Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Genesis 41-45 - From Prison to the Palace

Genesis 41 – Exaltation

Pharaoh had 2 strange dreams.  In the first, 7 thin cows ate 7 fat cows.  In the second, 7 weak stems of grain ate 7 good ones.  He could find no one to interpret them.  Then the finally the cupbearer remembered Joseph and told Pharaoh that he could interpret dreams.  Joseph was brought to Pharaoh and as he stood before him, Joseph refused to take any glory for himself.  He resisted temptation and gave the glory to God.  He said, “I cannot do it, but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.” Gen 41:16.  Pharaoh realized his dreams were from God as God showed Joseph that both dreams had the same meaning.  For 7 years there would be a good harvest in Egypt, but afterwards for another 7 years there would be famine.  God revealed to Joseph what Pharaoh should do.  Joseph advised Pharaoh to store food from the good harvests so it would be available during the famine.  “Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you.’” Gen. 41:39.  Pharaoh was impressed by Joseph so he was made governor over all of Egypt and in charge of the food. 

Principle:  God can be trusted for perfectly timed turning points for our good and His glory.

Do you give God the glory for your talents, abilities and success?
How often do you ask God for His wisdom and discernment?
Are you prepared for upcoming hardships in your life?

Does God speak to people in dreams today?  Yes, but today God speaks to us usually through His Word, the Bible.  In those days they didn’t have the Bible so it was very common for God to speak to people through dreams.

Genesis 42-44 – Examination

There were 7 years of abundance followed by 7 years of famine just as God had told Joseph.  All the countries came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph because the famine was severe in the entire world. 

Jacob learned that there was food in Egypt so he sent 10 of his sons to Egypt to buy food leaving the youngest, Benjamin at home.  When they arrived they bowed down before the Joseph who was governor of Egypt.  This was the fulfillment of Joseph’s dreams as a youth.  Remember 20 years ago Joseph told them his dreams about everyone bowing down to him.  His brothers said to him, “Do you intend to reign over us?  Will you actually rule us?”Gen. 37:8.  

Joseph recognized his brothers, but they didn’t recognize him.  They gave Joseph all kinds of details about themselves and their families.  Joseph was in complete authority and could have done anything with them that he wanted.  He put them through a series of probably hoping they would think about how it felt for Joseph. God does this to us sometimes.  He lets us think about what we have done.  He wants us to realize that we have sinned so we will not do it again.  It gives us time to ask for forgiveness.  After 3 days they realized they were being punished for what they had done to Joseph many years ago.  “Surely we are being punished because of our brother.  We saw how distressed he was when he pleaded with us for his life, but we would not listen; that’s why this distress has come upon us.” Gen. 42:21.  Guilt makes us afraid and uncomfortable.  Unresolved sin comes back to haunt us.  They acknowledged their actions as sin and Joseph saw this and wept.  His brothers didn’t deserve anything.  When we sin we don’t deserve anything, but God gives us grace. 

Joseph was testing again them wanting to know how they felt about Benjamin and if they would treat him as they had Joseph in his youth.  He wanted to know, if they had changed.  He knew his father loved Benjamin and I am sure he was anxious to see his brother. 

Joseph lets his brothers go back for Benjamin.  Joseph not only sent with them food, but put their money back in their sacks so the food didn’t cost them anything.  He bound his brother Simeon in front of them and kept him in prison to insure they would return.  This probably showed them they too are bound by their sin against Joseph.  The only way to get Simeon back was for them to confess their sin to their father.  Sin binds us, too stealing our joy.  We need to confess it to our heavenly Father.  He already knows about it anyway. 

Even 20 years later the sin against Joseph is still fresh on their minds.  His brothers returned home and told everything to their father, Jacob.  They didn’t lie to him as they had done in their youth.  They respected him.  Jacob finds money in their sacks and fears that Simeon will be killed.  As time went by they needed to buy more food.  Jacob didn’t want Benjamin to go back with them as Joseph had instructed.  Reuben pleaded to take Benjamin back or they would not receive any food offering his 2 sons’ lives, if he doesn’t return with both Simeon and Benjamin.  But Jacob said no.

Have you sinned against someone as much as 20 years ago?
Do you ever asked them for forgiveness?

The food finally ran out and Judah persuaded Jacob to let Benjamin go back to Egypt with him and that he would be responsible for his safety.  Jacob feared he would not see Benjamin again, but agreed saying, “If I am bereaved, I am bereaved.” Gen. 43:14.  This showed that Jacob surrendered to God’s will.  He sent his sons back to Egypt.  Jacob sent gifts and doubled the money. 

When Joseph saw Benjamin he was deeply moved and wept in private.  Then Joseph celebrates with a feast.  There is also joy and celebration in heaven when someone falls away from the Lord and then returns.  Maybe you have left him, but He has never left you.  All you have to do is come to the Father and ask His forgiveness.  Joseph still did not tell them who he was.  He wanted to test them further.  In the past they had been jealous and cruel.  Joseph needed to know if their attitudes had changed.

Before his brothers left for home Joseph instructs the steward to put his silver cup in Benjamin’s sack. With this test Joseph gave his brothers the opportunity to make Benjamin a slave.  Maybe they were now jealous of Benjamin.  This would tell Joseph if they had truly changed.  The next morning when they are leaving they are accused of stealing Joseph’s cup.  Of course it was found in Benjamin’s sack.  Judah tells Joseph that they are his slaves and that God had caught them.  He was referring to their sin committed against Joseph as a youth knowing they would have to pay.  Joseph pretends he doesn’t know what they are talking about and lets them go except for Benjamin.

Judah pleads for Benjamin’s life telling Joseph the whole story of what they had done.  Judah showed love and concern for the grief it would cause his father if he lost Benjamin.  He laid his heart before Joseph.  He volunteered to take Benjamin’s place and serve as a slave in Egypt.  What an amazing change!  He showed great humility and real repentance.

Principle:  God uses daily life challenges to test our character and turn our focus to Him. 

What do your daily challenges show you about you?
Is there someone you need to forgive?
You may think you have already forgiven them, but have you truly forgiven?
Will you be able the repay the evil with good?  That is the true forgiveness.

Genesis 45 – Reconciliation

Then Joseph could not control his emotions any longer.  He had to reveal himself to them.  He said, “I am Joseph!  Is my father still living?’  But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence.  Then Joseph said to his brothers, ‘Come close to me.’ When they had done so, he said, ‘I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt!  And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.  For two years now there has been famine in the land and for the next five years there will not be plowing and reaping.  But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.’” Gen. 45:3-7.  They were probably expecting prison or even death, instead they heard of God’s sovereign plan to protect them.  If God had not placed Joseph in charge of the food in Egypt, the people of Israel would die in the famine.  Joseph told them to take Benjamin and to tell their father the whole story.  He threw his arms around them.   They kissed and wept with joy.  He sends them on their way with food and gifts.

Sin separates us from God.  Apart from Jesus Christ we face condemnation.  God says to come close to me and be reconciled.

Joseph gave them a tough love, but God was with Joseph and clothe him in holy love.  God hates sin, but loves the sinner.  Joseph wanted them to recognize their sins and repent, because that’s what God wanted.  Joseph teaches us what real love is.  Real love is not self-centered, but a redemptive love.

Joseph created many problems for his brothers.  He was really not planning on punishing his brothers.  He was testing them and wanted to see his father and wanted his father to return with them. 

When Jacob heard all that had happened and that Joseph was alive, he was revived.  He said he would go and see Joseph before he dies.

Principle:  God invites repentant sinners to come close to Him for eternal abundant life.

Is there someone that you need to show love and forgiveness to?
What can you do to make that happen?
Are you willing to trust God’s when your life seems to be going in the wrong direction?

Joseph wanted his brothers to come close to him and Jesus wants us to come close to Him.  Is Jesus saying that to you now?
Has God convicted you of sin?
Are you too uncomfortable hearing from Him or are you too busy?  God says hurry and not to delay.

Jesus’ humiliation is compared with Joseph’s:
Christ – sold for money, accused falsely, betrayed, suffered, felt shame, made Himself nothing, had the nature of a servant, humble, loving, compassionate, unselfish, obedient to God, had the title of Savior, gave God the credit, God exalted Him to the highest place, every knee will bow to Him. 
Joseph – sold for money, accused falsely, betrayed, suffered, felt shame, rejected by his own, was a servant, humble, loving, compassionate, unselfish, obedient to God, gave God the credit, he was put in a high place, every knee bowed to him.

There are many lessons for us from these chapters.  Here are just a few:
God tests us.
God rescues us.
God works in our lives to restore individuals.
God is always sovereign even if it seems He has forgotten you.
God is never unfaithful.
God’s promises are true in His timing, not ours.
We are not responsible of others’ behavior.
We are responsible for our own behavior and attitudes
God’s grace is sufficient.
When others wrong us, we should not hold a grudge. 
God will do the judging.
It’s never too late to change when we have made wrong decisions.
God will always forgive us, if we repent.
God hates sin, but loves the sinner.
Always give the glory to God.
Forgiveness brings reconciliation.
Joseph is being like Jesus is to us.  Jesus tests us as Joseph tested his brothers.  Based on what we do in this life, Jesus will reward us.
Real love is not self-centered.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Genesis 39 - 40

To be a great leader you need to be trained.  Joseph’s father, Jacob tried to spare Joseph from responsibilities of work and treated him special.  God knew Joseph could never be the kind of leader God wanted until he learned to be a servant.  God used sufferings and disciplines in Joseph’s life to prepare him to become the second ruler over all of Egypt while having a servant’s heart. 

Genesis 39 – Joseph the Faithful Servant

Life produces many why questions.  Joseph was in a position to ask, why were these things happening to him?  His brothers threw him in a well; he was sold into slavery,

Why did his mother have to die, why did his sister have to get raped, why did his brothers kill all those people?  Instead he focused on God, remembering God’s promises and that God would always be with him and would never forsake him.

What kind of difference does God make in your life?
What is your response to loneliness or pain?
Do you complain about your circumstances?
Do you spend time thinking how you have been wronged?
Or do you spend time thinking about God and how He might use you? 

God’s presence will mold our character, if we allow Him.  God’s presence was seen in Joseph’s life.

What does your character say about you?
What does it show others about God?
How is God’s presence creating and opportunity for you to be a blessing?

God’s divine plan positioned Joseph in Potiphar’s house.  He was a slave when he arrived in Egypt.  He worked for one of Pharaoh’s officials, Potiphar.  Potiphar realized that the Lord was with Joseph.  Joseph had many skills, was responsible and capable.  Everything he did was successful so he was given authority over everything in Potiphar’s house.  God’s promise to Abraham was happening.  ”I will bless those who bless you….” Gen. 12:3.  Potiphar trusted Joseph.  Joseph also impressed Potiphar’s wife.  He was well-build and handsome and she wanted to sleep with him, but Joseph knew God does not permit such behavior.  She tempted him day after day, but refused her.  She became very angry.  She lied and said he tried to rape her.  Instead of Potiphar putting Joseph to death, he put him in prison probably because he really didn’t believe his wife.

The enemy tempts.  God does not tempt.  The enemy wants to temp those who say they love God.  That was Joseph.  Temptation is to be refused.  We are to flee or run from it.  We have temptation day after day just like Joseph.

“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.  And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.“ 1 Cor. 10:13.

Again Joseph got what he did not deserve.  He was sent to prison.  God continued to bless Joseph.  Joseph impressed people even in prison.  God was with him and caused the prison guard to like Joseph.  The prison guard put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners. 

Can others trust you?
Do others recognize that God is with you?
Do you work as if you are working for the Lord?
What do you do when you are tempted?

Lessons from Genesis 39:
God is always with His faithful. – Gen. 39:2, 3, 21, 23
Proper service to your master brings grace and promotion. – Gen. 39:4
Faithful servants can be trusted. – Gen. 39:6
Even the faithful face temptation. – Gen. 39:7
God’s faithful can resist temptation – Gen. 39:8
When we sin, we sin against God. – Gen. 39:8-9
Temptation can be persistent. – Gen. 39:10
God always provides a way to escape sin. – Gen. 39:12
When evil people don’t get what they want, they often lie. – Gen. 39:16-20
The righteous can overcome bad circumstances by righteous living. – Gen 39:21-22

Through the discipline of service Joseph was able to prove himself faithful in the small things so that God could promote him to greater things.

Genesis 40 – The Ingratitude of the Chief Butler

The king’s chief cupbearer and the chief baker offended the king so he put them into prison.  (A cupbearer is the wine taster for the king.)  Joseph saw that they were sad.  It was not being in prison that made them sad, but their dreams.  God can always find a way to trouble the sinner’s spirit.  Joseph was not consumed with anger and bitterness because he was in prison.  He was compassionate and saw that they were clearly disturbed by their dreams and he desired to interpret them.  This shows the heart of Joseph. 

They asked if there was anyone who could interpret their dreams.  Joseph reminded them that the interpretations of dreams belong to God and they should tell their dreams to Joseph.  His eagerness to hear and interpret the dreams reveals Joseph’s confidence of God’s love and care for him.  The cupbearer’s eagerness shows that he sensed God’s closeness to Joseph.

Joseph interprets the cupbearer’s dream and asks him a favor.  “This is what it means; the three branches are three days.  Within three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your position, and you will put Pharaoh’s cup in his hand just as you used to do when you were his cupbearer.  But when all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison.” Gen. 40:12-14.  The baker tells his dream and Joseph interprets it telling him in three days Pharaoh will cut off his head. 

The dreams came to pass just a Joseph had said.  On the third day the baker’s head was cut off and the cupbearer was restored to his previous position in Pharaoh’s house.  The cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.  Here Joseph was wronged again.  Joseph was left in prison two more years.  This must have be the darkest days of Joseph’s life.  We read nothing in scripture of these two years.  This was part of God’s plan.  The time had not come for Joseph to go back to Pharaoh’s house.  God planned that would happen two years later.  We think that God works slowly and we become impatient, but God knows the best time for things to happen in our lives.  He is in control and it will happen when He says it will.

We blame the chief cupbearer’s ingratitude to Joseph, yet we ourselves act much more ungratefully to the Lord Jesus.  We should not forget the sufferings, promises and love of our Redeemer.

How has God been kind to you when others have not?
Are you available to those around you who are down?
Will you ask why they are so sad?
Are you willing to share the truth even if it is hard to hear?

God used all those years preparing Joseph to be content with God regardless of what is going on around him.    God’s presence in our suffering purifies us.  Will you cooperate with God?
Do you sometimes feel that God has forgotten you?  The Lord will never leave you.  Maybe you have left the Lord.  If you have left the Lord, He is calling you back.  He wants to forgive you, but you must first ask Him.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Genesis 37-38

Genesis 37 - The Story of Joseph

In chapter 37 and 38 God’s name is not mentioned.  There are no miracles, but God’s great power is at work in the events of Joseph’s life.  God used him to fulfill His purpose for Israel and the world.  Jacob made the Promised Land his home.  His son Joseph was Jacob’s favorite because he was born to him in his old age.  (Jacob should have remembered how he felt when his father, Isaac loved his brother Esau more than him and all the problems that occurred because of it.)  Joseph’s brothers were very jealous, which turned into hate for him.  This turned quickly into attempted murder.  It’s human nature to love some more than others.  This is wrong.  We should not hate anyone, but hate evil and sin they do.  We should always love the person.  Jacob loved his son so much that he even made Joseph a richly ornamented robe for him.  How do you think his brothers felt about that?

Joseph brought a bad report to his father about his brothers.  He probably thought he was doing the right thing.  If the brothers were doing a bad job at tending the flocks, his family’s livelihood would be at risk.  It showed his integrity.  However, this was a bad idea, because this made his brothers hate him all the more.  When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.” Prov. 10:9.  “He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity.”Prov. 21:23.

Joseph had a dream that he would be the heir of blessings and boasted this to his brothers.  This made them hate him all the more.  Then he had another dream and boasted about it, too.  In this dream the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to him.  The eleven stars are his brothers.  Now they were even more jealous of him.

One day Jacob (or Israel, which was the name God gave him when he became mature in his faith) told Joseph to find his brothers and the flocks they were tending and bring them back.  Joseph was obedient.  He went to find them, but they were not where they were supposed to be so he traveled further and found them.  As Joseph approached they plotted to kill him, but Rueben and Judah convinced the others not to kill him so they put him in a well so he could not get out.  Joseph probably screamed and cried for them to let him go, but they wouldn’t listen.  Judah suggested they sell Joseph into slavery.  Then, when a caravan of Midianites came by, they sold him for 20 shekels.  They took his robe and soaked it in goat’s blood and took it to their father.  “We found this.  Examine it to see whether it is your son’s robe”.Gen. 37:32.  Jacob (Israel) assumed a wild animal had killed Joseph.  Jacob was deceived just as he had deceived his brother, Esau in the past. 

The caravan of Midianites then sold Joseph in Egypt to Potiphar, an official of the Pharaoh.

Life is not always easy.  We all endure hardships.  God always uses those hardships to bring about His perfect will. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” – Rom. 8:28.  We can look back at our past and see the hard times and know that God’s hand was there.

Joseph reminds us of Jesus.  Both were rejected by his own people, both were betrayed for money, both were found guilty when they were innocent, both brought salvation to their people.  Jesus was greater and willing gave His life.  He saved all humanity by His death on the cross.

Joseph was mistreated by his brothers, but God was always with him.  God used Joseph and guided him to be the second most powerful person in Egypt as we will see in later chapters.

Are you or your family involved in ungodly behavior?
Do you hold envy or bitterness to someone in your family or in your church?
What mistreatment are you enduring?
Do you feel God’s presence?
Do you treat each of your children the same?

Genesis 38 – The Story of Tamra

Judah left his brothers.  Perhaps he had enough of his family.  Maybe it was also because of his guilt and all the pain he caused his father who thought Joseph was dead.  So Judah went one way and Joseph another.

Judah married a Canaanite and she bore a son, Er who married a woman named Tamar.  Er was very wicked and the Lord put him to death. Judah told his other son, Onan to take Tamar and produce offspring for his brother.  Onan was greedy and wanted his brother’s share of the inheritance so he lay with her, but spilled his semen on the ground.  This was also wicked in the Lord’s sight so he was put to death.  Judah ignored the sins of his sons and blamed Tamar for their deaths.  Instead of providing for her, he sent her away to live as a widow in her father’s house.  He told her to wait until his son Shelah grows up, hoping Shelah would escape his duty to marry her. 

After a long while Judah’s wife died and Tamar realized Judah wasn’t going to honor her marriage to Shelah.  One day Judah went to where the men were shearing sheep.  When Tamar heard this, she dressed as a prostitute covering her face and waited for him on the road to deceive him.  She was determined to be part of God’s people.  Of course her methods were not right.  He sleeps with her and she conceives twin boys.  Since her face was covered, Judah did not know it was Tamar.  She kept his seal, cord, and staff in order to later prove he is the father. 

Three months later Judah was told, “Your daughter-in-law, Tamar is guilty of prostitution, and as a result she is now pregnant.” - Gen. 38:24.  Judah said to bring her to him so he could put her to death.  This was his opportunity to get out of giving her as a wife to Shelah.  She sent a message to Judah, “I am pregnant by the man who owns these… see if you recognize whose seal and cord and staff these are.” – Gen. 38:25.  Judah recognized them and said, “She is more righteous than I, since I wouldn’t give her to my son Shelah.”Gen. 38:26.  These words reminded Judah of almost exactly the words he and his brothers used to deceive Jacob about the coat in chapter 37.  Judah repented quickly and accepted sole blame declaring Tamar righteous.  He accepted her sons, Perez and Zerah as part of his family.

Do you accept responsibility when you have done wrong?
Have you repented of your sins?
Do you wish to be part of God’s family?
God’s grace covered both Judah and Tamar’s sin and gave them a place in the Messiah's family.  Tamar is 1 of 4 women recorded in the lineage of Jesus.  “Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar”Matt. 1:3.  God’s grace is greater than all our sins.  His grace shines clearly in this story of a pagan woman named Tamar.  His grace extends to all people who like Tamar and want to be part of God’s family.