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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Judah Fulfills Promise

Genesis 44:1-34 NRSV

Before this chapter, we have the effects of a famine on Joseph’s brothers, etc. in Canaan, that of driving them to Egypt to escape starvation. Joseph fully appreciates the situation; his brothers do not (Gen. 42). With their second trip to Egypt, the brothers still don’t recognize Joseph, yet express some remorse for previous misdeeds (Gen. 43).

The brothers are released to Canaan with filled food sacks and their own money (vv. 1-3). Joseph sends the Egyptian military out to retrieve them all because of the suspected theft of gold and silver from his palace (vv. 4-8). A stolen cup is found in Benjamin’s sack. All are returned to Joseph’s palace for interrogation (vv. 9-13).

Joseph accuses (vv. 14-15) demanding payment by enslavement for the stolen article (vv. 16-17). Judah defends his brethren, expressing their care for one other and their father Jacob back in Canaan, and subtly confesses to the murder of their youngest brother Joseph (vv. 18-31). Judah then offers himself as a substitute for the enslavement of Benjamin for his cup theft (vv. 32-34).

Because of his defence and his selfless sacrifice, the lineage of Judah gains special privileges over all the sons and tribes of Jacob/Israel (cp. Gen. 49:8-12, Deut. 33:7, 2 Sam. 2:1-4, 1 Kings 12:16-20, Jer. 2, 7, 11:1-17).

“My Grace is Sufficient for You

Genesis 41: 14-44

Ecclesiastes 4: 1 “The I looked again at all the acts of oppression which were being done under the sun. And behold I saw the tears of the oppressed and that they had no one to comfort them; and on the side of their oppressors was power, but they had no one to comfort them.”

A brief recap of the life of Joseph to date in the book of Genesis. Joseph, the first born of Rachel, was the favored son of Jacob, to whom he had given a tunic of many colors, and protected from the work his brothers were required to do. Joseph also was a dreamer who had dreams about all his immediate family bowing to him, and taunted them with these dreams, which is a form of oppression. Joseph considered himself superior to his brothers. The brothers had another opinion.

Joseph was hated by his brothers and thrown into a pit, in spite of his pleading and crying, then he was simply sold to a passing caravan and the deed was lied about to his father. Joseph was enslaved to a captain in Egypt, but rose to a position of authority in his household. Joseph was lied about in the captains household and then imprisoned. In prison Joseph rose to a position of authority, and helped two fellow inmates with interpretation of their dreams. Both interpretations came true. A cupbearer was restored to his former position and did not remember Joseph to the Pharoah, as promised, for his kindness.

Two years later the Pharaoh had two dreams, one concerning 7 cows who were fat, and 7 cows who were gaunt and ate the fat ones. And a dream of 7 ears of corn which were fat, and 7 ears that were dry, which ate the fat ones. No one could interpret the dreams until Joseph was remembered by the cupbearer, and brought into the Pharaoh’s presence. Joseph properly interpreted the dreams as coming years of wealth and poverty, and offered a plan of preparedness which included a 20% tax on grain. Pharaoh loved it, and set Joseph in charge of his kingdom, second only to Himself.

Archaeology reveals that Joseph had great storehouses built in several cities during the seven abundant years, and so much grain stored that they lost count of it. The plan worked so well that Egypt was able to feed her people and sell to neighboring countries.

Genesis 41:16 reveals that Joseph stated “It is not in me; but God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.” It seems that since the pit, Joseph came to his senses. In every circumstance that Joseph finds himself, he appears to be content. He reveals wisdom, compassion for others, holiness, patience, and trustworthiness, all the while giving proper praise to Jehovah.

A comparison in the New Testament to Joseph is Paul who wrote to the Philippians in 4:11 “…for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

Whether oppressed or oppressor all need comfort. As life goes on we may find ourselves in different roles, sometimes serving, sometimes being served, as like Joseph’s example, we need to be devoted to Jehovah, and consistent in behavior. Jesus Christ came to earth to bring us salvation from sins so that we would be free to serve others and bring comfort to all.

Karl

Joseph In Jail In Egypt

Genesis 40:1-23 NRSV

Because of some misunderstanding, Pharaoh’s chief butler and baker are tossed in prison and arrive in the same cell with Joseph (vv. 1-4). One night, each man had a troubling dream. They ask Joseph, a known man of God throughout Egypt, for help in understanding their meaning (vv. 5-8).

For the butler, Joseph talks of his release from prison. In three days his “head lifted and restored” to its former place in Pharaoh’s court (vv. 9-13). Joseph tells the butler to remember him, make mention of his plight in jail to Pharaoh, and get him out (vv. 14-15).

The interpretation of the baker’s dream is less optimistic. Joseph tells of his release from prison in three days with his “head lifted,” that is removed from his neck to become a feast for birds (vv. 16-20).

Just as Joseph predicted, the former position of the butler is restored as was the decapitation of the baker to become bird food (vv. 21-22). “Yet the chief butler did not remember Joseph, but forgot him” (v. 23).

The main points are that our LORD can give insights to what the future portends through human dreams. God alone knows the future. It is also true that it takes divinely inspired individuals to properly interpret dreams. They are not open to human-alone reasoning.

Judah’s Mistake

Genesis 38:1-30

Judah has left out on his own, finds a woman whom he marries, and has his own family. Together they have three sons. As they come of age, the oldest gets married. But he is also wicked in the eyes of the Lord, and is put to death at the hands of the Lord. The second son is given his brother’s widow to give children to his brother through her, but he too is wicked by way of dishonesty. The Lord sees to it that he too is put to death. 

Later in the story, Judah sleeps with who he believes to be a prostitute, but as it turns out, it is his daughter in law. Before he realizes who the “prostitute” was, he nearly puts his daughter in law to death because she is guilty of prostitution and pregnant. But she reveals who it actually was that impregnated her, and Judah realizes his mistake. Eventually, she gives birth to twin boys. The first to be born (almost) only gets one hand out before going back in, and the other of the twins is born first. 

I think there is a lot to be said here about living by God’s law. Judah’s two oldest sons were put to death because they were wicked in the eyes of the Lord. God has high expectations for us to live our lives according to His rules. Yes,it is true that Christ’s cleansing blood redeems us and wipes away our sins, but it doesn’t mean we can behave however we want and then just say sorry in a prayer later. Sorry only works if you intend to change your ways. Continue to strive to be a little bit better tomorrow than you were today or the day before that. Of course there will be slip-ups, but you and God both know how hard you are working to try to improve. It’s hard with all of life’s temptations, and our human nature always gets in the way. Reflecting on our mistakes, understanding how and why they happen is important. That is how we grow as people. And eventually, we get better at not making those same mistakes again. Or at least as often. 

For the Love of Jehovah

Genesis 37:20-36

Jacob’s first born son from his favored wife Rachel, Joseph was also favored by Jacob. So here is where the real rivalry between the brothers accelerates, at seventeen years old Joseph was with Dan, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher, some of his older brothers tending sheep. Joseph, being young and spoiled, came home after work bringing a bad report about his brothers to his father, as though the older boys don’t know how to tend sheep and only Joseph does. Jacob then, unaware of the animosity between the boys, had a varied colored special coat made only for Joseph. Another slight for the older sons, who see the favoring for Joseph, and it builds into hatred now. Then Joseph has two dreams where the brothers sheaves of wheat bow down to his, and where eleven stars in the sky, along with the sun and the moon bow down to him. The first dream concerned his brothers, the second included Mom and Dad, which brought a rebuke from Jacob.

All the older sons are now some distance away tending the sheep and Joseph has been left at home. Jacob then sends Joe to check on their welfare, at Shechem, and to report back. The boys had moved on to better pasture, and Joe is found wandering in the fields at Shechem, and a stranger finds him and sends him in the right direction. From a distance the brothers recognize that obnoxious coat coming their way, and refer to Joseph as ‘that dreamer.’ Now the hatred starts to be revealed, it may have been latent before, but now it is in full view. “Let’s kill him,”one brother says, “a wild beast did it, we’ll tell our father,” another chimes in, “then we’ll see who bows to whom.” The oldest brother, Rueben steps in though with a plan to only scare Joseph, “Shed no blood, we’ll throw him into a pit, but do him no harm,” and secretly planned to rescue the lad. Before it could be fully realized, Judah steps in with another idea to profit from this, for if Joseph is now allowed to go home he will surely tell all that has happened. So when some Midianite caravans come by they sell Joseph to them as a slave, then go home to tell their tale of his demise to their father Jacob. Of course Jacob is devastated and the liars try to comfort him, but Jacob refused to be comforted, and post-prophetically describes his soul being lost, also, in the ‘pit,’ Sheol.

Meanwhile God has a plan for Joseph and he is taken to Egypt, and sold as a slave to the Pharaohs’ captain, Potiphar.

As posh American Christians, we don’t understand how bad things can happen to good people. After all, doesn’t God love us more that everyone else, and even me more than you? Scripture reveals the ugly truth that all mankind is universally the same: sinful, jealous, proud, lustful, vengeful, arrogant, selfish. So where are these good people? Genesis 49 reveals the traits of Jacob’s sons; Reuban is a leader, yet without any control of his passions; Simeon and Levi let anger control them, and are violent; Judah has been chosen as the one from which the Scepter of Israel comes, the Lion from the tribe of Judah is to come, yet he, himself drinks too much; Zebulun is a sailor and fisherman, who is a haven for all ships; Issachar is a laborer who is willing to work night and day to get what he wants; Dan is a judge who sees danger and warns his people of a wrong path that they are on; Gad is a victim of evil intent, yet he never quits, he never falls prey to victimhood ; Asher lives a life of luxury ; Naphtali is a poet, consumed with beauty, and an eye for detail; Joseph bears fruit, enemies attack relentlessly, yet he never wavers, the God of Jacob, the Mighty One will never forsake him, he is completely distinguished among the sons of Jacob; Benjamin is savvy in business, as a wolf who stalks his prey, and conquers readily.

To some degree these son’s of Jacob are typical of all mankind. On this earth, because of the sinful nature of man, little evil that comes our way is undeserved. It is by the Grace of God that we have any blessings of good at all. Our salvation is all provided by grace, any love that we know comes from God, our provision comes from God, any protection, any comfort, any strength, any foresight, any beauty. Calamity, and tragedy are all allowed by God to strengthen us, to test us, and also any luxury, or prosperity is allowed by God to strengthen and test us. How we respond is directly indicative of our faith in, and love of Jehovah, through Jesus Christ our Savior.

Karl

A Revival

Genesis 35:1-15 NRSV

Previous to this passage, we have the sorted story of intermarriage and debauchery between the sons and daughters of Israel and Canaan (Gen. 34:1-29). All told, Jacob is fearful of what the future might hold (Gen. 34:30-31).

The revival begins with obedience of God’s call to go to Bethel and construct a place to worship there, an alter (v. 1). Following is a dismissal of those things known to be wrong in God’s eyes with the purifying of self (v. 2). With these is a remembrance of how the LORD has helped them get to where they are (vv. 3-7). Rebekah’s nurse Deborah dies and is buried in Jacob’s family plot (v. 8).

God then reconfirms and adds to His promises, changing Jacob’s name to Israel. He grants these promises previously to Abraham and Isaac – the Abrahamic Covenant now to Jacob/Israel (vv. 9-13). To commemorate these events, Jacob builds a stone pillar and consecrates it with wine and oil (vv. 14-15).

As typical with this life, revivals happen just after a crisis (Gen. 34), witness 9/11 in the US, or in preparation for a coming crisis. In this case, the death of Rachel after the birthing of Benjamin (Gen. 35:16-20).

In the Image of God

Genesis 33:1-16

Genesis 32:28 somewhat epitomizes the life of Jacob, “….you have struggled with God, and man, and you have overcome.” Currently Jacob has had his name changed to Israel, which means ‘to strive with God,’ and is in a struggle with his brother Esau, whom he hasn’t seen in twenty years, yet fears revenge for the misdeed that he, Jacob, committed.

As Jacob looked, he saw Esau coming with four hundred men, so he expected trouble, and divided his wives into groups with their respective children, and went ahead of them and bowed seven times in front of Esau, showing humility and honor to him. Esau surprised Jacob by running to him and embracing him, kissing him, and weeping with him for joy. It seems God had been working on Esau, giving him a heart of peace. In verse 10, Jacob says, “for I see your face as one sees the face of God.” Surely Jacob has had three encounters with the angels of God, Genesis 28:12-15, Genesis 32:1-2, and Genesis 32: 24-29, this last time he declared, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved.” So he knows what he is truly saying, when he declared the peace and joy of seeing his brother. For all the threats Esau had made twenty years ago concerning his twin brother were completely gone. He wanted none of the gifts that Jacob offered him, and even himself, offered his men to be of aid to Jacob. There is nothing but Peace between these brothers now.

As they part company they make plans to meet later at a given location, and Jacob settles in Shechem, buying a piece of land and erecting an altar calling it El-Elohe-Israel, that is God, the God of Israel.

Jesus, when He taught in the sermon on the mountain, in giving the attitudes of the kingdom of God, said ‘the blessed are to be peacemakers,’ Matthew 5:9. These eight attitudes are the characteristics of the Spirit of God, when He is changing us into His image. We are to see our spirits changed into: Humility; Sorrow for sinfulness; Meekness, knowing God is in control; Hungering for righteousness; Showing mercy; Living a life of purity; Being peacemakers; and Blessing those who persecute and revile us. As we see our image being changed into Christ’s image, we ‘rejoice and are glad, for our reward is great in heaven,’ knowing the pattern of the lives of the prophets were not unlike ours, and they are held in high esteem in the sight of YHVH.

Let us strive to live our lives to the Glory of God.

Karl

The Flight of Jacob

Genesis 31:14-55 NRSV

Previous to this passage, God commands Jacob to take leave of Laban and return to Bethel with his wives, his children, and his LORD appointed streaked, speckled, and gray-spotted livestock (Gen. 31:1-13), the majority of Laban’s flocks.

So Jacob packs and leaves in a hurry with Rachel taking Laban’s household idols (vv. 14-21). Three days pass, Laban is now aware of Jacob & co. departure. The LORD warns Laban by way of a dream not to stop or harm Jacob, etc. Laban leaves in pursuit (vv. 22-24), catching them in the mountains of Gilead (v. 25).

Laban questions Jacob about his take, speaking to his missing gods and idols (vv. 26-30). Jacob, in fear of Laban, pronounces a death sentence on whomever in his party has the idols, unaware of Rachel’s heist (vv. 31-32).

Laban then conducts an all-out fruitless search for his idols unaware that Rachel is sitting on them in her camel’s saddle (vv. 33-35). This figurine fuss centers on a Mesopotamian custom. By possessing these idols, a son-in-law was deemed the legal heir of the father-in-law. This being the case, the urgency expressed by Laban and the anger expressed by Jacob (v. 36) for being an accused thief are all understandable.

Jacob then goes through all of Laban’s wrongs contrasting them to his integrity in their 20 year relationship (vv. 37-42). Laban’s reply is one of ownership – daughters and livestock are his; only the offspring are in doubtful (v. 43).

To settle their differences, Laban and Jacob consummate a covenant with one another. To mark the occasion they build a stone pillar or tell. Their agreement is commonly known as Mizpah (vv. 44-50). The agreement entails Jacob to take good care of Leah and Rachel and take no other wives. Laban agrees not to pass the stone pillar and ever pursue Jacob. They will go their separate ways(vv. 51-53). Like many legal arrangements, this is made necessary because Jacob and Laban do not trust one another in the least.

That night, Jacob offered a sacrifice and ate bread with his party (v. 54). The following morning Laban kissed and blessed one and all and headed home (v. 55).

In case you’re curious about Laban’s idols, they never made it home. Jacob never did leverage them to inherit. They eventually were buried in Jacob’s act of household cleansing (Gen. 35:1-4).

Jacob and Livestock Genetics

Genesis 30: 25-43

Jacob has been a faithful servant to Laban for many years at this point, and has completed his family (of 12 sons, plus wives and at least one daughter that was mentioned). I’m guessing family reunions were quite a huge undertaking to plan and carry out with such a large family. But at this point in time, the family is complete, and Jacob is ready to move on with his own family back to his homeland, and is asking for Laban to release him from his service and allow his family to leave with him. 

Laban of course isn’t ready to just let his top shepherd go like that, so he offers to pay Jacob anything he demands to stay. Laban does this out of selfishness, not only because Jacob is good at what he does, but also because Laban knows that God had his hand in Jacob’s success, and therefore also Laban’s own success. 

Jacob simply asks that Laban gives him all of the multicolored livestock, and Laban can keep all of the solid colored livestock. Solid colored livestock is the dominant trait for fur color, and multicolored fur is a recessive trait. So there are many more solid colored livestock than there are speckled. I’m guessing Laban thought he was getting a pretty good deal, and he left on his way, 3 days journey away from there. 

I had to read up on the importance of the peeled branches to see what that was all about. What I found is that in those days, there was a superstition that solid colored livestock would produce speckled offspring if they mated while in front of multicolored objects, such as in this case, a striped fence. This was necessary because Jacob could trick Laban’s solid colored livestock into bearing multicolored offspring that would then become Jacob’s flock. Laban would never suspect anything because the deal was that Laban could tell if Jacob was trying to steal livestock by which color his flock was, which would still be all speckled. 

What we have here is an early example of someone playing the role of geneticist. Neither Jacob or Laban would have understood that with solid colored livestock, they have a 50/50 chance of having multicolored offspring, because fur color in livestock is codominant. In codominant genetics, two solid colored animals can either produce solid colored offspring, or both colors of those animals can show up at the same time. 

Although they didn’t understand the science behind how that worked at the time, God did. And God allowed for all of this to play out, which resulted in Jacob becoming a wealthy man, more than able to care for his large family with his now very large flock. Jacob, in faith, was patient and trusted that God would provide for him at God’s chosen time. And finally, now, after enduring so many things, it was finally going to be Jacob’s time. 

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