Jethro Advises Moses, Exodus 18:1-27

Praise be to the LORD, who rescued you from the hand of the Egyptians and of Pharaoh, and who rescued the people from the hand of the Egyptians. Now I know that the LORD is greater than all other gods, for he did this to those who had treated Israel arrogantly.” –Exodus 18:10-11

Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, had heard of God’s deliverance and protection of the Israelites. So he decides to pay Moses a visit. Not only is he anxious to hear from Moses himself, but he also aims to reunite Moses with his wife and sons. Shortly after his arrival, however, he observes a serious problem in Moses’ life. His wise advice enables Moses to keep his sanity as he balances his workload.

You may read Exodus 18:1-27 here: Bible Gateway.

The last mention of Moses’ wife and two sons—Zipporah, Gershom, and Eliezer—is in chapter four. We’re not told why Moses’ family separated. But one might reasonably guess that safety was a pressing concern for Moses. Or, perhaps the weight of leading Israel and confronting Pharaoh made him feel inept in his role as husband and father. Whatever motivated Moses to send his family away, Jethro’s visit is laced with concern and compassion.

After listening to Moses’ report, Jethro rejoices and praises God for His merciful acts toward Israel. For the first time, perhaps, Jethro acknowledges God’s superiority over all other gods. This is an unusual event since Midianites often indulged in idolatry (Numbers 25:17-18; 31:16).  But Jethro demonstrates his newfound faith by offering sacrifices to God before sharing his sacrificial meal.

Jethro’s Advice

In her post, Moses and Jethro, Vivian Mabuni writes: “We need someone who will patiently build our trust by observing and listening without judgment. We need people to seek out our hearts, instead of quickly offering unsolicited advice. And should we be blessed with such a friend, may we learn from their wisdom and heed their advice. ‘Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.’” -Proverbs 19:20

“What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge?”

Jethro is baffled as he witnesses Moses’ attempt to solely govern nearly two million people. Moses’ response reveals his misconceptions about his leadership role.

As he observes Moses’ edging toward burnout, Jethro advises him to delegate most of the work to others. Then Moses could focus on the jobs most suited for him, primarily teaching the people God’s principles, precepts, and guidelines for problem solving.

Reflect

Moses failed to see the importance of having a strong network to support him. His sense of public duty overshadowed his sense of personal responsibility. But despite his failings, God blessed him through a loved one’s wise advice and continued to use Moses as Israel’s leader. As he learned to delegate, his stress decreased and the quality of government improved.

Jethro’s advice is timeless. Layman’s Bible Commentary challenges us with the following take-away: “How can you facilitate the ministry of others by encouraging and equipping them to do what they do best? Faith is required to trust God to enable you to do what He has called you to do. Faith is also required to enable you to leave what you should not do to others.”

Hmm. . . think I’ll be doing some more house and yard work delegation! 🙂 Have a wonderful week!

God Defeats Our Enemies, Exodus 17:8-15

In prayer it is better to have a heart without words than words without heart.” – John Bunyan

In our faith journey, we will not only face trials involving the necessities of life—as the Israelites did—but will also face battles involving our enemies. In this passage, Israel soon discovers they have a fierce enemy as they are attacked at Rephidim by the Amalekites. You may read Exodus 17:8-15 here: Bible Gateway.

Who were the Amalekites? This fierce nomadic tribe lived near the Dead Sea and made part of their livelihood through frequent raids. They would kill for pleasure before carrying off the booty. They were descendants of Amalek, a grandson of Esau (Jacob’s brother).

Despising spiritual things, Esau lived for himself. He is described as “a profane person” (Heb. 12:16). Our English translation of profane stems from the Latin and means “outside the temple,” which could be translated “unhallowed and common”. As Esau had threatened to kill Jacob (Gen. 27:41), his descendants also opposed Jacob’s descendants (Israel). Annihilation of Israel soon became their goal.

From a human standpoint, Israel defeating the Amalekites would appear next to impossible. For Israel had been enslaved in Egypt for the past 400 years (Gen. 15:13; Acts 7:6) and never had an army. (For an interesting read on Israel’s timeline see: How Long Were the Israelites in Egypt?.)

Gaining Victory

Moses was careful to give God all the glory for Israel’s victory by building an altar and naming it “The LORD is my Banner”.

Victory over Amalek wouldn’t have happened without God. Although He could have sent his angels to wipe out the enemy (Isa. 37:28), He chose to empower and use His people. God worked through and sealed the victory with Joshua’s leadership skills in conjunction with Israel’s army; and the intercession of Moses, Aaron, and Hur.

This is the first time that Joshua is mentioned in Scripture, but he will be mentioned two-hundred more times before Scripture ends (Wiersbe). Moses must have seen his aptitude for military leadership when he promoted him as his servant and general of Israel’s army.

Intercessory Prayer

Jews were accustomed to lifting up their hands during prayer (Ps. 28:2; 44:20; 63:4; 134:2; 1 Kings 8:22, 38, 54; 1 Tim. 2:8.) Total dependence on Jehovah’s authority and power was signified as Moses lift up God’s staff in his hands. When Moses’s hands came down, Amalek prevailed. But when his hands (and staff) stayed up, Israel prevailed.

Wiersbe notes: “We can understand how Joshua and the army would grow weary fighting the battle, but why would Moses get weary holding up the rod of God? To the very day of his death, he didn’t lose his natural strength (Deut. 34:7), so the cause wasn’t physical. True intercession is a demanding activity.”

Reflect

In the Christian life as we are told to “fight the good fight of faith” (1 Tim. 6:12). When we identify with Christ, His enemies become our enemies.

Our biggest enemy is Satan and his demonic army (Eph. 6:10-12). He often attacks believers after spiritual victories and/or special blessings. Warren Wiersbe offers a fresh perspective for the battle: “God can use those attacks to keep us from trusting the gifts instead of the Giver. . . . We need the battles of life to help balance the blessings of life; otherwise, we’ll become too confident and comfortable and stop trusting the Lord.”

Why God chooses to use humans to accomplish His purposes, I don’t know. But He does. Although He may choose fewer up front leaders such as Moses, or Billy Graham, He uses all of our efforts in intercessory prayer to win spiritual battles. He is looking for people who will continue steadfastly in prayer to share in the battle and help seal the victory (Rom. 12:12; Isa. 59:16).

“Joshua couldn’t have succeeded without Moses, but Moses couldn’t have prevailed without the support of Aaron and Hur,” (Wiersbe).

We can be like Aaron and Hur by “lifting up the hands” of our spiritual leaders not only through prayer, but also with words of encouragement, or helping shoulder their workload. . . . Have a great week!

Life is a Journey, Exodus 17:1-7

“Where are we going!?” My oldest son asks as we settle into our van after taking in a Mariner’s game. Weaving in and out of neighborhoods really isn’t the ideal route to the freeway entrance.

“I don’t know, but Google Maps is usually pretty accurate,” I assure him. But so far, Ms. Google seems to enjoy leading us on a wild goose chase. I don’t know why 20 minutes passes before the now obvious clue is processed: There is a sprawling bike path beside every meandering street Ms. Google leads us on.

Alas, the light-bulb flashes! (Okay, at least for my husband.)

“Is Google Maps on bike mode or car mode?”

I peer down at my phone. “Uh, that would be bike mode.” . . . . Despite our ignorance, we manage to laugh at ourselves. After all, our trip marked a special get-away as we celebrated my son’s and his team’s baseball state championship.

***

The Israelites did their own meandering. But instead of wandering throughout neighborhoods in a vehicle, they wandered through the Sinai wilderness. Although they didn’t have Google Maps, they had a far superior navigational guide: God Himself.

God led them through a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Although He knew the easiest and most direct route to the Promised Land, He led them instead where they would encounter difficulties. This passage marks the second time that God leads the Israelites to a place without water. About three months passed since He had miraculously delivered them from Pharaoh and his army. And now their celebratory mode faded with every dusty step.

You may read Exodus 17:1-7 here: Bible Gateway.

Why would God lead the Jews to Rephidim, where for the second time there was no water? Warren Wiersbe (Be Delivered) writes: “The Lord was still directing Israel into difficult and trying situations in order to prove His power and build their faith and character. After all, life’s journey involves much more than merely reaching a destination. If we aren’t growing in faith, in the knowledge of God, and in godly character, we’re wasting our opportunities.”

I wonder how many times they demanded: “Where are we going?” And, “Are we almost there?” before working themselves into an irrational desire to stone their leader (17:5)!

Wiersbe admonishes: “Every difficulty God permits us to encounter will become either a test that can make us better or a temptation that can make us worse, and it’s our own attitude that determines which it will be. If in unbelief we start complaining and blaming God, then temptation will trap us and rob us of an opportunity to grow spiritually. But if we trust God and let Him have His way, the trial will work for us and not against us (Rom. 8:28; James 1:12-15) and help us grow in grace.”

On the bright side, Moses held true to his unfailing resource: God. He called on Him for help. The Lord instructed him to take the staff that symbolized His power, along with some elders, and strike the rock in the sight of the Israelites. As Moses obeyed, the water streamed out. God once again graciously met both the people and their livestock’s needs.

I always wondered how the Israelites could doubt God when He so powerfully worked miracles on their behalf and led them in such an obvious way. But Scripture tells us that their hearts were hard. Instead of submitting to God, they rebelled against Him. As a result, God disciplined them by making them wander in the desert 40 years. Sadly, the older generation remained unbelieving throughout their entire wilderness journey (Ps. 95:6-11; Heb. 3). Consequently, they never did enter the Promised Land.

Reflect

Wiersbe offers a good challenge to help us identify our past attitudes during trials: “On the map of our lives, how many places ought to be named ‘Testing and Quarreling’ because of the way we’ve complained about our circumstances and failed to trust God?”

I know I haven’t always associated difficult circumstances as being a test from God. I also know I’ve failed a few tests. But after digesting this section, hopefully I’ll be more discerning and better equipped.

I hope you are enjoying spring. We’re finally getting some much wanted sunshine. 🙂

Remembering God’s Lessons, Exodus 16:32-36

Teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” –Psalm 90:12

A family whom I went to church with as a teenager recently lost their son to a rare kidney disease. He was 32. Though my heart mourns for their loss, I rejoice that he knew the Lord and committed his life to Him. He is now pain-free and no doubt rejoicing in our Savior’s arms.

I’m reminded that life is short. Only God knows our last day here on earth. In comparison to eternity, we only have a brief time to apply the lessons that God teaches us.

In this passage, God instructs the Israelites to put some manna in a special jar as a reminder to future generations of His provision in the desert. You may read Exodus 16:32-36 here: Bible Gateway.

Warren Wiersbe, (Be Delivered), writes: “The instructions in verses 33-34 anticipate the giving of the law (or ‘testimony’; 31:18; 32:15) and the making of the ark of testimony (25:16, 22; 26:33) and the construction of the tabernacle. The information in 16:35 was added years later to complete the account. At that time, Moses wouldn’t have known how many years Israel would march in the wilderness.”

Later in Scripture we learn that the ark of the testimony served as God’s throne—in the Holy of Holies—inside the tabernacle of the Israelites’ camp. God made sure that two tablets of the law, Aaron’s rod, and the golden jar of manna (Heb. 9:4) were placed inside the ark.

Although the high priest was the only one who could enter the Holy of Holies once a year, the Jews knew of the the ark’s contents. These symbols reminded the nation important truths about God: He is both King and Lawgiver; He established the priesthood; and He lovingly provided for His people. Jewish parents were to teach their children these truths.

Reflect

(Pinterest)

In our busy lives it’s easy to forget the lessons we’ve learned through God’s dealings with us. Symbols are a powerful reminder of God’s work in Christian worship, as long as they don’t become objects of worship themselves. Some people journal during their quiet time. Others write notes in their Bible margins, or post a picture that reminds them of a truth, or blog. 🙂

Whatever reminds us of life’s important lessons, it’s important that we apply the learning so we might walk with God in obedience because . . . .

Life is short.

The School of Life (Part 3), Exodus 16:16-31

Since God is not the author of confusion (1 Cor. 14:33), whenever He starts something new, He always gives the instructions necessary to make the venture successful. If we obey His instructions, He will bless, but if we disobey, there will be disappointment and discipline. The principle is still ‘Let all things be done decently and in order.’” – Warren Wiersbe

You may read Exodus 16:16-31 here: Bible Gateway.

The gathering of the manna. God first instructed the Jews to gather enough manna daily for each person in the family. By pooling their daily supply together, family members never lacked for nutritional sustaining meals to equip them for their day’s trek in the wilderness.

(Sweet Publishing/FreeBibleimages.org)

Since the desert sun would melt the manna, the Jews arose early to gather this heavenly bread. Wiersbe points out an important lesson here: “We must start the day with the Lord, gathering spiritual food from the Word, because it we wait too long to meet God, the day will become cluttered, we’ll get distracted, and we’ll suffer from spiritual malnutrition.”

The keeping of the manna. Although Moses warned the Israelites to not save some manna so they could sleep in the next morning, some did so anyway. As a result, maggots were attracted to the rotting manna. Wiersbe again gives a personal warning for God’s people today: “We can’t hoard His Word and try to live on yesterday’s spiritual nourishment. . . . There’s no substitute for a daily time alone with God, gathering fresh nourishment from His Word.”

Manna for the Sabbath. While the Sabbath is called “the seventh day” in Genesis 2:1-3—commemorating the Lord’s rest after six days of creation—Scripture first mentions the name Sabbath in Exodus 16:23. It appears that the Jews were taught to observe the Sabbath before God gave them the Ten Commandments.

Wiersbe writes: “The Sabbath was a day given especially by the Lord to the Jewish people as a reminder of His covenant with them (Ex. 20:8-11; 31:12-17; Neh. 9:13-15). The word Sabbath in Hebrew means ‘to cease working, to rest’ and is related to the Hebrew word for ‘seven’.”

The Jews were supposed to prepare their meals in advance, including the gathering of the manna, so they wouldn’t have to work on the Sabbath. On the sixth day, they were permitted to gather twice the amount of manna. God not only miraculously showered down the manna, but also miraculously kept it from rotting on the Sabbath.

However, there were some who failed God’s test of obedience as they searched for manna on the Sabbath. This insult to the Lord showed Him that those who disobeyed his instructions regarding the simple gathering of manna would most likely disobey His statutes and laws that He prepared to give them.

Question of the Day

As God tested the Israelites with instructions for the manna, where might God be testing you in the area of obedience?

The School of Life (Part 2), Exodus 16:4-18

Consider yourself fortunate when God all-powerful chooses to correct you.” -Job 5:17 (CEV)

Last week I shared from Warren Wiersbe’s book, Be Delivered, that we should expect trials. God tests, but never tempts. Through testing, He searches our hearts and reveals to us what is in our hearts (Dt. 8:10). He also sometimes shakes things up to correct and perfect us (Heb. 12:8-11; 1 Pt. 5:10; Rom 5:3-4).

After God performed miracles in the wilderness, the Israelites trusted Him intensely. But in the heat of trials, their trust soon melted into more grumbling.

You may read Exodus 16:4-18 here: Bible Gateway.

Trust God to Supply the Need  

God heard the Israelites’ complaints and mercifully met their needs. He would rain down bread in the morning and meat by evening. In giving these provisions, He was also testing their belief and obedience.

God’s Promises

I am borrowing from Warren Wiersbe’s wisdom again, (now that’s a tongue twister!)

As we journey through life, we live on promises and not explanations. Wiersbe explains: “When we hurt it’s a normal response to ask ‘Why?’ but that is the wrong approach to take. When we ask that question we’re assuming a superior posture and giving the impression that we are in charge and God is accountable to us. God is sovereign and doesn’t have to explain anything to us unless He wants to. Asking ‘why?’ also assumes that if God did explain His plans and purposes to us, we’d understand perfectly and feel better.”

Job is an example of repeating: “I’d like to meet God and ask Him a few things!” But when God does visit Job, Job is so overwhelmed with His presence that He doesn’t ask anything (Job 40:1-5). Wiersbe concludes: “Can we begin to understand the plans and ways of God when His ways are far above us and His wisdom unsearchable (Isa. 55:8-9; Rom. 11:33-36)? Explanations don’t heal broken hearts, but promises do, because promises depend on faith, and faith puts us in contact with the grace of God.”

God’s Glory  

When the going gets tough it’s natural to ask God to get us out of the situation. But He desires that we ask Him: “What can I get out of this?” Wiersbe writes: “God permits trials so that He can build godly character into His children and make us more like Jesus. Godliness isn’t the automatic result of reading books and attending meetings; it also involves bearing burdens, fighting battles, and feeling pain.”

Israel would have glorified God if they walked by faith and focused on Him, not on their own appetites. God desires our trust not only when things go well, but also when things go wrong. This involves a choice: trust God intentionally, or resent His way and rebel.

When we choose to trust God through the storms, He receives the glory and we enjoy His presence. We’re also made more into His likeness.

God’s faithfulness 

God not only provided abundant quail, but also made a sweet spread in the wilderness as He shared “the bread of angels” with His people (Ps. 78:17-25; Ex. 16:31). Manna—man hu in Hebrew from the question: “What is it?”—would be the Israelites’ food for the next 40 years.

God’s Son

(christianphotos-jesusimages.blogspot.com)

After Jesus had fed more than five thousand people with five barley loaves and two small fish, a crowd in Capernaum’s synagogue wanted Him to prove Himself as Messiah by replicating the miracle of manna (John 6:30-31). They mainly followed Jesus because He gave them food to eat. But they—like us—needed something more substantial than food for their bodies. They needed food for their souls (Isa. 55:2).

Jesus declared that He was “the true bread” that came down from heaven. God may have only given Israel manna in the desert, but He gave His only Son, Jesus, for the whole world.

The manna in Exodus was a picture or type of God’s Son. Jesus came to give Himself as the Bread of Life for hungry sinners. The only way to be saved from eternal death is to receive Him into our inner being, similar as the body receives food. Wiersbe puts it this way: “Just as the Jews had to stoop and pick up the manna, and then eat it, so sinners must humble themselves and receive Jesus Christ within. The Jews ate the manna and eventually died, but whoever receives Jesus Christ will live forever.”

Another application to the miracle of manna is the exercise of daily “feeding on Christ” by reading His Word and obeying. Although the Jews in the synagogue thought Jesus was literally speaking about eating His flesh and blood (John 6:52-56), Jesus made it clear that He was referring to receiving His Word (vv. 61-63).

Blessings this Easter as we celebrate our resurrected Lord and King!

The School of Life (Part 1), Exodus 15:22-16:3

Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men and women. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks.” –Phillips Brooks (American preacher and Episcopal bishop, 1835-1893)

Perhaps Philips Brooks had the Israelites in mind when he spoke these words to his Boston congregation. For the Israelites began to grumble and whine about returning to Egypt whenever they encountered trials. Their joyful worship of God after crossing the Red Sea failed to connect with daily trust of God’s provision during their wilderness walk.

You may read Exodus 15:22-16:3 here: Bible Gateway.

It’s easy to look down on the Israelites’ grumbling attitude, especially after their miraculous crossing of the Red Sea. I’m missing out, however, if I don’t look beyond their faults. Am I any different? Do I sing praises to God on Sunday, only to complain about my circumstances during the week? Have I recently won a spiritual battle only to find myself losing the victory like the Jews in their journey toward Mount Sinai?

Warren Wiersbe shares some great advice about the Israelites’ desert wanderings in his book, Be Delivered. I’m following his outline in this series.

Expect Trials to Come

Wiersbe writes: “God was testing His people, not because He didn’t know their hearts, but because they didn’t know their own hearts. . . . ‘the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? (Jer. 17:9).’ The Lord tests us to encourage spiritual growth and bring out the best in us, but the Devil tempts us to bring out the worst in us and to encourage spiritual immaturity. The attitude that we take toward our difficulties determines which direction life will go, for what life does to us depends on what life finds in us. If we trust God and obey His Word, we’ll pass the test and grow, but if in unbelief we complain and disobey the Lord, we’ll fail the test and remain immature (James 1:12-18; Heb. 12:1-11).”

I know I’m guilty multiple times of trying to avoid or smooth over situations that create conflict or produce pain. I’d rather be sailing in the Caribbean while soaking up the sunshine and sipping my strawberry soda. But the truth is: Life is a journey where we must fight new battles and learn new lessons. We need new experiences that challenge us. And God knows best how to tailor these challenges to help us grow and glorify Him.

“What shall we drink?” (15:22-27). This question, along with: “What shall we eat?” (16:1-3) were at the forefront of the Israelites’ minds. Although they had forgotten their bondage and beatings while enslaved in Egypt, they remembered Egypt’s “flesh pots” that filled their stomachs.

Now their challenge consisted of traveling three days in the desert—with children and animals—without water. Not a pleasant experience! On the third day they came across water, only to find it was bitter, (Marah means “bitter”).

Unlike the Israelites who complained and accused Moses and Aaron of leading them into the wilderness to die, Moses acted in faith. He cried out to God and then obeyed.

Wiersbe concludes: “God can solve our problems by changing things (like making the bitter waters sweet), by giving us something else (like the wells of water at Elim), or by giving us the grace we need to bear with our difficulties and not complain. The third approach is what produces lasting spiritual growth (2 Cor. 12:7-10). . . .Note to self . . . . The Jews not only learned something about themselves and about life, but they also learned something about their God, that He is ‘Jehovah-Ropha, the Lord who heals’ (15:26). God promised Israel abundant physical blessings if they would obey Him, but physical afflictions if they disobeyed (Deut. 7:12-15; 28). These promises were a part of the old covenant with Israel and aren’t repeated in the new covenant for believers today. If it is His will, God is certainly able to heal every disease, but our attitude must always be, ‘Not my will but Thy will be done.’”

(surveyofchrisianity.com)
In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus—knowing the intense suffering that lay before Him—modeled this prayer three times. Instead of complaining or questioning God, He simply prayed: “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will,” (Matthew 26:39b). What incredible love and obedience!

Thankfully, God knows how to balance our life experiences. He alone knows how much we can take. Although God gives us trials to humble and grow us, He also pours out rich blessings to encourage—just as He did by leading His people to the restful place of Elim with lots of water.

The Song of Moses and Miriam, Exodus 15:1-21

The LORD is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation.” –Exodus 15:2

There is no record of the Israelites praising God when enslaved in Egypt. Their journey out consisted mostly of complaints. But now with their freedom secured and their enemies drowned, the Israelites burst into an epic praise song led by Moses.

Some say this is the oldest recorded song in the world. Miriam, Moses and Aaron’s sister, (also called “prophetess”), leads a special choir of Jewish women with tambourines and dancing as she repeats the first words of the song.

You may read Exodus 15:1-21 here: Bible Gateway.

The following four stanzas make up this praise hymn.

1) God’s victory announced (vv. 1-5). Pharaoh had ordered the Jewish boy babies to be drowned, but now God gives him what he dished out. I imagine the Jews sang from their hearts: “I will sing to the LORD, for he is highly exalted. The horse and its rider he has hurled into the sea . . . . The deep waters have covered them; they sank to the depths like a stone. . . . They sank like lead in the mighty waters . . . . In the greatness of your majesty you threw down those who opposed you. You unleashed your burning anger; it consumes them like stubble.”

 Verse 3 might take some by surprise: “The LORD is a warrior; the LORD is his name.” Interestingly, one of God’s names is “Jehovah-Sabaoth,” which means “Lord of hosts, Lord of armies.” Throughout the Old Testament, this title is referenced 285 times.

Warren Wiersbe (Be Delivered) writes: “If there is in this world an enemy like Satan, and if sin and evil are hateful to God, then He must wage war against them. ‘The LORD will march out like a might man; like a warrior he will stir up zeal; with a shout he will raise the battle cry and will triumph over his enemies’ (Isa. 42:13). Jesus Christ is both the Lamb who died for our sins and the Lion who judges sin (Rev. 5:5-6), and one day He will ride forth to conquer His enemies (19:11). To emphasize only ‘God is love’ (1 John 4:8, 16) and eliminate ‘God is light’ (1 John 1:5) is to rob God of His attributes of righteousness, holiness, and justice.”

2) God’s weapons are described (vv. 6-10). Although God doesn’t fight with conventional weapons, Moses uses human characteristics to describe God’s divine attributes: “Your right hand was majestic in power. . . . By the blast of your nostrils the water piled up. . . . You blew with your breath, O LORD, and the sea covered them.”

3) God’s character is exalted (vv. 11-16a). If any doubt of God’s power lingered in the Jews’ minds after the 10 plagues, His mighty deliverance left no room for disbelief. In this victorious moment they sang: “Who among the gods is like you, O LORD? Who is like you—majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?” Of course by now they knew the answer—no one!

This stanza continues to praise God for His power, His mercy of deliverance, His wise guidance, and His awesomeness in bringing fear into their enemies’ hearts. The Israelites anticipated this news of God’s deliverance would travel quickly, sparking fear in opposing peoples as they march toward the Promised Land.

4) God’s promises are fulfilled (vv 16b-18). This stanza reiterates that God purchased Israel and they are His people (Ps. 44:2; 80:8, 15; Isa. 5). It also looks forward to Israel’s conquest of Canaan. God would dwell with His people in glory when He places His sanctuary among them. The climax of this song points out that God is sovereign and eternal.

Unfortunately there’s more to this story. As the Israelites enter the wilderness “they soon forgot what He had done and did not wait for His counsel”, (Ps. 106:13).

***

So you won’t find Moses and Miriam in the following music video, but perhaps their descendants. 🙂 Presenting “Praise to Our God 5 Concert” – Lechu Nerannena LeAdonai (Let us sing to the Lord) from the Messianic Jewish Alliance of Israel.

Israel’s Future Success, Exodus 13:17-15:21

True faith depends on what God says, not on what we see or how we feel. It has well been said that faith is not believing in spite of evidence—that’s superstition—but obeying in spite of consequence.”  -Warren Wiersbe

Apart from Israel’s exodus being an interesting historical event, God has recorded Exodus for our benefit. Warren Wiersbe makes some great observations about Israel’s exodus experience in his book Be Delivered. He writes, “Israel’s exodus experience taught them that their future success lay in fulfilling three important responsibilities: following the Lord (Ex. 13:17-22), trusting the Lord (14:1-31), and praising the Lord (15:12-21).”

Following the Lord (13:17-22)

The exodus from Egypt was just the beginning of Israel’s experience with God.

It took one night to take Israel out of Egypt, but forty years to take Egypt out of Israel.” – George Morrison

This truth also applies to the redemption we have in Jesus Christ. God delivers us from the bondage of sin and spiritual death instantaneously through salvation. But it takes a life time to grow in our Christian walk as God brings us into eternal blessing.

Weirsbe writes: “A.W. Tozer used to remind us that ‘we are saved to as well as saved from.’ The person who trusts Jesus is born again into the family of God, but that’s just the beginning of an exciting adventure that should lead to growth and conquest. God liberates us and then leads us through the varied experiences of life, a day at a time, so that we might get to know Him better and claim by faith all that He wants us to have. At the same time, we come to know ourselves better; we discover our strengths and weaknesses, and we grow in understanding God’s will and trusting His promises.”

If Israel obeyed God, He would give them their inheritance by bringing them into the promised land (Deut. 4:37-38). Unfortunately, that would take the Israelites 40 years of wilderness wandering.

Trusting the Lord (14:1-31)

As the Israelites learned, sometimes God leads us on paths that don’t always make sense.

Wiersbe writes: “As long as the Israelites kept their eyes on the fiery pillar and followed the Lord, they were walking by faith and no enemy could touch them. But when they took their eyes off the Lord and looked back and saw the Egyptians getting nearer, they became frightened and began to complain.”

This seems to be Israel’s default button during their journey from Egypt to Canaan. But before criticizing them too much, maybe I should ask: “At what point does my default setting change from trust and contentment to unbelief and complaining?”

God wants us to “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). Like Peter walking on the water to Jesus (Matt. 14:30), I find that I rise above fear and doubt when my gaze is locked on Christ. But, like Peter, when my attention is focused on stormy circumstances, I sink in fear. And like the Jews who were sure they were going to die in the desert, I easily forget God’s promises when I don’t consistently read His directional guide, the Bible.

So what are we to learn from the Israelites’ example? Wiersbe writes, “Simply this: Life is a constant test of one’s faith in the Lord. As a child of God, every perilous situation I find myself in is no accident. It is the Lord’s way of asking us a very important question: ‘Will you trust Me?’ He asks, ‘Will you trust Me to deliver you from this perilous situation? . . . . And if I choose not to deliver you in the way that you desire, for reasons of My own, will you trust Me to provide you with the strength to endure, believing that: ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness?’” (2 Cor. 12:9).

We may not have God’s visible presence now, but we can trust His Word to direct our ways and get to know Him better through prayer. Through life’s storms we can anchor our trust in the mighty God who not only hears our cries, but also powerfully commands the impossible.

Praising the Lord (15:12-21)

With their freedom secured and their enemies drowned, the Israelites burst into a praise song led by Moses and Miriam. . . . But I best stop here and pick up on their praise and worship next week. . . . Blessings!

Israel’s Deliverance, Exodus 14:10-31

Moses answered the people, ‘Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.’” – Exodus 14:13-14

You may read Exodus 14:10-31 here: Bible Gateway.

Perhaps this is the first instance of the Israelites’ bitter grumbling as they accuse Moses of bringing them out of Egypt only to die in the desert. I wonder if the Israelites’ cries were louder than the pounding hoofs of the Egyptians’ horses as the men swept in for the kill.

Moses, however, tries to assure them that God will deliver. But Moses’ words seem to fade in the dust as the Egyptians draw closer. So Moses does what any normal person would do—cry out to God.

Although this passage of Israel passing through the Red Sea is one of the most popular and dramatic events recorded in the Old Testament, the following verse stood out to me: “Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on . . . . ‘” (v. 15).

Why would God tell Moses to stop praying and get moving? Aren’t we suppose to seek God in everything? Especially in times of great stress and uncertainty?

I found The Life Application Study Bible commentary helpful (and convicting!): “Prayer must have a vital place in our lives, but there is also a place for action. Sometimes we know what to do, but we pray for more guidance as an excuse to postpone doing it. If we know what we should do, then it is time to get moving.”

Layman’s Bible Commentary writes: “Moses knows that God has guided the Israelites to this place—between the Red Sea and the Egyptians. The pillar has led them there (13:21-22; 14:19), and God has explained His plan to Moses—so that He could gain glory through Pharaoh and his army (14:1-4). Moses knew that God had promised to bring the Israelites into the land of Canaan, which was across and beyond the Red Sea (Genesis 15:13-21; Exodus 3:7-8; 16-17; 6:4; 12:25; 13:5). Moses also knew that God had given him power through the use of his staff.”

Well, you know the rest of the story: God delivers Israel—once for all—from Pharaoh’s dominion in dramatic fashion; the nation of Israel is birthed; and the destruction of the Egyptians in the Red Sea is God’s culminating act of divine judgment.

I love the animation and visual effects from the “Prince of Egypt” movie. Enjoy!

 

Charting Israel’s Course, Exodus 13:17-14:9

When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, ‘If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.’ So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt armed for battle.” –Exodus 13:17-18

You may read Exodus 13:17-14:9 here: Bible Gateway.

While Egypt buried its dead, the Hebrew slaves left as a free people.

The Israelites left Succoth and camped first at Ethan before going to Baal Zephon to camp by the sea.

The shortest route would have been the road crossing through the Philistine country. But, as stated in the opening verses, God reasoned that He didn’t want them to face war and lose heart. This sounds strange since verse 18 tells us “The Israelites went up out of Egypt armed for battle”.  Layman’s Bible Commentary helps clarify: “The expression used here has been understood to refer only to the orderly way in which the Israelites (nearly two million people, counting women and children) departed Egypt. Others understand that the Israelites did come out of Egypt at least partially armed, but all seem to agree that Israel was not at all prepared to fight a full-scale battle at this point in time.”

To me, the coolest part of Israel’s departure was how God led them. “By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night.  Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people,” (13:21-22).

The Israelites must have felt safe and secure with God leading them in this visible manifestation. However, they probably questioned Moses’ directional sense when he told them to turn back and camp near Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea. But Moses was simply following God’s marching orders. Knowing that Pharaoh would think the Israelites are confused in the desert, God would harden Pharaoh’s heart and Pharaoh would predictably pursue them.

Sure enough, according to the NIV Life Application Study Bible, six hundred Egyptian war chariots bore down on the helpless Israelites as they found themselves trapped between the mountains and the sea (14:9).

But what appeared to be a foolish idea to the Israelites, God would use for His glory “and the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD,” (v. 4).

Reflect

Have you ever felt like you were treading backwards instead of moving toward your intended goal? I know I have. In retrospect I can sometimes see how God’s direction, which seemed confusing at the time, ended in blessing. Other times, I’ve just had to trust that He is working everything out for my good since He sees the end journey from the beginning.

I admit, during the confusing times I’ve thought: if I only had an obvious directional sign—like God leading the Israelites in a pillar of cloud and fire—then I would know God’s will!  But then God reminds me that the Israelites didn’t own a direction manual like we have in the Bible. God manifested His presence to them not only to show His visible presence, but also to protect and lead them on their journey to the promised land.

I’m reminded that we are not only blessed with access to God’s Word, but we also have the same assurance of God’s presence and leading. For example, God’s Word tells us how to discern His will:

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will,” (Romans 12:2).

And though we can’t see God, we read in Scripture: “He himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.  God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being,’” (Acts 17:25-28).

And when I flip over to Psalm 9:10, I’m reminded that no matter what we face, the Lord never forsakes those who seek Him. What a great assurance! So when in doubt, reroute, to God and the Bible that is. When we seek and pray, He’ll light the way. . . . Have a great week!

The Passover, Exodus 12-13:16

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, “This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year. Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household. If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbor, having taken into account the number of people there are. You are to determine the amount of lamb needed in accordance with what each person will eat.  The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight.  Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the door frames of the houses where they eat the lambs. That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast.” –Exodus 12:1-8

You may read Exodus 12-13:16 here: Bible Gateway.

God instituted the holiday of Passover. So begins God’s story of redemption, the central theme of the Bible. Redemption means “to buy back” or “to save from captivity by paying a ransom.” A slave could be purchased by offering an equivalent or superior slave in exchange. This is a picture of how God chose to buy us back from captivity to sin and spiritual death. But God didn’t purchase us with a superior slave.  Instead, He offered His perfect sinless Son so we could live with Him forever.

In Old Testament times, God accepted symbolic offerings: an animal’s life for the sinner’s life.

For the Israelites to be spared from the death plague, a lamb without defects had to be killed. God commanded its blood be placed on the door frames of each home. The innocent lamb was a substitute for the person who would have died in this final plague—another picture, or symbol, of Christ being our sacrificial Lamb.

God didn’t spare the firstborn of the Israelites because they were more righteous than the Egyptians, but rather by His grace alone. God also made provision for non-Israelites to participate in Passover if they acknowledged their faith in the Abrahamic Covenant, as demonstrated through circumcision (Genesis 17:9-14; Exodus 12:48-49). Since a large number of non-Israelites left Egypt with Israel (v 38), It’s likely that many Egyptians converted as a result of the plagues and were spared death through Passover’s provision.

The Passover is proof of God’s possession of Israel. The firstborn of Israel belonged to God as a result of the Passover, and all of Israel was God’s possession as a result of the Exodus. All of the commandments and requirements which God placed upon the Israelites were predicated upon the fact that they were a people who belonged to Him.” – Layman’s Bible Commentary

Like the redemption of the firstborn and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Passover was to become a permanent part of Israel’s religious liturgy (12:24-25). The Passover not only memorializes God’s mighty hand in Israel’s deliverance from slavery, but also serves as instruction and a reminder for Israel’s future generations (12:26-27; 13:8, 14-16).

Believers today also experience a deliverance and restoration to God. When Jesus came and ushered in the New Covenant, He made repeated animal sacrifice no longer necessary. His sacrificial death on the cross enables the believer’s redemption—deliverance from spiritual death and slavery to sin—through belief and trust in Him. By taking the penalty we deserve, Christ’s blood sacrifice covers us, sparing us from the spiritual death we deserve because of our sin (Titus 2:14; Hebrews 9:13-15, 23-26).

I found the following 38 minute video, “Christ in the Passover”, really interesting and insightful. David Brickner, Executive Director of Jews for Jesus, links the ancient Festival of Redemption and Christ as the Lamb of God in a meaningful visual sermon demonstration. If you have time, I encourage you to view it, especially as Passover draws closer. . . . Blessings!

Strike Ten: Death and Judgment, Exodus 11

So Moses said, “This is what the Lord says: ‘About midnight I will go throughout Egypt. Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the female slave, who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well. There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt—worse than there has ever been or ever will be again. But among the Israelites not a dog will bark at any person or animal.’”  -Exodus 11:4-7

The death of Egypt’s firstborn is the final plague that drives Pharaoh to release the Israelites.

(freebibleimages.org) You may read Exodus 11 here: Bible Gateway.

(freebibleimages.org)
You may read Exodus 11 here: Bible Gateway.

God’s judgment of sin is not a popular or comfortable subject. However, judgment is part of God’s divine revelation, although advocates for false religions will tell you otherwise. The plagues on Egypt—especially the slaughter of Egypt’s firstborn—don’t make for light reading. We’re reminded how seriously God takes sin. “This text insists that we examine and accept the meaning and application of God’s judgment at work in His creation and in the lives of His people,” (Layman’s Bible Commentary).

It’s good to keep in mind, however, that not all disasters and calamities are a result of sin. Job is a great example. His exemplary walk with God motivated Satan’s desire to destroy him. God, knowing how Job would respond, allowed Satan to fling his fiery afflictions on Job. But God used this adversity as a means of Job’s spiritual growth and immensely blessed him in the end.

God is not silent when punishing people for sin. “When He is silent at the time of the suffering of a saint, this is a test of faith, not an evidence of God’s judgment,” (Layman’s).

Layman’s Bible Commentary also observes the following perspectives on the severity of God’s judgment and the Egyptians:

  • God judged the gods of Egypt more than He did the Egyptians. Just as hell is the place prepared for Satan and his angels, so judgment here is for the Egyptian gods and whoever chooses to serve these gods.
  • God’s judgment may be intended to bring some of the Egyptians to a saving faith. The fact that some Egyptians leave Egypt with the Israelites (Exodus 12:38) gives substance to this possibility.
  • God’s judgment upon the Egyptians is the means of delivering His people from terrible bondage.
  • God’s judgment is poured out upon His own Son on the cross of Calvary, so that all mankind might be saved. God’s “severity” extended to His own Son. There was an alternative provided by God to suffering the plagues of Egypt—heeding God’s warning and doing as He commanded. God’s judgment could be avoided by faith and obedience.
  • Finally, these plagues are a prototype, a sample of God’s future judgment. They are like those which Israel will experience (Deuteronomy 28:27) if they disobey the law God is soon to give. There is much similarity between the plagues of Egypt and the plagues described in the book of Revelation, which are poured out upon the earth in the last days, preceding the return of the Lord. Thus, in Revelation we find the victorious tribulation saints singing the “song of Moses” (Revelation 15:3).

Next week, I’ll explore Israel’s first Passover in Exodus 12. . . . Have a great week!

Strike Nine: Darkness, Exodus 10:21-29

Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand toward the sky so that darkness spreads over Egypt—darkness that can be felt.’  So Moses stretched out his hand toward the sky, and total darkness covered all Egypt for three days. No one could see anyone else or move about for three days. Yet all the Israelites had light in the places where they lived.”  – Exodus 10:21-23 

(freeimages.com)

(freeimages.com)

I really can’t imagine being stuck in thick darkness for three days, nor do I want to. But the following story is my fictional piece of what it might have been like. You may read Exodus 10:21-29 here: Bible Gateway.

***

Pharaoh paced through the night as sleep evaded him. This morning, he would rid Moses and his slave brother once and for all. If it weren’t for them and their desert god, Egypt would still thrive as the most powerful and influential nation on earth. A prosperous nation resulting from his genius alone. For if it weren’t for him seizing the moment, Egypt would be no different from surrounding nations. But being a god gave him extraordinary vision. None of Egypt’s great cities would exist without his insight and direction. Didn’t he seize the opportunity by using the Hebrews? With zero down payment, the cities flourished. And wealth just his kept multiplying.

Until now.

Egypt’s rich, fertile land now lay in waste. What little vegetation remained after the hail soon became ravaged from the last plague of locusts.

Re the mighty sun-god should be rising by now. But Re did not rise in her glory. In fact—not that the Pharaoh or the Egyptians could accurately calculate—Re failed to dominate the Egyptian skies for three entire days. Instead, a heavy darkness fell upon the land. A darkness so thick that it could actually be felt, like being tangled in a damp heavy curtain on a cold rainy day.

Even the most jovial-hearted Egyptian couldn’t climb out of the deep pit of despair this newest plague inflicted.

None of the Egyptians dared leave their homes. For just to eat, drink, and relieve themselves proved to be the challenge of their lives. By the time it took Moses to reach Pharaoh—after being summoned—almost every Egyptian family had incurred some sort of injury due to their sudden loss of vision.

But the Israelites remained free from the dark pit that imprisoned the rest of Egypt.

“Go!” Pharaoh shouted to Moses. “Take your children, but leave your flocks and herds here.”

Moses replied in a flat, even tone: “Our livestock must go with us. For they are needed in the worship of our God.”

Pharaoh’s muscles knotted while wielding his sword. “Then you and your people will remain!” Stepping forward, he pressed the cold blade against Moses’ throat. “And if I ever see your face again, you’re as good as dead!”

Pharaoh’s threat only seemed to fuel Moses’ audacious stubbornness. “Fine, have it your way,” Moses said in a calm voice. But his face burned red before turning on his heel. “You shall never see my face again!”

Reflect

The NIV Life Application Study Bible notes: “As each gloomy plague descended on the land, the Egyptian people realized how powerless their own gods were to stop it. . . . Amon-Re, the sun-god and chief of the Egyptian gods, could not stop an eerie darkness from covering the land for three full days. . . . [In contrast to the Egyptian gods] the God of the Hebrews was: (1) a living personal Being, (2) the only true God, and (3) the only God who should be worshiped. God was proving to both the Hebrews and the Egyptians that He alone is the living and all-powerful God.”

Strike Eight: Locusts, Exodus 10:1-20

The previous hailstorm plague had destroyed Ancient Egypt’s flax and barley crops. But the spelt and wheat crops hadn’t matured yet, until now (9:31). The locusts would claim these crops.

(source: freeimages.com)

(source: freeimages.com)

The italic excerpts in the following story are from The Message Bible translation. Everything else is my fictional retelling of this passage.

You may read Exodus 10:1-20 (The Message) here: Bible Gateway.

***

Pharaoh sighed. He longed for the days when he received envoys from foreign lands. Diplomats use to gape in awe at his wealth and amazing open buildings. But of late, his world was falling apart at the seams.

Shasu. Moses—the insolent white haired Hebrew with smoky eyes—entered his throne room with his slave brother unannounced once again. He hated that his own guards and people were beginning to favor Moses, as though he was some kind of dignitary.

He’d love to rid these two for good. But how does one bargain or fight against their god? This desert deity powerfully commands water, animals, insects, wind, storms, and disease. At least Re, the sun god still favored him. As long as Re rose in the morning, so would he!

Aaron spoke without permission: God, the God of the Hebrews, says, ‘How long are you going to refuse to knuckle under? Release my people so that they can worship me. If you refuse to release my people, watch out; tomorrow I’m bringing locusts into your country. They’ll cover every square inch of ground; no one will be able to see the ground. They’ll devour everything left over from the hailstorm, even the saplings out in the fields—they’ll clear-cut the trees. And they’ll invade your houses, filling the houses of your servants, filling every house in Egypt. Nobody will have ever seen anything like this, from the time your ancestors first set foot on this soil until today,’” (vv. 3-5, The Message).

Moses and Aaron turned and left.

Pharaoh’s servants said to him, “How long are you going to let this man harass us? Let these people go and worship their God. Can’t you see that Egypt is on its last legs?”

 So Moses and Aaron were brought back to Pharaoh. He said to them, “Go ahead then. Go worship your God. But just who exactly is going with you?”

 Moses said, “We’re taking young and old, sons and daughters, flocks and herds—this is our worship-celebration of God.”

 He said, “I’d sooner send you off with God’s blessings than let you go with your children. Look, you’re up to no good—it’s written all over your faces. Nothing doing. Just the men are going—go ahead and worship God. That’s what you want so badly.” And they were thrown out of Pharaoh’s presence, (vv. 7-11).

Within the hour, a strong east wind blew in with a black, ominous cloud. The Egyptians held their breath, wondering what curse would befall them next. But it didn’t take long for everyone to realize this was no ordinary storm cloud looming over their land.

Locusts!

An army of whirring wings infiltrate and consume every building and field. So thick were the bugs, that the Egyptians couldn’t even see their neighbor. Every living plant that survived the hail storm was utterly demolished by millions of these ravenous creatures.

Pharaoh order Moses and Aaron be brought back to him.

He said, “I’ve sinned against your God and against you. Overlook my sin one more time. Pray to your God to get me out of this—get death out of here!”

 Moses left Pharaoh and prayed to God. God reversed the wind—a powerful west wind took the locusts and dumped them into the Red Sea. There wasn’t a single locust left in the whole country of Egypt.

But God made Pharaoh stubborn as ever. He still didn’t release the Israelites, (vv. 16-20).

Reflect

I didn’t include God’s instructions for Moses prior to meeting with Pharaoh (vs 1-2). But I think it’s worthy to note. God adds another reason for His powerful display of signs/plagues: “so you’ll be able to tell your children and grandchildren how I toyed with the Egyptians . . . . You’ll tell them the stories of the signs that I brought down on them, so that you’ll all know that I am God,” (MSG).

Warren Wiersbe writes (Be Delivered): “This purpose was also written into the Passover Feast. Whether in the family or the local church, it’s good for each new generation to learn and appreciate the way God has worked on behalf of previous generations.”

And although Pharaoh appears to humble himself before Moses and God in this passage, there is still no deal. . . . Have a wonderful week!

Strike Seven: Hail, Exodus 9:13-35

The first three plagues were unnerving (water to blood, frogs, gnats); the second three were wounding and costly (flies, death of livestock, boils). But the last four plagues would be perilous and devastating.

You may read Exodus 9:13-35 here: Bible Gateway.

Moses repeats God’s command for Pharaoh to let His people go to the desert for a special meeting. But the Lord also adds: The God of the Hebrews is about to release “the full force” of His plagues on Pharaoh, his officials, and the people (vs. 14).

This is the longest warning Pharaoh has received, perhaps because it would also be the most destructive plague so far. For the next day, God would send “the worst hailstorm that has ever fallen on Egypt” (vs. 18) if Pharaoh continues to disregard God’s command.

Some of Pharaoh’s servants are now believers of God. Those who heed Moses’ warning shelter their cattle, (the cattle that wasn’t killed in the fields during the fifth plague.)

True to God’s word, as Moses lifts his staff toward the sky the next day, the worst storm Egypt had ever witnessed breaks loose. Thunder echoes through the land. Hail and lightning not only destroy their crops, but also kill every man and animal in the fields.

“The only place it did not hail was the land of Goshen, where the Israelites were,” (vs. 26).

Although Pharaoh confesses his sin to Moses and said he would release the Israelites, his repentance proves insincere. Moses—knowing Pharaoh wasn’t about to let his people go—grants his request anyway as he prays that the storm would cease.

But Pharaoh “sinned again: He and his officials hardened their hearts . . . He would not let the Israelites go, just as the Lord had said through Moses,” (vs. 34-35).

Reflect

God is merciful and gracious. He doesn’t immediately give sinners what they deserve. Although God gives people second chances, He won’t tolerate persistent, rebellious sin forever.

God is merciful and gracious. He doesn’t immediately give sinners what they deserve. Although God gives people second chances, He won’t tolerate persistent, rebellious sin forever.

Moses probably felt like he was running a marathon. Every time he confronts Pharaoh, things just grow worse. But he persists in obeying God anyway. Is there a challenge or conflict that keeps blocking your way? Don’t give up in doing the right thing! As Moses discovers, God rewards persistence.

Strike Five and Six: Animals and Boils, Exodus 9:1-12

The word plague means ‘a blow, a stroke,’ and indicates that the hand of the Lord was punishing the Egyptians. The longer Pharaoh resisted God, the more serious the judgments became.” – Warren W. Wiersbe

While the first three plagues were unnerving (water to blood, frogs, gnats), the second three were wounding and costly (flies, death of livestock, boils).

You may read Exodus 9:1-12 here: Bible Gateway. The following is my fictional piece.

***

Pharaoh pace as he wait for his magi. The flies had vanished after Moses prayed to his god. But the threat from Moses and Aaron a couple of days ago about a deadly pestilence struck full force yesterday. Not only did the cattle of the fields die, but also the horses, donkeys, camels, and sheep that grazed in the pastures.

The most disturbing part, not a single beast from the Israelite clan contracted this deadly disease.

Pharaoh scratched his head. Had he offended his gods? He had never missed Opet’s great festival. Hadn’t he always revered Thoth, Ounnefer, Re, and Atum?

Why is mighty Apis allowing this cattle plague? Who is this desert deity that Moses keeps referring to as Lord? And why would he side with these low class slave people?

“Sir,” Pharaoh didn’t notice the servant entering the throne room. “We could only bring in one magi . . .”

“Ridiculous!” Pharaoh interrupted. “Where are the others? Bring them at once!”

The servant elbowed the magi forward—avoiding physical contact as much as possible—but the magi collapse to the floor. Pharaoh gagged. Who is this man? He resemble more of a writhing snake about to shed his dry skin. Wet yellow pus seep from his scaly blisters. Red bumps cover his entire body. His puffy eyes were swollen shut.

“Take him!” He pointed to the door. “Wh-what happened to him?”

“Sir, Moses scattered ashes into the air . . .”

“I know, he did it in my presence!”

“That’s when this dreaded disease came upon both the people and the animals.”

“Are the Israelites affected?”

“No Sir. I am told that none of the Israelites, or their animals, are suffering.”

Hmph! Who does Moses think he is . . . messing with a god like me?!

Pharaoh squeezed his servant’s arm hard. With flared nostrils, he shouted, “Tell Moses that I still refuse him and his hideous people passage to worship their god in the desert!”

Reflect

I love to focus on God’s love and mercy. But the truth is, God’s righteous character also includes anger and judgment. Proverbs 29:1 says, “Whoever remains stiff-necked after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed—without remedy.”

Even though the Egyptians were greatly suffering, Pharaoh continued in stubborn resistance to God and God’s servants.

(source: Facebook.com) The fear of God is the opposite of a hardened heart. Reverential fear and respect motivates us to obey God's commands (Prov. 9:10).

(source: Facebook.com)
The fear of God is the opposite of a hardened heart. Reverential fear and respect motivates us to obey God’s commands (Prov. 9:10).

The NIV Life Application Study Bible notes: God gave Pharaoh many opportunities to heed Moses’ warnings. But finally God seemed to say, ‘All right Pharaoh, have it your way,’ and Pharaoh’s heart became permanently hardened. Did God intentionally harden Pharaoh’s heart and overrule his free will? No, he simply confirmed that Pharaoh freely chose a life of resisting God. Similarly, after a lifetime of resisting God, you may find it impossible to turn to Him. Don’t wait until just the right time before turning to God. Do it now while you still have the chance. If you continually ignore God’s voice, eventually you will be unable to hear it at all.”

God’s Judgments and Pharaoh’s Response, Exodus 8:20-9:12

Through His servants, Moses and Aaron, God had been dealing with Pharaoh for months because of his oppression of the Israelites. First, came the plague of blood. Second, came the slimy frog invasion. The third plague manifested itself in a pesky gnat invasion.

But Egypt’s king still refuses to bend to God’s command, let alone acknowledge God’s authority.

The next six plagues would not only be painful, but also destructive. The final seventh plague would bring Pharaoh to his knees with the death of every firstborn son, including his own.

You may read  Exodus 8:20-9:12 here: Bible Gateway. How did Pharaoh respond to these judgments of God?

Warren Weirsbe’s study, Be Delivered (Exodus), offers the following observations of Pharaoh’s response to God’s judgments. Weirsbe challenges us to examine our own hearts while reading through these points; what is our response to God’s will?

Bargaining (8:20-32)

Pharaoh views Moses and Aaron as national nuisances. But even though he wouldn’t admit it, Pharaoh was the cause of Egypt’s troubles. “God was dealing with Pharaoh in mercy, wanting to bring him into submission, for it’s only when we obey God that we can truly enjoy His blessings. With one blow, God could have wiped out Pharaoh and the nation (Ex. 9:15), but He chose to give them opportunity to repent,” (Weirsbe).

God’s Warning (vv. 20-21)

Before sending seven of the ten plagues, God warns Pharaoh. He and his officials should have known that the God of Israel was in control of these spectacular events. For they happened exactly as God described. But Pharaoh persists in disobedience.

God’s Grace (v. 22)

The Jews would escape the last seven plagues, as God announces prior to the fourth plague of flies. “Only the great God of Israel could control the flight pattern of tiny flies and keep them from entering the land of Goshen. . . . During the time when Joseph was in Egypt, Pharaoh had given the land of Goshen to the Jews, and now God set it apart for His people. In this way God made a ‘division’ between His people and the Egyptians. The word translated ‘division’ in Exodus 8:23 means ‘a redemption, a ransom, a deliverance.’ Because they belonged to God in a special way, the Jews were ‘different’ from the Egyptians, but Pharaoh wouldn’t acknowledge this fact,” (Weirsbe).

God’s Wrath (v. 24)  ac4f6c0002af430218c1cfe9de8d96a3

The next day—true to God’s word—swarms of flies invade the land, homes, and Pharaoh’s palace. Not only are they annoying, but their diseased germs and egg deposits most likely ruined all the vegetation.

Some scholars believe the fly was very sacred to the Egyptian god Uatchit. So this would have been another strike toward their false gods.

Pharaoh’s Offers (vv. 25-32)

Pharaoh begs for help when he needs it. But as soon as he finds relief, he changes his mind and hardens his heart. Pride rears its ugly head as Pharaoh thinks he can bargain with God. Four compromises to Moses and Aaron are recorded during the plagues. The first two happen during the fly plague (Ex. 8:25, 28); the third happens with the locust plague (10:7-11); and the fourth occurs during the four days of darkness (vv. 24-26).

Weirsbe writes: “God’s people face similar “Egyptian compromises” today as we seek to serve the Lord. The enemy tells us we don’t have to be separated from sin because we can serve god ‘in the land.’ God’s reply is found in 2 Corinthians 6:14-18. . . . True service to God means giving Him authority over all our possessions and all the people in our family for whom we’re responsible. Not to do so is to disobey (Mark 10:13-16; Ephesians 6:4; and Deuteronomy 6:6-13).”

Resisting (9:1-12)

“As you study the account of the plagues of Egypt, keep in mind the purposes God was fulfilling through these momentous events. First of all, He was manifesting His power to Pharaoh and his officials and proving to them that He alone is the true and living God. At the same time, the Lord was exposing the futility of the Egyptian religion and the vanity of the many gods they worshiped, including Pharaoh himself. All that God did to Egypt was a reminder to His people that their God was fighting for them and they didn’t have to worry or be afraid,” (Weirsbe).

Reflect

Once again, I‘m leaning on Weirsbe’s wisdom. He writes: “What does it mean to harden your heart? It means to see clear evidence of the hand of God at work and still refuse to accept His Word and submit to His will. It means to resist Him by showing ingratitude and disobedience and not having fear of the Lord or of His judgments. . . . But the narrative also makes it clear that by sending these various judgments, God was hardening Pharaoh’s heart. Does this mean that God was unfair and that Pharaoh shouldn’t be held responsible for what he did? No, for the same sun that melts the ice also hardens the clay. It all depends on the nature of the material.”

Just a couple thoughts in closing: How am I responding to God’s will? Do I need to repent and change any attitude of disobedience or compromise? Also, let’s pray for our new leaders, that America will once again be Israel’s ally. God still loves Israel: “I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse,” (Genesis 12:3).

Strike Three: Gnats, Exodus 8:16-19

From the way Denny’s shaking his head, he’s either got an injured shoulder or a gnat in his eye. ”  – Jerry Coleman

Source: clipartpanda.com

Source: clipartpanda.com

After God strikes Pharaoh and Egypt with the plague of blood, then frogs—due to their oppression of the Israelites—God sends a plague of gnats. You may read Exodus 8:16-19 here: Bible Gateway.

I didn’t have much success in finding many gnat quotes, (as you can see in my opener), but here are some interesting—or should I say disgusting—facts about these tiny creatures (Source: I Remove Pest).

  • Gnats use fermenting or decaying substance as a medium to breed.
  • Gnats feed themselves and live on rotten or decay substances.
  • Biting female gnats require and use blood as an effective protein for reproduction. Sometimes they will travel more than 40 miles for blood to breed.
  • Female gnats lay up to 300 eggs a day.
  • A larvae will turn into an adult gnat in a week.

As with the last two plagues, the following is my short fictional narrative of this Exodus passage.

***

Pharaoh swat at the swarm of gnats as though he were in the heat of battle. It was only a short while ago that he had defeated the accursed Hatti and his band of Hittites with a mighty hail fire of arrows and javelins. But his strength and glory amounted to nothing with these tiny pests, as was also the case during the plague of blood, then frogs.

This plague—pronounced by Moses from His God—erupt from the desert dust like a huge storm cloud covering his land, people, and animals. No one could keep the tiny bugs from wedging themselves under their linen clothing. The multiple bites not only stung, but also left itchy red bumps all over its victims.

Could Moses’ God, whom he referred to as Lord, really have this much power over nature?

As Pharaoh’s arms swell with blotchy red bumps, he rip his bracelets from his wrists before flinging them at the rigid magi standing before him. None of them dare flinch to attract his steel gaze. For in an instant he could untether the chain of the lion sitting at the foot of his golden throne. Fortunately for them, both the lion and Pharaoh were distracted with the biting insects.

“Why can’t you also produce gnats?” he yelled at his magi while trying to spit the bugs from his mouth.

A moment of silence only aggravated Pharaoh more, sending him into a tantrum of wild gestures. The lead magi finally spoke in a hush tone. “Surely this is the finger of God. For we can neither do nor undo this gnat infestation.”

“Nonsense!” Pharaoh hurl a quiver in their direction. A shriek filled the room as one of the magicians stumble backwards and collapse to the floor.

“Leave, you fools!”

A couple of magi rushed to grab their injured colleague before scrambling out of the throne room.

Reflect

Once again—just as God had said—Pharaoh refused to listen and hardened his heart.

Persistence is a good thing. But self-centered stubbornness, as in Pharaoh’s case, can be downright destructive.

The Life Application Study Bible summarizes: “[Pharaoh’s] stubborn disobedience brought suffering upon himself and his entire country. . . Stubbornness toward God is always disobedience. Avoid disobedience because the consequences may spill onto others.”

Thanks for taking the time to read. Have a wonderful week!

 

Strike Two: Frogs, Exodus 8:1-15

The plague tragedy—a unique judgment on the Egyptians for their oppression of the Israelites—continues. Seven days have passed since the Lord struck the Nile with the first plague of blood (7:25). This time God covers Egypt’s land and people with frogs.

(Courtesy of brothersoft.com) Hoppy New Year! :)

(Courtesy of brothersoft.com)
Hoppy New Year! 🙂

You may read Exodus 8:1-15 here: Bible Gateway. The following story is my fictional translation of this passage.

***

Pharaoh bolt out of bed upon feeling webbed feet pummeling his face. Damp skin clung to him like a wet towel, sending him into a frenzy. He flung green speckled creatures in all directions.

How did all these frogs make their way to the third floor palace?!

When he slipped and fell on the sea of green, expletives rang through the halls with the chorus of croaks. Never again would the croaks from Goddess Heqet’s offspring soothe him to sleep. Their slimy bodies created a slip and slide not only throughout the palace’ halls and rooms, but also in every Egyptian home. So thick were the beady eyed creatures that all the precious wood and ivory furniture inlaid with gold and ivory, not to mention the carpets, lie ruined.

A servant girl brought him his morning loaf of bread fresh from the oven. Pharaoh impulsively grabbed a piece and took a bite. It was tougher than normal, and tasted like smelly swamp water. Upon seeing green slivers and tiny black dots checkered in the slice, he spit it out before vomiting.

MOSES. That guy and his slave brother had some nerve . . . marching into his throne room—catching his guards and himself by surprise—with his silly demand: “My God says ‘Let my people go, so they may worship me!” He managed to pull off his frog invasion threat. But didn’t Pharaoh’s magi also summon frogs to cover their land by calling on their great god Khnum?

“Moses! Bring him to me at once!” he ordered the guards.

His servants brought Moses and Aaron before him. Pharaoh said, “Pray to God to rid us of these frogs. I’ll release [your] people so that they can make their sacrifices and worship God.”

Moses said to Pharaoh, “Certainly. Set the time. When do you want the frogs out of here, away from your servants and people and out of your houses? You’ll be rid of frogs except for those in the Nile.”

“Make it tomorrow.”

Moses said, “Tomorrow it is—so you’ll realize that there is no God like our God. The frogs will be gone. You and your houses and your servants and your people, free of frogs. The only frogs left will be the ones in the Nile,” (Exodus 8:8-11, MSG).

The next morning dead frogs littered the palace, courtyards, houses and fields. Pharaoh ordered the people to pile them in mounds. The palace, houses, and land stunk for months.

As Pharaoh found relief from the massive pileup of frogs, he refused Moses and Aaron’s request yet again.

Review

Although frogs were common around the Nile River, Egypt had never experienced this many. I would take our cold spell over a plague of frogs any day!

Once again, God uses the frog plague to attack one of Egypt’s gods. Layman’s Bible Commentary notes: “Frogs were regarded as having divine power. In the Egyptian pantheon, the goddess Heqet had the form of a woman with a frog’s head. From her nostrils, it was believed, came the breath of life that animated the bodies of those created by her husband, the great god Khnum, from the dust of the earth. Therefore frogs were not to be killed.”

Next week, we’ll visit God’s third plague on Egypt: Gnats. . . . Have a great week!


Strike One: Blood, Exodus 7:14-24

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas! My family and I enjoyed visiting extended family, and some downhill skiing over Christmas break. I am thankful to report no blood on that front!

Moving on with my study in Exodus, we enter the plague section which God brings upon Pharaoh and his people. I admit, I’d rather not begin the New Year writing about God’s judgment, even though it’s specific to ancient Egypt. But ultimately all nations are under God’s watchful eye and judgment (Psalm 96:10; 110:6). So it’s a good reminder not only of God’s power, but that we should also be praying for our leaders and nation(s).

The plague tragedy is a unique judgment on the Egyptians for their oppression of the Israelites.

This first plague attacks their Nile god, Hapi, who represented fertility. The following narrative is my fictional rendering based on this passage. You may read Exodus 7:14-24 here: Bible Gateway.

***

Pharaoh began his descent toward the banks of the mighty Nile. He would worship Hapi, the Nile god, this morning.

Pharaoh squinted into the early morning sun. Is that a man or a tall bird? The appearance of a man with a grizzled beard stood eerily still on the river’s bank. Moses! The crazed Hebrew nomad who spoke articulate Egyptian both intrigued and infuriated him at the same time. The man had guts. But how dare he challenge him—son of a god—to allow the Hebrews a desert leave. All in the name of worshiping some puny god he’s never even heard of!

Moses and his measly slave brother thought they could persuade him through trickery, turning a staff into a snake. Guess they underestimated my magi! They instantly replicated the same stunt, even though their snakes were swallowed by Moses’ snake.

Now within fifty feet—with Pharaoh enshrined in royalty—Moses still didn’t flinch. But his knuckles paled from grasping his staff in his right hand. Even from this distance, Pharaoh couldn’t miss the fiery intensity in Moses’ eyes.

With clenched jaw Moses boomed, “God, the God of the Hebrews, sent me to you with this message, ‘Release my people so that they can worship me in the wilderness.’ So far you haven’t listened. This is how you’ll know that I am God. I am going to take this staff that I’m holding and strike this Nile River water: The water will turn to blood; the fish in the Nile will die; the Nile will stink; and the Egyptians won’t be able to drink the Nile water,’” (Ex. 7:15-18 MSG).

Aaron struck the water with the rod. Splinters of red first reflect in a dazzling pattern. But then streams of crimson flowed together until all of Hapi’s water seeped a thickening blood red, threatening to strangle her life flow. It wasn’t long before bloated fish surfaced. The air permeated with the foul smell of death.

Pharaoh’s servants scurried to him from all directions. “Blood is everywhere! The rivers, canals, ponds, even in pots and pans—they’ve all turned to blood!”

“Nonsense!” Pharaoh bellowed while glaring at Moses. “Magi, replicate this trick at once!”

Reflect

When Moses’ snake had previously gobbled up the Egyptian snakes, one would think Pharaoh would have reconsidered his stance toward Moses and the Israelites since the serpent was considered sacred in Lower Egypt where that confrontation took place.

But true to God’s word, Pharaoh’s heart remained hardened.

Most of Egypt’s people lived along the banks of the Nile’s 3,000 mile waterway. Egypt couldn’t exist without this life source for farming, fishing, bathing, and drinking. Sandy soil near the river’s bank filtered the water. But literal blood would fail to filter by the sand. Now the Egyptians had to dig along the Nile to get drinking water (v. 24).

God later gave a prophecy in Ezekiel 29:2-6 that concludes all of Egypt would know He is the Lord by this miracle.

How Does Moses Point to Christ? (Part One)

The entire Old Testament, though dealing with the history of the nations and of Israel, ultimately spoke of the Messiah, the Redeemer who would come.”  – J. Hampton Keathley, III

I love that God has creatively woven types and parallels throughout the history of His people that highlight Christ through various people and events.

With Christmas approaching, I thought this would be a good time to detour from Exodus 7:14—the beginning of the 10 plagues in Egypt—and instead highlight how Moses foreshadows Christ. After all, Christ is God’s main event in which the Old Testament leads up to.

Though not your traditional Christmas message, it’s interesting to see how pieces of Moses’ life reflect some of Jesus’ life.

Similarities Between Moses and Jesus

  • Pharaoh killed innocent children during the time of Moses’ birth (Exodus 1:22). King Herod also killed innocent children in Bethlehem during the time of Jesus’ birth (Matthew 2:16).
  • Moses had to flee his home due to Pharaoh’s persecution (Exodus 2:15). Jesus and his parents also had to flee their native land due to Herod’s persecution (Matthew 2:14).
  • Moses was able to return when told: “All the men are dead that sought your life” (Exodus 4:19). Jesus was also able to return after Herod’s death: “those who sought the child’s life are dead” (Matthew 2:20-21).
  • Moses prayed and God healed Miriam’s leprosy (Numbers 12:10-13). Jesus healed the leper (Matthew 8:2-3).
  • Twelve messengers were chosen by Moses. Hoshea, Moses’ close assistant, is renamed Joshua (Numbers 13:2-16). Twelve apostles were chosen by Jesus. Simon, Jesus’ close friend, is renamed Peter (Matthew 16:17-19; Mark 3:16-17).

My favorite similarity between Moses and Jesus is their role of being deliverers. God raised Moses up to deliver His people, the Israelites, from Egyptian bondage. God sent Jesus to earth not only to teach us His ways, but also to deliver us from the bondage of sin and eternal death.

Have you accepted His free gift of forgiveness and salvation through His Son?

Prophecies of the Birth of Christ by J. Hampton Keathley, III offers a thought provoking study on Jesus’ birth and how to identify the true Deliverer from counterfeits. I know some of you can easily digest his words in one sitting. But if you’re like me trying to stay a float with the holiday to-do list, a couple paragraphs or sections a day would make a great study leading up to Christmas.

Blessings!

Moses, Aaron and God’s People: Exodus 6:14-7:13

Now the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron about the Israelites and Pharaoh king of Egypt, and He commanded them to bring the Israelites out of Egypt.” –Exodus 6:13

You may read Exodus 6:14-7:13 here: Gateway Bible.

Genealogy of Moses and Aaron

God’s chosen team to lead His people out from slavery is introduced in this first section. Even though only four generations are recorded during the Israelites 400 year period in Egypt, God’s faithfulness shines in the preservation of Moses’ and Aaron’s family line. This family tree also identifies Moses’ and Aaron’s identity more firmly.

Many scholars believe that the Egyptian names recorded here—like Putiel and Phinehas—show the close connection the Israelites would always have with Egypt.

Aaron: Moses’ Mouthpiece

God likens Moses’ relationship with his brother Aaron to God and His prophet. Aaron would speak for Moses in part because of Moses’ doubt in his own communication skills. Moses will realize later the frustration this relationship can render (chapter 32).

Instead of requesting a temporary desert leave to commune with God—as last time—Aaron is to increase the demand to Pharaoh: Release the Israelites from Egypt.

A Hardened Heart and Slithering Snakes

Both God and Pharaoh play a big role in Israel’s deliverance story. God foretells Moses that Pharaoh will harden his heart, which will lead to the Egyptians’ sorrow, destruction and defeat at the Red Sea.

God gives Moses and Aaron the miracle of turning the staff into a snake. This demonstrates not only His power, but also the appointing and anointing of Moses. Although Pharaoh’s sorcerers copy this miracle, God shows who holds the greater power and authority when Aaron’s staff swallows all of their staffs.

Now that would be a sight to see!

Even though God made Moses a powerful person who deserved his audience, Pharaoh—who considered himself a god—refuses Moses’ request, just as God had said.

great-god-ps-7713Reflect

Pharaoh’s focus was on the miracle instead of the message. While miracles help us believe, it’s dangerous to rely solely on them. Satan can copy some parts of God’s work and lead people astray. However, Satan’s imitations are inferior to God’s work and power. Satan—a copycat and liar—is a master of disguising himself as light (2 Cor. 11:14). But his works eventually lead to disharmony, chaos, and eternal death.

Fortunately, we have God’s Word as a foundation for our faith. Any message or miracle that contradicts God’s teaching from His Word is not endorsed by Him. His final Word, recorded in the Bible, is His Son.

Hebrews 1:1-2 says, “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days He has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.”

***

Thanks for the visit. Have a wonderful weekend!

The Deliverer Sent, Exodus 4:18-30

The LORD had said to Moses in Midian, “When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you the power to do. But I will harden his heart so he will not let the people go. Then say to Pharaoh, ‘This is what the LORD says: Israel is my firstborn son, and I told you, “Let my son go, so he may worship me.” But you refused to let him go; so I will kill your firstborn son.’” -Exodus 4:21-23

You may read Exodus 4:18-30 here: Bible Gateway.

To say this short passage scares me a little is an understatement. It certainly doesn’t paint God as a lovey-dovey guy in the sky. Not only does God plan on killing Pharaoh’s firstborn son because Pharaoh refuses Israel’s freedom, but God also comes close to killing his commissioned servant: Moses himself!

Why would a loving God harden Pharaoh’s heart? Why would a loving God kill anyone, especially Moses?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Five Encouragements God Gives Moses (Warren Weirsbe, Be Delivered)

  • His father-in-law’s blessing (v. 18). Although Moses only tells Jethro that he wants to visit Egypt to see if his family is still alive—with no record that he met with Jehovah—Jethro is gracious towards Moses.
  • The promises of God (vs. 19-23). God tells Moses not to be afraid to return to Egypt because his enemies are dead. Then He assures Moses that He will enable him to do the miraculous signs, but Pharaoh would only harden his heart and thereby invite more judgments from the Lord.

500 Questions & Answers from the Bible offers some helpful insight into Pharaoh’s hardened heart: “Pharaoh was stubborn, hardening his own heart. He continued to harden his heart throughout the first six plagues . . . then after the sixth plague, when it became apparent that Pharaoh wouldn’t change, God confirmed Pharaoh’s decision. God didn’t make Pharaoh reject Him; instead, God had given Pharaoh every opportunity to change his mind and trust in the one true God. But Pharaoh refused.”

God also assures Moses of His special love for Israel, His firstborn son (Jer. 31:9; Hos. 11:1). “In the ancient world, the firstborn in every family had special rights and privileges, and God would see to it that Israel, His firstborn, would be redeemed and rewarded, while the firstborn of Egypt would be slain,” (Weirsbe).

  • Zipporah’s obedience (vs. 24-26). Moses didn’t circumcise his second son, Eliezer. Weirsbe suggests that God struck Moses with an illness that could have resulted in death. “We get the impression that when Moses had circumcised Gershom, his firstborn, Zipporah had been appalled by the ceremony and therefore had resisted having Eliezer circumcised. Moses let her have her way and this displeased the Lord. After all, Moses couldn’t lead the people of Israel if he was disobedient to one of the fundamental commandments of the Lord (Gen. 17:10-14). Even if the Jews didn’t know it, God knew about his disobedience, and He was greatly displeased.” (For more see The Meaning of Circumcision.)
  • Aaron’s arrival (vs. 27-28). Despite Aaron’s faults, God sent this elder brother to meet Moses at Horeb (another name for Mount Sinai) to minister along Moses for the next 40 years. Aaron would also become the founder of Israel’s priesthood.
  • The nation’s faith (vs. 29-31). Just as God had said (Gen. 3:18), the Israelites accepted God’s message and believed from the signs God gave Moses. They responded to God’s care with grateful worship.

This was the calm before the storm.

Reflect

As I wrote of God’s promises, a beautiful double rainbow momentarily appeared in the dark sky. It reminded me that God is both perfectly just and merciful. He is always faithful to keep His promises.

God reminded Moses that he was a servant of a powerful God with unlimited wisdom and knowledge. Moses’ anxiety and fears that the Jewish elders would reject his message and/or leadership never materialized.

Under Old Testament Law, failure to circumcise your son was to remove yourself and your family from God’s blessings. Moses learned it was more dangerous to disobey God then to tango with a stubborn Pharaoh.

Because Pharaoh rejected God numerous times, God finally gave him over to his hardened heart: the most dangerous place to be in relation to God. Although we face consequences from disobedience, God never forces Himself or His will on anyone.

Moses was about to face the greatest challenge of his life. But God would not send Moses where His Spirit wouldn’t be or provide. Faith in the Lord and obedience would unlock the door to victory.

What challenges do you face? Commit them to God. Although God doesn’t promise an easy journey, we can trust that He will always lead and provide.

Signs for Moses, Exodus 4:1-17

Moses answered, ‘What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The LORD did not appear to you’?”

Then the LORD said to him, “What is that in your hand?”

“A staff,” he replied.

snake-exodus-4-3Then the LORD said to him, “Reach out your hand and take it by the tail.” So Moses reached out and took hold of the snake and it turned back into a staff in his hand. “This,” said the LORD, “is so that they may believe that the LORD, the God of their fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has appeared to you,” (Exodus 4:1-5).

You may read Exodus 4:1-17 here: Bible Gateway.

In Exodus 3, God used a burning bush to reveal Himself to Moses before commissioning him to tell the Israelites of God’s plan of deliverance from their Egyptian bondage. While Moses doubts his calling at the burning bush, it’s God’s word he doubts in chapter 4. For God had just told him that the Israelite leaders would accept him (Gen. 3:18) and everything would work out.

So God graciously gives Moses three miraculous signs to show the Israelites: He exists; His words to Moses are true; and His power is superior to Egyptian gods.

Miraculous Signs      

Moses gets a front row seat as God uses three ordinary objects to demonstrate His power. Not only is God commissioning Moses, but He’s also giving Moses the power he needs to lead the Israelites out of Egypt.

  1. A shepherd’s staff was a simple wooden rod, three to six feet long, with a curved hook at the top. Shepherds used their staffs for walking, leading their sheep, and killing snakes among other tasks. Moses probably never dreamt the power his simple staff would yield when it also became God’s staff!
  2. Similar to the first sign, the second sign involves Moses’ hand. Moses follows God’s order to put it inside his cloak. His adrenaline most likely rocketed again when he pulled his hand back out. For it was covered with the most feared disease of his time: leprosy. But when Moses obediently repeated the process, his hand was completely restored.
  3. As if the first two signs weren’t enough, God patiently gives Moses one more sign. “Take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground. The water you take from the Nile will become blood on the ground,” (vs.9). This time Moses would need to take God at His word and step out in faith before seeing the result.

Moses Struggles

I always thought Moses’ reluctance to follow God’s call came from inadequacy of speaking. For he told God that he was “slow of speech and tongue,” (vs. 10). But Stephen’s report of Moses describes him as an eloquent speaker (Acts 7:21-22). It’s possible he developed his oratory skills as he stepped out and obeyed God. Maybe he just lacked courage, or it could have been a combination of the two.

Anyway, God sees through Moses’ excuses as He reminds him that He is the One who fashioned him. He who gave him his mouth will also give him the right words (vs. 11).

But Moses is persistent. He pleads with God to send someone else.

Although God is patient and long-suffering, He is now angry.

So God tells Moses that his brother Aaron can speak for him. But as time goes on, Aaron is not only a burden to Moses, but he also proves to be a stumbling block to others at times (Exodus 32:1-5; Numbers 12:1-12).

Reflect

I like to think of leaders in the Bible as always being giants in the faith. Although Numbers 12:3-8 commends Moses for his humbleness and faithfulness, we’re also given a picture of how he began his journey when God called him. Like us, he also struggled with failure, fear and uncertainty.

Although Moses was passionate and quick to defend the people around him, it’s comforting to know that God wasn’t dependent on his strengths. Even though God knows we will mess up at times, He chooses to use fallible people to do His will anyway.

If God asks us to do something, He will help us. In our weakness, He will supply the resources. We don’t need miraculous signs to prove His existence or power. We have numerous examples in His Word, not to mention His power in creation.

What ordinary tool(s) does God want to use in your hands? A hammer, laptop, mixing bowl? What is God asking of you? He delights in using the ordinary to do the extraordinary. But we may need to step out in faith first before He demonstrates His power to us. For He delights in our trust.

The Burning Bush, Exodus 3

Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, ‘I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.” –Exodus 3:1-3

God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”

And Moses said, “Here I am.”

“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God, (Exodus 3:4-6).

The God of the Burning Bush

Some of the clearest and dearest revelation of God’s character is found in verses 11-15. Moses, who had failed the first time to deliver the Israelites by his own strength, had 40 years to ponder his actions and consequences of stepping ahead of God’s time table. He wanted some clarification before stepping out in this deliverance mission God had for him. Moses’ questions to God boiled down to: “Who am I?” and “Who are you?”

God’s answer to Moses’ questions directs his attention to God and away from himself.

Yahweh is derived from the Hebrew word for “I Am.” The author, Moses, gives us the reason why this burning bush wasn’t consumed. It was supernaturally aglow with the angel of the Lord (Gen. 16:7; 22:11; Exodus 3:2; Judges 6:11; 13:3), the preincarnate manifestation of Jesus Christ (the second person of the Godhead).

Yahweh is derived from the Hebrew word for “I Am.”
The author, Moses, gives us the reason why this burning bush wasn’t consumed. It was supernaturally aglow with the angel of the Lord (Gen. 16:7; 22:11; Exodus 3:2; Judges 6:11; 13:3), the preincarnate manifestation of Jesus Christ (the second person of the Godhead).

The basis for Moses’ obedience—as well as the nation of Israel—stems from God’s revelation to Moses.

The eternal, powerful, and compassionate God reminds Moses of His unchanging nature through His covenant promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob hundreds of years earlier. God wasn’t changing His plan, but simply working out the old plan through Moses.  

Layman’s Bible Commentary asserts: “The character of God who is calling and commissioning Moses is the basis for Moses’ faith and obedience. The God of the burning bush is a holy God, an object of fear and reverence. . . . How is the holiness of God a significant factor in the Exodus? The sins of the Egyptians must be dealt with, and additionally, the possession of the land of Canaan by the Israelites (Exodus 3:8, 17) is a judgment on these peoples for their abominations in the sight of God (see Genesis 15:16; Leviticus 18:24-28).”

After receiving the revelation of who God is, Moses is given God’s plan for him and for Israel. The commands are based upon the prophecy and promise given Abraham (Gen. 15:12-20). Moses is to do the following: Tell the Israelites the God “I Am” sent him; request a three-day leave for the Israelites to worship God in the desert; collect the wages due to God’s people for their hard work in Egypt.

Reflect

God invites and commissions people to participate in His purposes.

God did not change Moses’ personality, or give him new abilities. Instead, He took Moses’ unique training and characteristics, then molded them for His purposes. Instead of asking God, “What should I change into?” maybe we should ask, “How do you want to use my gifts and abilities?”

While training is important, our usefulness for God is only as good as the object/person we place our faith in. God knew how the details would play out for Moses, the Israelites, and Pharaoh. Because He is all-knowing and good, we can trust Him with our future.

Finally, Layman’s Commentary has some great observations:

  • The measure of our faith is proportionate to our grasp of the greatness and the goodness of our God.
  • Moses’ authority is wrapped up in the presence of God, which is assured when he is obedient to God’s command.
  • Just as the burning bush was not consumed by the fire, so Israel will not be consumed by the fires of affliction and adversity, now or forever (see Malachi 3:2-3, 5-6).

Have a wonderful weekend!

 

Moses Flees to Midian, Exodus 2:11-25

One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. Glancing this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.” -Exodus 2:11-12

You may read Exodus 2:11-25 here: Gateway Bible.

Moses’ Background

Scripture doesn’t tell us much about Moses’ early years as the adopted son of Pharaoh’s daughter. His name—given him by the princess—must have been a constant reminder of his origin. Moses is a bilingual wordplay combining Hebrew and Egyptian words. In Egyptian the root word means “born.” In Hebrew it means “to draw out [of water]”.

Where did Moses live? The Archaeological Study Bible notes: “During the 1990s an enormous royal compound was discovered on the southern bank of the eastern branch of the Nile River. Used throughout the Eighteenth Dynasty (c. 1550-1300 B.C.), the compound consisted of a fortress and a palace. . . . Moses probably meandered the halls of these buildings, and the pharaoh quite likely mobilized his 600 chariots to pursue the Israelites from this location (14:7).

What was Moses’ educational background? Stephen’s address to the Sanhedrin (Acts 7:22) asserts that Moses obtained instruction in the science and learning of the Egyptians. He was also gifted with oratorical and leadership skills.

Warren Wiersbe (Be Delivered) writes: “Egypt had a highly developed civilization for its time, particularly in the areas of engineering, mathematics, and astronomy. . . . They developed an amazingly accurate calendar, and their engineers planned and supervised the construction of edifices that are still standing. Their priests and doctors were masters of the art of embalming, and their leaders were skilled in organization and administration.”

As an Egyptian prince, Moses would also have Egyptian military training from the world’s most advanced army.

But for all of his training and pampered lifestyle, Hebrews 11:24-25 tells us “By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time.”

Failure

Around the age of 40, Moses’ strong sense of justice and reaction to conflict got him into trouble.

Whether Moses meant to kill the Egyptian slave master, or impulsively protected the beaten Hebrew, his murder didn’t go unnoticed. Nor did his act bid well with either Pharaoh or the Hebrews he tried to help during a dispute.

Pharaoh’s reaction? Kill Moses!

So Moses escapes to Midian. Here he would once again use his deliverer instincts and warrior tactics to easily handle harassing shepherds toward the daughters of a Midianite Priest. As a result, Moses is taken into their home and is given Reuel’s daughter, Zipporah, in marriage.

During the next 40 years, Moses would have a son named Gershom, which sounds like the Hebrew for an alien there. And Moses’ would find work as a shepherd in this foreign land.

In the meanwhile, Pharaoh dies. And God’s alarm clock for deliverance is about to sound. He not only hears the Israelites’ cries, but is also concerned about them as He reflects upon His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Reflect

Personal greatness or position doesn’t exempt one from mistakes and consequences. Prince Moses tried to make sure no one was watching when he killed the Egyptian. We may be tempted to do wrong when we think no one notices. But it usually snowballs. And even if no one does notice, God always does. Some day everyone will have a face-to-face evaluation with Him.

I wonder how often Moses questioned God’s plan and purpose for his life during his 40-year hiatus in Midian? It must have felt like the ultimate demotion: from prince of Egypt to a despised shepherd of stubborn sheep.

Prov. 20:24Now for the good news . . . . God was preparing Moses to deliver and shepherd his people in the desert. I like how Layman’s Bible Commentary puts it: “Every detail of our lives, every incident, every failure, is employed by God providentially to further His purposes. While this should in no way make us lax in our desire to know God’s will and to obey Him, it should serve to assure us that even when we fail, He does not.”

Do you see this principle at work in your own journey? What can we learn from Moses’ experiences?

God Chooses Moses as Israel’s Deliverer, Exodus 2:1-10

A small patch of brown rippled upon the Nile’s water, unlike the familiar swaying reeds near the swampy shoreline. What is that? The rectangular shaped carton was a welcome distraction from the constant ache of not being able to conceive.

“Bring that object to me at once,” Hatshepsut ordered her attendant.

A muffled cry grew louder as her attendant neared with a basket woven out of papyrus reeds. She carefully opened the lid, her heart booming within. A robust, but helpless baby boy met her curious gaze. His red cheeks glistening with tears. “This is a Hebrew baby,” she gasped.

Surely the gods have brought him to me! How long has he been floating among the reeds? He’d be swallowed alive if a crocodile spotted him. Poor boy must be starving!

She gently lifted him out of the basket, nestling his warm body against hers. “Shh, you’re going to be alright.” He quieted. Your name will be Moses. For I have drawn you out of the water.

“Excuse me!” a young Hebrew girl called. “Shall I fetch a Hebrew woman to nurse the baby for you?”

“Yes, go at once!” The girl wasted no time in bringing back a Hebrew woman. “I will pay you if you take this baby and nurse him. But when he is older you must bring him back to me. Agreed?”

The woman silently nodded as she cradled the baby and took him home.

***

In this well known story, Pharaoh’s daughter encounters firsthand the effects of her father’s method of extermination. While Pharaoh orders the Egyptians to throw every Hebrew baby boy into the Nile River, God moves his daughter’s heart to draw this baby out of the water. You may read Exodus 2:1-10 here: Bible Gateway.

Who was Pharaoh’s daughter?

The NIV Life Application Study Bible notes: Some think that Hatshepsut was the woman that pulled Moses from the river. Her husband was Pharaoh Thutmose II. . . . Apparently, Hatshepsut could not have children, so Thutmose had a son by another woman, and this son became heir to the throne. Hatshepsut would have considered Moses a gift by the gods because now she had her own son who would be the legal heir to the throne.

Who were Moses’ parents?

Moses’ parents Amram and Jochebed (Ex. 6:20) already had two children: Miriam (the oldest), and Aaron (three years older than Moses). Amram and Jochebed saw that Moses was “no ordinary child” and believed God had a special purpose for him.

Determined to not cave into fear, Jochebed throws her energy into making a tiny boat out of papyrus reeds to hide Moses. She coats the basket with tar and a mineral pitch so it will float. This Bitumen mineral pitch was one of the best waterproofing materials known. Noah also used it to waterproof the ark (Gen. 6:14). Eph. 3:20

Reflect 

I love how God arranged for Pharaoh’s daughter to pay Moses’ mom to nurse him until he’s older. Miriam—Moses’ older sister—jumped on the opportunity to reunite her family when the princess discovered Moses.

Moses—who would grow into a great man of faith—first learned to trust God from his parents. Hebrews 11:23 commends his parents for their faith: for “not being afraid of the king’s edict,” and hiding Moses for three months after birth.

It’s easy to dwell on uncertain situations and worry. But in the midst of uncertain times, God wants us to watch for opportunities He gives and then boldly step out. Just as God used Moses’ parents’ act of courage to preserve this future deliverer, God can certainly use our small acts of faith to fulfill His purpose(s).

Israel Enslaved in Egypt, Exodus 1

But the Israelites were fruitful and multiplied greatly and became exceedingly numerous, so that the land was filled with them.” –Genesis 1:7

You may read Exodus 1 here: Bible Gateway.

Connecting the Past to the Present (vs. 1-7)

The Old Testament books of Genesis and Exodus are meant to be understood in relationship to one other. Genesis sets the stage for Exodus by reminding the Israelite nation not only of her roots, but also the grounds for blessing that would come soon. The first six verses summarize Israel’s history as a clan, detailed in Genesis 12-50.

In Genesis 15:12-14, God told Abraham: “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions.”

Verse 7 spans this 400 year gap from Joseph’s death to the Exodus. God’s covenant promise to Abraham of blessing his descendants and greatly multiplying them is also evidenced during this time (Gen. 12:1-3; 15:5; 17:2, 6; 22:17). Direct descendants from Jacob’s family now number nearly two million people!

Pharaoh’s Plan of Affliction (vs. 8-14)

The new Pharaoh—under the Eighteenth Egyptian Dynasty—fears the booming Hebrew population will threaten his kingdom. True to God’s word, the Pharaoh implements controlling measures in hopes to set them back.

So he places slave masters over the Hebrews. They work them ruthlessly to build cities with bricks and mortar, and use them for grueling field work. But instead of destroying their spirits, the Hebrews forge into a mighty nation (Gen. 46:3).

Pharaoh ups his game plan to a disgusting level.

Killing the Jewish Boys at Birth (vs. 15-22)

Some scholars suggest that women who were barren were often used as midwives. Pharaoh orders the Hebrew midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, to kill all the Jewish male babies at birth.

But their fear of God is stronger than their fear of Pharaoh. They show great courage and refuse to do his dirty work of killing innocent children.

God rewards these ladies by blessing them with families of their own. The fact that their names are mentioned, unlike Pharaoh’s, also presents them as honorable examples of ones who follow God.

Pharaoh stoops even lower when he orders all the Egyptians to throw every newborn Hebrew boy into the Nile.

Reflect

As it probably seemed to the Hebrews during a9fb9994d0a234774636ba0bed7aae98their 400 year stretch in Egypt, God appears silent at times. But He is constantly at work through history, our present, and the awesome future planned for those who unashamedly walk with Him.

During the furnace of trials, God was preparing His people for the following purposes: being a witness to the true and living God; writing the Holy Scriptures, and bringing the Messiah into the world.

Although Pharaoh sought to destroy the Hebrews spirit, they multiplied and grew stronger instead. Pharaoh’s reason for his cruel treatment was because of the threat of their large population. However, Scripture tells us about the underlying conflict of spiritual warfare: “Enmity between God’s people and Satan’s children,” (Genesis 3:15).

Persecution isn’t a fun topic. You won’t hear about it in prosperity gospel circles. But God uses persecution to refine, strengthen, and grow His church. America hasn’t experienced persecution, not like in middle-eastern countries. But while tolerance is exalted in our society, we’re seeing an increase of intolerant attitudes toward Christianity.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise when persecution knocks on our doors.

Now is the time to decide: Will I follow God when forces of evil pressure me to disobey or disown Him? Or will I give in to what is easy and popular? We can’t be overcomers without obstacles to overcome. We know who wins in the end. Let’s ask God for His eternal perspective, pray for strength to be faithful, and encourage one another as we see the day of Christ’s return drawing closer (Heb. 10:25).

Exodus

Unless a man has the talents to make something of himself, freedom is an irksome burden.” – Eric Hoffer (The True Believer)

“You’re free to go!” For some prisoners who have been enslaved for years, freedom must feel like a breath of fresh air. But for others, the loss of familiar surroundings and embarking on a new journey is an unsettling and overwhelming experience.

Leading up to God’s salvation story, Exodus describes a series of God’s call to freedom and how his people respond.

Four hundred years have passed since Joseph’s family moved and thrived in Egypt. After multiplying to over two million strong and being enslaved to cruel bondage under a new Pharaoh, God responds to the Israelites’ cries. The time is ripe to send His leader, Moses, to set His people free from their oppression and bring them into their inheritance (Duet. 4:37-38).

God’s people, however, fail in their newfound freedom. They repeatedly falter after short bursts of confidence in God, their fear chipping away their trust. What was a consequence of their disobedience and lack of faith? Wandering in the desert for 40 years.

God, however, continues to faithfully provide and extends His gracious hand of deliverance.

Warren W. Wiersbe in his Bible Study, Be Delivered writes: “Exodus teaches us that freedom is not license and discipline is not bondage. God tells us how to enjoy mature freedom in His will, a quality that is desperately needed in our churches and in our world today. The privilege of freedom is precious, the responsibilities of freedom are serious, and we can’t have one without the other.”

Exodus was written about the same time as Genesis, around 1450-1410 B.C. Scholars believe that Moses wrote these accounts in the desert—somewhere in the Sinai peninsula—during Israel’s desert wanderings. This book contains the Ten Commandments and relays more miracles than any other Old Testament book, including the famous account of the Israelites crossing the Red Sea.

Reflect

Freedom is the theme of Exodus.

Deliverance is the theme in Exodus.

Just as God heard the Israelites’ cries, we can also be confident He hears our prayers. God led Moses and the Israelite nation. He also wants to lead us. Just as He delivered the Israelites, He wants to deliver us from evil, sin, and eternal death (separation from Him).

As you read Exodus, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I believe God’s promise, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness?” (2 Cor. 12:9).
  • Do I trust God in this situation?
  • Whether it be through deliverance or given strength to endure, do I believe God really loves me and will work all things together for my good?” (Rom. 8:28).

We can rest in the fact that our powerful God loves us and He will never leave us. For faithfulness is the cornerstone of who He is.

Fall Update

I hope you are enjoying the fall colors and change of seasons. My family is full swing into football with our teenage boys, and basketball with our preteen daughter. It’s fun to watch the progress they make both individually and as a team. Our middle son recently broke his ankle in a football game, right across his growth plate. I’d cherish your prayers for healing.

Whether you regularly follow my blog, or have stumbled across some of my posts, THANK YOU for all your encouragement and visits with my Genesis Bible study. I’ve certainly gained valuable insights from studying and sharing through writing. I’m not a preacher or scholar, but it’s encouraging to know that God’s Word “will accomplish what [He] desires,” (Isaiah 55:11).

Again, thank you for your follows, visits, and likes. You are a blessing to me!

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Parallels Between Joseph and Jesus

The New Testament is in the Old concealed; the Old Testament is in the New revealed.” -Augustine

The Old Testament points to Jesus Christ through foreshadows of situations and actions of several people. Joseph is one of those people. I imagine that Joseph and Jesus’ conversations go way beyond small talk. After all, they shared many similar heartfelt experiences.

Here are some of the parallels between Joseph and Jesus:

  • Both men were greatly loved by their fathers (Genesis 37:3; Matthew 3:17).
  • As shepherds, they both took care of their father’s sheep (Genesis 37:2; John 10:11, 27).
  • Both Joseph and Jesus were sent to their brothers by their father (Genesis 37:13, 14; Hebrews 2:11).
  • Both men were ridiculed and rejected by their brothers (Genesis 37:4, 19-20; John 1:11; 7:5).
  • Both were sold for the price of a slave (Genesis 37:28; Matthew 26:15).
  • Both were taken to Egypt (Genesis 37:25; Matthew 2:14, 15).
  • Both were falsely accused and condemned (Genesis 39:13-20; Matthew 26:57-68; 27:11-25). Both were placed with two other prisoners; one was saved and the other lost (Genesis 40:2, 3; Luke 23:32).
  • Both were bound in chains (Genesis 39:20; Matthew 27:2).
  • Both men were 30 years old at the beginning of public recognition (Genesis 41:46; Luke 3:23) and were exemplary servants (Genesis 39:1-6; Philippians 2:7).
  • Both were tempted. While both Joseph and Jesus didn’t give into the temptation (Genesis 39:7-12; Matthew 4:1); Jesus also never sinned (Hebrews 4:15).
  • Both were stripped of their robes (Genesis 37:23; Matthew 27:27-28). Joseph was thrown into a pit (37:24) and later cast into a dungeon (Genesis 39:20). Jesus was condemned to death before descending to hell (John 19:23; 1 Peter 3:18-20).
  • Both forgave those who wronged them (Genesis 45:1-15; Luke 23:34).
  • While men plotted evil against them (Genesis 37:20; John 11:53), God used it for good (Genesis 50:20; 1 Corinthians 2:7-9).
  • Both saved not only their people, but also many others (Genesis 45:7; 50:20; Matthew 1:21; Luke 24; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11).
  • Because Joseph’s actions helped the nations of the world survive the famine (Genesis 41:57), God partially fulfilled his promise to Abraham to bless all nations (Genesis 12:1-3). God completely fulfilled his promise to Abraham when Christ died for everyone’s sin and commanded to “make disciples of all nations. . . .” (Matthew 28:19).

Reflect

Like Christ, Joseph endured rejection and persecution. Yet—like Christ—he forgave. Joseph and Jesus not only became a blessing to those around them, but were also a blessing to those who hurt them. How can we apply this principle to our lives?

Jacob’s and Joseph’s Final Days, Genesis 49:29-33; 50:1-26

I am about to be gathered to my people. Bury me with my fathers in the cave in the field of Ephron the Hittite, the cave in the field of Machpelah, near Mamre in Canaan, which Abraham bought as a burial place from Ephron the Hittite . . .” -Genesis 49:29-30

Jacob’s instructions for his sons to bury him where his fathers are buried in Canaan reveals his faith that God’s covenant promises to give them the land will come to pass. (Related: The Death of Sarah)

You may read Genesis 49:29-33; 50:1-26 here: Bible Gateway.

Interesting Facts and Observations

  • Jacob dies at the age of 147. Although he claimed his years to be “few and difficult” (Gen. 47:9), his relationship with God became a priority. God changed his name to Israel, meaning “he struggles with God.”
  • Joseph never appears to shed tears for himself, but rather tears for his brothers’ plight. He also mourns his father’s death for months.
  • The Egyptians show Joseph great respect when they mourn 70 days for Jacob after his death. This is just two days shy of the mourning period given for a pharaoh’s death. Also, all of Egypt’s elders—including Pharaoh’s elders and servants—accompany Joseph to bury his father.
  • Joseph hadn’t stepped foot in his homeland since he was 17 years old. Although Canaan is the land connected to God’s promises, Joseph keeps his word to Pharaoh and returns to Egypt, the place God called him.
  • Joseph dies at the age of 110. Even though he prevailed through much adversity, he also received great blessing from God.

Joseph’s Brothers Devise a False Claim

With Jacob’s (Israel’s) death, Joseph’s brothers are terrified that Joseph will punish them for wronging him. So they devise a false claim, stating that Jacob admonishes Joseph to forgive them after Jacob dies.

On the positive side—though the brothers scheme up a lie—they own up to their sin against Joseph. The brothers throw themselves down before him and beg for his forgiveness. God’s heart of grace is mirrored in Joseph’s response.

Don’t be afraid . . . You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” – vs. 19-20

Joseph had already forgiven his brothers. He not only reassures them, but also pledges to care for them and their families.

Joseph’s Death

These verses set the groundwork for the Israelites plight in Exodus; the book of Joshua brings it to completion. The Israelites would have to rely on God's promises to make them into a great nation, lead them out of Egypt and bring them into Canaan, the promised land.

These verses set the groundwork for the Israelites plight in Exodus; the book of Joshua brings it to completion. The Israelites would have to rely on God’s promises to make them into a great nation, lead them out of Egypt, and bring them into the promised land.

More than 50 years lapse between verses 21 and 22. Joseph—an extraordinary man of faith and integrity—is blessed with a long life and is honored to see his great-great-grandchildren.

With the confidence that God would carry out His covenant promises, Joseph also requests that he be buried in the promised land. Although his coffin would lay above the ground for over 400 years as God’s people are enslaved in Egypt, the Israelites carry it back to Canaan under Moses’ leadership (Exodus 13:19).

Joseph’s faith is the perfect climax to the end of Genesis.

Reflect

Pharaoh didn’t doubt Joseph’s return to Egypt after burying Jacob. Because Joseph’s past record as Pharaoh’s advisor proved him responsible, Pharaoh trusted his word. Are we reliable even in the little things? Over time, privileges and freedom usually reward those who demonstrate trustworthiness.

Joseph gave complete forgiveness to his brothers. God also forgives us even though we don’t deserve it. Because God graciously accepts and forgives us, we should also graciously offer forgiveness to others.

God bringing good from evil is the theme in Joseph’s story. Like Joseph, do we trust God enough to work good out of our difficult situations?

Next week will be my last post in Genesis. Exhale. 🙂 I’ll give a brief summary of the parallels between Joseph and Jesus. Thanks for your visit!

Jacob Blesses His Sons, Genesis 49:1-28

Then Jacob called for his sons and said: “Gather around so I can tell you what will happen to you in days to come. Assemble and listen, sons of Jacob; listen to your father Israel.” –Genesis 49:1-2

Jacob’s final words to his twelve sons are recorded here in Genesis 49. Layman’s Bible Commentary notes: “Jacob’s prophecies refer to the distant future (49:1). The double exhortation to give attention to Jacob’s words stresses the importance of what he is about to say (49:2). The prophecies included here are not the spontaneous thoughts of a dying man, but the carefully prepared words of a prophetic poet.”

You may read Genesis 49:1-28 here: Bible Gateway.

Although the oldest son was supposed to receive a double inheritance, Reuben would not be granted this privilege. Jacob asserts: “Turbulent as the waters, you will no longer excel, for you went up onto your father’s bed, onto my couch and defiled it,” (vs. 4). Reuben’s former dishonorable ways cost him in the end (Genesis 35:21).

True to Jacob’s prophecy, Reuben’s descendants never produce a significant leader or inherit the promised land.

The next two oldest sons—Simeon and Levi—also disinherit the land due to their unfaithfulness and unwillingness to repent (vs. 5-7). Jacob characterizes these two as remaining angry: “Cursed be their anger, so fierce, and their fury, so cruel! I will scatter them in Jacob and disperse them in Israel,” (vs. 7).

This prophecy is fulfilled as Simeon’s tribe later inherits land scattered throughout Judah’s territory (Joshua 19:1-9; 1 Chronicles 4:28-33, 39). Although the Levites become priests, they are scattered throughout the rest of the tribal lands. Notable descendants of Levi include: Aaron, Moses, Eli and John the Baptist.

These first three tribes disqualify from their reward for unrepentant sin (Ezekiel 18:30). However, Jacob’s prophecies about them are still a blessing as they remain in the chosen family and reap God’s promises as Jacob’s heirs.

Greater Responsibility Given to the Faithful

The principle of God giving more responsibility to those who use their gifts and resources for His kingdom purposes (Luke 19:26) is seen with Jacob’s nine acceptable sons. Jacob uses poetic images along with word-plays for most of his sons’ names to describe their tribes’ destiny.

Prophecies of Jacob’s Sons Who Inherit the Land

"All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said to them when he blessed them, giving each the blessing appropriate to him." -Genesis 49:28

“All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said to them when he blessed them, giving each the blessing appropriate to him.” -Genesis 49:28

  • Judah – His brothers will bow down to him as “his hand will be on the neck of [his] enemies,” (vs. 8). “The scepter will not depart from Judah,” (vs. 10) means God chose Judah to be the ancestor of Israel’s line of kings, including Jesus, the promised Messiah. Leadership of Judah’s descendants, however, wouldn’t come until 640 years later under King David.
  • Zebulun“Zebulun will live by the seashore and become a haven for ships,” (vs. 13). His promised territory would be between the Mediterranean Sea and the Sea of Galilee.
  • Issachar – Rather than political pursuits, Issachar will settle around agriculture (vs 14-15). “When he sees how good is his resting place and how pleasant his land, he will bend his shoulder to the burden and submit to forced labor,” (vs.15). This suggests Issachar is capable, but lazy. Unlike lion-like Judah who subdues his enemies, Issachar submits to the Canaanites.
  • Dan – His prophecy of “providing justice for his people” partially comes to light during Samson’s era (Judges 13). Dan’s victories help Israel, but his people also lead Israel into idolatry (Judges 18:30-31; 1 Kings 12:26-30). His territory later becomes known as Israel’s center of idolatry (Amos 8:14).
  • Gad – His tribe becomes known as victorious fighters over every foreign army they battle (vs. 19; Jeremiah 49).
  • Ashar“Ashar’s food will be rich” (vs. 20). Some of Canaan’s most fertile ground will be given to this tribe (Deut. 33:24-25; Joshua 19:24-31).
  • Naphtali – Articulate speakers and gifted literature would arise from this tribe. Deborah, who composes a song of military victory, is an example (Judges 5:1-31). Naphtali’s land, located around the Sea of Galilee, is where much of Jesus’ ministry happens (Matthew 4:15-16). Other notable descendants include Barak, and possibly Elijah.
  • Joseph“Joseph is a fruitful vine . . . .” (vs. 22). Although Judah is given leadership of the tribes, Joseph is blessed with the double portion of the birthright (1 Chronicles 5:2). The tribes from Joseph’s two sons—Ephraim and Manasseh—will see this prophecy’s fulfillment. Joseph, who faced much adversity, is credited with his “bow remaining steady, his strong arms staying limber, because of the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob” (vs. 24). God enabled Joseph to draw closer to Him when trials mounted. Therefore, “let all these [blessings] rest on the head of Joseph, on the brow of the prince among his brothers,” (vs.26). Notable descendants of Joseph include: Joshua, Gideon and Samuel.
  • Benjamin“Benjamin is a ravenous wolf . . . .” (vs. 27) This tribe would be known for their fierceness (Judges 19-21) who demonstrates warlike character (Judges 5:14; 20:16; 1 Chronicles 8:40; 2 Chronicles 14:8; 17:17). Notable aggressive descendants include: Ehud (Judges 3:15-23), King Saul (1 Samuel 9:1; 14:47-52), and the Apostle Paul, previously known as Saul (Acts 8:1-3).
Reflect

Regardless of their faithfulness, all of Jacob’s 12 sons have a future and a blessing. However, only the faithful sons would inherit the land.

Likewise, although believers can’t earn forgiveness and salvation, our attitudes and actions matter. How we live determines our future blessings in God’s program.

Leaving a Legacy, Genesis 48

The following post is by Pastor Norm from “Called Within the Storm.” Enjoy.

The story of Jacob and his ‘favourite’ son Joseph is an interesting glimpse into what it could mean to live a life of obedience to the will of God. Like all of our life stories, we didn’t simply arrive at where we are today by chance. As we take the time to reflect back on […]

via Leaving a Legacy — Called within the Storm

Jacob’s Family Moves to Egypt, Genesis 46:5-34; 47:1-27

So that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.”    -1 Corinthians 2:5

After Jacob sought God’s direction and heard directly from Him to “not be afraid” he travels with his family from Beersheba to Egypt (46:5-7). In 46:28-30, Jacob and Judah appear to have reconciled their past as Jacob chooses Judah to be their guide. Rising above his past failures, Judah proves himself trustworthy. His descendants are eventually gifted as the royal tribe (49:8-12) and the Messiah would come from his line.

Finding Joseph alive and well gives Jacob’s tormented heart some much-needed peace. As his family’s knotted past finally untangles, he is able to see God’s sovereign hand at work.

You may read Genesis 46:5-34; 47:1-27 here: Bible Gateway.

Israel’s Heritage

The names listed in Genesis 46:8-27 list every tribe that would eventually form the nation of Israel. This would have been especially important to Genesis’ first readers. For they were not only reminded that God chose them for a special purpose, but duties and allotments were also given according to tribe: the parceling of land, the division of labor, the army’s organization.

Joseph’s Family Meets Pharaoh

Before Joseph’s family meets Pharaoh, Joseph encourages them to be honest when asked about their work as shepherds. He hopes Pharaoh will allow them to live in Goshen. Layman’s Bible Commentary notes: “Goshen had some of the best pastureland in all of Egypt. It would be a place to keep the Hebrews isolated and insulated from the culture and religion of Egypt, since the Egyptians considered sheep unclean and Hebrews detestable (43:32).”

After Joseph introduces five of his brothers to Pharaoh and explains his family needs, Pharaoh grants the brothers’ request to live in Goshen. As an added bonus he also offers any capable brothers the job of tending his own livestock.

Next, Joseph introduces his father, Jacob, to Pharaoh. After Jacob blesses him, Pharaoh asks his age. Jacob responds, “The years of my pilgrimage are a hundred and thirty. My years have been few and difficult, and they do not equal the years of the pilgrimage of my fathers,” (47:9).

Joseph’s Family Settles in Goshen

So Joseph settles his father and brothers in the district of Rameses. Not only have they acquired the best part of the land, but Joseph also provides the entire clan with plenty of food.

Over the next 400 years in Egypt, the Israelite population would explode from seventy to over two million!

Joseph and the Famine d66cf8ce067e05b7e3d08433f2e1661f

In 47:13-26 we not only see God using Joseph to save Egypt and its surrounding neighbors from starvation, but also the fulfillment of Jacob’s blessing to Pharaoh. Because Pharaoh blessed the Israelites with Egypt’s best, God blesses him in return.

Reflect

Joseph’s faithfulness not only affected his entire family, but also Egypt and the surrounding people. Joseph had plenty of opportunities to wonder about his future: being thrown into a pit; sold into slavery; falsely accused; imprisoned. But in the midst of his trying circumstances, he chose to do what is right and yielded to God’s plan.

We may not see the exciting results of faithfulness as Joseph did, but we can be sure that God will honor our faithfulness. What area(s) is God calling you to be faithful in?

Enjoy your weekend!

Charles Spurgeon Devotion, Genesis 46:3-4

Hello! This week I bring  you a post from PassionSchmitz blog. I love that God’s truth is timeless and that both He and His message remain constant in the midst of our changing times. Charles Haddon Spurgeon was England’s best known preacher for most of the second half of the nineteenth century. I hope you are encouraged as I am after reflecting on his message.

***

Below is a devotion by Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) from the May 12th evening entry of Morning and Evening. I’ve bolded a few quotes that stood out to me. ‘Fear not to go down into Egypt; for I will there make of thee a great nation: I will go down with thee into Egypt; and I […]

via Charles Spurgeon Devotion: Genesis 46:3-4 — PassionSchmitz

Joseph Makes Himself Known, Genesis 45

Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all his attendants, and he cried out, ‘Have everyone leave my presence!’ So there was no one with Joseph when he made himself known to his brothers. And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard him, and Pharaoh’s household heard about it. . . . ‘I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! 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. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will not be plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.’”        -Genesis 45:1-2, 4-7

While chapters 43 and 44 depict Joseph’s tender love and tough love respectively, chapter 45 display Joseph living out of God’s sovereignty.

You may read Genesis 45 here: Bible Gateway.

This account of Joseph meeting up with his brothers finally comes to a resolution when Joseph reveals his identity. Layman’s Bible Commentary notes: “The response of the brothers to Joseph’s revelation of his identity is a term translated dismayed or dumbfounded. This is a term used of paralyzing fear as felt by those involved in war (Exodus 15:15; Judges 20:41; 1 Samuel 28:21; Psalm 48:5).”

Joseph’s emotional display of weeping, embracing, and explaining finally convinces his brothers that he doesn’t intend revenge, but is actually favorable toward them.

Reflect 7b08064b7f5b6c0a895595c9de822b30

How in the world could Joseph forgive his brothers?

After all, they had rejected him, sold him into slavery, and made it possible for Joseph’s 12-13 year stretch of being imprisoned during young adulthood, (from the age of 17 to 30). The natural response to that kind of treatment is bitterness and revenge.

But not Joseph.

His ability to discern God’s providence over events and keeping an eternal perspective mark his life. He also lays the ground work of forgiveness by seeking God’s heart. Joseph’s graciousness, not only in forgiveness, but also in sharing his prosperity, reflect God’s forgiveness and blessing to those who ask.

Is there anyone God wants you to forgive and seek restitution?

One last thought. Joseph’s father, Jacob, was stunned to learn that Joseph was still alive.

Good news is hard to believe when going through difficulties. But God’s ultimate plan for his children is a future filled with joy and blessings. Have a great weekend!

A Test of Integrity, Genesis 44

I’d like to share Bruce Sims’ post, “A Test of Integrity” with you. He has some great thoughts on Genesis 44. I hope you are having a wonderful summer. Enjoy!

***

Saying you are going to do something is one thing, but to follow through with it no matter what is quite the other. What if doing what you say will do may cause you harm? What is more valuable to you, your promise or your personal safety? That was the question Judah had to answer in Genesis 44.

via A Test of Integrity — Call to Witness

Pharaoh’s Dreams, Genesis 41

Pharaoh paced. There would be no rest until he discovered the meaning of these two dreams. Not even the purring fountain or musicians could console him. Surely his blood-kin gods sent him a message. For these were no ordinary dreams. But no one could interpret the vivid scenes that haunted him.

Then the chief cupbearer brought to his attention a young Hebrew slave whom he met in prison. This Joseph guy—whom the cupbearer forgot about the past two years—supposedly interpreted not only the cupbearer’s dream, but also the head baker’s dream. Each with complete accuracy. And both dreams, according to the cupbearer, involved him!

What do I have to lose? My gems are smarter than all the magicians and wise men combined!

“Merkha, fetch Joseph immediately!”

Pharaoh’s servants hastily retrieved Joseph from Potiphar’s dungeon. With clean clothes and a freshly shaven face, Joseph stood humbly before Egypt’s king. Pharaoh measured the Hebrew from head to toe. Although he was white as a sheet from lack of sunlight the past 13 years, his calm manner intrigued him. And his eyes shimmered with intelligence. Pharaoh liked that he didn’t twitch or shuffle his feet like so many others in his presence.

“I have heard that you interpret dreams. Is this true?”

“No Sir, I can’t interpret dreams.” Joseph didn’t cower under his piercing gaze. “But my God can.”

“Alright then,” Pharaoh sat on the edge of his gold engraved throne. “Here are my dreams: I was standing on the bank of the Nile. Suddenly, seven healthy, well-fed cows came up from the river and began to graze among the reeds. Seven other cows—scrawny and sick—snuck up behind them. I’ve never seen such gaunt cows in all of Egypt! The sickly cows ate up the seven healthy ones.  But no one could tell they had eaten them. For they looked just as scrawny as before.”

Pharaoh inhaled deeply. “In my second dream I saw seven healthy, full heads of grain growing on a single stalk. Behind them, seven other heads of grain sprouted. But these were withered, thin, and scorched by the east wind. The withered heads of grain swallowed the seven good heads.”

A servant wiped the beads of perspiration from Pharaoh’s forehead. “No one in all of Egypt can tell me the meaning.”

Joseph looked Pharaoh directly in the eyes and spoke in a quiet, respectful tone. “Pharaoh had the same dream twice. God has told Pharaoh what he’s going to do. The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good heads of grain are seven years. It’s all the same dream. The seven thin, sickly cows that came up behind them are seven years. The seven empty heads of grain scorched by the east wind are also seven years. Seven years of famine are coming.”

Joseph paused a moment to let the news soak in.

“God has shown Pharaoh what he’s going to do. Seven years are coming when Egypt will have plenty of food. But then seven years of famine will follow. The plenty in Egypt will be forgotten as a severe famine ruins the land. God will send it very soon. This matter is irrevocable, as signified by your recurring dream.”

Incredible. This Hebrew clearly spoke truth. “What shall I do Joseph?”

Joseph’s gaze rested on the vegetable garden outside Pharaoh’s window. “Look for a wise, experienced man to put in charge. Then appoint managers throughout Egypt to organize during the plenty years. They should collect all the food produced in the good years ahead and stockpile the grain under your authority, storing it in the towns for food. This grain will be used later during the seven years of famine. This will save your country from the famine’s destruction.”

Genius. Surely this man has the spirit of the living God in him!

“I’d say you’re the perfect man for this job. From now on, you’re in charge of my affairs; all my people will report to you. Only as king will I be over you. Your name shall be Zaphenath-Paneah, for God speaks and He lives! I also give you Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera, the priest of On (Heliopolis) to marry.”

Pharaoh motioned for Merkha. “Place a gold chain, robe, and signet ring on Joseph. Give him my second-in-command chariot to ride among the people.”

And Joseph took up his duties over the land of Egypt. Joseph was thirty years old when he went to work for Pharaoh the king of Egypt. As soon as Joseph left Pharaoh’s presence, he began his work in Egypt.”                -Genesis 41:45-46 (MSG)

Before the years of famine came Joseph had two sons with Asenath. He named his firstborn Manasseh (Forget), saying, “God made me forget all my hardships and my parental home.” He named his second son Ephraim (Double Prosperity), saying, “God has prospered me in the land of my sorrow,” (vs. 50-52).

Before the years of famine came Joseph had two sons with Asenath. He named his firstborn Manasseh (Forget), saying, “God made me forget all my hardships and my parental home.” He named his second son Ephraim (Double Prosperity), saying, “God has prospered me in the land of my sorrow,” (vs. 50-52).

You may read Genesis 41 here: Bible Gateway.

Reflect

Most of us won’t be interpreting kings’ dreams anytime soon. But like Joseph, we may find ourselves thrown into a situation in any given moment. We can ready ourselves to be used by God when we invest in knowing Him more. Like Joseph, do others see God’s Spirit living in us?

Joseph gave Pharaoh a survival plan for the next 14 years. Through careful planning and implementation Joseph prevented not only the Egyptians from starving, but also all the other countries affected by the severe famine.

How can we translate God’s plan for us into practical steps as Joseph did?

The Cupbearer and the Baker, Genesis 40

The reward for service is often delayed, but it will always come.”

***

“Good morning. What’s with the sad faces?” Joseph set a tray of food before the king’s cupbearer and baker. The only other time he had seen both of them this upset was after they had been thrown into this dungeon. While he was being unjustly punished because Potiphar’s wife falsely accused him of rape, they were partners in something that greatly offended the king.

The cupbearer grit his teeth while clawing at his bald head. “We had dreams. But no one can tell us what they mean.”

Joseph gently lifted his chin as he spoke to him at eye level. “Don’t interpretations come from God? What did you dream?”

The head cupbearer told Joseph his dream: “In my dream there was a vine before me with three branches on it: It budded, blossomed, and the clusters ripened into grapes. I was holding Pharaoh’s cup; I took the grapes, squeezed them into Pharaoh’s cup, and gave the cup to Pharaoh.”

Joseph’s eyes lit up. “The three branches are three days. Within three days, Pharaoh will get you out of here and put you back to your old work—you’ll be giving Pharaoh his cup just as you used to do when you were his cupbearer. Please remember me when things are going well with you again—tell Pharaoh about me and get me out of this place. I was kidnapped from the Hebrews’ land. And since I’ve been here, I’ve done nothing to deserve being put in this prison.”

The head baker perked up after hearing Joseph’s interpretation. “Listen to my dream: I saw three wicker baskets on my head; the top basket had various pastries from the bakery. Birds were picking at them from the basket on my head.”

Joseph looked down. Why did the truth have to sting sometimes? “This is the meaning: The three baskets are three days; within three days Pharaoh will take off your head, impale you on a post, and the birds will pick your bones clean.”

Two days passed uneventfully. But on the third day, Pharaoh threw himself a birthday party and invited all his servants. He placed the cupbearer and baker up front in seats of honor.

“Cheers!” Pharaoh bellowed. “I officially restore my head cupbearer.” He extended his hand toward him.

“And for my baker . . . may he be disgraced as he has disgraced me!” He signaled his soldiers. They immediately seized the baker and impaled him on a post, exactly how Joseph had said.

But though the cupbearer was exonerated, he didn’t give Joseph another thought.

***

You may read Genesis 40 here: Gateway Bible.

Reflect ed8207007091645e2274b2bff7db134d

God used Joseph’s hardships to prepare him for the future position He had for him.

Even though Joseph would have to wait 12-13 years before being released from a crime he didn’t commit, God’s presence and blessing continued to be with him. As the warden entrusted all of the prisoners to Joseph’s charge, Joseph used his position to serve them.

Has God placed you in a position where He wants to use you to serve those around you?

When the subject of dreams came up, Joseph directed everyone’s attention to God and used it as a powerful witness. He sets a great example of being bold as he effectively witnessed. His example challenges us to recognize opportunities to relate God to another person’s experience.

It wasn’t Joseph’s knowledge of dreams that helped him interpret their meaning, but rather his knowledge and relationship with God. Joseph was always careful to give God the credit instead of taking the honor upon himself.

In what situations can we be like Joseph and give God the glory due Him?

Although the cupbearer had Joseph to thank for his freedom, it would be two more years before he remembered Joseph. But Joseph’s faith ran deep. He trusted God to work things out. Are you in a situation that seems hopeless? Hold on! God knows. He may be preparing you for a greater work, as He did with Joseph.

Judah and Tamar, Genesis 38

Judah got a wife for Er, his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the LORD’s sight; so the LORD put him to death.” -Genesis 38:6-7

Genesis 38 tells of Joseph’s brother, Judah, moving away from home and settling in Canaan where he marries and raises his children to adulthood among a people his family deems unclean.

This chapter provides enough drama to start a TV series. How about a spin on Housewives? Hmm . . . I can see it now: Tent Husbands.

You may read Genesis 38 here: Bible Gateway.

When Judah’s firstborn, Er, errors through persistent wicked living, God takes his life. Since Tamar is now a childless widow, Judah follows the levirate marriage custom as described in Deuteronomy 25:5-10. He tells his second born, Onan, to fulfill his duty and sleep with her so she might have a son to carry on her late husband’s inheritance.

For the highest value in this culture is to carry on the bloodline.

Onan has no problems sleeping with Tamar, but he purposely denies Er an heir. What benefit would that be to him anyway? (vs. 9)

Needless to say, God isn’t happy with Onan. “For what he did was wicked in the Lord’s sight.” So He also kills Onan, (vs. 10).

As the saga continues, Judah tells Tamar to live under his tent and he will give her his third son in marriage when he is older.

However, the marriage ceremony never happens.

In the meanwhile—after a long time—Judah’s wife dies. After the grieving process, Judah sets out to shear sheep in Timnah.

The plot thickens. With the realization that Judah lied about giving her his third son in marriage, Tamar devises a plan to provide legal heirs.

Since shepherds aren’t sheepish at sheep-shearing time. And abundant sexual temptation abounds, she disguises herself as a prostitute and places herself in Judah’s path.

Judah takes the bait. So Tamar agrees to have sex with him in exchange for a few of his personal items: his seal, cord, and staff.

Conclusion

When Judah learns that Tamar, the so-called prostitute, is pregnant he sidesteps the usual punishment of stoning her (Deuteronomy 22:20-24; John 8:4-5). Instead, he demands that she be burned. (Burning was reserved only for a priest’s daughter found guilty of prostitution in the Mosaic Law, Leviticus 28:9.)

But as Tamar is brought out, she sends a message to Judah: “I am pregnant by the man who owns these. . . . See if you recognize whose seal and cord and staff these are,” (vs. 25).

Guilty! Judah confesses his wrong in denying Tamar his third son and lets her off the hook.

Judah and Tamar have twin sons, Perez and Zerah. Perez becomes the ancestor of David (Ruth 4:18-22). And David becomes the ancestor of Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:3). Wow!

Reflect 

This story seems to be open-minded about prostitution, but it is condemned as a serious sin throughout Scripture. If there is a moral in this story, it is that loyalty to family is extremely important.

This story seems to be open-minded about prostitution, but it is condemned as a serious sin throughout Scripture. If there is a moral in this story, it is that loyalty to family is extremely important.

Immersed in a culture where prostitutes were common, the question of sexual morality never seems to enter Judah’s mind.

While Judah was driven by lust, Tamar was driven to be the matriarch of Judah’s oldest family line. Layman’s Bible Commentary observes: “There is evidence that among ancient Assyrian and Hittite peoples, part of the levirate responsibility could pass to the father of the widow’s husband, if there were no brothers to fulfill it. Thus Tamar was, in one sense, claiming what was due her. She had tricked Judah into fulfilling the levirate responsibility and now would bear his children.”

Neither Judah nor Tamar, however, were justified in their actions.

Although Judah concealed the very sin he thought Tamar committed, fury fueled him as he demanded her death. When we become angry over a sin we see in others, maybe we should ask ourselves: “Am I struggling in this same area?”

Next week we will read how Joseph’s integrity stands in striking contrast to Judah’s immorality. Have a wonderful weekend!

Joseph Sold Into Slavery, Genesis 37

Here comes that dreamer! . . . . Let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we’ll see what comes of his dreams!” –Genesis 37:19-20

While chapter 36 depicts Esau’s descendants as mighty kings and chieftains, Jacob’s descendants continue to struggle. Fast forward 400 years from Jacob’s day and Israel is enslaved under Egypt’s harsh rule until they escape under Moses’ leadership. And while Edom—an established nation—has power to refuse their “brother” Israel passage through their land, Israel still has no claim in land ownership.

The last 14 chapters of Genesis (37-50) primarily focuses on Joseph, the obvious favorite son of Jacob (and firstborn of Rachel). In fact, the story of Joseph comprises one fourth of the entire book of Genesis. However, a few references of Jacob’s other 11 sons are also mentioned.

You may read Genesis 37 here: Bible Gateway.

Seventeen year-old Joseph probably held his head high and maybe walked with a strut. Not only did he have insight into God’s plans for his future, but he also was Jacob’s favorite as signified by the richly ornamented robe given to him. This only further fueled the fire of rivalry with his 10 older brothers. For they were constantly reminded that they didn’t measure up in their father’s eyes. Not like golden boy, Joseph.

If that weren’t bad enough, Joseph told his brothers of his dreams.

Joseph’s Dreams

Joseph’s dreams always come in pairs, (perhaps for confirmation). His first dream involves sheaves. These symbolize his future role in overseeing the grain distribution in Egypt. The second dream involves the sun, moon, and 11 stars bowing down to him. The fulfillment of these dreams happen 23 years later when all 11 brothers submit to Joseph at least five different times (46:6-7; 43:26, 28; 44:14-16; 50:18).

Maybe Joseph shared his dreams in faith. However, the boys didn’t take the dreams lightly. And they hate him all the more.

Joseph’s Brothers Conspire

Joseph is sent to check on his brothers who were tending flocks. Shechem was about 50 miles north of Hebron.

Joseph is sent to check on his brothers who were tending flocks. Shechem was about 50 miles north of Hebron. . . . Bought as a piece of merchandise, Joseph would probably be chained and forced to walk the 30-day trek across the desert while being treated like baggage. Egypt would be a major culture shock for this young shepherd nomad. Although he would see gorgeous homes, grand pyramids, and witness the world’s most advanced civilization, he would also be thrust into a dark culture of countless gods.

In their jealousy, Joseph’s brothers conspire to kill Joseph. (This probably involves Dan, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher whom Joseph gives a bad report in verse 2.) But Reuben the first-born advocates for Joseph: “Why kill him? Let’s just throw him into a well!” (What a thoughtful guy!)

Although his plan was to rescue Joseph, Reuben’s concern appears to be more about himself if his brother is killed, rather than concerned for Joseph’s fate (vs. 29-30).

Judah also persuades the guys not to kill Joseph. Instead, why not make some money and let someone else do the dirty work?

So after ripping off Joseph’s robe and throwing him into a dry well, they drag him back out and sell him to some traveling Ishmaelite merchants. (Nice brothers!)

But God is in control of Joseph’s life.

Joseph ends up being sold to one of Pharoah’s officials, Potiphar, captain of the guard. And where most would fail, Joseph survives. When we continue his saga, we’ll see that with his knowledge of God—sculpted by pain—Joseph adds quiet wisdom to his confidence.

Meanwhile, Jacob (though blessed by God) meets up with his previous trail of deceit. But this time his sons deceive him into thinking that Joseph has been killed by a wild animal. In his grief, he refuses any comfort.

Reflect

Favoritism seems to be a theme in Jacob’s family history. Isaac favored Esau. Rebekah preferred Jacob. Jacob desired Rachel. And in Jacob’s old age, Joseph is the apple of his eye.

Favoritism breeds rivalry and division. Feelings about a child may be difficult to change. But as parents and grandparents, we can change our actions of giving special treatment to one over another.

The time to deal with jealousy is when we find ourselves keeping score with what others have.

Joseph’s brothers’ jealousy over a robe and anger over a couple of dreams grew into a blinding monstrous rage. Worried about carrying the guilt of Joseph’s death, they chose the lesser of two evils by selling him as a slave instead. Although they avoided murder, their action was still wrong.

When faced with problem solving, let’s first ask, “Is this right?”

Have a great weekend!

 

Esau’s Descendants, Genesis 36

Oholibamah. Try saying that 10 times fast! Who was Oholibamah? She was one of two Hittite women that Esau—Jacob’s twin brother—married according to Genesis 36.

Even though intermarriage with the Canaanites was strictly forbidden by his family, Esau defies his parents’ religious principles when he marries two idolatrous Hittites. Isaac and Rebekah are miserable with this arrangement (26:35). So Esau decides to add a third wife. But this time he’d marry Basemath, an Ishmael descendant (28:9).

You may read the list of Esau’s descendants here: Bible Gateway.

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The Edomites’ territory featured both desolate desert and rugged mountains. Major roads allowed travelers access to the rich natural resources in this area. The city later called Petra—an ancient world marvel—was believed to be carved into Edom’s rock walls

Although the theme of infertility plagued Abraham’s line, it doesn’t seem an issue in Esau’s line. Esau’s descendants, however, would eventually vanish at God’s hand due to their hostile treatment toward their brothers, Israel, Jacob’s descendants.

Due to insufficient pasture and water for both brother’s herds, Esau moves his family south and east of the Dead Sea. This division of territory between Esau and Jacob sounds a lot like Abraham and Lot’s episode (13:1-13). However, Esau may have also moved with the acceptance that Canaan (the promised land) is to be passed on to Jacob.

The name Esau means “red.” Esau becomes known as Edom from his foolish decision to trade his birthright and father’s blessing for some red stew. So, the Edomites are his descendants.

Interesting Edomite Tidbits

  • Esau’s sons—who walk away from God—appear wise in worldly ways and reign as kings in Edom before any king reigns in Israel. And while Esau’s descendants become rulers, Jacob’s sons remain lowly shepherds for generations (47:3).
  • As Esau and Jacob grew up fighting, both of their descendants followed suit. Israel, (Jacob’s descendants), looked down on the Edomites because of their intermarriage with the Canaanites. God, however, commanded the Israelites during the exodus to give their “brothers,” special treatment despite the Edomites defiance and hostility (Deuteronomy 2:4-5).
  • Like their father, the Edomites were fierce and rugged. As warriors who prided themselves in their self-sufficiency, they mistakenly thought their rock cliffs were impregnable.
  • Edom—Israel’s neighbors and relatives—constantly harassed the Jews. They later looted Jerusalem and rejoiced at the misfortunes of Israel and Judah. God spoke strong words of judgment against them through the Old Testament prophet Obadiah in a dirge of doom format. You may read it here: Obadiah. (It’s only one chapter and the shortest book in the Old Testament!)
  • When Obadiah prophesied, Judah may have seemed less likely to survive than Edom. But—exactly as God foretold—the Edomite nation vanished. They were routed by Judas Maccabeus in 164 B.C. and were completely nonexistent by the first century A.D.

Reflect

Edom sets an example to allb69c87973c980aef46976f7f37e1e5f1  people and nations who live in hostility to God. Just as God will judge Edom for her evil actions toward His people, He will also destroy proud and wicked people.

As I wrap this up, a hail storm accompanied with loud thunder and lightning sweeps over our house. Thankfully I’m inside, safe from the hurling chunks of ice. What a great visual reminder of God’s protection for His children!

One day, God will judge and punish all who harm His people. I can’t think of a more terrifying scenario than being caught out in the storm of God’s wrath.

Those who rebel against God and take advantage of others’ misfortunes will someday answer to God.

Those who have trusted Christ for forgiveness and are faithful to Him, however, have hope for the future. Let’s be mindful of those around us and be willing to help in their time of need.

Enjoy your weekend!

Jacob Returns to Bethel, Genesis 35

Then God said to Jacob, ‘Go up to Bethel and settle there, and build an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you were fleeing from your brother Esau.’” –Genesis 35:1

Once again, God tells Jacob to settle in Bethel (and build an altar). Bethel is where Jacob first encountered God and built an altar to worship Him. It’s also where Jacob is first told about God’s plan to bless him.

You may read Genesis 35 here: Bible Gateway.

Jacob gives his clan a spiritual prep talk as he seeks a fresh start with God. Purification would involve the removal of all foreign gods, and be symbolized through the changing of their clothes.

Why did the people have idols in the first place? These were sometimes viewed more as good luck charms rather than gods. Their earrings were also viewed as good luck charms to buffer evil. But Jacob didn’t want anything—not even good luck trinkets—to distract his family’s spiritual focus.

As Jacob and his people set out to Bethel (in the land of Canaan), “the terror of God fell upon the towns all around them so that no one pursued them” (vs. 5).

Small wonder after what Jacob’s sons did to the people of Shechem! But God’s protective hand is also evident as Jacob obeys and sets up an altar in Bethel.

God renews His promise to give Jacob many descendants and the land (vs. 9-12), just as He first promised Abraham and Isaac. God also affirms Jacob’s new name, Israel, which means “he struggles with God”.

Jacob sets up a second pillar in Bethel as a memorial to God’s faithfulness. Similar to 30 years earlier, he sanctifies (sets apart) the stone and pours oil over it. By using the most expensive olive oil with the finest grade in purity, Jacob demonstrates his great respect where he meets with God. He also gives God an offering and reaffirms the name Bethel, which means “house of God”.

The Deaths of Rachel and Isaac

Rachel—who had desperately wanted a child—sadly dies while giving birth to her second son (vs. 16-19). She names him Ben-Oni, which means “son of my trouble”. But Jacob renames him Benjamin, which means “son of my right hand”.

Along with a list of Jacob’s sons, Isaac’s death is also recorded at the end of chapter 35. Isaac lives for 12 years after Jacob relocates to Hebron. He also grieves Joseph’s seeming death. He dies soon after Joseph’s promotion in Egypt—at the age of 180—and is buried near Hebron in the Machpelah Cave.

Reuben’s Ruse

Reuben—Jacob and Leah’s firstborn—is now an adult. He helps himself to Jacob’s concubine, Bilhah (vs. 22). (Although Bilhah held some privileges of a wife, she didn’t share in all of a wife’s benefits.)

Why would Reuben do such a foolish thing?

Layman’s Bible Commentary asserts: “Reuben’s relations with Bilhah are a power move as much as anything else. In that culture, a man who wanted to assert his superiority over another man might do so by having sexual relations with that man’s wife or concubine. It may have included a play for asserting his mother’s role as ‘first wife.’ With the death of Rachel, who had been Jacob’s favorite, Bilhah, Rachel’s servant, may have been able to move into a favored role. Reuben’s actions make Bilhah detestable to Jacob; thus Leah has a better chance for power in the household.”

Reuben may have thought he got away with his ruse. His actions, however, cost him in the end when Jacob gives his double portion to Joseph (1 Chronicles 5:1-2). The use of Israel instead of Jacob in verse 22 may indicate that the patriarch responds in a correct manner, instead of how the old Jacob might have responded.

Reflect

God desires and deserves our obedience. Compromise not only hinders our walk with God, but also hurts those around us.

God desires and deserves our obedience. Compromise not only hinders our walk with God, but also hurts those around us.

Sometimes—instead of a steady pace—my walk with God feels more like two steps forward and one step back. How about you?

Jacob the patriarch wasn’t perfect either. Setbacks marked his life. But I love that his new name characterized his desire to stay close to God. Despite life’s challenges and upsets, he learned to prevail with God.

If you’ve been a Christian for a while, you know that being a believer doesn’t make life easier. But we have a powerful God who is always ready to help us through life’s storms. Like Israel, let’s determine to prevail with God and cast aside all idols (anything that we put before God).

Have a great week!

Dinah and the Shechemites, Genesis 34

Now Dinah, the daughter Leah had borne to Jacob, went out to visit the women of the land. When Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, the ruler of that area, saw her, he took her and violated her. His heart was drawn to Dinah daughter of Jacob, and he loved the girl and spoke tenderly to her. And Shechem said to his father Hamor, ‘Get me this girl as my wife.’” –Genesis 34:1-4

Shechem was not only the name of a place, but also the name of the man that Dinah encounters. Jacob probably didn’t foresee the immediate crisis looming. But the consequence of compromising God’s directive to go to Bethel (31:3, 13) would wreck havoc not only on his family, but also on the Shechemites.

You may read Genesis 34 here: Bible Gateway.

Dinah—Leah’s youngest child—must have been at least a teenager at this time. This suggests that Jacob and his family had been living in, or near, Shechem for several years.

Who could blame Dinah—living with 11 brothers—for wanting to get out and socialize with other girls her age? After all, a girl needs girlfriends!

Jacob, Leah, and Rachel must have been somewhat uncomfortable with their children living so close to pagan influence. Maybe they planned on moving to Bethel (as God had directed) in the near future to find mates for their growing kids. Maybe Jacob remained near Shechem in hopes of spreading a godly influence. Whatever their reasons, by-passing God’s command to return to Bethel put themselves in a tangled mess.

It wasn’t long before Shechem, the city’s chieftain, took notice of Dinah. This soon turned into an obsession. Beautiful Dinah, being of a different nationality, probably held a certain charm that the Canaanite girls lacked. For they were immersed in a culture of immorality and idol worship.

Henry Morris (The Genesis Record) writes: “Unattached women were considered fair game in cities of the time, in which promiscuity was not only common but, in fact, a part of the very religious system itself. It seems likely that Dinah must have been warned about such dangers by her parents, but perhaps she felt she could look out for herself and resented their overprotective attitude.”

Scripture doesn’t say if Dinah encouraged Shechem’s affection. But in light of her age, statutory rape would probably be applied in our times.

Even though Shechem violated Dinah, he pursues her as his bride. Since marriage was arranged by parents even in pagan cultures, he asks his dad to approach Jacob in the matter.

Jacob learns what happened, but waits until his sons come in from the fields. In the meanwhile, Hamor and Shechem show up. Without a hint of an apology, or indication that a wrong has been committed, Hamor suggests that Dinah be given to Shechem as his wife.

Jacob’s sons overhear their wild proposal and burst into the room. Jacob seems to fade into the background as his sons take charge.

The brothers are furious.

Not only has their only sister been violated, but Shechem has “done a disgraceful thing in Israel,” polluting their national purity that’s necessary for God’s continual blessing upon them.

(Side note: The name Israel in verse 7 refers to God’s chosen people for the first time.)

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Because of Simeon and Levi’s sins, their father cursed them with his dying breath (49:5-7). Their descendants (generations later) lost the part of the promised land allotted to them.

Adding insult to insult, Hamor suggests a general intermarrying between his people and Jacob’s clan. He also throws in a bonus: trade and land deals.

Jacob’s sons—following Jacob’s previous devious ways—devise a plan of revenge. (Never mind the defilement of God’s holy meaning of what they are about to propose!) They pretend to go along with Hamor’s proposal on one condition only: “That you become like us by circumcising all your males,” (vs. 15).

Why did Jacob’s sons include all the Shechemite men?

Maybe they felt they deserved punishment for their indifference to Shechem’s crime. Or perhaps they reasoned that they couldn’t carry out revenge on Shechem the Chieftan as the townsmen would surely kill them.

Surprisingly, the Shechemite men agree to circumcision. I guess the temporary inconvenience paled in light of the financial gain they would reap from this alliance.

So, on the third day—when the men are most debilitated—Simeon, Levi, and possibly their servants charge the city. Going from house to house, they slay all the men (including Shechem and Hamor) and rescue Dinah. Maybe the other brothers join in the looting and capture of the women, children, animals and possessions.

So where is Jacob during all of this?

His infuriation with his boys’ retaliation shows that he wasn’t in on this plan of vengeance. But his verbal response also indicates a selfish viewpoint: “You have brought trouble on me by making me a stench to the Canaanites and Perizzites,” (vs. 30).

Jacob’s silence—along with Simeon and Levi’s reference to Dinah as their sister (rather than Jacob’s daughter)—could infer that Jacob didn’t give her much attention. Maybe that’s why her protective blood brothers (Leah’s sons) felt justified in their actions.

Reflect

Simeon and Levi were right to be angry at both the injustice done to Dinah and Hamor’s proposal of mixing the chosen Israelite seed with the Canaanite seed. However, taking the law into their own hands was flat out wrong. Their arrogance led to the slaughter of innocent people.

This horrific account shows the high price of compromise. If Jacob had obeyed God’s command to return to Bethel, this tragedy wouldn’t have happened.

The following questions come to my mind: Am I settling for compromise? Am I putting off what God has asked me to do (or not do)? My consequences may not seem as huge, but do I really want to just coast in my relationship with God and miss His best for my life?

Thanks for staying the course! I appreciate you!

Jacob Meets Esau, Genesis 33

Jacob looked up and there was Esau, coming with his four hundred men.” –Genesis 33:1

Twenty years have passed since Jacob cheated Esau of his birthright and blessing. For twenty long years, Jacob most likely imagined how and when Esau would settle the score.

After a unique wrestling match with God, however, we witness a change in Jacob. No longer enslaved to the domination of fear and deceit, God changes Jacob’s name to Israel. This signifies his changing character, (see Jacob Wrestles With God).

Chapter 33 marks an important time in Jacob’s life. You may read Genesis 33 here: Bible Gateway.

With a new limp, Jacob boldly precedes his family in meeting Esau and his 400 men. Using precautionary measures, he bows to the ground seven times before Esau. This was an ancient court protocol used before kings.

Esau’s Response

Men didn’t run in Esau’s culture. But Esau breaks the cultural norm and sprints toward his brother. Jacob’s heart must have felt like it would explode. Would this be his end?

Amazingly, Esau embraces Jacob in a big bear hug. Esau’s kiss indicates forgiveness. And the two brothers weep. . . . I would have loved to see their reunion!

Esau’s refusal to accept Jacob’s herds as gifts shows he is not the taker that Jacob has been. But upon Jacob’s insistence, Esau finally does accept the gifts. The word gift is translated from a word that means blessing. By receiving the gifts, Esau grants Jacob the opportunity to feel forgiven.

Jacob’s Response

Jacob’s comparison of Esau’s face likened to God’s face expresses his profound relief in Esau’s acceptance of him.

Although Jacob claims he is headed to Seir, he travels to Succoth instead. Scripture doesn’t say why. But this is the exact opposite direction from Esau. Did he fear that their reconciled relationship might be in jeopardy if they lived side by side? Did he reason that the land couldn’t support both of them for pastures? Did he fear facing his father?

Sadly, Jacob would never see his father again (unless Scripture didn’t record it). In fact, the next time Jacob and Esau would meet up again in Scripture is 27 years later at Isaac’s graveside (35:29).

Against God’s directive to settle in Bethel (28:21; 31:3, 13), Jacob settles near the city of Shechem instead. This is where Jacob builds his first altar, (just as Grandpa Abraham had done when entering Canaan).

Jacob names this altar El-Elohe-Israel, which means “the mighty God is the God of Israel.” This is the first record in which an altar is named. By using his new name, Israel, Jacob not only acknowledges God as the God, but also as his God.

Reflect

In Esau’s case, time did heal old wounds. d1b6a7c0420163d15b9c1ee3cab7f99bI love that both brothers came to the conclusion that their real estate wasn’t nearly as important as their relationship.

Although Esau usually gets a bad rap, I really admire his example of not allowing bitterness to rule his life. Instead, he chooses forgiveness. Esau also demonstrated contentment with what he had.

As in Esau’s case, life dishes out times when we feel cheated. What can we do when we feel cheated and used?

The Psalms are full of honest expressions and cries for God’s help. We can also express our hurt, anger, and disappointment to God. And then—with God’s help—choose to forgive and not be bound to bitterness.

Have a great week!

Jacob Wrestles With God, Genesis 32:22-32

That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two maidservants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.” –Genesis 32:22-24

I would love to be an owl in a nearby tree and watch this fascinating event unfold.

You may read Genesis 32:22-32 here: Bible Gateway.

Several questions surface after reading this passage. Here’s what I’ve learned so far.

Why did Jacob send everyone on ahead as he stayed behind prior to meeting up with Esau?

After 20 years to ponder how—or when—Esau might kill him (for cheating Esau of both his birthright and blessings), tomorrow would be the big day. Would Jacob live or die?

Distressed and terrified, Jacob lagged behind to pray. Hosea 12:3-5 tells us that Jacob’s wrestling not only involved physical tenacity, but also weeping and supplication.

Is this passage to be taken as an allegory or literal account?

It seems apparent that the writer of this passage (probably originally Jacob) meant for this account to be taken literally. Even the name Jabbok means “Wrestler” in memory of Jacob’s amazing experience. If Jacob ever chalked his experience up to just being a dream, he had a permanent limp to remind him of his physical wrestling match.

Layman’s Bible Commentary notes: “The man [Jacob’s wrestling opponent] is deliberately crippling Jacob at the point of his greatest strength [the thigh being the largest and strongest muscle connection of the body].”

“Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the tendon attached to the socket of the hip, because the socket of Jacob’s hip was touched near the tendon,” (vs. 32).

Hmm . . . an interesting development, especially prior to meeting Esau. Jacob would be weak from wrestling all night. Definitely not in his best fighting form!

But why would God send Jacob off limping (besides a reminder of this unique encounter)?

The Apostle Paul—who had a lengthy list of credentials—said: “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.” (2 Corinthians 11:30). Why?

Our weakness, when given to God, gives Him an opportunity to fill us with His power. God was teaching Jacob to rely on Him instead of relying solely on his smarts and energy. Henry Morris (The Genesis Record) writes: “He [Jacob] must know fully his own weakness, but even more he must know the power of God and his right to claim that power.”

I think God was teaching Jacob to look at the big picture, instead of focusing so much on his stressful situation of meeting Esau again. There was more at stake here. God had an important mission for Jacob. For the Messiah would come through his descendants.

Was Jacob’s wrestling opponent a man, an angel, or God?

Angels often appeared in the form of men in those days. The passage from Hosea 12:3-5 also indicates that Jacob “had power over the angel, and prevailed.” However, according to Jacob, this was no ordinary angel: “Because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared,” (vs. 30). So Jacob names the place Peniel, which means “face of God”.

But how could Jacob touch (and see) God’s face and still live?

Morris writes: “This would have been utterly impossible, had not God veiled Himself in human form (Exodus 33:20; 1 Timothy 6:16).

If the man was God, why does verse 25 say He couldn’t overpower Jacob (vs. 25)?

Morris explains: “This, of course, does not suggest that God was weaker than Jacob, but does show that God desires men to persist in prayer and that He delights to yield to such prayers. . . . There is such a thing as prevailing prayer, when the request conforms to the will and the word of God, (Luke 18:7; Luke 18:1). Jacob’s experience symbolizes all such prayers.”

What is the significance of God changing Jacob’s name to Israel? a0904592003610f6889e5fdc5cab1e1e

God gave some Bible people new names to symbolize how God had changed their lives. In fact, Revelation 2:17 says: “To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.”

These white stones are significant because they represent new hearts that God has cleansed from sin. The new names given show that God has accepted and declared his children not guilty.

Israel means “he struggles with God”. Jacob, the ambitious “heel-grabbing” deceiver had grown to one who struggles with God and overcomes. Morris also notes that Israel means “One Who Fights Victoriously with God.” It has also been rendered “A Prince with God” and is translated in this verse, “as a prince hast thou power.”

Reflect

I love that God answered Jacob’s prayer in such a personal way: in the form of a real wrestling match! Jacob, who had formerly twisted situations and manipulated people probably never imagined that he would literally wrestle God (and learn some important lessons in the process!) God definitely knows how to get our individual attention. He longs for a personal relationship with each of us (Revelation 3:20).

God is still in the business of transforming lives. God initiates the change, but we must press on if we want to grow in Christ-like character.

I love that God can take the weak and broken strands of our lives and weave them into something beautiful for His purpose. . . . Have a terrific week!

Jacob Prepares to Meet Esau, Genesis 32:1-21

Early the next morning Laban kissed his grandchildren and his daughters and blessed them. Then he left and returned home. Jacob also went his way, and the angels of God met him.” – Genesis 31:55-32:1

After Laban departs from Jacob on good terms, Jacob obeys God and travels on to Canaan. You may read Genesis 32:1-21 here: Bible Gateway.

God Sends Angels to Meet Jacob

Why did God send angels to meet Jacob?

Fear and distress overwhelmed Jacob at the report of Esau’s 400 men. How often did Jacob replay Esau’s threat of killing him over the past 20 years? Weekly? Daily?

Not only did Jacob cheat his brother of his birthright (25:33), but he also stole the family blessing from him (25:29-27:42).

But God reassures Jacob of His protection by giving him a glimpse of the angels’ presence. Jacob names the place Mahanaim, which means “double host” or “double camp”.

The Bible records many instances of angels intervening in human situations. Perhaps Jacob recognizes these angels from his previous dream (see Jacob’s Dream At Bethel).

Jacob Prepares to Meet Esau

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First, Jacob would iron out the physical details of his trip (vs. 3-8). When he learns of Esau coming to meet him, he divides the people and animals into two groups. If Esau attacks, he thought, the group that is left may escape (vs. 8).

Jacob sends messengers on ahead to shower his brother with gifts. He applies wisdom in the wording that he instructs his servants to use: He calls Esau “lord” and humbles himself as his servant.

Maybe, just maybe, he could buy Esau’s favor. Perhaps the 550-plus animals would be viewed as an act of reconciliation. Or maybe Esau would realize that Jacob isn’t returning for his inheritance after all since Jacob is already wealthy.

After doing everything he can to physically prepare in meeting Esau, Jacob preps spiritually. His prayer in verses 9-12 is the first and only extended prayer in Genesis. Jacob’s prayer could be summarized as the following:

  1. He restates God’s words to him: “Go back to your country and relatives, and I will make you prosper.”
  2. He admits that he doesn’t deserve God’s kindness and faithfulness.
  3. He pleads for safety.
  4. He reminds God of His promise to bless and multiply him and his descendants.

Reflect

How would you feel if you were about to meet the person you had tricked out of his/her most prized possession? Jacob must have been trembling in his sandals! But instead of fleeing, (as he fled from Laban), Jacob demonstrates that his faith is growing.

Instead of drowning his worries in a bowl of ice cream, or frantically running around, he makes practical plans and then releases his anxieties to God in prayer.

Now that would be a good thing to remember the next time I reach for that bowl of chocolate ice cream!

This section ends with Jacob spending the night in the camp. Next week, I’ll wrestle with—excuse the pun—the short, but intriguing passage of Jacob wrestling with God (vs. 22-32).

I hope you are enjoying spring. Despite catching a heavy cold, I am loving the warmer weather. Have a super week!