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].


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.


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].


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.


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.


[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


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].


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.


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.


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].


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.



[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


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].


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.


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].


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].


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.


[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


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.


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].


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.


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.


[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.


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.


[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


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