Called – & Equipped & Planned – by God

Exodus 4-6

exodus 6 7

Anytime God asks a question, you should be thinking to yourself, “Why would God need to ask that question if he already knows the answer?” Here, Moses doubts that he has any ability to convince anyone that he had spoken with God. Then God asks him this leading question as if Moses should have known that he already had everything that he needed to fulfill the duty that God called him to. When you are given a task by God, you had better believe that he has already equipped you for the job. The staff is already in your hand.

 

The method that Moses is given of turning his staff into a snake is an interesting one. The Egyptians sorcerers already have tricks like this; they can perform a similar feat. God always has a plan and he knows the hearts of his audience. He knows that when Moses’ staff turns into a snake, no one will be surprised because they have already seen sorcerers perform the same feat. Then why would God use this method? This is simply the first of many signs to come that will change the hearts of the audience by degrees. This is the same method that Socrates extolls as the tool of a great rhetorician. The great rhetorician will not attempt to change a man’s mind by presenting him with facts. On the contrary, he will use his knowledge of the man’s heart and what is familiar to the man, even if it is false. In this way, you can slowly turn the man’s thinking towards your position by degrees, small increments. This is how I see the signs that Moses performs before Pharaoh and all of Egypt. In other times throughout the Bible, prophets perform different signs and these signs are more suited to the people of that time and region. If Elijah had performed the signs that Moses performed, he may not have been a successful prophet because the signs of Moses are too different compared to what his community was used to experiencing. If this is the case, what kind of signs might God use in our modern age?

 

Yesterday we saw some of the ignorance and incompetence of the Pharaoh, and again we see it today. When he takes the straw away from the Israelites and demands the same quota, he is acting as a bad leader. There are leaders like this who still exist today, be it our teachers or our bosses. The bad leader sees the failures of his subordinates and reprimands them by increasing their workload or taking away resources which he sees as a crutch. Doing this only makes their productivity decrease. The good leader sees the shortcomings of his subordinates and reinforces them in their areas of need so that they can be productive and produce good results. I don’t see Pharaoh’s action in this case to be cruel, merely foolish; he sincerely does not know how to lead people.

 

When God speaks to Moses again, he says that he has heard the groaning of the Israelites. What is incredible about that is that well before he heard their groaning, he had a plan in place to save them. He took the evil of the murder of all baby boys and turned it into good by allowing Moses to live. He allowed Moses to grow in knowledge by being raised as an Egyptian. Then He met with Moses to show him the way to deliver his people. This plan was set into motion before the Israelites even knew they needed saving. That is the power of a God who does not operate on our time. By the time we realize that we are in trouble, God has already been working to get us out of it.

 

Nathaniel Johnson

 

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=exodus+4-6&version=NIV

Can you believe we are about 1/12 of the way through the Bible already!  (Genesis and Job are big books!)  The Bible has 1,189 chapters in all – which means on average reading 99 chapters a month to complete the Bible in a year.  Well Done!  And, if you haven’t been reading every day – February is a great time to get started!

Tomorrow’s Bible reading will be Exodus 7-9 on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

God’s Deliverance Begins – Again

Exodus 1-3

Exodus 2 3 NIV

I had fun with today’s reading; I laughed out loud numerous times. I’m going to try to recreate some of the internal dialogue that was playing out in my head as I read it. Enjoy.

 

“We need to be shrewd with these Israelites. What should we do? I have a brilliant idea! Let’s enslave them.” – The new Pharaoh, probably.

Shrewd: having or showing sharp powers of judgment; astute.

I’m not sure the new king really knows what shrewd means. I suppose he was astute in his observation that the Israelites are more powerful than he, yet he is not displaying great judgement in putting shackles on the people who got to their current position thanks to a very shrewd man named Joseph. As Egypt will soon find out, God is great at providing the Israelites with shrewd men who are capable of delivering them at just the right time.

 

“Murder all the baby boys. Do it for king and country, why else? What’s that? It’s immoral to kill babies? Why would you possibly think that?” – Also the new Pharaoh, probably.

The midwives are smart enough to lie to the king and tell him that they aren’t responsible for the lives of these children (as if a person could be considered “responsible” for someone else continuing to live). They claim that the women giving birth are just so skilled at it that they do not need the assistance of a midwife. That is quite a longshot. When is the last time you heard of someone giving birth to a child without the assistance of a professional? Yet the king is dull enough to buy it. He sincerely believes that these women have no concept of morality other than to obey the edicts of their government. The midwives feared God over their government and followed the commands of morality and God instead of the king.

 

The mother of Moses saves him because she thinks he is beautiful. When is the last time a mother did not think their baby was beautiful? Every mother in this time must have been like her, attempting to hide their baby boys after seeing how beautiful they were. After all, the king made it the family’s duty to kill their own children. Moses’ mother was shrewd. She put him in a basket and set him out in the Nile, intending for him to survive. This sounds insane knowing what lurks in the Nile. She created the basket so that he would be protected, it was waterproofed with pitch. She placed it among the reeds so that it wouldn’t wash away. Finally, she had Miriam, Moses’ sister watch over the basket from a distance. His mother was certainly crafty. I believe she knew exactly what would happen next, otherwise she would not have done it. When Moses is found, his own mother is hired to raise him. That is the work of divine providence and the craftiness of Moses’ mother.

 

As a side note, the midrash states that Miriam had a significant role in leading Israel alongside Moses and Aaron after the Exodus. https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/miriam-midrash-and-aggadah

 

The bloodlust of Levi comes out in Moses when he kills the Egyptian.

 

The burning bush seems unique at this point in the story. In the past, God had interacted with people by sending messengers. Abraham speaks with God before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Jacob wrestles with God. Now we have Moses talking to God in a bush. It is a little different but this begins to be the pattern from here on out. We soon get the pillar of fire and cloud (which appears over the tent whenever Moses speaks with God), and the mountain covered in cloud when Moses receives the law. Later God identifies himself in a new way. He gives himself a name “I AM WHO I AM” or “I AM THAT I AM” which is the translation of the Hebrew YHWH. Up until this point, He has always identified Himself as “The God of your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” This encounter seems to be a turning point in the human story. From now on, a large group of people is going to interact with God in a personal way, they will address Him by name and they will be in close contact with Him.

 

Nathaniel Johnson

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Exodus+1-3&version=NIV

 

Tomorrow’s reading will be Exodus 4-6 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

See a Victory

Genesis 48-50

Genesis 50 20 NIV

Israel asks “Who are these?” in reference to Joseph’s sons. That’s a little odd considering the length of time that Israel had been in Egypt. Had he yet to meet his grandchild whom he has just claimed as his own children? Clearly he knows about them to declare that they will receive the same inheritance as Joseph and the other sons of Israel. I think it is more likely that he is, much like Joseph did with his brothers, playing a game with Joseph. He is trying to appear as if he is slightly senile so that he can get the last laugh. When Joseph brings his two children to Israel to receive their blessing, Israel reverses their order and blesses the younger first and the older second. We see in verse 17 that Joseph has bought into Israel’s ploy. Joseph talks to his father as if his father is confused and does not know what he is doing. Israel knows exactly what he is doing. This short interaction calls a few other stories to memory. Jacob himself received the blessing due to the firstborn, although he was younger than his brother Esau. The craftiness of Jacob was clearly passed on to Joseph. We also read in Genesis 38 that the twin children of Judah born to Tamar had their birth order reversed at the exact moment of birth, with the first one to feel fresh air being the second to be born. A clear theme emerges from all of these stories: “The last shall be first, and the first last” (Matthew 20:16). If this reversal of roles leaves you feeling satisfied, why? Perhaps you are exactly the opposite. This situation makes you indignant. Once again, why?

 

In Israel’s final words to his children, we get a little reminder of why Judah was given more responsibility than the firstborn Reuben. Judah’s older siblings are vicious. The plot to kill Joseph and the massacre of an entire Canaanite establishment are just two examples of their perverse ways. Levi was an awful man by all accounts, but the priesthood comes out of this tribe. We know that during the wandering, the Levites were responsible for carrying all of the elements of the Tabernacle. Perhaps that was a form of punishment for the sins of Levi. Conferring this holy duty to the levites could also be considered a way to correct their course. They were pushed to become the gatekeepers for all their brothers, providing the means necessary to receive the grace of God through sacrifice and all the religious acts.

 

The other thing that grabs my attention from these blessings is that Israel blesses Judah with rulership of his siblings. This is manifested in the Kingship later. It seems like a wise choice considering who the other options are. Yet Joseph would also be a fair choice, would he not? Joseph is the one who all of the siblings bowed down to in their lifetimes. Yet Israel confers his blessing upon Judah. One issue with the reign coming out of Joseph is the split of his tribe into two halves, leaving one to rule and the other to serve, even though both are equally entitled to the position. Instead, Israel puts both half-tribes under Judah.

 

Though Joseph was a man of great power and authority, he was also a man of great emotion and compassion. We see a reflection of God’s nature in him. After Israel’s death, his brothers beg for their lives at the feet of Joseph. By all rights, this is the state we should find ourselves in before God. Then Joseph delivers one of my favorite lines of the Bible: “You planned evil against me; God planned it for good.” Those who attended reFuel will remember the song “See A Victory.” This song contains that line and I find great comfort in it. We must first experience the evil in order to come out on the other side and experience the good that God intended. Take comfort in God’s kindness.

 

Nathaniel Johnson

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+48-50&version=NIV

 

Tomorrow’s reading will begin the exciting book of Exodus – chapters 1-3 – as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Moving to Egypt

Genesis 46-47

Genesis 46 3 4a NIV

When Jacob receives a vision, we get almost no insight into his reaction. Verse 2 states that Jacob said, “Here I am.” but that does not indicate whether he has experienced this type of vision frequently or if this is the first time since he saw the vision at Bethel when he was young (Genesis 28). It also doesn’t tell us how he reacted to the vision. We know that he made a sacrifice to God on that same day, but after seeing the vision, there was no obvious change in Jacob’s plan. Before the vision, he was moving his family to Egypt and after the vision, he continued to move his family to Egypt. To us, the story would read exactly the same if verses 2-4 were left out. It would read, “Jacob came to Beer-sheba, and then he left.” Yet the author of this passage clearly wanted us to read verses 2-4 otherwise, he would not have included it. Why do you think these verses are included? My first inclination is that sometimes God will speak to us just to tell us that the path we are following is the right one and we should stay our course. Nothing changes before or after, and we may not even experience a change in confidence that our course was correct. In my experience, most of the times when it seems like God is telling me something, it is that I need to change. Perhaps I am missing, and should be paying attention to, the times when he is saying, “Keep on moving.”

 

The name Serah, daughter of Asher jumps out at me. She is the only granddaughter of Israel that is listed. What makes her so important as to be listed among her brothers? It turns out that she has a rich tradition in the Jewish Midrash, a rabbinical text that expanded and commented upon the books of the Old Testament. The texts hold that she had a part in the Exodus story, correctly identifying Moses as the prophet who would save the Israelites from enslavement to the Egyptians. Most Christians view the stories of the Midrash to be parables with some amount of truth to them, however they were kept as oral tradition and contain various historical contradictions, leading it to be kept out of our modern day Bible. If you are interested in learning more about Serah, you can read a great, yet lengthy article here: https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/serah-daughter-of-asher-midrash-and-aggadah

 

Goshen is described as being the best farmland in the area around Egypt. Here again we see Joseph being extremely cunning. He secures the land of Goshen, which he knows to be good land, for his family by making his family appear dirty. He convinces Pharaoh that his family are detestable and should be kept away from the center of Egypt, and in doing so guarantees that his family will have room to grow both in wealth and in size. When Joseph tells his family to say that they are shepherds, it almost sounds like he is trying to get them to lie. For the most part, it is true that they are shepherds. The family does keep animals, but I am sure that not every member of his family is directly involved in the handling of animals. By having each and every one of them claim to be a shepherd, he ensures that the family is not split off into two groups, the clean and the detestable. As a bonus, the Israelites are even put in charge of Pharaoh’s own livestock, but based on what we have seen from Joseph so far, I am confident that he knew this outcome would be achieved.

 

Chapter 47 verse 25 is striking. The men of the region sell themselves into slavery to Pharaoh and all that is required of them is that they give 20% of their income to the government? Most working Americans pay more than that on their income alone, let alone sales taxes, property tax and the like. Still, I would rather be a “slave” to the American government paying taxes and having access to medical care that does not involve surrounding myself with feces or drinking potions made from dog blood as the ancient Egyptians would. If that statement has sparked your interest, read on here (see “Techniques” and “Healing”): http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ancient/egyptians/magic_01.shtml
Nathaniel Johnson

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+46-47&version=NIV

 

Tomorrow’s reading will be the final chapters of Genesis  – 48-50 on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

 

Joseph Reveals Himself

Genesis 43-45

Genesis 45 7 NIV

I think that after one day you understand how this set of devotions will work. They are casual, informal and straight to the point. With that, let’s pick up where we left off.

 

It is interesting in verse 8, that Judah is the one to bear responsibility for retrieving food. Reuben is the first-born of Israel and would be the de facto leader of the brothers, yet it is Judah who shoulders the burden of protecting his half-brother Benjamin on the journey back to Egypt. In times when it seems like someone is meant to be a leader, there is actually a gap to be filled. There are times when a gap is created when a leader fails to step up. Men fail. That is what we do. But there is always someone to fill that gap, even if that person never thought they were suited for that position. Where can I fill the gaps?

 

The steward who greets the sons of Israel is only a side character in this story, yet he is performing the duties that Jesus later commanded all of us to take on. In verse 24, it says that the steward provided water to wash their feet. Jesus took it a step further and washed feet himself. This side character was more powerful than a servant, yet he still performed some duties of the servant. Jesus has more authority even than this steward, and yet he lowered himself even further than the steward. This is true humility. We need to be willing to serve and be the side character.

 

Joseph is really quite crafty. First he develops this plot that will ensure that he is able to see his younger brother. He accuses the sons of Israel of spying on the land and learns of his younger brothers existence and then threatens the brothers so that they must bring Benjamin with them if they ever return. Yet Joseph knows that they must return. Joseph controls all of the grain in the region. The brothers must return. He even returns their money to guarantee two things. One is that they will have the money to purchase more grain in the future. The other is to entrap them in another of his schemes, that he might pay them back for their injustice to him or that he might force them to leave Benjamin with him. This idea comes up again at the end of chapter 44. When his brothers do return, he treats them to a feast to the brothers great confusion (see verse 33). They thought they were under suspicion of being spies, yet here they are being treated to a feast by the man who is second only to the Pharaoh of the most powerful civilization on the planet. That is quite a turn of events. But Joseph is not done playing with them yet. He plants his personal belongings in Benjamin’s bag. This is starting to look like the diabolical plot of an evil mastermind. In doing this, he will be able to reduce his brothers to groveling at his feet and will have also created a scenario where his only brother Benjamin must stay in Egypt.

 

Fortunately, Joseph is not an evil mastermind. He is just a cunning brother who longs to be with his family. Verse 1 of chapter 45 reveals this. In the end, all of his scheming only resulted in prolonging his isolation from his family. If he had revealed himself the first time that his brothers had come for food, he may have experienced the same outcome where his father’s entire household would move to Goshen and live with him. But then again, Joseph must have been afraid when he first saw his brothers. Remember, the last time he saw them, they were busy throwing him into pits (don’t worry, there wasn’t any water in it) and selling him into slavery. If you were in Joseph’s situation and were half as cunning as him, would you have acted the same?

 

Nathaniel Johnson

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+43-45&version=NIV

 

Tomorrow’s reading will be Genesis 46-47 as we continue on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Firmly Decided

Genesis 41-42

Genesis 41 32 NIV

My intention for the next week of devotions is to provide a few of the thoughts and questions that arise when I read the section for the day. This insight into my mind will, by definition, be insightful, but I also hope that it provokes thought and encourages you to think of these passages in a new way. A novel approach to a passage may be novel, but it is up to the reader to determine whether such a perspective is beneficial. After all, the conventional wisdom regarding these passages is conventional for a reason (Jeremiah 6:16). This wisdom has been cultivated for centuries and even millennia in many cases. We should respect the paths that have been laid down for us by our predecessors but also inquire as to the motivation for the creation of these existing structures.

 

Let’s begin by looking at verse 32 of chapter 41. “The matter has been firmly decided by God.” This implies that God decides matters, sometimes firmly, sometimes softly. When is a time that God has decided a matter, but not firmly? The situation that probably comes to mind for most people is when God had promised to destroy all of Israel as punishment for creating the golden calf while Moses was on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 32:14). Even though God had stated what he would do, he “relented.” Are there other times in the Bible or in present when God has decided to do something and is yet willing to change course? Are there times when he won’t relent?

 

In a single day, Joseph is elevated from a foreign slave in prison to the second in command in all of Egypt, probably the most powerful and advanced civilization of the time. The way in which Joseph is promoted in the story is rather abrupt. It feels almost as though a portion of the story is missing. What transpired between Joseph interpreting Pharaoh’s dream and his promotion? The interpretation of the dream had not yet come true, but the Pharaoh still trusted the word of Joseph. The credibility with which Joseph spoke came from the previous times when he interpreted dreams. If Joseph had never been accused of impropriety with the wife of Potiphar, then he never would have been in a position to interpret the dreams of the cupbearer and the chief baker. If he had never interpreted these dreams, then he never would have been promoted to his position over Egypt. This chain of events shows the foresight of God and how we need to trust that even in the bad times, the times that some may have intended for evil (ie Potiphar’s wife), God intends to use for good. The other thing of note in this short section is in Joseph’s reaction to the interpretation. He presented the problem to Pharaoh, but he also presented the solution and was ready to take action. If God provides special insight to you, you must be willing and able to take that insight and turn it into action. If you were incapable of action, would God have given you the insight? Take action.

 

Now that Joseph is in charge of storing food for the coming famine, he takes to accounting. This is an incredible feat that many of us don’t even bat an eye at. These events took place 3500-4000 years ago. Some historians claim that the Pharaoh of this time was Amenemhet, who reigned at the beginning of the twelfth dynasty. The twelfth dynasty is also the period when the oldest mathematical documents that have ever been uncovered were initially created. The Egyptians invented math. They were using fractions and solving geometry problems well before Socrates and Plato. In fact, they were about as far removed from the ancient Greeks in time as we are. That thought alone is mind boggling. This is all to setup my final point and to draw attention to what Joseph said of the amount of grain that he had stored up. He said that it was “beyond measure.” This phrase actually had meaning to Joseph and the Egyptians. They had been counting for centuries and had a hieroglyph for every number up to one million (𓁨 this is the unicode character for it). This glyph was used to represent the actual numeral one million or to signify “many.” It is a picture of a god with his hands raised to the sky. We take this kind of math and accounting for granted, but it was a fairly new development for the people of this time. I’ve included some links down below to articles that will get you started with further research for those of you who are interested in ancient Egyptian mathematics. Who knew Joseph would take us down this rabbit hole?

Nathaniel Johnson

 

https://answersingenesis.org/archaeology/ancient-egypt/a-correct-chronology/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_pharaohs

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_Egyptian_mathematics

 

 

 

To read or listen to today’s Bible passage – check out https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+41-42&version=NIV

 

Tomorrow’s reading will be Genesis 43-45 on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Persevering

Genesis 38-40

Genesis 39 21 NIV

Today is sadly, at least for me, my last day of writing devotions for this week. I have been super blessed to do this. It really makes me work the text and find the spiritual implication of the scripture. I love studying God’s word like that. I hope you guys have been getting as much from the devotions as I have.

We are going to set up camp in Genesis 39 and talk some more about Joseph. Definitely read Genesis 39: 1. because it is awesome, 2. because it will fill in all the details that I miss. We are picking up the story with Joseph in Egypt thriving as a slave in Potiphar’s house. It says in verse 3 “His master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD caused all that he did to succeed at his hands.”. Notice Joseph’s perseverance in this situation. He is sold into slavery by his own brothers and now adjusting to life as a slave he is still applying himself and trying. It is so rare to find perseverance like that anymore. I can only imagine Joseph’s mindset here but I feel like being a slave of one of Pharaoh’s officials and becoming his right-hand man would not be the worst job to have as a slave.

Joseph had gained Potiphar’s trust so completely that it says that he concerned himself with nothing but what food he ate. I wish I could say all my employers have trusted me like that but that totally wouldn’t be true. Unfortunately, the story is about to get a little more difficult for Joseph.

Potiphar’s wife had taken a liking to Joseph and tried to make him lie with her. I want to zoom in on Joseph’s response. He tells her no, that he wouldn’t do it. The reason he cites in verse 9 is that his master has held back nothing but her and, “How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?”. He ultimately bases his choice on “I owe Potiphar” but “I couldn’t do this to God”. His morality, decisions and actions are guided by his devotion to God. God was the thing that guided everything for Joseph.

This heroic display of devotion to God wouldn’t be the last. In verse 10 it says that she asked him day after day to lie with her and Joseph refused. She seems to be determined because despite all of Joseph’s no’s, one day she got ahold of his garment and refused to let go. Joseph fled away to avoid the sin. She lied to the men of her household and Potiphar and told them he tried to rape her.

Joseph for this deed of righteousness and obedience was repaid with prison. For obedience through a testing and trial the immediate consequence of his amazing self-control was being sent to prison. Joseph must have felt like God’s whipping boy at that point. I would have felt like, “I was put on this Earth to be destroyed” if I were in Joseph’s shoes.

God rewards Joseph’s obedience and gives him favor with the prison keeper who puts him over all the other prisoners. God rewarded his obedience, suffering, righteousness, love, devotion, and endurance to and for Him. God didn’t abandon Joseph. Joseph went through many things much harder than probably any of us have ever or will ever go through. They were hard, made him uncomfortable, he suffered but he persevered. Pain, difficult things, sufferings are not the end of the world. Being comfortable in life is not the most important thing. Joseph’s happiness wasn’t his main concern. His love for God was paramount.

James 1.2-4 says “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

James says to count it as joy when we encounter trials. As JOY. The trials, the suffering, the pain, the putting off of our desires, the obedience, the perseverance. James says it is making us perfect and complete. I want to be perfect and complete in what actually matters. The perfect and complete that James is talking about is in our love and devotion for God. I want to be perfect and complete in that.

In verse 12 James says that the man who endures under trial is blessed because he will receive the crown of life. We will receive the Crown of Life. Can you imagine Jesus placing a crown on your head at your judgement? Just imagine what that would feel like. The King placing the crown of life on your head.

Everything can wait. Think about what that would feel like.

In the next part of the verse it says that God has promised this to those who love Him. So let your perseverance, your suffering, your pain and obedience make that LOVE perfect and complete.

Dan Wall

 

Dan is a graduate of Atlanta Bible College and SUNY Maritime College. He recently completed an internship at Guthrie Grove Church of God and is hoping to become the pastor of a church one day, LORD willing. If you would like to contact him you can reach him via text or call at 631-576-5099 or via email danielaaronwall@gmail.com.

 

Today’s reading was Genesis 38-40 and can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+38-40&version=NIV

 

Tomorrow’s reading will be Genesis 41-42 as we carry on with the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Jealousy

Genesis 35-37

Genesis 37 4 NIV

We are finally off Jacob!! I think I am super excited to not have to write about him anymore. Haha. Today we are going to start on the beginning of the story of Joseph and I am pretty pumped for Joseph. He is a really awesome character of the Bible. There are a ton of lessons that you can learn from his life.

Have you ever caught yourself being jealous of another person? It may not even be their whole life but just like parts of. I know I totally have areas where I’m jealous. My personal areas are intelligence, athletic abilities, leadership style, their writing ability or musical talent.  Here is the thing I like about me. I do. I think God made me great and I think through God’s grace and patience he is continually making me better in the characteristics that he will use to build his kingdom. You are great too and God made you with the strengths that you have for a reason; to build his kingdom and glorify him. Yet, 99% of us still have issues with jealousy and the other 1% have pride problems. Hahaha.

Let’s get started on Joseph though. The first mention we have of Joseph is Genesis 37 and it starts out with his dreams. You definitely should go read this chapter. It will help out tremendously with understanding this devotion. Joseph was the last born of Jacob’s children and because of that Jacob loved him more than his other sons. To demonstrate his love for his son Jacob gave him a robe of many colors. His brothers noticed that their father loved Joseph and hated him because of it.

When Joseph was older he had a dream that said that his brothers will bow down to him. Remember, Joseph was the younger brother. After a half second of contemplation you would totally understand why Joseph’s older brothers would not be blessed by this dream. This made them hate him even more. Then another night he had a dream that his whole family including his mother and father would bow down before him. In verse 11 it says “And his brothers were jealous of him…”.

I can empathize with his brothers at this point. I have totally been jealous of some people that I have seen being used by God. I don’t think this is the worst thing in the world. I just want to be able to glorify God like they are and that is not a terrible thing to want. What Joseph’s brothers choose to do next is definitely not good.

Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery when he was out in the field one day and then lied to their father and said that he had been killed by a wild animal.

Now, why do you think that his brothers did that? I am going to make a huge leap and say they were probably jealous. I know I am way out there on this one.

They were jealous of him for something small back in the beginning of the chapter and now their jealousy grew and grew and grew until they were selling their brother into slavery. They let it build and simmer under the surface until they did something crazy and harsh. I will go out on a limb here and say that if you were to tell the brothers that they would sell their brother into slavery at the beginning of chapter they would have called you a liar.

Have you ever noticed that if you are jealous of someone, you have a hard time being friends with them? Maybe there is a little extra hostility in your voice that you didn’t intend or you secretly wish they would make a mistake or some sort of small harm would derail them.

I don’t think that what happened to Joseph’s brothers was all of a sudden. They had been jealous of Joseph for a while and because they didn’t resolve this jealousy, they did something that they would come to regret. Love leaves no room for jealousy. It is impossible to love God, love people and be jealous of them. These feelings of envy and jealousy when unkept turn into anger. That is why it is impossible to love someone and be jealous of them.

So how do we keep jealousy from building into anger like what happened to Joseph’s brothers? None of us want unkept jealousy that will ruin our joy and make us do things that we don’t want to do. I am not the authority on this but I can tell what has worked for me. I have found it to be really hard to compliment people I was jealous of. So, I went ahead and complimented them and bragged about them and became a supporter of them. I would tell other people how great I thought they were and it did something weird in my heart. I was no longer jealous of them but I was happy for them and rooting for them.

Another thing that you will need to do is find your strengths, the good things about how God made you, and talk yourself up. Remind yourself that you are made in the image of the maker of heaven and earth and all good things dwells inside of you. If you need help finding your strengths ask a friend what they are and then ask God to help you find your value and worth in Him.

I do all of these things on a semi-regular basis. Let’s keep an eye on that jealousy and remind ourselves of who we are in God, so that we can stay joyful and love others.

 

Daniel Wall

 

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+35-37&version=NIV

 

Tomorrow’s reading will be Genesis 38-40 on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

 

Forgiveness

Genesis 32-34

Genesis 33 4 NIV

Today we are going to look at what happened when Jacob and Esau finally meet again. If you remember the last time the two brothers were together was back in Genesis 27. Whatever city they were in it definitely wasn’t Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love. Jacob’s mother actually has to tell Jacob to run away to another land because Esau, his brother, is trying to kill him. Probably Esau rightfully felt these things because Jacob stole his father’s blessing from him and also extorted his birthright. I could imagine having a little bit of hostility towards a brother who did these things to me as well. Luckily, Jacob’s mama gets involved and sends him away to her brother where he was able to get married and prosper.

I can’t imagine the hostility that lay between these two brothers. Some of us are slightly more dramatically than others of us but we have heard people use phrases like, “They ruined my life”. Now I’m not saying that they didn’t but they probably didn’t do it like Jacob did to Esau. Jacob literally took away Esau’s inheritance from him for a bowl of soup. That better have been like some lobster bisque. On top of that while Esau was out hunting for an animal to make his father a nice stew Jacob and his mother went the easy route and took one of the animals from the flock and made their father a stew and stole Esau’s birthright. I couldn’t imagine doing all the work of hunting an animal just to see that your brother took one from the herd and used it to steal your birthright. Talk about adding insult to injury.

Imagine having all that happen and how you would feel if you ever saw your brother again. I am not sure about you but I would be expecting the best apology in the world. I’m not really sure what all would be included in that apology but at the very least I’m thinking something like a sky writing plane writing, “I’m sorry. You are awesome.” Maybe then I could possibly forgive them if they included like season passes to my favorite ski mountain. Let’s take a look at how the incident actually plays out in the Bible. You should go read the entire chapter of Genesis 33 but since I cannot put the entire chapter in this devotion. I will settle for one verse.

 

Genesis 33.4 “But Esau ran to meet him and embraced him and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.”

 

Esau had twenty years to stew over how wrong Jacob had done him but instead of holding in all that hostility, anger and rage he chose to do something absolutely crazy. HE FORGAVE HIM. His reaction to seeing his brother is profound. He didn’t even just walk up and shake his hand. It says he ran to him, like children would when they see their father coming home from work. He embraced him, fell on him and kissed him. That’s love and forgiveness and all the stuff I want in my life.

I have things in my life that are as small as people have told lies about me and have said negative things about my character that I have a hard time letting go of and forgiving them for. But Esau, literally the leader of a non-Israelite nation, had way more forgiveness than I do.

Colossians 3.13 says, “bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” This verse can seem kind of abstract and not practical. For me personally, when I see an example of how this is played out in real life like what happened with Jacob and Esau it raises the bar. It shows me my failure to fully attain to the level of Christianity that I want to be at; which is to live like Christ.

So how do you forgive somebody after something like what happened to Esau. I don’t think it is in our nature to. I think we need to bring it to God. I know that there are things that I wasn’t ready to forgive people for, my heart isn’t ready for and it still clings to the hurt. I think the only way to handle those types of situations is to bring it to God in prayer and ask something like, “God, please help me forgive this person and love them despite what they did to me.” Sometimes we just need to release that charge against them in our minds and tell ourselves, “I am not going to hold that against them.”

I hope that this helps any of you that are struggling in this way. I hope that we can all release that resentment we have and forgive each other fully.

 

Daniel Wall

 

To read or listen to today’s Bible reading you can check out Bible Gateway at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+32-24&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Genesis 35-37 in our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

God Sees Our Work

Genesis 30-31

Genesis 31 42

My second job as a young man was as a fountain worker at Friendly’s (read: I worked in an ice cream shop). Due to this particular ice cream shop’s location next to a movie theatre and a mall (remember: I worked there before amazon was a real thing) it was very busy even in the winter time.  You honestly wouldn’t believe how much ice cream people eat in the winter. Even when we were in the middle of a blizzard. There were nights I drove home through over a foot of snow too because we still had customers in the store.  At 29 I have worked a bunch of different jobs and I think that was the job that I had to work the hardest at. Not necessarily because of the mental difficulty of the work but time wise it was very demanding. There was even a day that I worked straight for an 8 hr stretch without even a water break. Now that isn’t healthy behavior (read: I was an idiot for doing that). That job paid minimum wage at the beginning and barely over minimum wage the longer I worked there. I did learn some valuable lessons during my time there however. It taught me how to work hard and it showed me the reward of hard work. The truth is that your first job will be more valuable to you in the character that you build than the wage you receive. I wish someone had told me that when I was younger.

So, you are probably wondering why I shared with you about my second job. I believe it will tie in well with our reading today. In a previous devotion we read that Jacob worked for 7 years for Rachel and 7 years for Leah. He worked for 14 years just as a bride price, just for his wives. He worked for an additional 6 years just to have some sort of inheritance to walk away with from his father-in-law. Jacob in this situation details all the work that he did for Laban, his father-in-law, in Genesis 31.38-41. He tells Laban how he had worked tirelessly for 20 years in the heat of the day and cold of the night in order to take care of his flocks. In verse 41 Jacob says that Laban had changed his wages 10 times.

I couldn’t even imagine working for the same boss if he changed my wages that many times. I have been working now for around 14 years and I couldn’t imagine working for that long on a job that is essentially 24 hours a day for a boss like that. The life of a shepherd is a difficult life. They often had to spend their time away from home in order to keep the sheep near grass and water. They probably spent many nights under the stars away from their family to protect the herd. Additionally, having your wages changed in this job must have been really disheartening.

In verse 42 I love Jacob’s response, he cites God’s provision for him and He says that despite how Laban treated him he was walking away with something because of God caring for him. Jacob says that God looked down on his affliction and provided for him. God had even intervened the night before Laban came after Jacob and told Laban not to speak good or bad to Jacob.  Even though Laban had not seen all of Jacob’s efforts and affliction God did see it and acted between the two men according to righteousness.

I know that in my own life it can be easy to look at my wage as the reward for my labor. I often forget who exactly I am working for, like actually working for. As a Christ follower I have given away every minute of everyday to God. My life simply isn’t for my own enjoyment. The work we do, whether it is for a wage or it is on our own free time, is supposed to be in submission to God’s will as Christ followers. 1 Corinthians 10.31 tells us “…whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”.

I believe this is one of the greatest ideas behind our faith. The idea that we would live as we should unto God and leave the reward and our wage to Him. The reason why is that it allows us to live in the freedom to love others and love God whether that is through our words, actions, vocational work, or voluntary work without fighting for ourselves. I am not saying you can just go do whatever you want and just let God provide for you. I’m saying that if you are serving like you should and working like you should by doing it all unto the glory of God that God will fight your battles. He will make a provision for you just like he did for Jacob.

We no longer need to be consumed with whether others do right by us because we have a God who sees it all and will provide for us.

 

Daniel Wall

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+30-31&version=NIV

 

Tomorrow’s reading will be Genesis 32-34 on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan