Christmas 2018

This year’s Christmas posting is a bit late, as the time leading up to Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and the days after Christmas have been filled with reflections on Jesus’ birth and much travel to spend precious time with family and friends.

Last year’s Christmas theme was laser-focused on one word, one thought, and one Person – “Emmanuel” – God with us – God coming to earth in human form – fully God and fully human – in Jesus.

This year’s Christmas theme has been an interesting journey, filled with a variety of seemingly unrelated topics and things, yet somehow all interconnected:

  • The Christmas story in Luke Chapter 2
  • A full moon this Christmas season
  • A book about experiencing God through desert and mountain landscapes
  • An old Christmas hymn

As I read the Christmas story in Luke Chapter 2, one verse seemed to jump out at me this year:

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.
(Luke 2:8 NIV)

Away from Bethlehem, away from the sounds of the city, out in the middle of nowhere, some shepherds were in the hillsides with their sheep, keeping an eye on them overnight from anyone or anything that would harm them or separate them from the flock.  Luke makes no mention of any issues with the shepherds or the sheep that particular night – probably a quiet evening as the sheep calmly grazed or bedded down on the hillside for the evening.

As I ventured outside in the evenings preceding Christmas, I was reminded of what it may have been like that first Christmas night – peace and quiet, a cloudless sky, a full moon giving sight to everyone and everything, the shepherds wrapped up, breathing in the cold, crisp air of the evening, a myriad of stars dotting the sky.

Sometimes the hustle and bustle of the city are fun and exciting, but the peace that comes from the wide-open spaces transcends understanding and is a healing balm to our souls.  In the open landscape of the wilderness, we experience the vastness of God, inexpressible with words or even thoughts.  In the wilderness and mountains, we come to know the presence of God without all our trappings that we think we need to survive and prosper – truly, being in God’s Presence is enough.  Author Belden Lane expresses this thought well around one aspect of our relating to God – through prayer:

“The desert practice of contemplative prayer abandons, on principle, all experiences of God or the self.  It simply insists that being present before God, in a silence beyond words, is an end in itself.” (The Solace of Fierce Landscapes, p. 12)

I am also reminded that this Christmas is the 200th anniversary of the traditional Christmas hymn “Silent Night”.  Much like the Christmas Story in Luke Chapter 2, the hymn was a culmination of both planning and what seemed like at the time an unfortunate circumstance – a request for a new hymn, and a malfunctioning pipe organ.  Rather than being led by the majestic reverberations of the church organ, this beloved hymn was led with a few simple chords strummed quietly on a guitar.

All four of these seemingly unrelated topics came together – the shepherds in the field in the Christmas story of Luke 2, the full moonlit night, the experience of God in the wide open spaces, and the simple lyrics of Silent Night – all are a reminder of the quiet, unassuming circumstances when our Lord made His way into the world, as a defenseless, helpless baby born to humble parents.

And yet, this was only the beginning of the story – about the Creator entering His creation and showing us how to live as He intended, giving us hope and purpose.

May we never lose sight of God entering into the everyday, both on that first Christmas, and today, right where we are.

May we carry that same reality into 2019.

Merry (Belated) Christmas,



Genesis 42:1-24

42 When Jacob learned that there was grain in Egypt, he said to his sons, “Why do you just keep looking at each other?” He continued, “I have heard that there is grain in Egypt. Go down there and buy some for us, so that we may live and not die.”

Then ten of Joseph’s brothers went down to buy grain from Egypt. But Jacob did not send Benjamin, Joseph’s brother, with the others, because he was afraid that harm might come to him. So Israel’s sons were among those who went to buy grain, for there was famine in the land of Canaan also.

Now Joseph was the governor of the land, the person who sold grain to all its people. So when Joseph’s brothers arrived, they bowed down to him with their faces to the ground. As soon as Joseph saw his brothers, he recognized them, but he pretended to be a stranger and spoke harshly to them. “Where do you come from?” he asked.

“From the land of Canaan,” they replied, “to buy food.”

Although Joseph recognized his brothers, they did not recognize him.Then he remembered his dreams about them and said to them, “You are spies! You have come to see where our land is unprotected.”

10 “No, my lord,” they answered. “Your servants have come to buy food.11 We are all the sons of one man. Your servants are honest men, not spies.”

12 “No!” he said to them. “You have come to see where our land is unprotected.”

13 But they replied, “Your servants were twelve brothers, the sons of one man, who lives in the land of Canaan. The youngest is now with our father, and one is no more.”

14 Joseph said to them, “It is just as I told you: You are spies! 15 And this is how you will be tested: As surely as Pharaoh lives, you will not leave this place unless your youngest brother comes here. 16 Send one of your number to get your brother; the rest of you will be kept in prison, so that your words may be tested to see if you are telling the truth. If you are not, then as surely as Pharaoh lives, you are spies!” 17 And he put them all in custody for three days.

18 On the third day, Joseph said to them, “Do this and you will live, for I fear God: 19 If you are honest men, let one of your brothers stay here in prison, while the rest of you go and take grain back for your starving households. 20 But you must bring your youngest brother to me, so that your words may be verified and that you may not die.” This they proceeded to do.

21 They said to one another, “Surely we are being punished because of our brother. We saw how distressed he was when he pleaded with us for his life, but we would not listen; that’s why this distress has come on us.”

22 Reuben replied, “Didn’t I tell you not to sin against the boy? But you wouldn’t listen! Now we must give an accounting for his blood.” 23 They did not realize that Joseph could understand them, since he was using an interpreter.

24 He turned away from them and began to weep, but then came back and spoke to them again. He had Simeon taken from them and bound before their eyes.
(Genesis 42:1-24 NIV)

As we ended Chapter 41, we saw Joseph promoted from prisoner to prime minister, the number two position in all of Egypt.  Joseph had interpreted the king’s dream, then offered a plan to save during the seven good years in order to survive the seven years of famine.  And the famine was not just in Egypt, but throughout the known world.

As we begin Chapter 42, we see the far-reaching effects of the famine – even to Canaan, the promised land where Jacob and his sons lived.  News spread throughout the region that there was food in Egypt, so Jacob sent his sons (minus Benjamin, the youngest) to buy grain so that they would be able to survive.

Because of the famine, Joseph was personally administering the sale of grain.  When Jacob’s sons (Joseph’s brothers) arrived, Joseph knew them immediately.  The last time Joseph had seen his brothers, he was seventeen years old (Genesis 37:2).

Joseph was thirty when the king promoted him, plus the seven prosperous years plus whatever time had elapsed into the seven years of famine.  Now 20-plus years later, Joseph instantly recognized his brothers, but they did not recognize him.

Joseph then remembered the dreams the Lord had given him as a seventeen-year-old youth (Genesis 37:5-11).  God’s promise had come true – and was coming true – right in front of him!  Here were his brothers, bowing down before him, begging to buy grain!

Joseph knew that his brothers did not recognize him, so he kept them from recognizing him by speaking harshly to them, accusing them as spies, and speaking through an interpreter.  Joseph was not being mean or vindictive for what his brothers had done to him; he was disguising his identity behind his role as Egyptian official.

The brothers insisted that they were there as honest men, and that they were not spies.  They told their entire family history to Joseph, including their father, their lost brother (whom they were speaking to, but didn’t know it), as well as mentioning their younger brother Benjamin who did not come with them.

Joseph then used the mention of Benjamin as an opportunity to see his only full blood brother.  He told his brothers that they must go back to Canaan and bring back their younger brother as proof that they were not spies.  Initially, Joseph was going to send one brother back for Benjamin and hold the rest in custody, but instead held just one brother (Simeon) and sent the rest back to retrieve their youngest brother.

Throughout this ordeal, Joseph’s brothers came to the conclusion that this was their punishment for selling Joseph into slavery.  Reuben, the oldest brother, did an “I told you so” on his brothers, reminding them that this was their idea, not his, and that he had told them not to harm Joseph.

Hearing all this back story some 20 years later, Joseph had a flood of emotions running through him.  He excused himself and wept privately.  He then composed himself and returned to face his brothers and finish their business.

How do we face those who have hurt us in the past?  Are we vindictive and seek revenge for the wrongs done to us, or are we more like Joseph, with a tender heart toward those who have sinned against us?

May we forgive others as we have been forgiven by the Lord for our sins.


Genesis 41:33-57

33 “And now let Pharaoh look for a discerning and wise man and put him in charge of the land of Egypt. 34 Let Pharaoh appoint commissioners over the land to take a fifth of the harvest of Egypt during the seven years of abundance. 35 They should collect all the food of these good years that are coming and store up the grain under the authority of Pharaoh, to be kept in the cities for food. 36 This food should be held in reserve for the country, to be used during the seven years of famine that will come upon Egypt, so that the country may not be ruined by the famine.”

37 The plan seemed good to Pharaoh and to all his officials. 38 So Pharaoh asked them, “Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?”

39 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. 40 You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders.Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you.”

41 So Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I hereby put you in charge of the whole land of Egypt.” 42 Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his finger and put it on Joseph’s finger. He dressed him in robes of fine linen and put a gold chain around his neck. 43 He had him ride in a chariot as his second-in-command, and people shouted before him, “Make way!” Thus he put him in charge of the whole land of Egypt.

44 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I am Pharaoh, but without your word no one will lift hand or foot in all Egypt.” 45 Pharaoh gave Joseph the name Zaphenath-Paneah and gave him Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On, to be his wife. And Joseph went throughout the land of Egypt.

46 Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from Pharaoh’s presence and traveled throughout Egypt. 47 During the seven years of abundance the land produced plentifully. 48 Joseph collected all the food produced in those seven years of abundance in Egypt and stored it in the cities. In each city he put the food grown in the fields surrounding it. 49 Joseph stored up huge quantities of grain, like the sand of the sea; it was so much that he stopped keeping records because it was beyond measure.

50 Before the years of famine came, two sons were born to Joseph by Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On. 51 Joseph named his firstborn Manasseh and said, “It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.” 52 The second son he named Ephraim and said, “It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.”

53 The seven years of abundance in Egypt came to an end, 54 and the seven years of famine began, just as Joseph had said. There was famine in all the other lands, but in the whole land of Egypt there was food.55 When all Egypt began to feel the famine, the people cried to Pharaoh for food. Then Pharaoh told all the Egyptians, “Go to Joseph and do what he tells you.”

56 When the famine had spread over the whole country, Joseph opened all the storehouses and sold grain to the Egyptians, for the famine was severe throughout Egypt. 57 And all the world came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was severe everywhere.
(Genesis 41:33-57 NIV)

At the beginning of Chapter 41, Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, had two very disturbing dreams, and none of the wise men of Egypt could provide an interpretation of those dreams.  The king’s cupbearer, whom had been imprisoned briefly, remembered Joseph and mentioned him to the king.  Joseph stood before the king, acknowledged that only God could provide the interpretation of dreams, then told the king what God had shown him about seven years of plenty, followed by seven years of famine so severe it would wipe out the memory of the years of plenty.

In today’s passage, Joseph does not just finish his interpretation, then walk away.  Rather, Joseph now offers the king his recommendation on how to survive the famine.  The Lord was giving Egypt seven bountiful years prior to seven years of famine, so they had to plan for the future and not live for the moment.

Pharaoh liked Joseph’s plan, and recognized that the plan as well as the interpretation of the dream was from God.  So Pharaoh made Joseph the number two person in all the land of Egypt, in charge of administering the famine plan and everything else in the kingdom.

Pharaoh also gave Joseph a new name, Zaphenath-Paneah.  The exact meaning of this name is not certain, but roughly translated, it means “God speaks, giving life to the world”.  This new name reflected God’s presence in Joseph’s life as well as trust that the king put in God and Joseph to see Egypt through this famine.  The Pharaoh also gave Joseph a wife, and they had two sons prior to the start of the famine years.

Verse 46 notes that Joseph was 30 years old when Pharaoh put him in charge of Egypt.  From our previous study of Joseph’s life, Genesis 37:2 tells us that Joseph was 17 years old when his brothers sold him into slavery.  God had been preparing Joseph through many years of trial and tribulation in order to fulfill this crucial role of seeing an entire country through years of plenty followed by years of famine.

The high rank the Pharaoh gave Joseph did not go to Joseph’s head; he kept his ego in check and faithfully led Egypt through the years of plenty, storing up grain in each community in preparation for the impending famine.

When the seven years of plenty ended, and the famine began, Pharaoh reinforced his earlier decree and pointed all the people to Joseph to meet their needs.

Verse 56 tells us that the famine was across all of Egypt, while verse 57 tells us that that famine was across the entire known world, not just Egypt.  Because Joseph had planned well and the Lord had prospered Joseph and Egypt, Joseph was able to provide food for others beyond the borders of Egypt.

May we be faithful in what God has called us to do, and may we see God’s love and abundance in everything He does in and through us.

May we share with others out of the abundance that God gives us.


Genesis 41:1-32

41 When two full years had passed, Pharaoh had a dream: He was standing by the Nile, when out of the river there came up seven cows, sleek and fat, and they grazed among the reeds. After them, seven other cows, ugly and gaunt, came up out of the Nile and stood beside those on the riverbank. And the cows that were ugly and gaunt ate up the seven sleek, fat cows. Then Pharaoh woke up.

He fell asleep again and had a second dream: Seven heads of grain,healthy and good, were growing on a single stalk. After them, seven other heads of grain sprouted—thin and scorched by the east wind. The thin heads of grain swallowed up the seven healthy, full heads. Then Pharaoh woke up; it had been a dream.

In the morning his mind was troubled, so he sent for all the magicians and wise men of Egypt. Pharaoh told them his dreams, but no one could interpret them for him.

Then the chief cupbearer said to Pharaoh, “Today I am reminded of my shortcomings. 10 Pharaoh was once angry with his servants, and he imprisoned me and the chief baker in the house of the captain of the guard. 11 Each of us had a dream the same night, and each dream had a meaning of its own. 12 Now a young Hebrew was there with us, a servant of the captain of the guard. We told him our dreams, and he interpreted them for us, giving each man the interpretation of his dream. 13 And things turned out exactly as he interpreted them to us: I was restored to my position, and the other man was impaled.”

14 So Pharaoh sent for Joseph, and he was quickly brought from the dungeon. When he had shaved and changed his clothes, he came before Pharaoh.

15 Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I had a dream, and no one can interpret it.But I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.”

16 “I cannot do it,” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.”

17 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “In my dream I was standing on the bank of the Nile, 18 when out of the river there came up seven cows, fat and sleek, and they grazed among the reeds. 19 After them, seven other cows came up—scrawny and very ugly and lean. I had never seen such ugly cows in all the land of Egypt. 20 The lean, ugly cows ate up the seven fat cows that came up first. 21 But even after they ate them, no one could tell that they had done so; they looked just as ugly as before. Then I woke up.

22 “In my dream I saw seven heads of grain, full and good, growing on a single stalk. 23 After them, seven other heads sprouted—withered and thin and scorched by the east wind. 24 The thin heads of grain swallowed up the seven good heads. I told this to the magicians, but none of them could explain it to me.”

25 Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, “The dreams of Pharaoh are one and the same. God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do. 26 The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good heads of grain are seven years; it is one and the same dream. 27 The seven lean, ugly cows that came up afterward are seven years, and so are the seven worthless heads of grain scorched by the east wind: They are seven years of famine.

28 “It is just as I said to Pharaoh: God has shown Pharaoh what he is about to do. 29 Seven years of great abundance are coming throughout the land of Egypt, 30 but seven years of famine will follow them. Then all the abundance in Egypt will be forgotten, and the famine will ravage the land. 31 The abundance in the land will not be remembered, because the famine that follows it will be so severe. 32 The reason the dream was given to Pharaoh in two forms is that the matter has been firmly decided by God, and God will do it soon.
(Genesis 41:1-32 NIV)

As we finished Chapter 40, we saw the king’s cupbearer restored to his former position, and the king’s baker put to death, just as the Lord had revealed to Joseph.  And the cupbearer never mentioned Joseph to the king.

As we begin Chapter 41, two years have elapsed since the cupbearer was restored to his position.  Life is good for the cupbearer, and Joseph is still languishing in prison for a crime he did not commit.

Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, had two disturbing dreams.  In ancient Egyptian culture, dreams were very important.  The Egyptians believed dreams were often the way that their gods communicated with them.

Pharaoh likely had other dreams, but none as improbable as these two.  Pharaoh was troubled, so he gathered all his wise men and magicians to provide the interpretation and meaning of the dreams.  No doubt there were many suggestions offered, as the wise men and magicians wanted to be in the king’s good graces.  But none of the possible explanations provided the king with the answers he longed for.

Consider for a moment the absurdity, from a human standpoint, of the dreams.  Cows eating cows?  Cows are herbivores, not carnivores.  Ears of corn eating other ears of corn?  Plants don’t eat plants, and the fruit of plants don’t eat anything – they are eaten.

And even if cows could eat cows and ears of corn could eat ears of corn, how could this happen with no visible effect?  If you or I were to eat something twice our size, would not our size, our volume change?  And yet, in these dreams, the skinny, malnourished cows and the withered ears of corn looked exactly the same after they ate their well-nourished and plump counterparts.

With no plausible explanations and the king still troubled about the meaning of the dreams, the cupbearer conveniently chose to remember that there was someone that might be able to interpret the king’s dreams.

Make no mistake here – the cupbearer was not confessing wrongdoing before the king, no was he feeling guilt over not mentioning Joseph to the king.  Rather, the cupbearer was in this for himself and his own glory and self-serving nature.

The king sends for Joseph; after Joseph cleans up (having come from the dungeon), he appears before the king.  As an interesting aside, I wonder who the king assigned to get Joseph?  The text does not say… could it have been Potiphar, the very man that had imprisoned Joseph in the first place?

The text says that Joseph shaved and changed clothes.  Hebrew men often kept beards, while Egyptian men were clean-shaven.  Whomever brought Joseph from the prison wanted to be sure that Joseph looked presentable before the king.

Notice Joseph’s response when the king asked if he could interpret his dreams.  Joseph was quick to deny his own powers, but gave all the glory to God.  Joseph was also confident that God would give the king the answer that would satisfy his desire to know and understand the meaning of the dreams.  In a word, the king would have peace in his heart about the meaning of  the dreams.  The king may not like the answer, but there would be no doubt as to the meaning of the dreams.

It is important to look at the word Joseph used for God.  The Hebrew word is Elohim, the plural name of God.  This is clearly in reference to the Hebrew God, not a generic term for any deity, but Joseph’s God.  Joseph did not refer to the Egyptian deities, but to the Triune God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and himself.

After Pharaoh told Joseph his dreams, Joseph shared their meaning – 7 years of great abundance, followed by 7 years of intense famine that would wipe out any memory of the previous abundance.  And this was not something to happen in the long-distant future – this was beginning now.

When you and I are called to stand before others, what is out response?  Do we, like the cupbearer, use the opportunity to talk about ourselves, or do we simply give the glory to God as Joseph did?

May we remain faithful to the Lord, even in our own distresses and situational “jails” that we may be in, just as Joseph did.

May we be quick to give God the glory when we are asked to help others or give an account, just as Joseph did.

Next time, we’ll look at Joseph’s next words of recommendation to the king, and the king’s response.


Genesis 40:1-23

40 Some time later, the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt offended their master, the king of Egypt. Pharaoh was angry with his two officials, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker, and put them in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, in the same prison where Joseph was confined. The captain of the guard assigned them to Joseph, and he attended them.

After they had been in custody for some time, each of the two men—the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt, who were being held in prison—had a dream the same night, and each dream had a meaning of its own.

When Joseph came to them the next morning, he saw that they were dejected. So he asked Pharaoh’s officials who were in custody with him in his master’s house, “Why do you look so sad today?”

“We both had dreams,” they answered, “but there is no one to interpret them.”

Then Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams.”

So the chief cupbearer told Joseph his dream. He said to him, “In my dream I saw a vine in front of me, 10 and on the vine were three branches. As soon as it budded, it blossomed, and its clusters ripened into grapes. 11 Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand, and I took the grapes, squeezed them into Pharaoh’s cup and put the cup in his hand.”

12 “This is what it means,” Joseph said to him. “The three branches are three days. 13 Within three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your position, and you will put Pharaoh’s cup in his hand, just as you used to do when you were his cupbearer. 14 But when all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison. 15 I was forcibly carried off from the land of the Hebrews, and even here I have done nothing to deserve being put in a dungeon.”

16 When the chief baker saw that Joseph had given a favorable interpretation, he said to Joseph, “I too had a dream: On my head were three baskets of bread. 17 In the top basket were all kinds of baked goods for Pharaoh, but the birds were eating them out of the basket on my head.”

18 “This is what it means,” Joseph said. “The three baskets are three days. 19 Within three days Pharaoh will lift off your head and impale your body on a pole. And the birds will eat away your flesh.”

20 Now the third day was Pharaoh’s birthday, and he gave a feast for all his officials. He lifted up the heads of the chief cupbearer and the chief baker in the presence of his officials: 21 He restored the chief cupbearer to his position, so that he once again put the cup into Pharaoh’s hand—22 but he impaled the chief baker, just as Joseph had said to them in his interpretation.

23 The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him.
(Genesis 40:1-23 NIV)

In Chapter 39, we saw Joseph begin his service to Potiphar, the captain of the king of Egypt’s bodyguard.  The recurring theme was that the Lord was with Joseph, whether Joseph was serving his master faithfully or whether he was unjustly accused and thrown in jail.  As we ended the chapter, we saw Joseph being put in charge of all the prisoners by the chief jailer.

As we begin Chapter 40, we see two more people being added to Joseph’s charge – the chief cupbearer and the chief baker for the king.  Both men had somehow offended the king, and the king, in his anger, had thrown both men into jail.

Verse 4 gives us some insight into Joseph’s character.  Verse 4 says that Joseph “attended them”.  This word means that Joseph took care of them and ministered to them.  Rather than ignoring them or treating them with scorn and abuse, Joseph cared for them.

Joseph was no stranger to injustice.  He had been unjustly sold as a slave by his own brothers, and unjustly jailed by his master Potiphar based on the lies made up by Potiphar’s wife because Joseph turned down her romantic advances.

Verses 6 and 7 further demonstrate Joseph’s heart of kindness.  Joseph noticed their dejected spirits, and asked them why they were looking so sad.  Joseph cared about those under his watch, not just their physical well-being, but also their emotional state.

When the two men told Joseph why they were sad, Joseph was also careful to give God the credit for interpreting their dreams, not taking credit himself.  Although the text does not explicitly say so, this implies that Joseph had a strong walk with the Lord and confidence in the Lord to watch over him, protect him, and provide for him.

After the chief cupbearer told Joseph his dream and Joseph related the meaning of the dream,  Joseph asked the man to remember him when he went back to his former position of serving Pharaoh, the king of Egypt.  Joseph lived with the weight of injustice each day, and looked forward to his freedom from prison just as the chief cupbearer was looking forward to his freedom and restoration that Joseph had prophesied.

On the third day, which happened to be Pharaoh’s birthday, both of Joseph’s interpretations came true.  The cupbearer was restored to his place of honor, and the chief baker was put to death.  Unfortunately, when the chief cupbearer was freed and restored to his former position, he forgot all about Joseph and went about his way.

In today’s story of Joseph and the cupbearer, we can draw some parallels between our life and our connection to the Lord.  Like Joseph, Jesus was unjustly accused of wrong and arrested.  And like Joseph, Jesus cares for us, not only our physical beings, but also our emotional state and ministers to us through His Holy Spirit.

Like the cupbearer, we sometimes get through a hard time, but forget the One who watched over us, cared for us when we were down, and gave us hope.  We conveniently walk away, choosing not to remember the One who gave us our freedom.

May we develop a constant heart of gratitude, a thankful heart at all times, not trying to repay the Lord for all He does for us, but rather expressing our humble appreciation for all God has done, is doing, and promises to do for us as we walk with Him.


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.


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.