Monday, 30 November 2009

When I see the blood

Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. - Exodus 12v13

To our natural mind blood is not an appealing prospect. Blood is just plain gross. Blood is not something people like to talk about and therefore the concept of shedding blood for religion can be offensive to some. Yet, we are going to see that this is vital for the whole concept of sin and God’s view of it.

Pharaoh had plenty of chances to relent and heed God’s call to release Israel. He rejected it time after time so the time had come for the last and most tragic plague. God promised that every first born son in the land would die as a result of Pharaoh’s sin. To understand this we need to realise that every good thing that every person enjoys is a gift, a privilege, and not a right. No one on the face of the earth deserves a chance, but God graciously gives us that chance because of His love.

God took it a step further and provided an out. Those who would sacrifice a lamb and place its blood on the doorposts of their home would avoid the penalty. When the Lord came by and saw the blood on the doorposts He would pass over the house and not carry out the judgement. ‘When I see the blood I will pass over you.’

God did what He said. The judgement was carried out, but those who trusted His instructions by placing the blood were spared.

The whole world is under a curse today because of sin. We all have to deal with the results of sin every day. God wants us all to be free from that, but sin has a price. The price for sin is death.

And yet God’s love still prevails. He gave His Son as the Passover for man’s sin. Where there is no blood of Christ judgement will follow. Where the blood of Christ has been applied God’s judgement will pass over.

The application of the blood of Christ is a free gift. All that is required is to accept that gift by faith and seek God’s forgiveness for sin. Then His blood will be applied and judgement will indeed pass over.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

He sinned yet the more

And Pharaoh sent and called for Moses and Aaron, and said to them, "I have sinned this time. The LORD is righteous, and my people and I are wicked. Entreat the LORD, that there may be no more mighty thundering and hail, for it is enough. I will let you go, and you shall stay no longer." … as for you and your servants, I know that you will not yet fear the LORD God." … And when Pharaoh saw that the rain, the hail, and the thunder had ceased, he sinned yet more; and he hardened his heart, he and his servants. – Exodus 9v27-34

Have you ever heard, or made, a crisis confession? ‘If God will do this one thing for me I will be good and stop doing whatever.’ We are all aware of them, and we know what usually happens after the crisis.

Pharaoh was in a panic over the hailstorms. Everything was wrecked and getting worse. We have all seen this during weather disasters. People get desperate when the weather gets desperate. As I write this Ireland is dealing with severe flooding and it is raining again today. People will do anything to stop sever weather.

Pharaoh called for Moses. ‘If you will just get God to stop the storms I will let you and your people go.’ He sounded sincere, and maybe he was sincere at the moment. But what do you think happened as soon as the thunder stopped?

‘When Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunder stopped he kept on sinning; He hardened his heart along with everyone else.’

Unless there is a change of heart crisis confessions are useless. Sometimes people think that they can use God like a genie to get them through a bad time then put Him back in His bottle when things are okay again. They cheapen God and barter with Him when all the while they are their own god pulling Him out to use when convenient.

Sadly Christians can treat Him the same way. We think that we can go along our happy way doing whatever we want. Then when things get bad we throw up a prayer and tell Him we are forsaking our sin. But when things get back to normal we run back to our carnal lifestyle again.

How sad it is when Christians, after watching God deliver them, ‘sin yet the more.’

Saturday, 28 November 2009

A matter of trust

He who feared the word of the LORD among the servants of Pharaoh made his servants and his livestock flee to the houses. – Exodus 9v20

Something jumped out at me this morning as I was doing my reading for this thought. As far as I remember and as far as I noticed there was something different about the plague of the hailstones. The hailstones would only hurt those people and livestock which were left out in the fields.

Somehow the people involved knew about this one. There was no barrier this time between the Israelites and the Egyptians. It looks like all of Israel obeyed, but we also read that some among the Egyptians feared the Lord and sent their servants and livestock into the houses for protection. On the other hand, ‘…he who did not regard the word of the LORD left his servants and his livestock in the field.’

Here is an early example about the universality of God’s offer for people to make a choice to obey Him. Some Egyptians had apparently seen the reality of Jehovah in the lives of the Israelites. Some had learned to fear the Lord more than Pharaoh. Some had realised that Jehovah had more power than Pharaoh, who was worshipped as a god, had.

Those who feared the Lord acted on their fear. They sent their people and their livestock to safety and were spared. Others did not trust the word of God and suffered destruction.

True fear of the Lord acts. God would not have delivered those who ‘feared Him’ if they had not run for cover. Only those who did not believe God’s word did not act.

True fear, true faith if you will, always works.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Spiritual deafness

So Moses spoke thus to the children of Israel; but they did not heed Moses, because of anguish of spirit and cruel bondage. - Exodus 6v9

Pharaoh was not pleased with Moses’ request. He had at his disposal a huge work force to carry out the massive building programmes taking place in Egypt. We know that the Pharaoh’s had a ‘thing’ for building because we can still see many of them today. The people of Israel may very well have been involved in the building of the pyramids or one of the big cities that the Pharaoh’s built.

Pharaoh knew he could never replace that work force. He was angry because Moses was trying to steal his workers. His response was cruel. He decided to teach them a lesson. He told his taskmasters to force them to not reduce their brick production, but to stop providing straw for the bricks. They had to gather their own straw while not reducing the quota of bricks.

So then Moses had to go back to the people. Of course they blamed him ‘If you had not gone to Pharaoh this would never had happened.’ Moses tried to explain that God had told him that He was still in control, He is the Lord, and He will do what He said He would do. But the people would not listen; all they could see was their circumstances. Things were so bad in their eyes that they could not see any way out. They would not listen to Moses because of ‘anguish of spirit and cruel bondage.’

This spiritual blindness was not unique to the people of Israel. Sadly our own spiritual state can often depend of own circumstances. I read this in The Valley of Vision this morning – ‘My sin is that my heart is pleased or troubled as things please or trouble me, without having a regard to Christ.’

Like these people my troubles most often come because I see things as they relate to me. I focus on me instead of Him. Spiritual deafness and spiritual blindness are always our own fault. It happens when we look on the ‘seen’ instead of the ‘unseen;’ when we see the earthly instead of the eternal.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Who is the Lord?

And Pharaoh said, "Who is the LORD, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, nor will I let Israel go." - Exodus 5v2

Pharaoh got exactly what he expected when he went to Pharaoh. ‘The Lord told me to tell you to let His people go!’ I can’t imagine the nerves building up to that, by the way.

Anyway, Pharaoh’s response was clear – ‘Who is the Lord that I should obey Him. I don’t know the Lord, and I won’t let Israel go.’

We are tempted to think that we might never be like Pharaoh, that we are above that. We would NEVER ask a question like that. Or would we?

Pharaoh asked the question in relation to obeying Him. ‘Why should I obey a God I do not know?’ I trust that whether we always obey God or not it is not because we do acknowledge Him, but simply because of our willing disobedience.

My problem comes when it comes to a matter of trusting Him. What happens when I am really challenged to trust God in an especially difficult situation? What happens when He does not act the way that I want Him to?

Even after all these years I still have a problem with me. I have a hard time trusting Him when He does not do it my way. It is getting better, but I still think at times that I have the answer.

I hate to even type this, but am I not saying, like Pharaoh, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Instead of obeying God I might continue with ‘Who is the Lord that I should keep trusting Him? I know how to fix this, why should I trust Him?’

Who is the Lord that Pharaoh should have obeyed him? Who is the Lord that I should trust Him?

The answer is simple enough – He is the Lord.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Send someone else

But he said, "O my Lord, please send by the hand of whomever else You may send." - Exodus 4v13

This is such a sad statement. ‘O Lord, please send someone else,’ is heartbreaking to hear. We know that ultimately and eventually Moses is a man of great faith, but that faith did not come without some doubts and fears.

Apparently Moses could just not see himself as able, no matter what God said to him. When he ran out of reasons he finally just asked God to send someone more qualified for the task. ‘Who will I say sent me?’ ‘I am not able to speak.’ ‘What if they don’t believe me?’

God patiently waited for Moses to come around, but when Moses told God to send someone else it angered God.

I am amazed here at God’s patience. He still was not willing to give up on Moses. Moses was after all His man for the job. Instead, God agreed to send Aaron to be the spokesman instead of Moses.

If it were me, and Moses kept on like he did, I would have said something like, ‘Fine Moses, go back and tend Jethro’s sheep.’

But God’s love and grace and mercy and forgiveness extended further that that. He still used Moses in spite of his fears and anxieties.

Moses was a great man of faith. We know that from Hebrews 11.

By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king's command. By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible. By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, lest he who destroyed the firstborn should touch them. By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land, whereas the Egyptians, attempting to do so, were drowned.

I am comforted to know that God can use my faith despite my foolish fears.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Who made man's mouth?

So the LORD said to him, "Who has made man's mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the LORD? - Exodus 4v11

Moses is something of an enigma. While, as a friend pointed out in a discussion, the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11 talks about his great faith, we also see his struggles. But more about that in the next couple of days.

‘I can’t speak God; I am not eloquent enough for this task.’ I think perhaps this might be seen as a mark of humility. This statement points out the need for balance in our lives. We can’t use our character traits, even our positive character traits, from serving God. He knew that he was not worthy of this great task. ‘I just can’t do this God.’

But God knew more about Moses than Moses did. He did what Moses could do with His help.

We see something like this with our children. They don’t always know what they are capable of accomplishing. Sometimes they need just a little push and encouragement. I remember when I was teaching school I would often come across students who would not perform to their potential. I could see abilities in them that they were not yet aware of. Sometimes even their parents could not see the potential. A little encouragement and a little stretching of ability was all the needed.

God knows so much more than a parent or teacher. We can see signs and indicators and we can act on them. Sometimes we can even expect too much.

God doesn’t have that problem. He knows exactly what we can do because He made us! He knows our lips, our hands, our brains, our skills, and our abilities.

God will never lead us to a task that we are not capable of doing with His help. He knows exactly what we can do with Him.

Sunday, 22 November 2009


And God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM." And He said, "Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, I AM has sent me to you. " - Exodus 3v14

This is such holy event that I almost feel funny typing these special words. From what I have read for generations scribes would not even write the words unless they were transcribing scriptures, and then they had a special routine they would go through when they wrote this name for God. It almost seems cheap to simply type it out.

What name is so special? Moses asked God, ‘Who will I say sent me?’ God said ‘ I AM WHO I AM. Tell them I AM has sent you.’

Just think about the name I AM for a minute. I AM does not leave any room for time or change. There is no past, present, or future with I AM. I AM always has been, is now, and always will be.

‘I am the Lord, I change not.’ ‘Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever.’

Since I AM is not dependent on time, we can rest assured that nothing takes Him by surprise. How can it? He is already there. The whole concept of Open Theism, which says that God does not know all the future, is destroyed by I AM.

In our English Bibles I AM is rendered as Jehovah, or Yahweh, or Lord (with all caps). When we see that we can be reminded of the fact that the same God who appeared to Moses in the burning bush to deliver Israel is with us today.

We are blessed and privileged to serve the great I AM!

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Who am I that I should go?

But Moses said to God, "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?" - Expdus 3v11

I don't know quite what to think of Moses’ response to God's call for him to go back to Egypt. I don’t know if he was humble or afraid or a combination of both. He had been shepherding for forty years. He was forced out of Egypt because of his killing of a taskmaster. We don’t for certain, but this Pharaoh was probably a step brother who might very well remember him. I suspect that his reluctance was a combination of both fear and humility.

I am not so sure that the reason for his question is all that important though. ‘Am I really qualified to go and do this? Can I go back to Egypt, speak to the king, and rescue my people? Am I really the one?

Jeremiah had the same question many hundreds of years later. When God called him he doubted his ability – ‘I can’t do this! I am only a kid.’

Most of us have been there as well. God lays out a task for us that we just don’t know if we can do. Maybe we are just afraid to do it. Maybe we think we are too weak, too foolish, and too common to do the job.

God has an answer. ‘I will be with you…go ahead and serve Me.’

What more could Moses want? What more could Jeremiah want? What more could we want.

God: ‘Go into the world and preach the gospel…’
Man: ‘Wait, I can’t do that! Who am I that I can do such an important task? Who am I that I should go to the people and show them the way of deliverance?’
God: ‘…and lo I am with you always…’

Who are we that we should go? Not much. We are the weak, the base, the foolish, the ignorant, the unskilled, the unqualified, and the incapable.

Not much of a C.V. is it? No, but it leaves out one thing. When God is with us nothing is impossible and we learn pretty quickly that only He gets the glory!

Friday, 20 November 2009

Holy ground

So when the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, "Moses, Moses!" And he said, "Here I am." Then He said, "Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground." – Exodus 3v4

This is one of those great encounter moments in the word of God. As Moses went about his business tending his father-in-laws sheep he saw a flaming bush that was not burning up and heard a voice calling out to him. The voice simply called his name and he replied, naturally enough, 'Here I am.'

i find it amazing first of all that God would call out to Moses. Moses was not seeking God. He appeared happy enough to just keep minding the sheep. But God appeared to Moses. 'The Angel of the Lord' is normally understood to refer to the pre-incarnate Jesus. Either way Moses suddenly found himself in the presence of God.

How would we respond in a situation like that? It looks like Moses did not know what to do, so God told him. 'Take off your shoes, Moses, this is holy ground.'

There was nothing special about that ground in itself. It was just desert sand, the place where Moses tended the sheep. One thing made this place holy. God was there.

I find that when I really have an encounter with God it is usually in those normal places, like my office, my bed, or a bench along the canal. They are not holy ground because of the place, but because that is where I meet with God one on one.

Saying that, there have been plenty of times where I have met with God together with His people. Those holy places have been kitchen tables, empty bedrooms, sitting rooms, and hired halls, as well as what we consider 'normal' church buildings.

God's presence is always holy ground. May we never take it lightly.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

God remembered

Now it happened in the process of time that the king of Egypt died. Then the children of Israel groaned because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry came up to God because of the bondage. So God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God acknowledged them. – Exodus 2v23-25

When we read the words 'God remembered' we might think at first that He was capable of forgetting. 'How can God forget?' we might ask.

Things just grew worse for Israel. Pharaoh died and things went on. Israel was in agony because of her condition so they 'groaned' and called out to God in their misery.

Surely they thought things like 'God has forgotten us!'

But He had not. He still remembered them. He did not have to be reminded about them. He had never forgotten. They were in His memory.

Their prayers were heard. He acknowledged their prayer. It looks like God was just waiting for them to remember Him and call out to Him.

God does not forget His people. He does not forget us. He constantly remembers us. The problem comes when we forget about Him.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

God’s sovereignty and provision

Then the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river. And her maidens walked along the riverside; and when she saw the ark among the reeds, she sent her maid to get it. And when she opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the baby wept. So she had compassion on him, and said, "This is one of the Hebrews' children." Then his sister said to Pharaoh's daughter, "Shall I go and call a nurse for you from the Hebrew women, that she may nurse the child for you?" And Pharaoh's daughter said to her, "Go." So the maiden went and called the child's mother. Then Pharaoh's daughter said to her, "Take this child away and nurse him for me, and I will give you your wages." So the woman took the child and nursed him. And the child grew, and she brought him to Pharaoh's daughter, and he became her son. So she called his name Moses, saying, "Because I drew him out of the water." – Exodus 2v5-10

God’s sovereignty and provision come across in amazing ways sometimes. There are times when we, like Moses’ mum, haven’t a clue about what to do and just have to take a step of faith and trust God with the result.

I don’t know her heart or how much faith she had, but Jochebed had a dilemma on her hands. Her baby boy was under a death penalty just for being born. She hid him as long as she could before he became impossible to keep quiet. She built a little raft for her son and set him afloat in the river and sent his big sister to watch and see what happened.

I am not a mum, but I do have kids. I can’t imagine the emotions Jochebed felt as she wrapped up Moses, lovingly laid him in the basket, tucked him in, and set him afloat. She knew very well that she might never see her three month old son again. What a difficult decision. I don’t know much about her faith; I suspect that only faith could prompt her to take such a step. I can say with some certainty that tears filed her eyes as he floated away.

Here is where God intervenes. We read in Proverbs that the heart of the king is in the hands of the Lord. God can use even lost rulers to accomplish His divine purpose. Just at that time and just at that place Pharaoh’s daughter was bathing with her servants in attendance. The princess saw the little boat and asked here servants to bring it to her. To their shock they say a three month old Hebrew baby boy!

I know teen girls and I don’t think they have changed much. ‘Oh look at him, he is SO cute.’ ‘Can I hold him?’ ‘I wonder where his mum is?’ ‘Can we keep him?’

The thing is the princess could keep him. She had the authority. He daddy would not deny her even if he was a Hebrew baby.

‘Wait, we have a problem. How are we going to feed him?’ Miriam, Moses’ big sister was there. ‘Say, will I got get a Hebrew woman to feed him for you?’ ‘Good idea,’ replied the princess. When Miriam and Jochebed returned the princess ordered Jochebed to take the baby and take care of him until he was weaned!

Could this all be a series of coincidences? Did Jochebed just happen to put Moses in the water at that place? Did the princess just happen to bathe at that time and place? Was it an elaborate plan on Jochebed’s part?

I don’t know. I do know this. God had a plan for Moses before the foundation of the world. The chance that a Hebrew baby under a death sentence would be taken in to the home of the Pharoah who ordered that death sentence seems pretty slim to me.

God is sovereign. God provides. If He can do this for Jochebed in that situation it seems like He can do it for us today.

Monday, 16 November 2009

The benefits of affliction

But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. And they were in dread of the children of Israel. – Exodus 1v12

Many years passed in Egypt after all the successes and prosperity of Joseph and his family. Israel had grown and prospered to the point where they numbered several million. A new dynasty had come to power and knew nothing about the story of Joseph and his family.

This new king saw what he perceived as foreigners and was afraid of their potential power. He thought the best answer to the threat was to make slaves of them and use them on a great building project. He was a cruel taskmaster. He made their burdens incredibly heavy. He hoped that he would break them as a people and as a nation.

‘But the more they afflicted them the more they multiplied and grew, and the Egyptians feared the children of Israel.’

The principle of God’s people prospering in affliction and trouble is a consistent one throughout the Bible. God’s people always do best when they are attacked and afflicted. These people were still slaves, they still had to work hard, their lives were not great, but they still multiplied and grew.

While we dread affliction is our lives it is the only way to grow. That is why we are told to count it as all joy when the trials come because they are the only sure way of growth.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Forgive them

'Thus you shall say to Joseph: "I beg you, please forgive the trespass of your brothers and their sin; for they did evil to you." ' Now, please, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of your father." And Joseph wept when they spoke to him. - Genesis 50v17

Joseph’s brothers still did not get it. When Jacob died they were afraid Joseph would punish them so they sent a messenger with a made up story that Jacob had told them to tell Joseph to forgive them for what they had done. Then they asked for forgiveness and offered themselves as his servants.

It is hard to judge attitudes all these years later, but I don’t think they were truly sorry. Their motivation was fear. They were afraid of the repercussions of their actions instead of being sorry for the action itself.

They need not have worried. Joseph was a much bigger man than they were. When they came to him he wept for them. He had already forgiven them. ‘Am I God that I should judge you?’ he asked, ‘You might have intended this for your own evil purposes, but God meant it for good.

Joseph had no problem forgiving because he had the bigger picture in sight. He knew that the schemes of man cannot outwit the will and the plans of God. He knew that God was sovereign and that His will does not fit in with our plans or our comfort.

This also reminds of Jesus on the cross and the Stephen in the pit. Forgiveness is a key aspect of the believer’s life. Jesus told parables about it. How can we who have been forgiven so much not forgive what others have done to us?

Men may intend evil in their actions but God’s will shall be accomplished and He can turn it into good. Non-forgiveness cannot be a part of our make up.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

There is a Shepherd

But his bow remained in strength, And the arms of his hands were made strong By the hands of the Mighty God of Jacob (From there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel), - Genesis 49v24

I wish commentators would discuss more of the passages I don't fully understand. I don't normally do a deep study for these thoughts, but this morning I looked at a few resources and could not find anything really helpful on this verses that caught my eye. So, here we go with I saw here. I don’t think my thoughts will do any disservice.

Israel called his sons to him to bless them and prophecy about their futures. When he got to Joseph we pictured how he had been attacked, but how God had brought him through. He stayed strong by the hands of the Mighty God of Jacob. Then we read this little phrase – ‘From there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel.’

I could not help but notice the familiarity of those words. I am not sure whether these descriptions are for Joseph as a picture of Christ or for Christ Himself. I do know that we have a blessed comment on what God does for His people.

God provides a Shepherd for guidance and provision. He also provides a Rock of stability. Eventually Jesus fulfills both of those roles.

Looking at Joseph as a presursor of Christ is a fascinating study. There are many facets of his life that mirror Christ. Joseph can be seen as the shepherd who guided Israel out of captivity. He can be seen as the rock that provided stability in Egypt.

But that is only a picture of our Great Shepherd and of our Rock as found in Jesus Christ. Praise God for our Shepherd. Praise God for our Rock.

Friday, 13 November 2009

God sent me

So now it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt. - Genesis 45v8

The entire account of Joseph dealing with his brothers while he knew the truth and they did not is a fascinating one. There is a lot of jockeying and taking place and lessons being taught. They had to come to Egypt to seek food during a famine in Canaan. Pharaoh’s dreams had been about a coming famine and because Joseph had interpreted them he has put in charge of famine preparation and relief. When the brother’s came to him he recognised them and they obviously did not recognise him. Joseph was dressed and groomed like Egyptian royalty.

They bowed down before him, recognising his authority. Unknowingly they fulfilled the dreams that had made them so angry.

After a series of incidents Joseph could not stand it any longer. He still loved them and let them know who he was.

Can you imagine their response? They had seen his power already. Now they knew that their fate was in the hands of the brother they had firth thrown into a pit and then sold as a slave.

What was Joseph’s response? Anger? Revenge? Modern psychology would say that nearly anything he would have done could be justified or excused.

Nope – neither one. ‘Don’t worry lads. You thought you sent me here, but God did it for His purpose.’

We can’t look back at all the stuff we have been through. God allows things to come into our lives to achieve and accomplish his purposes.

There is no room for revenge or payback in our lives. There is nothing to be accomplished by holding a grudge. God can use anything in our lives to accomplish His purpose.

‘Forgetting those things that are behind’ let us move on in the knowledge that God knows best.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Manassah and Ephraim

Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh: a "For God has made me forget all my toil and all my father's house." And the name of the second he called Ephraim: a "For God has caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction." - Genesis 41v51-51

The naming of children in the Old Testament was very important. As Joseph began his new life in Egypt God blessed him with children. The first two sons were Manassah and Ephraim. In English their names would be Forgetting and Fruitful.

Their names reflected Joseph’s attitude to life. God had carried him through it all. God had allowed him to forget his past troubles and even what his brother’s had done to him. He knew that God had allowed him to be fruitful in his life.

These two particular names are especially interesting. Both names have their equivalents in New Testament principles. Part of our Christian living is that we are to press on, fortgetting rhe things that are behind and moving forward. As we saw yesterday there is also the principle of bearing fruit through endurance.

Forgetting and Fruitful are not just names for Joseph's boys. They should also be a part of the Christian's life.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

In whom is the Spirit of God

And Pharaoh said to his servants, ‘Can we find such a one as this, a man in whom is the Spirit of God?’ – Genesis 41v38

By this time Joseph was thirty years old. He had been sold by his brothers, falsely accused of rape while a slave, imprisoned, and forgotten by people he had known. Finally things started to turn around, and when they did it happened in a major way.

After he interpreted Pharaoh’s dream it was obvious to all that his power was from God because the Holy Spirit was with Joseph. I am challenged by this because I wonder if people could say the same thing about me. When I meet people do they think something like, ‘That Roger is a decent chap,’ (at least I hope I get that much), or, ‘That Roger really does know God.’

The lesson for today though is based on Joseph’s reward for his diligent character. He just kept doing right, regardless of place or circumstance. He just kept at it despite being lied about and forgotten.

Joseph knew a principle long before it became a part of the written scriptures. Don’t be weary in doing right because eventually you will reap the benefits if you don’t quit.

It is unlikely that any one of us will ever be elevated to a powerful position like Joseph. We may never even see any kind of dramatic results on earth like Joseph. We may not have our position until we reign with Christ.

Walk like Joseph did, controlled by the Spirit of God, and one day we too will be lifted up.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

It is not in me

So Joseph answered Pharaoh, saying, ‘It is not in me: God will give Pharaoh and an answer of peace’ – Genesis 41v16

As far as I can remember this is the first recorded time that Joseph actually mentions God’s part in his life. God was with him. We know that from scripture and his character reflects it. Everyone who came into contact with Joseph knew there was something about him. Everything he did went well.

After two years in prison Joseph is finally remembered. Pharaoh had a dream and wanted an interpreter. The butler rememberd that Joseph could interpret reams and told Pharaoh about him so Joseph was called before the king.

So here is Joseph living in a foreign land. Not only that, he is a slave and a prisoner in a foreign land. When asked about interpreting the king’s dreams he could have said, ‘Sure, I can do that.’ Instead he grabbed the opportunity to take a stand for his God. ‘I can’t do that, but God will give you an answer.’

I am embarrassed to tell you how often I have had chances to bring God into a conversation but did not. Why is it that I have that fear? Why do I feel so weird bringing God into a conversation? If He is truly my hope and my life why is it so hard for me to say His name in those situations?

Monday, 9 November 2009


Yet the chief butler did not remember Joseph, but forgot him. – Genesis 40v23

Being forgotten about is no fun. God had given Joseph the ability to interpret dreams. As a result he told the chief butler that his dream meant he would soon be releases from prison. When it happened the butler told Joseph that he would put in a good word forhim with Pharaoh. It sounded good, but the Butler forgot him and a result Joseph spent two more years in prison.

Once again Joseph had done something good, this time for a person, and yet the guy forgot all about him.

People can do that. 'Out of sight out of mind,' is sadly a reality. No one really likes to be forgotten. Joseph was not only forgotten but forgotten in jail. By forgetting him the butler assured that Joseph would spend two more years in jail.

The nice thing is that though forgotten by man Joseph had something going for him. All along we have read ‘God was with Joseph.’

Lonely is a sad place to be. There are no two ways around that. Lonely and forgotten is even worse. But Joseph endured. He knew all along that the Lord was with him no matter who else forgot about him.

Forgotten by men? That might very well happen.

Forgotten by God? ‘Ain’t gonna happen.’

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Whatever he did

The keeper of the prison did not look into anything that was under Joseph's authority, because the LORD was with him; and whatever he did, the LORD made it prosper. – Genesis 39v23

There are so many things to admire about Joseph and his character. His life is full of examples for us. Here is one tremendous example. Joseph's resiliancy is a challenge to us all.

The fact that he was in prison did not change Joseph's character. God was still with him and that was reflected in the fact that he quickly rose to the point where, though a prisoner himself, he ran the prison. The keeper of the prison never even checked up on him.

Joseph just always seemed to rise to the top. In Potiphar’s house he quickly became the head of the entire household. In prison he rose to the point where he acted as the warden. This theme will continue through the rest of his life. He was a born leader and had a character that no one could question.

What brings a man to this point? What is it that makes a Joseph? We might almost get a little envious at first. We have all known people like this. They are good at whatever the do. Those of us, who shall we say, don’t have that same reputation can look at them and wonder why.

But let’s look at Joseph. He prospered in Potiphar’s house, but he was still a slave. He prospered in prison, but he was still a prisoner. His prosperity was not contingent on where he was or what job he had. Despite being knocked down he kept on going and kept on prospering.

Eventually Joseph is going to come out on top, but we miss the record of the years of drudgery as a slave and as a prisoner. All we see is the exciting bits.

The same God who was with Joseph is with His children today. The same God who prospered Joseph promises to prosper us as we follow Him. We just need to learn to see prosperity from His perspective.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Doing right doesn’t always ‘work’

So it was, when his master heard the words which his wife spoke to him, saying, "Your servant did to me after this manner," that his anger was aroused. Then Joseph's master took him and put him into the prison, a place where the king's prisoners were confined. And he was there in the prison. – Genesis 39v19-20

Doing right is no guarantee that things are going to go right right away.

Joseph had done everything right. He had remained pure. He had honoured his master. Despite her best attempts to do otherwise he had not sinned with Potiphar’s wife. We might thing that the result of this would be his reward and honouring. He had done right, surely God would bless him for it.

But, that sure doesn’t appear to be the case. For all his good Joseph ends up in jail. Mrs Potiphar was furious when she got rejected, called the guards, and lied about Joseph. She said that Joseph tried to rape her. He was arrested and thrown into jail.

But wait a minute; I thought God was with Joseph. If that is the case why would He let something like this happen? How could a man who had God on his side go to jail?

We might find ourselves doing the right thing and suffering because of it. That doesn’t really seem fair, does it?

Joseph may easily have felt like that. He had let a chance to have a little fun pass in order to do right and now he was in jail. How could that happen? How can that happen to us.

God wasn’t done with Joseph. We are going to see that God had a greater plan in mind. Those who know that story know what is coming, but that is because we have the blessing on hindsight.

Do right is always right, even if we don’t see the immediate result of it. Sometimes we just do right, and trust God with the results.

Friday, 6 November 2009


But it happened about this time, when Joseph went into the house to do his work, and none of the men of the house was inside, that she caught him by his garment, saying, "Lie with me." But he left his garment in her hand, and fled and ran outside. – Genesis 39v11-12

Dealing with sin is something that we all have to do every day. There are loads of books and seminars and websites and discussion groups and studies on how to deal with sin. Joseph did not have any of that, but he did have an answer.

For some guys Joseph was in a dream situation. He was working in Potiphar’s home and no one was there but Mrs Potiphar. She had taken a liking to Joseph and wanted to take things a little further. Joseph would have had every excuse in the world. All alone with Mrs Potiphar and, after all, he was a servant to had to do what he was told to do, right?

Not in Joseph’s mind. He had more character than that. When confronted with a sin that was surely so tempting he did the one thing that always works when it comes to a chance. He fled, and in the marvellous King James wording, ‘got him out!’

That’s right. He didn’t try to reason or figure it out. He didn’t try to show how strong he was. He ran, got out, fled, hightailed it, scattered, got his rear in gear, and moved away as fast as he could. No pausing, no lingering, not trying to figure it out – he just ran.

I have to wonder how much better off we would all be if we dealt with sin the same way that Joseph did?

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Joseph found favour

And his master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD made all he did to prosper in his hand. So Joseph found favor in his sight, and served him. Then he made him overseer of his house, and all that he had he put under his authority. – Genesis 39v3-4

Going hand in hand with the Lord being with Joseph was his own unexpected prosperity in the land. He was successful. The Lord allowed everything he did to prosper. He was well thought of by his master. He was faithfully serving. Eventually he became the most important man in Potiphar’s household.

How did Joseph, a mere slave, find favour with Potiphar? What was it about him? It is actually pretty obvious. The Lord was with Him. Because the Lord was with him anything wad possible. Because the Lord was with him he could do anything.

Here is yet another example of the impact of God's people on the world around them. Joseph was far from home. No one knew him. Joseph had character that stood out even as he went through the mundane tasks of a household slave.

How does the fact that the Lord is with us affect the world around us? Does the fact that He is with us change us so that we find favour amongst people in our lives?

The Lord was with Joseph. He found favour with Potiphar. With that combination he was sure to have an impact in Egypt. With that combination we too can impact the world around us.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

The Lord was with Joseph

The LORD was with Joseph, and he was a successful man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. – Genesis 39v2

Joseph got off to something of an inauspicious beginning. As the baby of twelve boys he was definitely a daddy’s boy. We all know the story of his ‘Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat,’ or, at least, some version of it.

The rest of the lads were jealous. Their dad had a beautiful special coat made for his little guy. Then there were the dreams. Joseph had two dreams. As he told his brothers and interpreted to them he let them know that the dreams were about them bowing down to him!

Finally they had enough. They had to get rid of the little brat. To make a long story short they ended up selling him to a passing caravan on its way to Egypt.

There – done deal. The little twerp is gone and dad thinks he is dead. A perfect solution.

But that wasn’t it. The next time we hear about Joseph he had been purchased as slave by Potiphar, a government official.

So it would appear that the story was still going badly. Daddy’s little boy was no longer in a place of comfort, but was a slave in a distant land. All alone, no family, in a strange land and alien culture. What a mess.

And yet, there is one thing that the brothers did not count on. There is one thing that should give comfort to anyone in Joseph’s situation.

‘The Lord was with Joseph…’

That makes all the difference in the world. Watch this space.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Strives With God

Then God appeared to Jacob again, when he came from Padan Aram, and blessed him. And God said to him, "Your name is Jacob; your name shall not be called Jacob anymore, but Israel shall be your name." So He called his name Israel. Also God said to him: "I am God Almighty. Be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall proceed from you, and kings shall come from your body. – Genesis 35v9-11

Here we have Jacob’s second encounter with God at Bethel. He returned with his people and there appears to be a personalisation of the place. He renames Luz again this time with the name El Bethel – ‘The God of the House of God.’ This is interesting in itself because the focus seems to be more on God Himself than the place itself.

Not only does Luz get a new name – so does Jacob. He had carried that horrible name a long time. Can you imagine being called Usurper your whole life? But no more, now his name would be Israel – ‘Strives With God.’ He had been promised that name when he wrestled with God and now it was his.

That may not seem like much of a name at first, but when we think about it for a second I think we capture in our minds why it is powerful. Usurper didn’t care that anyone thought. He wanted things His way and did whatever he could to achieve that. Usurper did not care about God and His plans. Usurper watched out for Number One.

But Strives With God is different. Instead of just manipulating things to have them his way he deals with God along way. I am sure we lose something in translation here, but even with the word ‘striving’ we know that there is an involvement and a contending.

Somehow this reminds me of Romans 7. Paul wrote about his struggles with obeying the Spirit or the flesh. Living for God is a battle. For Usurper there was no fight, he just satisfied himself, but Strives With God was in the fight.

If there is no battle going on between our flesh and following God we have to wonder about our relationship with Him.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Back to Bethel

And Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, "Put away the foreign gods that are among you, purify yourselves, and change your garments. Then let us arise and go up to Bethel; and I will make an altar there to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and has been with me in the way which I have gone." – Genesis 35v2-3

The time had come when Jacob needed another encounter with God. God told him to go back to Bethel for another meeting. This time he was to take his people with him. His relationship with God had grown and he knew that he had to prepare his people. Some stuff had slipped into their lives that would not please God. His instructions were clear.

Put away your foreign gods
Purify yourselves
Change your garments

Apparently, despite the fact that, ‘God answered in the time of distress and was with them along their way,’ they had let worldliness slip into their lives. They were still God’s people, but their lives were not pleasing to Him.

Going ‘back to Bethel’ is more than just a matter of prayer and meeting with God. A true return to Bethel means a willingness to deal with the sins that have crept in and repent from them.

Bethel is the place of sweet fellowship and communion with God. We can’t expect to have that fellowship with forsaking the rubbish that comes with worldly living.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Setting things right

Please, take my blessing that is brought to you, because God has dealt graciously with me, and because I have enough." So he urged him, and he took it. – Genesis 33v11

There is no way that Jacob could fully reverse what he had done to Esau. Since his Bethel encounter though he was a different man. He knew when he was coming to meet Esau that he needed to do the right and try to make restitution for his trickery.

Jacob offered a great number of livestock and servant to Esau to try and make up for what he had done. At first Esau resisted, assuring Jacob that God had taken good care of him. Jacob persisted and used the words, ‘please take my blessing that is brought to you, God has dealt graciously me, I have enough.’ Esau had the same spirit of contentment because he had earlier said, “I have enough.’

‘Please take my blessing’ intrigues me. Remember the Isaac’s blessing was the thing that Jacob stole from Esau. When he tricked Esau out of the birthright part of the problem was Esau’s brashness and his hasty fleshly decision. Jacob could not fix what he had done. But he could do what he could do to set things right. And that is exactly what he did.

Restitution is an important principle. Often getting right with God also means getting right with man. It is easy enough to get right with God. Getting right with man can be the tough part.