Not everything in the Bible is what we would call “child-friendly”; there are numerous accounts of despicable things taking place at the hands of people who are supposed to be God’s chosen ones. Betrayal, murder, inappropriate relationships, and more; I guess you could say that the Bible isn’t designed to be a Disney sitcom, but instead, tells the story of real people in real situations. Unfortunately, thanks to sin in our world, those real situations are often bleak, strange, and sometimes down-right gross. That’s what we find in Genesis 38, and I’ll warn you ahead of time, it is not for the faint of heart.
In this story, we have an account of Judah, the man who is later promised to have the Messiah come from his family line (Genesis 49:10), caught up in a dramatic sequence of events with his daughter-in-law, Tamar. Unfortunately for Tamar, everyone she married, quickly died; even though we may not understand the cultural practices of a brother marrying his ex-sister-in-law to preserve their family line, we can understand the grief, disappointment, and the feeling of guilt she must have been under. Even though it wasn’t her fault, it would be difficult not to blame yourself when this happens over and over again.
Skipping ahead and not going into all the gross details about her tricking Judah into giving her a son (what?!), we find out that Tamar finally does bear children and can breathe a sigh of relief. What isn’t immediately obvious to us in this story is how significant these children would later be in the biblical story. Her children are named Perez and Zerah (v. 29-30); and if you skip ahead to the New Testament in Matthew 1:3, Perez is found in the genealogy of Jesus himself! It is through this gross, bleak, and very strange story that God brings about the Savior of the world! This is just one example among many of what the entire book of Genesis is trying to communicate to us: “you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20).
Just like Judah and Tamar, God can turn our most difficult, strange, and sometimes gross situations into something wonderful and life-changing. Paul tells us in Romans 8:28 that “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God”. How true this is: God can use anything in your life, no matter how dark and disappointing it may be, and turn it into something great, if you will simply love and trust Him with it.
What do we learn of Er, Onan, Judah and Tamar in Genesis 38? What sins are they guilty of? We are not given all the details of what God is thinking, but from what we do know, why do you think some of these characters are struck dead and others become part of Jesus’ genealogy? (There might be a clue in verse 26)?
What do we learn of God in our reading today? Does He take sin lightly? Does He only work with perfect people? What type of heart and actions is He looking for?
In life we come to places where we are in distress, we feel hopeless, and we feel like our circumstances couldn’t be darker. But God is full of hope and knows his plans for us if we trust him.
We begin in Genesis, Jacob has fled from his home from his brother Esau, and after he left Laban now Jacob is being told by God to return to Bethel, the place where he had stopped after running from his brother and having a dream.
Before they get there Jacob tells his family in Genesis 35:2
“So, Jacob said to his household and all who were with him, get rid of the foreign gods you have with you, and purify yourselves and change your clothes. We must get up and go to Bethel. I will build an alter there to the God who has answered me in my day of distress. He has been there with me everywhere I have gone.”
Jacob is telling his family how God has blessed him and that they are not going back to that place of foreign gods. Just as we are not going back to our places of distress and false gods.
“May the Lord answer you in a day of trouble; may the name of Jacob’s God protect you.”
God provides answers in all our times of distress. In our times of trouble, when we don’t understand why things are happening, he knows why things are happening. He provides us comfort in our struggles; we need to lean on him. God will provide.
It is after this that God tells Jacob to be fruitful and multiply, and he reminds Jacob of the promise he had made to Abraham and Isaac concerning the land.
This means something to us too when times get difficult. We will experience the blessings of God at times, but when questionable circumstances come our way, we need to remember how we obtained those blessings. Forgetting about God in times of need would be a sure sign that we are getting on the wrong path.
Matthew 19 also contains a lot of information. Jesus had to deal with the pharisees trying to trip him up constantly, but what stands out to me is Matthew 19:21-22.
“If you want to be perfect,” Jesus said to him, “go sell your belongings and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this, he went away grieving, because he had many possessions.”
This man was faithful to God and had a lot of possessions, but he did not connect his possessions with God’s blessings. The same goes with us, too often we forget that when times are good and we are feeling high in life, that our blessings come from God!
We can’t forget that in our good and bad times that no matter what, we are to devote ourselves to God. Trust in him and he will bring you through everything that you experience.
What are your usual responses when you feel you are in a time of distress? Are they helpful responses?
What can we learn from our Bible passages today regarding how to turn to God?
What can we learn from our Bible passages today regarding who God is and what He does?
Genesis 28:15 – Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.
This is an appropriate text for me right now; in that it speaks to me in trusting God for the outcome. Genesis 27 and 28 tells the story of how Jacob stole his brother’s blessing after he had already manipulated Esau out of his birthright in Genesis 25.
I want to make mention that earlier in Genesis 25 Rebekah was concerned about her pregnancy because according to scripture, “The babies jostled with each other within her.”
When she inquired of the Lord, He told her, “Two nations are in your womb and two peoples within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other and the older will serve the younger.”
So, in the scripture from today (Genesis 27) we learn that Rebekah heard Isaac tell Esau to go out and hunt some wild game and prepare him a tasty meal. Afterward, Isaac was going to give Esau his blessing.
Rebekah took it upon herself to have Jacob go get two choice goats and she prepared a meal that Isaac would enjoy. She also used the goat skins to fool Isaac into believing that Jacob was indeed Esau – using the goat skins to make Jacob’s arms feel hairy. As a result of this trickery, Isaac blessed Jacob instead of Esau.
When Esau showed up, he found out that his father had already given his blessing to Jacob. When Esau pleaded for some sort of blessing the only hope that Isaac could give him was found in Genesis 27:39 & 40:
“Your dwelling will be away from the earth’s richness,
Away from the dew of heaven above. You will live by the sword
And you will serve your brother. But when you grow restless,
You will throw his yoke from off your neck.”
Esau vowed that after his father had died, he would surely kill his brother Jacob.
The things that trouble us in life may not be to such an extreme, but there are some things that I believe we can learn from this story that may help us in times when we are unsure of our path.
I just got home from ReFUEL at Camp Mack. The theme was ‘Peace treaty’. The youth were challenged in many ways. One of the ways they were challenged was to not be in a hurry for the answer that you think God should give you.
Maybe the answer you were hoping for isn’t the one that God is prepared to give….. right now. We can be like Rebekah and try to manipulate the situation in order to achieve the outcome that we were hoping for. The question to ask is, “Is God working in that situation?” Does trying to manipulate the situation always work for the good?
We learn from Genesis 28 that Jacob had to take off and head for Paddan Aram. It was there that he was supposed to live and find a wife from the daughters of Laban. It was on the way there, in Bethel, that Jacob had a dream of a stairway resting on the earth and angels ascending and descending up and down that stairway. It was there that God reiterated the same promise that He had made to Abraham and Isaac. He said,
“I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac.
I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying.
Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread
Out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south.
All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring……”.
Genesis 28:13 & 14
So, from this story, I perceive that we should not be in a hurry to get the answer that we wish God would give. What if God’s plan for your life will end up the way that you would hope, but through a means that would be better for us in the long run.
Surely, we can see that even though Jacob went along with Rebekah’s plan to get the blessing through trickery, God still worked to bring His blessing upon Jacob, but at what cost.
Jacob had to wait 14 years for the wife he wanted. He had to work very hard to achieve the riches that he ended up with. Ultimately, when he went home years later, he was in fear for his life. Why? Because his brother vowed to kill him.
We will never know how God would have worked if Rebekah hadn’t resorted to tricking Isaac into giving his blessing to Jacob instead of Esau. It all worked out for Jacob and Esau. The elder (Esau) didn’t serve his younger brother Jacob. They did reconcile later, but the people from the land of Edom (descendants of Esau) did eventually serve Israel – a fulfillment of the prophecy spoken by God.
So, as I go through life. I want to make sure that I am praying for God’s guidance in my decisions. I don’t want to get in such a hurry that I try to manipulate the situation to create the outcome that I desire. This is so important to me. I need to try to be an example for my daughters, Hannah and Sofie, and others around me. If I am quick to do what I need to do to ensure an outcome, what does that teach others?
(Today and the rest of this week we will hear from various adults and young adults who were at reFuel this past weekend.)
Please also read Psalm 16. It speaks clearly of the refuge that we can find in the Lord. And ask yourself these questions:
What is it in my life that I want from God?
Am I being patient and prayerful when it comes to waiting for his timing?
Is God your Refuge?
Do others watching me see my trust in God?
What can I learn of God from His Scriptures today?
Abraham was a man of incredible faith. God made astounding promises to Abraham, and Abraham believed God – and this was credited to him as righteousness. Abraham lived a long and faithful life of service to God, then, as recorded in Genesis 25, Abraham died.
We’re picking up the story in Genesis 26 – after Abraham was dead and gone. Genesis 26 starts by telling about a famine in the land that was so bad that Isaac (Abraham’s heir) had to move to have enough food to eat.
Then we find this amazing encounter in Genesis 26:2-6, “The Lord appeared to Isaac and said, ‘Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land where I tell you to live. Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and will bless you. For to you and your descendants I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham. I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because Abraham obeyed me and did everything I required of him, keeping my commands, my decrees and my instructions.’ So Isaac stayed in Gerar.”
To give Isaac and his descendants all these lands
To confirm the oath God has sworn to Abraham
To make Isaac’s descendants as numerous as the stars of the sky
To bless all nations on earth through Isaac’s offspring (Jesus)
And did you notice why God extended all of these promises to Isaac? “Why” is recorded in verse 5: “because Abraham obeyed me and did everything (emphasis added)I required of him, keeping my commands, my decrees and my instructions.”
Did you catch that? Isaac was promised that he would receive incredible blessings because his dad had obeyed God and had done everything God required.
A couple of years later, in Genesis 26:24, we read, “That night the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bless you and will increase the number of your descendants for the sake of my servant Abraham.”
Again, God extended blessings to Isaac because of Abraham’s faithfulness.
And oh yeah, most of that obedience to God was before Isaac was even born.
We’ve heard about the blessings for ourselves if we follow God – especially eternal life in the Kingdom of God. We don’t often think of the blessings for our descendants because of our faithfulness to God.
When I was young, my dad would have us memorize scripture. One of those verses he had us memorize was Psalm 37:25 which says, “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.”
I think the point my dad was trying to make was that we needed to be righteous, and God would never forsake us. But I remember thinking something like this at the time: “I’m glad my dad is righteous, because in spite of my not necessarily being righteous, I will be blessed because of my dad’s righteousness.”
Now that I’m old, I recognize that the decisions I made, and the example I demonstrated had an impact (for good or for bad) on my kids. As a result, they have picked up both some of my good traits and some of my bad traits. I wish now that I had demonstrated more good examples and fewer bad examples – not only for my own benefit, but also for the benefit of my children.
Now let’s talk about you. It doesn’t matter if you’re a teen, a parent, a grandparent, young, or old. The most important thing you can do with your life is to obey God, and do everything He requires. This will guarantee you eternal life in God’s coming kingdom, and may also give you many blessings in this life (not necessarily including health and wealth). But in addition to your blessings, you may also pass along an inheritance of faithfulness to God to your kids – even those unborn. And then they too can have incredible blessings.
So, if you love your kids, obey God.
What are all the benefits/blessings you see to obeying God? Which have you already enjoyed? Which are you still looking forward to?
How are you doing in the faithfulness department? Will God be able to tell your descendants that you obeyed Him, did everything He required, and followed His laws?
God had promised Abraham, in Genesis 17:19, “Your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.”
At this point, Abraham was over 100 years old, and had faithfully followed God. In Genesis 12, Abraham obeyed when God told him to leave his country and family. Abraham allowed Lot to take the lush land around Sodom in Genesis 13, and trusted God to provide for his own flocks and herds on barren mountains. In Genesis 15, Abraham trusted God’s promise that he would have a son in his old age, and God counted that faith as righteousness.
In Genesis 22:2, we find God commanding Abraham, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.”
This doesn’t make sense. God had explicitly promised that God’s promises to Abraham would be passed down through Isaac’s descendants, and now God was commanding Abraham to sacrifice him – apparently destroying the promise He had made to Abraham.
By this point, Abraham had developed a very close relationship with God. In fact, we’re told 3 times in the Bible that Abraham was God’s friend (2 Chron 20:7, Isaiah 41:8, James 2:23) – and as far as I know, Abraham is the only person in the Bible of whom this is said.
We’re told in Hebrews 11:19 that Abraham reasoned that God was able to raise the dead, and that He was going to keep His promise.
So early the next morning, Abraham took Isaac and 2 servants and left for the place God told him to go. When they got close, Abraham told the servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and we (emphasis added) will come back to you.”
As they got even closer, Isaac asked his dad, “The fire and wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”
Can you imagine how this must have broken Abraham’s heart, looking down into his son’s questioning face, knowing that in a few minutes he would be killing his beloved son, who would be the offering? Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb.” (Actually, God had provided Isaac – as a miracle baby in his parent’s old age.) When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar, arranged the wood, tied up Isaac, and laid him on the altar.
As he was getting ready to kill Isaac, the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and stopped him. Abraham then saw a ram caught in the brush by its horns, and sacrificed it instead. God then promised Abraham, as recorded in Genesis 22:16-18, “I swear by myself, declared the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore… and through your offspring, all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”
I could point out all the similarities of Abraham’s being willing to sacrifice his son Isaac, and God being willing to sacrifice His Son, Jesus. I could point out the significance of another quote from this chapter, “Jehovah Jireh – on the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.” (This was the mountain where Soloman’s temple was built hundreds of years later.) I could point out the importance of obeying God, and the benefits that result.
Instead, I want to comment on who, when, where, how, and why of God’s provision.
Who: God tested Abraham with a very difficult test even after a life of serving God. We see that God provided the ram in this case only after Abraham trusted and obeyed God – even though it didn’t make sense. Assertion: God provides for those who trust Him and obey Him.
When: God provided for Abraham at the very last minute, not before. We’re told in Hebrews 4:16 that we will “receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Assertion: God provides precisely when we need something, not when we think we need it. (i.e. according to God’s timing.)
Where: God provided for Abraham only after Abraham went where God told him to go, and after he obeyed everything God told him to do. Assertion: God will provide if we are where He wants us to be. We should have no expectation of receiving God’s provision if we aren’t where He wants us to be.
How: God didn’t send an angel from heaven with an offering for Abraham to sacrifice, God provided a normal ram, caught in a normal thicket, by it’s normal horns. And God didn’t send a whole flock of sheep, just one ram, because that was all that was needed. Assertion: God will usually provide in ways that are very natural – don’t look for miracles.
Why: In times of testing, it’s easy to only think about our problems, and focus on, “why is this happening to me?” I think there may be two general reasons why trials come. First, we are told in Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Note that this only applies if we are living according to His purpose. Also note that trials are by definition difficult, and won’t seem to be beneficial at the time. Second, ultimately, everything is for God’s glory. Isaiah 43:7 says, “everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory…” We see an example of this with God destroying Pharaoh and his army for God’s glory in Ex 14:4, 17. Assertion: God allows trials and gives provision for our good and for His glory.
The bottom line is, if we are faithfully following God, times of testing will come. If we remain true to God, if we are where He wants us to be, and if we are obedient to Him, he will provide what we need (not necessarily what we want), at the very last minute, usually through normal means – and this is for our good. If we aren’t following God, the times of testing may just be to bring Glory to Him. I’d rather be in that first group. How about you?
Abraham’s thoughts and feelings aren’t recorded much in Genesis, what do you think he may have been thinking and feeling on that 3 day trip to where God wanted him – and after? What similarities do you find in Psalm 11?
How and when has God provided what you needed? What did you learn about God from that experience?
Is there anything that you may be holding onto too tightly, loving more than God? How can you practice trusting and obeying God and not withholding from Him?
What did God reveal about Himself to you in your reading of His words today?
Yes, indeed. You can be guaranteed, God sees (you can review yesterday’s devotion if you missed it). For many people in innumerable situations across the centuries, the fact that God sees has given reassuring peace and comfort. The oppressed, the grief-striken, the helpless, the victim, and the fatherless have all been introduced to the God who sees and His Son who changes lives.
In today’s Psalm 11 it even records, “He observes the sons of men; his eyes examine the sons of men. The LORD examines the righteous.” (Psalm 11:4b, 5a NIV). He examines the righteous – that’s much more than a casual “see” and walk on. It gives me a picture of a kind, thorough, knowledgeable doctor. He has listened to your list of ailments and what you hypothesize might be needed but his careful examination will reveal the true issues and in wisdom he will prescribe and deliver what you really need at just the right time. “The LORD examines the righteous.”
It is a comforting first half of Psalm 11:5. The verse doesn’t end there. We are reminded that it is not ONLY the righteous God sees. And when he sees the unrighteous – he also takes action. “…but the wicked and those who love violence his soul hates. On the wicked he will rain fiery coals and burning sulfur, a scorching wind will be their lot. For the LORD is righteous, he loves justice; upright men will see his face” (Psalm 11:5b-7 NIV).
God loves justice.
In our Genesis passage we see God seeing Sarai and Abraham. He has been promising that Abraham will be the father of many descendants, a great nation and kings. But they are old – with no child of their own. Sometimes it’s hard to keep believing that God sees. God reminds them, “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” (Genesis 18:14 NIV). Sarai tries to get away with a little lie – saying she didn’t laugh at the crazy idea that within the year she, an old woman, would have a baby. But God sees even the little laugh. He examines the righteous (not the perfect – but the righteous). Don’t try to fool the all-seeing God.
Then the story turns…to God preparing to visit Sodom, a city full of sin . He has heard of their wickedness. Is it time for Him to act? Is it time for justice? We will have to see tomorrow when we read Genesis 19. But, if you want a little hint, recall what the Psalmist said regarding what God will do to the wicked: he will rain fiery coals and burning sulfur. Even in our Matthew passage, where Jesus is preparing his disciples to go out into the towns of Israel, knowing full well that many will not accept them or the message they bring, he references Sodom and judgment.
God does see.
It is reassuring to the righteous.
It is judgment for the wicked.
What does He see in you?
He isn’t fooled. He sees. He examines. He loves justice.
What does God see in you? What might His examination reveal are your true ‘health needs’ to be addressed, and the remedies He is offering? Are there any areas where you have been trying to lie to God?
Matthew 10 is one of those chapters you could read every day for a week or more and still find new insight. Jesus is preparing his disciples to share the good news of the kingdom in a world that sometimes/often rejects it. What is helpful for you to hear from Jesus? Are we to just give up and keep silent if the world rejects the message?
In today’s Scripture reading you see God is ________.
We are a week into our Bible reading plan for 2023. What are your thoughts so far? I have enjoyed reading Scripture and searching for what God is revealing about Himself in the words He inspired the authors to write. Previously, I have most often looked at the Bible as an instruction manual for life, and as such it is extremely valuable. I, for one, need a good bit of direction in my life! And while there are a lot of instruction manuals out there, I want to use God’s directions rather than the world’s. But I am realizing His words are so much more! They allow us the privilege to know God – really KNOW Him. What He likes, what He doesn’t like, what He IS like, what He does, what He doesn’t do, what He will do, what He desires, what thrills Him, what makes Him angry, what He plans, what He promises, what He controls, what He doesn’t control, even if He could. These are the things you would want to know about someone if you were considering entering into a serious relationship. It goes much deeper than knowing a name, a pronoun and 6 descriptive adjectives and thinking that we now know that person.
So, why is it important to really KNOW God? I am reminded of a very sad passage in Romans. It begins by saying all men should know there is a God because of the works of His glorious creation. Yes, we should. But, we know of too many who don’t. What went wrong? “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their reasonings, and their senseless hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and they exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image…Therefore God gave them up to vile impurity…For they exchanged the truth of God for falsehood, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.” (Romans 1:21-25 NASB)
So many today have been at a point where they would say there is a God, but because they didn’t honor Him or give Him thanks, it was easy to turn their backs on Him and become fools and be given over to sin and judgment. When we SEE God for who He is and really KNOW who He is, the true response is honor and thanks. We can not give an unknown being genuine honor and thanks. The best list of rules won’t save us. If you don’t have a serious relationship with the author of the best instruction manual in the world, the words will be lost, neglected and even despised. It is time, for us and our children, to get to KNOW God Almighty – so we will honor Him and give thanks and be serious about our relationship with Him.
So, that’s one reason I am enjoying getting to know the author of this great instruction book more and more. In our Old Testament readings we are just finishing with the events of Noah’s life. What did you learn about God from Genesis 6-9? There isn’t one set of correct answers. But some of the things I jotted in my journal over the past few days include:
He feels pain – He sees evil in His creation.
He plans destruction of evil – but He still sees and gives favor to those who walk with Him and are righteous.
He is detail-oriented, gives precise directions that work well. He’s a good ship designer (that means He’s smart).
He creates covenants to save.
He saves families.
It happens as God said it will. He is trustworthy and true.
He controls the floodgates and springs. He controls the animals. He controls the winds. He is powerful.
He blesses with fruitfulness and children.
He gives plants and animals to eat.
He made man in His own image (How many times will we read this – how many times will we ignore it? Trading the truth of the creator was part of the lie spoken of in Romans. I think that makes it important. Thank you God for making us in Your image – you are incredible to make us – and super generous to make us in YOUR image!)
He will demand an accounting for the life of men. He values life, every life.
He makes covenants. He remembers His covenants. He created the rainbow.
If you haven’t tried it yet – I encourage you to give it a go. Read at least one of today’s passages, searching for what you can learn of God. What is He like? What does He like? What did He do? What will He do? It will give you reason to give Him glory and thanks. It will prepare you for a serious relationship with Him – for all eternity.
What’s in it for me? What are the benefits to having a serious relationship with God, rather than just agreeing that there is a God out there somewhere?
Do you believe God created you and the world? Does it matter?
If you’ve tried it – what did God reveal about Himself in your reading so far this week, or today? If you haven’t tried it yet – now is the time. Ask Him, God – what do you want to show me about yourself? And then dig in, seeking Him. When He shows you a bit of Himself, how will you express your honor, glory and thanks?
Cheese. If I had to pinpoint a single food that will assure tossing and turning, vivid dreams, and even a bit of snoring, all it takes is a serving size before bed and a restless night is almost guaranteed. Nevertheless, if cheese alone caused distress in my sleep, it simply would take some discipline in my diet to cure this issue. My resting is subjected to more interruptions. The rumblings of my mind often disturb the counting of sheep more than the rumblings in my gut. Thinking about the stresses of work, school, family or reliving the failings of my day can be the late night double feature playing inside my head. Without the perspective that comes from God, it is hard to find rest.
“Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” Genesis 4:6-7
“Tremble and do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent. Offer the sacrifices of the righteous and trust in the Lord.” Psalm 4: 4,5
Like Cain, the source of this restlessness often stems from some type of disconnection from God. We are hanging on to something that the eternal God has made clear is His area of reckoning. Our past. Our future. Our sin. Our fear. Our stress. Our anger. All of these are the cheese that is gumming up the works of the rest we can find in God even when we are weak and heavy laden. Continually turning towards the issues provides anything but relief, further stalling your slumber. Furthermore, sin is waiting outside our door when we choose to act without the “green light” of God’s will. Instead of searching your finite mind for an answer, humble yourself and seek the face of the infinite God.
This works well beyond the confines of your covers. It can be found behind a steering wheel when you are driving away from another argument, sitting at a desk reminded of the endless list of things that you won’t get done today, or kneeling behind a closed door drowning in depression of loss. The solution is the same in all situations: worship God Almighty. When we are reminded of who He is, we don’t have to hold the answer because He has readied one and is holding onto us. While it’s possible to receive revelation in these moments (James states that our God gives wisdom generously to all without finding fault), the answer we may receive is His presence into our mercy, fears, and shortcoming, which is the relief we so desperately need to quiet our minds and catch a few winks. The silence is not rejection or a stalling tactic. The silence is the peace that comes from trust in the Lord so you can rest in peace.
“In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.” Psalm 4:8
Where could your life use a little more peace? Where have you looked for it?
What do we learn from the narrative of Cain and Abel regarding peace, and also the lack thereof? What do we learn from David’s example in Psalm 4?
In your Bible reading today, what do you discover about God and his character? Thank Him for it.
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.” Genesis 1:1-3
The origin of the universe is a topic of serious debate in both Christian and secular culture. There are many who spend their entire lives, tens of thousands of hours, dissecting chapter one of Genesis or looking for clues through a telescope of how we came to be. While I hope to shed some “light” and context to today’s reading, you will be disappointed if you are looking for a detailed outline of theory or a presentation of observable evidence; you have the wrong blogger. What has become apparent to me in my last couple of readings of Genesis is the simple significance of verse one of our sacred scripture. Whether you argue the lifetime of the universe or the age of earth is thousands or billions of years old, God wanted you to know the understatement of eternity: He created the heavens. He created the earth.
The newest estimates place the universe somewhere at 93 billion lightyears across. This space is filled with roughly two trillion galaxies, each containing millions of stars. It’s incomprehensible, without description, unfathomable to our miniscule minds. While there is “universal” truth when we look to the heavens (Psalm 8:1-4), it is no wonder God doesn’t bog us down with the details. The focus of this revealed narrative is on Earth; the light, the sky, the lands, the seas, the moon and sun, the animals, and finally, us. This makes perfect sense when we consider it was deliberately made for you and I to inhabit for eternity, not just for the handful of breaths that are in life as we know it.
“Then God said: Let us make human beings in our image, after our likeness. Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the tame animals, all the wild animals, and all the creatures that crawl on the earth. God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” – Genesis 1:26, 27
While all creation gives glory to God, much of it inspiring awe and wonder, we are the only creation that is directly made in the likeness of the Creator (Gen 1:26). The two-billion galaxy creating Heavenly Father has exalted you as the highest and most purposeful creation. Each one of your 100 trillion cells carry 3.2 billion pairs of unique DNA coding that makes you, you. Again, these are pretty profound and puzzling figures, speaking to the deliberate nature of God Almighty. Because we are made in his likeness, and through Christ are adopted as children of the Light, we have access to the God of the infinite expanse. And He is not only the God of initial creation, but the God of new creation. The same power that raised Christ from the dead, can be the power that lives in each one of us (Eph. 1:18-21). Jesus has let it be known that there is a place that is being prepared for us according to this new covenant, so we may not only have access to God, but to fully dwell with our Father, God and His son, Jesus Christ. Hallelujah – this is the plan from the beginning.
Where do you see God’s amazing qualities in His creation?
What does it mean to you that you are made in His image?
How would you describe the new creation (through Jesus)?
Today is a really fun day to ask – What does God reveal about Himself to you in Genesis 1 & 2? What difference does that make in your relationship with God? Throughout the rest of our Bible reading this year, take note each time God’s creating is mentioned, it might be more than you think. You can create a marking, such as a C in a circle, to add in your Bible margins or journal pages whenever you find reference to God creating.
Praise and thank Him for being the God he is!
(Editor’s Note: If you find yourself unsure of God’s creating – or enjoying more “proof” to share with others – keep searching. There are many scientific and well-researched articles with evidence pointing to the Creator of Genesis 1. You might be interested in starting with a series of devotions written for SeekGrowLove in January 2021 by Greg Landry. Click here for the first one.)
Next to the greatest story ever told, the story of Joseph is by far my favorite Bible story. There are so many valuable lessons one can learn from reading it. Some lessons that stand out to me are the sovereignty of God, the importance of trusting God even in the midst of tragedy and suffering, and the beauty and power of forgiveness.
I have often asked myself if I would have had Joseph’s attitude in the midst of a seemingly unending chain of absolutely horrific events. In spite of the terrible hand that he continued to be dealt, we don’t see him being consumed by anger, self-pity or a quest for vengeance. There’s something very powerful about Joseph’s unwavering faith in God that inspires me. He seems to possess a quiet assurance that everything is ultimately going to be okay.
In this 45th chapter of Genesis, we see Joseph revealing his true identity to his brothers. We know he had risen to a very prominent position of power as second in command of Egypt. The stage could have been set for him to get the “perfect revenge” against his brothers. We read in verse 5 right after Joseph reveals his identity to his brother: “And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.” I find it especially poignant that not only does Joseph not want to exact revenge in this situation, he actually chooses to comfort his brothers in this moment rather than “giving them what for.” We know from earlier scriptures that Joseph was clearly hurt by their previous actions, but he wants to spare them the hurt of being angry with themselves or beating themselves up because of their actions. He points them to an understanding of God’s sovereignty and that they were players in God’s plan.
How differently that 45th chapter of Genesis could have played out if Joseph had been bent on vengeance. Instead, we see the true beauty and power of forgiveness and a reminder that God is in control even in the midst of our darkest hours.
If we choose to be consumed with anger or self-pity, we miss the important lessons God is trying to teach us. We read in Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Perhaps the answer in those dark times is to focus on loving God even more deeply and purposely than ever before.
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
1) When you encounter hardships and tragedies, does your attitude reflect one of unwavering faith in God? If not, how can you further nurture and strengthen that faith so that it is at the ready when life’s storms come your way?
2) What action can help us love God more deeply and purposely than ever before?
3) What other lessons can you learn from the story of Joseph?