Genesis 39:1-23

39 Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. Potiphar, an Egyptian who was one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him there.

The Lord was with Joseph so that he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. When his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did,Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned. From the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the Lord blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the Lord was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field. So Potiphar left everything he had in Joseph’s care; with Joseph in charge, he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate.

Now Joseph was well-built and handsome, and after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, “Come to bed with me!”

But he refused. “With me in charge,” he told her, “my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care. No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?”10 And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her.

11 One day he went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the household servants was inside. 12 She caught him by his cloak and said, “Come to bed with me!” But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house.

13 When she saw that he had left his cloak in her hand and had run out of the house, 14 she called her household servants. “Look,” she said to them, “this Hebrew has been brought to us to make sport of us! He came in here to sleep with me, but I screamed. 15 When he heard me scream for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house.”

16 She kept his cloak beside her until his master came home. 17 Then she told him this story: “That Hebrew slave you brought us came to me to make sport of me. 18 But as soon as I screamed for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house.”

19 When his master heard the story his wife told him, saying, “This is how your slave treated me,” he burned with anger. 20 Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined.

But while Joseph was there in the prison, 21 the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. 22 So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. 23 The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.
(Genesis 39:1-23 NIV)

Today’s story picks up where we left off at the end of Chapter 37.  Remember that Chapter 38 was the story of Judah and his family.

Joseph is now in Egypt, a slave to Potiphar, one of the king’s officials and head of the guard.  While Joseph was betrayed by his brothers and separated from his family, God had not forgotten Joseph and was still at work in the young boy’s life.

We see that God was with Joseph and blessed him, as well as his master Potiphar.  As Potiphar observed Joseph, he was impressed and gave him more and more responsibility for all of his domestic (non-military) duties, both inside the house and outside in the fields.

Unfortunately, Potiphar’s wife noticed Joseph as well.  She noticed Joseph in the wrong way, as a potential lover, not as the overseer of her husband’s domestic duties.

Even though Potiphar’s wife crossed the line and tried to seduce Joseph, he maintained his integrity before God and his master and refused her advances.

Not succeeding in what she wanted, Potiphar’s wife lay a trap for Joseph.  She arranged for all other male servants to be out of the house, and for her to be alone when Joseph arrived to perform his daily domestic duties.  When Joseph entered the room, she physically grabbed his outer coat and ordered Joseph to sleep with her.

Again, in his integrity, Joseph did not succumb to her desires.  He simply fled outside, leaving his outer coat in her hands.

Foiled again, Potiphar’s wife’s unfulfilled lust turned to anger.  With Joseph’s coat in hand, she switched roles from sexual aggressor to lying victim, making it look like Joseph was trying to sexually assault or even rape her.  She screamed and called for the other men of the house to come in and hear her made-up story.  She then told her husband Potiphar when he returned home.

Like any good husband, Potiphar took his wife’s word over his servant’s.  Potiphar was in charge of the guard and the prison, and threw Joseph in jail.

But even in jail, the Lord was with Joseph, and the chief jailer ended up putting all the other prisoners under Joseph’s control and care.

May we practice integrity and hard work before the Lord as Joseph did, refusing anyone and anything that goes against God’s principles, even if it lands us in jail.  The temptation may be overwhelming, but if we flee from sin like Joseph, God will honor our choices.

May we remember that God is working in us and through us, even in hard times like Joseph experienced.

Blessings,
~kevin

Genesis 38:1-30

38 At that time, Judah left his brothers and went down to stay with a man of Adullam named Hirah. There Judah met the daughter of a Canaanite man named Shua. He married her and made love to her; she became pregnant and gave birth to a son, who was named Er. She conceived again and gave birth to a son and named him Onan. She gave birth to still another son and named him Shelah. It was at Kezib that she gave birth to him.

Judah got a wife for Er, his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death.

Then Judah said to Onan, “Sleep with your brother’s wife and fulfill your duty to her as a brother-in-law to raise up offspring for your brother.” But Onan knew that the child would not be his; so whenever he slept with his brother’s wife, he spilled his semen on the ground to keep from providing offspring for his brother. 10 What he did was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death also.

11 Judah then said to his daughter-in-law Tamar, “Live as a widow in your father’s household until my son Shelah grows up.” For he thought, “He may die too, just like his brothers.” So Tamar went to live in her father’s household.

12 After a long time Judah’s wife, the daughter of Shua, died. When Judah had recovered from his grief, he went up to Timnah, to the men who were shearing his sheep, and his friend Hirah the Adullamite went with him.

13 When Tamar was told, “Your father-in-law is on his way to Timnah to shear his sheep,” 14 she took off her widow’s clothes, covered herself with a veil to disguise herself, and then sat down at the entrance to Enaim, which is on the road to Timnah. For she saw that, though Shelah had now grown up, she had not been given to him as his wife.

15 When Judah saw her, he thought she was a prostitute, for she had covered her face. 16 Not realizing that she was his daughter-in-law, he went over to her by the roadside and said, “Come now, let me sleep with you.”

“And what will you give me to sleep with you?” she asked.

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

“Will you give me something as a pledge until you send it?” she asked.

18 He said, “What pledge should I give you?”

“Your seal and its cord, and the staff in your hand,” she answered. So he gave them to her and slept with her, and she became pregnant by him.19 After she left, she took off her veil and put on her widow’s clothes again.

20 Meanwhile Judah sent the young goat by his friend the Adullamite in order to get his pledge back from the woman, but he did not find her.21 He asked the men who lived there, “Where is the shrine prostitute who was beside the road at Enaim?”

“There hasn’t been any shrine prostitute here,” they said.

22 So he went back to Judah and said, “I didn’t find her. Besides, the men who lived there said, ‘There hasn’t been any shrine prostitute here.’”

23 Then Judah said, “Let her keep what she has, or we will become a laughingstock. After all, I did send her this young goat, but you didn’t find her.”

24 About three months later Judah was told, “Your daughter-in-law Tamar is guilty of prostitution, and as a result she is now pregnant.”

Judah said, “Bring her out and have her burned to death!”

25 As she was being brought out, she sent a message to her father-in-law. “I am pregnant by the man who owns these,” she said. And she added, “See if you recognize whose seal and cord and staff these are.”

26 Judah recognized them and said, “She is more righteous than I, since I wouldn’t give her to my son Shelah.” And he did not sleep with her again.

27 When the time came for her to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb. 28 As she was giving birth, one of them put out his hand; so the midwife took a scarlet thread and tied it on his wrist and said, “This one came out first.” 29 But when he drew back his hand, his brother came out, and she said, “So this is how you have broken out!” And he was named Perez. 30 Then his brother, who had the scarlet thread on his wrist, came out. And he was named Zerah.
(Genesis 38:1-30 NIV)

As we began Chapter 27, Moses begins verse 2a by telling us that these writings are the generations (family) of Jacob.  We see a snapshot of the family dynamics in Chapter 37, particularly of Jacob’s sons.  In Chapter 39, we’ll see Joseph’s story pick up where we left off at the end of Chapter 27.

In Chapter 38, we see another family member in the spotlight – Jacob’s son Judah.  If you’re keeping track of all the family members, Judah is Jacob’s son by Leah, fourth in the birth order after his brothers Reuben, Simeon, and Levi.

Verse 1 of Chapter 38 begins with “At that time…”, referring to the incident of selling their brother Joseph off to the Ishmaelites on their way to Egypt.  Remember it was Reuben, the oldest brother that spared Joseph’s life, but it was Judah who came up with the idea of selling Joseph to the passing caravan.

As Chapter 38 opens, we see Judah leaving his brothers to spend time with his friend Hirah.  There he meets and marries a Canaanite woman and has three sons by her.  We don’t know the details about the first son, only that Judah arranged a marriage for him to a woman named Tamar.  Judah’s son was evil in the sight of the Lord, so the Lord took his life, leaving Tamar a widow.

Judah instructed his second son to perform the ritual of levirate marriage, where the brother of a deceased man is obliged to marry the deceased man’s widow in order to have children that will carry on the deceased brother’s name and family lineage.

The second son, for whatever reason, decides to not honor his brother and does not give Tamar any children, so the Lord took his life as well.

Judah then promises Tamar that she can have his third son, but to go live with her family of origin until the third son is of age to marry.  Judah is hoping that the whole thing will blow over and everyone will forget about his promise.  Judah is scared that he will lose his third son as well.

But as the years roll on, Tamar sees Judah’s third son grown but not given to her as her promised husband.  So she decides to trick Judah into what she has been promised, pretending to be a prostitute along the road.

Judah, after losing his wife, falls for the trap and has sex with the “prostitute”, not knowing it was his daughter-in-law.  After Tamar turns up pregnant, she confronts Judah and lets him know he is the father.

Verse 26 is a turning point for Judah, from self-righteous indignation about Tamar being pregnant to admitting that he did not honor his promise to her, and she was, in fact, more righteous in God’s sight than he was.

The chapter ends with Tamar having twin boys, and the whole birth-order struggle happening between the two brothers in the womb, reminiscent of Jacob and Esau.

While this story might seem somewhat anecdotal here, this is another building block for God’s developing story over the years and generations.  If we fast-forward to Matthew Chapter 1, we see God redeeming all this sin, the messed-up lineage, broken promises, and trickery of Judah and Tamar as part of the lineage of Jesus (Matthew 1:1-3).

So when we’re defeated and feel like we’ve blown it and that there are no more opportunities, know that we are not that powerful.  If God can redeem the mess in today’s story (and so many other stories in the Bible), then He can redeem us and our messy stories and lives as well.

Blessings,
~kevin

Genesis 37:1-36

37 Jacob lived in the land where his father had stayed, the land of Canaan.

This is the account of Jacob’s family line.

Joseph, a young man of seventeen, was tending the flocks with his brothers, the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives, and he brought their father a bad report about them.

Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made an ornate robe for him. When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.

Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more. He said to them, “Listen to this dream I had: We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.”

His brothers said to him, “Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?” And they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said.

Then he had another dream, and he told it to his brothers. “Listen,” he said, “I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.”

10 When he told his father as well as his brothers, his father rebuked him and said, “What is this dream you had? Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?” 11 His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind.

12 Now his brothers had gone to graze their father’s flocks near Shechem, 13 and Israel said to Joseph, “As you know, your brothers are grazing the flocks near Shechem. Come, I am going to send you to them.”

“Very well,” he replied.

14 So he said to him, “Go and see if all is well with your brothers and with the flocks, and bring word back to me.” Then he sent him off from the Valley of Hebron.

When Joseph arrived at Shechem, 15 a man found him wandering around in the fields and asked him, “What are you looking for?”

16 He replied, “I’m looking for my brothers. Can you tell me where they are grazing their flocks?”

17 “They have moved on from here,” the man answered. “I heard them say, ‘Let’s go to Dothan.’”

So Joseph went after his brothers and found them near Dothan. 18 But they saw him in the distance, and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him.

19 “Here comes that dreamer!” they said to each other. 20 “Come now, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we’ll see what comes of his dreams.”

21 When Reuben heard this, he tried to rescue him from their hands. “Let’s not take his life,” he said. 22 “Don’t shed any blood. Throw him into this cistern here in the wilderness, but don’t lay a hand on him.” Reuben said this to rescue him from them and take him back to his father.

23 So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe—the ornate robe he was wearing— 24 and they took him and threw him into the cistern. The cistern was empty; there was no water in it.

25 As they sat down to eat their meal, they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead. Their camels were loaded with spices, balm and myrrh, and they were on their way to take them down to Egypt.

26 Judah said to his brothers, “What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? 27 Come, let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood.” His brothers agreed.

28 So when the Midianite merchants came by, his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and sold him for twenty shekels of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt.

29 When Reuben returned to the cistern and saw that Joseph was not there, he tore his clothes. 30 He went back to his brothers and said, “The boy isn’t there! Where can I turn now?”

31 Then they got Joseph’s robe, slaughtered a goat and dipped the robe in the blood. 32 They took the ornate robe back to their father and said, “We found this. Examine it to see whether it is your son’s robe.”

33 He recognized it and said, “It is my son’s robe! Some ferocious animal has devoured him. Joseph has surely been torn to pieces.”

34 Then Jacob tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and mourned for his son many days. 35 All his sons and daughters came to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. “No,” he said, “I will continue to mourn until I join my son in the grave.” So his father wept for him.

36 Meanwhile, the Midianites sold Joseph in Egypt to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard.
(Genesis 37:1-36 NIV)

In our last time together, we looked in Chapter 36 at the family tree of Esau, Jacob’s twin brother.  In today’s passage, we’ll begin looking at the family tree of Jacob, with the first story about Joseph, Jacob’s son by Rachel.

At this point, Jacob had returned to Canaan and was living in the area where his father Isaac had lived (v. 1).  The spotlight turns from Jacob to his son Joseph.

Verse 3 says that Jacob loved Joseph more than any of his other children, as he was the son of his old age.  Joseph was also the son of Rachel, who was Jacob’s favorite wife.  We see this in Jacob’s favoritism toward Rachel over Leah (Genesis 29:30).  Jacob made no effort to conceal his favoritism toward Joseph, and made a special coat for him (v. 3).

Verse 2 tells us that Joseph was 17 years old, and he had brought a bad report about his brothers to his father Jacob.  Nobody likes a tattle-tale, his brothers least of all.

Pouring fuel on the fire, Joseph proceeded to tell his brothers and father about two dreams where they all bowed down to him.  Even Joseph’s father Jacob thought the dreams were too much and rebuked him for sharing.

Despite all this open hatred toward Joseph, Jacob sent Joseph to check on his brothers again (v. 14).  Joseph dutifully went off to find his brothers as they tended their father’s animals.

When Joseph’s brothers saw him coming (easy to spot in his multi-colored coat), they plotted to murder him (v. 18).  The oldest brother, Reuben, stepped in and told the other brothers that they could not kill him; instead, they were to put Joseph in a dry pit so he could not run back to their father.  Reuben intended to go back and rescue Joseph and safely return him to his father’s home.

While Reuben was away, the other brothers decided to sell Joseph to a band of traveling Ishmaelite merchants on their way to Egypt to sell their products.  When Reuben returned, however, there was no rescuing of Joseph from the pit – he was gone!

Rather than chase after the Ishmaelite traders and rescue their brother, they opted to cover up their sin and make the evidence look like Joseph was eaten by a wild beast.  When the brothers brought Joseph’s special coat to Jacob, the brothers’ plan seemed to work – Jacob immediately went to the worst-case scenario and mourned for many days, refusing to be consoled by anyone, even his children.

But the Lord was watching out for Joseph, and put him under the care of Potiphar, the Egyptian Pharoah’s head bodyguard.

Despite what life throws at us, God can redeem any situation or hardship.  We’ll see more of what God is up to as we work through the rest of the book of Genesis.

Blessings,
~kevin

Genesis 36

36 This is the account of the family line of Esau (that is, Edom).

Esau took his wives from the women of Canaan: Adah daughter of Elon the Hittite, and Oholibamah daughter of Anah and granddaughter of Zibeon the Hivite— also Basemath daughter of Ishmael and sister of Nebaioth.

Adah bore Eliphaz to Esau, Basemath bore Reuel, and Oholibamah bore Jeush, Jalam and Korah. These were the sons of Esau, who were born to him in Canaan.

Esau took his wives and sons and daughters and all the members of his household, as well as his livestock and all his other animals and all the goods he had acquired in Canaan, and moved to a land some distance from his brother Jacob. Their possessions were too great for them to remain together; the land where they were staying could not support them both because of their livestock. So Esau (that is, Edom) settled in the hill country of Seir.

This is the account of the family line of Esau the father of the Edomites in the hill country of Seir.

10 These are the names of Esau’s sons:

Eliphaz, the son of Esau’s wife Adah, and Reuel, the son of Esau’s wife Basemath.

11 The sons of Eliphaz:

Teman, Omar, Zepho, Gatam and Kenaz.

12 Esau’s son Eliphaz also had a concubine named Timna, who bore him Amalek. These were grandsons of Esau’s wife Adah.

13 The sons of Reuel:

Nahath, Zerah, Shammah and Mizzah. These were grandsons of Esau’s wife Basemath.

14 The sons of Esau’s wife Oholibamah daughter of Anah and granddaughter of Zibeon, whom she bore to Esau:

Jeush, Jalam and Korah.

15 These were the chiefs among Esau’s descendants:

The sons of Eliphaz the firstborn of Esau:

Chiefs Teman, Omar, Zepho, Kenaz, 16 Korah, Gatam and Amalek. These were the chiefs descended from Eliphaz in Edom; they were grandsons of Adah.

17 The sons of Esau’s son Reuel:

Chiefs Nahath, Zerah, Shammah and Mizzah. These were the chiefs descended from Reuel in Edom; they were grandsons of Esau’s wife Basemath.

18 The sons of Esau’s wife Oholibamah:

Chiefs Jeush, Jalam and Korah. These were the chiefs descended from Esau’s wife Oholibamah daughter of Anah.

19 These were the sons of Esau (that is, Edom), and these were their chiefs.

20 These were the sons of Seir the Horite, who were living in the region:

Lotan, Shobal, Zibeon, Anah, 21 Dishon, Ezer and Dishan. These sons of Seir in Edom were Horite chiefs.

22 The sons of Lotan:

Hori and Homam. Timna was Lotan’s sister.

23 The sons of Shobal:

Alvan, Manahath, Ebal, Shepho and Onam.

24 The sons of Zibeon:

Aiah and Anah. This is the Anah who discovered the hot springs in the desert while he was grazing the donkeys of his father Zibeon.

25 The children of Anah:

Dishon and Oholibamah daughter of Anah.

26 The sons of Dishon:

Hemdan, Eshban, Ithran and Keran.

27 The sons of Ezer:

Bilhan, Zaavan and Akan.

28 The sons of Dishan:

Uz and Aran.

29 These were the Horite chiefs:

Lotan, Shobal, Zibeon, Anah, 30 Dishon, Ezer and Dishan. These were the Horite chiefs, according to their divisions, in the land of Seir.


31 
These were the kings who reigned in Edom before any Israelite king reigned:

32 Bela son of Beor became king of Edom. His city was named Dinhabah.

33 When Bela died, Jobab son of Zerah from Bozrah succeeded him as king.

34 When Jobab died, Husham from the land of the Temanites succeeded him as king.

35 When Husham died, Hadad son of Bedad, who defeated Midian in the country of Moab, succeeded him as king. His city was named Avith.

36 When Hadad died, Samlah from Masrekah succeeded him as king.

37 When Samlah died, Shaul from Rehoboth on the river succeeded him as king.

38 When Shaul died, Baal-Hanan son of Akbor succeeded him as king.

39 When Baal-Hanan son of Akbor died, Hadad succeeded him as king. His city was named Pau, and his wife’s name was Mehetabel daughter of Matred, the daughter of Me-Zahab.

40 These were the chiefs descended from Esau, by name, according to their clans and regions:

Timna, Alvah, Jetheth, 41 Oholibamah, Elah, Pinon, 42 Kenaz, Teman, Mibzar, 43 Magdiel and Iram. These were the chiefs of Edom, according to their settlements in the land they occupied.

This is the family line of Esau, the father of the Edomites.
(Genesis 36:1-43 NIV)

As we wrapped up Chapter 35, we saw Jacob lose his wife and best friend Rachel, move back home, and then lose his father Isaac.

Chapter 36 is dedicated to the genealogy of Esau, Jacob’s older brother.  Similar to Chapter 25, we saw the historical record of Ishmael the older brother first, then Isaac.  In today’s passage, we see Esau’s historical record first, followed by that of Jacob in Chapters 37 and following.

In verses 1-5, we note that Esau had three wives, who bore him five sons.

In verses 6-8, we see an amiable parting of ways between Jacob and Esau, because the land was not able to sustain both of their growing herds.  Jacob stayed in Canaan, while Esau moved to the hill country of Seir (also known as Edom).

In verses 9-14, we see the historical record of Esau’s sons and grandsons as relatives of Esau.  In verses 15-19, we see the same list reiterated, only this time the descendants are identified as separate people groups (chiefs or clan leaders).

Verses 20-30 are interjected into the text here as a historical record, not as a family record.  The Horites were the original inhabitants of the hill country of Seir; three generations of the Horites are mentioned in these verses.  Deuteronomy 2:12 connects the inclusion of this record of the Horites to Esau’s family.  Esau’s family drove out the Horites from the hill country and settled in their place.

In verses 31-39, we see eight generations of Edomite rules represented.  It’s interesting to note that these rulers were not appointed because of family ties to Esau or his family.  It appears that these kings were elected, not appointed.  While there were eight generations identified, there was no mention of murder or other foul play of one ruler trying to take over the kingship from another.  These generations would carry the Edomites from Esau’s timeframe through to roughly King Saul’s or King David’s timeframe.  There are no ages or lengths of rule mentioned in these verses, so it’s a little hard to know exactly when these kings started or stopped.

Lastly, verses 40-43 identify the chiefs or tribal leaders of Esau’s descendants.  This list seems to be arranged geographically, identifying where the various tribal leaders lived, versus the family listing of verses 15-19.

As we look over this passage, we see God’s grace and mercy toward Esau, recording the development of his family as a descendant of Isaac.  Even though Esau was not the one chosen by God to carry the blessing of God to the nations, the Lord still is interested in recording Esau’s history and the development of his family.

May we remember that God cares about each and every person, including you and me.

Blessings,
~kevin

Happy Thanksgiving!

As I see the social media posts fly by this time of year, many people express their gratitude for material things – shelter, food, things, people in their lives, etc.  These are good topics to be thankful for.

As followers of Jesus, what should be our focus – the gifts, or the Giver of those gifts?

This year, I choose to focus on the spiritual blessings that God showers us with every day.  Looking at life with a fresh view of who God is, I see Him as a God of abundance, not of scarcity.

As we look at God as the God of abundant spiritual blessings, let’s take a look at a few:

  • Love
    God’s greatest attribute, His greatest example, His highest calling and purpose, is love.  God loved us so much that He chose to redeem us even when we went our own way and rebelled against Him.  He loved us sacrificially by paying for our sins with His own son Jesus, so that we might be in right relationship with Him again. The apostle John writes:

    “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
    (John 3:16 NIV)

  • Mercy
    God is holy, just, and righteous; He cannot allow sin in His sight.  We deserve His punishment and wrath for our sins, for our rebellion against Him.  We have committed holy treason against God Almighty, and deserve the death penalty.  And yet, because of God’s love, He chooses to show us mercy and not justice because of His Son’s payment for our sins.
    The Old Testament prophet Jeremiah expressed God’s mercy well:

    Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.  They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.”
    (Lamentations 3:22-23 NKJV)

  • Grace
    Not only does God love us and show mercy toward us – He also loves to love us!
    God showers us with spiritual blessings every day, whether we deserve it or not.  His grace to us is not based on performance, but on relationship.
    The Apostle Paul expressed this well – first to the church at Ephesus, then to his young friend Timothy:

    “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”
    (Ephesians 2:6-9 NIV)

    He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”
    (1 Timothy 1:9-10 NIV)

  • Life in Community
    Not only does God love us, show mercy toward us, and shower us with spiritual blessings – He also shows us how to live in community.

    • The Trinity – our spiritual example
      God models community in the spiritual through God the Trinity:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  As author Larry Crabb stated, the Trinity is the only small group that has ever gotten along with each other and truly enjoyed one one another’s company.
    • Jesus Christ – our physical example
      God didn’t stop at the spiritual realm with His idea of community – He sent His Son Jesus to earth to live out an example of community for us to fully understand and comprehend what He intended to life together to be.
    • Our lives – the “laboratory” and “practice room”
      With Jesus’ example recorded in God’s Word, the Bible, we now get to model or emulate what what Jesus did – to love others.  Yes, it’s hard and messy, because we live in a broken world, and we love imperfectly.
      But loving others and living in community with them, however painful and messy, is not optional – it’s Jesus’ command:

      “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
      (John 13:34 NIV)

 

What spiritual blessings are you thankful for today?

Blessings,
~kevin

Genesis 35:16-29

16 Then they moved on from Bethel. While they were still some distance from Ephrath, Rachel began to give birth and had great difficulty. 17 And as she was having great difficulty in childbirth, the midwife said to her, “Don’t despair, for you have another son.” 18 As she breathed her last—for she was dying—she named her son Ben-Oni. But his father named him Benjamin.

19 So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem). 20 Over her tomb Jacob set up a pillar, and to this day that pillar marks Rachel’s tomb.

21 Israel moved on again and pitched his tent beyond Migdal Eder.22 While Israel was living in that region, Reuben went in and slept with his father’s concubine Bilhah, and Israel heard of it.

Jacob had twelve sons:

23 The sons of Leah:

Reuben the firstborn of Jacob,

Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar and Zebulun.

24 The sons of Rachel:

Joseph and Benjamin.

25 The sons of Rachel’s servant Bilhah:

Dan and Naphtali.

26 The sons of Leah’s servant Zilpah:

Gad and Asher.

These were the sons of Jacob, who were born to him in Paddan Aram.

27 Jacob came home to his father Isaac in Mamre, near Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron), where Abraham and Isaac had stayed. 28 Isaac lived a hundred and eighty years. 29 Then he breathed his last and died and was gathered to his people, old and full of years. And his sons Esau and Jacob buried him.
(Genesis 35:16-29 NIV)

As we began Chapter 35, we saw God call Jacob back to his homeland, back to Bethel, where he had made his promise to God to follow the Lord if God would rescue him and provide for him.  God had done His part; Jacob needed to come back and finish his.

As we discussed last time, this triggered a revival in Jacob.  Before Jacob could live a new life, the old life had to die.  Jacob started by removing all idols from his household and burying them.  When Jacob returned to Bethel, he then buried his mother’s nurse (symbolic of the death and burial of the old life of his youth and treachery).

God then showed up and repeated his blessing to Jacob, gave him a new name (Israel), signifying new life and hope for the future.  Jacob responded by worshiping the Lord.

In today’s passage, we see Jacob moving on from Bethel toward his father’s home in Hebron.  Along the way, Rachel dies shortly after giving birth to Jacob’s 12th son.  Rachel names the boy “Ben Oni” (son of my sorrow); Jacob names him “Benjamin” (son of my right hand / son of good fortune).  Rachel was counting her own loss and imminent death, while Jacob, likely through tears and brokenness over Rachel’s passing, saw God’s good hand and the blessing of another son to carry on the Lord’s promise for the future. 

In all of Jacob’s back-to-back losses, he was made aware of another event that added to his sorrow.  Reuben, Jacob’s and Leah’s oldest son, seduced and slept with Rachel’s maid (and Jacob’s wife)  Bilhah.  This was not rape – this was seduction, adultery, and incest.  Moses also points out that while Jacob was aware of this event, he did nothing about it.  Was Jacob lacking integrity in protecting the women in his life (first Dinah his daughter, and now Bilhah, Rachel’s maid/his wife)?  Or was Jacob so absorbed in his grief and recent losses that this was outside his ability to cope at the time?   The text does not say.

Moses now stops and recaps Jacob’s twelve sons from his two wives and their two maids (vv. 22b – 26).

Moses closes out the chapter by recounting Jacob’s arrival to see his father Isaac, and later he and his brother Esau burying Isaac when he died at 180 years old.

In our last time together, we looked at a number of parallels between Jacob’s life and ours; those questions and parallels carry over for today’s text as well.

Now that both Isaac and Rebekah have passed away, Jacob (now Israel) is the God-appointed patriarch of the family, and the path of God’s blessings to future generations.

May we live our lives carefully and completely dedicated to the Lord, and not waste our years chasing after life using our own resources.

May we lose our lives in Christ, and in so doing, seek Him with all our heart, find our true selves, our calling, and live for His glory, not our own.

Blessings,
~kevin

 

Genesis 35:1-15

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

So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Get rid of the foreign gods you have with you, and purify yourselves and change your clothes. Then come, let us go up to Bethel, where I will build an altar to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and who has been with me wherever I have gone.” So they gave Jacob all the foreign gods they had and the rings in their ears, and Jacob buried them under the oak at Shechem. Then they set out, and the terror of God fell on the towns all around them so that no one pursued them.

Jacob and all the people with him came to Luz (that is, Bethel) in the land of Canaan. There he built an altar, and he called the place El Bethel, because it was there that God revealed himself to him when he was fleeing from his brother.

Now Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, died and was buried under the oak outside Bethel. So it was named Allon Bakuth.

After Jacob returned from Paddan Aram, God appeared to him again and blessed him. 10 God said to him, “Your name is Jacob, but you will no longer be called Jacob; your name will be Israel.” So he named him Israel.

11 And God said to him, “I am God Almighty; be fruitful and increase in number. A nation and a community of nations will come from you, and kings will be among your descendants. 12 The land I gave to Abraham and Isaac I also give to you, and I will give this land to your descendants after you.” 13 Then God went up from him at the place where he had talked with him.

14 Jacob set up a stone pillar at the place where God had talked with him, and he poured out a drink offering on it; he also poured oil on it.15 Jacob called the place where God had talked with him Bethel.
(Genesis 35:1-15 NIV)

To quickly review, God called Jacob to return to Bethel, the land of his fathers.  Jacob got as far as Shechem, then settled down.  Jacob’s daughter is raped; Jacob’s sons kill the men of the village and loot it in revenge.  Jacob finds himself in a terrible quandary:

  • He can’t return to Laban and his wives’ family
  • He can’t leave Shechem due to the threat of revenge from the neighboring towns
  • He is paralyzed by fear, a prisoner in his own home

As we begin Chapter 35 today, God tells Jacob to return to Bethel (Genesis 31:13) where he made his vow to obey and serve the Lord (v. 1).  The Lord has done His part to protect and provide for Jacob; now it’s Jacob’s part to acknowledge God and serve Him.

Jacob obeys the Lord and has a personal revival in the process.  Jacob’s first action is to tell his family to gather up any and all idols so he can dispose of them.  Remember that Rachel had stolen some of her father’s household idols, without Jacob’s knowledge (Genesis 31:34-35).  Now Jacob knows that there are other idols in the family, and orders everyone to get rid of them.

Secondly, Jacob instructs his family to  clean up physically, which is symbolic of cleaning up spiritually, for they are about to embark on a journey to worship and honor God.

Jacob disposes of all the household idols by burying them – he does not try to sell them or redeem them in any way (v. 4).  Jacob’s actions are clear – the old life of sin and idol worship have to die and be buried if they are to move forward and worship God.

Jacob’s faith and boldness to obey the Lord returns, and his fears about the revenge from neighboring towns melt away as he leads his family to Bethel.  The Lord went ahead of Jacob, and the terror of the Lord Himself protected Jacob and his family (v. 5) during the journey.

When Jacob and his family arrived at Bethel, he immediately built an altar and worshiped the Lord there (vv. 6-7).  Jacob remembered how God had visited him in that place when he was fleeing from his brother Esau.

Verse 8 seems, at first, to be out of place, or at most, anecdotal in nature.  In actuality, it is an integral part of the story.  Just as Jacob buried the idols under the oak tree back in Shechem, Jacob also buries his mother’s nurse under the oak tree in Bethel.  There is no record of when Rebekah died; however, with this note about the death of Rebekah’s nurse, we can safely assume that Rebekah was already dead.

The recording of Deborah’s death (Rebekah’s nurse) and Jacob burying her represented Jacob burying his sinful past of treachery and tricks to gain advantage over his brother, rather than allowing God to lead and provide.  This was where Jacob came to the end of his namesake and his old ways.

Notice verses 9 – 10… Immediately after Jacob finishes burying his past (as represented by Deborah’s death and burial), God shows up.  The Lord blesses Jacob, then reiterates the new name that He gave him.  No longer would this man be known by his old ways, but by his new direction and name – Israel (one who strives with God).  Jacob and God are now linked forever by this new name – Israel.

In verses 11 – 13, the Lord reiterates His charge to Jacob to be fruitful and multiply, as well as His promise to Jacob, his father and grandfather for a permanent home, a land to call their own.

After Jacob has this encounter with God, he spends time worshiping the Lord, and reiterates the name of the place: Bethel (house of God).

There are so many applicable life lessons for us in today’s passage; where do we start?  Let’s begin by making a list of what Jacob experienced, in the form of questions for us:

  • What has God called me to do, that I need to finish?
    (like God calling Jacob back to Bethel, but Jacob settling in Shechem)
  • What am I afraid of?
    (like Jacob’s fear of everything, not able to venture out of his house in Shechem)
  • What are my idols?  Where am I “dirty” and need to cleanse myself (symbolically)?
    (like the idols and the changing of clothes and bathing)
  • What do I need to bury or die to in my old ways?
    (the idols under the oak tree; Rebekah’s nurse symbolizing Jacob’s old ways)
  • What new name is God giving to me?  How does that name link God and me?
    (like Jacob’s new name – Israel – “one who strives with God”)
  • What is my response?  Is it worship to the Lord?
    (like Jacob did after God visited him)

May today’s study not bring anxiety such as anger, shame, or fear.

Rather, may today’s study bring hope and renewed trust in the Lord, with the full realization that we are His beloved, that He provides abundantly, and that we can safely surrender power and control of our lives to Him.

Blessings,
~kevin