A Kingdom To Come.

Genesis 49-50, Matthew 25

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. – Matthew 25:31 ESV

As the book of Genesis comes to a close, and the lives of Jacob and Joseph come to an end, the story is far from over. In fact, in many ways it is just beginning. Genesis is the book of beginnings. It tells how the story starts, but it does not reveal its ending. Only God knows the content of the final chapter in the story of mankind. We get glimpses of what is to come along the way. In Jacob's blessing of Judah we see a foreshadowing of future events. "The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples" (Genesis 49:10 ESV). Not only is this a reference to the coming kingdoms of David and Solomon, but to the yet future kingdom of Jesus Christ. His kingdom will be an earthly kingdom, where he will rule in Jerusalem just as his forefathers did. That kingdom has not yet been established. His reign has not yet begun. But the day is coming "when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all his angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne."

What does this passage reveal about God?

It is amazing to watch how God works in the lives of men, accomplishing His will and orchestrating His divine plan. We read these stories and can't help but see the complex nature of the interactions of each individual's life with all those around him. The actions of Joseph's brothers against him were nothing short of evil. In fact, Joseph clearly told the, "you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today" (Genesis 50:20 ESV). God was at work behind the scenes, using their sinful actions to accomplish His righteous will. I am reminded of the life of Jesus, and His less-than-warm welcome at the hands of the people of Israel. He too was despised and treated harshly. He was the favored Son of His Father, but His brothers refused to accept Him for who He was. Instead, they had Him put to death. But it was all part of God's plan. God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive. That is the story of the Bible. That is the story of the redemption of mankind. And the day is coming when the story will come to an end. God's plan will be fully fulfilled and Christ's kingdom will be established. "Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world'" (Matthew 25:24 ESV).

What does this passage reveal about man?

The world is full of all kinds of people. There are those who are good, moral and right. There are others who are wicked, evil and unrighteous. Then there are those who are somewhere in the middle. And we all live on this planet together, constantly interacting with one another in a complex and sometimes confusing interplay of ideas and ideals. There is conflict and confrontation. There are battles, both literal and metaphorical. Men take advantage of one another, harm each other, mistreat one another, and yet sometimes reveal the amazing capacity to extend grace to one another. Left to our own devices, we would eventually self-destruct and destroy all that we know. But thankfully, God is in charge. He is the sovereign ruler over the universe, including the lives of all men. Joseph's brothers were just as integral to the story as he was. Had they not sold him into slavery, he would never have ended up as the second most highest ruler in the land of Egypt. And while their actions were clearly evil, God used it for good.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

There is a comfort in knowing that God is in control. It reminds me to not view life from my limited perspective. I don't know why certain events take place and why certain individuals do what they do. I can't explain the actions of others or comprehend the pain that men inflict on one another. I must constantly remind myself that God has a greater plan than I can see. And that plan, while invisible to me, is also invincible. It is unstoppable and unavoidable. His will will be done. I can rest in that fact. The dreams of Joseph were going to be fulfilled, in spite of his brothers' intentions. The promises of God to Abraham would come to pass, in spite of the actions of Jacob. The brief sojourn in Egypt on the part of the descendants of Abraham was not an unexpected detour, but simply a part of God's plan. And I must learn to view the unexpected events of my own life as just as clearly well within God's plan for my life. He is sovereign over all events, not just the ones I deem good and pleasant. I must learn to see the bigger picture of God's plan. It includes me, but does not revolve around me. I must learn to live with the greater goal in mind. There is a day coming when Christ will establish His Kingdom on earth, fulfilling the blessing of Jacob to his son, Judah, and fulfilling the promise God had made to Abraham to bless all the nations of the earth through him. That is the point of the story. That is the last chapter in the book. "Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour" (Matthew 25:13 ESV). So I am to live in a constant state of readiness and anticipation, eagerly awaiting the end of the story, and not getting distracted by the subplots along the way.

Father, give me a growing peace with Your sovereignty. You are in control. You are fully in power and in completely in charge of all that goes on in this world. You are never caught off guard or surprised by the actions of men. You cannot be stopped and Your plan cannot be altered in any way. There is not reason for me to worry or fret. There is no cause for me to fear. You know exactly what You are doing, whether I can see it or understand it. Amen.

The End In Mind.

And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. – Matthew 24:14 ESV

It is so easy to see the Bible as 66 isolated and independent books written by a variety of authors and covering a timeline thousands of years in length. But it is important to remember that the Bible is the revelation of God, not a record of historical events written down by men. It is, in essence, one book written by one author and dealing a single storyline: the redemption of mankind by God. The stories of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph are essential to the overall plot of the book, but are not to be confused with the central theme and the primary character: God Himself. One of the benefits of reading the Old and New Testaments simultaneously is that it provides a constant reminder that there is really a single story going on. It's a story with a beginning and an end. The death of Jacob does not end the story. The arrival of the people of Israel in Egypt is not the climax of the plot. The rise of Joseph to power in Egypt and his wise handling of the famine is simply just another plot twist in the bigger story of God's plan for the restoration of mankind to a right relationship with Him.

What does this passage reveal about God?

Jacob, near death, reminded his long-lost son, Joseph, about the promise of God. "God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan and blessed me, and said to me, ‘Behold, I will make you fruitful and multiply you, and I will make of you a company of peoples and will give this land to your offspring after you for an everlasting possession'" (Genesis 48:3-4 ESV). This was a long-standing promise originally made to Abraham and confirmed over and over again by God to each of Abraham's descendants. "I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God" (Genesis 17:6-8 ESV). Once again, we see the promise being passed down to each successive generation. Even though he was close to death, Jacob knew that God was not done yet. His passing would not negate the fulfillment of the promise, because its impact was to be cross-generational and international in scope. Even before Abraham had ever set eyes on the land of Canaan, God had told him, "in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed" (Genesis 12:3 ESV). The story wasn't going to just be about Abraham and his descendants. It wasn't going to be limited to the people of Israel. God's story was about the fate of mankind and His plan to deal with the sins of mankind in a just, holy, and righteous way. God's story includes the creation, the fall, and, ultimately, the redemption of man through the coming of Jesus Christ. Everything points to that moment and God's Word must be read with that end in mind.

What does this passage reveal about man?

Every man who has ever lived has had a plan for his own life. There is a natural bent in each of us to see our lives as central to the storyline. We view our moment in the spotlight as paramount. We want to be significant. We want to have an influence. There is a natural tendency to focus on self and to see the world from our limited and somewhat selfish perspective. But when reading the stories of Abraham, Jacob and Joseph, we see that each of these men, while important, were not indispensable. They were not the point of the story. Each of them played a limited part, but there was a much greater story going on behind the scenes to which they were, for the most part, oblivious. To each, the blessing was important. Which is why they were so adamant to make sure that they or their children received the blessing. Joseph was upset when Jacob laid his hands on the wrong sons, saying, "Not this way, my father, since this one is the firstborn, put your right hand on his head" (Genesis 48:18 ESV). Joseph had a plan and it included his firstborn son, Manasseh. But God had a bigger plan. He was operating with a far greater plot in mind than simply the blessing of a single son or a solitary generation. Our greatest problem is that we too often think the story revolves around us. We see ourselves as the main characters in the plot and view God as a glorified screenwriter whose job it is to craft our story according to our own self-centered, self-satisfying notions.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

But God is doing something far greater than any of us can even imagine. Abraham had no idea just how big God's plan was. Isaac was oblivious as to the magnitude of the storyline God was writing. Jacob and Joseph were unaware of the incredible nature of what God was doing behind the scenes. Men would come and go. Generations would pass from existence. And yet God was still at work implementing His plan for mankind. No one individual or nation would be more important than any other. Kings and slaves, Jews and Gentiles, men and women … they all would be used to accomplish God's divine plan for the future. His mind was focused on the end. He knew what had to be done for mankind to be restored to a right relationship with Him. He knew the blessing was about more than promised land and progeny. It was about salvation and redemption from slavery to sin and the condemnation of death that every man was under. I need to have that same mindset. It isn't all about me. The world doesn't revolve around me and my desires. I don't exist for my own satisfaction and I should not live to seek my own limited will. I exist for God's glory and am part of a long-standing line of men and women whom God has used to accomplish His greater plan for the good of mankind. I am to live with the end in mind. I am to focus on the reality that my life and my short time on this planet are not the point of the story. I am to live faithfully focused on the end. Jesus told His disciples, "Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect" (Matthew 24:44 ESV). Interestingly enough, not one of those men lived to see the second coming of Christ. And yet they were told to live with that event in mind. They were to be ready. And so should we be. We are to live with the end in mind – not our end, but the one God has planned for all mankind. It is the end of the story, the culmination and conclusion of His plan.

Father, keep me focused on Your plan and not my own. Constantly remind me that there is something far more important than my own selfish, self-centered satisfaction and comfort. I want to be a faithful servant who is found doing what You have called me to do when Your Son returns. I may not live to see that day, but I want to conduct my life as if I will. I want my greatest desire to be Christ's return and the conclusion of Your planHelp me to live with the end in mind. Amen.

Our Unforgettable God.

Genesis 45-46, Matthew 23

And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. – Genesis 45:5-8 ESV

I love this passage. In it we have one of the most clear, real-life illustrations of the sovereignty of God. Through the life of Joseph we are given a glimpse into the sometimes unseen and incomprehensible ways of God when it comes to the lives of men. For Joseph, it had become clear that God was behind all that had happened in his life. To his brothers, it was all a mystery. They knew nothing of Joseph's life since the day they had sold him into slavery, and they were oblivious to God's larger plan for them and their father's household. But despite their ignorance of God's ways, He was still at work.

What does this passage reveal about God?

Joseph gave God the credit over and over again. He clearly saw the hand of God controlling and directing His life, from start to finish. He saw his position as second-in-command over all of Egypt as God's doing, not a result of his own talent or hard work. He told his brothers, "God has made me lord of all Egypt" (Genesis 45:9 ESV).

"God sent me before you to preserve life…" – vs 5

"God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors…" – vs 7

"So it was not you who sent me here, but God…" – vs 8

"God has made me lord of all Egypt…" – vs 9

It was all God's doing. What an incredible outlook to have on life. What a refreshing perspective to have on the things that take place to us and all around us as we live on this planet. Joseph knew that God had been at work behind the scenes every step of the way in his life. And God would assure Jacob that all that happened had been for a greater purpose. “I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation. I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again, and Joseph's hand shall close your eyes" (Genesis 46:3-4 ESV). God wanted Jacob to trust Him. There was much that Jacob did not know, but he could lean on the fact that God was knowledgeable of ALL things. He was in complete control of all situations and circumstances. There had been a reason behind Joseph's sudden disappearance and years of painful absence. There had been a reason for the famine. There was a perfectly good explanation for the need for Jacob and his entire family to relocate to the land of Egypt. And while Jacob had been ignorant of much of the explanation behind these events, he now knew that his God could be trusted.

But the story does not end there. Moses records that when Jacob and his family arrived in the land of Egypt, there were only 70 of them. This small fact would prove significant to the rest of the story. The warm welcome by and generosity of Pharaoh would also prove an important factor in all that would happen next. God was at work. He was once again orchestrating events and individuals in such a way so that everything could take place just as He had planned.

What does this passage reveal about man?

There are those who have learned to see God's hand in all the circumstances of life. Over time, they have developed the capacity to look for God's involvement in even the worst of situations. They live by the perspective that God is all-seeing and all-knowing. There is nothing that escapes His sight. He is never asleep and never caught off guard by the events of life – either good or bad. They live by the words of the psalmist: "He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep" (Psalm 121:3-4 ESV). Those individuals don't just know about the doctrine of the sovereignty of God, they believe in it and live their lives according to it.

But there are those who live as if God is not there. They view the circumstances of their lives as if they are somehow out of God's control and He is out of touch with what is going on in the world. When bad things happen, their view of God seems to be that either He is unaware of what is going on or He simply doesn't care. But the prophet Isaiah reminds us: "Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear" (Isaiah 59:1 ESV). Difficulties in our lives do not prove the weakness of God, but simply expose our lack of faith. A life lived without an awareness of God's sovereignty results in a life lived with self as god. One of the greatest illustrations of this is provided by Jesus in chapter 23 of the gospel of Matthew. Here Jesus gives His seven woes against the Scribes and Pharisees – the religious elite of His day. They had made themselves the authorities of their day, living according to their own set of standards, rather than in keeping with God's commands. They had become hypocrites, saying one thing and doing another. They had no fear of God in their lives. Claiming to be experts in the law of Moses and knowledgeable of God's Word, they were blind to all that God had said and all that He was doing in and around them. They even failed to recognize the very one for whom they had been waiting for generations. Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah, but they failed to see Him for who He claimed to be. Rather than recognize Jesus as the Christ, they simply viewed Him as competition. They had no place for the sovereign hand of God in their lives. They were too busy playing god themselves.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

I need to develop a healthy awareness of God's activity in and around my life. A cognitive understanding of God's sovereignty is of little use if I don't put it into practice each and every day of my life. I must learn to look for the hand of God in the everyday affairs of life. Sometimes His activity will be a mystery to me, hidden from view. It's at those times I must trust. I must recall the stories of Joseph and remember the moments in my own life when He was there even though I was unaware. They say hindsight is 20-20. Looking back is a wonderful practice for the believer. It pays to periodically reflect on our lives and look for those moments where God showed up. I'm sure Joseph had plenty of opportunities while sitting in Pharaoh's palace to look back on all the events of his life and see God's sovereign, all-powerful hand at work all along the way. Just prior to the people of God entering into the Promised Land, Moses gave them a series of warnings. He knew what was about to happen and he also knew what they were going to be prone to do: Forget God. So he told them, "when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God…Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day." (Deuteronomy 8:12-14, 17-18 ESV). As God's people, our lives are in God's hands. And we should never forget it.

Father, forgive me for the many times when I fail to see Your hand at work in and around my life. So often, I forget what You have done time and time again in my life. I tend to take credit for what You have done. I dismiss Your work and mistakenly assume that I am in charge of my life. But You are the sovereign God of the universe. My plans can never trump Yours. Help me to have the perspective that Joseph had. May I increasingly learn to see You actively at work in my life, promoting Your plan to perfection. Amen.

Unworthy Guests.

 Genesis 43-44, Matthew 22

Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests. – Matthew 22:9-10 ESV

What an incredible story. With the help of God, Joseph had risen from the ashes and was now the second most powerful man in the entire land of Egypt. Through him the nation of Egypt would be saved from the famine that threatened to destroy them. Not only that, he would prove to be the savior of his own family, the descendants of Abraham. They would come to Egypt looking for food to sustain their lives. Little did they know that their trip would be in fulfillment of the dream Joseph had shared with them so many years earlier. Coming into Joseph's presence, but unaware of his true identity, "…they bowed their heads and prostrated themselves" before him. In this portion of the story, they had returned to buy more grain, but also to fulfill their commitment to return with their youngest brother, Benjamin. Upon arrival, they are rushed into Joseph's presence and given an elaborate feast. Rather than anger, they are greeted with hospitality and graciousness. They found themselves eating with this powerful Egyptian dignitary, in his home and at his table. "And the men looked at one another in amazement" (Genesis 43:33 ESV). They were blown away at their welcome. They had come in fear, expecting the worst, and instead were shown undeserved mercy and grace.

What does this passage reveal about God?

While there is much more to this story, one of the main points seems to be the surprising treatment the brothers received. By this time, we are fully aware of the gravity of their decision to sell Joseph into slavery. We have seen them plotting his death and then settling for the lesser of two evils. We have seen the sins of Judah and the ongoing lie they all lived, leaving their father to believe that Joseph had been killed by wild animals. Joseph had every right to seek revenge on these worthless individuals, and he had the power to do so. But instead, he showed them grace and mercy. He opened up his home and served them a sumptuous meal rather than giving them their just desserts. In the same way, God has extended mercy to us, showering us with His grace and inviting us to His table. In the case of the brothers, it was the son of Israel who was their ticket to the table. In our case, it is the Son of God who provides us with access into God's presence.

Over in the Matthew passage we read yet another parable by Jesus referring to the kingdom of heaven. In this one, He uses the metaphor or a wedding feast. In the story, a king invites guests to attend the wedding of his son. When the great day came, and the guests were rounded up to take part in this wonderful celebration, they all refused to come, giving various excuses and rationalizations. Some of the guests even went as far as to murder the king's servants. While this is a picture of the Hebrew people and their treatment of God and His messengers over the centuries, there is also an interesting parallel to the story of Joseph and his brothers. Because the king eventually opened up the doors of his home to those who were totally undeserving. He instructed his servants to go out into the highways and bi-ways and invite anyone they could find.  "And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad. So the wedding hall was filled with guests" (Matthew 22:10 ESV). In time, the banquet hall was filled with all kinds of individuals from all walks of life – none of whom deserved to be guests at the king's feast. In the story of Joseph, his brothers found themselves the unlikely guests at a banquet they never expected and most assuredly, never deserved.

What does this passage reveal about man?

Joseph's brothers were deserving of punishment. They also needed to understand the gravity of what they had done. For years they had learned to live with and cover up their actions. They had committed a great sin against Joseph and had grown callous to their actions and comfortable with their guilt. Only when things heated up did they begin to think about the seriousness of their sin and the possible long-term ramifications of their actions. When they first encountered Joseph, but were still unaware of his true identity, they said, "In truth we are guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the distress of his soul, when he begged us and we did not listen. That is why this distress has come upon us" (Genesis 42:21 ESV). That was a valuable lesson for them to learn. They needed to fully understand their guilt and the condemnation their sin deserved. Their place at the table would have had little meaning if they had not comprehended their own undeservedness. It took the cunning and craftiness of Joseph, cleverly setting up scenarios that seemed to intensify their guilt, to bring these brothers to an end of themselves. They were going to have to take their sin seriously before they could fully enjoy their presence at the table.

Many of us never fail to appreciate our place in God's presence. We take it for granted. We somehow believe we deserve to be there. But like the guests at the wedding feast, we are undeserving of our place at the table. We have been invited, not because of our worthiness, but because of the King's graciousness. He had extended the invitation, not because we deserve it, but in honor of His own Son. Like Joseph's brothers, we should be blown away at the treatment we receive at the hand of God, knowing that we deserve is something far less enjoyable. It is because of the Son that we are able to enjoy God's presence. It is because of the Son that we have a place at the King's table. It is because of the Son that God can overlook our guilt and consider our debt paid. Judah and his brothers brought the son and gained access into the banquet hall. We simply have to do the same thing today. The Son is our ticket to the ultimate feast to come.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

There is a day coming when those of us who have placed our faith in the Son of God as our Savior will literally enter into the presence of God Himself and dine with Him. We will be treated to a feast beyond all comprehension that we could have never earned and for which we stand totally undeserving. We will be amazed that, in spite of all we have done and how undeserving we have been, we will find ourselves sitting at the table with the King of kings and Lord of lords.

"Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, ‘Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns.Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready;it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure’— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.And the angel saidto me, ‘Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’ And he said to me, ‘These are the true words of God’” (Revelation 19:6-9 ESV).

What an incredible day that will be!

Father, thank You so much for providing me with access to your banquet hall because of Your Son. Thank You for extending to me an invitation that I couldn't have earned and for which I was totally undeserving. Never let me forget the reality of my own sin and guilt. Never let me assume that I was somehow worthy of Your grace and deserving of Your mercy. I stand amazed in Your presence! Amen

For Such A Time As This.

Genesis 41-42, Matthew 21

Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they quickly brought him out of the pit. And when he had shaved himself and changed his clothes, he came in before Pharaoh. – Genesis 41:14 ESV

For anyone who was ever bullied or picked on as a child, this story holds a special place in their heart. It is the story of the underdog who makes good. It is the ultimate rags-to-riches story, where a down-and-out young man who has suffered more than his fair share of setbacks and put downs, finally gets a break. But as usual, because this story is included in the Scriptures, it is less about Joseph than it is about God. There is no doubt that Joseph plays a significant part, but it is clear that this entire scenario is the handiwork of God.

What does this passage reveal about God?

All of this is part of God's amazing plan for Joseph's life. But even more important than that, it is part of God's amazing plan for mankind. God was redeeming and rescuing Joseph so that he would be able to do what God had planned for him to do all time. In this story, God is not reactionary, responding to situations and circumstances as they happen. He is calculated and providential, having worked out the details of this moment far in advance. He had Joseph right where He wanted him. That included the two years of imprisonment that Joseph had to go through until God deemed the timing was right. Then suddenly, after two years of forgetfulness, the cupbearer remembers Joseph. He recalls Joseph's interpretation of his dream and shares it with the Pharaoh. Everything in this story points to God. The timing of Pharaoh's dream was sovereignly ordained. The inability of the Pharaoh's magicians to come up with even a guess as to the dream's meaning was a "God thing." Even Joseph knew that his ability to supply the interpretation was up to God. "It's is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer" (Genesis 41:16 ESV).

Joseph told Pharaoh two different times, "God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do" (Genesis 41:25 ESV). And Pharaoh recognized the hand of God on Joseph's life. "Can we find a man like this, in whom is the Spirit of God?" (Genesis 41:36 ESV). Finally, long after his rise from the pit to the palace, God blesses Joseph with two sons. The names Joseph chose for his two boys reveal much about how he viewed his God and the circumstances of his life. Manasseh meant roughly "forget" and Joseph said, "God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father's house" (Genesis 41:51 ESV). Ephraim meant "twice fruitful" and Joseph said, "God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction" (Genesis 41:52 ESV). He recognized the hand of God in his life and over his circumstances. This was all God's doing. But there was more to God's plan than simply the salvation of Joseph. God had greater ambitions and a more significant purpose behind Joseph's new-found favor and fame.

What does this passage reveal about man?

Each of us has the responsibility to seek and to search for God in the everyday affairs of our lives. He is there, but we tend to overlook and underestimate His involvement. We write far too many things off to luck, coincidence, fate, or when things go particularly well, we simply take the credit. Joseph saw God's hand in his life. Of course, it was probably a bit difficult for him to see God's involvement quite so clearly when he was sitting in prison those two long years. But the inference in this story is that Joseph never stopped trusting God. He was willing to patiently wait, continuing to faithfully serve and do what was before him to do. No doubt he kept going back to those dream he had had when he was a boy. He must have known they had a greater meaning and that there was something yet to come in his life. So he waited on God.

Ever since they had sold Joseph into slavery and covered their sin by lying to their father, the brothers had simply gone on with their lives. They acted as if nothing had happened. Little did they know that their sin would eventually find them out. God would expose their deed. But in the meantime, they went on with their lives – doing business as usual. There is no indication that they sensed or recognized God's activity in and around their lives. They were earthly focused rather than heavenly minded. When the famine hit their land, they didn't have a clue as to what to do. Even their father sarcastically asked, "Why do you look at one another? Behold, I have heard that there is grain for sale in Egypt. Go down and buy grain for us there, that we may live and not die" (Genesis 42:1-2 ESV). God does not factor into Jacob's decision. He is motivated by little more than common sense and his own human nature. And yet, God was at work behind the scenes. Even the famine was divinely timed and used by God to accomplish His plan for the descendants of Abraham. The fact that Jacob and his sons seemed to have no interest in or reliance upon God did not alter the fact that God was there and that He was in complete control of the situation.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

There are so many potential parallels between this portion of the story of Joseph and today's reading in chapter 21 of Matthew. Joseph is a kind of savior, a redeemer of man, just as Jesus was the ultimate Savior of the world. Joseph was treated harshly and rejected by his brothers, just as Jesus was. Jesus and Joseph both suffered unjustly at the hands of men, having done nothing to deserve their fate. The brothers represent the religious leaders of Jesus' day, who out of jealousy and anger, come up with a plan to eliminate the competition, ultimately seeing to it that Jesus is put to death. It is interesting that in Matthew 21, the religious leaders confront Jesus about His authority. When Jacob's sons come into the presence of Joseph, they are confronted by his authority. He had the right to punish them for their sins, but he would show them mercy and grace.

I am reminded that God had promised Abraham that He would bless all the nations through him. Not just the Jews, but all nations. That promised was ultimately tied to Jesus, a descendant of Abraham and the Son of God. He would provide help, hope and healing to all mankind. But for that to happen, God needed a Joseph. He needed one man who would be willing to suffer, serve, and faithfully wait for the will of God to be revealed in and through his life. I want to be that kind of man. I want to see God's greater plan and recognize that He has every intention of using me in the accomplishment of that will. But I must be willing to faithfully serve and patiently wait, knowing that each and every moment of my life, whether good or bad, is part of His plan for my life. Paul reminds me, "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:8-10 ESV). Like Joseph, I have been saved for a reason. I have good works, profitable works, prepared by God for me to accomplish as part of His greater plan for mankind. God has brought me out of the pit and placed me in His palace, but not for me to sit and relax, but in order that I might use my new-found freedom and authority to serve God and my fellow man.

Father, I want to be like Joseph. In fact, I already am like Joseph. You have pulled me out of the pit of sin and shame and clothed me in the righteousness of Christ. You have given me power and authority. You have given me a commission to serve You by taking the Good News of salvation in Christ to those who are suffering from spiritual hunger and thirst. May I learn to be a faithful servant, just as Joseph was. May I seek Your will daily and live to please You rather than myself. Amen.

A Ransom For Many.

Genesis 39-40, Matthew 20

 For I was indeed stolen out of the land of the Hebrews, and here also I have done nothing that they should put me into the pit. – Genesis 40:15 ESV

Joseph had plenty to complain about. His life had not exactly been easy lately. He went from being thrown into a pit by his brothers and listening to them plot to kill him to being sold into slavery. Then just about when things were taking a turn for the better, he gets falsely accused of attempted rape and is thrown in prison. He had gone from favorite son, wearing fancy robes and enjoying the special favor of his father, to a prisoner in the land of Egypt. But God had a purpose behind it all. There is a divine plan being worked out in ways that even Joseph is not able to comprehend. .

What does this passage reveal about God?

It was not a coincidence that Joseph was sold to Potiphar and that his wife had a near-fatal attraction to him. Moses makes it clear that "The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master" (Genesis 39:2 ESV). Even Potiphar saw the hand of God on Joseph's life and he made Joseph overseer of all that he had. Potiphar benefited from Joseph's presence in his home. "…the Lord blessed the Egyptian's house for Joseph's sake; the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had in house and field" (Genesis 39:5 ESV). Joseph was a good-looking, successful young man, and Potiphar's wife took notice. She also tried to take advantage of him, continually pressing him to commit adultery with her. But Joseph repeatedly refused her advances, saying, "How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?" (Genesis 39:9 ESV). God was blessing and protecting Joseph. God equipped this young man with a realistic understanding of sin and a healthy fear of Himself.

The next thing Joseph knows, he is in prison, falsely accused and suffering an undeserved punishment again. But God was there. Once again, Joseph prospers, even in less-than-ideal circumstances. God was with him. "But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison" (Genesis 39:21 ESV). It wasn't happenstance that Joseph ended up a slave to Potiphar, who just happened to work for Pharaoh. When Joseph was thrown in prison, he didn't end up in just any Egyptian prison; he was placed "where the king's prisoners were confined" (Genesis 39:20 ESV). That point was important to Moses because it was important to the story. It was in the king's prison that Joseph would meet two men who worked directly for Pharaoh. God would give Joseph the ability to interpret their dreams, something he had apparently never been able to do before. And one of those men would prove vital to the next step in Joseph's personal journey of faith and fate at the hands of God.

What does this passage reveal about man?

Potiphar was a powerful man. His wife was a passionate woman. The prison warden literally held the keys to men's lives. The baker and the cupbearer were two men guilty of crimes against the state. And they were all instruments in the hands of God. Each was acting under their own influence, making decisions and creating circumstances by the choices they had made. But God was behind each moment, divinely orchestrating the outcome of even their most sinful choices. Potiphar's wife would give in to her seemingly uncontrolled passions and pursue an immoral relationship with Joseph. When her pride was hurt by Joseph's refusal, she would lash out in anger and revenge, having an innocent man thrown in prison. Her vanity would make her vengeful. Potiphar would exercise his power and have Joseph thrown in prison. He would sacrifice the obvious blessings of God in order to prove his power over man. The prison warden would take advantage of Joseph's presence in order to make his own life easier, putting Joseph in charge of all the inmates in the prison. His apparent laziness would put Joseph right where God wanted him. The cupbearer, grateful for Joseph's positive interpretation of his dream, promptly forgets about Joseph when he gains his freedom and his old job back. Each of these people exhibits the characteristics so common among men. They are self-centered and selfish. They are motivated by their own self-interest and self-preservation. Their lives constantly revolve around themselves and they tend to view the world in terms of what they can get out of it. But God would take these self-possessed people and use them to accomplish His divine will for the greater good of mankind. And Joseph would be a central figure in that plan.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

Over in Matthew 20, we have the famous words of Jesus: "But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,and whoever would be first among you must be your slave,even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:26-27 ESV). It's interesting that in the story of Joseph, we see a young man who went from favorite son to slave. He went from enjoying the favor of his father to household servant and then a common prisoner. It is not clear that Joseph fully understood all that was happening to him, but he did honor and fear God. He trusted God to help him interpret the dreams of the two men in prison. He knew that God was with him and could sense His hands on his life. But he probably had no idea just how all the events in his life were going to be used by God to accomplish a much greater story that would impact the lives of men for generations to come. Like the disciples, I can spend far too much time worrying about my own significance. I want to play a major part in the story of life. I have no desire to be a bit player. The disciples wanted power, position and prestige. They wanted to sit in the seats of prominence in Christ's kingdom. They wanted to be important. But Jesus told them that first they would have to serve, that the key to being first was being willing to be last. Jesus Himself would tell them, "For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45 ESV). In the story of Joseph, everyone was looking out for themselves. But Joseph had no capacity to look over himself. He had no control. So he simply served, and he served well. He did what he had to do wherever he found himself. He took whatever role he was given and did it with excellence. He was an excellent household slave. He was an ideal prisoner. He served and God prospered him. He blessed others and God blessed him. The closest thing we get to a complaint from the lips of Joseph was his statement to the cupbearer: "For I was indeed stolen out of the land of the Hebrews, and here also I have done nothing that they should put me into the pit" (Genesis 40:15 ESV). Joseph didn't deny the unjust nature of his situation. He was fully aware of his innocence. But he didn't waste time dwelling on it all. He simply served. He did what he had to do and he did it well. God was going to use Joseph in a powerful way in the days to come. But Joseph was content to be used right where he found himself, whether it was in the household of Potiphar or the prison of Pharaoh. I must learn to be content with where I am and serve where God has placed me. He has a plan. I have a job to do. I must serve where I am sovereignly placed.

Father, I don't always like where I find myself. I don't always find my circumstances enjoyable or the way I would prefer them. But give me the attitude of Joseph. Give me the mind of Christ. I want to learn to serve where I am and not worry so much about where I think I would like to be. My preferred future has no value compared to Your divine present for my life. Help me see each moment as providential and part of Your plan for my life. Amen.


The Providence of God.

Genesis 37-38, Matthew 19

 Meanwhile the Midianites had sold him in Egypt to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard.  – Genesis 37:36 ESV

We don't always get what God is doing in and around us. Sometimes it even appears as if He is nowhere to be found. Yet the Bible is filled with timely reminders of God's sovereignty over mankind. We read account after account of His providential role in the lives of men, working behind the scenes, orchestrating events and individuals in order to accomplish His divine will. And the story of Joseph is one of the premier illustrations of God's providential participation in the affairs of men. To those who find themselves cast members of God's story, His involvement is not always apparent. Could we have talked to Joseph as he sat in the pit or while he was on his way to Egypt in chains, he probably would have told us that God had turned His back on him. But the story of Joseph's life is provided to remind us of God's unwavering, unstoppable control over the affairs of men. When it comes to His divine will and sovereign plan, there is nothing and no one who can stand in His way or prevent what He has predetermined. And while we may not understand what God is doing, we must rest in the fact that He most certainly KNOWS what He is doing at all time. God reminds us, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:8-9 ESV).

What does this passage reveal about God?

Joseph's dreams were clearly from God. They were a glimpse into the future, providing Joseph and his family with a somewhat fuzzy view of things to come. God was providing a partial look into what was going to happen in the years to come. But we see God's plan mixed in with man's sin-prone response. Joseph's brothers can't stand him and his dreams only add fuel to the fire of their hatred and jealousy. So they concoct a plan to murder him, but calmer heads prevail, and so instead, they decide to sell him as a slave to some Midianite traders. Their goal was to get this dreamer out of their lives forever. But God had other plans. Sometimes it is hard for us to see God at work in these stories. We have to look closely at the words that are used by the author in describing the events. After covering their sin by convincing their father that Joseph had been mauled and killed by a wild animal, it would appear that the story of Joseph is over. But Moses writes, "Meanwhile the Midianites had sold him in Egypt to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard" (Genesis 37:36 ESV). God was not done and Joseph's story was far from over. He was sold as a slave, but not to just any owner. No, he was sold to an officer of Pharaoh. Joseph could have been sold to anyone, but God had something else in mind. In His providence, Joseph's destiny was irrevocably tied to that of Pharaoh.

Even in the story of Judah, recorded in chapter 38, we see the hand of God. It is hidden from plain sight, but it's there. Once again, we get a view of the sinfulness of man. Judah, the brother who came up with the idea to sell Joseph as a slave, gets special emphasis from Moses in chapter 38. The story of Joseph is interrupted by the somewhat sad and depressing account of Judah and Tamar, his daughter-in-law. It is a story filled with sin and shame, immorality and human depravity. God is hardly even mentioned, except in two cases where He put to death two of the sons of Judah because of their extreme wickedness. The entire story revolves around Judah's unfair treatment of his daughter-in-law and culminates is her deceptive plan to force Judah to give her what she wants. It all ends up in the two of them having sexual relations together and the births of two sons.

And yet, God was there. In spite of the immorality and depravity, God was going to use their sinful, selfish acts to accomplish His will for mankind. And we see it in the birth of the two sons, Zerah and Perez. You have to go all the way to the gospel of Matthew to find out how God was at work in this story. There you will find the name of Perez listed in the lineage of Jesus. "Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron…" (Matthew 1:2-3 ESV). Just a few verses later we read, "…and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ" (Matthew 1:16 ESV). God would use one of the sons born from this illicit, immoral relationship to bring about the birth of Mary, the mother of Jesus. God was in control all the time – in the life of Joseph and in the life of Judah. Even the sins of man cannot stop the sovereign will of God.

What does this passage reveal about man?

Apart from God, we are sin-prone and destined to destroy what God has given us. Given enough time, man has a unique knack for destroying not only creation, but virtually every relationship in his life. Left to his own devices, man would make a mess out of just about everything. But thankfully, God is still in control. He has given us a degree of autonomy and freedom, but never completely takes His hands off the wheel. He allows us to believe we are in control, running the affairs of our own lives and determining our own destinies. But God is in full control. Joseph's brothers fully thought they were taking matters into their own hands. Judah was under the false impression that he was large and in charge of the affairs of his life. You can see these men acting as if God does not exist, and in some cases, acting as if they are God themselves. They attempt to determine the fate of others, making decisions that are not theirs to make. They don't consult God. They don't even act as if He exists, showing no remorse or regret for their actions.

Only in the life of Joseph do we see someone who seems to have a right relationship with God. He appears to walk with God and clearly has the blessing of God on his life. Everywhere he goes, regardless of the circumstance, God's hand is on him. God prospers him. Joseph does his part, working hard and remaining faithful to God, regardless of what kinds of circumstances happen to him. Joseph stands out as an anomaly. He is not the norm. He breaks the pattern of sin and selfishness that has been set by his peers. And God has great plans for him. God can and does use the Judahs and the Josephs of the world. He is not limited by man's faithfulness or faithlessness.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

Through Perez would come the Messiah, Jesus Christ. God would ultimately redeem the sinful affairs of men to accomplish His righteous will for mankind. When I read the stories of Jacob, Joseph, and Judah, it can be so easy to lose heart, thinking that mankind is beyond saving. We are too far gone. I find myself asking the same question the disciples did of Jesus, "Who then can be saved?" (Matthew 19:24 ESV). And Jesus lovingly reminds me as He did them, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible" (Matthew 19:26 ESV). God is the God of the impossible. He provided a way for sinful man to made right with Him. He did for us what we could not do for ourselves. He miraculously sent His Son, born into a family line marred by sin, but born without sin. God made the impossible possible. He redeems and restores. He uses our worst to accomplish His best for us. He used the hatred of the Jews and their ultimate murder of His Son to accomplish His will regarding the salvation of mankind. And ultimately, all the stories recorded in Scripture are about that one divine act: the salvation and redemption of man. The story of Joseph is a small chapter in the bigger story of Jesus and His coming to earth as the Savior of the world. I have to constantly remind myself that my story and the events of my life are only significant in that they are part of a much greater, more important story of God's ultimate restoration of all things. Nothing is impossible for Him.

Father, thank You for being the God of the impossible. You did for me what I could never have done for myself. Your plan is perfect and You are working it to perfection. Help me rest in that reality each and every day of my life. Amen.

House of God.

Genesis 35-36, Matthew 18

Then let us arise and go up to Bethel, so that I may make there an altar to the God who answers me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.  – Genesis 35:3 ESV

Israel has returned to the land that had been promised to Abraham and was destined to be his dwelling place. This was all part of God's divine plan, not only for Israel, but for the future of mankind. There were three important elements to God's promise to Abraham: a land, a seed, and a blessing. The land was just as critical to the equation as any of the other two. So it was essential that Israel return to the land because it was to play an important role in the fulfillment of God's provision of the seed or offspring who would eventually bring the ultimate blessing to all mankind. And it was also going to be important that the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Israel be a people set apart – the people of God. They were to be different and distinctive. They were to be followers of God and live in the land provided for them by God. They were to remain set apart from the people groups all around them, refusing to intermarry with them or worship their gods. This would be a lifelong challenge for Israel and his descendants.

What does this passage reveal about God?

After Israel's own sons brutally murdered every male in the city of Shechem as payback for the rape of their sister, Dinah, Israel feared for the well-being of his family and possessions. He knew that news of this event would get out and they would be a target for every other people group occupying the land of Canaan. The sheer magnitude of what his sons had done was going to give Israel and his descendants a less-than-flattering reputation among their neighbors. But God was there, and He met with Israel in order to assure him once again of His presence and His promise. God called Israel to return to Bethel, the place where He had visited him just prior to his flight to Paddan-aram. God had some unfinished business to conduct with Israel, and Israel had a vow that needed to be kept. So as they traveled, God sovereignly protected Isaac and his family, causing a supernatural fear to fall on the nations through whose territories they had to pass. No one would lay a hand on them. In spite of what Levi and Simeon had done and the damage their actions had done to Israel's reputation, God was with them. And God would reaffirm His covenant promise to Israel. "I am God Almighty:be fruitful and multiply. A nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come from your own body.  The land that I gave to Abraham and Isaac I will give to you, and I will give the land to your offspring after you" (Genesis 35:11-12 ESV). God was not done yet. His promises would be fulfilled. His plan would be completed, just as He had promised. He was going to make of the descendants of Israel, this sin-prone people, a great house – the house of God.

What does this passage reveal about man?

The world was a dangerous, sin-saturated place, even in the days of Israel. Chapter 36 provides a detailed lineage of the descendants of Esau, Israel's brother. This man, a son of Isaac who had sold his birthright, was going to be prolific, filling the land with his descendants, just as Israel would. But his children would end up being in constant conflict with those of his brother. The Edomites, the descendants of Esau, would prove to be a thorn in the side of the nation of Israel for generations to come.

But this passage reveals a slow, but steady change taking place in Israel's life. Ever since his wrestling match with God, he has been a changed man. He seems to have a new nature and outlook to go with his new name. When God calls him to return to Bethel, he immediately obeys, telling his household, "put away the foreign gods that are among you and purify yourselves and change your garments" (Genesis 35:2 ESV). He realized that they were going to have to live differently as a people. Their love affair with the world was going to have to end. He was headed back to Bethel, the very place where he was going to have to fulfill the vow he had made all those years ago. It was at Bethel that God had told Israel, "Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you" (Genesis 28:15 ESV). And God had kept His end of the bargain. Now it was Israel's turn. Because he had also made a vow that day. "Then Jacob made a vow, saying, ‘If God will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father's house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God, and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God's house. And of all that you give me I will give a full tenth to you’” (Genesis 28:20-22 ESV). It was put-up or shut-up time for Israel. God had fulfilled His part. Now it was Israel's turn.

He was going to have to make God his God. He was going to have to worship God and Him alone. His covenant was a commitment to obedience, allegiance, faithfulness, and unwavering loyalty as God's possession.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

I don't know that Israel fully understood the significance of what he did that day in changing the name of the place called Luz to Bethel. He had met God face to face and received a promise from Him, so he called the place House of God. But there was far more significance to that decision than he could have ever imagined. While the place was important to Israel, it was the people who were important to God. From this flawed, faith-challenged man would come the Savior of the world. God would end up blessing the nations through Abraham through his "seed," through the Messiah, Jesus Christ, the son of David and the Son of God. And through Jesus, God would produce a people who would be His own possession. But not only that, they would be His house.

Peter tells us, “As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:4-5 ESV). The apostle Paul echoes that them when he writes, “Do you not know that youare God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17 ESV). As those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior, acknowledging Him as the Son of God and the only solution to their sin problem, we have been made into a house for God. We are His dwelling, where He has chosen to place His Spirit. For Israel, the house of God was a place. For God, His house is His people. He dwells among us. He protects and empowers us. He fights on behalf of us. He extends His grace, mercy and love to us. And while it is true that God dwells among all men, He has chosen to make His home within those who have placed their faith in His Son as their sin sacrifice. Jesus Christ was Immanuel, God with us. He came to dwell among us, but offered His life so that His Spirit might live in us, setting us apart as His own, imparting to us His power, and imputing to us His own righteousness so that we might be acceptable to God. We are His house. We are his people.

In Jesus' discourse recorded in Matthew 18, we get a glimpse into His view of the Kingdom of God. It is a place marked by humility, not pride. It is a place of reconciliation and restitution, but also a place of repentance and rejection of sin. Jesus paints a picture of a new age occupied by a new kind of people, the people of God who have been transformed by the Spirit of God so that they might live in obedience to God. The church represents a place of forgiveness, restoration, repentance, grace, mercy, holiness, distinctiveness, and love. We are God's dwelling place among men in these days. He has chosen to place His Spirit among us and in us so that we might reflect His glory and be testimonies of the life-changing reality of the Good News. We are the house of God, a spiritual house where God lives, works, ministers, and manifests His presence and power among men in our day.

Father, it is hard for me to fathom that we are Your dwelling place. I still tend to think of the church building as the house of God. But You live among and within men. You have chosen to place Your Spirit in the hearts of men, not houses made of bricks and mortar. You sent Your Son to be God among us. He lived among us and died on behalf of us, so that we might be made right with You. And He has made His home in our hearts, setting us apart as His own. Show us how to live as His possession. Give us the strength to live lives that are truly set apart and honoring as His dwelling place. Help us live as His holy temple, where His Spirit dwells. Amen.

Recognizing God's Hand.

Genesis 33-34, Matthew 17

But I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man will certainly suffer at their hands.  – Matthew 17:12 ESV

Jacob continued to on his toward the land of promise, having wrestled with and received a blessing from God. His new name is Israel and he is not the same man he had been before. Yes, the character of Jacob, the deceiver, is still there and it will continue to haunt him for the rest of his life. But he is much more prone to trust God than he was before. You see this in his decision to go ahead of his wives, children and possession, choosing to meet Esau first. "He himself went on before them, bowing himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother" (Genesis 33:3 ESV). The night before, before his wrestling match with God, he had sent ahead a series of gifts for his brother, a form of a payoff, in the hopes of pacifying his brothers long-pent-up anger towards him. But now, he seems much more willing to place his future and his safety in the capable hands of God.

What does this passage reveal about God?

Once again, we see God sovereignly acting on behalf of Jacob (Israel). Rather than an irate brother and a revenge-filled reception, Israel encounters a brother who is quick to forgive. While he met Israel with 400 armed men, Esau did not come to do him harm. "But Esau ran to meet him and embraced him and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept" (Genesis 33:4 EVS). What a different picture than the one Israel had been expecting. God had prepared the way and transformed Esau's heart.

Got had kept His promise and had returned Israel to the land of his forefathers. God had told him before he left, "Return to the land of your fathers and to your kindred, and I will be with you" (Genesis 31:3 ESV). Israel had been obedient, and God had been faithful. But just because we obey God does not mean that all will go well. There is still the possibility of opposition and obstacles in our way.

What does this passage reveal about man?

Israel returns to the land, but it is far from an idyllic place. There are all kinds of people groups living in the land and their presence there will make Israel's enjoyment of the land less than stress-free. In fact, it was not long before Israel's household is impacted by the sinful nature of the inhabitants of the land. Not long after returning and settling in the land of Succoth, Israel's daughter, Dinah, is raped by the son of one of the region's influential leaders of the city of Shechem.

This same young man, obviously driven by his own lusts, decides that he wants to marry Dinah, and persuades his father to ask Israel for her hand in marriage. So Hamor approached Israel, and attempted to get him to agree to a pact between their two clans, encouraging the intermarriage and intermixing of their peoples. But the sons of Israel, who had become aware of what had been done to their sister, deceitfully agree to the arrangement, but on one condition: All the men of Shechem must be circumcised. The leaders of Shechem greedily agree, telling their people, "will not their livestock, their property and all their beasts be ours?" (Genesis 34:23 ESV).

After having undergone the agreed-upon rite of circumcision, the men of Shechem find themselves weak and defenseless. Simeon and Levi take advantage of this moment and slaughter all the men of the city, taking all their women and children as captives and plundering the city. Once again, deception and deceit play a huge role in the story of mankind. Even the sons of Israel respond in a vengeful, deceptive manner to an injustice done to their sister. Israel is appalled when he hears the news of what has happened and fears what the impact will be on their family when all the other nations hear what his people have done.

This passage emphasizes the importance of Israel (the nation) remaining set apart and separate from the nations around them. There would always be the constant temptation to make treaties and alliances with the people of the land. Intermarriage would seem appealing and logical at times, but this story emphasizes just how important it was going to be for God's people to remain distinctive and different. While Levi and Simeon meant well and were simply attempting to avenge their sister, they actually behaved in a manner that was more like the pagan people around them than those who were part of the household of God. If Israel had learned anything, it was best to let God handle cases of revenge and payback. Deceit and scheming never produced healthy fruit. That is why later on in the story of Genesis, Levi and Simeon would be passed over by Israel their father when he was giving out blessings to his sons.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

It is clear from the passage that Jacob (Israel) recognized God's hand in and around his life. He saw God at work, even in the years that he had spent serving his uncle, Laban. Those years of deceit and deception on the part of Laban had all been part of God's plan for Jacob. He left Paddan-aram wealthy and blessed with a large family. But his sons were not quite so ready or willing to see God's hand at work in their lives. The rape of their sister was an unacceptable action that they believed required their immediate attention. Rather than seek God's will or wait for His direction, they took matters into their own hands and sought revenge, slaughtering an entire city of men.

When Jesus came into this world, most would never see Him for who He was. His own people would reject Him as their Messiah. They failed to recognize Him as the Son of God and the Savior of not only the nation of Israel, but the entire world. Their rejection of Him would result in His own death at their hands. And yet, God was behind it all. It was part of His divine plan for redeeming mankind and restoring them to a right relationship with Himself. It is hard for us to understand why Dinah was raped by that young man. But it reminds us that the world in which we have been called to live, even as modern-day Christians, is hostile to the people of God. We are living in a battle zone, filled with those who are enemies of God. Jacob's return to the land promised to Abraham was not going to be free from problems. Sin was everywhere. Enemies were around every corner. But he was going to have to learn to see God in the midst of the trouble. He was going to have to trust that God was bigger than any foe he was going to encounter. The key lesson Jacob and his family was going to have to learn was to recognize God's hand in the midst of any and all circumstances. I need to learn that same thing today.

Father, help me to see Your hand at work in my life. I know You are there, but sometimes I just fail to recognize it and appreciate it. Open my eyes and give me the ability to look at life with supernatural lenses that reveal You in the midst of all the chaos, confusion and conflict. Amen.

Wrestling With God.

Genesis 31-32, Matthew 16

So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel,saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.”  – Genesis 32:30 ESV

This is such a fascinating story, filled with equal parts of faith and faithlessness. Throughout the events that occur, we see the faithful hand of God working behind the scenes, orchestrating the path of Jacob, and fulfilling His promises to Abraham. We also see Jacob struggle with taking God at His Word and attempting to take matters into his own hands – just in case God doesn't come through. Jacob acknowledges God's sovereign control over his life, having prospered and protected him all during his time in Paddan-Aram, but he also fears for his life, anticipating a less-than-cheery welcome from his brother Esau. We see the continuing conflict between Jacob and Laban, his uncle. But the real conflict of Jacob's life had always been between he and God.

What does this passage reveal about God?

The obvious lesson is regarding His sovereignty. God is always in control – in all situations – regardless of how they might appear to us at the time. While Jacob's flight to Paddan-Aram was his mother's idea, and one she had to come up with to protect Jacob from the revenge of Esau, God would use this "detour" to accomplish his will for Jacob's life. Even Jacob recognized the hand of God on his life during his time with Laban. He told his wives, "You know that I have served your father with all my strength, yet your father has cheated me and changed my wages ten times. But God did not permit him to harm me" (Genesis 31:6-7 ESV). God miraculously prospered Jacob, in spite of Laban's ongoing attempts to cheat him out of what was rightfully his. Upon receiving news that his brother Esau was on his way with 400 armed men, Jacob prayed , "I am not worthy of the least of all the deeds of steadfast love and all the faithfulness that you have shown to your servant, for with only my staff I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two camps. Please deliver me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I fear him, that he may come and attack me, the mothers with the children" (Genesis 32:10-11 ESV). Jacob feared. He lacked faith. And yet, His God had been proved Himself faithful every step of the way. Jacob was having to learn that Laban was not his problem. He was going to have to understand that Esau was not the one he needed to be worrying about. It was God. His real issue was with God, not man. He was going to learn that, while he could trick and deceive men, God was another matter. And while he could strive and work for the things of this world, what he really needed was the blessing of God. And it's interesting to note that as Jacob lined up all his possessions and prepared to hand them over to his brother as a peace offering, the one thing he demanded from the angel with whom he wrestled was a blessing. “Then he said, ‘Let me go, for the day has broken.’ But Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me’” (Genesis 32:26 ESV). And Jacob received his blessing because he "prevailed." This does not mean he beat God. It means that he wrestled with God until he received that for which he was striving. So God told him, "“Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel,for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed” (Genesis 32:28 ESV). His new name was a combination of the Hebrew words for "wrestle" and "God." Jacob had clung to God, demanding He fulfill His covenant promise to him. He knew that his future was in danger without God's help. And God would prove Himself faithful yet again, delivering Jacob from his brother Esau and providing him a place back in the land of promise.

What does this passage reveal about man?

Jacob's entire life had been a wrestling match with God. At every phase of his life, Jacob had been given full notice that the covenant promises of God would be his. At Jacob's birth, God had confirmed to Rebekah that, while Esau was technically the first-born son and heir to the inheritance, "the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall serve the younger" (Genesis 25:23 ESV). Jacob had cheated his brother out of his birthright. He had tricked his father into giving him the blessing reserved for the firstborn. And yet, he still doubted that God was going to bless him. He lived in fear of Esau's eventual retaliation. He had to constantly battle his own uncle just to make a living. He had watched his two wives bicker and fight, even bartering over their rights to have sexual relations with him. His life was a complicated mess filled with constant conflicts. And yet his real problem was with God. He was delaying the inevitable. At some point he was going to have to go to the mat with God and have it out over whether or not he was going to trust Him. And that is exactly what happened. That fateful night in the land of Seir, after having sent all that he owned and loved ahead of him, the Scriptures tell us, "And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day" (Genesis 32:24 ESV). All he held dear, his wives, children, and all his worldly possessions had been sent ahead as payment to his brother Esau. He was faced with the possible loss of everything, including his life – all that he had worked so hard for all those years. And he was left alone – with God. And they did battle. And Jacob, weary and worn out from the exertion of it all, clinged for dear life, demanding that "the man" bless him. Everything else was meaningless and worthless, but the blessing of God was essential. This would be a turning point in Jacob's life, resulting in a name change, but also a significant change in outlook. Jacob had been a man of the flesh, prone to do things his own way. Israel would become a man of faith, a spiritual man who was learning to trust in and lean on His God for everything.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

Over in the gospel of Matthew, we have that powerful rebuke that Jesus gives Peter. Jesus has just told the disciples that He is going to have to go to Jerusalem and "suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised" (Matthew 16:21 ESV). Peter responds quickly and adamantly, telling Jesus that this is NOT going to happen. In essence, Peter is telling the Son of God that the will of God is wrong. And Jesus responds, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man" (Matthew 16:23 ESV). Oh, how easy it is to become a hindrance to God. That does not mean we can keep God from doing what He intends to do, but we can place ourselves in opposition to His divine will. That is not a place we want to be. That was not the place Jacob needed to be. He was going to have to learn to trust God and take Him at His word. He was going to have to learn to see God's hand at work in his life and trust that what He had done in the past could also be done in the future. That night in his wrestling match with God, Jacob had learned the truth of Jesus' statement found in Matthew 16:26: "For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?" Jacob had become wealthy. He had been blessed materially. But all of that meant little or nothing without the blessing of God in his life. What set Jacob apart was not his net worth or personal portfolio, but his relationship with God Almighty. His uniqueness was based solely on God's divine determination to fulfill His covenant promises to him and through him. And the same is true for me today.

Father, I can see Your hands all over and around my life. I can look back and see Your activity all around me. But then I can look ahead and worry and fret over what I am going to do about future events or circumstances. I try to take matters into my own hands. I scheme and plan. I worry and stress out over what is going to happen. But what I really need to do is wrestle with You. I need to do business with You and strive with You to the point that I walk away wounded, but confident that You will do what You promise to do. You are faithful. I have nothing to fear. Amen.

A Dangerous Trend.

Genesis 29-30, Matthew 15

But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.  – Matthew 15:18-20 ESV

The pattern of deceit and deception found in the story of Jacob and Esau will follow him as he attempts to escape the wrath of his brother Esau. Jacob's arrival in the land of his uncle, Laban, would appear to be a positive turn in the story of Abraham's descendants. But we continue to see the sin of man polluting the stream of God's divine plan. And yet, in spite of it all, God remains faithful to His covenant promise, providing blessings on and through Jacob.

What does this passage reveal about God?

While God seems to be silent throughout much of this portion of the story, He is always there, behind the scenes, orchestrating the outcomes of Jacob's relationships and circumstances. The men and women in these passages continue to sin, acting selfishly and treating one another contemptuously. Their actions, for the most part, are unrighteous and far from godly. Everyone is looking out for themselves. And yet, in the midst of this competitive and conflict-saturated atmosphere, God is there.

God orchestrates the arrival of Jacob at the well at just the same time that Rachel arrives with her father's sheep. Jacob, whose very name means "trickster" or "deceiver" is himself deceived by his own uncle. It seems that Laban and Jacob were cut from the same cloth, a detail that had not escaped God's plans for Jacob. God would use Laban's deception to bring about the birth of the twelve sons who would make up the future tribes of Israel. All the bickering, bartering, deceit and deception would be redeemed by God for His divine purposes. The passage tells us that "When the Lord saw that Leah was 'hated,' he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren" (Genesis 29:31 ESV). God was in control. Even the very names of the children reflect this fact. Reuben means "sees" and refers to God's recognition of Leah's situation. Simeon means "hears" and speaks of God's awareness of Rachel's hatred for Leah. Judah means "praise" as a reminder of Leah's gratefulness to God for all He had done for her. Each of the names of each of the children in some way reflect a character quality or attribute of God. God "remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb" (Genesis 30:22 ESV).

And God blessed Laban. Even though this man had lied to and cheated his nephew, God blessed him because of Jacob's very presence. God had promised Abraham that all the nations of the earth would be blessed through him, and this was a partial fulfillment of that promise. And God blessed Jacob. He prospered him and caused his flocks to increase. Jacob thought his unique attempt at genetic engineering was the cause of his success, but in reality, it was all the work of God. And while Laban once again tried to cheat Jacob, God was blessing him. "Thus the man increased greatly and had large flocks, female servants and male servants, and camels and donkeys" (Genesis 30:43 ESV). God was at work. And while the cast of characters in this story bring little in the way of virtue or redeeming qualities, God is still able to accomplish His divine will – for His glory and the ultimate good of man.

What does this passage reveal about man?

Once again, it is not a pretty picture. In Laban, Jacob met his match. He ends up looking in the mirror and sees himself. This entire story is a virtual repeat of what has happened before. Jacob gets cheated by Laban just as Jacob had cheated Esau. Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah, just as his mother had loved him more than his brother Esau. God opened Leah's womb just as He had Sarah's. Both Leah and Rachel follow the example of Sarah and give their maid servants to their husband in an attempt to provide him with children. Throughout the story there is an unhealthy competition that results in increasing conflict. Leah bargains with Rachel for the rights to have sexual relations with Jacob, using fruit as the currency of the day. Just as Esau sold his birthright for a bowl of stew, Rachel sells her "rights" to have sexual relations with Jacob – for a handful of fruit.

All throughout this story, we see men and women who are controlled by their flesh or sin natures. They respond to one another selfishly and sinfully, with very little regard for the name of God. You see little in the way of remorse, let alone repentance. They acknowledge the hand of God when it works out in their favor, but respond in anger and resentment when things don't turn out well. They fight, feud, deceive, cheat, and constantly strive to make sure that everything works out for their own selfish advantage – all the while, unaware of God's greater plan and the bigger picture He is painting for all mankind.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

Like Jacob, Rachel, Leah and Laban, I can become so myopic and short-sighted, that I fail to recognize all that God is doing behind the scenes in my life. I can become so self-consumed that I no longer see God's bigger plan for the human race. I want to make it all about me, but it's not. It's all about God and His divine plan for mankind. I find it fascinating that the companion New Testament passage for today's reading is Matthew 15. In it, we read these sobering words from Jesus Himself. "But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person" (Matthew 15:18-20 ESV).

That's the story of Genesis. That's the story of man. What we see happening in chapters 29-30 of Genesis is the effects of heart disease. As Isaiah wrote and Jesus quoted, "This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me" (Matthew 15:8 ESV). Jacob may have been a descendant of Abraham and heir of the promises of God, but at this point in his life, his heart was far from God. He was in self-preservation mode. His lived by the code: "every man for himself." And far too often, I can find myself living that very same way. The amazing thing is that God continues to bless me in spite of me. He continues to fulfill His promises to me, not because I deserve it or have earned the favor, but out of His amazing grace. Leah, Rachel, Laban and Jacob all gave God lip service. They tipped their hats to His obvious influence in and around their lives. They gave their children names that reflected God's involvement in their lives. Laban acknowledged God's influence over his life. But their hearts were far from Him. They failed to truly worship and fear Him. They were incapable of seeing His sovereign plan at work among them. I want to learn from their mistakes and recognize my own spiritual shortcomings as I read about theirs. So that I might become a willing participant in God's divine plan, not just an unknowing passenger who is along for the ride.

Father, I see myself in this story. I share so many of the qualities and characteristics of Jacob, Rachel, Leah and Laban. I don't want to be guilty of honoring you with my lips but having a heart that is far from You. Open my eyes and let me see the reality of my own sin nature and my ongoing need for Your Son's saving and sanctifying work in my life. Amen.

The Flesh Versus the Spirit.

Genesis 27, Matthew 14

Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.  – Genesis 28:15 ESV

The entire Bible is a picture of God working in the midst of and, in most cases, in spite of man. So far we have seen even those who had been chosen by God and given the promises of God, acting as sometimes unwilling and unhelpful participants in God's plan. That pattern continues in chapters 27 and 28 as we read about Jacob's deception of his father in order to receive a blessing from him. Jacob's mother, Rebekah, plays a major role in Jacob's decision, encouraging him to deceive his father in order to cheat his brother out of his blessing. We see in this story a cast of characters controlled by their senses. The physical and sensual play a major role in all that happens. Isaac is physically old and suffering from the effects of his dying body. Yet he is driven by a desire for food and sends out his son, Esau, to kill some game and prepare him his favorite stew. Rebekah, driven by a desire to see her favorite son, Jacob, receive the blessing, allows her sin nature to control her decision making. She concocts a plan to involve Jacob in an elaborate ruse, designed to deceive her own husband and cheat her own son, Esau. Her sinful passions, while probably well-intentioned, are vividly on display in this story. Jacob, a willing pawn in his mother's hands, allows his lust for more – a blessing AND the birthright – to drive his actions. Esau, once he discovered what had been done to him, is driven by revenge and an unbearable desire to be blessed by his father. His disappointment will drive him to seek the death of his own twin brother.

What does this passage reveal about God?

Yet, in spite of all the sinful passions the permeate these two chapters, God is in control. His will is being done – in spite of the motley cast of characters that make up this story. God does not condone Rebekah's scheming and Jacob's willful deceitfulness. But He uses their sinful actions to accomplish His divine will. What they meant for evil, God will use for good.

And yet, there is both pain and punishment involved in the actions of Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob and Esau. Jacob, while blessed, will have to run for his life. His actions drive a wedge between he and his brother. He is forced to leave home and take up residence with his uncle. As a result, his self-imposed exile will ensure that he never sees his mother and father again. He will live in fear of his brother, Esau, for years. Rebekah will live out the rest of her life knowing her favorite son had received the blessing, but never getting to hold him in her arms again. There are always consequences to our sins, but God is always accomplishing His will in spite of them. He did not abandon His promise because of Jacob's actions. He remained faithful to His word, regardless of the unfaithfulness and unrighteousness of those through whom He was going to fulfill his word.  Even after all Jacob had done, God reaffirmed His covenant promise to him. "Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you" (Genesis 28:15 ESV). Regardless of Jacob's actions, God was promising to remain with him and to someday restore him to the land. You see this pattern all throughout the lives of the people of Israel. One day they would find themselves living in exile in Egypt, and God would faithfully restore them to the land. Generations later, they would find themselves living in exile in Babylon and, once again, God would faithfully restore them to the land. Years later, the people would find themselves living in spiritual exile in the land, and God would send His Son in an effort to restore them to a right relationship with Him. God has been and always will be faithful to His word. He is the covenant-keeping God.

What does this passage reveal about man?

At heart, we are all schemers and deceivers. We are driven by our senses and controlled by our passions. The physical world is the greatest barrier to our spiritual development. Our lust for more of what this world has to offer make it difficult for us to enjoy all the spiritual blessings God has promised. You see in the story of Jacob, the ease at which our passions for the physical can easily overshadow our faith in the promises of God. The enemy is always at work behind the scenes tempting us to doubt God and trust in that which we can see, hold, feel, touch, and taste. And yet, the majority of the blessings of God are spiritual in nature. They are eternal, not temporal. If you think about the gifts of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control – they are all spiritual in nature. And yet, they have physical implications. They show up in the physical world, but are made possible only by the Spirit of God. Any attempt to manufacture them in the flesh always fails. No one can make themselves more patient. You can fake love, but you can't make the real thing. The physical and spiritual are always at odds in our lives. That why Paul wrote, "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do" (Galatians 5:16-17 ESV).

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

I have to constantly remind myself that God's divine plan for mankind is far greater and more important than my self-centered plans for myself. He is going to accomplish what He has promised to Abraham. He will fulfill His promises to Isaac and Jacob. He will follow through on all His commitments to the people of Israel. He will come through on all He has promised for the body of Christ. And He will complete what He has begun in my life. My petty passions and selfish desires for the physical things of this earth do not thwart God or harm His plan, but they do make my life more difficult. I can choose to do it His way or my way, but irregardless, God will always have His way. Jacob made his life far more difficult than it had to be. His life would not be an easy one. But God would still accomplish His will through him – in most cases, in spite of him. It would be far more pleasant to live in obedience to God and enjoy His blessings, than to resist Him or attempt to somehow "help" Him and have to suffer the consequences of my sin.

I can't help but think about Peter in the story found in Matthew 14. He and the rest of the disciples of Jesus are in a boat on the Sea of Galilee in the middle of the night, experiencing strong waves and winds. They see Jesus walking on the water toward them in the midst of the storm and Peter begs Jesus to command that he be able to walk on the water too. Jesus simply said, "Come!" And Peter did. But then he took his eyes off of Jesus and began to focus on the wind and the waves. He became overwhelmed with the physical and lost sight of the spiritual. His ability to walk on water was a miracle. It was supernatural and impossible, but Peter became obsessed once again with the natural, and he sank like a rock. But Jesus was there. He rescued Peter, lifting him out of the water and placing him back in the boat. But Jesus' words still ring true today.  "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?" (Matthew 14:28 ESV). The life of the believer is to be one of faith. It is to be lived by faith, not sight. It is to be based on the spiritual, not the physical. With God, nothing is impossible. But it is so easy to let the physical realm rob us of the spiritual reality of the promises and power of God in our lives.

Father, I want to trust You more and lean less and less on the things of this world. I want to be spiritually-motivated, not earthly-minded. I want to trust You more and the things of this earth less. I want to develop an internal, rather than a temporal, perspective. Forgive me for my doubt. Help my unbelief. Amen.

The Wheat and the Weeds.

 Genesis 25-26, Matthew 13

Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.  – Matthew 13:30 ESV

As you make your way through the book of Genesis, you can't help but notice that there are two primary casts of characters. There are the descendants of Abraham through whom God has chosen to fulfill His promise; and then there are the rest, which includes some who are also descendants of Abraham. We have already seen the contrast between Abraham and Lot. We know that Canaan, the land which God had promised to give to Abraham, contained various people groups who were not followers of God. There has been the sending away of Ishmael, the son of Abraham born to him by Hagar, the maid servant of Sarah. And now we read of the births of Jacob and Esau. Once again we see a contrast which will result in a conflict. There is a pattern of separation and divine selection going on, and it tends to produce in us an uncomfortable tension. And yet, this is the way in which God has chosen to fulfill His covenant to Abraham and, ultimately, to all mankind.

What does this passage reveal about God?

Chapter 25 opens with a record of Abraham's "other" children born to him by his second wife, Keturah. These children are listed, but are in stark contrast to the story that immediately follows. Moses tells us that "Abraham gave all he had to Isaac" (Genesis 25:5 ESV). In other words, these children were not considered his true heirs. He knew that only one son was to be designated as the heir of all that he had. Isaac had been given to him by God and was to be the one through whom the promises of God would be fulfilled. God had set Isaac apart for a special purpose and would bestow His blessings on him. Abraham even sent his other children away to the east in order to separate them from Isaac.

And then we read of the births of Jacob and Esau. Rebekah, the wife of Isaac, was barren. So "Isaac prayed to the Lord for his wife, because she was barren. And the Lord granted his prayer, and Rebekah his wife conceived" (Genesis 25:21 ESV). God intervened once again. Just as in the case of the birth of Isaac, God miraculously bestows on Rebekah the ability to conceive. But this time, there are two children in her womb, twin boys who will be a different as night and day. And only one will be able to become the heir to the inheritance of Abraham and the promises of God. And while Esau would be the likely candidate, as the firstborn, God had other plans in mind. Through a series of bizarre circumstances, Jacob would end up with the birthright. God had told Rebekah, even while the boys were still unborn, "Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within youshall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall serve the younger" (Genesis 25:23 ESV). Later on, when they were grown men, Esau, in a fit of uncontrolled physical lust, would sell his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of stew. But these events were not just blind luck or the results of fate. They were part of the plan of God and intended to fulfill His promise on His terms. Two times in these two chapters, God reconfirms His covenant with Abraham saying, "I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed" (Genesis 26:4 ESV). God was going to be faithful to do what He had promised to do, but it was going to entail conflict. Isaac and Ishmael would become enemies, and the their descendants remain so to this day. Jacob and Esau would develop an unhealthy hatred for one another. There would be tension between the two of them that would last for years. But God would use that tension to separate and seclude one from the other.

All throughout the story of Genesis, you see a pruning and a separating going on. And it is interesting to remember that God had said He would bless ALL the nations through the "seed" or offspring of Abraham. But before that could happen, there had to be a separating and a setting apart. The promise to come was going to have to happen in a specific way and through a specific people group. Not only that, it was going to have to happen as the result of a specific individual, a descendant of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. The setting apart was going to make the fulfillment of the promise possible. But it was also going to make the distinction between God's chosen people and everybody else more pronounced and confrontational.

What does this passage reveal about man?

By the time Jesus arrived on the planet, the Israelites, the people of God, had become a distinct group with their own city, their own place of worship, and a history of success as a nation. They had been blessed by God and allowed to experience generations of success under the leadership of David and Solomon. But they had rebelled against God and they had failed to live distinctively and differently among the other nations of the world, choosing instead to become like all the nations around them. So God punished them, sending them into exile and destroying the city of Jerusalem where the Temple of God was found. Their disobedience had brought divine discipline and ended in devastating destruction of all that they held dear. But God would restore them to the land and allow them to rebuilt the Temple and the city. He would keep His promise and faithfully fulfill His plan to bring blessing to the nations through them. And it into this situation that Jesus was born. It was among these people He was called to minister. And yet, you see from the very onset of His ministry a continued process of separation and a growing contrast and conflict.

While Jesus was born a Jew, and was a descendant of Abraham, He was different. He lived differently. He called all those who followed Him to live to a different standard. His life was in stark contrast to that of the Pharisees and other religious leaders of His day. He called out the twelve disciples and spend three years indoctrinating them into the ways of His Kingdom. He set them apart and separated them from not only the world around them, but the Jewish people among whom they had lived all their lives. Jesus told His disciples, "To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given" (Matthew 13:11 ESV). He explained to them that He used parables "because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand" (Matthew 13:13 ESV). What He had to share was not for everyone. There were those who would reject His words and refuse His offer of eternal life. "For this people's heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed" (Matthew 13:15 ESV). They were descendants of Abraham, but like Ishmael and Esau, they were not going to inherit the blessings promised to Abraham.

The Jews of Jesus day put a great deal of stock in their heritage as descendants of Abraham, and Jesus would confront them about that very thing. "They answered him, 'Abraham is our father.' Jesus said to them, 'If you were Abraham's children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did'" (John 8:39-40 EVS). He went on to accuse them of having Satan as their father, not Abraham. For them, their righteousness or right standing with God was solely based on their rights as descendants of Abraham. But Jesus made it clear that their sins separated them from God and they were in need of a Savior, just as the Gentiles were. He came to offer forgiveness of sin as well as payment for the penalty that those sins required. Jesus would paint the picture of the world as containing two kinds of people: The wheat and the weeds. Those who have accepted the promise of new life through Jesus Christ and those who have refused it. And these two groups must coexist on the earth until God brings an end to it all. Then at the judgment, there will be a true separating between the two. "Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn" (Matthew 13:30 ESV).

There are two distinctively different groups of people living in the world. There are those who are the true descendants of Abraham and those who are not. There are those who are the spiritual heirs of the blessings of God and those who are not. There are the righteous and the unrighteous, the people of God and the people of this world. And the greater the contrast, the greater the conflict. The more distinctive and different we become, the more intense the struggle will be. Jesus told His disciples that the world would hate them just as it had hated Him. But they were to remain distinctive and different, living as salt and light in a dark and decaying world. Wheat among the weeds.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

As an heir of the promises of God, I have been called to live differently. I am part of a unique group of individuals who have been chosen by God to inherit His Kingdom and to enjoy full rights as His child. But I live among those who are children of this world and who serve a different father. I should not be surprised at the conflict that arises when I choose to live in contrast to the world around me.

Father, help me live as Your child. Don't let me be overwhelmed by the conflict that takes place as I attempt to live as wheat among the weeds. May my life become increasingly more distinctive and different. May I reflect that character of You, my heavenly Father. My I live more and more like Jesus Himself, and may my life produce an ever-increasing contrast with the world around me. Amen.

Something Greater.

Genesis 23-24, Matthew 12

The man bowed his head and worshiped the Lord and said, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken his steadfast love and his faithfulness toward my master. As for me, the Lord has led me in the way to the house of my master's kinsmen.”  – Genesis 24:26-27 ESV

It's fascinating to read the book of "beginnings" alongside the Gospel of Matthew. In them we see both the promise being unfolded and finally revealed. Through the life of Abraham, we see God sovereignly orchestrating the plan by which the "seed" will one day come. Then Matthew records His arrival on the scene hundreds of years later. It would be easy to read the Genesis account as merely history in the making and lose sight of the fact that it is a record of God's promise to man being fulfilled over time and in real life. For Jesus to arrive on the scene, thousands of seemingly isolated, yet intimately connected events had to occur. And these were not left up to luck, fate or happenstance. Sarah's barrenness was not just a random physical infirmity. It was part of God's plan so that He might reveal His power and prove His capacity to accomplish what He had promised, regardless of the odds. The birth of Isaac was divinely planned and essential to the ultimate fulfillment of His promise to bless the nations. It was through Isaac that the "seed" would come. Even the death of Sarah was well within God's timing and used by Him to prompt Abraham to make plans for the future. Her death caused him to start thinking about his own mortality and the need to provide Isaac with a wife so that the line might continue. And yet, all along, God was working behind the scenes in order to unveil His plan and accomplish His will, not only for Abraham, but for mankind.

What does this passage reveal about God?

This entire story is about God. It was God whose chose Abraham to begin with. "The Lord, the God of heaven, who took me from my father's house and from the land of my kindred…" (Genesis 24:7a ESV). It was God who made a covenant with Abraham and promised to give him a land, a seed, and a blessing. Abraham acknowledge that it was God who, "spoke to me and swore to me, ‘To your offspring I will give this land’" (Genesis 24:7b ESV). And Abraham knew that God would provide a wife for his son, Isaac. "…he will send his angel before you, and you shall take a wife for my son from there" (Genesis 24:7b ESV).

And just as He had done in the past, God provided again. Abraham sent his servant all the way back to Haran in order to find a wife for his son from among his own people. Abraham did not want Isaac marrying a woman from among the Canaanites orother people groups who occupied the land. And this story reinforces for us God's sovereign control over all things, including this seemingly dicey attempt to find a woman who would be willing to leave her household, travel hundreds of miles into unknown territory to marry a man she had never met. And yet, God was there. He miraculously orchestrated the events to sovereignly provide a wife for Isaac so that from his lineage might come the Messiah, the Savior of the world. Every one of the stories recorded in the book of Genesis points toward a future event that would have eternal implications. The creation of Adam, while unbelievable, is nowhere near as critical. The rescue of Noah, while spectacular, falls short in importance.  The call of Abraham, while significant, pales in comparison. The birth of Isaac, while miraculous, isn't nearly as amazing.

In the Gospel of Matthew we read of the coming of Jesus, but also His ministry among men. It portrays a conflict between the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of men. It slowly reveals the growing controversy between the people of God, the Israelites, and the Son of God, their long-awaited Messiah. Over time, these people, the descendants of Abraham and Isaac, had placed far more stock in their own heritage than they did God Himself. They had ended up worshiping their status as God's chosen people and placing their hope in Hispresence among them because they falsely believed the Temple guaranteed it. And yet Jesus Himself had to remind them, "I tell you, something greater than the Temple is here" (Matthew 12:6 ESV). Someone greater than Abraham was among them. Someone more significant than Isaac was standing right in front of them. The greater sacrifice had arrived. The ultimate Lamb of God was in their presence. Everything that had happened from Adam all the way to Isaac had been a preamble, point toward the one to come. This was all part of God's divine plan.

What does this passage reveal about man?

It is so easy for us to miss the point. God would provide a wife for Isaac. He would give Isaac a son named Jacob. And from his family tree, God would ultimately raise up a king named David. But these are single acts in a divine play that has a plot of far greater significance and import. The stories contained in the Bible are not about the individuals whose names they contain. It isn't all about Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Solomon, Nehemiah, Daniel, Paul or even John the Baptist. It's all about Jesus. And yet I so often want to make it all about me, or at least, all about man. It is tempting to try and make the story about us. But it is about God and His divine plan to redeem what sin destroyed. It is about God restoring what has been damaged by the fall. It is about the God of the universe sending His own Son as the remedy for the chaos, confusion and justified condemnation hovering over the world He has made. I need to remember that something greater is here. Jesus has come and He offers a better way. The writer of Hebrews reminds me that "Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses" (Hebrews 3:3 ESV). He is not only greater than the high priest, He is the Great High Priest (Hebrews 4:13 ESV). He is the greater sacrifice, having "offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins" (Hebrews 10:12 ESV). There is nothing and no one greater than Jesus. In the book of Revelations, He refers to Himself as "the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end" (Revelation 22:14 ESV). And while man would like to make it all about himself, God will not allow it. While we might want to turn the Bible into a self-help manual designed to provide us with our best life now, God will not tolerate it. Something greater has come. Someone greater is here.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

I want to make my life all about Jesus, not me. I want to see Him as the central figure in the story of my life, not me. I want to understand that my life as a part of God's plan, not the other way around. I exist for God's glory, not He for mine. I want my life to point to Jesus. I want my life to mimic His. I want my life to reflect His saving power, not my own sad self-sufficiency. I need to continually learn to read the Scriptures with a focus on God and His Son, not on me.

Father, keep my eyes on You. Keep my hope focused on You. Help me find my strength in You. Never let me forget that my life is dependent on You. Constantly remind me that, without Your Son, I would have no relationship with You. You are in complete control of my life, this world, my circumstances, and the future of all men. Never let me forget that. Something greater is here and I can rest in that fact. Amen.

Faith In A Faithful God.

 Genesis 21-22, Matthew 11

The Lord visited Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did to Sarah as he had promised. And Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age at the time of which God had spoken to him. – Genesis 21:1-2 ESV

God can be trusted. This is the story of the Bible. He is faithful to His Word and always does what He says He will do. But the greatest test for mankind and especially those who call themselves the people of God is to learn to trust God and take Him at His Word. Too often, we place our hope in the promises made by God and fail to worship the promise-maker. At this point in the Genesis story we see God miraculously fulfilling His promise to Abraham and Sarah to give them a son. God does as He had promised. In spite of old age and barrenness, a son is born to them. With the birth of Isaac, Abraham and Sarah finally have the longing of their heart and the fulfillment of their dreams. God has blessed them. But He also has a dramatic lesson for them to learn.

What does this passage reveal about God?

God was faithful to His Word. He delivered on His promise – "at the time of which God had spoken to him." In other words, at just the right time, God did what He had always intended to do. Part of the lesson of faith Abraham and Sarah were to learn is that God works on His own schedule, and His timing is perfect. Faith requires dependence on the wisdom of God and a willingness to wait on the timing of God. God always does what is right and He does it right on time. The same would be true of another "son" to be born. Paul writes, "But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons" (Galatians 4:4-5 ESV). When the appropriate time had come, God sent His Son. God is never late. His timing is perfect and He works His divine plan to perfection.

But while God had fulfilled His promise to Abraham and Sarah, He had another valuable lesson for them to learn. He knew that their tendency would be to make the long-awaited promise, Isaac, more important than the one who had the promise possible. There is no doubt that, as proud parents, Abraham and Sarah would have had dreams and aspirations for their new son. They knew he was the hope of their future and the key to all of God's promises being fulfilled. They held in their hands the tangible proof of God's faithfulness. But their faithful God was going to test their faith and demand that they let go of that for which they had so long waited.

What does this passage reveal about man?

Once Isaac had arrived on the scene and Sarah had seen God's promise fulfilled, she began to have second thoughts about Ishmael, the son Abraham had had with Hagar, Sarah's maid servant. Suddenly, Sarah's plan didn't look so good. Ishmael was a constant reminder of her unfaithfulness. Not only that, he posed a threat to Isaac, representing a potential competitor for the family inheritance. So she determined to get rid of Hagar and her son. She demanded that Abraham send them away, and God told Abraham to comply with his wife's wishes, assuring him that He would take care of them. He even promises Abraham," I will make a nation of the son of the slave woman also, because he is your offspring" (Genesis 21:13 ESV). It seems that what Sarah determined to do out of a spirit of jealousy and anger, God would use for blessing. And yet, Sarah's plan to use Hagar as a means to fulfill the plan of God in her own way was going to eventually create a problem for the people of God. She could send Ishmael away, but she would not eliminate the threat. His descendants would eventually produce the Arab nations that have long been the antagonists of the people of Israel. These descendants of Abraham would prove to be the persistent enemies of the descendants of Isaac. All because Sarah had been unwilling to wait on God and determined to take matters into her own hands.

But the real lesson in this passage appears to be God's desire for them to learn to worship Him alone. He knew that they had made Isaac the focus of their lives. He had become their everything. He was the answer to their dreams and the hope of their future. They had what they had so long waited for. So God demands that they give it up. He commands Abraham to sacrifice that which He had provided. They must let go of the promise and obey the promise-maker. This was the ultimate test for these two. But God wanted to know whether Isaac meant more to them than He did. Were they putting their trust in Isaac or in God? Abraham's obedience and faith was tested and he passed with flying colors. His willingness to do what God had commanded proved that His trust was in God. He believed that God would fulfill His promise even if Isaac, the fulfillment of that promise, was somehow eliminated. Abraham's faith was in the promise-maker. His trust was in God, not that which God had given. What an invaluable lesson for each of us to learn.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

When Jesus appeared on the scene, He came as the fulfillment of God's promise of a Messiah. He was the long-awaited Savior of Israel. He was the descendant of David and the rightful King of Israel, and the disciples followed Him believing that He was all that He claimed to be. Jesus told His followers, "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30 ESV). Those words spoke to them of rest from oppression, freedom from Roman rule, and a change in their current status as an enslaved people. But their Messiah was to die. Their promise was to be gruesomely eliminated on a cruel Roman cross. The one for whom they had long waited was going to be killed right before their eyes. The Son was going to be sacrificed. But Jesus had told them that He would die and He had warned them that His death was a necessary part of God's plan for their future redemption. His death would secure their eternal life. His sacrifice would satisfy God's just punishment for their sin. Their promise was going to have to die, so that their faith would be in God, the ultimate fulfiller of all promises. Their faith had become ill-placed. They had made a god out of their concept of the Messiah. They were looking for Jesus to be their political Savior. They wanted Him to be their earthly king ruling from a physical throne in Jerusalem. They wanted to be set free from physical oppression. But God had more in store for them. He wanted them to trust Him and His plan for them, not their perverted version of that plan. Their dreams had to die. The promise to which they had clinged had to be wrenched from their hands. Jesus came to offer them a different kind of rest, a release from a different kind of burden. But they would have to trust God. And the same is true for me today. I can still twist the promises of God and try to make them about my comfort, pleasure, and fulfillment in this life. I can make my walk with Him all about my happiness, instead of my holiness. I must continually place my version of the promise on the alter and worship the one who made the promise in the first place. I must trust God and worship Him. His plan and timing are perfect.

Father, thank You for the promise of Your Son. But forgive me for making salvation all about me and my own selfish pleasure. Your plan is far greater than my comfort and convenience, just as Your plan for Abraham and Sarah was far greater than their enjoyment of a son. They had to learn that Your promise was far greater than one small boy. It was far more involved than just their short-term enjoyment of having a son of their own. Give me a future perspective that allows me to see beyond my own blessings and recognize that Your plan is far greater than I could ever conceive. Amen.

Our Multidimensional God.

Genesis 19-20, Matthew 10

So it was that, when God destroyed the cities of the valley, God remembered Abraham and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow when he overthrew the cities in which Lot had lived. – Genesis 19:29 ESV

Too often, we avoid the Old Testament because the image it seems to portray of God is one we find uncomfortable and seemingly at odds with that of the New Testament. God comes across as harsh, judgmental, vengeful and angry in the Old Testament. Yet, from the more familiar stories of the New Testament, we have come to understand Him to be loving, kind, gentle and full or mercy. But the truth is, the God of the Old and New Testaments is one God, and the two testaments simply portray the multidimensionality of His nature. Together they reveal His divine character in all its glory. They also give us a glimpse into God's ever-changing and evolving relationship with mankind over the centuries. God does not change, but the manner in which He reveals Himself to mankind and the way in which He responds to their sin does change. God has already had to destroy the earth and all its inhabitants, except for Noah and his family – a devastating event He pledged to never repeat again.

What does this passage reveal about God?

But that does mean God was done punishing sin. He remained righteous and holy and, therefore, was obligated by His very nature to deal with the sin of mankind. God cannot simply tolerate sin or turn a blind on to the rebelliousness of mankind. Because He is righteous, He must always do the right thing. For Him to ignore sin would be for Him to cease to be God. So we have in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, an illustration of God's righteous and completely justified wrath against the sins of man. When Lot separated from Abraham and chose the rich valley of the Jordan for himself, we are told that "Lot settled among the cities of the valley and moved his tent as far as Sodom" (Genesis 13:12 ESV). By the time we get to chapter 19, we find Lot "sitting in the gate of Sodom" (Genesis 19:1 ESV).

In chapter 18, Abraham was visited by three angels disguised as men. They informed him that God was going to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, "because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave" (Genesis 18:20 ESV). Abraham, evidently knowing that his nephew and his family had moved into Sodom, intercedes on their behalf and begins to bargain for their salvation. As a result, God agrees to spare the cities if He can find tend righteous people living in them. What we have in the story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is a vivid reminder of the inevitable state of man without God. Things had become so bad in these two cities that God was unable to find even ten righteous people. But He does spare Lot, his wife and two daughters.

This story is a reminder of God's well-deserved wrath against sin and His undeserved mercy toward mankind. It exists to teach us that God can and must respond to sin. As a righteous judge, He must judge righteously. But it also reassures us that God can and does show mercy. Peter tells us,  "For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into helland committed them to chainsof gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly;and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard); then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials,and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment" (2 Peter 2:4-9 ESV).

When we read this stories from the Old Testament, they should reinforce for us the holy nature of God. They should remind us of just how wicked men can be apart from God. But they should also create in us a tremendous amount of gratitude for the grace that God has showered on us who have received His Son as our salvation from judgment. Like Lot, we have been spared. We have been rescued. Like Noah, we have been shown mercy and grace from God. The Old Testament portrays a less-than-flattering portrait of mankind as they continue to reject God and embrace the world. We see revealed a steadily growing stubborn streak, accompanied by an unhealthy self-sufficiency that causes mankind to live as if God does not exist. And the trend continues today. Yet, God also continues to show His mercy and grace to men by rescuing the godly from trials and preserving them from the judgment to come.

What does this passage reveal about man?

From the time Noah and his family stepped out of the ark onto dry ground, men spread throughout the earth, and with them, sin. God's merciful sparing of a few did not eliminate the presence of sin. So by the time we get to the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, things had gotten progressively worse. Once again, God is forced to deal with the sins of mankind. The story of the destruction of these two cities is a reminder to us of just how wicked men can become without God. Left to their own devices, mankind will always degenerate into godlessness of all kinds. Lot, while obviously a worshiper of God just as his uncle had been, had chosen to become part of the world around him. He had moved in and gotten comfortable with the world. And while Peter tells us that Lot was uncomfortable with the sins being committed around him, he was not willing to separate himself from the situation. He chose to remain in Sodom, exposing his family to the constant influence of ungodly people. And while he was there, he had had little influence on the citizens of Sodom. Even his sons-in-laws to be refused to heed his warnings and flee from the judgment to come. Lot was far from salt and light in the city of Sodom.

Lot loved the world. He loved what the world had to offer. Even when given the chance to save his life, Lot begged the angels to let him move to yet another city. He enjoyed all the amenities of city life. In the time he had lived in Sodom, he had grown comfortable and complacent with the world. Yes, he was bothered by the sins around him, but not enough to do anything about it. Such is the picture of far too many of us as Christians today.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

When Jesus sent out the twelve disciples on their first missionary journey, He gave them detailed instructions and told them to be highly selective in terms of the villages they visited and homes they stayed in. Jesus sent them to "the lost sheep of the house of Israel." In other words, they were to focus their attention on the descendants of Abraham. They were to announce the coming of the Messiah. They were to tell them that the Kingdom of Heaven had arrived. But to those towns where this message was rejected, Jesus said, "Truly, I say to you, 'it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town" (Matthew 10:15 ESV). The pagan, Gentile citizens of Sodom and Gomorrah had been destroyed for their godlessness. The Jewish inhabitants of the towns and villages the disciples visited would be guilty of rejecting the very one who was the fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham. The Jews knew the covenant promise made to Abraham by God. They had been expecting a Messiah for generations. But they would reject Him when He came. And their judgment would be far greater than that imposed on the two cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.

I have been given a chance to become part of the family of God through the merciful gift of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I have been placed into the household of faith and grafted into the family tree of Abraham. And yet, like righteous Lot, I can find myself growing comfortable and complacent in this world, tolerating the wickedness all around me. And while I will be spared ultimate judgment to come because of my relationship with Jesus Christ, I can still suffer the consequences of love affair with the world. Like Abraham, I have been called to live a life set apart from the world. I am a sojourner here, just passing through on my way to someplace far better. I am not to "pitch my tent toward Sodom" and gradually settle into the midst of the wickedness all around me. I must be in the world, but not of it. I must live as salt and light, an agent of change and influence in the midst of the darkness that exists all around me. I must recognize God's hatred of sin, and appreciate His mercy toward me, a sinner. I am not to allow myself to grow comfortable and complacent with sin, any more than He does. My God is holy, set apart and distinctively different. So should I be.

Father, You are a God of judgment because You have to deal righteously with sin. But You are also a God of love, grace and mercy. In Your love, You came up with a way to deal justly with sin and deal mercifully with sinners. Thank You for sending Your Son as the Savior of the world. Thank You for revealing Your mercy and grace to me. Show me how to live my life in gratitude for Your love by living set apart from the world around me. Help me live in this world but not become part of it. Amen.

God of the Impossible.

Genesis 17-18, Matthew 9

Is anything too hardfor the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son. – Genesis 18:14 ESV

God had made a covenant with Abram. He had promised to give him many offspring and produce from his line a great nation, more numerous than the stars in the sky. The only problem was that Abram and Sarai were both old and, on top of that, she was barren. From Abram and Sarai's perspective this wonderful promise from God sounded great, but appeared impossible. Unless Sarai could get pregnant, the whole thing would be a pipe dream. But over and over again, we read of God restating His covenant promise to Abram. He keeps on confirming His original vow to Abram. "I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you" (Genesis 17:6-7 ESV).

God even commands Abram to seal their agreement with the sign of circumcision. Every male in Abram's family would be required to undergo circumcision, as a continuing sign of the Abrahamic Covenant to all of Abram’s descendants. This rite would physically set them apart and visually remind them that they had been spiritually set apart by God for His purposes.

And yet, Abram would continue to focus on the seeming roadblocks standing in the way of God's promises ever being fulfilled. He and Sarai were old. She was barren. It was all impossible.

What does this passage reveal about God?

But God reminded Abram of something that every child of God must wrestle with as they live their life in this fallen world. "Is anything too hard for the Lord?" (Genesis 18:14 ESV). It's interesting that God put it in the form of a question, because Abram's mind was full of other similar questions at that time. Earlier, when God had reconfirmed His promise to make of Abram a great nation, He had even changed his name to Abraham, which means "father of a multitude." God was going out of His way to let this man know that He was serious about His promise. But "Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, 'Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?'” (Genesis 17:17 ESV). It all seemed too impossible to Abraham. The circumstances of his life were stacked against him and the odds were not in his favor. His wife Sarai had a similar response to the promise of God. "So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, 'After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?'" (Genesis 18:12 ESV). As far as Abraham and Sarah were concerned, the realities of life outweighed the reliability of God's promise.

They even attempted to help God out by coming up with their own solution to the problem. Sarah gave Abraham her maid servant as a surrogate. He impregnated her and she gave birth to a son. But that boy was not to be the heir to the promises of God. Their solution was not acceptable to God. They were to learn a valuable lesson on the power and faithfulness of God. He always does what He says He will do, because He can do what He says He will do – no matter how impossible it may appear to be from our limited human perspective. Is anything too hard for God? No.

What does this passage reveal about man?

When Jesus appeared on the scene hundreds of years later, He would be the fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham. He would be the "seed," the offspring who would bring blessing to all the nations. And He would continue to demonstrate that God was the god of the impossible. His very presence on earth as Immanuel, God with us, was a reminder that God could do the impossible. The birth of Jesus was impossible, with Mary, His mother, having been a virgin at His conception. Jesus' earthly ministry was all about the impossible. Matthew records miracle after miracle performed by Jesus – impossible events that revealed Jesus' divine nature and unlimited power. Chapter nine of Matthew reveals Jesus restoring the ability to walk to a paralytic, raising a young girl from the dead, healing a woman suffering from constant blood loss, giving sight to two blind men, and casting a demon out of a mute man, restoring his capacity to speak. All impossible acts that amazed those who witnessed them.

Men and women, suffering from all kinds of diseases and disabilities were restored by Jesus. But as impossible and improbable as each of these things were, there was something even more amazing Jesus did that reveal the limitless power of God in the lives of men. When Jesus healed the paralyzed man, He said to him, "Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven" (Matthew 9:2 ESV). He forgave sin. And the Pharisees were appalled and accused Jesus of blasphemy, because only God could forgive sin. He was claiming to do what only God can do – the impossible. And as great as the healings were that Jesus performed, the greatest miracle was His ability to bring forgiveness of sins to men. Up until that time, all forgiveness had been temporary at best. Even the sacrifices made in the Temple could only forestall God's judgment, not eliminate it. That's why they had to offer sacrifices on a regular, ongoing basis.

The writer of Hebrews reminds us, "But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins" (Hebrews 10:3-4 ESV). Jesus came to do the impossible: provide a one-time sacrifice for the sins of men. "But when Christhad offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God" (Hebrews 10:12 ESV). God is a god of the impossible and improbable. He is always doing what we don't expect and can't understand. He is not limited by our doubt and hampered by our circumstances. Nothing is impossible for Him.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

But doubting God comes easy to most of us. I find it easy to look at the circumstances surrounding my life and conclude that they pose too great a barrier for God. They are too big. But I have to constantly remind myself that my God is great. He is the God of the impossible. He is the same God who gave Abraham as son and mankind a Savior. He is the God who made of an old couple a great nation. He gave mankind a Messiah. And He saved me and forgave me of my sins. He provided life when I was facing a death sentence. He restored me a right relationship with Himself – something that would have been utterly impossible for me to do. Nothing is too great for God. Nothing.

Father, what an invaluable lesson for me to learn, and I am faced with it each and every day of my life. I am constantly tempted to doubt You. I am constantly prone to see You as limited in Your power. But nothing is too hard for You. Help me to believe that in my own life. Help me to see You at work in my life, demonstrating Your unlimited power through the impossible circumstances of life. Amen.

Faith of Our Fathers.

Genesis 15-16, Matthew 8

When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israelhave I found such faith." – Matthew 8:10 ESV

The writer of Hebrews tells us that faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1). In that chapter, known as the "Hall of Faith," the author looks back at the faith of Old Testament saints like Abraham, Abel, Enoch, Noah, and Joseph and states, "These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth" (Hebrews 11:13 ESV). They died in faith. They took the hope and confidence they had placed in God with them to their graves, knowing that the real reward was awaiting them after this life, not during it. Abraham would never get to see the fulfillment of all of God's promises regarding his offspring or the land. He would not live to see God bless the nations through his descendant, Jesus. But he kept believing. He kept trusting. He placed his faith in the promises of God. "And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised" (Hebrew 11:39 ESV).

What does this passage reveal about God?

Faith must have an object and, for Abraham, the object of his faith was God. He knew that the promises he had received were only as good as the One who had given them. His ability to believe that God would do what He said He would do was based on what he knew about God. There is no question that Abraham had moments of doubt and there were numerous times when he took matters into his own hands. Chapter 16 of Genesis records the less-than-flattering story of Abram eagerly accepting Sarai's plan for him to fulfill the promise of God through human means.

But the story of Genesis is really about the faithfulness of God as juxtaposed with the unfaithfulness of mankind. God refused to accept Abram and Sarai's substitute plan. He was going to fulfill His promises His way. God doesn't need our help. He doesn't ask for our advice. He simply asks that we trust Him. What makes faith difficult is not God's ability to do what He says He will do, but it is our ability to wait patiently until He does. Abram had to wait and God was not in a hurry. Delay usually leads to doubt. Having to wait makes us uncomfortable. Faith is based on confidence and conviction – in God and His ability to deliver on His promises. There is no doubt that when God told Abram that He would give him more descendants than there are stars in the heavens, Abram wrestled with the believability of that promise. After all, he and Sarai were not spring chickens and, on top of that, Sarai was barren. The odds were stacked against them. But a big part of faith is learning to trust God in the midst of difficult circumstances. Impossibilities are the fertile ground in which faith grows. It is when everything is looking down that we tend to see God show up.

What does this passage reveal about man?

Doubt is a natural and normal part of our human nature. But faith is unnatural, because it is spiritual. It requires a trust in the unknown, and it is something we do every day of our lives, whether we believe in God or not. It requires faith to sit in a chair. You may believe that a chair will support your weight if you sit in it, but until you physically place yourself in the chair, your beliefs remain untested and unproven. Part of Abram's faith was the continued waiting. He had to keep on putting the full weight of his life in the hands of God, trusting that He would hold Him up. Refusing to sit in a chair because you doubt its ability to hold you up says nothing about the integrity of the chair. But it speaks volumes about your faith in the chair. Refusing to trust God's promises because you doubt they may come true isn't an indictment on God's strength, but it certainly reveals the weakness of your faith. 

When God had told Abram that He would give him a son, Abram's response was, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” (Genesis 15:2 ESV). When God assured him Eliezer was NOT the heir He had in mind, Abram stubbornly responded, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” (Genesis 15:3 ESV). When Sarai considered the likelihood of her getting pregnant well past possible, she told Abram, “Behold now, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my servant; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” (Genesis 16:2 ESV).

They doubted. They feared. Their convictions and confidence wavered. But God showed up. He proved Himself trustworthy and reliable time and time again. And over time, both Abram and Sarai learned to place their faith in God – regardless of the circumstances. We see this same kind of faith displayed in the gospel of Matthew in the life of the Centurion. When Jesus offers to come and heal his paralyzed servant, the Centurion replies, "But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed" (Matthew 8:8 ESV). Jesus commends the man's faith. Why? Because he was placing his hope and confidence in the unknown and unseen. He had no way of knowing that Jesus could do what he was asking. But he exhibited faith – the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. In the same chapter, the leper revealed the same kind of faith, saying to Jesus, "Lord, if you will, you can make me clean" (Matthew 8:2 ESV). This man had no track record with Jesus. He had not been healed by Jesus before. But He had a confidence and conviction in Jesus. Jesus was the object of his faith. The healing was the benefit.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

Faith is not some nebulous, ethereal thing. It should a highly practical and applicable part of the life of every believer. But the world assaults our faith. It tempts us to doubt God's Word and deny His ability to do what He has promised to do. Abram would have his faith tested daily. So will we. But we must keep going back to the object of our faith. We must ask ourselves the question, "Has he ever given me good reason to doubt Him?" Just because we can't see the outcome does not mean God lacks the ability to bring it about. Our faith must be in His unlimited power, impeccable character, unwavering love, and unquestionable faithfulness.

Father, You can be trusted. But the problem is not You, it's me. I am the one who struggles, not You. My doubt has no basis in reality. It is circumstantial and unsubstantiated. You have never given me reason to doubt You. Help me keep my eyes focused on You and trust in Your proven character rather than in any particular circumstance. Amen.

Separate AND Different.

 Genesis 13-14, Matthew 7

So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. – Matthew 7:12 ESV

It's interesting to note that after Abram made what appears to be a non-authorized side strip to Egypt, he returned to right where he started. Moses, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, makes this point quite clear. He uses two phrases, "at the beginning" (Genesis 13:3) and "at the first" (Genesis 13:4) to emphasize that Abram eventually returned to where he belonged – the place where God had told him to go in the first place. It's also interesting to note that one of the consequences of his trip into Egypt was the accumulation of a lot of material resources, due to Pharaoh's attempt to assuage his guilty conscience regarding Sarai. Moses tells us, "Now Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold" (Genesis 13:2 ESV). What appeared to be a blessing was to prove to be a problem. It wasn't long before he and Lot were at odds over the pasture land and water rights. Competing agendas led to conflict and, eventually, the need for separation. It became necessary for Abram to part ways with Lot. So he offered his nephew first choice when it came to the land, and Lot chose well. In fact, Moses makes it clear that he chose best. "And Lot lifted up his eyes and saw that the Jordan Valley was well watered everywhere like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, in the direction of Zoar. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) So Lot chose for himself all the Jordan Valley, and Lot journeyed east. Thus they separated from each other" (Genesis 7:10-11 ESV).

What does this passage reveal about God?

It never ceases to amaze me how God can use even our apparent acts of rebellion and disobedience to accomplish His will for our lives. There is no indication that God ever commanded Abram to go to Egypt. It appears that the decision was solely Abram's. And while it could have turned out poorly, God intervened and protected Abram and Sarai. I can only guess that Abram walked out feeling pretty proud of himself for having escaped Egypt with not only his wife and his life but an increased net worth. And God was going to use this new-found financial windfall to accomplish His will for Abram's life. God wanted to separate Abram from Lot. It seems quite obvious that these two men had two competing agendas. Lot was driven by his own personal desires and passions. When given the chance, he chose the best. He selfishly selected the prime real estate for himself, giving no thought to the fact that the region he chose contained the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, a point Moses makes perfectly clear. In fact, Moses leaves nothing to the imagination, making a clear distinction between the land in which Abram settled and that in which Lot pitched his tent. "Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled among the cities of the valley and moved his tent as far as Sodom. Now the men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the Lord" (Genesis 13:12-13 ESV).

God was going to not only separate Abram from Lot, he was going to make sure that Abram was separated from Sodom and its inhabitants. The entire conflict over resources was used by God to protect Abram. Verses 14-17 record God's reiteration of His covenant promise to Abram. God was going to give Abram the land of Canaan. Not only that, He was going to bless Abram with innumerable offspring. When Lot chose the well-watered, fruitful Jordan valley, it was well within the will of God. It was what God had intended all along. And it wouldn't be long before both Lot and Abram recognized that God's will was well worth waiting for.

What does this passage reveal about man?

What a contrast between these two men. One was chosen by God. The other was a free-loader, a hanger-on who tagged along for the ride, having never received a call from God. This is not to say that Lot was not right where he belonged. God clearly used this man to accomplish His will. In fact, Peter refers to Lot as a righteous man. "if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard)" (2 Peter 2:6-8 ESV). Evidently, Lot was a God-worshiper, but he also struggled with a love affair with the things of this world. He wanted to have it both ways. He pitched his tent toward Sodom, then wrestled with his conscience over all to which he exposed himself and his family. He found himself separated from Abram and separated from God.

And yet, we see in Abram a man who chose to trust God. He gave Lot first dibs when it comes to the land and placed his future in the hands of God. And interestingly enough, God would use Abram to rescue the very man who selfishly chose to reward himself with the best land. In doing so, Abram was living out the Golden Rule long before Jesus spoke the words as recorded in Matthew 7:12: "So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets." Rather than judge Lot, Abram rescued him. Abram chose to build his house on the solid rock. He placed his trust in God and rested in His provision and providence. Lot unwisely built his house on sand. He cut corners and took chances, and reaped the whirlwind. He proved to be a fool, because he chose to live his life according to his will instead of God's. Two men. Two contrasting life styles. One chose to live for himself, while the other chose to live for God. One chose selfishly and the other, selflessly. One chose temporal blessings, while the other was willing to wait. One, in an effort to experience all that life had to offer now, exposed himself to danger and spiritual destruction. The other was willing to see what God in store in the future. The writer of Hebrews tells us that Abram was willing to live in temporary conditions, making his home in tents, "For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God" (Hebrews 11:10 ESV). Abram and Lot. Two men who lived separate AND different lives.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

The constant temptation is to live like Lot. While he had not been called directly by God, he was part of the family that left Ur of the Chaldeas with Abram. In that sense, he had been set apart by God to live the same life of faith to which God had called Abram. But he chose to live by sight, not faith. He was driven by his senses and controlled by his passions. And his choices would come back to haunt him.

If I had been Abram, I would have let Lot suffer the consequences of his poor choices. But Abram exhibited the very characteristics taught by Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount. Rather than judge, Abram intervened and rescued. He didn't fret over what Lot got, but trusted his "Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him" (Matthew 7:11 ESV). He determined to enter the narrow gate and walk the less-chosen path. He wisely chose to build his house on the solid rock of God's faithfulness. I want to live like Abram. He wasn't perfect, but he was persistent in placing his faith in God. Yes, he sometimes doubted, but he kept coming back to the one thing he knew he could trust: the Word of God. I want to live my life separate AND different. I want to live a life that is holy, different and distinctive.

Father, help me to keep my faith in Your never-ending faithfulness. Don't let me be swayed by the temporary blessings of this world, but wholly lean on the eternal blessings provided by You through Your Son Jesus Christ. This world is not my home. I'm just passing through. My treasures are laid up elsewhere. Amen.

Confusion & A Covenant.

Genesis 11-12, Matthew 6

Now the Lord saidto Abram, “Go from your countryand your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." – Genesis 12:1-3 ESV

Sin remains a problem on the earth. The generations come and go, and the people continue to live in open rebellion against God, illustrated by their determination to refuse God's mandate to fill the earth. Instead, they chose to do things their own way, ignoring the will of God. “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth” (Genesis 11:4 ESV).

What does this passage reveal about God?

But God refused to allow mankind to ignore His will. He exercised His sovereign right to rule over His own creation and intervened, miraculously creating a myriad of languages from the one common language all mankind shared at that time. The result was confusion and chaos. No longer able to communicate and collaborate effectively, the once rebellious people scattered over the face of the earth, thus fulfilling God's original command. But even in the midst of all the sin, confusion and chaos, God had a plan. He was in full control of the circumstances. Just as at creation, when He brought order out of chaos, God would bring order out of the chaos created when He confused the languages of mankind. Moses tells us exactly how God was going to do this through the use of yet another genealogy. This one gives us the family tree of Shem, the son of Noah, all the way to the birth of Abram. Abram, as a result of God's judgment on mankind, would be born in the land of Ur. We are given no vital information about this man, other than his family tree. Moses provides no resume or curriculum vitae for Abram with which we might judge his character or determine his credentials. Yet in chapter 12, we read that God chose this obscure individual from among all men living on the earth at that time, and issued a starting promise to him. "Go from your countryand your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed" (Genesis 12:1-3 ESV).

God called Abram out. He chose him. And not only that, God made a covenant with him. He promised to make out of this one man a great nation, and through him to bring blessing on the entire world. None of this had anything to do with who Abram was or anything he had done. It was not based on merit or any particular merit on Abram's part. This was solely the prerogative of God. Out of all the nations on the earth at the time, and Genesis 10 lists at least 70, God chose one man out of the land of Ur. And through this one man, God would create a great nation. He would provide them with a land of their own. And He would use this particular people group to bless all the nations of the earth. Abram was not given much in the way of details. But He was given a covenant promise from God Himself. He had the word of the God of the universe, and on that alone, he acted.

What does this passage reveal about man?

Abram obeyed and he left Ur. There is no indication from the passage that Abram had ever had any direct contact with God before, or that he even had a relationship with God to begin with. And yet, when God spoke, Abram listened and obeyed. He left Ur and set out for the land of Canaan. The story of Abram is one of faith and faithlessness, obedience and obstinance, determination and doubt. We are not given the story of Abram in order to make much out of him, but to reveal the amazing grace, mercy and love of the God who chose him. It did not take long for Abram to expose his true nature. His was going to be a story of ups and downs, marked by times of great faith and moments of fear-driven faithlessness. When he arrived on the borders of the land of Canaan, he discovered a famine. Not exactly what he was expecting. So he made the decision to move his family to Egypt. There is no indication that he sought God's will in the matter, and upon arrival in Egypt, Abram continued to make decisions without God's help. He convinced his wife to lie in order to protect his own skin. Fearing that the people of Egypt would find his wife attractive and potentially kill him in order to get to her, he told her to lie and say she was his sister. While this seemingly innocent decision seemed to work and even ended up making Abram wealthy, it did not meet the approval of God. He had to intervene yet again, bringing a plague on Pharaoh's house and forcing the Egyptians to send Abram and his family back where they belonged.

God was going to keep his covenant with Abram, in spite of Abram. He was going to bless Abram regardless of whether Abram deserved those blessings or not. Because God had a much greater plan in store than Abram could have ever imagined.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

Over in the book of Matthew, we read the words of Jesus: "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?" (Matthew 6:25 ESV). Here is the descendant of Abram, reminding us that the things of this world, while helpful, are not essential. What drove Abram to Egypt was anxiety over what they were going to eat in a land marked by famine. But Jesus tells us not to concern ourselves with those things. In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gave a glimpse into the Kingdom of God and contrasted it with the kingdom of this world. He told His listeners, "But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you" (Matthew 6:33 ESV). The people of Israel were living in a time of great oppression, suffering under the iron fist of Rome. These descendants of Abram were powerless, king-less and helpless to do anything about their circumstances. Their greatest concern was for their next meal. They were ruled by the tyranny of the urgent, and had lost sight of their position as God's chosen people. They had ceased to be Kingdom People and lived like all the other nations around them. They worried and fretted over material things. Their religious practices were done for the sake of men, not God. They were outwardly religious, but inwardly spiritually bankrupt. When God had called Abram and set him apart from all the other nations, He had done so in order that Abram and his descendants might be a witness to the world of the goodness and graciousness of God. But they had failed to live as a people set apart. Their ancestors had been plagued by sin and ruled by a spirit of rebelliousness. They had ended up in captivity, and even when returned to the land, they continued to struggle with a love affair with this world, refusing to live under God's command and according to His rules. So by the time Jesus showed up on the scene, they were a weary and demoralized people.

And yet, standing in their midst was the very blessing God had promised all those years ago. Jesus was to be the one through whom all the nations of the earth would be blessed. He was born a Jew, a descendant of Abram. And through Him, God would bless all mankind by offering His Son as the sacrifice for man's sin. Paul makes this clear in Galatians 3:16. "Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, 'And to offsprings,' referring to many, but referring to one, 'And to your offspring,' who is Christ." I stand as one who has been blessed by God through Abram. His offspring, Jesus Christ, has redeemed me and restored me to a right relationship with God. Out of the chaos of my life, God has blessed me by placing me in His Kingdom. I no longer have to worry about the things of this world, because it is not my home. I am an eternal creature with an eternal home awaiting me. I have a God who loves me and completely provides for me. There is no reason for me to be anxious or concerned about the things of this world, because I have the covenant promise of my faithful God that assures me that He has my best interest in mind and my future secured.

Father, You are a covenant-keeping God. You did for Abram all that You promised. And You have always kept Your word with me. Forgive me for the many times I still doubt and fear. Continue to teach me to trust You and rest in Your faithfulness. Amen.