Archive for March, 2009

Genesis 43

Genesis 43 continues the story of the famine.  Jacob and his family are again out of food and he tells the boys to go back and get some more.  They refuse unless they are allowed to take Benjamin along, which was the requirement Joseph had given them on their last journey.  He had kept Simeon in jail to make sure they would come back.  Jacob prepares them to go and allows Benjamin to go along, and also makes sure they are prepared as well as possible for success.  The men took the gifts, double the money, and Benjamin”.  They are heading back for more food so they all don’t starve to death.

 

Upon arrival they are placed in Joseph’s house to have dinner with him.  They are suspicious of what is happening but the house steward assured them all was well.  Their fear of being punished for having the money they tried to pay for their last trip was unfounded.  Joseph comes home and they eat together.  I love how scripture describes this adventure: “They looked at one another wide-eyed, wondering what would happen next”.  We still are not quite to the rest of the story, but their situation is one that we can really learn from.  Fear had kept them from coming earlier – they were almost at the point of starvation.  Now that they are back, sitting at the table of Joseph, they are wondering what God has in store next.  The house steward had told them “the God of your farther must have given you a bonus”.  Jacob sent them on their way acknowledging that God was their only hope.  God is right in the middle of all that is happening, but the brothers are letting fear control them, not faith.  They are struggling to be able to comprehend all that is going on around them.  If we take our eyes off God and focus on the situation at hand, we lose perspective.  We lose the ability to trust and obey.  Oh Lord help us keep our eyes on you.  The saga continues in the next chapter…..

Genesis 42

Genesis 42 is the dream come true that Joseph had shared with his brothers some years prior.  Joseph is now in charge of all the land and has collected a huge storehouse of food.  He is the only source available as there has been no crop for years.  Jacob tells his boys to wake up and go get some food.  I love how direct he is: “Why do you sit around here and look at one another”? Their families are without food and the brothers just seem to be taking it in stride.  How often are we like that?  There is an apparent and obvious thing that requires action, and we just sit there.  Paralyzed by indecisiveness, wondering how to correct the situation.  Sometimes we just need to get up and do something.  The world is run by people who show up – who get up and make things happen.  How much better that is when we are connected with God and following His lead, but the reality is that life almost always requires action and far too often we are willing to sit by and idly watch while others take action.  Life, and particularly love, is an action verb.  We need to get moving on things.

Of course they travel the long distance to Pharoah’s land and Joseph pretends not to recognize them.  They have no clue who he is.  He accuses them of being spies, locks them up for a few days, and then sends all but one packing with some grain to go get Benjamin who hadn’t made the trip.  He was the little brother and Joseph wanted to see him.  Interestingly, when Joseph had their bags filled he ordered their “money be put back in each sack”.  That causes some questions and concerns.  The chapter ends with the brothers getting home and telling Jacob the story.  He refuses to let them take Benjamin back so they can get Simeon released.  Joseph is back at the Pharoah’s headquarters waiting for his brothers to return.  This is a cliffhanger….til next chapter.

Genesis 41

Genesis 41 continues the dream work.  Joseph remains in prision and is finally called to interpret a dream for Pharaoh himself after the cupbearer remembers his ability to interpret dreams.  Joseph gets the call and cleans up and is brought quickly to Pharoah.  He listens to the dreams and is asked to respond with their meaning.  It is important to note how Joseph answers that request: “Not I, but God”.  He didn’t claim to be the knower of all things.  He gave God the credit before he ever started.  He didn’t claim to have all understanding – he was simply a tool God used to provide an answer.  After hearing the dream he tells Pharaoh “God is telling Pharaoh what He is going to do”.  That is pretty big news.  A glimpse into the future before it happens.  Rather than take offense and pull rank as the ruler of the world – Pharaoh goes the next step and wants to know how to deal with the news of coming famine and crop failure.  He shows some real wisdom and trust in Joseph.

Joseph gives us a picture of a leadership structure here that was ordained by God.  Pharaoh needs to look for a wise and experienced man and put him in charge of the country…..appoint managers throughout the country”.  Joseph doesn’t tell him that he is the man for the job, he simply lays out the structure and lets Pharaoh figure that out himself.  And he does – Joseph is appointed to be the number two man in charge and take over preparations for the coming famine at 38 years of age.  Pretty impressive step.  Pharoah makes it official and give Joseph authority to make it happen.  Joseph gets to work and doesn’t seem to let the power impact him – it was heads down and focus.  He stores up the grain and things happen “just as Joseph had said”.  God gave him the vision – He gave him the plan – and what the future held in store.  Joseph had a relationship with God.  He did as God led him and “soon the whole world was coming” to him for food and supplies.  He was a man who kept God in His rightful place.  He listened to God’s whisper, He walked where God led him, He put God in His rightful place as he lived life.  And God blessed him indeed.  Life wasn’t without hardship – it certainly was a roller coaster – but each time he came out of the pit of despair he was closer to God and in a place of more authority.  What was meant for evil always turned out to be for good because God was faithful and Joseph was too.  God is in control – I am sure there were days or years when Joseph wasn’t sure when in slavery or prison, but he stayed faithful and let God have His rightful place.  We have to remember to endure – life happens on God’s timeline – not ours.  But He is always in control!

Genesis 40

Genesis 40 is a field of dreams. The king’s cupbearer and baker both ticked off the king and were thrown into jail with Joseph. The captain of the guard assigned Joseph to “see to their needs”. They both had dreams that were getting them down because they had no one to interpret them. So Joseph says: “Don’t interpretations come from God? Tell me the dreams”. How is that for confidence? Joseph knew he was plugged in to God and could do the job. He knew he could go to the Father and get answers. That is truly walking with God. When you know you can ask and get an answer. When you know you can seek and find. When you know you can knock and the door will be opened. Sound familiar? Scripture tells us we can do that. And Joseph does. He interprets the dreams for his friends.

The cupbearer gets a good interpretation – he is going to be placed back on task in three days as the kings cupbearer. The baker – not so much – he is going to be killed in three days. Both were “in places of honor in the presence of all the guests” at a feast prepared for all the servants. The cupbearer got his job back, the baker was killed. Joseph had only one request of the two when he interpreted their dreams. He asked that they would remember him but we are told that the cupbearer “forgot all about him”. That wasn’t the plan. Joseph thought his action might be the ticket out of prison, for which he didn’t really deserve to be there at all anyway. It is really unfortunate it happened this way. But again, God used it for good even though it was intended for evil. The big plan, the master plan, was far beyond what Joseph could see in the dark and dreary place he was kept. God gives Joseph a story here though and we will see how it all weaves together in coming chapters. We must never forget that God operates on a much bigger picture than we can possibly see or understand!

Genesis 39

 Genesis 39 is a familiar story of Joseph in Potiphar’s house.  Potiphar had purchased Joseph as a slave and quickly figured out that “GOD was with Joseph and things went very well with him”. Joseph had God’s blessing on him and everything he touched turned to goodness.  “His master recognized that GOD was with him….put him in charge….turning everything over to him….blessing of GOD spread over everything he owned”.  Joseph was like a good luck charm to Potiphar.  Things went well.  The key phrase here to me is “his master recognized that God”.  Do people recognize it is God who is at work in and through you?  Or do they think you are doing it on your own?  Do you make sure to mention that whatever success you have is not of your own strength and ability, but rather from God Himself?  Too often we forget to put credit where it is due – not with ourselves but with God.  Joseph obviously did that because Potiphar had no doubt that Joseph was blessed and that blessing was rubbing off all over him and his things.  Because of that recognition, Joseph goes from lowly slave to running the show – not just some of it – all of it.   Of course then comes the rest of the story…

Potiphar’s wife was obsessed with Joseph.  She wanted him to sleep with her and he refused…day after day he said no.  Then one day, when no one else was around, she came after him and as he fled, she grabbed his coat.  Of course from that came false accusations which land Joseph in jail.  He goes from running the entire kingdom to being thrown into prison.  Bad day for Joseph, but was it really?  Seems so on the surface but we will watch how God uses what they intended for bad to complete His story.  Joseph quickly earns the trust of the jailer and soon “ended up managing the entire operation….never even checked on him”.  Joseph moves again to a position of authority and power.  Why?  Because “whatever he did God made sure it worked for the best”.  Not because he was smarter than everyone.  Not because he had better skills. Because God was in control!

Genesis 38

Genesis 38 is another interesting chapter.  Judah, one of Jacob’s sons, takes off from his brothers and heads his own way.  He marries and has some sons.  His daughter in law Tamar loses her first husband Er, and then when Judah’s second son Onan failed to live up to his responsibility to live with Tamar as husband, he dies too.  That is when the shenanigans begin.  Judah’s third son Shelah was young and Judah was afraid he too would die so he sends Tamar back to her father for a while.  After a while Tamar figures out that there is no plan for her to come back to the family and have Shelah as her husband, which was the expected tradition of the day.  When a man died, his brother stepped in has husband.  Marriage was a lot different in the days of the bible.  It wasn’t this warm fuzzy feeling based relationship that it has become today for so many.  It was serious stuff and had a set of rules and responsibilities that people were to abide by.  But alas, a topic for a different day.

Tamar knows she is being shunned so she sets out to trap Judah and acts as a prostitute.  He falls for it, she gets pregnant and takes a “seal-and-cord and the staff” as the payment – Judah promising a “kid goat” from his flock in return for her services.  Judah sends one of his men to deliver the agreed upon price and they can’t find a prostitute there, obviously because Tamar really wasn’t.  The truth finally comes out and Judah is ready to get rid of Tamar when he finds out she is pregnant, that is until she pulls out the “seal-and-cord and the staff” that he had given her.  The finger pointing has to end then and Judah admits his failure.  Of course Tamar doesn’t just have a single son, she has twins.  The birthing process is unique as one son appears to be coming first, “the midwife tied a red thread on his hand” and then “his brother came out”.  That had to be quite an experience.  Scripture is filled with a lot of stories that I struggle to understand.  Yet they continually show God’s hand when you are able to look at the big plan He has.  That is one of the key truths of scripture.  It allows us to get a glimpse over time of just how big our God is and how detailed His plan is for us and the world we live in.  We need to never lose sight of that when we deal with the moment by moment stuff.  God deals with eternity, we only see a glimmer of that.  He alone knows all.  We need to trust!

Genesis 37

Genesis 37 is the story of Joseph and his colored coat.  You probably remember the story.  Joseph was the favorite son of Jacob.  His father had a many colored coat created for him.  It was pretty obvious he was the special one in Joseph’s eyes.  And then the reality of human nature kicks in: “When his brothers realized that their father loved him more than them, they grew to hate him”.  Oh how we let the success of others cloud our judgment sometimes.  Joseph throws fuel on the fire when he shares.  Joseph had a dream” and tells his brothers how they will some day bow down to him.  Of course that sits poorly and then plot how to kill him.  Brother Rueben brings a bit of sanity to the discussion and suggests they put him down into an old cistern for now.  Of course, Joseph is sold to some Ishmaelites as a slaves and ends up in Potiphar’s house as the manager.  All God’s plan, but certainly not the intent of the brothers who just wanted to get rid of him.

Here is one of those perfect examples of bad things happening to good people.  Joseph was a young man, 17 at the time, and just living his young life serving his dad.  He wasn’t trying to cause issues – he shared his dreams with his brothers and they “cooked up a plot to kill him”.  Most of us would say that it wasn’t fair.  Good kid, doing what his dad asked, and now he is sold into slavery.  We see a brief part of the plan of God.  Of course we will learn more of that plan in the coming chapters.  As we do we will understand that this “unfairness” was necessary for God’s will to occur.  It wasn’t an easy time for Joseph.  Had he known the details ahead of time he may not have signed up for it.  But God knew every detail and used this all to His glory.  God sees it all from His vantage point through His eyes.  We can only see a glimpse of all that God has in store.  That is when we just have to trust and obey.  It isn’t always, actually it isn’t often, that we see the entire picture of what God has in store before we enter it.  We have to learn to trust Him.  We have to learn to let go and let God.  The brothers try and cover up their dastardly plan by dipping the multicolored coat in goat blood and taking it back to Jacob.  You may recall Jacob mourns for days and won’t quit.  It hurt him more than they ever imagined.  They couldn’t go back and undo what they had done, so they were stuck.  But God was still in control.  He used all things to His glory and made things happen to His honor.  We must never forget that He alone is in the driver seat.  He alone sees the future and knows.  All we can do is trust and obey!

Genesis 36

 Genesis 36 is a family tree chapter.  This one lists all the descendents of Esau, at least for a few generations.  Esau and Jacob both had huge families and because of that they had to move apart so the land could support them and their families and large wealth.  They had lots of livestock and wealth.  There were many leaders that come from Esau’s lineage.  They were chieftans that occupied different regions of the land.  So this causes me to pause and ask what will your family tree look like?  Whether we stop or think about it or not, we are all part of a family tree.  When God writes the story on our life, what will it say?  And more importantly, what will the branches in the future look like as a result of what we have done and how we have lived.  As we go through life, it doesn’t seem like our day to day activity really is all that important.  But the reality is that life is just the sum of a whole lot of little things we do, and the impact on our family tree, the legacy we leave really is the same.  The teachable moments we have with our kids, our spouse and others in our life are the things that will determine what the results of our life will mean in regard to our legacy.  Esau had every reason to be bummed about what happened with Jacob stealing his birthright and his blessing.  But obviously he moved on – with a little rebellion as part of that when he defied his father and married Caananite women – but none the less he leaves quite a legacy behind.  What will the result of your life be?  Legacy is all about what happens after you are gone.  What the impact of your life is on the next few generations or longer.  We need to live like that matters, because it does.  We have the opportunity not only to impact people today, but through the legacy we leave, for many generations to come.  Make sure you are doing the things moment by moment that will result in the long term results you want to leave behind. 

Genesis 35

Genesis 35 starts with something we all should note: “God spoke to Jacob”. We see this happen over and over during Jacob’s life. God meets him and speaks to him somewhat regularly. Why does that happen? He was from the lineage of Abraham which was important – so his legacy really was part of that. He had learned the importance of a relationship with God by the way it was modeled to him. He knew the history of God’s interaction with his family. But at the end of the day legacy only goes so far. It can be a huge part of creating the opportunity for success. It can be key to giving a foundation that makes relationship more likely. But the key to Jacob’s relationship with God really boils down to one simple fact, well maybe a couple: Jacob listened and obeyed. I am convinced that God speaks to you and me all the time. Not necessarily quite the way He did with Jacob – audibly and even face to face – but God is speaking to us. He has spoken through His written Word in the Bible and He speaks to us through the Holy Spirit which lives inside us as believers. He also answers our prayers and communicates with us in lots of other ways. But just like the communication patterns that sometimes develop at home with our spouse – they may be talking but we may not be listening. That I believe happens far too often to us in our walk with God. He is talking and we don’t have our ears on. Are you listening? Actively listening – which means looking into the very heart of God by reading His Word and spending time focused on Him through prayer? Listening is hard work. But it is so important. With God and in every other relationship we have.

Equally important to listening though is obedience. Here in this chapter God says to Jacob – pack up and take your family to Bethel. They had been moving around and were settled and now God wants them to move again. Jacob knew the enemy was all around that path. It was going to be a long and difficult journey. His response: “Jacob told his family….we’re going to Bethel”. No argument – just obedience. God prepared the way with “a paralyzing fear descended on the neighboring villages” so they didn’t even move as Jacob passed by. It would have been easy to give the excuse that their travel would leave them exposed to their enemies but Jacob trusts God. Along the way some important things happen. Rachel’s nurse dies, and Rachel in fact gives birth to Jacob’s final son – Benjamin – and then dies as part of that child birth. It would have been easy to stall God’s request to move until the child had been born. But Jacob just does what God tells him to do. He recognized this: “God has stuck with me everywhere I’ve gone”. God wants to do the same for us. A key for Jacob is that he was where God told him to be. We need to do the same and that happens with obedience!

Genesis 34

Genesis 34 is a story of cunning and deceit.  Dinah, who was Jacob’s only daughter, is raped by one of the local boys named Shecheem in the country they now were living.  He and his father Hamor came to Jacob and asked for Dinah’s hand in marriage.  Of course, the circumstances were not acceptable and when Jacob’s sons heard of it “were outraged, explosive with anger”.  Hamor comes to plead for Dinah’s hand for his son Shechem who was madly in love with Dinah.  He offered to pay anything to receive her as his wife.  Jacob’s sons were very upset and wanted to get back at them.  So they make this deal: “The only condition on which we can talk business is if all your men become circumcised like us”.  So Hamor and Shechem go to the town council and make the request of all to become circumcised and they all agree to do it.  The motive was to keep Jacob and his wealth in their country so they would settle there.  A little greed on one side, a lot of anger on the other.

The rest of the story is pretty gruesome.  Three days after the circumcision, while all the men were still very sore, two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, each with his sword in hand, walked into the city as if they owned the place and murdered every man there”.  Can you spell set up?  There was never any intent to give Dinah to Shechum, it was a plan all along to wipe out these people because one man raped their sister.  Talk about guilt by association.  All the men in the city were killed, their wives and children taken captive and their homes looted.  Jacob is not so sure about the approach.  He says: “You’ve made my name stink to high heaven among the people here”.  The brothers were protecting their sister but may have gone a bit far.  Jacob realizes the fact that if the neighboring folks decided to take retribution it would be over for his family.  We need to carefully consider our steps before we make decisions that will have lasting consequences, which most all decisions do.  Even the simple ones determine how our time, money or other resources are used.  But in a case like this, doing what seems and feels right can potentially have long lasting repercussions.  Time will tell how this story plays out. 

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