Monthly Archives: August 2012

Genesis 40: We Need to Speak Honestly When We Are Called upon

In Genesis chapter 40, Joseph is imprisoned, and he meets the former baker and butler from the palace. They both had visions that they wanted interpreted.

Gen 40:7  And he asked Pharaoh’s officers that were with him in the ward of his lord’s house, saying, Wherefore look ye so sadly to day?

Gen 40:8  And they said unto him, We have dreamed a dream, and there is no interpreter of it. And Joseph said unto them, Do not interpretations belong to God? tell me them, I pray you.

One important thing to notice here is that he gave all of the credit to God. He didn’t say that he could interpret the dream. He said that the interpretation belonged to God, and that is exactly how we should act as well. As Christians, everything we have should belong to God.

As the story continued, the two visions had very different interpretations. The butler received good news.

Gen 40:12  And Joseph said unto him, This is the interpretation of it: The three branches are three days:

Gen 40:13  Yet within three days shall Pharaoh lift up thine head, and restore thee unto thy place: and thou shalt deliver Pharaoh’s cup into his hand, after the former manner when thou wast his butler.

On the other hand, the baker did not receive what he must have been hoping to hear.

Gen 40:18  And Joseph answered and said, This is the interpretation thereof: The three baskets are three days:

Gen 40:19  Yet within three days shall Pharaoh lift up thy head from off thee, and shall hang thee on a tree; and the birds shall eat thy flesh from off thee.

I am sure that Joseph was not too excited to tell the baker that he would die in three days, but he still delivered the message that God told him to deliver.

That is the way it sometimes ends up for Christians. We have a message that people don’t necessarily want to hear all the time. After all, one of the basic tenets of Christianity is that you are not perfect and you need to rely on God for your salvation through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Nobody likes to hear that they are helpless by themselves and fail to see the awesome mercy that accompanies that realization.

However, we shouldn’t be surprised by this resistance whatsoever. Jesus himself knew that some people would not like Christianity.

Joh 15:18  If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.

Joh 15:19  If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.

There are variety of reasons that people don’t want to hear the truth, and they honestly might not appreciate you pointing it out. However, like Joseph had to, we have to be honest and not be afraid to reach out with a message of love.

2Ti 1:7  For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

Genesis 39: God Is with Us in the Valleys

When you think about Joseph’s life, the part that you see in Genesis chapter 39 must have felt like a bit of a roller coaster.

At the beginning of the chapter, he had just been sold into slavery by his brothers. Then, he got sold to Potiphar who was a high-ranking official in the government.

He soon proved to be a very good servant, and he was put in charge of virtually the entire household. Even though he was still a slave, it was obvious that he was highly valued and cared for by the master of the house.

Then, trouble started to brew when Potiphar’s wife fell in love with Joseph. He resisted her for a long time, but at one point when he was running away from her, she grabbed his robe and virtually used it to frame him.

Gen 39:17  And she spake unto him according to these words, saying, The Hebrew servant, which thou hast brought unto us, came in unto me to mock me:

Gen 39:18  And it came to pass, as I lifted up my voice and cried, that he left his garment with me, and fled out.

Gen 39:19  And it came to pass, when his master heard the words of his wife, which she spake unto him, saying, After this manner did thy servant to me; that his wrath was kindled.

Gen 39:20  And Joseph’s master took him, and put him into the prison, a place where the king’s prisoners were bound: and he was there in the prison.

In one day, his life went from pretty good to prison on an entirely made-up charge.

If this story stopped right there, it would be easy to think, “Where was God? Why would a good God allow something like this to happen?”

That first question is answered in the next verse, and the rest of the answer will be found in the near future.

Gen 39:21  But the LORD was with Joseph, and shewed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison.

God was right there with Joseph the entire time even though something that seemed bad happened. Going to prison on a false charge would make me pretty mad. However, that wouldn’t be a healthy reaction.

Think about the Shepherd’s Psalm.

Psa 23:4  Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

The shadow of death must be pretty grim times, but we don’t need to fear it because God is always with us. Similarly, Joseph was in a very tough situation, but he didn’t need to worry because he knew that God was right there with him.

If you’re ever tempted to wonder where God is when things go wrong, remember that He is right there beside you. There is no problem that we need to go through alone when we lean on God and trust in His plan. (The answer to the second question will be posted in two days in case you’re wondering).

Genesis 38: The Wages of Sin

When we get into Genesis chapter 38, there are definitely a lot of missteps.

Judah, the forefather of Jesus himself, left his family and went down to live with the Canaanites for a while. While he was there, he got married to Shuah and had three sons.

We don’t know a lot about the first one whose name was Er, but here is what we do know.

Gen 38:6  And Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, whose name was Tamar.

Gen 38:7  And Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD slew him.

Really, this seems pretty drastic. After all, there have been plenty of wicked people in the history of the world, and God didn’t necessarily come down and kill them right away.

What could possibly have been so wicked that Er automatically deserved death?

I can’t necessarily answer that because it isn’t in the Bible, and I don’t want to speculate. However, here is what I can say about this.

Sin inevitably leads to death. We all deserve death because we all have sinned. God takes sin seriously, and that is outlined pretty clearly throughout the entire Bible.

Rom 6:23  For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

We can’t pay off our sin by our own merit. The only reason we are able to be forgiven is because of what Jesus did on the cross. He took on all of the sins of the world and died so that we are able to have eternal life. As that verse indicates, salvation is a free gift that can be accepted by anyone.

While we may not necessarily think of ourselves as “wicked” like Er apparently was, we are still just as separated from God as a result of any sin we have committed.

Isa 59:1  Behold, the LORD’S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear:

Isa 59:2  But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.

Like verse one says, God does not change because we have sinned. However, our sin nature does cause a separation. This is somewhat similar to Adam and Eve when they were in the Garden of Eden.

Before their sin, they were able to personally walk with God. After the fall, there had to be some degree of separation. God was still there, but they could not keep the exact same relationship.

However, because of what Jesus did, we have a bridge back to reenter a relationship with God.

Joh 14:6  Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

Er unfortunately did wicked things, and he was punished for them. Sin never leads to anything good, so it is definitely better to try to take sin out of our lives and keep our relationship with God strong.

Genesis 37: Playing Favorites Only Builds Resentment

In Genesis chapter 37, we have come to a story I think we are all familiar with.

Gen 37:3  Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colours.

Gen 37:4  And when his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him.

Playing favorites doesn’t help anyone. At times, you would think that playing favorites would help the person who is indeed the favorite, but all it really does end up building resentment. After all, no one likes to feel like they are not valued as highly as others, and they tend to take that out on the one who is the favorite.

Biblically speaking, playing favorites doesn’t work out too well either.

The ideal Christian life is to follow God and to try to imitate what God would do. Obviously, we are fallen humans, so it is impossible to be a perfect replication, but we should aspire to this goal.

Rom 2:8  But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath,

Rom 2:9  Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile;

Rom 2:10  But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile:

Rom 2:11  For there is no respect of persons with God.

Basically, in KJV speak, God does not play favorites. He doesn’t change his judgment based on who you are. Also, He doesn’t change what you will receive if you “worketh good.”

Of course, if God did play favorites, He would lose one of His characteristics, and that is impossible. We know that God is just, and justice treats everyone fairly.

Rev 15:3  And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints.

We definitely should try to aspire to the highest standard of justice in our lives. Naturally, there are people that we will get along better with than others, but we need to be careful that we are fair to everyone.

If two people mess up and we need to correct them, we should treat them the same way, and similarly, if two people deserve recognition, we should treat them the same way.

It is definitely hard to do, but as we can learn from the story of Joseph, playing favorites only builds up hard feelings that really don’t help anyone whatsoever.

Genesis 36: Forgiveness Is a Great Thing

Genesis 36 is one of those giant genealogical chapters. This time, we are going to be looking at the line of Esau who became known as Edom.

One thing that I found particularly interesting was the identity of one of Esau’s wives.

Gen 36:2  Esau took his wives of the daughters of Canaan; Adah the daughter of Elon the Hittite, and Aholibamah the daughter of Anah the daughter of Zibeon the Hivite;

Gen 36:3  And Bashemath Ishmael’s daughter, sister of Nebajoth.

Esau actually married one of Ishmael’s daughters.

It is interesting that even at this point in history, there was apparently some level of contact between the lines of Isaac and Ishmael.

We saw earlier how they both came together to bury their father when he passed away, and their children obviously had some degree of contact as well.

In my mind, this is another reference to the fact that these people forgave each other.

Many marriages during this time were arranged according to Jim West of the Quartz Hill School of Theology as well as many other sources around the Internet that I found.

If Ishmael was still upset with Isaac and jealous of the fact that he kind of took his place, I highly doubt that he would have allowed his daughter to marry the son of Isaac.

That must have been some pretty strong forgiveness.

However, as hard as that is to believe, it is apparently what happened.

By definition, forgiveness covers a lot of bad things that happened in the past.

If you go online to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, here is what they tell you forgiveness means.

“To cease to feel resentment against (an offender) : pardon”

I think that we sometimes miss this fact in our lives. We have all come into contact with people who have perhaps stepped over us.

Ishmael very possibly felt some resentment. After all, if Ishmael had remained the only child, he would have obviously been the favorite.

However, as we now realize in chapter 36, their children were marrying each other. There must have been some reconciliation.

In all of our relationships that might have taken a wrong turn, we should seek reconciliation as well. Nobody benefits from grudges, and God is able to help us find the power to forgive.

Genesis 35: Put Away the False Idols

God commanded Jacob, who was about to be renamed Israel, to go build an altar in Bethel in Genesis chapter 35. However, Jacob knew that his house had to be in order before he could proceed with this command.

Gen 35:1  And God said unto Jacob, Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there: and make there an altar unto God, that appeared unto thee when thou fleddest from the face of Esau thy brother.

Gen 35:2  Then Jacob said unto his household, and to all that were with him, Put away the strange gods that are among you, and be clean, and change your garments:

Gen 35:3  And let us arise, and go up to Bethel; and I will make there an altar unto God, who answered me in the day of my distress, and was with me in the way which I went.

Gen 35:4  And they gave unto Jacob all the strange gods which were in their hand, and all their earrings which were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the oak which was by Shechem.

He knew that he needed to make sure that there were no false idols in his house. Even though the 10 Commandments hadn’t been handed to Moses yet, there was obviously some part of Jacob that knew that he needed to make sure that God was the only thing that was receiving his and his family’s worship.

There are numerous passages in the Bible that warn us to be careful about idolatry, but let’s focus on the passage from the 10 Commandments.

Exo 20:4  Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:

Exo 20:5  Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;

The key to this passage is the fact that God is a jealous God. He doesn’t want to share our worship with anyone or anything.

There are many things that compete for our attention, and there are many things that we can put above our relationship with God. Some of them are great things like our education, our careers or even our families, but in reality, God really needs to be our top priority.

After all, Jesus himself explained that when He was asked what the most important commandment was.

Mat 22:36  Master, which is the great commandment in the law?

Mat 22:37  Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

Mat 22:38  This is the first and great commandment.

There’s really no reason that we should not put God and His will first in our lives, but we keep trying to run our own way. Personally, I am an ambitious person, and it is definitely tempting to try to do whatever I can to hit whatever goals I want to achieve.

However, that is definitely the wrong perspective. I should be more worried about the goals that God has set for my life. Even though I don’t necessarily know what they are, they are much better than whatever I could achieve by my own power.

My goals don’t deserve my worship, God does.

Genesis 34: Don’t Fight Fire with Fire

Genesis chapter 34 shows what can happen when people take vengeance too far into their own hands.

All of the sons of Jacob were upset that their sister, Dinah, had been “defiled” (I love using my KJV vocabulary) by Shechem. Obviously, Shechem should not have done that, but when he came to the family to ask if he could marry Dinah, he was basically handed an ultimatum.

Gen 34:15  But in this will we consent unto you: If ye will be as we be, that every male of you be circumcised;

Gen 34:16  Then will we give our daughters unto you, and we will take your daughters to us, and we will dwell with you, and we will become one people.

Gen 34:17  But if ye will not hearken unto us, to be circumcised; then will we take our daughter, and we will be gone.

Even though this whole procedure is definitely unpleasant, Shechem really wanted to marry Dinah, so he consented. However, as we find out later, this was really a plot that led to his own demise.

Gen 34:24  And unto Hamor and unto Shechem his son hearkened all that went out of the gate of his city; and every male was circumcised, all that went out of the gate of his city.

Gen 34:25  And it came to pass on the third day, when they were sore, that two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brethren, took each man his sword, and came upon the city boldly, and slew all the males.

Gen 34:26  And they slew Hamor and Shechem his son with the edge of the sword, and took Dinah out of Shechem’s house, and went out.

Simeon and Levi were incredibly upset about this entire process, so they decided that they were going to catch all of the men of the land at a weak moment and kill all of them.

The rest of their brothers came along and ruined the rest of the city. They also brought back all of their possessions as almost spoils of war.

Jacob wasn’t especially thrilled with this situation.

Gen 34:30  And Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, Ye have troubled me to make me to stink among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites: and I being few in number, they shall gather themselves together against me, and slay me; and I shall be destroyed, I and my house.

Jacob was thinking that the other people around would like to avenge Hamor and Shechem. In fact, he realized that he didn’t have enough soldiers to fight off this type of hypothetical attack.

Simeon and Levi really didn’t have a lot to say in response.

Gen 34:31  And they said, Should he deal with our sister as with an harlot?

They started from an accurate premise. Obviously, Shechem should have done the right thing. He was obviously wrong in the first place, and it is not all right to excuse sin.

However, we are also not supposed to take vengeance into our own hands.

Rom 12:19  Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.

It is not wrong for Simeon and Levi to want to defend their sister’s honor. However, coming up with a devious plot that eventually leads to murder is not how we should deal with this type of situation.

The next two verses in Romans tell us how we are supposed to react when people do things to us that we really don’t like.

Rom 12:20  Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.

Rom 12:21  Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

The end of verse 21 virtually sums it up. We are not supposed to use evil to fight evil. Rather, we are supposed to do good to those that harm us and let God take care of the rest. I know, that is easier said than done, but it is not impossible.

Php 4:13  I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

Genesis 33: Isn’t It Better to Forgive?

We just learned in the previous chapter that Jacob was incredibly nervous about seeing his brother Esau again. After all, Jacob had definitely pulled some major shenanigans when they were younger, and he was worried that he thought would never forgive him.

Jacob wasn’t necessarily being paranoid for no reason. After all, Esau had thought about killing him in the past.

However, when the brothers finally came together, Jacob must have been shocked.

Gen 33:4  And Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him: and they wept.

Gen 33:5  And he lifted up his eyes, and saw the women and the children; and said, Who are those with thee? And he said, The children which God hath graciously given thy servant.

Gen 33:6  Then the handmaidens came near, they and their children, and they bowed themselves.

Gen 33:7  And Leah also with her children came near, and bowed themselves: and after came Joseph near and Rachel, and they bowed themselves.

Gen 33:8  And he said, What meanest thou by all this drove which I met? And he said, These are to find grace in the sight of my lord.

Gen 33:9  And Esau said, I have enough, my brother; keep that thou hast unto thyself.

Gen 33:10  And Jacob said, Nay, I pray thee, if now I have found grace in thy sight, then receive my present at my hand: for therefore I have seen thy face, as though I had seen the face of God, and thou wast pleased with me.

Gen 33:11  Take, I pray thee, my blessing that is brought to thee; because God hath dealt graciously with me, and because I have enough. And he urged him, and he took it.

Forgiveness is a powerful force. Over the years, it appears that Esau finally forgave Jacob for all that had passed between them.

I have to admit that reading this story always makes me smile because it is rare to see such bitter enemies reconcile. However, it kind of makes me a little bit sad that I am surprised to begin with.

I shouldn’t be surprised by forgiveness because I should see it every day. However, how often do you hear of stories on the news or wherever about division? I bet you hear about them a lot more than you hear about people coming together and forgiving each other.

Eph 4:31  Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:

Eph 4:32  And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.

We should all forgive each other rather than hold in bitterness and wrath. Forgiveness is much harder to accomplish, and it isn’t half as natural, but that is what we are commanded to do.

Therefore, I probably shouldn’t be surprised when I see a story about forgiveness in the Bible. I shouldn’t be surprised because that should be common at our point in history as well. Sadly, many people today feel like it is better to hold grudges than it is to forgive.

Genesis 32: We All like a Little Bit of Reassurance Now and Then

Jacob spent a lot of his life being afraid. This time, he was returning to his homeland, and he was afraid that his brother Esau would still be upset with him over all of his antics during their youth.

He prayed a pretty intense prayer expressing his seeming terror to God.

Gen 32:9  And Jacob said, O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, the LORD which saidst unto me, Return unto thy country, and to thy kindred, and I will deal well with thee:

Gen 32:10  I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast shewed unto thy servant; for with my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two bands.

Gen 32:11  Deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau: for I fear him, lest he will come and smite me, and the mother with the children.

Gen 32:12  And thou saidst, I will surely do thee good, and make thy seed as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.

He was basically emphasizing the fact that God had told him to return home, and God had also promised to make a great nation out of him. He didn’t necessarily say this, but I think that his underlying purpose through this prayer was essentially saying that he needed to live to see all of this happen, and that wouldn’t work so well if Esau killed him.

However, an interesting thing happened next.

Gen 32:24  And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.

Gen 32:25  And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him.

Gen 32:26  And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.

Gen 32:27  And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob.

Gen 32:28  And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.

Gen 32:29  And Jacob asked him, and said, Tell me, I pray thee, thy name. And he said, Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name? And he blessed him there.

Jacob wrestled with a mysterious man. He knew that this wasn’t just an ordinary man. After all, how many people do you know who wrestle with people and then demand a blessing?

That blessing reaffirmed everything that Jacob was worried about. In verse 28, we hear about him already prevailing.

Sometimes, we just need that reassurance. We might be worried, but God comes along and leads us to a Bible verse or another person that says exactly what we need to hear.

Jacob needed to hear that everything was going to be all right and receive a blessing, and God was there. God will be there for us as well.

Genesis 31: One More Thing about Deception

In Genesis chapter 31, we see more deception from Rachel.

Jacob decided that he had to get away from Laban because things were becoming a little bit more tense after Jacob essentially took a ton of his property.

Jacob called Rachel and Leah and told them that they were leaving, but on their way out, Rachel decided to steal her father’s idols.

On top of the obvious problem that she was stealing to begin with, her actions had even more serious repercussions.

Laban decided that he wanted to pursue Jacob. After all, his new family virtually disappeared with one of his most precious possessions.

When he finally caught up, he understandably had strong words for Jacob.

Gen 31:26  And Laban said to Jacob, What hast thou done, that thou hast stolen away unawares to me, and carried away my daughters, as captives taken with the sword?

Gen 31:27  Wherefore didst thou flee away secretly, and steal away from me; and didst not tell me, that I might have sent thee away with mirth, and with songs, with tabret, and with harp?

Gen 31:28  And hast not suffered me to kiss my sons and my daughters? thou hast now done foolishly in so doing.

Gen 31:29  It is in the power of my hand to do you hurt: but the God of your father spake unto me yesternight, saying, Take thou heed that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad.

Gen 31:30  And now, though thou wouldest needs be gone, because thou sore longedst after thy father’s house, yet wherefore hast thou stolen my gods?

Laban wanted to know what Jacob had done with his idols, but Jacob had no idea that Rachel had taken them.

After Laban went through the entire camp and couldn’t find the idols, Jacob was obviously upset. He didn’t understand why he had to be subjected to this search since it was obvious that he hadn’t stolen them.

All of this came out because of deception again.

If Jacob would have been honest about leaving, and if Rachel had never stolen the idols, none of this would have happened.

I kind of feel like a broken record, but in this portion of the Bible, there are a ton of stories that illustrate the damage that deception can do. When people are not honest with one another, feelings are obviously hurt, and people are worse off because of it.

You might think that deception will get you ahead, but when it is eventually exposed, the damage is greater than the original benefit.