February 17

February 17.

Moses & his Childhood — The faith of Moses’ parents & Moses flees Egypt.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Exodus 2

Reading 2: Acts 7:17-29

Reading 3: Hebrews 11:23-26

The exiled Israelites have become a nation enslaved by fear and earthly power, but God is preparing a plan for His covenant to be fulfilled. That plan starts small (we have seen, and will continue to see, that God’s biggest plans have the smallest beginnings). A baby in a basket in the River Nile becomes a prince in Egypt, and learns all their ways and customs. What faith Moses’ parents displayed to trust God with their son, and it was that faith which opened the door to God’s plan.

As we read the rest of the chapter, and the explanations in Acts 7 and Hebrews 11, we see how faith continues to be the thread in this story, just as it was for Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. That’s because this story is part of God’s One Story – to form a people of faith who will be His in eternity.

Early in Moses’ story we see a young man who thinks he can demonstrate God’s priorities in his own strength and with his own wisdom (that is also a pattern which is becoming familiar in the stories we have read). But God takes him into a desert place where his priorities and his faith can be formed and refocused. And while that is happening, the suffering of the Hebrews increases, preparing them for what God is about to do.

In our lives we often see such a cycle – immaturity leads to hardship and suffering, which helps us to learn and grow closer to God, whose plan is served by the lessons we learn. And in the end God’s plan wins, whatever the ungodly circumstances around it!

Have a great day!

Mark.

February 16

February 16.

The Midwives’ Dilemma — When should people disobey the government?

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Exodus 1

Reading 2: Acts 4:18-20

Reading 3: Acts 5:26-32

Today we move into the second book of the Old Testament, Exodus, and the focus shifts from the family of Jacob (Israel) to the nation of Israel. Jacob brought 11 sons with him from Canaan to Egypt during the famine. Their families, along with the family of Joseph, grow numerous, causing fear to the Pharaoh and the Egyptians.

Fear mixed with earthly power always causes injustice. Notice that none of that evil trinity is found in God – He is just, loving, and all-powerful. The injustice in this case is the order to the Hebrew midwives to kill the baby boys (this being a male-dominated society). In this ancient echo of the Christian pro-life movement, the midwives chose to obey God (the Giver of Life) rather than Pharaoh (the giver of orders). When government mandates death, it is God’s heart that we choose life.

This is reflected in the two additional readings today, when the leaders of the early church choose to obey God when forced by the authorities to choose. When earthly authority insists we go against God’s instructions, it is our duty to disobey government rather than God.

Have a great day!

Mark.

February 15

February 15.

Joseph & his Death — The fear of Joseph’s brothers vs. the forgiveness of Joseph.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Genesis 50

Reading 2: Ephesians 4:31-32

Reading 3: Hebrews 11:22

You may have noticed that our supplemental readings have often taken us to the Hall of Faith chapter of Hebrews, where many giants of faith are honored. Today is no exception. As we reach the end of the book of Genesis, with the death of the last patriarch, we see Joseph’s lifelong walk of faith ending well. For a start, all the top people in Egypt travel with Joseph to bury Jacob in Canaan – what a send-off!

On their return, Joseph’s brothers are afraid that it was only Jacob who was keeping Joseph from inflicting revenge on them; but instead Joseph makes a statement that has been repeated by many wronged believers since then: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.” What a testimony to Joseph’s faith! A faith formed through many trials.

And then, years later, Joseph knows his time on this earth is short, and his faith comes through even more strongly when he says “Soon I will die, but God will surely come to help you and lead you out of this land of Egypt. He will bring you back to the land he solemnly promised to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. When God comes to help you and lead you back, you must take my bones with you.”

Consider this for a moment – let’s not simply read it and think “Oh yes, I know that happened.” To brush over the statement in that way would be to miss the strength of Joseph’s faith. The famine that brought them together in Egypt is over, and Joseph is still the chief ruler under Pharaoh. The family (now several generations) are comfortably living in Egypt. It seems that God has brought them to a place where they can be comfortable and thrive. That must be God’s will, right? WRONG! God has already promised, generations earlier, that the land of Canaan will be the one He gives to His chosen people as an inheritance. This promise was written deeply in Joseph’s heart, and he wants to be part of it, even though his life has been lived almost entirely in Egypt. So he asks them to take his bones back when God leads them back to The Land.

The Hebrews Hall of Faith describes it this way: “It was by faith that Joseph, when he was about to die, said confidently that the people of Israel would leave Egypt. He even commanded them to take his bones with them when they left.”

Apply that same faith to your own life for a moment: how has God been faithful to you even through hardships and injustice? Has God blessed you in a place you don’t really belong? What about God’s promise of a Kingdom without end – are you longing more for that than for the place of comfort you presently enjoy? This world is not our home. We may die here, but Jesus will take us back where we belong, if we have faith in Him.

Mark.

February 13

February 13.

Jacob & the Blessings — Jacob passes on God’s blessing before he dies.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Genesis 48

Reading 2: Genesis 49:29-33

Reading 3: Hebrews 11:20-21

In the patriarchal system, great worth is bestowed by blessing from father to son(s) and we have seen the significance of this blessing in earlier stories (especially Jacob and Esau). Now the old deceiver (Jacob), who valued the birthright and the blessing more than his godless brother Esau, is ready to die and blesses his favorite son Joseph, and his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, adopting them as his own.

Interestingly, Jacob deliberately reverses their order, placing Ephraim first, while blessing them both. And the writer to the Hebrews tells us that all this was by faith – in other words trusting God was the source of the actions, and the blessings that followed.

Which bring us to consider our own experiences again. Have you ever been favored more than someone else? Whether you deserved that or not, it was God’s guidance behind the favoring. Now consider the opposite case – someone is favored more highly than you, undeservedly; how would you respond? A lesson for us from this story is that God wants to bless, and even when He does not bless according to our priorities or sense of fairness, He still blesses!

May He bless you today!

Have a great day.

Mark.

February 12

February 12.

Joseph & Caring for Family — God uses Joseph’s suffering (like Jesus’ suffering) for others.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Genesis 46

Reading 2: Genesis 47

Reading 3: Romans 8:28

The story of Joseph is full of encouragement for us, and full of reflections of Jesus too. Today we read how Jacob, the now elderly patriarch, leaves Canaan and travels to Egypt with 70 members of his family. These are God’s chosen people, chosen to foreshadow and ultimately to bring His Son into the world. And just as Jacob had a vision at Beersheba, of a ladder (Jesus) reaching to heaven, so he now has a vision in which God tells him “I will go with you into Egypt, and I will bring you back again” and “I will make you a great nation there” but also “You will die in Egypt.”

There is foreshadowing in these statements of the promise of resurrection, as well as a pre-figuring of the future flight of Jesus and His parents into Egypt for safety, before returning to the land God promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Notice that Jacob still has his original name here, but he has also been named Israel, the name by which the great nation will be known. That great nation is still only 70 strong at this moment, and they are in the midst of great adversity, but God has prepared the way and they will prosper in the hard place, before going through hardship again to bring them out into the place God intends.

And for us too, there is a lesson here. As we have said before, God is God, and we are His, and God brings good from hardships. His plan is greater than the ups and downs of human history (whether personal or geo-political) and so we can prosper in His plan whatever our outward circumstances. As Paul writes to the Romans: “we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”

Have a great day!

Mark.

February 11

February 11.

Joseph & his Revelation — Joseph reveals his identity (like Jesus will) at the second coming.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Genesis 44

Reading 2: Genesis 45

Reading 3: Acts 7:9-13

If you love dramas you will enjoy today’s readings, as the story of Joseph reaches a climax. He reveals himself to his brothers and then sends them back to Canaan to return with his father and all the family. All God’s chosen people are going to be saved through a great trial because one of God’s chosen people learned to obey God despite injustice, work diligently without reward, and submit to great hardship.

We see few such men today because ease has become fashionable, but Joseph is a picture of Jesus who will be revealed when He returns to earth. The hardships will be behind Him and the victory will be complete, just as Joseph’s family is made complete by the events in today’s readings.

There will be parallels for all of us, for life is not without hardships. Whether your testing is over, or just beginning, God will show you His priorities through Joseph’s example, and reassure you with the knowledge that Jesus has already won the victory.

Have a great day!

Mark.

February 10

February 10.

Joseph & Meeting his Brothers — Joseph weeping for his brothers (like Jesus did).

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Genesis 42

Reading 2: Genesis 43

Reading 3: Luke 19:41-42

We saw on Saturday and yesterday how Joseph’s character was tested most severely in preparation for the events to come. The famine Joseph predicted from Pharaoh’s dream was now in full force, affecting not just Egypt, but the surrounding nations. The difference was that Egypt was prepared because God had warned them years earlier. Now Jacob sends his remaining sons (except Benjamin) to buy grain. And then Joseph’s dream of the sun, moon and stars bowing to him begins to be fulfilled! But what a different man he is now from the bratty teenager whose brothers had him sold to get rid of him!

As we have considered the stories of Joseph’s life we have compared him with Jesus, and today’s reading provides more comparisons. Joseph weeps for his family several times in these two chapters, just as Jesus weeps for his people in our selection from Luke 19. Men of God who are moved by the blindness of their kin, and whose emotion contributes to their motivation to be the solution to their struggles.

As you read about Joseph’s feelings (and Jacob’s), reflect on your own heart for your own relationship with God and your attitude to others who may not have followed God as closely as you. Joseph continues to be an inspirational example for us, reflecting Jesus centuries before He came.

Have a great day!

Mark.

February 9

February 9.

Joseph & Interpreting Dreams — Joseph’s testing in prison & promotion by Pharaoh.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Genesis 40

Reading 2: Genesis 41

Reading 3: Psalm 105:13-22

On Saturday we saw how God blessed Joseph through many trials. today we see further testing as Joseph accurately interprets the dreams of the baker and cup-bearer who are in jail with him. In our way of thinking, such a supernatural “success” would lead Joseph out of prison. But that was not the case – Joseph has a further test to pass. The cup-bearer is released as Joseph predicted, but forgets about Joseph. The passage does not tell us this directly, but I wonder if Joseph is still trying to work things out in his own strength? He explains to the cup-bearer about his own unjust imprisonment and asks for the cup-bearer’s help to set him free.

Maybe we see the purpose for that testing in the words of our reading from Psalm 105: “Until the time came to fulfill his dreams, the Lord tested Joseph’s character.” It was not yet Joseph’s time, and his character still needs to be tested, because God knows the assignment that is coming will test Joseph to the limit.

In Chapter 41 we see the completion of the test – two whole years later! It is not until Joseph is ready to say “It is beyond my power to do this, but God can tell you what it means and set you at ease.” (Chapter 41 verse 16). In other words, Joseph has stopped trying to fulfill God’s promise in his own strength, and is willing to rely completely on God rather than himself (or a mixture of the two).

Imagine being unjustly imprisoned for years. We don’t know how long Joseph was in jail, but it was long enough for him to rise to the place of being trusted to run the prison before Pharaoh’s servants were imprisoned, and then they were there for “quite some time” before their dreams. So this handsome young man (Joseph was 17 when he was sold into slavery) was likely in Potiphar’s house for 8 to 10 years, then in prison for 3-5 years. we know that he was 30 years old when he was released and given the task of ruling Egypt as Pharaoh’s regent.

What a turn-around! All those times that Joseph did the right thing, working hard for whomever God placed him under, finally led him to a place of submission to God and great influence. But it took 13 years. How long would you be willing to wait for your time of destiny? Abraham was 99 when God changed his name and gave him the promised son. Moses was 80 when God called him to lead the Israelites out of slavery. There are many Bible characters who waited a long time for their fulfillment. The lesson for us again is to trust God, obey Him, and be patient as we submit to His plan. Then there is no limit to what might happen. God’s plan is God-sized; we see that again and again in these stories, which are each part of HIS Story.

You are part of history today – have a great day!

Mark.

February 8

February 8.

Joseph & Potiphar’s Wife — Joseph avoiding & fleeing from sexual temptation.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Genesis 39

Reading 2: Proverbs 7

Reading 3: 1 Corinthians 6:18-20

Has anything ever happened to you that was not fair? Today’s reading is for you! (and I realize that means all of us).

Joseph is sold into slavery but works diligently and sees God’s blessing on himself and on those he serves. God will bless those around us and those in authority over us, for our sake, if we will commit ourselves to working wholeheartedly for God even in ungodly situations. This attitude has become rare in today’s society and we would do well to embrace it.

Then, as favor rises on Joseph, he is sexually abused by his master’s wife but flees, knowing this is wrong.

Incidentally, sexual sin is the most powerful trap for us, because sex is a gift from God to cement the marriage of a man and woman, and lead to the gift of children in a healthy family to fulfill the original command to fill the earth and have dominion. But sin twists this; thus this area of life is full of satan’s agenda – to cheapen sex, redefine marriage, and cause as much confusion as possible in a bid to thwart God’s plan. Proverbs 7 and 1 Corinthians 6:18-20 have much to teach us in these matters.

Having fled the sexual temptation, Joseph is unjustly accused and imprisoned, adding multiple injustices to his slavery. He has no rights and no ability to defend himself. It all seems so unfair!

Then we are told: “But the lord was with Joseph in the prison and showed him his faithful love.” In the midst of slavery, Joseph does his best work. Then in the midst of fleeing from temptation he is falsely accused. Even while being punished for the opposite of what he did, Joseph still finds God is at work and continues to work diligently, accepting unjust imprisonment, trusting God’s plan and doing his best in the meantime, even in the midst of a corrupt and unjust system.

How does that compare with your “It’s not fair” story? I’m guessing that, like mine, yours is a lot less bad than Joseph’s? Well God has a lesson for all of us today – He is GOD! And that means there is a duty on us to live for Him, working diligently with the skills He has given us, for HIS sake, regardless of the circumstances in which we find ourselves. Joseph is a type (a historical forerunner) of Jesus, who willingly left His family home in heaven to come and live in an ungodly place and be unjustly imprisoned (in a tomb) although he had done nothing wrong. We know how that story turned out – Jesus wins – and so will you if you do your best in the place of your “it’s not fair” experience, knowing that God is with you. As verse 30 tells us: “The Lord was with him and caused everything he did to succeed.”

May God do the same for you. Have a great day!

Mark.

February 6

February 6.

Joseph & his Betrayal — Joseph is envied, betrayed, & sold by his brothers (like Jesus was).

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Genesis 37

Reading 2: Acts 7:8-9

Reading 3: Matthew 27:1-18

We continue with Joseph’s story today – and we see how much Joseph’s life parallels the life of Jesus. Joseph is favored and hated for it, Joseph is betrayed, Joseph ends up far away from his home, and Joseph is sold.

The same is seen in Jesus’ life. Human nature is often expressed in ways that cause suffering to others, but God is at work in these circumstances. In the case of Jesus, redemption for all humanity is the goal. In Joseph’s life, God’s plan is the redemption of the young, growing nation of Israel.

And for us… how do we respond when betrayed? Do we ever compare ourselves to others and get offended at the comparison? Do we betray or reject those we don’t like? In all these ways Jesus understands us and will help us be more like Him.

Have a great day!

Mark.