and how he possibly could not have known about Joseph, but that is how it happened. It does show just how short the impact of life can be. Here we have seen how Joseph saved the entire Egyptian empire from starvation and decimation and after he dies, the next leader doesn’t even know who he was. Things change in life very quickly, and if our life is going to have an ongoing impact, we have to be very intentional about that. Joseph and his family leave a legacy of people behind as they continue to increase in numbers, but how quickly his leadership and wisdom are lost.
The new Pharaoh is worried that there are far too many Israelites in his land. He wants to control them so they don’t somehow undermine his authority. “They organized them into work-gangs and put them to hard labor”. Quite a change from Joseph’s treatment where they were given part of the land as their own to live peacefully a few years earlier. They are put to work “making bricks and mortar….under a cruel workload”. Life is getting tough. In addition Pharaoh told the midwives to kill all the baby boys that were being born. One might think that with this slavery the baby population might be slowed, but it was exactly the opposite. “The harder the Egyptians worked them the more children the Israelites had”. The midwives ignored Pharaoh’s order because of fear of God and the group just multiplies. They are put into harder labor and Pharaoh becomes more insistent on killing all the boy babies that are born, ordering they be “drown in the Nile”. What a change a few years and a leadership change can make. The one constant…..God is still in control. He is still there with His people and absolutely knows every detail of the events happening. We need to realize that life is full of change. It will continue to move on us. God is our only source of stability. He alone is the only thing that does not move. Every other thing we try to cling to will change. It is critical to build a relationship with the Father so when the tides of life shift, we still have a solid rock to stand on. That is how we can endure the movement of life. Are you connected to the Rock? Have you given Jesus your life so you are anchored?
The last chapter of Genesis, chapter 50, talks about Jacobs burial and Joseph’s death. When Jacob passed away he was embalmed and mourned for a long time. Joseph asked Pharaoh if he could go back to his homeland and bury his father as he had been asked to do by Jacob. Pharaoh not only allowed it, he sent a whole batch of people along to help get it done. They went back home and “carried out his instructions to the letter”. After the burial Joseph and the brothers went back to Egypt. Along the road, after the mourning was done, the guilt sets in again. The brothers were worried that Joseph “is carrying a grudge…decides to pay us back for all the wrong we did him”. They were worried about the result of their actions in the past – actually a long time ago now.
The reality of sin is that it doesn’t go away without forgiveness. They were still burdened by guilt, and fear, because they had never really dealt with it. They finally deal with it here and offer to be slaves to Joseph. His response is a classic and one we need to pay attention to. “Don’t you see, you planned evil against me but God used those same plans for my good, as you see all around you right now–life for many people. Easy now, you have nothing to fear; I’ll take care of you and your children.” What a response to a bunch of people who had considered killing him at 17 and sold him into slavery. There is much wisdom in his response, and a whole lot of truth. If you remember the verse from Romans 8:28 – “That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good”. God takes everything and works it together for good in His grand plan. It doesn’t necessarily happen our way in our time, but it does in His time and His plan. That means our response has to be one of faith and trust. We will never see the big picture until “one day we see face to face” as scripture tells us in 1 Cor 13. But that doesn’t change God’s promise or the truth of His Word. God is faithful, He has a plan, and we are a part of that plan. It will work together for good. Joseph sees that and knows it. He lived 110 years and brought his brothers back with him to Egypt where they lived until his death. Joseph had every right, at least in the world’s eyes, to punish his brothers. He instead chose to do it God’s way, forgiveness and love, and be restored and connected. Such a great example of how God works and how we need to be in relationship!
Genesis 49 is the final chapter in Jacob’s life. He spends time talking with his sons – one by one – sharing the truth of their past and future. Some strong words for his boys. Some have a price to pay for their life choices, others will be lifted up and praised. Jacob speaks truth and shares openly. But he keeps God in the picture as he addresses each one. He “waits in hope for your salvation, God”. He is a spiritual leader in his family. The focus is on God and God’s blessing. “The God of your father – may he help you”! He blesses Joseph yet again with a power blessing. And then he “breathed his last” and passed on. So how will your kids remember you? Will it be based around you blessing? Will it be a life that is committed and submitted to God? Will it be as a strong spiritual leader who pointed them to the Cross? Just how will your legacy begin? Legacy doesn’t happen til we breathe our last breath, but the time prior to that is the key to setting up what that legacy will look like. The time and energy we spend teaching, modeling, living life with God determines the impact of life after we leave this earth. Jacob goes out in style, speaking truth to each of his kids and setting the stage for his legacy. Have you considered that passing of the torch? None of us like to think about death. But I can guarantee it will happen to you. Your day will come, and the preparation for that day needs to happen before rather than after. Are you ready? Is your relationship with God right? Are you secure in your faith and future? Is Jesus really Lord of your life? It is so important to consider these things while there is still breath within us. Once we pass on, the opportunity to get life on the right track is over. Don’t miss that – do it now – while there is time. And recognize that your life touches many. Live it well – live it with God!
Genesis 48 is a very personal moment between Jacob (Israel) and Joseph. Jacob is about ready to die. He is blind and ill. Joseph is told and goes to see his father along with his two sons. They arrive and Jacob reviews his interaction with God and remembers God’s faithfulness to him. He talks about Joseph’s mother Rachel and her death along with the inheritance he has planned for the brothers. Then it is as though a lightbulb went on. Jacob “noticed Joseph’s sons and said, ‘who are these?’” I am not sure if Jacob had never seen Joseph’s boys before, but this appears to be an introduction. What happens next is an important and powerful lesson for all of us – the power of blessing. We have seen it in Genesis a few times before. And here, Jacob asks Joseph to bring the boys up close so he can “bless them”. Joseph sets Epraim to the right and Manasseh to the left, who was the first born. Then Israel proceeds to bless them.
Have you ever blessed anyone? Have you ever had anyone bless your kids? Have you blessed your kids? I remember doing this with my own kids some years ago – placing my hands on them and praying God’s blessing. I had no idea what I was doing, but Jacob gives us a pretty good idea of what a blessing should look like: “The God before whom walked my fathers Abraham and Isaac, The God who has been my shepherd all my lifelong to this very day, the Angel who delivered me from every evil, Bless the boys. May my name be echoed in their lives, and the names of Abraham and Isaac, my fathers, and may they grow covering the Earth with their children.” Not a long prayer, but a very powerful one calling on God who has been faithful for many generations to continue that on these boys. We need to pray like this a lot more often – remembering the past and the heritage we have as believers and asking God to bless those around us like Israel did. Joseph tried to change the way Israel did the blessing, he crossed his arms and put his right hand on the younger boy Ephraim’s head but Israel explained that it was no mistake. He blessed them both but put Ephraim ahead of Manasseh. The power of blessing…..I encourage you to study how scripture demonstrates it and then practice it in making an impact for eternity!
Genesis 47 is the meet the family chapter. Joseph “went to Pharaoh” and introduced him to his family. First the took in 5 of his brothers, and then his father – Jacob who is now 130 years old. Pharaoh asks a few questions and basically tells Joseph to have his brothers to be “in charge of my own livestock”. Jacob connects with Pharoah and then “Jacob blessed Pharaoh and left”. I have to imagine this was a bit scary for Joseph. His sheep herding brothers and rather aged father coming in to see Pharaoh…..quite a change from their normal day of watching the herds and dealing with wild animals trying to eat their property. But Pharaoh was happy for Joseph’s family reunion and granted them the land in Goshen to settle and live. Just what Joseph had hoped would happen, and it did, and “Joseph took good care of them” as they settled and lived there with him.
The rest of the chapter explains the continuing famine and hardship. People ran out of money to buy food with, so Joseph then took their livestock in exchange. The next year he bartered for “bodies…and land”. Soon Pharaoh and Joseph had all that the people had – their money, livestock, land and themselves. They were “grateful and glad to be slaves to Pharaoh”. Wow – that seems like a stretch. They had just given up all they had including their freedom, and they were glad about it. My how hardship can change perspective. Seems that when people are under duress, things can really change. These people were struggling just to survive, so all those things they thought were important very quickly lost the same level of importance when the focus became survival. With some of the current day events, it makes me wonder just how quickly we might we willing to give up freedom and be glad about it. Hard to imagine in happening, but some days it seems like it is right before our eyes and we aren’t raising a red flag nearly big enough or high enough…..
Genesis 46 begins the reunion story. Joseph had sent his brothers back to get Jacob and the entire clan. Remember that Jacob is a very old guy by now but he is ready to go and see his son Joseph. And he didn’t do it half heartedly – scripture says he “set out on the journey with everything he owned”. That is all in, whole hearted faith. No holding back, no little set aside just in case it didn’t work out. Along the way God spoke to Jacob, now called Israel. I love the response when Israel sees the vision: “I’m listening”. Yesterday I wrote about finding God’s plan, and I am convinced that a big part of that is learning this simple truth – we need to listen. I think for many of us we are so busy doing things we don’t ever stop long enough to even see if God is speaking to us. We live in a world filled with noise, and we miss what God has to say just because we never allow any silence. Have you ever just sat in silence for a while – even 10 minutes? OK ever is a strong exaggeration, but do you do it regularly? How about in a group – silence is something we are more and more uncomfortable with yet is is important for the listening process. We can’t listen if we can’t hear above the noise of life. We need to make sure we are taking time to listen and seek God – quietly, silently, consistently. We will be amazed at what we hear if we only listen.
Scripture gives us another sign of Jacob being all in when it tells us he “brought everyone in his family with him”. Remember how in past chapters things were split up and spread apart just to make sure everyone didn’t face demise at once if things went bad. Not here, not now. Jacob is all in. The chapter lists all his decendents that make the trip and scripture points out that the number including the son’s of Joseph – “the members of Jacob’s family who ended up in Egypt numbered seventy”. No little caravan to haul across the desert. When Jacob and the group approach – Joseph’s response reminds me so much of the prodigal son – although maybe this is the case of the prodigal father. He didn’t run away, but God prepared a place for Jacob and his family to come home to that was undeserved and not worked for. Joseph wept for a long time in his joy. His lost family has been reunited and he is able to make a difference in their lives because of the work God has done in and through him. Joseph didn’t see the details when he was sold into slavery or put in prision or separated from his father and family for so many years. He had no real clue of what God was up to. He only stayed obedient and served as God gave him opportunity. God took care of all the details. God managed the entire plan. Joseph walked in faith and was available as God gave opportunity. Trust and obey – there is no other way!
Genesis 45 begins to tell the rest of the story. Joseph had kept his brothers in the dark as to his identity. Now on their second trip to Egypt to get food, he can’t contain himself any longer. He sends all his attendants out as he breaks down and can’t hold in his feelings any longer. Of course he sobs so loudly that all in the area know what is happening and word gets back to Pharaoh, who is happy for Joseph and the reunion with his family. So how does Joseph spill the beans to his brothers? He doesn’t come down on them for selling him into slavery. In fact he says “don’t feel badly….don’t blame yourselves….God was behind it….God sent me here….an amazing act of deliverance”. Now it would have been pretty easy for Joseph to play a little get even here with the men who sold him off years earlier. Yet he recognized the hand of God in all that has happened in his life. He could see that God had prepared him for such a time as this, that the dream he had shared so many years earlier that led to his being cast off had come to pass. Joseph knew and recognized his place in God’s plan. He understood his role in history, and understood that had the events of the past not happened he would not have been in the right place at the right time to serve God and fulfill the plan God had for his life.
Do you see God’s plan for your life? Do you know what God wants to accomplish as a result of you being on this planet? He has a specific plan for you. He wants to use your life to make a difference. It isn’t just some willy nilly life we lead where there is no real roadmap. God has a clear vision for you and me. He created us intentionally for a reason. He has absolutely got a plan that has your name on it. Just like the plan God has for Joseph, it may not always be without any bumps or struggles, but in His time, and in His way, it will yield His results. That is the key for us to keep focused on. If we seek God’s plan, if we walk in God’s will, we will find God’s outcome. But it isn’t accidental. It happens when we walk in obedience to His will and direction, day by day, moment by moment. It happens when we seek His face and stay focused on our relationship with Him. Joseph didn’t lose sight of the important stuff even while going through slavery and prison and accusation. He stayed connected to the Father and just walked faithfully day by day and let God deal with the circumstances and provide the results. The brothers return home and tell Jacob of the truth about Joseph and his desire to see him and move him to Egypt. Jacob says lets go and be united again! Do you know God’s plan for your life? There is no better time than right now to find out what it is and begin living it!
Genesis 44 continues the story of Joseph and his brothers. They get their sacks filled and they are sent on their way toward home. The steward had hidden Joseph’s personal chalice in Benjamin’s bag of grain and had again put all the money in each of the brother’s bags with their grain. Not long after they left, Joseph sends his steward after them to recover his chalice. He does and brings them all back. The rest of the chapter is about the interaction between the brothers and Joseph. Judah steps up as spokeman and tells the story to Joseph who plays along not letting them know he knows well father Jacob and the entire story.
Judah pleads to stay as slave so Benjamin could be returned home. You may recall that when they left, Jacob was less than thrilled with letting them take Benjamin. They had promised his safe return pledging their own children and lives if he did not. Now there was a very real chance that might not happen. They continue to tell the lie of Joseph’s demise – that he “was missing and had been ripped to pieces”. Judah’s plea becomes more intense – he knows they cannot return to Jacob without Benjamin or Jacob would die from the grief. Guilt is running deep with the brothers and they know that they can’t come home with a message of another lost son to Jacob. This is a picture of true intercession – when Judah puts his life between Joseph and the slavery of Benjamin. We need to learn the power of intercession. It is how Jesus often prayed and the lifestyle He lived. Scripture shows us other great examples like Moses. Intercession is powerful and effective. The story continues…..