Monday, February 7, 2011

Weekly Bible Devotional​: Feb. 6-13

February 6th

Reading: Genesis 35:1-29

God speaks to Jacob and tells him to leave the area where the horrible events of the last chapter took place. Jacob is told by God to go to Bethel, the place where Jacob slept with a rock for a pillow when he left home to get away from Esau. It was there that Jacob first encountered God in a dream and heard the Lord declare the great promises to him. We read about those events back in chapter 28.

In preparation for the journey that God has called him to, which will include the building of an altar when he reaches Bethel, Jacob tells his family and everyone else to rid themselves of the "strange gods" that are among them. Possibly this is in reference to the "plunder" that has recently taken place when Simeon and Levi attacked Shechem. But, it is quite likely that the worship of the false religions of the region had begun to creep into Jacob's household. In either case, Jacob was awakened to his blessed position before God and insisted that his whole household clean-up their lives before they began the journey God had just called them to.

Jacob was wakened up to the slothfulness and negligence in his spiritual life and the spiritual life of his household after the tragic events of the previous chapter. He became more attuned to the corruption that had entered his life and home when God spoke to him to return to the very place where he had first dramatically met God. Jacob had realized the need to assess his life and the lives of those for whom he was responsible. Unfortunately, it took some dramatic events to bring him to this point.

Equally unfortunate is the fact that we also do not think seriously about our walk with God or about the ungodly things we allow in our lives until some tragic event takes place. Starting today, consider your life and what you have allowed into it. Are there things that need to be taken out of your life and buried so as to never be a part again? I do not mean for you to think that you need to literally bury things. But there may be literal physical things (like books, cd's, magazines, etc.) that you know are not pleasing to God that you need to throw away. There are also probably thoughts and feelings about others that need to be dealt with as well. God is ready to help you cleanse your life, even as Jacob and his household had to rid their lives of things that kept them from having a pure walk before God. Pray that God would give you the strength and wisdom to take out of your life anything that is displeasing to Him and that turns your eyes and mind away from only worshipping Him as the One True God.

February 7th

Reading: Genesis 36:1-22

Chapter 36 is one of those chapters that can be somewhat discouraging in our quest to read the Scripture because it seems like a senseless list of names. However, let's take a moment to step back and try to appreciate what we are reading. In dong so, let us remember that this is the inspired Word of God. So, what we are reading, even this long list of the descendants of Esau and the descendants of Seir, were chosen by God to be placed in His Holy Bible. All the reasons for this may not be known to us today, but we can possibly deduce a few.

The majority of what you read today was a listing of the descendants of Esau. Remember, Esau was the twin brother of Jacob. Though Jacob is clearly the chosen one of God through which He will work His unique Divine plan, Esau is still significant. He not only is the twin brother of Jacob and thus a descendant of Abraham, he is also, as the text emphasizes over and over, the father of Edom (see verses 1, 8, 43). Edom and the Edomites will play a significant role in the history of Jacob's descendants (the Israelites). We can keep our eyes on the lookout for when they show up in Biblical history again.

Secondly, we realize, the way things are going in our readings, that Jacob and his descendants will be the main focus. The writer of Genesis (Moses) under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is taking a section of his writing to dedicate it to the listing of Esau's descendants and some of the other significant people that will populate the land outside of Canaan. As an historical writing, such detail as this adds great credibility to the accuracy of this record.

Use this time to thank God for His Word, for providing such detail as the descendants of the Edomites, and for preserving it that you and I can read it even today.

February 8th

Reading: Genesis 36:23-43

The detail of the record of descendants continues as our reading today finishes the 36th chapter of Genesis. Today we began in verse 23 where we continued the record of the descendants of Seir and completed that portion with verses 29 and 30 where the different Dukes, or Princes, of the Horites are named. These would have been regional rulers of that area.

The next verse, verse 31, makes a very interesting statement that we will want to keep in mind when we begin reading some of the historical books of the Old Testament, especially the books called 1st and 2nd Samuel, 1st and 2nd Kings, and 1st and 2nd Chronicles. But, before I tell you what statement is so interesting, maybe I better explain something about the groupings of the books in the Old Testament. You are probably wondering why I said we need to remember something for when we read the historical books when it seems like we are reading a book about history right now! Well, it is true that Genesis is a book of history, but the books of the Bible are commonly grouped in certain categories and Genesis happens to be put into a category that is named something different than the historical books.

Here is the common way that theologians group the books of the Old Testament:

1) Books of Moses, or Books of the Law (also called the Pentateuch): Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.
2) Historical Books: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, I & II Samuel, I & II Kings, I & II Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther
3) Poetical Books: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon
4) Major Prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel
5) Minor Prophets: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habbakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi

The Books of Moses were written by a man named Moses, a man to whom you will be introduced when you begin reading the book of Exodus. Now, Moses, who wrote these first five books of the Bible, lived around 1450 BC. In verse 31 of this chapter, Moses tells us about the "kings that reigned in the land of Edom." And, then he says something very interesting. He writes that this was "before there reigned any king over the children of Israel." That last quote is the very interesting statement I was referring to.

Right now, all you have been introduced to, as far as the children of Israel, are the twelve sons of Jacob. Remember that Jacob has been given a new name by God, the name of Israel. Well, God has promised that Jacob's descendants will become a great nation and that promise is much of what we will be reading about in the rest of Genesis and the other four Books of Moses. That great nation will be called Israel. It will be named after the new name of the father of those twelve sons. The people that make up that nation will be called the children of Israel. When that nation first begins, they won't have a king ruling over them. But, one day they will decide that they want a king just like Edom. And, that day will be a day of great change in the nation of Israel.

Well, I am getting ahead in my story, but I want you to know that the event of Israel becoming a nation and then deciding it wants a king will happen more than 400 years after Moses writes these words. Moses could not have known this would happen in Israel unless God had told Him. God knows all things from the beginning of time to the very end. This is some of the evidence in the Bible that it is the very Word of God. Continue to thank God for His Word and its historical accuracy

February 9th

Reading: Genesis 37:1-36

What an event filled chapter to follow the listing of names in the chapter we read the past two days. Last chapter took a break from the focus that has been kept on the main family in this section of the book - the family of Jacob. One thing the last chapter did for us, is help us realize that other families are populating this region. Sometimes when your read stories in the Bible or listen to a minister or Sunday School teacher tell stories from the Bible, you get the feeling that the history in Scripture somehow happened separate from all the other history we read and study in school. A section like the last chapter helps us realize that other ancient history, like the ancient nations you study in school, is happening right along with what you are reading about here in the Book of Genesis.

Now, your writer has turned our attention back on Jacob's family and some very troubling and, yet, profound events take place. Joseph, the first born of Rachel, is now 17 years old. You might have thought that Joseph might have a special place in Jacob's heart because Rachel was the first, and only girl, Jacob ever wanted for a wife. Remember that Laban had tricked Jacob into marrying Leah, so Jacob had to work another 7 years to obtain Rachel. Then, you might recall, Rachel was unable to have children for a long time. Finally, after probably six years of marriage Rachel conceived and Joseph was born. Yes, Joseph was a special child in Jacob's eyes.

This chapter confirms that Jacob, now called Israel, held Joseph in a special place in his heart. It says in verse 3, "Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children." The others realized this close relationship and were very jealous of the favoritism shown to Joseph. The coat of many colors Jacob gave Joseph certainly did not help the situation any. Nor did Joseph's reports of the evil his brothers did or the dreams Joseph had, which seemed to indicate that he was even favored by God, help cultivate good family relationships. This was all too much for the brothers to take, so they devised a plan to get rid of Joseph.

By the providence of God, Joseph is spared from death, yet he is sold into slavery. At 17 years of age, he is taken from his family by force and sold to another family in a foreign country. It is hard to imagine that God purposed such events as this to happen. But, He did for His own reasons. In time we will see what they are. However, for Joseph, it must have been a tremendously terrifying thing. He had no control over what was happening and he lost all his support from family and friends. His only hope was a reliance upon God and God alone.

Though we make our daily plans, they do not always happen as we might have anticipated. Sometimes we come up against situations that we never would have dreamed could happen in our lives. Remember, there is a God Who reigns over all things. He knows all things, sees all things, and determines all things. How that works out with the evil thoughts and intentions of men is one of the great mysteries of life. Yet, in the life of Joseph we will see that it is so. Pray that God will give you the peace to rely upon Him in times of trouble.

February 10th

Reading: Genesis 38:1-30

How sad Jacob must be over the way his family has turned out. Here he has returned to the land of Caanan, the land that is promised to his descendants, and one troublesome event after another has struck his family. Think of all the terrible things that have occurred since his return. His daughter Dinah has been seduced, two of his sons have gone on a murderous rampage, his favorite son Joseph is missing and presumed dead, Judah has married a Canaanite woman which he and his father Isaac would never have done, his grandsons are so wicked that the Lord has killed them, and now Judah has had illegitimate children by his own daughter-in-law. Jacob must be beside himself.

We had seen evidence of Jacob's lack of leadership in his home early on. Remember back in chapter 35 when God told Jacob to leave the area he was in and return to Bethel? Jacob had the people put away the idols they had brought into their homes. The pagan culture had crept in on Jacob's family then, and it has done it again. Jacob has not passed on the high standards of righteousness that was in Abraham and to a lesser degree in Isaac.

Abraham was careful to not let Isaac simply pick a wife from the pagan families around him and sent his chief servant to find a worthy wife for Isaac. Isaac was less conscientious of his situation and allowed Esau to take Canaanite wives. This, along with Rebekah's complaint, "woke up" Isaac to that same danger for Jacob, and he sent Jacob away to Rebekah's family to find a wife. But, here, Judah falls into the same trap that Esau fell into. The attractions and influences of the corrupt culture around them is having a great impact on Jacob's family.

It's very easy to get taken in by our surroundings and start behaving like those in the world that do not love or know the One True God. We need to guard against such compromises in our lives. Ask God to keep you alert to the creeping in of ungodly things into your life.

February 11th

Reading: Genesis 39:1-23

Have you ever felt that life was treating you unfair? That, the things that were happening to you were things you didn't deserve? I mean, times when people treated you wrong, people lied about you, just all around bad things kept happening? Have you had times when it looked like the bad situation was getting turned around and things were really starting to go good, then WHAM, you get knocked down by some unexpected event? All of a sudden you are in worse shape than you started in?

Well, if you have had any situations like those I mentioned above, then you have experienced a little of what Joseph was going through. Yet, I really doubt that too many of us have experienced anything close to Joseph's life. Just think, he was a happy, loved 17 year old son who was all of a sudden sold as a slave and bought into an Egyptian household. But, even in this situation, things began to turn around for Joseph. He even, through his demonstration of good, Godly character, was promoted to the second most powerful position in the house of Potiphar. Even in a bad situation things were turning upward for Joseph.

But, then, Potiphar's wife lies about Joseph and his character. And, before he could blink twice, Joseph goes from being the most important person in the second most powerful household in Egypt to the prison for the king's prisoners. Joseph must have been completely confused as to why all this was happening to him. If anyone had the right to say, "life is treating me unfair!" it was Joseph. And, I am sure Joseph was greatly discouraged at times.

But, we don't read of Joseph's discouragement. What we read of is this. "But the Lord was with Joseph" (see vss. 2 & 21). God showed mercy to Joseph and Joseph demonstrated faithful, Godly character to all who were around him. We can learn from Joseph and how he responded to his unfair and difficult situations. When you face trials where you think God must have taken a vacation from your life and forgotten you, then think of Joseph. Remind yourself that God was with Joseph and He is with you. As you pray for His presence, comfort, and protection, also be diligent to behave in such a way that is pleasing to God and causes others to take notice of your godly character.

February 12th

Reading: Genesis 40:1-23

In this chapter we see God's continual care over Joseph's life, even in the midst of events that would seem as if God was not there. But, remember, in the previous chapter we were told that God was with Joseph when he went into prison. Read verse 21 of Chapter 39 again. It says, "But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison."

Joseph could have sat around pitying himself and pouting about his circumstances. But he didn't do that. We get the impression that he began doing good and demonstrating God's love and Godly wisdom in all he did in prison. Soon he was put in charge of taking care of all the prisoners, even while he was still a prisoner. God honored Joseph by being with him and causing the keeper of the prison to look on Joseph with favor. Joseph honored God by walking righteously in whatever situation He found himself.

Having been raised to the position of overseer of the prisoners, Joseph was readily available when these two servants of Pharaoh were cast into the prison and had their dreams. God used this to testify of Himself as the Sovereign over all things and Joseph used it to testify of God. We need to see all our situations, whether at home, school, or at play with our friends as times when we bring testimony of God to those around us. How is your testimony? Do people see God's love and wisdom in your life? Or, do they see selfishness or self-pity because things did not go the way you wanted? Ask God for the grace to demonstrate His love and wisdom to those around you.

February 13th

Reading: Genesis 41:1-27

Chapter 41 picks up two years after Joseph had interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh's chief butler and the chief baker. From the previous chapter, Joseph had placed hope in the chief butler remembering him and putting in a few good words to Pharaoh. But, as the last verse of chapter 40 so plainly states, the butler forgot about Joseph. For two more years, Joseph is left in prison.

God, however, has his plans and designs. He wants to bring Joseph before Pharaoh and God is not thrown off track by the forgetfulness and faults of men. In fact, God has orchestrated all these things, so that the butler will be there and will hear of the dreams that Pharaoh has and that no one is able to interpret. Upon hearing that Pharaoh's dreams were not being interpreted, the butler remembers Joseph and how he had interpreted the dreams in prison. Through this avenue Joseph is brought before Pharaoh.

Our reading today stops with Joseph just beginning the interpretation. Tomorrow, we will read the completion of what Joseph said and what occurred because of it. Today, let's reflect on the wait Joseph had and on the overruling sovereignty of God. We don't know what discouragement Joseph may have felt when time past by and no word came from Pharaoh or the butler. Yet, after two years, when in God's time Joseph was called before Pharaoh, he was ready to be used of God.

You might believe that you need God to work something out in your life. It is easy to get impatient as you wait for God's answer. Think of Joseph and the hope he was holding onto for God to help in his situation. Consider that God, in His sovereign timing of all things, knew when He wanted Joseph to come before Pharaoh. You and I do not know God's perfect timing of all things, but we, like Joseph can rest in that fact that God's timing is always perfect.

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