Archive for February, 2011

February 28, 2011

The End of the Beginnings

by Bethany

Today’s Readings: Genesis 49-50

The life of Joseph was not recorded for us primarily to compare our small faith with his great faith. Nor was it written for us to exalt his exemplary life. Rather, it shows us the character of God and points to the Messiah. It shows us that God is patient in fulfilling His promises, “not wanting anyone to perish but everyone to come to repentance” [1].

Duality

After Jacob’s death, knowing that his brothers feared that he would exact vengeance on them for having sold him into slavery, Joseph said, “Don’t be afraid … You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” [2]. Joseph understood that their act had two purposes – his brothers planned evil by selling him, but God planned good by saving many lives [3]. Yet, Joseph did not know the half of it.

Prophecy

As Jacob was dying, he spoke prophetically over his sons. To Judah, he spoke of a coming king in his line who would rule over all nations, not just Israel: Judah,your brothers will praise you … You are a lion’s cub … The scepter will not depart from Judah … until he to whom it belongsshall come and the obedience of the nations shall be his … “ [4]. In Jesus, “the Lion of the tribe of Judah” [5], this prophecy was fulfilled and, one day, all nations will say, “You are worthy … because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation” [6].

Manifold

Therefore, when Joseph was sold, God’s did not merely intend to save his brothers; He also intended to us. Their sin was God’s way of saving Judah from starvation so that the Lion of Judah – Jesus – could come to save us. Like Joseph, Jesus was a righteous man who was sinned against and suffered to bring salvation. Yet, as king, Jesus laid claim on our obedience by being slain like a lamb and bearing our guilt to free us to love, praise and obey Him with joy.

Prayer

Lord, Although Your providences are mysterious, they are good, wise and timely. We confess, however, that we forget Your immutability and lack faith that You will work in us as in Joseph. Give us humble hearts to trust and obey You so we may be used by You to save. Amen.

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[1] 2 Peter 3:9 NIV  |  [2] Genesis 50:19-21 NIV  |  [3] See also Genesis 45:5  | [4] Genesis 49:8-12 NIV  |  [5] Revelation 5:5 NIV  |  [6] Revelation 5:9-10 NIV

February 25, 2011

The Inevitability of Death

by Bethany

Today’s Readings: Genesis 47:28-48:22

Death

If Jesus continues to delay His return, all of us will eventually die. To avoid thinking about what it will be like to leave this life and meet God is foolish: “It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart” [1]. Thus, Moses prayed, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” [2].

Burial

After seventeen years in Egypt, as Jacob was dying, he asked Joseph: “If I have found favor in your eyes, put your hand under my thigh [3] and promise that you will show me kindness and faithfulness. Do not bury me in Egypt, but when I rest with my fathers, carry me out of Egypt and bury me where they are buried” [4]. Jacob was not being superstitious [5]; he was reminding Joseph to remember God’s covenant.

Covenant

Thus, Jacob told Joseph, “God Almighty appeared to me … in the land of Canaan, and there he blessed me and said to me, ‘I am going to make you fruitful and increase your numbers. I will make you a community of peoples, and I will give you this land as an everlasting possession to your descendants after you’” [6]. His burial in Canaan, therefore, was a testimony to his descendants that their hope was in God’s promises regarding Canaan, not Egypt.

Descendants

Amazingly, Jacob’s dying concern was not about himself, but about the future of God’s people and their faith in His promises. Thus, he called Joseph’s two sons – Manasseh and Ephraim – and blessed them as his own [7]: “May the God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked faithfully, the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day, the Angel who has delivered me from all harm – may he bless these boys. May they be called by my name and the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac, and may they increase greatly on the earth” [8].

Prayer

Lord, You have made us eternal beings. Yet, we confess that we get captivated by the affairs of this life and forsake thinking about death and the life to come. Teach us to number our days that we may be wise, as we become more concerned about the posterity of Your great name than ours. Amen.

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[1] Ecclesiastes 7:2 NIV  |  [2] Psalm 90:12 NIV  |  [3] See also Genesis 24 (noting that Abraham asked his servant to place his hand under his thigh as a reminder of the covenant to His people).  |  [4] Genesis 47:29-30 NIV  |  [5] Jacob was not being superstitious because he knew that his soul would immediately be with his fathers at death. We know this because of the way that he worded his request. He first said, “ … when I rest with my fathers” and then he made his request. Thus, he knew that he would already be resting with his fathers when his body would be moved from Egypt to Canaan. He did not believe that his soul would be stuck in Egypt merely because he would die in Egypt.  |  [6] Genesis 48:3-4 NIV  |  [7] Genesis 48:5 NIV  |  [8] Genesis 48:15-16 NIV.

February 24, 2011

Using One Nation to Make Known Among the Nations

by Bethany

Today’s Readings: Genesis 46:1-47:27

Reunion

After twenty-two years of waiting for his dreams to be fulfilled, Joseph summoned his father Jacob and his household to move to Egypt, thus also fulfilling the promise of foreign exile that God had made to his great-grandfather Abraham [1]. As soon as Joseph saw Jacob, “he threw his arms around his father and wept for a long time” [2], and Jacob said, “Now I am ready to die, since I have seen for myself that you are still alive” [3].

Protection

As an extension of God’s kindness, Joseph showed mercy to his brothers in preparing them to meet Pharaoh. Although “all shepherds [were] detestable to the Egyptians” [4], Joseph instructed them to be honest with Pharaoh about their occupation as shepherds and God protected them by giving them favor with Pharaoh. Not only did Pharaoh offer them choice land and the opportunity to care for his own livestock, God also protected them from the worship of false gods in Egypt by secluding them in Goshen.

Blessing

Then Pharaoh met Jacob and, in partial fulfillment of the promise that his grandfather Abraham would be a blessing to all nations, Jacob blessed Pharaoh [5]. Although Jacob was not the greatest man in the world’s eyes (especially in Pharaoh’s presence), he was the federal head of the covenantal family in God’s eyes. Thus, this aged man “blessed Pharaoh and went out from his presence” [6].

Unique

Thus began God’s work to make His name known among the nations by working through one nation – Israel. Although He would deal one way with the world, He would bless Israel. For example, when “there was no food … in the whole region because the famine was severe” [7], Jacob’s family had plenty: “So Joseph settled his father and his brothers in Egypt and gave them property in the best part of the land … as Pharaoh directed. Joseph also provided his father and his brothers and all his father’s household with food” [8]. Likewise, although “the Egyptians, one and all, sold their fields” [9], Jacob’s family “acquired property there and were fruitful and increased greatly in number” [10].

Prayer

Lord, We are Your children and You care for us in mysterious ways and times. In Christ, we are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise. Yet, we lack faith in Your covenant to us. Help our unbelief and make Your name great among the nations through us. Amen.

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[1] See Genesis 15:13  |  [2] Genesis 46:29 NIV  |  [3] Genesis 46:30 NIV  |  [4] Genesis 46:34 NIV  |  [5] See Genesis 22:15-18  |  [6] Genesis 47:10 NIV  |  [7] Genesis 47:13 NIV  |  [8] Genesis 47:11-12 NIV  |  [9] Genesis 47:20 NIV  |  [10] Genesis 47:27 NIV

February 23, 2011

… till the word of the Lord proved him true

by Bethany

Today’s Readings: Genesis 44-45

Faith

If you were to ask God for something daily and He were to continue denying your request, how long do you think it would take for you to stop believing that He was working for your good in all things – six months, two years, a decade?

Faith is a tricky thing. It is not exercised when we can see God working, but when we cannot. For me, I fight for faith daily. Yet, the weapons I wield are not in the present but in the past. I look back on God’s past work for His people, e.g., Joseph, and then forward to what that past work promises for the future.

Delay

When Joseph’s brothers returned to Egypt, they brought Benjamin. After they packed their sacks with more grain, Joseph secretly put his silver cup in Benjamin’s bag. On their way home, Joseph’s servant stopped them, found the cup, and dragged them back to Joseph, who detained Benjamin. When Judah offered to take Benjamin’s place to avoid grieving his father, Joseph “could no longer control himself … he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard him, and Pharaoh’s household heard about it” [1].

Joseph was overwhelmed by God’s providence. Although it was twenty-two years since his brothers got rid of him, his dreams were mysteriously and finally unfurling through a famine in a foreign land. Thus, Joseph told his brothers, “Do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you … God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God” [2].

Providence

God ordained what happened in Joseph’s family and in Egypt. He summoned the famine and planned the deliverance: “He called down famine on the land and destroyed all their supplies of food; and he sent a man before them – Joseph sold as a slave” [3]. God sent Joseph into slavery to bring about salvation for the ones who tried to kill him.

Prayer

Lord, In Your perfect timing, You watch to see that Your word is fulfilled [4]. Yet, we confess that our faith wavers when You do not act when and how we want. Increase our faith in Your promises so that we trust You. Amen.

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[1] Genesis 45:1-2 NIV  |  [2] Genesis 45:5, 7-8 NIV  |  [3] Psalm 105:16-17 NIV  |  [4] Jeremiah 1:12b

 

February 22, 2011

Behind a Frowning Providence, He Hides a Smiling Face

by Bethany

Today’s Readings: Genesis 42-43

We Know

When Pharaoh’s dreams could not be interpreted, the cupbearer finally remembered Joseph in prison. God gave Joseph insight to tell Pharaoh that his dreams foretold of seven years of harvest followed by seven years of famine. As a result of his discernment and wisdom, Joseph was put in charge of the palace – second in command only to Pharaoh himself [1].

During the harvest, Egypt flourished and Joseph reflected, “God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household” [2]. Then, during the famine, under Joseph’s leadership, Egypt was able to provide for her people and neighbors [3]. Back in Canaan, Joseph’s father Jacob told his sons, “I have heard that there is grain in Egypt. Go down there and buy some for us” [4].

God Knows

Although Jacob merely thought that his family was facing a severe famine, God knew that He was doing something far more significant. Through dark providences, He was initiating a family’s personal reconciliation and a people’s plan of redemption. Although Joseph knew that he was going to be given some amount of authority over his family, he had no idea that he would be used to spare them from starvation. After all, the last time he thought about his brothers, he was thankful that he had forgotten them!

When his brothers asked him for grain, however, his heart grew compassionate. Although he insisted that they come back to Egypt with their youngest brother Benjamin, Joseph overheard their conviction and wept [5]. In returning to Canaan, they told their father exactly what had happened – even though it pained them. Naturally, Jacob was not happy. He spoke harshly, admitting that he knew they had something to do with Joseph’s death: “You have deprived me of my children. Joseph is no more and Simeon is no more, and now you want to take Benjamin. Everything is against me!” [6]

Yet, everything was not against Jacob. In fact, everything was being worked out for his good and God’s glory. Unbeknownst to him, the Lord was using Joseph to bring his brothers into repentance and save them from starvation.

Prayer

Lord, You work with Your mighty right hand in ways that we cannot see. Your gracious purposes cannot be thwarted. Increase our faith to trust in Your providences, no matter how dark or confusing they may be. Bring about repentance and redemption in us for the sake of Your great name. Amen.

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[1] Genesis 41:38-40 NIV  |  [2] Genesis 41:51-52 NIV  |  [3] Genesis 41:53-57  |  [4] Genesis 42:1-5 NIV  |  [5] See Genesis 42:18-24  |  [6] Genesis 42:36 NIV

February 21, 2011

President’s Day

by Bethany

Happy President’s Day! 843 Acres will return tomorrow.

February 18, 2011

To Live By Faith or By Sight

by Bethany

Today’s Readings: Genesis 38-40

Potipher and Warden

After being sold into slavery, Joseph worked in the household of Potipher, the captain of the Egyptian palace guard. Since God “was with him” and “gave him success in everything he did” [1], Potipher “entrusted to his care everything he owned” [2] and “the blessing of the LORD was on everything” [3]. Yet, there was one thing that Potipher held back – his wife. Therefore, when she began flirting with Joseph, he persistently refused her [4]. Feeling rejected, however, she falsely accused Joseph of trying to sleep with her and got Joseph unjustly thrown in jail.

God continued, however, to bless Joseph: “[God] showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden” [5]. Once again, Joseph was put in charge and the warden “paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the LORD was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did” [6].

Cupbearer and Baker

In prison, God brought to Joseph two high-ranking Egyptian court officials – a cupbearer and a chief baker. Both men had dreams that they could not interpret. God, however, gave Joseph insight to do so. Although Joseph told the baker that he would be killed, he told the cupbearer that he would be restored to his position and then Joseph told him to remember him: “[W]hen all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison” [7]. Three days later, Joseph’s interpretations came to pass. Yet, the cupbearer “did not remember Joseph; he forgot him” [8].

God

Joseph likely did not realize the many things that God was doing when he was falsely accused and then imprisoned. First, He was strengthening Joseph’s faith by teaching him patience not to judge God’s purposes by his own knowledge. Second, God was furthering His own glory by showing Joseph that He alone would rescue him. Finally, God was establishing His plan for Israel’s salvation, which depended on Joseph’s appointment to the right hand of Pharaoh [9].

Prayer

Lord, We maybe see fifteen events that happen in our lives each day. Yet, You see the billions that happen worldwide and how they create a tapestry. With any single act, You have many purposes. Yet, we confess that we are quicker to accuse than ask You. Increase our faith in Your goodness, even when it seems like we are in jail and forgotten. Amen.

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[1] Genesis 39:3 NIV  |  [2] Genesis 39:5 NIV  |  [3] Genesis 39:5 NIV   |  [4] See Genesis 39:7-12  |  [5] Genesis 39:21 NIV  |  [6] Genesis 39:23 NIV  |  [7] Genesis 40:14 NIV  |  [8] Genesis 40:23 NIV  |  [9] See 843 Acres next week.

February 17, 2011

The Ultimate Invisible Hand

by Bethany

Today’s Readings: Genesis 37

Plan

God chose to bless Abram and make his name great so that all the families on the earth would be blessed through him: “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you … and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” [1]. Later, in a dream, however, God also told Abram that his descendants would be exiled to another land for four centuries: “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions … In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure” [2].

That was God’s plan – to cause His people to be afflicted sojourners in a foreign land for four hundred years so that He may use them to bring about judgment on the fullness of wickedness [3]. Yet, how would He do this? How would He preserve His exiled people?

Participation

Abram’s son was Isaac and Isaac’s son was Jacob. One of Jacob’s twelve sons, Joseph, had two dreams about his family bowing down to him. When he told his brothers about them, they despised him [4] and planned: “Here comes that dreamer! … Come now, let’s kill him and … say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we’ll see what comes of his dreams” [5]. Judah, however, eventually convinced his brothers to sell Joseph into slavery rather than kill him. Finally, they kept his coat, stained it with blood, and let their father assume that animals had killed him.

Although this is where the chapter ends, it is not the end of the story. These brothers did not realize what was happening. They could not see the invisible hand of God in their actions. They did not know that their effort to destroy Joseph was working to fulfill his dreams and, ultimately, to set in place God’s plan to save them.

Prayer

Lord, We confess that we are quick to accuse You in the middle of Your plan when we do not understand how You are working. Open our imaginations and increase our faith to see that You use all actions – those with good and bad intentions – to bring about Your glory and our salvation. Amen.

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[1] Genesis 12:2-3 NIV  |  [2] Genesis 37:13-16 NIV  |  [3] Later, when the descendants of Abraham, i.e., Israel, stand on the brink of re-entering the Promised Land, the Lord tells them why He is bringing them back: “It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity that you are going in to take possession of their land; but on account of the wickedness of these nations, the LORD your God will drive them out before you, to accomplish what he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Understand, then, that it is not because of your righteousness that the LORD your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people” (Deuteronomy 9:5-6 NIV).  |  [4] See Genesis 37:8  |  [5] Genesis 37:19-20 NIV

February 16, 2011

Belonging to God

by Bethany

Today’s Readings: Genesis 34-36 + 1 Chronicles 1:35-2:2

Surname

When we were kids, my parents loved playing Santa and getting us everything we wanted. Yet, we did not have more toys than other kids because we were better than they were; we had more toys because our last name was Jenkins. Our father was who he was and our mother was who she was. Although we did not earn a single gift from them, they delighted to give us many presents. My parents were not merely “a father” or “a mother” in the abstract; they were “our father” and “our mother.” They showered us with gifts because we belonged to them and they were ours.

Abraham

Being an heir of God’s promise to Abraham is the same. When God covenanted with Abraham, He promised to be his God and to make Abraham and his descendants His people. He then extended His promise through Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, and told him to be fruitful: “Your name is Jacob, but you will no longer be called Jacob; your name will be Israel … I am God Almighty; be fruitful and increase in number. A nation and a community of nations will come from you, and kings will be among your descendants” [1].

Christ

Inside this promise lies something more than just physical nations. God had in mind to extend His kingdom to Israel and beyond. Yes, it would be Abraham’s seed that would inherit the promise, but his seed would be determined by faith, not genes. Thus, the faith that united Abraham to God would be the same faith that unites us with Abraham: “It is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but it is the children of promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring” [2]. By virtue of our belonging to Christ and bearing His name, we get God’s blessings to do us good and to rejoice in doing it – with all His heart and soul [3]. This astonishing promise is the foundation for being fruitful and obeying the Great Commission [4]. He is our God and we are His people.

Prayer

Lord, Your promises to Your people are amazing. Thank You for opening our hearts to trust in Christ and, thereby, become an heir according to the Abrahamic covenant. Work in our hearts to give us confidence in Your promises so that we will be fruitful and multiply, as You commanded our patriarch Jacob. Amen.

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[1] Genesis 35:10-12 NIV  |  [2] Romans 9:8 NIV. See also Romans 4:16-17 NIV (“Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring – not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. As it is written: ‘I have made you a father of many nations.’ He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed – the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.”)  |  [3] See Jeremiah 32:36-41  |  [4] In the gospel according to Matthew, Jesus is recorded as having given His disciples the Great Commission, which is largely the New Testament version of God’s command to “be fruitful and multiply”: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20 NIV).

February 15, 2011

Wrestling with God

by Bethany

Today’s Readings: Genesis 31-33

Exile

After Jacob stole Esau’s blessing, he fled to Harran because Esau was planning on killing him [1]. He remained there twenty years until God sent him home: “Go back to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you” [2]. Yet, Jacob had “great fear and distress” [3] that his brother still wanted to kill him. Rather than taking matters into his own hands, as he had twenty years prior, however, he sought God’s help: “O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, LORD … I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant … Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me … you have said, ‘I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted’” [4].

Wrestle

He then sent advance messengers to tell Esau that he sought peace and wanted to give him gifts. Before meeting Esau, however, while Jacob was alone one night, God appeared to him [5]. Although Jacob was an elderly man, he wrestled with the man all night. After he was wounded, he went on the offensive, craving God’s blessings: “I will not let you go unless you bless me” [6]. Thus, in his weakness, God cultivated a desire for Him alone by breaking him [7], renaming him [8] and blessing him [9].

Rename

When God changed his name from “Jacob” to “Israel,” he changed his fundamental nature from “deceiver” to “he struggles with God” in order to show that Jacob had become a man of faith instead of a man of trickery. Not only did he trust God to bless and protect him according to His covenant promises, he also chose the Lord above all else. Thus, Jacob was ready to reenter the Promised Land as a new man with a new name.

Prayer

Lord, You change our identities in Christ – no matter how long our struggles to faith may take. We are no longer called “unrighteous” but “righteous.” We are no longer Your enemies but Your friends. Thank You for making us ready to enter the ultimate Promised Land. Help us to live according to Your covenant promises to Israel. Amen.

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[1] See Genesis 27:42-45  |  [2] Genesis 31:3 NIV  |  [3] Genesis 32:7 NIV  |  [4] Genesis 32:9-12  |  [5] Some scholars believe that the man sent to Jacob was the pre-incarnate Jesus, for Jacob said, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared” (Genesis 32:30 NIV). Yet, the prophet Hosea writes that Jacob struggled “with God” and the struggled “with the angel” (Hosea 12:3-4 NIV).  |  [6] Genesis 32:26 NIV  |  [7] Genesis 32:25  |  [8] Genesis 32:27-28  |  [9] Genesis 32:29

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