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.

February 5

February 5.

Jacob & the Wrestling — Jacob wrestling with God & embracing God as his own.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Genesis 32

Reading 2: Genesis 33

Reading 3: Hosea 12:2-6

Today’s story has much to teach us. Jacob has gone through a great conflict with his uncle (and father-in-law) and left the land where God has given him eleven sons and great wealth. His devotion to God seems to increase with each test. Now he is heading toward his family home (which you will remember he fled after deceiving his brother Esau out of his birthright, in fulfillment of Esau’s disregard of God’s values and priorities).

On the way Jacob is afraid (and has every reason to be). He divides his family and flocks into two groups, and later subdivides them further and sends gifts ahead of the group to placate Esau. After Jacob has done all he can do to mitigate his brother’s presumed anger, he is left alone in the camp overnight. Everyone else is in their assigned place to minimize the potential damage of Esau’s expected attack.

There, in the place of isolation that comes from completing all that he can humanly do, Jacob meets with God. There is a struggle as Jacob refuses to lose the wrestling match, and he gains God’s blessing. He also gains a new name, signifying God has more for him in the future and that there will now be a new foundation to his life. Names in Old Testament times carried more than mere identification: they were a person’s whole identity and destiny. Jacob (the deceiver) becomes Israel (wrestler with God).

After a happy reunion between Jacob and Esau, this story ends with Jacob sacrificing to God; acknowledging God’s provision and plan in bringing him through the conflict and the danger to a place of reconciliation and peace. Jacob calls the altar he builds “El Elohe Israel” meaning “God is my God.” In other words, Jacob (Israel) is acknowledging and worshipping the God who has saved him, renamed him, and transformed his life. It is an early reflection of the transformation Paul writes about for the Christian, speaking of God giving us a new name and a transformed life.

Have you come to the end of your own efforts recently? Reached a point where you had done all you could, and the future was, of necessity, in God’s hands? Well today’s readings show us that this is a safe place to be, whatever our emotions or feelings. God is in the business of rescue, transformation, impartation of identity, and reconciliation. The story of Jacob wrestling with God is our promise that God will intervene on our behalf, even if not in the ways we expect, or would prefer!

Have a great day!

Mark.

February 4

February 4.

Jacob & Leah/Rachel — Leah & Rachel struggle with each other & are used by God.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Genesis 29

Reading 2: Genesis 30

Reading 3: Ruth 4:10-11

Jacob deceived Esau, and now Laban deceives Jacob. The principle of sowing and reaping is working again! But even when there are family feuds such as this, God is at work. The competing wives and their respective maids all conspire to produce children, in order to be the most “loved” but in the midst of this competitive behavior, God is at work. The four women give birth to twelve sons, who will become the foundations of the nation of Israel.

The result of this is that they become a byword for blessing, as we see in Ruth 4:10-11.

So reflect today on the truth that God is at work despite whatever wild or dysfunctional motives and behaviors surround you!

Have a great day!

Mark.

February 3

February 3.

Jacob & the Ladder — People connecting to heaven through a ladder (i.e. through Jesus)

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Genesis 28

Reading 2: Psalm 105:4-12

Reading 3: John 1:49-51

Something I love about this reading plan is the way we see the big picture of God’s story as we read. Already we have seen multiple occasions where an event in history has had spiritual significance many centuries later, and even in our own lives. This is because God is beyond time and His work is on a supernatural level with eternal significance.

Today we read about Isaac’s instruction to his son Jacob about finding a wife. Remember they live in the midst of pagan nations with practices repulsive to God’s values. Remember too, that Esau has two local wives who make life miserable for Isaac and Rebekah. So Jacob models obedience and a desire for God’s values, while Esau does the opposite.

And so Jacob sets out on a journey, basically in pursuit of God (and a wife)! And on his journey he has a dream in which God renews His promise to the family, and shows Jacob a vision of a way to reach God. Jacob’s response is worshipful and he effectively consecrates his life to God.

Our reading in Psalms puts this episode in the wider context of God’s plan to bless the world. In other words this is not just about Jacob finding the right wife. And our verses from John 1 show us that the ladder is Jesus – going from earth up to heaven so we can come to God through Him.

Had you ever thought that events in your life (especially when they are the result of obeying God’s leading) may have eternal and far-reaching significance? Next time you are tempted to feel insignificant or directionless, remember Jacob and have faith!

Have a great day!

Mark.

February 2

February 2

Jacob & the Blessing — Jacob deceiving others & being deceived by others (sowing & reaping)

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Genesis 27

Reading 2: Genesis 29:21-25

Reading 3: Galatians 6:7-8

Another familiar story today brings us a very important principle – what you sow, you reap! Remember we have been tracing the flow of God’s blessing from Abraham to Isaac to Jacob (with Esau showing sinful disregard for God’s purpose). Today we overlay the principle of sowing and reaping on that flow of generational blessing. First Jacob completes the deception he started in our readings last week, and takes the birthright from Esau. Then this sowing of deception is reaped while Jacob is exiled in Haran – his uncle Laban deceives him over his bride Rachel, giving him her plainer sister Leah instead.

This principle of sowing and reaping is not a contradiction to God’s purpose to bless us from generation to generation. Although reaping can often steal or divert God’s blessings from us, this results from disobedience to God’s principles. If we follow God’s revealed plans we will sow in obedience and reap the blessings God has planned.

Have a great day!

Mark.

February 1

February 1.

Isaac & the Blessing — Isaac inherits the blessings God gave to Abraham.

Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: Genesis 26
Reading 2: 1 Chronicles 16:14-22
Reading 3: Galatians 4:28

On Saturday we saw God’s foundational plan to bless us and give us an inheritance. Today we see that plan take another step forward through Isaac. He continues to pursue God despite repeated challenges, and to seek God’s blessing as promised. And the outcome is that God confirmed his blessing to Isaac, as he had to Abraham. Chronicles shows us that this repeated blessing is part of God’s covenant with his people.

As you read today, notice that Isaac is not perfect – he lies to Abimelech about Rebekah. Despite God’s promises, Isaac had trouble trusting them. As we read today, we may see traits in the people described that are reflected in our own lives. Yet let’s remember this, as Paul wrote to the Galatians: “And you, dear brothers and sisters, are children of the promise, just like Isaac.”

What a comfort to us all! Have a great day!

Mark.

January 30

January 30.

Esau & the Birthright — God chooses, the second birth & Esau’s shortsighted trade.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Genesis 25
Reading 2: Romans 9:10-12
Reading 3: Hebrews 12:14-17

Have you noticed in our readings that there is a thread of heritage in the story of humanity? Starting with Adam, and restarting with Noah and his sons, there is a thread of generational inheritance running through all the stories we have read. This is because God is our Father and inheritance is integral to God’s blessing. We do well to remember God’s plan has always been for our blessing, but today we read a story of someone who did not recognize that foundational principle.

With our logical and rational mindset we might see Jacob as the wrongdoer in this story. He is living true to his name (which means deceiver or supplanter). Esau seems to be the victim of unfairness until we remember the principle of blessing. Instead, it is Esau we see as the sinner – he disregards the grace of God and rejects the  inheritance God has planned for him. The writer to the Hebrews describes him as immoral and godless; quite an indictment! And Paul writes to the Romans that “God chooses people according to his own purposes; he calls people, but not according to their good or bad works” and God had a purpose for Jacob – we will see that in the coming days.

Today, remember that God has a purpose for you, and his plan is to give you a full inheritance of his blessing!

Have a great day!

Mark.