Thursday, 30 June 2005

You meant evil, but God meant good

“…Am I in the place of God…you thought evil against me, but God meant it unto good.” – Genesis 50v19-20

Joseph’s brothers were in a panic! Israel had died and now they were certain that Joseph would take out revenge on them for all that they had done to him. As they went to Joseph they must have been stunned at his response. He said, “Don’t be afraid – who am I to question God. You meant only evil against me, but God had a good plan in mind - to save the nation of Israel.”

How relieved they must have been. Joseph had no interest in punishing his brothers. He knew that God had been in control the situation from day one. This is the Romans 8v28 of the Old Testament – “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.”

We can rest in the absolute sovereignty of God. He works human circumstances for good. Things come into our lives that we absolutely cannot see as being good. All we see is the darkness and the trouble of the moment. May we have a Joseph-like outlook to our difficult times. May we be reminded that God is in control, that He is by His very nature good, and that He desires good for His people. Even when men mean attacks against us for evil, God can turn them around for good. Praise God for this wonderful assurance!

Wednesday, 29 June 2005


“The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.” - Genesis 49v10

At the very end of Israel’s life he spelled out what the future held for the family of each son. Reuben would suffer great trouble and instability. Simeon would be the smallest of the tribes. Levi would be the priestly family, but they would have no land. Judah would be the lion like tribe, ruled by violence and conquest. The kings of Israel would come through this tribe. This nation would grow and prosper.

The most significant aspect of Judah is that through Judah would come Shiloh. The word has the idea of peace and tranquility and even before Christ scholars had attached this prophecy to the coming Messiah. Christian scholars have done the same ever since and there is no real reason not ot accept that view since Christ did come from the line of Judah.

What a blessing that even at this time, when Israel was exiled from her land God would promise that one day peace would come. Jesus made it clear what He was the One to bring that peace when he said, “My peace I bring to you, not like the world’s peace.” I am so grateful for Shiloh in my life. May we rest in the perfect peace of Shiloh no matter what passes our way today.

Tuesday, 28 June 2005

Fear not to go

“…I am God…fear not to go down to Egypt…I will go down with you…” – Genesis 46v3-4

What wonderful news it was when Israel heard that Joseph was still alive. He was stunned – the Bible says that his heart stopped. He honestly must not have been able to believe it. Then his sons shared the news that they were supposed to move down to Egypt. How Israel must have struggled. God had told him that he would make a great nation in Canaan and give him all of the land, but now his long lost son is telling him to move to Egypt!

When Israel got to Beersheba he built an altar to worship God. When he did God came to him with some wonderful words of comfort. “Don’t be afraid to go to Egypt. I am going with you and will make a great nation there. You will return to the land I have promised you.”

God does not fail us in His promises. He commands never go anyplace that His promises don’t go. He never leads where He will not feed. Where God guides He provides. All of these are saying which express the truth that God does not forsake His people.

Wherever God directs us He will go with us and keep His promises. May we daily live in that knowledge.

Monday, 27 June 2005

God sent me here

So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God: and he hath made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.” – Genesis 45v8

After a lengthy series of events in which Joseph was dealing with his brothers he finally could bear it no more. How stunned the brothers must have been when he shouted out to them, “I am Joseph!”

They were already felling guilty about what they had done, unknowingly they had already fulfilled the dream about bowing now to him. Now the man who literally held their lives in his hand was revealed and the same teenager they had sold into slavery. I am sure that they assumed that their lives were done for.

Yet Joseph did not respond at all like we might expect. Before they could even fully comprehend what he had said he told them not to be afraid, that God had arranged all that had happened to him. He was able to see God’s hand working in the whole situation. God had promised to make a great nation of Israel. Famine had struck their land and they very possibly would have been wiped out by famine if not for the hand of God in directing Joseph. He even explained to them that they were not the ones who had sent him to Egypt, that God had done it for a purpose.

In all of the events of our lives today God also has a purpose. We may not see it from this side, but we can rest in the fact that a sovereign God is in control and we must learn to rest in that knowledge and look forward to the day when we will see things from the same perspective that Joseph did.

Sunday, 26 June 2005

Trusting God from the prison to the palace

“And Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh: For God, said he, hath made me forget all my toil, and all my father's house. And the name of the second called he Ephraim: For God hath caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction.” – Genesis 41v51-52

Joseph is a perfect example of trusting God no matter what his circumstances. Some people forget all about God when their times are tough. Others forget him when things are going well because they feel like they don’t need Him. Joseph had gone from favoured son, to slave, to prisoner, to prime minister and his faith in the Lord never wavered.

He gives the best evidence of that when he named his sons. It can be argued that Joseph was now the second most powerful man on earth. Nothing got by him. It appears that even Pharaoh took a back seat in the day to day administration of the kingdom. Too many men in this situation would have begun to “think more highly of themselves than they ought to think. Yet Joseph shows our relationship to God in the naming of his sons. His firstborn he named Manasseh, meaning, “making forget.” His reason was that God had delivered him from his mistreatment and captivity so he could forget about his past. His second son was named Ephraim. This names means “fruitful” for Joseph knew that all he had gained was from the Lord.

What a wonderful example for us. Living like a prisoner today? Trust God. Living like a prince today? Don’t forget about God. May we always maintain a “God focus” in our lives.

Saturday, 25 June 2005

God will give an answer of peace

And Joseph answered Pharaoh, saying, It is not in me: God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace” – Genesis 41v16

Things seemingly had gone from bad to worse for Joseph. Not only was he in prison unhustly for attacking Potiphar’s wife, now he had been given the job of being a servant to other prisoners. It doesn’t get much worse than that. Yet, in spite of his circumstances from all appearances Joseph was happy enough to go on serving. It seems that he did so with an excellent spirit, even though he did not hide the fact that he was there unjustly.

One day he interpreted two dreams. Both came true and he asked the royal butler, for whom he had interpreted one of the dreams, to remember him to Pharaoh. The Bible says even this man forgot about him.

Finally, after Pharaoh dreamed Joseph was remembered and brought before him to interpret the dream. Pharaoh told Joseph, “I have heard that you can interpret dream.” The next words out of Joseph’s mouth reveal something of the measure of the man – “It is not in me…” Joseph immediately stood up for His God and let it be known that anything he could do was from God, not himself. Even after all the circumstances he had been through Joseph still had a firm reliance on his God.

Then he revealed something else. His God is a God of peace. How could Joseph say this? It is very simple – Joseph knew the God of Peace as his God of Peace. In all of his troubles he could give testimony that God gives peace in the time of trouble.

What a testimony! Falsely accused, unfairly imprisoned, forsaken and forgotten, Joseph still glorified the God of Peace. May we bear that same testimony in our lives!

Friday, 24 June 2005

When doing right doesn't “go right”

When doing right doesn't “go right”

“And Joseph's master took him, and put him into the prison, a place where the king's prisoners were bound: and he was there in the prison. But the LORD was with Joseph, and showed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison.” - Gen 39v20-21

What happens when you do the right thing and things still go wrong? Joseph had definitely done the right thing when he ran from the temptation. The next thing he knows he find himself in prison! I wonder how we would have responded if this had been us? “Lord, I did the right thing and this is what happens to me? How can this be? It just doesn't seem fair!”

It is amazing how easy it is for us to put God in our own little box and expect Him to act in the way we think He should. “If I do the right thing,” we may think, “than God us surely going to honour it.” So far, so good. The problems comes when we define what honouring is. We tend to think that God honouring our action means that everything is going to go right as a result. Sometimes, as we see with Joseph that simply is not the case. Sometimes we can't see what God is doing at all.

There is a key component here in Joseph's situation, “But the Lord was with Joseph...” That s not all though, “ and [the Lord] showed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison.” Did Joseph get out of jail at this time? No, but God was with him where he was and God showed mercy to him while He was there.

Doing right is no guarantee that things are going to “go right,” at least in our eyes. We can however be assured that when we do right we can rest in the ever abiding presence of God in the situation. Our lesson for today? Just do the right thing and leave the rest up to God!

Thursday, 23 June 2005

Running Shoes

...he ...fled, and got him out” - Genesis 39v12

There is a children's song that says “When sin comes knocking at your door ... put on your running shoes.” Surely Joseph is our best example of fulfilling that axiom.

Mrs Potiphar still persisted in pursuing Joseph. Day after day she enticed him. Finally, a day came when there was no one else in the house. She must have though, “now is my chance.” As Joseph passed by she grabbed him by his cloak and drew him to herself - “Lie with me” she calls.

Now, what would the average man do in a situation like that? But we are not dealing with an average man. The Bible says that Joseph's response was simple and swift. He twisted out of his cloak, ran, and got out of the house.

Although there is not of theological depth there when it comes to sin we don't need much theological depth. Joseph did not debate the rights and wrongs, the implications of offending Mrs Potiphar, or anything else. He simply got out of the situation as fast as he could. He “put on his running shoes.”

What is our normal response to temptation? Is it a few moments of indecision? Is it a lingering, longing look considering what we might have? It doesn't have to be sex. It can be any situation where temptation to sin comes. May we have the kind of character that Joseph. The the allure of sin is there, not even think, just run!!

Wednesday, 22 June 2005

Sin against God then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” - Genesis 39v9

O for a proper view of sin today! Joseph had risen to the point was he had total control over Potiphar's house. The only think held back from him was Mrs Potiphar. One day Mrs Potiphar asked Joseph to come and have relations with her!

Many men, even men of God would have been tempted. Sex is a strong drawing factor. Joseph's was stunned and shocked at the thought. “How can I do such a wicked thing? How can I sin against God?

Joseph had a proper view of sin. He knew a couple of two things about sin that we often neglect today. He did not even have the benefit of the law, yet he KNEW -

  • It is a GREAT wickedness
  • It is against God.

How lightly the world sees sin today. How lightly God's people see sin today. We always have an excuse for our actions. It is always someone else's fault. Lord, give us the view of sin that Joseph had. Remind us that sin is wicked, and that though others may be affected by it sin is against YOU. How can we sin against You after you gave your son for us?

Tuesday, 21 June 2005

The Lord blessed the Egyptian's house

And the Lord blessed the Egyptian's house for Joseph's sake...” - Genesis 39v5

Not only was God with Joseph as we saw yesterday, God also blessed those around Joseph because of him. What a testimony of the man of God. People around Joseph we blessed because he was there. As time passed Potiphar began to trust Joseph more and more. It got to the point that Potiphar gave Joseph run of the household.

When I see the character of Joseph I am consistently challenged. He never compromised his standards in the midst of this pagan household. Yet, he was highly regarded by man. What a challenge for us today. It is possible to be highly regarded by man and God. So often we think that we must conform and blend in with the world to be accepted by them. But Joseph stayed true to God, was honoured by the nation, and saw the blessings of God on those around him.

How do we compare to the character of Joseph? He was a precursor of one who shakes the salt and shines the light in the world around him. May we live today in a way that

Honours God

Brings a good reputation to us

Brings blessings on those around us.

Monday, 20 June 2005

And the Lord was with Joseph

And Joseph was brought down to Egypt; and Potiphar bought him ... and the Lord was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man...” - Genesis 39v1-2

In the midst of all of the sin and depravity in these chapters we are returned to the life of Joseph. The last record of him was being sold to a bunch of slave traders as they passed by. In the minds of his brothers, as they went on in their own wicked ways Joseph was surely off the scene. Joseph was rejected and alone, sold as a slave in a foreign land.

Yet, we read some amazing words here - “The Lord was with Joseph!” This looks like a great oxymoron. Bought as a slave, but the Lord was with Him? How could this possibly be true?

The great truth is that God has purposes for us that we don't always understand. James makes it clear that we are to count it all joy when we fall into trials. As Joseph looked around he must have wondered what was going to happen to him. How could this be a good situation? Circumstances indicated that he was all alone, a slave in a foreign land. Humanly speaking he was all of this, but he had a greater Presence that he could have hoped for - the Lord was with Him!

When Jesus was born one of the titles given to Him was Emmanuel, God with us. When he left the earth He said, “Lo, I am with you always...” When we are going through struggles let us remember the wonderful truth that God is with us. In our prosperous times may we be reminded that God is with us. May our attitude bypass circumstances and dwell on the wonderful truth that as Christians God is with us as we face another day!

Sunday, 19 June 2005

Let HER be burned

..Tamar thy daughter hath played the harlot ... and Judah said, Bring her forth and let her be burned.” - Genesis 38v24

What a mess! God's nation of Israel was not off to the best start. The brothers had sold Joseph into slavery in Egypt after he had a dream about them bowing down to him. Incest, treachery, immorality, and subterfuge described these future twelve tribes of Israel. On top of it Judah decides to take off on his own. As his family grew it also had its share of problems. By the get to this story God has killed two of his sons for their sin. This situation deals with Judah and his daughter-in-law Tamar.

In all of this we never see God mentioned. As we see all though Scriptures man always messes things up when he leaves God out of the picture. Judah wants Tamar to wait until a third son grows up to marry her and give her a child, but Judah did not follow through and Tamar sets out a plan of her own.

Tamar set herself up along the roadside and gave every appearance of being a harlot. When Judah came along he propositioned her and agreed to give her certain items that would later identify him. As a result of this encounter Tamar became pregnant.

When word came to Judah that his daughter-in-law was pregnant as a result of playing the harlot we brashly declares, “Let he be burned!” At this point Judah had ignored his own sin and could only think of having Tamar punished. It was not until he was confronted with his own sin that he had to back down.

How sad it is when we rush to judgement of others while we ignore our own sin. Jesus dealt with this when He talked about getting the beam out of our own eyes before we try to get the speck out of others eyes.

Lord, help us to examine our own hearts before we rush out in judgement of others.

Saturday, 18 June 2005

El Bethel

“And he built an altar there, and called the place El-bethel, because there God appeared to him…” – Genesis 35v7

We have already seen the importance that Jacob placed on Bethel. This was the House of God and certain standards were set for God’s people to go back to Bethel. God had to be first in their lives and that had to show that by their actions.

Genesis 35 is something of a sad chapter. Two deaths take are recorded here. Rebekah’s nurse Deborah was clearly loved by the people. When she died they called the place where she was of weeping.” Later in the chapter Jacob’s wife Rachel dies in childbirth. Tragedy is a part of life, even for God’s people.

Yet, in the midst of this Jacob, who is here called by that name for the last time, reminds us where our focus should be. Bethel is a wonderful place to dwell. He is great blessing in dwelling in the House of God. However, just dwelling there is not really enough.

Jacob built an altar here and he called the place El Bethel – God of the House of God. There is only one source of true comfort and blessing. There is only One who is worthy of our worship. Let us remember as we worship and serve. Our object is not to be our ministry. Our object is not to be our place of service. The object of our worship must always be El Bethel – The God of the House of God!

Friday, 17 June 2005

God has been with me

“...I will make an altar unto God, who answered me in the say of my distress, and was with me in the way which I went.” - Genesis 35v3

It appears that Jacob finally has thing sorted out properly. The focus of Genesis is about the switch to one of his sons. We are going to see that he is not yet perfect, but he does finally have some major things sorted out in his life.

After all of his trickery and deception Jacob returned to Bethel, the house of God. When he got there he did a few things that let us know where he stands.

  • He acknowledged that God was worthy of worship.
  • He acknowledged that God had answered his prayers.
  • He acknowledged that God had been with him.

He built an altar at Bethel as an act of worship to God. An altar always required a sacrifice and This was no different. Jacob had learned that there truly was One who was worthy of his worship.

He knew that God had answered him. There could be no questioning that he had what he had because God had heard his prayer and listened to him.

He knew that God had been with him. I think this became clear in his encounter with Esau. He knew what he deserved, but God intervened for him and was with him the whole time. Jacob's Bethel prayer had been this, “If God will be with me, if He will keep me, if He will give me food to eat and clothes to put on, if He will let me return in peace – then He will be my God.” In Jacob's mind God had kept His end of the bargain. Now, to Jacob's credit, he kept his end of the bargain.

While we should never put ourselves in the position of bargaining with God, we should have a heart which acknowledges when God is working in our lives. Jacob's view is finally God focused.

May we today acknowledge that God is truly worthy of our worship, that He has answered our prayers, and that He has always been with us.

Thursday, 16 June 2005

Back to Bethel

And God said to Jacob, Arise and go to Bethel ... And Jacob said to his household, Arise and let us go to Bethel...” Genesis 25v1,3

After a very sad incident involving the defilement of Dinah and an a cruel retribution by her brothers God once again appeared to Jacob. He told Jacob to go “back to Bethel, the House of God.” So Jacob called his household together and gave them some instructions for their return to Bethel.

His instructions were quite simple:

Put away the strange gods

Be clean

Change your garments

Jacob never ceased to be God's man. Yet, the closed fellowship with God was broken so God called Jacob to go back to Bethel where he had first encountered God. Without diligence it is easy for us to get ourselves off track and wander away from Bethel. When those times come we would do well the heed the words spoken by Jacob.

Put away your strange gods – lay aside anything which as taken the place of God in your life

Be clean – put aside the sin that is holding your back

Change your garments – lay aside the lifestyle that is more befitting of the world than of God's people.

It should be our constant desire to live at Bethel. When we wander from Bethel let us be quick to go back there.

Wednesday, 15 June 2005

I have enough

...Esau said 'I have enough' ... Jacob said, 'I have enough...'” Genesis 33v9,11

In this chapter we have a reunion of two long lost brothers after a 21 year separation. They had departed with less than brotherly love and Jacob was petrified to meet the brother he had wronged so horribly. All Jacob could see what retribution, which he knew he deserved.

How surprised Jacob must have been when his brother ran to him, embraced him, fell on his neck, kissed him, and they wept.” Family introductions were made and a truly wonderful family reunion ensued.

Obviously, it was the work of God in these men's heart that made this all possible. Yet there is something else which is key here. How could all of the differences of the past be so easily forgotten? Both men speak three very rare words to each other. “I have enough” they both say while involved in something of a giving contest.

Why are these words so rare? They whole relationship with God and each other is based on the concept of contentment. I Hebrews lack of contentment is equated with idolatry. Discontentment always puts something else ahead of God. Contentment is able to say “I have enough” no matter what the situation. Discontentment never says, “I have enough.”

Their division was resolved when both men accepted that they had enough. May we strive to resolve our differences with the same spirit.

Tuesday, 14 June 2005

Wrestling with God

And Jacob we left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.” - Genesis 32v24

I have always been intrigued by this section. The story here is a literal depiction of a man struggling with a human manifestation of God Himself. At the end of the wrestling match God told Jacob to release Him and Jacob refused to do so until he was blessed. As a result Jacob receives a new name, Israel and he named the place of the wrestling match Penuel.

There is some debate about the meaning of the name Israel. The most common marginal note is “Prince of God.” However, the word appears to have more of an idea of “God strives,” or “God prevails.” The place name, Penuel, means “face of God.”

I think there is an application for us. Jacob's life up until this point had been one of constant struggles within himself. He was a supplanter and a trickster. He had been basically motivated by what was best for him. It appears that God now brought things to a head. To teach Jacob a lesson he took a spiritual struggle and made it physical. In the morning God afflicted Jacob by knocking a hip joint out of place and still Jacob struggled with God until God's blessing was given.

We all face situations where we may struggle with God over what we should be doing. Perhaps there are even situation where we may struggling with God over something at the moment. James tell us that God allows some trials into our lives in order to develop patience and maturity. Like Jacob, God wants us to keep on in the struggle. If we do so there is a blessing to be had at the end. In every struggle God will be honoured and His will done if we continue on through the struggle.

Monday, 13 June 2005

I am not worthy

I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast showed unto thy servant...” - Genesis 32v10

Jacob continues to grow in his relationship with the Lord. He has not “arrived” yet, but is making great strides. Here Jacob has been told that Esau is looking for him and he knows the feelings that are there. He is afraid and begins all kinds of machinations to sort things out with Esau. Yet, in the midst of his schemings he stops and acknowledges some things to God.

“I am not worthy,” he says;

  1. of the least of your mercies

  2. of all the truth which thou hast shown to thy servant.

In spite of his problem Jacob knew some things that we miss sometimes. They is a movement in Christian circles that that says we can demand anything we want from God and that He is bound to give it to us. Whether we go that far or not we can often think about how “bad” we have it and that God should do better for us.

The truth is that God owes us nothing. Because of our sin we were the enemies of God before salvation. Yet, God showed His love for us through the fact that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. We are not even worthy of salvation, yet God in His mercy provides it for us. It is only of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning! Great is His faithfulness! We are not worthy to receive the great truths of His Word, yet He sent the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth.

We have so much to be thankful for simply in the mercy He shows and the truth He provides. That is why God can tell us in Philippians, “Be careful (full of cares) for nothing, but in EVERYTHING by prayer and supplication, with THANKSGIVING, let you request be made known unto God.”

May we thank God today for His mercy and His truth, of which none of us are worthy!

Sunday, 12 June 2005

When parting is not such sweet sorrow

...the Lord watch between me and thee, when we are absent from each other.” - Genesis 31v49

The Mizpah Covenant can be see on bracelets, plaques, rings, etc. It i soften used when friends and loved one part to remind each other that God will be watching over each when they are apart. There is nothing wrong with that and it is good to be reminded that we can trust God to take care of us when we are separated from loved ones.

This was not quite the case with the original Mizpah covenant though. Laban and Jacob had been squabbling over lands, livestock, and possessions. When they get to this point they have both had enough. The covenanted together to set up a marker to divide themselves and their territory. The words that sealed the covenant were simple - “The Lord watch over us while we are apart.”

These men had the wisdom to part rather than to continue their disagreements. In verse 53 it becomes clear that there are leaving this all in God's hands as they part. Sometimes it is necessary for people to agree to disagree.

How do we act when we just cannot come to an agreement? Too often pride drives us to keep pushing our own agenda. Sometimes we feel like we just must get in the last word. Partings are far too often acrimonious and ugly. We would be far better off if he could resolve our differences, but if we cannot, may we learn to leave the matter in God's hands and trust God to watch over each other when we must agree to disagree.

Saturday, 11 June 2005

If God had not been with me

Except the God of my father ... had been with me, surely thou hadst sent me away empty.” - Genesis 31v42

It is interesting to watch the spiritual growth in the life of Jacob. In many ways he had reaped what he had sown. The trickster had been tricked. Laban had given him years of misery and now the time had come for Jacob to return to Canaan.

Once again Laban tried to get what he could out of Jacob. Jacob had some basic measure of faith in his expression here - “If God were not with me I would have nothing from you,” he told Laban. Jacob had realised that what he had was not of his own manipulations and trickery. He had what he had because God had given it to him.

How do we view what we have? It is so easy to say that we have this or that because of what we have done. We can look around at the things we have and be pleased at what we have achieved. Yet, even Jacob, not yet where he should be spiritually, had the wisdom to know that what he had was because God was with him. May we thank God today for all the He has done and realise that apart from Him we would indeed have nothing.

Friday, 10 June 2005

God blessing through us

And Laban said unto him, I pray thee; if I have found favour in thine eyes, tarry; for I have learned by experience that the Lord hath blessed me for thy sake.” - Genesis 30v27

Years had passed. Jacob felt like it was time to move on so he respectfully went to Laban to ask permission. During this time Jacob had not been the best testimony to Laban, his family, or anyone else around. Yet, there was still a difference in his life that people noticed. I am grateful that all through the Word of God we see that God uses flawed people to do His work. If not, none of us could ever hope to serve Him.

One thing was certain here. Laban felt that God had blessed him and his family because of Jacob's being there with him. In spite of all his flaws and weaknesses he revealed the reality if the Lrod to those around him.

We must ask ourselves, “Have people learned my experience that they are blessed though us?” As Christians we are the light of the world and that salt of the earth. A would which lives in darkness must see the Light shining in our lives. Our salt must season those with whom we keep company. May your friends always say that God has blessed them because of us.

Thursday, 9 June 2005

God remembered Rachel

And God remembered Rachel, and God hearkened to her,and opened her womb.” - Genesis 30v22

What a mess Jacob, Leah, and Rachel had made of things. God will use all that was done He to accomplish His will, but human reasoning had brought about great conflict. Of course it alls tarted with turning away from God's perfect plan of one man for one woman. Laban's trickery of giving Leah in the place of Rachel played into the situation as well. When Rachel could not get pregnant she tried to “help God along” by giving her maid to Jacob in order to have children for her. Leah jumped into the fray by giving Jacob her maid as well. Both women were fighting and scheming for their husband's affection.

Then suddenly things change. Genesis 30v22 we read “And God brought Rachel to mind, and he heard her, and opened her womb. In the midst of all this jockeying for position and prestige God stepped in. When He did so Rachel knew that God had worked, naming her son Joseph, which means “God will add.”

This son, Joseph, was the son through whom God would deliver all of His people. Joseph will be elevated to a position where his family will bow down to him. Joseph will become the co-ruler of a mighty empire.

Rachel found her true blessing not when she manipulated circumstances, but when God brought her to mind. Praise the Lord that as His children today He does not forget us. May we rest in Him to do His will His way and may we learn not to rely on ourselves..

Wednesday, 8 June 2005

Am I in the place of God?

...Am I in God's stead, who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb?” - Genesis 30v2

There can be no doubt that Jacob's words were not spoken in the best spirit here. He had confused things by marrying the sisters Leah and Rachel. God had given Leah sons, but the wife who Jacob really loved had none. Rachel came to Jacob complaining and in anger he responded the words recorded above.

It is unfortunate that he did not heed his own words. Jacob's words might well be translated, “Can I act as if I am God?” There will be times when he will do just that, trying to do God's work for Him.

Sadly enough, at times we all do the same thing Jacob did. We may reflect on the past and say and think that things would have done better if we had done so and so. We may look at our present and think how things could be better “if.” We may contemplate the future and think that our plan is surely the best plan. In each of these situations, in a sense at least, we are putting ourselves in the place of God. God knows what is best for us, He is sovereign, He is love itself, and He loves us. His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts because His ways and His thoughts are far above our ways and our thoughts.

When we say, “Can I act like God?” may our hearts and minds reflect that truth. In every situation may we let God be God and may we follow His perfect plan.

Tuesday, 7 June 2005

Bethel – the House of God

...Surely, the Lord is in the place and I knew it not ... this is none other than the house of God ... and he called the name of the place Bethel.” - Genesis 28v15

Jacob has shown nothing but a weak, flawed, deceitful, selfish nature up until this point in his life and His mother has been aiding and abetting him in his selfish actions. As he tricked Esau out of his birthright, with his mother's help he trick Isaac into blessing him with Esau's blessing. There is no excuse for this kind of action.

At Rebekah's suggestion Jacob left to give Esau a chance to cool off. While he slept one night God appeared to Him in a vision, promising him that he would inherit the blessing given to Abraham and then Isaac. Jacob appears to wake out of his spiritual blindness. “Surely, God is here and I didn't know it! This is the house of God!” Next he named the place Beth-el, the "House of God.”

The problem is that even though now Jacob has a perception of God he still does not trust him completely. Later he lays out some conditions before the Lord will be his God. “If God will be with me, if He will keep me, if He will give me food to eat and clothes to put on, if He will let me return in peace – then He will be my God.”

Jacob still doesn't get it. While all this is a part of his spiritual growth and development it still shows a tremendous lack of faith. He was basing his relationship on God on what God did.

This might be expected of a young Christian today. Our trials come to teach us to wait on God. What is unfortunate is when those of us who have lived in Bethel for many years STILL must see God work before we trust Him. Jesus told Thomas that those who could believe without seeing were more blessed than those who had to see in order to believe.

Lord, remind us today that as your children we live in Bethel. May our faith be based on more than sight.

Monday, 6 June 2005

We saw that the Lord is with you

And we saw certainly that the Lord was with thee...” - Genesis 26v28

How important is our testimony before the lost? Isaac gives us an example here while dealing with a land dispute and his father's wells. After leaving he moved to Gerar to wait on the famine. While there he found a number of wells which had been dug by Abraham. The Philistines had filled in the wells, cutting off the water supply of settlers in the area.

When Isaac discovered this he sent his men out to re-dig the wells. When the fist was dug the men of Gerar came and claiming the water as theirs. Isaac's men called the well “Fight” and moved on. They dug another well and the same thing happened. This time they called the well “Enmity.” They moved on again. This time they were permitted to keep the well and they called it “Room Enough.” Finally they moved back to Beer-sheba to settle down, received a renewal of God's promise and dug a well.

Soon, Abimelech came to Isaac again. Isaac was surely stunned. “Why are you still coming after me? You hate me and you sent me away.”

By now though Isaac's testimony had made an impact. Abimelech said. “We have clearly seen that the Lord is with you.” An agreement is reached and peace is made, all because Isaac showed his faith in God by not warring over the wells. Isaac had a testimony that drew men to his God.

How about our testimonies? Do we live a life so that others can say, “I can see that God is with you?” We never know the impact that our testimony is going to live. May today be lived so that others may see clearly that God is with us!

Sunday, 5 June 2005

She is my sister

And the men of the place asked him of his wife: and he said, She is my sister: for he feared to say, She is my wife...” Genesis 26v7

Isaac and Rebekah are have returned to Gerar. The men of the place came to him and asked him about his wife. He is immediately struck with fear that they might kill him to take his beautiful wife.

Si he did the first thing that came to his mind – he lied. “She is my sister” he boldly proclaimed. Of course he was found out and Abimelech looked out the window and saw his, As the KJV says, sporting with her. Abimelech immediately called him to account for his deception and he admitted what he had done.

Does the story sound familiar? It ought to, it is almost an exact replay of what Isaac's father had done. Lying, of course, is a sin that God hates. The sin goes deeper though. Abraham had passed on his doubts about God's ability to his own son. This character flaw in the man of God was continued into the next generation. Even after all that he had seen, including his near sacrifice Isaac did not really trust God completely.

They are a couple of things to note. First, we are reminded again of the practical difficulty of trusting God in every situation. It just made sense to Isaac to lie about Rebekah. He was thinking about himself, even to the point of being willing to sacrifice his own wife to the desires of the men of Gerar. God had to step in and use a lost man to protect Rebekah. How sad it is when the world has more regard for the things of God that God's people do.

There is another lesson here for us. In this one area at least Abraham had failed his son. Abraham's flaws had now been revealed in Isaac. Isn't it hard when we see our flaws and spiritual weaknesses reflected in our children? Teaching and training our children properly is an awesome task. May we realise just how important it is that we set the proper example and teach them, even through our mistakes and flaws. Isaac had not even seen his father's identical sin, but the character flaw was still there. There is more to living our Christian life that just us, we must consider how our walk with the Lord affects our children.

Saturday, 4 June 2005

Feed Me!

And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee with that same red pottage; for I am faint...”

- Genesis 25v30

Isaac and Rebekah could not have had twins who were more different. They struggled even before they were born. Esau, the first-born was rough and ruddy. He was a “tough guy” who loved the outdoors and hunting. In modern terminology he was a real man's man!

His younger twin Jacob was different. At birth he grabbed his brother's heel, gaining his name, Jacob, which literally means supplanter, but comes from the idea of being a “heel grabber”which in Eastern culture is one who is always attempting to supplant another's authority.

Jacob was a stay at home kind of guy. He preferred to stay home and be around the house. He was, literally, a “momma's boy” while Esau was loved by his elderly father.

One day Esau had been out in the fields and came home to find his brother making a stew. He was famished from the hunt and blurted out “Feed me!” Jacob saw his opportunity and worked out a deal, “If you give me your double portion of our inheritance I will give you some stew.”

Esau only had one thought in mind, “I need to eat. If I don't eat I am going to die anyway,” so he foolishly agreed to the deal. Esau sacrificed the eternal on the altar of the immediate.

Our first thought is to say, “How foolish. Esau gave up a fortune for a bowl of stew.” Yet, how often are we like Esau? Rather than wait to see God work we want to be fed now! We want to be fed with prosperity, success, and ease of life instead of waiting for the fullness of the blessing God has for us! Like Esau, we never know what God has in store. In our short-sightedness we cry out, “Feed me now with that bowl of stew.” O, that we might not be caught up with a fleshly focus. May we allow God to pour out His blessings on us in His perfect time. May we look for the double inheritance that God has in store for us instead of being content with a bowl of stew that only satisfies for the moment!

Friday, 3 June 2005

Asking God

...and she [Rebekah] said, “If all be well, why am I like this?” So she went to inquire of the Lord.” - Genesis 25v22 (NKJV)

Abraham has died. All of his possessions have been passed on to Isaac and he and Rebekah settled in the wonderfully named area of Beer Lahai Roi (You are the God Who sees). How important it is that we remember the lessons of Beer Lahai Roi in our homes. “Unless the Lord build the house they labour in vain that build it,” we read in the Scriptures. Let's make sure that we set up our lives and our homes on the basis of Beer Lahai Roi.

That is not our thought for today though. Like her mother-in-law, Rebekah had difficulty conceiving. Isaac may very well have thought, “Here we go again. I don't want to wait until I am 100 to have a son.” When Isaac prayed for his wife she conceived. What joy must have filled their hearts!

Rebekah's pregnancy was difficult. The Bible tells us that the “children struggled together within her.” Unable to get a scan, Rebekah was apparently unaware that she was carrying twins. She didn't understand what was going on. Why was this pregnancy so difficult. “If everything is okay,” she asks, “why am I having all this trouble?”

We don't always understand our own difficulties of life. Why does everything end up being a struggle? Why does it seem that everything we attempt for God seems so difficult?

Rebekah set a pattern for us all. The dear lady of God did the right thing - “...she went to inquire of the Lord.” Rebekah had the right focus. Instead of whining and complaining she simply went to inquire to the Lord. She took her burden to the Lord. She knew the principle of Philippians 4v6-7; “Be careful [full of cares] for nothing, but in everything, with prayer and thanksgiving let your request be made known unto God. And the peace of God that passeth all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

When we feel those struggles in our own lives, may we follow the example of Rebekah and simply “inquire of the Lord.”

Thursday, 2 June 2005

I will go

And they called Rebekah, and said unto her, Wilt thou go with this man? And she said “ I will go.” - Genesis 24v58

Three simple words by Rebekah show her willingness to follow God's plan. To Rebekah and her family it was obvious that God was in this marriage. When Eliezer explained his prayer and what had happened they all knew that this was the will of God.

The final test came down to what Rebekah would do. She had a choice. Leaving family is always difficult. They did not want her to leave. We know that because they asked her to stay just a few more days. She did not know it yet, but her decision was monumental. She was to be the grandmother of the twelve tribes of Israel. Clearly. God's will is never thwarted by human decisions, yet her decision still had momentous consequences.

Rebekah said, without hesitation it appears, “I will go.” How God's heart rejoices when He hears those words. Isaiah said the same thing when God said, “Who will I send, and who will go for us.” “Here am I,” said Isaiah, “send me.

Is there, perhaps, a place in our lives today where we need to tell the Lord, “I will go?” Perhaps there is a friend or neighbour who needs a helping hand. Perhaps some one needs a word of encouragement or an expression of love. Perhaps some friend or neighbour needs to hear the gospel. Perhaps this goes even further and there is something that we have known for a while that God wants us today, but we have procrastinated and hesitated.

Can we say today, with Rebekah, “I will go?”

Wednesday, 1 June 2005

Good or Bad?

Then Laban and Bethuel answered and said, The thing proceedeth from the Lord: we cannot speak unto thee good or bad.”

The time has come for Eliezer to come to Rebekah's family about taking her back to Isaac. He properly goes to the family first instead of her. After he lays out exactly what has happened he asks them for permission to take her back.

Let us put ourselves in their shoes. A total stranger has come to take Rebekah away forever. He claims to be the servant of a distant relative, but there is no “proof,” only the testimony of a servant who explains what has happened. Eliezer's argument must have been persuasive for they were convinced that this was indeed from the Lord.

They reply of Laban and Bethuel is telling. “This is God's doing, who are we to judge if it is bad or good?”

What a wonderful, trusting perspective! To often we base goodness on our human perspective of it. If something is the will of God we cannot judge if it is bad or good. God is good and He always does what is good for His people. Rebekah's family surely did not want to see her leave, that is clear later in the chapter. However, they had enough faith to know that man is no position to judge if something that God brought into their lives was bad or good.

Father, give us the heart of Laban and Bethuel today. May we never have the audacity to try and decide if what you do is good or bad.