STUCK ON HOLD

I have yet to hear anyone say, “I love to wait, waiting is enjoyable.”  Nope, I have never heard this uttered, at least not in my circle of friends and family!  We don’t like to be put on hold for any amount of time.  Who enjoys hearing from the company you are calling, “Let me put you on hold, I’ll be right back”? We hear the music play that is supposed to soothe us while waiting but it just becomes more annoying to us.  To be put on hold is not something any human on earth likes.

Joseph has been “on hold” stuck in prison for doing no wrong.  The wife of Pharaoh’s aide told lies about him that landed him in this dark place.  He does have experiences with dark holes, however.  He probably remembers being thrown into the cistern by his brothers.  But then, He sees a glimmer of hope when he interprets the dreams of the Pharoah’s baker and cupbearer, but hope fades as he is not remembered for helping. 

But this story does not end here as we will read tomorrow.  Two more years will pass until Joseph is lifted out of the hole he is in and put back where he would rather be.  We wonder why he had to wait so long to be exonerated from the lies told about him. Is God still with him?

Genesis 40, The Message

1-4 As time went on, it happened that the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt crossed their master, the king of Egypt. Pharaoh was furious with his two officials, the head cupbearer and the head baker, and put them in custody under the captain of the guard; it was the same jail where Joseph was held. The captain of the guard assigned Joseph to see to their needs.

4-7 After they had been in custody for a while, the king’s cupbearer and baker, while being held in the jail, both had a dream on the same night, each dream having its own meaning. When Joseph arrived in the morning, he noticed that they were feeling low. So he asked them, the two officials of Pharaoh who had been thrown into jail with him, “What’s wrong? Why the long faces?”

They said, “We dreamed dreams and there’s no one to interpret them.”

Joseph said, “Don’t interpretations come from God? Tell me the dreams.”

9-11 First the head cupbearer told his dream to Joseph: “In my dream there was a vine in front of 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.”

12-15 Joseph said, “Here’s the meaning. 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. Only 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 land of the Hebrews. And since I’ve been here, I’ve done nothing to deserve being put in this hole.”

16-17 When the head baker saw how well Joseph’s interpretation turned out, he spoke up: “My dream went like this: I saw three wicker baskets on my head; the top basket had assorted pastries from the bakery and birds were picking at them from the basket on my head.”

18-19 Joseph said, “This is the interpretation: 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.”

20-22 And sure enough, on the third day it was Pharaoh’s birthday and he threw a feast for all his servants. He set the head cupbearer and the head baker in places of honor in the presence of all the guests. Then he restored the head cupbearer to his cupbearing post; he handed Pharaoh his cup just as before. And then he impaled the head baker on a post, following Joseph’s interpretations exactly.

23 But the head cupbearer never gave Joseph another thought; he forgot all about him.

WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?

When we are stuck, waiting in those dark places, we wonder the same thoughts, don’t we?  Where is God in all of this?  Is He still hearing me?  The answer is yes, He is still with us.  He will turn all the bad into good for His glory and purposes in us—in His time.  He will lift us up out of the dark pits mentally and emotionally.  He comes to us in those stuck places in our lives, and put us back on solid ground.  The Psalmist knew this and sang,

“Hear my prayer, O Lord;
    listen to my plea!
    Answer me because you are faithful and righteous.
Don’t put your servant on trial,
    for no one is innocent before you.
My enemy has chased me.
    He has knocked me to the ground
    and forces me to live in darkness like those in the grave.
I am losing all hope;
    I am paralyzed with fear.
I remember the days of old.
    I ponder all your great works
    and think about what you have done.
I lift my hands to you in prayer.
    I thirst for you as parched land thirsts for rain. Interlude

Come quickly, Lord, and answer me,
    for my depression deepens.
Don’t turn away from me,
    or I will die.
Let me hear of your unfailing love each morning,
    for I am trusting you.
Show me where to walk,
    for I give myself to you.
Rescue me from my enemies, Lord;
    I run to you to hide me.
10 Teach me to do your will,
    for you are my God.
May your gracious Spirit lead me forward
    on a firm footing.
11 For the glory of your name, O Lord, preserve my life.
    Because of your faithfulness, bring me out of this distress.
12 In your unfailing love, silence all my enemies
    and destroy all my foes,
    for I am your servant.

Psalm 143

Friends, I have discovered that most of God’s great teaching in me takes place in the pit of my despair.  He has my attention.  My hearing is more keenly aware of who His is and what He wants for my life.  His “gracious Spirit then begins to lead me forward on firm footing” as I praise Him while stuck in the pit.  This is true rescue from my own will, control of time, while realizing who I love and want to serve with all my heart, mind and soul.

To be spiritually stuck in not necessary a bad thing…

Just last Sunday in church, we sang the popular contemporary song, “God Turn it Around”.  God will turn things around—in His time.  In the stuck places of our lives, God is doing a great work in us.  This work is deeply spiritual, full of love and compassion for us.  This work of salvation in our souls takes us from where we are to where God wants to be—holy and whole—ready to do his will.

Are you stuck on hold right now? 

Wholly lean on Jesus and know that He has not forgotten you.  Tell Jesus you trust him enough times each day to convince yourselves.  This exercise has been beneficial to me so I hope it is beneficial to you as well.  God promises to be with us always.  ALWAYS.  This promise is repeated many times in His Word.  Believe it. 

Hope is just around the corner with plans to help you, prosper you, in ways you cannot imagine right now.  Expect it. Believe that God knows what He is doing.  Trust Jesus who gave His life for you and me.  Have faith in the One and Only who rose from death in victory with power.  This same resurrection power is in us, available to us.  Tap into that power and watch and wait for what happens next!

“This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him!” Romans 8:15-17

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11

“God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.”  –Jesus, Matthew 28:20, The Message

Allow Paul’s prayer to be ours today…

“God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us. Glory to God in the church! Glory to God in the Messiah, in Jesus! Glory down all the generations! Glory through all millennia! Oh, yes!  (Ephesians 3:20, The Message)

“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.”  (Ephesians 3:20, NLT)

In Jesus Name, Amen!  I trust in you, dear Jesus!  Yes!

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GOD WITH JOSEPH; GOD WITH US

When God asks us to join Him in his work, to be under His authority, to think and behave in ways that honor him while being His person, God is with us.  Read that again.  God is WITH us.  God is with you.  God is with me.  Friends, when God is with us, working His ways in to our being, life changes for the best.  Perfect?  No, but life becomes a learning experience that develops our godly character.  We begin see the changes.  Amazingly, others see the difference in us, too.  “As it turns out”, God is with us, as God was with Joseph through ALL his trials and leadership successes. 

God is blessing Joseph from the inside out and has placed him in the palace to fulfill His purpose for His people.  This is only the beginning to the story of God in Joseph.  Try not to think of blessings as material wealth with position as we think of “blessings” to count.  Instead, thing of blessings as those moments when we act upon what God is teaching us as we grow in His character.  We will discover that when God is IN it, all goes well for us at the end of the day when we do! No matter what is happening around us, we can then truly say it is well with my soul.

Genesis 39, The Message

After Joseph had been taken to Egypt by the Ishmaelites, Potiphar an Egyptian, one of Pharaoh’s officials and the manager of his household, bought him from them.

2-6 As it turned out, God was with Joseph and things went very well with him. He ended up living in the home of his Egyptian master. His master recognized that God was with him, saw that God was working for good in everything he did. He became very fond of Joseph and made him his personal aide. He put him in charge of all his personal affairs, turning everything over to him. From that moment on, God blessed the home of the Egyptian—all because of Joseph. The blessing of God spread over everything he owned, at home and in the fields, and all Potiphar had to concern himself with was eating three meals a day.

6-7 Joseph was a strikingly handsome man. As time went on, his master’s wife became infatuated with Joseph and one day said, “Sleep with me.”

8-9 He wouldn’t do it. He said to his master’s wife, “Look, with me here, my master doesn’t give a second thought to anything that goes on here—he’s put me in charge of everything he owns. He treats me as an equal. The only thing he hasn’t turned over to me is you. You’re his wife, after all! How could I violate his trust and sin against God?”

10 She pestered him day after day after day, but he stood his ground. He refused to go to bed with her.

11-15 On one of these days he came to the house to do his work and none of the household servants happened to be there. She grabbed him by his cloak, saying, “Sleep with me!” He left his coat in her hand and ran out of the house. When she realized that he had left his coat in her hand and run outside, she called to her house servants: “Look—this Hebrew shows up and before you know it he’s trying to seduce us. He tried to make love to me but I yelled as loud as I could. With all my yelling and screaming, he left his coat beside me here and ran outside.”

16-18 She kept his coat right there until his master came home. She told him the same story. She said, “The Hebrew slave, the one you brought to us, came after me and tried to use me for his plaything. When I yelled and screamed, he left his coat with me and ran outside.”

19-23 When his master heard his wife’s story, telling him, “These are the things your slave did to me,” he was furious. Joseph’s master took him and threw him into the jail where the king’s prisoners were locked up. But there in jail God was still with Joseph: He reached out in kindness to him; he put him on good terms with the head jailer. The head jailer put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners—he ended up managing the whole operation. The head jailer gave Joseph free rein, never even checked on him, because God was with him; whatever he did God made sure it worked out for the best.

WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESOND?

No doubt about it, God was WITH Joseph.  Notice that Joseph lost all his arrogant thinking when he was sold as a slave by his brothers.  Joseph is no longer bragging about his dreams.  Instead, we see God is transforming him into a leader of integrity.  People notice Joseph is different. 

God is “blessing” Joseph with His ways of thinking.  God-with-us does that in us, too!  No matter what situations we are in, God works his good in and through in us.  No matter where you are or what your circumstance is at this moment in time, if you believe in Jesus as God’s Son who laid down his life for your life and follow what He says, then GOD IS WITH YOU!  God is with me.  I shudder at the thought of living life without God.

Paul talks about this inside out bounty of blessings that God produces in us.  When God is with us and we truly believe He is with us, our lives transform.  We think differently.  And then we act differently in all situations.  We desire what God desires.  Life becomes less of a puzzle as God’s wisdom seeps into our being causes us to think and behave more like Jesus, God’s Son, who taught us God’s ways. 

For example, Paul, led to God by Jesus on the road to destruction, realized that his old life was rubbish in comparison to living a “God with us” life.  The results of this life are made plain to us by Paul, the transformed man.  Paul writes;

“When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another.”  Galatians 5:19-26, NLT

One last thought…Jesus was called “Immanuel” by prophets centuries before He came to earth.  Immanuel means, “God with us.”  Wow.

Lord,

Thank you for overwhelming us with the thought of “God with us” this morning.  YOU are WITH us.  I’m taking time to let the depth of this loving thought of you with me settle in my soul.  Thank you for being with us through it all, no matter what, you are with us.  Help me to live my life in your ways so people will see you in me.

In Jesus Name, Amen

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TAMAR

One of the major purposes of Genesis is to record the origin and development of the family of Jacob, the founder of the twelve tribes of Israel. The Israelites went down to Egypt a large family, and four centuries later they came out of Egypt a large nation. Since the tribe of Judah is the royal tribe from which the Messiah would come (49:10), anything related to Judah is vital to the story in Genesis.

Without chapter 38, you’d wonder at finding Tamar and Perez in our Lord’s genealogy (Matt. 1:3). Perez was an ancestor of King David (Ruth 4:18–22) and therefore an ancestor of Jesus Christ (Matt. 1:1).

We all have “skeletons” in our closet, putting away or hiding people and situations in our own family lines that we are not proud of, right?  It is amazing how God turns things around for his purpose and his glory to accomplish his will in and through us—his very imperfect people. 

Genesis 38, The Message

1-5 About that time, Judah separated from his brothers and went to stay with a man in Adullam named Hirah. While there, Judah met the daughter of a Canaanite named Shua. He married her, they went to bed, she became pregnant and had a son named Er. She got pregnant again and had a son named Onan. She had still another son; she named this one Shelah. They were living at Kezib when she had him.

6-7 Judah got a wife for Er, his firstborn. Her name was Tamar. But Judah’s firstborn, Er, grievously offended God and God took his life.

8-10 So Judah told Onan, “Go and sleep with your brother’s widow; it’s the duty of a brother-in-law to keep your brother’s line alive.” But Onan knew that the child wouldn’t be his, so whenever he slept with his brother’s widow he spilled his semen on the ground so he wouldn’t produce a child for his brother. God was much offended by what he did and also took his life.

11 So Judah stepped in and told his daughter-in-law Tamar, “Live as a widow at home with your father until my son Shelah grows up.” He was worried that Shelah would also end up dead, just like his brothers. So Tamar went to live with her father.

12 Time passed. Judah’s wife, Shua’s daughter, died. When the time of mourning was over, Judah with his friend Hirah of Adullam went to Timnah for the sheep shearing.

13-14 Tamar was told, “Your father-in-law has gone to Timnah to shear his sheep.” She took off her widow’s clothes, put on a veil to disguise herself, and sat at the entrance to Enaim which is on the road to Timnah. She realized by now that even though Shelah was grown up, she wasn’t going to be married to him.

15 Judah saw her and assumed she was a prostitute since she had veiled her face. He left the road and went over to her. He said, “Let me sleep with you.” He had no idea that she was his daughter-in-law.

16 She said, “What will you pay me?”

17 “I’ll send you,” he said, “a kid goat from the flock.”

She said, “Not unless you give me a pledge until you send it.”

18 “So what would you want in the way of a pledge?”

She said, “Your personal seal-and-cord and the staff you carry.”

He handed them over to her and slept with her. And she got pregnant.

19 She then left and went home. She removed her veil and put her widow’s clothes back on.

20-21 Judah sent the kid goat by his friend from Adullam to recover the pledge from the woman. But he couldn’t find her. He asked the men of that place, “Where’s the prostitute that used to sit by the road here near Enaim?”

They said, “There’s never been a prostitute here.”

22 He went back to Judah and said, “I couldn’t find her. The men there said there never has been a prostitute there.”

23 Judah said, “Let her have it then. If we keep looking, everyone will be poking fun at us. I kept my part of the bargain—I sent the kid goat but you couldn’t find her.”

24 Three months or so later, Judah was told, “Your daughter-in-law has been playing the whore—and now she’s a pregnant whore.”

Judah yelled, “Get her out here. Burn her up!”

25 As they brought her out, she sent a message to her father-in-law, “I’m pregnant by the man who owns these things. Identify them, please. Who’s the owner of the seal-and-cord and the staff?”

26 Judah saw they were his. He said, “She’s in the right; I’m in the wrong—I wouldn’t let her marry my son Shelah.” He never slept with her again.

27-30 When her time came to give birth, it turned out that there were twins in her womb. As she was giving birth, one put his hand out; the midwife tied a red thread on his hand, saying, “This one came first.” But then he pulled it back and his brother came out. She said, “Oh! A breakout!” So she named him Perez (Breakout). Then his brother came out with the red thread on his hand. They named him Zerah (Bright).

WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?

Judah got himself into trouble when he separated himself from his brothers and started to make friends with the Canaanites in the land. Friends play a huge role in our lives whether we choose to admit it or not.  Who are our friends?  Do they help us to become more and more like Jesus who we say we believe and follow—or not?

Both Abraham and Isaac had been careful to see to it that their sons didn’t marry women of the land lest the “chosen seed” of Israel be polluted with idolatry and immorality (Gen. 24:3, 4; 28:1–4).  But we don’t always listen to the advice of our elders, do we?

Consider this:  Jacob had used a garment to deceive his father Isaac (Gen 27:15), and Judah and his brothers used a garment to deceive Jacob (Gen 37:32). Now Tamar used a garment to deceive Judah!  When we feel we are wronged, do we use deception for revenge?  Women, especially widows, were considered a little lower than the goats and sheep.  They were used as trade more often than not.  Tamar, now a widow in Judah’s family should have been brought into the family and cared for, but Judah sent her back home to her father.  Tamar decided not to have any of this, so the deception was formed in her mind as a way to get back into the family she married into years earlier. 

When we are offended, do we use deception and trickery to avenge ourselves?  Jesus teaches the opposite.  “You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles.” (Matthew 5:38-41)

Paul reiterates Jesus’ lesson in Romans 12.  The reason there is pressure to retaliate in the first place is because we don’t want anyone to think we are weak. But when we pay attention to Christ’s example, we understand that the refusal to retaliate shows more strength than lashing out against someone does. Maybe you have been holding a grudge against someone for a long time, and you are just waiting for the right time to take him down. Let me encourage you to keep on waiting. Romans 12:19-21 says, “Revenge isn’t a dish best served cold. It is best not served at all.

The story of the patriarchs in Genesis reminds us of the grace of God and His sovereignty in human life. The men and women who played a part in this important drama weren’t perfect, and some of them were deliberately disobedient, and yet the Lord used them to accomplish His purposes. This doesn’t mean that God approved of their sins, because their sins were ultimately revealed and judged. But it does mean that God can take the weak things of this world and accomplish His purposes (1 Cor. 1:26–31).

This chapter has some practical, valuable lessons for us. For one thing, it shows how dangerous it was for God’s people to be in the land with the Canaanites. There was always the temptation to live like your neighbors instead of like the people of God.

Lord,

You come to us right where we are and teach us the value of staying close to you, hearing you and following you with hearts of obedience.  Deception is the age-old device of our Enemy.  Help us not to fall for it or become people of deception when pushed into a corner of frustration.  Help us to think more like you, dear Jesus, so we will become more like you in our responses, reactions and overall behaviors.  Thank you for not giving up on me.

In Jesus Name, For Your Glory, Amen

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GOD’S STORY IN JOSEPH

(Part One)

Many theologians compare the story of Joseph to the story of Jesus.  Here are the comparisons:

However, God’s Son willingly laid down his life for everyone’s sins, not just the family.  Jesus, the Perfect Sacrifice, as opposed to Joseph who was not perfect, was the One and Only who broke down all barriers to God for each one of us.  Jesus had the choice to call down help from heaven to stop the agony but he thought of us and did not.  This is the distinct difference.  Jesus, the only Savior, rose again defeating death and lives forever.  He is our only Hope of eternal life.  Jesus, appointed and deemed so by God, our Father, now reigns as King of all kings and Lord of all lords.  Once and for all.  Jesus went to hell and back again with you and me on his mind.

Now, let’s read Joseph’s story while getting a glimpse of God as God works in and through Joseph.  Watch as God changes Joseph from an arrogant teenager to a wise forgiving man.  When God intervenes; transformation take place.  When we accept, believe, repent and follow Jesus—our lives transform as well.

Genesis 37, The Message

Meanwhile Jacob had settled down where his father had lived, the land of Canaan.

Joseph and His Brothers

This is the story of Jacob. The story continues with Joseph, seventeen years old at the time, helping out his brothers in herding the flocks. These were his half brothers actually, the sons of his father’s wives Bilhah and Zilpah. And Joseph brought his father bad reports on them.

3-4 Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons because he was the child of his old age. And he made him an elaborately embroidered coat. When his brothers realized that their father loved him more than them, they grew to hate him—they wouldn’t even speak to him.

5-7 Joseph had a dream. When he told it to his brothers, they hated him even more. He said, “Listen to this dream I had. We were all out in the field gathering bundles of wheat. All of a sudden my bundle stood straight up and your bundles circled around it and bowed down to mine.”

His brothers said, “So! You’re going to rule us? You’re going to boss us around?” And they hated him more than ever because of his dreams and the way he talked.

He had another dream and told this one also to his brothers: “I dreamed another dream—the sun and moon and eleven stars bowed down to me!”

10-11 When he told it to his father and brothers, his father reprimanded him: “What’s with all this dreaming? Am I and your mother and your brothers all supposed to bow down to you?” Now his brothers were really jealous; but his father brooded over the whole business.

12-13 His brothers had gone off to Shechem where they were pasturing their father’s flocks. Israel said to Joseph, “Your brothers are with flocks in Shechem. Come, I want to send you to them.”

Joseph said, “I’m ready.”

14 He said, “Go and see how your brothers and the flocks are doing and bring me back a report.” He sent him off from the valley of Hebron to Shechem.

15 A man met him as he was wandering through the fields and asked him, “What are you looking for?”

16 “I’m trying to find my brothers. Do you have any idea where they are grazing their flocks?”

17 The man said, “They’ve left here, but I overheard them say, ‘Let’s go to Dothan.’” So Joseph took off, tracked his brothers down, and found them in Dothan.

18-20 They spotted him off in the distance. By the time he got to them they had cooked up a plot to kill him. The brothers were saying, “Here comes that dreamer. Let’s kill him and throw him into one of these old cisterns; we can say that a vicious animal ate him up. We’ll see what his dreams amount to.”

21-22 Reuben heard the brothers talking and intervened to save him, “We’re not going to kill him. No murder. Go ahead and throw him in this cistern out here in the wild, but don’t hurt him.” Reuben planned to go back later and get him out and take him back to his father.

23-24 When Joseph reached his brothers, they ripped off the fancy coat he was wearing, grabbed him, and threw him into a cistern. The cistern was dry; there wasn’t any water in it.

25-27 Then they sat down to eat their supper. Looking up, they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites on their way from Gilead, their camels loaded with spices, ointments, and perfumes to sell in Egypt. Judah said, “Brothers, what are we going to get out of killing our brother and concealing the evidence? Let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites, but let’s not kill him—he is, after all, our brother, our own flesh and blood.” His brothers agreed.

28 By that time the Midianite traders were passing by. His brothers pulled Joseph out of the cistern and sold him for twenty pieces of silver to the Ishmaelites who took Joseph with them down to Egypt.

29-30 Later Reuben came back and went to the cistern—no Joseph! He ripped his clothes in despair. Beside himself, he went to his brothers. “The boy’s gone! What am I going to do!”

31-32 They took Joseph’s coat, butchered a goat, and dipped the coat in the blood. They took the fancy coat back to their father and said, “We found this. Look it over—do you think this is your son’s coat?”

33 He recognized it at once. “My son’s coat—a wild animal has eaten him. Joseph torn limb from limb!”

34-35 Jacob tore his clothes in grief, dressed in rough burlap, and mourned his son a long, long time. His sons and daughters tried to comfort him but he refused their comfort. “I’ll go to the grave mourning my son.” Oh, how his father wept for him.

36 In Egypt the Midianites sold Joseph to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officials, manager of his household affairs.

WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?

When people favor you, run from pride and arrogance!  Life is better without it.  God told us through Micah the Prophet; “To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8) 

Joseph did what his father told him to do.  “Give me a report on your brothers.”  When parents (or teachers) do that, we set the stage for resentment in the family and class.  Joseph’s attitude and behavior was produced by a father who favored the son born to him by his favored wife.  The sin of jealousy gives birth to thoughts of murder by the half-brothers.  Remember that the older brothers already have a propensity to overreact in these situations.  (The revenge of Dinah’s rape—Genesis 34)

Dreams are one of the ways God spoke to his people then and sometimes now. I’ve had dream that foretold what God wants to do in my life.  Probably this is the best way God can get my attention—while I’m asleep! Dreams can prepare us for a work God has planned in us but sharing it arrogantly is not cool, especially when we don’t have all the details.  Just trust and obey!  We cherish, instead to what God says to our hearts until we see what HE wants with each action.  Only God knows what God is planning in and through us.  We just throw obstacles in His way when we get in way of His work in us.  Life is harder that way!  I speak from experience. 

Jacob will suffer in mourning for years after hearing the supposed plight of Joseph.  But that’s not all…there’s more to the story of how God saves Joseph and ultimately his “band of brothers” along with his father.  Stay tuned…

Lord,

We learn so much each time with sit with you and see you work in the lives of your created.  Thank you for reminders of walking with you as Jesus did—in humbled obedience. Thank you, dear Jesus, of your perfect example—the standard for living.  We are not perfect but we have goals because of you.  You know we are not perfect and you provide a way to be perfectly forgiven! To you be all glory, honor and praise!  Help me to stay out of the way of Your ways working in me.

In Jesus Name, Amen

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THE OTHER BROTHER

In our own families, we all have that relative who goes a different direction than all the others in the family. Some are led by God, but some are led by rebelliousness.  They have a strong need to go their own way, following their own mind. Esau, the brother tricked out of his birthright and blessings, was that guy.  The hunger of his stomach led him to give his birthright (being born first) to his twin brother Jacob, born seconds later.  Jacob and Esau’s mother, Rebekah, helped her favorite twin Jacob devise a plan to deceive Esau out his rightful blessing for life from Isaac, their blind father.  Can we say dysfunctional family?

The brothers split up ranks and Jacob left town.  Years later, many sons and daughters later, the brothers reunite and make peace.  But Esau still must go his own way forming his own family tree.  It is important that it is mentioned here for later understanding.

Meanwhile, while Jacob is prospering with his twelve sons after the death and burial of Isaac, brother Esau’s family grows as well.  Both brothers acquired so much in possessions that Esau moved farther away so the stock could be supported and his family empire could continue to grow and prosper.  Esau, if you remember, did exactly what his father told him NOT to do…marry women of Canaan.  His family tree was built by the union of Canaanite women and of Ishmael’s clan (Abraham’s son by Hagar.)  The combined clan were called Edomites.  This sounds better than Esau-ites, I suppose.

Genesis 36, The Message

This is the family tree of Esau, who is also called Edom.

2-3 Esau married women of Canaan: Adah, daughter of Elon the Hittite; Oholibamah, daughter of Anah and the granddaughter of Zibeon the Hivite; and Basemath, daughter of Ishmael and sister of Nebaioth.

Adah gave Esau Eliphaz;

Basemath had Reuel;

Oholibamah had Jeush, Jalam, and Korah.

These are the sons of Esau who were born to him in the land of Canaan.

6-8 Esau gathered up his wives, sons and daughters, and everybody in his household, along with all his livestock—all the animals and possessions he had gotten in Canaan—and moved a considerable distance away from his brother Jacob. The brothers had too many possessions to live together in the same place; the land couldn’t support their combined herds of livestock. So Esau ended up settling in the hill country of Seir (Esau and Edom are the same).

9-10 So this is the family tree of Esau, ancestor of the people of Edom, in the hill country of Seir. The names of Esau’s sons:

Eliphaz, son of Esau’s wife Adah;

Reuel, son of Esau’s wife Basemath.

11-12 The sons of Eliphaz: Teman, Omar, Zepho, Gatam, and Kenaz. (Eliphaz also had a concubine Timna, who had Amalek.) These are the grandsons of Esau’s wife Adah.

13 And these are the sons of Reuel: Nahath, Zerah, Shammah, and Mizzah—grandsons of Esau’s wife Basemath.

14 These are the sons of Esau’s wife Oholibamah, daughter of Anah the son of Zibeon. She gave Esau his sons Jeush, Jalam, and Korah.

15-16 These are the chieftains in Esau’s family tree. From the sons of Eliphaz, Esau’s firstborn, came the chieftains Teman, Omar, Zepho, Kenaz, Korah, Gatam, and Amalek—the chieftains of Eliphaz in the land of Edom; all of them sons of Adah.

17 From the sons of Esau’s son Reuel came the chieftains Nahath, Zerah, Shammah, and Mizzah. These are the chieftains of Reuel in the land of Edom; all these were sons of Esau’s wife Basemath.

18 These are the sons of Esau’s wife Oholibamah: the chieftains Jeush, Jalam, and Korah—chieftains born of Esau’s wife Oholibamah, daughter of Anah.

19 These are the sons of Esau, that is, Edom, and these are their chieftains.

20-21 This is the family tree of Seir the Horite, who were native to that land: Lotan, Shobal, Zibeon, Anah, Dishon, Ezer, and Dishan. These are the chieftains of the Horites, the sons of Seir in the land of Edom.

22 The sons of Lotan were Hori and Homam; Lotan’s sister was Timna.

23 The sons of Shobal were Alvan, Manahath, Ebal, Shepho, and Onam.

24 The sons of Zibeon were Aiah and Anah—this is the same Anah who found the hot springs in the wilderness while herding his father Zibeon’s donkeys.

25 The children of Anah were Dishon and his daughter Oholibamah.

26 The sons of Dishon were Hemdan, Eshban, Ithran, and Keran.

27 The sons of Ezer: Bilhan, Zaavan, and Akan.

28 The sons of Dishan: Uz and Aran.

29-30 And these were the Horite chieftains: Lotan, Shobal, Zibeon, Anah, Dishon, Ezer, and Dishan—the Horite chieftains clan by clan in the land of Seir.

31-39 And these are the kings who ruled in Edom before there was a king in Israel: Bela son of Beor was the king of Edom; the name of his city was Dinhabah. When Bela died, Jobab son of Zerah from Bozrah became the next king. When Jobab died, he was followed by Hushan from the land of the Temanites. When Hushan died, he was followed by Hadad son of Bedad; he was the king who defeated the Midianites in Moab; the name of his city was Avith. When Hadad died, Samlah of Masrekah became the next king. When Samlah died, Shaul from Rehoboth-on-the-River became king. When Shaul died, he was followed by Baal-Hanan son of Acbor. When Baal-Hanan son of Acbor died, Hadad became king; the name of his city was Pau; his wife’s name was Mehetabel daughter of Matred, daughter of Me-Zahab.

40-43 And these are the chieftains from the line of Esau, clan by clan, region by region: Timna, Alvah, Jetheth, Oholibamah, Elah, Pinon, Kenaz, Teman, Mibzar, Magdiel, and Iram—the chieftains of Edom as they occupied their various regions.

This accounts for the family tree of Esau, ancestor of all Edomites.

WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?

Following the death of Isaac (35:28, 29), Moses recorded a long chapter summarizing the fate of Isaac’s older son, Esau. The account contains many names, but it’s the end of the story as far as Esau is concerned! The Edomites are named in the Old Testament only because they’re a part of the story of Israel. “Esau” and “Edom,” the avowed enemies of the Jews, are mentioned over 200 times in the Bible, but “Jacob” and “Israel” are found over 2,000 times! Esau’s son Eliphaz was the father of Amalek, and the Amalekites were also Israel’s enemies (Ex. 17:8–16; Num. 14:39–45; Deut. 25:17–19; 1 Sam. 15).

The next chapter (Gen. 37) takes up the story, not of Esau, but of Jacob! “This is the history of Jacob” (v. 2) is the tenth occasion for a “generation” statement in Genesis, and it introduces the story of Jacob’s favorite son, Joseph. With all their weaknesses and faults, the sons of Jacob will carry on the work of God on earth and fulfill the covenant promises God made to Abraham.

God’s promises will be fulfilled.  We can count on God.  How do we respond?  In faith believing that what He promises WILL happen.  Stay tuned…

Lord,

You set the stage for us to know how you work in and for your people.  And I am one of them.  Your promises didn’t stop with Israel, your promise of a Savior who would redeem all of us from our sins begins right here in these scriptures.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!  To know that you, dear Jesus, is the promise to us planned from the beginning, through all these generations God will display his power in working through His people, changes our perspective.  We know that beginning from Adam to Noah, through the sons of Abraham, you will arrive on earth.  You will be the difference that will once and for all save humanity.  For you so loved…you sent your son.  I am grateful.

In Jesus Name, For your Glory, Amen

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MEET ME AT BETHEL—”MY HOUSE”

Sometimes we have a need to go back to the place where we met God the very first time.  We remember with joy when God spoke to our hearts and drew us to him.  We remember each time God speaks plainly to us when He calls us to do a specific work.  God does not hide what he wants to do in us and through us.  It just takes us a little time to really hear His voice speaking to us over the noise of all other voices in the world clamoring for our attention.

When those who believe in God, His Son and His Holy Spirit working in us hear, “Meet me, hear me, I want to talk with you”, we come running.  His Spirit prompts us to “clean up our act” and put on a fresh new attitude, repent of our sins to Jesus, His Son who paid our debts and paved the way to God!  Yes, when we really believe God, know He is real and in control of our lives, we hear His voice calling to us, “Come home and meet me at my house.”  And we run to Him.

The first paragraph of God asking Jacob to meet Him at Bethel reminds me of my childhood days getting ready to go to church.  And I am laughing out loud at the memories.  I totally “get it”.  Mom and Dad went to “God’s House” every time the doors were open for church, church meetings, socials, and funerals (they were the musicians).  Church was my other home. But to go to my other home that belonged to God and dedicated as such, you cleaned up, comb your hair, put on your church clothes and shoes AND you could not bring toys or any other objects with you that might distract you from what God had to say through the preacher or your Sunday School teacher. 

Respect and love for God’s House trumped everything.  This was our lifestyle.  (Still is, truth be known). I didn’t question it.  I did whine a bit as a child, who loved the outdoors, about cleaning up for Sunday night services, but the look from mom or dad settled the issue immediately.  Yes, just one look was all it took from my elders to remember the joy of meeting God wherever and whenever He wanted to speak to us.  I actually loved church!  I was a weird child who became a weirdly different adult because of my upbringing resulting in love for God.  And I am grateful…So very grateful.

Jacob and his family and their entourage of all that he possesses arrive close to Bethel—God’s House.  They are told the same thing I was told as a child!  So, maybe I’m not so weird after all, growing up with respect and love for the places where God meets with us and talks to us.  (And it’s not always a church building.)

Genesis 35, The Message

God spoke to Jacob: “Go back to Bethel. Stay there and build an altar to the God who revealed himself to you when you were running for your life from your brother Esau.”

2-3 Jacob told his family and all those who lived with him, “Throw out all the alien gods which you have, take a good bath and put on clean clothes, we’re going to Bethel. I’m going to build an altar there to the God who answered me when I was in trouble and has stuck with me everywhere I’ve gone since.”

4-5 They turned over to Jacob all the alien gods they’d been holding on to, along with their lucky-charm earrings. Jacob buried them under the oak tree in Shechem. Then they set out. A paralyzing fear descended on all the surrounding villages so that they were unable to pursue the sons of Jacob.

6-7 Jacob and his company arrived at Luz, that is, Bethel, in the land of Canaan. He built an altar there and named it El-Bethel (God-of-Bethel) because that’s where God revealed himself to him when he was running from his brother.

And that’s when Rebekah’s nurse, Deborah, died. She was buried just below Bethel under the oak tree. It was named Allon-Bacuth (Weeping-Oak).

9-10 God revealed himself once again to Jacob, after he had come back from Paddan Aram and blessed him: “Your name is Jacob (Heel); but that’s your name no longer. From now on your name is Israel (God-Wrestler).”

11-12 God continued,

I am The Strong God.
    Have children! Flourish!
A nation—a whole company of nations!—
    will come from you.
Kings will come from your loins;
    the land I gave Abraham and Isaac
I now give to you,
    and pass it on to your descendants.

13 And then God was gone, ascended from the place where he had spoken with him.

14-15 Jacob set up a stone pillar on the spot where God had spoken with him. He poured a drink offering on it and anointed it with oil. Jacob dedicated the place where God had spoken with him, Bethel (God’s-House).

* * *

16-17 They left Bethel. They were still quite a ways from Ephrath when Rachel went into labor—hard, hard labor. When her labor pains were at their worst, the midwife said to her, “Don’t be afraid—you have another boy.”

18 With her last breath, for she was now dying, she named him Ben-oni (Son-of-My-Pain), but his father named him Ben-jamin (Son-of-Good-Fortune).

19-20 Rachel died and was buried on the road to Ephrath, that is, Bethlehem. Jacob set up a pillar to mark her grave. It is still there today, “Rachel’s Grave Stone.”

* * *

21-22 Israel kept on his way and set up camp at Migdal Eder. While Israel was living in that region, Reuben went and slept with his father’s concubine, Bilhah. And Israel heard of what he did.

* * *

22-26 There were twelve sons of Jacob.

The sons by Leah:

Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn

Simeon

Levi

Judah

Issachar

Zebulun.

The sons by Rachel:

Joseph

Benjamin.

The sons by Bilhah, Rachel’s maid:

Dan

Naphtali.

The sons by Zilpah, Leah’s maid:

Gad

Asher.

These were Jacob’s sons, born to him in Paddan Aram.

* * *

27-29 Finally, Jacob made it back home to his father Isaac at Mamre in Kiriath Arba, present-day Hebron, where Abraham and Isaac had lived. Isaac was now 180 years old. Isaac breathed his last and died—an old man full of years. He was buried with his family by his sons Esau and Jacob.

WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?

There are many life-altering situations that happen in this passage.  Consider these moments:

Did God send Jacob home at just the right time to be with Isaac, old and failing in health, in time to speak with him before he died?  What a tender, loving God we have!

Rachel, his beloved wife, dies in childbirth close to his home of childhood.  She is buried in Bethlehem—the birthplace of our Savior!  Did you catch that?

Because of the reunion with his brother Esau earlier on the road home, they come together in unity to bury their father Isaac.

The twelve sons of Jacob will the known in future days as the Twelve Tribes of Israel.  That’s why they are listed here.  Jacob, renamed Israel by God, is the father of the nation of Israel.

We learn that God knows what He is doing.  God is always at work for us and in us.  God knows what lies ahead and prepares the way.  God knows what we will endure on our journey here and gets us ready to go through it providing all we need to learn from it when we allow Him to do what He does best. 

Our response?  When God calls, run to meet Him!  COME HOME!

“You who are weary, come home”.  I can hear my Grandpa leading us in this song of my youth…

Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling
Calling for you and for me
See on the portals He’s waiting and watching
Watching for you and for me

Come home, come home
Ye who are weary come home
Earnestly, tenderly Jesus is calling
Calling, “O sinner come home”

ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. 

But take heart, Jesus is the way back home to where God resides.

O for the wonderful love He has promised
Promised for you and for me
Though we have sinned He has mercy and pardon
Pardon for you and for me

Come home, come home
Ye who are weary come home
Earnestly, tenderly Jesus is calling
Calling, “O sinner come home”

Songwriter: Will L. Thompson

Lord,

Thank you for saving my soul, making me whole and continuing to meet me each morning.  Thank you for bring me home to where you are.

In Jesus Name, For Your Glory, Amen

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REVENGE!

Rape is a violation of heart, mind and soul.  Rape is never forgotten by the victim or the family.  How do we deal with this violation?  The following is how NOT how to respond.

Genesis 34, The Message

1-4 One day Dinah, the daughter Leah had given Jacob, went to visit some of the women in that country. Shechem, the son of Hamor the Hivite who was chieftain there, saw her and raped her. Then he felt a strong attraction to Dinah, Jacob’s daughter, fell in love with her, and wooed her. Shechem went to his father Hamor, “Get me this girl for my wife.”

5-7 Jacob heard that Shechem had raped his daughter Dinah, but his sons were out in the fields with the livestock so he didn’t say anything until they got home. Hamor, Shechem’s father, went to Jacob to work out marriage arrangements. Meanwhile Jacob’s sons on their way back from the fields heard what had happened. They were outraged, explosive with anger. Shechem’s rape of Jacob’s daughter was intolerable in Israel and not to be put up with.

8-10 Hamor spoke with Jacob and his sons, “My son Shechem is head over heels in love with your daughter—give her to him as his wife. Intermarry with us. Give your daughters to us and we’ll give our daughters to you. Live together with us as one family. Settle down among us and make yourselves at home. Prosper among us.”

11-12 Shechem then spoke for himself, addressing Dinah’s father and brothers: “Please, say yes. I’ll pay anything. Set the bridal price as high as you will—the sky’s the limit! Only give me this girl for my wife.”

13-17 Jacob’s sons answered Shechem and his father with cunning. Their sister, after all, had been raped. They said, “This is impossible. We could never give our sister to a man who was uncircumcised. Why, we’d be disgraced. The only condition on which we can talk business is if all your men become circumcised like us. Then we will freely exchange daughters in marriage and make ourselves at home among you and become one big, happy family. But if this is not an acceptable condition, we will take our sister and leave.”

18 That seemed fair enough to Hamor and his son Shechem.

19 The young man was so smitten with Jacob’s daughter that he proceeded to do what had been asked. He was also the most admired son in his father’s family.

20-23 So Hamor and his son Shechem went to the public square and spoke to the town council: “These men like us; they are our friends. Let them settle down here and make themselves at home; there’s plenty of room in the country for them. And, just think, we can even exchange our daughters in marriage. But these men will only accept our invitation to live with us and become one big family on one condition, that all our males become circumcised just as they themselves are. This is a very good deal for us—these people are very wealthy with great herds of livestock and we’re going to get our hands on it. So let’s do what they ask and have them settle down with us.”

24 Everyone who was anyone in the city agreed with Hamor and his son, Shechem; every male was circumcised.

25-29 Three days after the circumcision, while all the men were still very sore, two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, each with his sword in hand, walked into the city as if they owned the place and murdered every man there. They also killed Hamor and his son Shechem, rescued Dinah from Shechem’s house, and left. When the rest of Jacob’s sons came on the scene of slaughter, they looted the entire city in retaliation for Dinah’s rape. Flocks, herds, donkeys, belongings—everything, whether in the city or the fields—they took. And then they took all the wives and children captive and ransacked their homes for anything valuable.

30 Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You’ve made my name repulsive to the people here, these Canaanites and Perizzites. If they decided to gang up on us and attack, as few as we are we wouldn’t stand a chance; they’d wipe me and my people right off the map.”

31 They said, “Nobody is going to treat our sister like a whore and get by with it.”

WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?

The name of the Lord isn’t mentioned once in this next chapter, and the wisdom of the Lord is surely absent as well. When we disobey the Lord, we put ourselves and our loved ones in danger.

BACKGROUND—The Rapist Never Saw It Coming

The silence of Jacob when he heard the tragic news showed neither indifference nor cowardice on his part. Since his sons were in the field with the sheep and cattle and he could do nothing without their help, he was wise to wait. But he didn’t give his sons any direction in planning their response, which escalated far beyond the original offense.

The Canaanites saw the proposal of Jacob’s family as an opportunity to absorb Israel and gradually possess their wealth and their people, but Jacob’s sons used it as a means to weaken the men and get them ready for slaughter. Never suspecting the danger, the men of the city submitted to the surgery.

Simeon and Levi certainly went too far by slaughtering the Canaanites and looting their city in order to avenge their sister, and Jacob never forgot it (Genesis 49:5–7). “Simeon and Levi are two of a kind, ready to fight at the drop of a hat.” What Simeon and Levi did in revenge is never forgotten by Jacob.  By their deception and ruthless destruction, they ruined Jacob’s testimony before the people of the land.

The bloody act of Simeon and Levi made him odious to his neighbors, and he soon moved on to Bethel. Jacob is journeying back to the place his life began.  He is going back home to see his father, Isaac.

It has been said that “revenge is sweet”.  That is a lie.  The truth is “Revenge is mine, says the Lord.”  Paul plainly shares God’s thinking as he writes, “Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. ‘I’ll do the judging,’ says God. ‘I’ll take care of it.’”  Romans 12:17-19, The Message

Paul goes deeper and explains, “Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.”

Rape is abusive behavior that is remembered forever.  Agreed.  But revenge, in like manner, compounds the horrendous sin and allows evil to have its day in our heads and hearts.  Forgiveness, the opposite of revenge, is freedom from the control the abuser has on us.  Forgiveness makes us holy and right with God.

Let God do what he does best.  God is for us who believe, repent and live for Him.  He knows what we are going through.  He comes to us over and over again, just like he did for Jacob, with a way up, through and out of our circumstances with His wisdom for the situation.  Forgive. Trust God.  Hard? Yes!  But our lives depend on it.  Let go.  Let God. 

“Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry—but don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don’t stay angry. Don’t go to bed angry. Don’t give the Devil that kind of foothold in your life.”  Ephesians 4:26-27, The Message

Stay on the road where God leads.  It’s the only way back home to our Father.

Lord,

Thank you for this message from the mess made in the life of Jacob by his sons.  Revenge is not sweet.  Revenge is not ours.  YOU are God.  We are not.  Help us to remember you first in our angry moments, knowing you will take care of the enemy who works through those who allow evil to run their lives.  May we forgive in our angry realizing that “greater is YOU in us than he (evil) that is in this world.”  Help us to forgive others like you forgive us—completely.

In Jesus Name, Amen

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WORRY

Friends, let’s get right to it.  Can we agree that we worry extensively about stuff that never happens?  Our worry about impending situations with family, friends, work and our enemies that “might” happen rarely does happen.  Worry catapults extreme fear in our being as we imagine what could occur in made up scenarios.  Our worry then causes us to come up with self-made schemes as if we are in control of what the other person is going to do! 

We live to avoid getting hurt in a hurting world in need of a Savior.  So, our worry can keep us from confronting those things in life that we think might cause injury.  But Friends, our worry is nothing but seeds of sin that grow rapidly, spreading viney tenacles of fear, bitterness, jealousy, envy and unrest that take over our thinking and behaving.  Our worry is a weed that chokes out the peace of Christ given to us.  Worry produces nothing of value in our lives.  Worry is a time waster.

My mom was a very practically minded, project oriented, detail organizer, and problem solver.  She planned for the worst that could happen so she would be prepared.  I asked her why she thought this way.  I asked because I saw her worry more than she was at peace.  She said, “If I expect the worst and prepare my mind for it, then if it doesn’t happen I can be pleasantly surprised.”  “If it does, then I am prepared.”  Yeah, I didn’t buy completely into this thinking but I did see the value in planning and organizing so that the best possible outcomes for fulfilling what God told me to be and do.  God says in His Word to plan but not to worry!  But we do! We worry ourselves to death over everything, it seems. That didn’t seem right to me as a younger adult.

My dad just worried.  Period.  He knew he was a worrier.  His favorite comeback was, “I’m so good at worrying, I can worry for you and others as a profession.”  Yeah, dad, I don’t want to go this route either. 

Faith seems to have a lot to do with the measure of our worry. Who’s really in control? You or God?  Who do your trust in all circumstance?  You or God?  Who has more power and knows what is ultimately the best for us?  You or God?

Look back over your life and evaluate like I’m doing right now.  Did what you feared and worried about most really happen the way you imagined it in your mind?  Survey says…99 percent of what we worry about these days never happens.  So, how much time is wasted in worry?  Guilty.  How about you?

Jacob, full of fear and worry, schemes to reconcile with his brother who he has bilked out of his birthright and blessing years earlier.  The first paragraph brings us to tears.  What Jacob worried about didn’t happen.  Esau RAN TO JACOB and embraced him. That action says it all.

It makes me wonder what we think God thinks of us which causes us to worry before coming back to Him.  Well, that depends on Who we trust.  Worry gets us nowhere but to a tiny jailcell of mindful imprisonment.  Faith opens the doors to the wide-open spaces of all that God wants to do in us and through us!  When we realize this truth, God comes running after us!  Jesus, God’s Son, said,

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Matthew 6:25-27

What Jacob feared most did not happen.  Let’s learn from the story of God in Jacob…

Genesis 33, The Message

1-4 Jacob looked up and saw Esau coming with his four hundred men. He divided the children between Leah and Rachel and the two maidservants. He put the maidservants out in front, Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph last. He led the way and, as he approached his brother, bowed seven times, honoring his brother. But Esau ran up and embraced him, held him tight and kissed him. And they both wept.

Then Esau looked around and saw the women and children: “And who are these with you?”

Jacob said, “The children that God saw fit to bless me with.”

6-7 Then the maidservants came up with their children and bowed; then Leah and her children, also bowing; and finally, Joseph and Rachel came up and bowed to Esau.

Esau then asked, “And what was the meaning of all those herds that I met?”

“I was hoping that they would pave the way for my master to welcome me.”

Esau said, “Oh, brother. I have plenty of everything—keep what is yours for yourself.”

10-11 Jacob said, “Please. If you can find it in your heart to welcome me, accept these gifts. When I saw your face, it was as the face of God smiling on me. Accept the gifts I have brought for you. God has been good to me and I have more than enough.” Jacob urged the gifts on him and Esau accepted.

12 Then Esau said, “Let’s start out on our way; I’ll take the lead.”

13-14 But Jacob said, “My master can see that the children are frail. And the flocks and herds are nursing, making for slow going. If I push them too hard, even for a day, I’d lose them all. So, master, you go on ahead of your servant, while I take it easy at the pace of my flocks and children. I’ll catch up with you in Seir.”

15 Esau said, “Let me at least lend you some of my men.”

“There’s no need,” said Jacob. “Your generous welcome is all I need or want.”

16 So Esau set out that day and made his way back to Seir.

17 And Jacob left for Succoth. He built a shelter for himself and sheds for his livestock. That’s how the place came to be called Succoth (Sheds).

18-20 And that’s how it happened that Jacob arrived all in one piece in Shechem in the land of Canaan—all the way from Paddan Aram. He camped near the city. He bought the land where he pitched his tent from the sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem. He paid a hundred silver coins for it. Then he built an altar there and named it El-Elohe-Israel (Mighty Is the God of Israel).

WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?

What Jacob feared most did not happen.  God told Jacob to go back home.  God also told him, “I will be with you, protect you and keep you safe.”  Why worry and scheme?

Jesus teaches us our response when it comes to worry versus faith.  “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  Matthew 6:31-34

Seek God first.  Trust God.  No, really, Trust God.  Even when bad stuff happens you didn’t see coming, God already knows and has a plan to help you through it.  Seek God who knows what we need before we need it and provides it even before we ask.  God, who is FIRST in our lives, the first one we talk with and listen to, is always at work on our behalf because of His great love for us.  Trust Him.  Have faith in a faithful, unchanging in His promises, God. 

“I will be with you.” –God

Jesus reiterates, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  Matthew 28:20

Lord,

Truly great is your faithfulness to us.  I repent of worry that wastes time.  All my hope, trust and faith is in you for you are Life forever.  Thank you for knowing all my needs and providing so well.  Great is your faithfulness, indeed!

In Jesus Name, Amen

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WRESTLING WITH RECONCILIATION

Jacob left his home under less than best circumstances.  He had tricked his blind father, taking the coveted birthright and blessings that rightfully belonged to his brother Esau.  Esau was so angry at the time, he wanted to kill Jacob!  Jacob escaped with the clothes on his back.  

However, our God of compassion blessed Jacob with a relationship with him. God met him on the road of his escape and dealt with him on his way to Rebekah’s family to seek wife.  God deals with Jacob again.  God promised Jacob what he promised Abraham and Isaac; “I’ll stay with you, I’ll protect you wherever you go, and I’ll bring you back to this very ground. I’ll stick with you until I’ve done everything I promised you.” (Genesis 28) Jacob, who is not perfect, may not have deserved God’s gift of protection and blessings…but we don’t deserve what God did and does for us either, amen?

When we remember what we have done in our past, even though forgiven by God for it, we also fear coming back to the “scene of the crime” where we must deal with people we hurt or with those who hurt us.  God wants reconciliation, the restoration of loving relationships, and he will guide us to do this hard thing.  Why?  Because God did this “hard thing” for us! 

Paul explains reconciliation as “our ministry”, God’s work in and through us!

“So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5: 16-21, NIV)

God made a Way, as only He can, to reconcile us to Him through His Son, Jesus the Christ who restored our relationship to our Father God by standing in our place for deserved punishment that should have been ours.  Reconciled to God, we enter into a “ministry of reconciliation” with others.  Jesus will later go deeper with this focus and teach this principle with practical ways to restore our relationships also with each other while on earth.  (See Matthew 5)

God is teaching Jacob the ministry of reconciliation, the restoring of a relationship gone bad with his brother Esau in our next passage.  Here is a random thought, would our all-knowing God, who knows what is to come, turn to His Son, Jesus with a wink in this lesson to Jacob?  And who is wrestling with Jacob?  If it is God, could it be Jesus wrestling with Jacob?  Just wondering…

Genesis 32, The Message

1-2 And Jacob went his way. Angels of God met him. When Jacob saw them he said, “Oh! God’s Camp!” And he named the place Mahanaim (Campground).

3-5 Then Jacob sent messengers on ahead to his brother Esau in the land of Seir in Edom. He instructed them: “Tell my master Esau this, ‘A message from your servant Jacob: I’ve been staying with Laban and couldn’t get away until now. I’ve acquired cattle and donkeys and sheep; also men and women servants. I’m telling you all this, my master, hoping for your approval.’”

The messengers came back to Jacob and said, “We talked to your brother Esau and he’s on his way to meet you. But he has four hundred men with him.”

7-8 Jacob was scared. Very scared. Panicked, he divided his people, sheep, cattle, and camels into two camps. He thought, “If Esau comes on the first camp and attacks it, the other camp has a chance to get away.”

9-12 And then Jacob prayed, “God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, God who told me, ‘Go back to your parents’ homeland and I’ll treat you well.’ I don’t deserve all the love and loyalty you’ve shown me. When I left here and crossed the Jordan I only had the clothes on my back, and now look at me—two camps! Save me, please, from the violence of my brother, my angry brother! I’m afraid he’ll come and attack us all, me, the mothers and the children. You yourself said, ‘I will treat you well; I’ll make your descendants like the sands of the sea, far too many to count.’”

13-16 He slept the night there. Then he prepared a present for his brother Esau from his possessions: two hundred female goats, twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, thirty camels with their nursing young, forty cows and ten bulls, twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys. He put a servant in charge of each herd and said, “Go ahead of me and keep a healthy space between each herd.”

17-18 Then he instructed the first one out: “When my brother Esau comes close and asks, ‘Who is your master? Where are you going? Who owns these?’—answer him like this, ‘Your servant Jacob. They are a gift to my master Esau. He’s on his way.’”

19-20 He gave the same instructions to the second servant and to the third—to each in turn as they set out with their herds: “Say ‘Your servant Jacob is on his way behind us.’” He thought, “I will soften him up with the succession of gifts. Then when he sees me face-to-face, maybe he’ll be glad to welcome me.”

21 So his gifts went before him while he settled down for the night in the camp.

22-23 But during the night he got up and took his two wives, his two maidservants, and his eleven children and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He got them safely across the brook along with all his possessions.

24-25 But Jacob stayed behind by himself, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he couldn’t get the best of Jacob as they wrestled, he deliberately threw Jacob’s hip out of joint.

26 The man said, “Let me go; it’s daybreak.”

Jacob said, “I’m not letting you go ’til you bless me.”

27 The man said, “What’s your name?”

He answered, “Jacob.”

28 The man said, “But no longer. Your name is no longer Jacob. From now on it’s Israel (God-Wrestler); you’ve wrestled with God and you’ve come through.”

29 Jacob asked, “And what’s your name?”

The man said, “Why do you want to know my name?” And then, right then and there, he blessed him.

30 Jacob named the place Peniel (God’s Face) because, he said, “I saw God face-to-face and lived to tell the story!”

31-32 The sun came up as he left Peniel, limping because of his hip. (This is why Israelites to this day don’t eat the hip muscle; because Jacob’s hip was thrown out of joint.)

WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?

  • Be reconciled to God first. 
  • Be reconcilers who share the Good News that God wants to be reconciled to all His created humans!
  • Pray, asking God for opportunity.  God answers this prayer and provides what we need.  “May Your Will be done…”
  • Be humble, Live humbly knowing we do not deserve the love, mercy and grace God has richly given to us. 

Lord,

As a person reconciled to you, place in me the ability and courage to help others be reconciles to you, too. 

In Jesus Name, Amen

One last thought…Faith is living without scheming. 

Anticipating a difficult reunion with Esau, Jacob took the wise approach and sent messengers ahead to inform his brother that he was coming. But instead of committing the whole matter to the Lord, who had protected him from Laban, Jacob adopted a condescending attitude that wasn’t befitting to the man God had chosen to carry on the Abrahamic covenant. Sending the messengers was a good idea, but calling Esau “my lord” and himself “your servant,” and trying to impress Esau with his wealth was only evidence that Jacob wasn’t trusting God to care for him.

A believer who is walking by faith need not fear the enemy or whatever bad news may come. “He will not be afraid of evil tidings; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD” (Ps. 112:7). But Jacob was “greatly afraid” (Gen. 32:7) and therefore reverted to his old policy of scheming.

“The old has gone the new has come!”  Let us pray that we not go back to our old ways of thinking when we are challenged to do what God has asked us to be and do.

It was the dawning of a new day for Israel/Jacob (Gen. 32:31): He had a new name; he had a new walk (he was limping); and he had a new relationship with God that would help him face and solve any problem if only he would exercise faith. 

Can I get an amen?

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IT’S GO TIME!

When God says stay, stay.  When God says is time to go, go.  God’s timing is always best because He is for us, not against us.  He sees our past work and labor.  He sees what we are going through currently.  He also knows what lies ahead and prepares our hearts, minds and souls for the journey.  He has done exactly that in my life and in the life of our family over the years of following Him.  It’s hard to move but harder to disobey God.  The only place I wanted to avoid at all cost was the place of disobedience. 

Genesis 31, The Message

1-2 Jacob learned that Laban’s sons were talking behind his back: “Jacob has used our father’s wealth to make himself rich at our father’s expense.” At the same time, Jacob noticed that Laban had changed toward him. He wasn’t treating him the same.

That’s when God said to Jacob, “Go back home where you were born. I’ll go with you.”

4-9 So Jacob sent word for Rachel and Leah to meet him out in the field where his flocks were. He said, “I notice that your father has changed toward me; he doesn’t treat me the same as before. But the God of my father hasn’t changed; he’s still with me. You know how hard I’ve worked for your father. Still, your father has cheated me over and over, changing my wages time and again. But God never let him really hurt me. If he said, ‘Your wages will consist of speckled animals’ the whole flock would start having speckled lambs and kids. And if he said, ‘From now on your wages will be streaked animals’ the whole flock would have streaked ones. Over and over God used your father’s livestock to reward me.

10-11 “Once, while the flocks were mating, I had a dream and saw the billy goats, all of them streaked, speckled, and mottled, mounting their mates. In the dream an angel of God called out to me, ‘Jacob!’

“I said, ‘Yes?’

12-13 “He said, ‘Watch closely. Notice that all the goats in the flock that are mating are streaked, speckled, and mottled. I know what Laban’s been doing to you. I’m the God of Bethel where you consecrated a pillar and made a vow to me. Now be on your way, get out of this place, go home to your birthplace.’”

14-16 Rachel and Leah said, “Has he treated us any better? Aren’t we treated worse than outsiders? All he wanted was the money he got from selling us, and he’s spent all that. Any wealth that God has seen fit to return to us from our father is justly ours and our children’s. Go ahead. Do what God told you.”

17-18 Jacob did it. He put his children and his wives on camels and gathered all his livestock and everything he had gotten, everything acquired in Paddan Aram, to go back home to his father Isaac in the land of Canaan.

19-21 Laban was off shearing sheep. Rachel stole her father’s household gods. And Jacob had concealed his plans so well that Laban the Aramean had no idea what was going on—he was totally in the dark. Jacob got away with everything he had and was soon across the Euphrates headed for the hill country of Gilead.

22-24 Three days later, Laban got the news: “Jacob’s run off.” Laban rounded up his relatives and chased after him. Seven days later they caught up with him in the hill country of Gilead. That night God came to Laban the Aramean in a dream and said, “Be careful what you do to Jacob, whether good or bad.”

25 When Laban reached him, Jacob’s tents were pitched in the Gilead mountains; Laban pitched his tents there, too.

26-30 “What do you mean,” said Laban, “by keeping me in the dark and sneaking off, hauling my daughters off like prisoners of war? Why did you run off like a thief in the night? Why didn’t you tell me? Why, I would have sent you off with a great celebration—music, timbrels, flutes! But you wouldn’t permit me so much as a kiss for my daughters and grandchildren. It was a stupid thing for you to do. If I had a mind to, I could destroy you right now, but the God of your father spoke to me last night, ‘Be careful what you do to Jacob, whether good or bad.’ I understand. You left because you were homesick. But why did you steal my household gods?”

31-32 Jacob answered Laban, “I was afraid. I thought you would take your daughters away from me by brute force. But as far as your gods are concerned, if you find that anybody here has them, that person dies. With all of us watching, look around. If you find anything here that belongs to you, take it.” Jacob didn’t know that Rachel had stolen the gods.

33-35 Laban went through Jacob’s tent, Leah’s tent, and the tents of the two maids but didn’t find them. He went from Leah’s tent to Rachel’s. But Rachel had taken the household gods, put them inside a camel cushion, and was sitting on them. When Laban had gone through the tent, searching high and low without finding a thing, Rachel said to her father, “Don’t think I’m being disrespectful, my master, that I can’t stand before you, but I’m having my period.” So even though he turned the place upside down in his search, he didn’t find the household gods.

36-37 Now it was Jacob’s turn to get angry. He lit into Laban: “So what’s my crime, what wrong have I done you that you badger me like this? You’ve ransacked the place. Have you turned up a single thing that’s yours? Let’s see it—display the evidence. Our two families can be the jury and decide between us.

38-42 “In the twenty years I’ve worked for you, ewes and she-goats never miscarried. I never feasted on the rams from your flock. I never brought you a torn carcass killed by wild animals but that I paid for it out of my own pocket—actually, you made me pay whether it was my fault or not. I was out in all kinds of weather, from torrid heat to freezing cold, putting in many a sleepless night. For twenty years I’ve done this: I slaved away fourteen years for your two daughters and another six years for your flock and you changed my wages ten times. If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not stuck with me, you would have sent me off penniless. But God saw the fix I was in and how hard I had worked and last night rendered his verdict.”

43-44 Laban defended himself: “The daughters are my daughters, the children are my children, the flock is my flock—everything you see is mine. But what can I do about my daughters or for the children they’ve had? So let’s settle things between us, make a covenant—God will be the witness between us.”

45 Jacob took a stone and set it upright as a pillar.

46-47 Jacob called his family around, “Get stones!” They gathered stones and heaped them up and then ate there beside the pile of stones. Laban named it in Aramaic, Yegar-sahadutha (Witness Monument); Jacob echoed the naming in Hebrew, Galeed (Witness Monument).

48-50 Laban said, “This monument of stones will be a witness, beginning now, between you and me.” (That’s why it is called Galeed—Witness Monument.) It is also called Mizpah (Watchtower) because Laban said, “God keep watch between you and me when we are out of each other’s sight. If you mistreat my daughters or take other wives when there’s no one around to see you, God will see you and stand witness between us.”

51-53 Laban continued to Jacob, “This monument of stones and this stone pillar that I have set up is a witness, a witness that I won’t cross this line to hurt you and you won’t cross this line to hurt me. The God of Abraham and the God of Nahor (the God of their ancestor) will keep things straight between us.”

53-55 Jacob promised, swearing by the Fear, the God of his father Isaac. Then Jacob offered a sacrifice on the mountain and worshiped, calling in all his family members to the meal. They ate and slept that night on the mountain. Laban got up early the next morning, kissed his grandchildren and his daughters, blessed them, and then set off for home.

WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESOND?

Jacob left home, on the run from his brother, Esau whom he had deceived out of his birthright and blessing.  He is sent by Isaac and Rebekah to seek a wife from her brother’s family.  On the road, God met him in a dream.  God told him He would fulfill His promise made to Abraham and Isaac through him to build a nation of people—God’s chosen people.  Jacob heard and vowed to obey.  God is making changes in his heart and thinking which will guide is behavior.  God is doing a “new thing” in and through Jacob.  Just watch…

As we have read over the past few days, Jacob indeed found his “match” in a young shepherd girl, Rachel, as soon as he arrived in this new land.  He “bargained” for her, willing to work seven years for her hand in marriage.  He was deceived by Laban, head of household, who baited and enslaved him to Laban for much more than seven years.  Jacob did not retaliate but obeyed.  God blessed Jacob for his obedience and control of his emotions through all these trials of deception and cheating that Laban put him through.

Yes, Jacob obeyed God, worked hard to live right before God and God blessed his life beyond his wildest dreams.  Others noticed how blessed Jacob was—Laban noticed.  Laban’s only interest in God was to be blessed by Him through Jacob who he had made a servant. Laban hung on to Jacob with an iron fist using his daughters as bait. 

But never did this mistreatment escape the notice of God.  God uses this experience to build strength and resolve in Jacob.  God brings Jacob’s family together at last to form an allegiance to Jacob who follows God’s orders. 

God knows what we are going through and is already working on our behalf before we even ask. But ask, so God’s plan is revealed and His timing is known.

Are you asking, “Oh Rachel, why did you take your father’s gods from the shelf to take with you?” Her faith in Jacob’s God is still being built.  This act could have ended in bloodshed, but God watched over the situation.  God comes to our aid and helps us even when we make stupid mistakes. God is not finished with Rachel who still has a purpose to fulfill in God’s way of thinking.

I can think of many ways that God corrected and protected my own stupid missteps in judgement and mistakes on the journey to doing His will.  How about you?  Let us stop to thank God for His help!

God tells Jacob it’s time to go, to go back home “to where you were born”.  Imagine Jacob hearing this word from God, believing it and making a plan for his departure back to his beloved family!  Jacob has to work out a lot of details, convince Rachel and Leah, and then makes the move. When God is in it, it happens.  Rachel and Leah were immediately on board with Jacob’s plan.

God also provides a time, however, for Jacob to confront Laban at last, to settle the dispute of years in the making between them, with vows made to each other not to hurt each other.  God provides this time to accomplish what needs to be done—make peace. 

Vows are made.  Peace is had.  Goodbyes are given.  Hugs all around.  No blood shed.  When God is in it, God is for us.  God is in the details of our lives.  Jacob gathers his family then to worship the God who saves, protects, guides and provides.  Awesome. What a man of God Jacob is becoming!  To God be the glory!

Lord,

Thank you for this lesson of leaving one place for another as directed by you.  You are for us, in all the details of our lives, as we obey.  What a blessing you are to us.  Help us to know you more. Grow our relationship to be so intimate that we hear you with readiness to immediately obey, no matter what.  I believe.  I’m listening.  I’m your servant.  Always.

In Jesus Name, Amen

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