Together, we serve
to know Christ
and to make Christ known
for the glory of God

9 March 2020

Proverbs 4:1-9

Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction;
    pay attention and gain understanding.
I give you sound learning,
    so do not forsake my teaching.
For I too was a son to my father,
    still tender, and cherished by my mother.
Then he taught me, and he said to me,
    “Take hold of my words with all your heart;
    keep my commands, and you will live.
Get wisdom, get understanding;
    do not forget my words or turn away from them.
Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you;
    love her, and she will watch over you.
The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom.
    Though it cost all you have, get understanding.
Cherish her, and she will exalt you;
    embrace her, and she will honor you.
She will give you a garland to grace your head
    and present you with a glorious crown.”

Ah, a father passing on to his son the words passed to him by his father on the subject of how to handle a woman! If only fathers would be so diligent to speak about this woman. They would surely pass on a lasting legacy that would bless their sons. For Wisdom is truly to be treasured. She cannot be prized too highly; she cannot be given too much attention. For the more she is embraced, the more blessed is our friendship with others. The more we love her, the more we will love God and our neighbor, including our closest loved ones. Honoring her leads to honor.

Today and every day, pray to get Wisdom. Contemplate her beauty; strive after her. Study the Word that you might know her more deeply. Observe your circumstances, looking for her in your experiences. Above all, fear and love the Lord, which is the beginning of Wisdom.

 

Exodus 5-6

5 Afterwards Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: “Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the wilderness.”’

Pharaoh said, ‘Who is the Lord, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord and I will not let Israel go.’

Then they said, ‘The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Now let us take a three-day journey into the wilderness to offer sacrifices to the Lord our God, or he may strike us with plagues or with the sword.’

But the king of Egypt said, ‘Moses and Aaron, why are you taking the people away from their labour? Get back to your work!’ Then Pharaoh said, ‘Look, the people of the land are now numerous, and you are stopping them from working.’

That same day Pharaoh gave this order to the slave drivers and overseers in charge of the people: ‘You are no longer to supply the people with straw for making bricks; let them go and gather their own straw. But require them to make the same number of bricks as before; don’t reduce the quota. They are lazy; that is why they are crying out, “Let us go and sacrifice to our God.” Make the work harder for the people so that they keep working and pay no attention to lies.’

10 Then the slave drivers and the overseers went out and said to the people, ‘This is what Pharaoh says: “I will not give you any more straw. 11 Go and get your own straw wherever you can find it, but your work will not be reduced at all.”’ 12 So the people scattered all over Egypt to gather stubble to use for straw. 13 The slave drivers kept pressing them, saying, ‘Complete the work required of you for each day, just as when you had straw.’ 14 And Pharaoh’s slave drivers beat the Israelite overseers they had appointed, demanding, ‘Why haven’t you met your quota of bricks yesterday or today, as before?’

15 Then the Israelite overseers went and appealed to Pharaoh: ‘Why have you treated your servants this way? 16 Your servants are given no straw, yet we are told, “Make bricks!” Your servants are being beaten, but the fault is with your own people.’

17 Pharaoh said, ‘Lazy, that’s what you are – lazy! That is why you keep saying, “Let us go and sacrifice to the Lord.” 18 Now get to work. You will not be given any straw, yet you must produce your full quota of bricks.’

19 The Israelite overseers realised they were in trouble when they were told, ‘You are not to reduce the number of bricks required of you for each day.’ 20 When they left Pharaoh, they found Moses and Aaron waiting to meet them, 21 and they said, ‘May the Lord look on you and judge you! You have made us obnoxious to Pharaoh and his officials and have put a sword in their hand to kill us.’

 

God promises deliverance

22 Moses returned to the Lord and said, ‘Why, Lord, why have you brought trouble on this people? Is this why you sent me? 23 Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble on this people, and you have not rescued your people at all.’

6 Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh: because of my mighty hand he will let them go; because of my mighty hand he will drive them out of his country.’

God also said to Moses, ‘I am the LordI appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty, but by my name the Lord I did not make myself known to them. I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, where they resided as foreigners. Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the Israelites, whom the Egyptians are enslaving, and I have remembered my covenant.

‘Therefore, say to the Israelites: “I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the Lord.”’

Moses reported this to the Israelites, but they did not listen to him because of their discouragement and harsh labour.

10 Then the Lord said to Moses, 11 ‘Go, tell Pharaoh king of Egypt to let the Israelites go out of his country.’

12 But Moses said to the Lord, ‘If the Israelites will not listen to me, why would Pharaoh listen to me, since I speak with faltering lips?’

 

Family record of Moses and Aaron

13 Now the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron about the Israelites and Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he commanded them to bring the Israelites out of Egypt.

14 These were the heads of their families:

The sons of Reuben the firstborn son of Israel were Hanok and Pallu, Hezron and Karmi. These were the clans of Reuben.

15 The sons of Simeon were Jemuel, Jamin, Ohad, Jakin, Zohar and Shaul the son of a Canaanite woman. These were the clans of Simeon.

16 These were the names of the sons of Levi according to their records: Gershon, Kohath and Merari. Levi lived 137 years.

17 The sons of Gershon, by clans, were Libni and Shimei.

18 The sons of Kohath were Amram, Izhar, Hebron and Uzziel. Kohath lived 133 years.

19 The sons of Merari were Mahli and Mushi.

These were the clans of Levi according to their records.

20 Amram married his father’s sister Jochebed, who bore him Aaron and Moses. Amram lived 137 years.

21 The sons of Izhar were Korah, Nepheg and Zikri.

22 The sons of Uzziel were Mishael, Elzaphan and Sithri.

23 Aaron married Elisheba, daughter of Amminadab and sister of Nahshon, and she bore him Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar.

24 The sons of Korah were Assir, Elkanah and Abiasaph. These were the Korahite clans.

25 Eleazar son of Aaron married one of the daughters of Putiel, and she bore him Phinehas.

These were the heads of the Levite families, clan by clan.

26 It was this Aaron and Moses to whom the Lord said, ‘Bring the Israelites out of Egypt by their divisions.’ 27 They were the ones who spoke to Pharaoh king of Egypt about bringing the Israelites out of Egypt – this same Moses and Aaron.

 

Aaron to speak for Moses

28 Now when the Lord spoke to Moses in Egypt, 29 he said to him, ‘I am the Lord. Tell Pharaoh king of Egypt everything I tell you.’

30 But Moses said to the Lord, ‘Since I speak with faltering lips, why would Pharaoh listen to me?’

7 March 2020

Esther 7:1-10

7 So the king and Haman went to Queen Esther’s banquet, and as they were drinking wine on the second day, the king again asked, ‘Queen Esther, what is your petition? It will be given you. What is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be granted.’

Then Queen Esther answered, ‘If I have found favour with you, Your Majesty, and if it pleases you, grant me my life – this is my petition. And spare my people – this is my request. For I and my people have been sold to be destroyed, killed and annihilated. If we had merely been sold as male and female slaves, I would have kept quiet, because no such distress would justify disturbing the king.’

King Xerxes asked Queen Esther, ‘Who is he? Where is he – the man who has dared to do such a thing?’

Esther said, ‘An adversary and enemy! This vile Haman!’

Then Haman was terrified before the king and queen. The king got up in a rage, left his wine and went out into the palace garden. But Haman, realising that the king had already decided his fate, stayed behind to beg Queen Esther for his life.

Just as the king returned from the palace garden to the banqueting hall, Haman was falling on the couch where Esther was reclining.

The king exclaimed, ‘Will he even molest the queen while she is with me in the house?’

As soon as the word left the king’s mouth, they covered Haman’s face. Then Harbona, one of the eunuchs attending the king, said, ‘A pole reaching to a height of fifty cubits stands by Haman’s house. He had it set up for Mordecai, who spoke up to help the king.’

The king said, ‘Impale him on it!’ 10 So they impaled Haman on the pole he had set up for Mordecai. Then the king’s fury subsided.

 

Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, for our sake You fasted forty days and forty nights: give us grace to use such self control that, our flesh being subdued to the spirit, we may always obey Your will in righteousness and true holiness, to Your honour and glory; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, for evermore. Amen

6 March 2020

Proverbs 3:35

The wise inherit honor,
    but fools get only shame.

The wise inherit the honour often received for showing good judgment, rendering fair decisions, and coming up with good solutions. It is one thing to be famous, yet another to be liked, and another to be honoured. Fools can be popular and liked (as can foolish activities such as TV programs) even as they are recognised as fools (often because they are foolish.)

But the true honour which the wise inherit, and for which they strive, is the honour received from the Lord. Is there any greater honour than to hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant”? Is there any greater glory than that bestowed by the King of Glory?

Fools see only what their eyes can see, only what is temporary. The wise see what is unseen, what is permanent. Thus they look to an inheritance that is eternal, that cannot be destroyed or stolen, and for which they are guarded, because in the wisdom granted them they have become not mere servants, but the sons of God who inherit eternal life. He will guard them so that they will receive that inheritance.

 

Exodus 4

4 Moses answered, ‘What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, “The Lord did not appear to you”?’

Then the Lord said to him, ‘What is that in your hand?’

‘A staff,’ he replied.

The Lord said, ‘Throw it on the ground.’

Moses threw it on the ground and it became a snake, and he ran from it. Then the Lord said to him, ‘Reach out your hand and take it by the tail.’ So Moses reached out and took hold of the snake and it turned back into a staff in his hand. ‘This,’ said the Lord, ‘is so that they may believe that the Lord, the God of their fathers – the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob – has appeared to you.’

Then the Lord said, ‘Put your hand inside your cloak.’ So Moses put his hand into his cloak, and when he took it out, the skin was leprous – it had become as white as snow.

‘Now put it back into your cloak,’ he said. So Moses put his hand back into his cloak, and when he took it out, it was restored, like the rest of his flesh.

Then the Lord said, ‘If they do not believe you or pay attention to the first sign, they may believe the second. But if they do not believe these two signs or listen to you, take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground. The water you take from the river will become blood on the ground.’

10 Moses said to the Lord, ‘Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.’

11 The Lord said to him, ‘Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord12 Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.’

13 But Moses said, ‘Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.’

14 Then the Lord’s anger burned against Moses and he said, ‘What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he can speak well. He is already on his way to meet you, and he will be glad to see you. 15 You shall speak to him and put words in his mouth; I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do. 16 He will speak to the people for you, and it will be as if he were your mouth and as if you were God to him. 17 But take this staff in your hand so that you can perform the signs with it.’

 

Moses returns to Egypt

18 Then Moses went back to Jethro his father-in-law and said to him, ‘Let me return to my own people in Egypt to see if any of them are still alive.’

Jethro said, ‘Go, and I wish you well.’

19 Now the Lord had said to Moses in Midian, ‘Go back to Egypt, for all those who wanted to kill you are dead.’ 20 So Moses took his wife and sons, put them on a donkey and started back to Egypt. And he took the staff of God in his hand.

21 The Lord said to Moses, ‘When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you the power to do. But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go. 22 Then say to Pharaoh, “This is what the Lord says: Israel is my firstborn son, 23 and I told you, ‘Let my son go, so that he may worship me.’ But you refused to let him go; so I will kill your firstborn son.”’

24 At a lodging place on the way, the Lord met Moses and was about to kill him. 25 But Zipporah took a flint knife, cut off her son’s foreskin and touched Moses’ feet with it. ‘Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me,’ she said. 26 So the Lord let him alone. (At that time she said ‘bridegroom of blood’, referring to circumcision.)

27 The Lord said to Aaron, ‘Go into the wilderness to meet Moses.’ So he met Moses at the mountain of God and kissed him. 28 Then Moses told Aaron everything the Lord had sent him to say, and also about all the signs he had commanded him to perform.

29 Moses and Aaron brought together all the elders of the Israelites, 30 and Aaron told them everything the Lord had said to Moses. He also performed the signs before the people, 31 and they believed. And when they heard that the Lord was concerned about them and had seen their misery, they bowed down and worshipped.

5 March 2020

Proverbs 3:34

He mocks proud mockers
    but shows favor to the humble and oppressed.

The difference between God’s scorn and that of the scorners is that God’s is just and directed towards those who deserve it. The scorners in this proverb are those who scorn what is good. You see this everywhere in the world where the righteous and the moral are mocked. The Ten Commandments are ridiculed. The biblical standards for sexual relations and for marriage are belittled. Students and business people laugh at those who will not cheat. But God is not bemused by their humour and he will hold them accountable.

Those who do follow God’s laws do so out of humility. They understand that there is a law above themselves. And like children who trust their father to know what is best, they humbly obey him. Thus God bestows his favour upon them.

From whom would you rather receive favour, and from whom are you more willing to receive scorn?

 

Exodus 1-3

1 These are the names of the sons of Israel who went to Egypt with Jacob, each with his family: Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah; Issachar, Zebulun and Benjamin; Dan and Naphtali; Gad and Asher. The descendants of Jacob numbered seventy in all; Joseph was already in Egypt.

Now Joseph and all his brothers and all that generation died, but the Israelites were exceedingly fruitful; they multiplied greatly, increased in numbers and became so numerous that the land was filled with them.

Then a new king, to whom Joseph meant nothing, came to power in Egypt. ‘Look,’ he said to his people, ‘the Israelites have become far too numerous for us. 10 Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country.’

11 So they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labour, and they built Pithom and Rameses as store cities for Pharaoh. 12 But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread; so the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites 13 and worked them ruthlessly. 14 They made their lives bitter with harsh labour in brick and mortar and with all kinds of work in the fields; in all their harsh labour, the Egyptians worked them ruthlessly.

15 The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, whose names were Shiphrah and Puah, 16 ‘When you are helping the Hebrew women during childbirth on the delivery stool, if you see that the baby is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live.’ 17 The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live. 18 Then the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and asked them, ‘Why have you done this? Why have you let the boys live?’

19 The midwives answered Pharaoh, ‘Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they are vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive.’

20 So God was kind to the midwives and the people increased and became even more numerous. 21 And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own.

22 Then Pharaoh gave this order to all his people: ‘Every Hebrew boy that is born you must throw into the Nile, but let every girl live.’

 

The birth of Moses

2 Now a man of the tribe of Levi married a Levite woman, and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months. But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him.

Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the river-bank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her female slave to get it. She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. ‘This is one of the Hebrew babies,’ she said.

Then his sister asked Pharaoh’s daughter, ‘Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?’

‘Yes, go,’ she answered. So the girl went and got the baby’s mother. Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, ‘Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you.’ So the woman took the baby and nursed him. 10 When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying, ‘I drew him out of the water.

 

Moses flees to Midian

11 One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labour. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. 12 Looking this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. 13 The next day he went out and saw two Hebrews fighting. He asked the one in the wrong, ‘Why are you hitting your fellow Hebrew?’

14 The man said, ‘Who made you ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?’ Then Moses was afraid and thought, ‘What I did must have become known.’

15 When Pharaoh heard of this, he tried to kill Moses, but Moses fled from Pharaoh and went to live in Midian, where he sat down by a well. 16 Now a priest of Midian had seven daughters, and they came to draw water and fill the troughs to water their father’s flock. 17 Some shepherds came along and drove them away, but Moses got up and came to their rescue and watered their flock.

18 When the girls returned to Reuel their father, he asked them, ‘Why have you returned so early today?’

19 They answered, ‘An Egyptian rescued us from the shepherds. He even drew water for us and watered the flock.’

20 ‘And where is he?’ Reuel asked his daughters. ‘Why did you leave him? Invite him to have something to eat.’

21 Moses agreed to stay with the man, who gave his daughter Zipporah to Moses in marriage. 22 Zipporah gave birth to a son, and Moses named him Gershom, saying, ‘I have become a foreigner in a foreign land.’

23 During that long period, the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. 24 God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. 25 So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them.

 

Moses and the burning bush

3 Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, ‘I will go over and see this strange sight – why the bush does not burn up.’

When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, ‘Moses! Moses!’

And Moses said, ‘Here I am.’

‘Do not come any closer,’ God said. ‘Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.’ Then he said, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.’ At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.

The Lord said, ‘I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey – the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.’

11 But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?’

12 And God said, ‘I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you[f] will worship God on this mountain.’

13 Moses said to God, ‘Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you,” and they ask me, “What is his name?” Then what shall I tell them?’

14 God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: “I am has sent me to you.”’

15 God also said to Moses, ‘Say to the Israelites, “The Lord, the God of your fathers – the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob – has sent me to you.”

‘This is my name for ever,
    the name you shall call me
    from generation to generation.

16 ‘Go, assemble the elders of Israel and say to them, “The Lord, the God of your fathers – the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – appeared to me and said: I have watched over you and have seen what has been done to you in Egypt. 17 And I have promised to bring you up out of your misery in Egypt into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites – a land flowing with milk and honey.”

18 ‘The elders of Israel will listen to you. Then you and the elders are to go to the king of Egypt and say to him, “The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us. Let us take a three-day journey into the wilderness to offer sacrifices to the Lord our God.” 19 But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless a mighty hand compels him. 20 So I will stretch out my hand and strike the Egyptians with all the wonders that I will perform among them. After that, he will let you go.

21 ‘And I will make the Egyptians favourably disposed towards this people, so that when you leave you will not go empty-handed. 22 Every woman is to ask her neighbour and any woman living in her house for articles of silver and gold and for clothing, which you will put on your sons and daughters. And so you will plunder the Egyptians.’

4 March 2020

Proverbs 3:33

The Lord’s curse is on the house of the wicked,
    but he blesses the home of the righteous.

Rewards and trials fall on us throughout our lives. Consider then by what manner you most want to receive them and from whom.

One minister of a large, popular church has received many rewards. He has one of the largest congregations in the country and is one of the most recognised religious figures. His church and ministry empire flourishes; he is blessed with material prosperity and gives the appearance of being a happy man. His trials would be that of receiving criticism from other Christians who disapprove of his teaching. He would also be criticised by nonreligious people as well. And no doubt there are trials associated with running such a large operation. Nevertheless, he believes he is blessed by God.

But what will he say to God when he must give account of his ministry? How will he explain that he rarely taught scripture, and when he did, he twisted it to mean what it does not say? How will he react when he learns that the crowds came to him, not out of blessing by the Lord, but because their sinful desires for worldly success were encouraged by him?

What is the blessing that God gives to the righteous? He may or may not give physical health and prosperity. The proverbs teach that the righteous typically can expect better health, longer life, and greater prosperity; even so, those are the natural results of godly living. The righteous, along with the wicked, do suffer illness, die early deaths, and struggle to pay bills. What then is the blessing they can expect that the wicked cannot have?

There is eternal salvation, eternal bliss living in the presence of God and his favour, eternal worship in the midst of multitudes of his saints, the freedom from all suffering, the freedom from ever committing, even contemplating, a sin.

There is the present blessing of this assured hope; the blessing of God’s revealed Word which fills us with knowledge of our God, of his salvation, and of his instruction for life; the blessing of possessing the Holy Spirit who gives us the ability to please God and to resist sin; the blessing of the gospel of Christ which assures us of forgiveness when we do sin; the blessing of Christian fellowship and of ministering in the name of Christ; the blessing of knowing what is true, what is good; the blessing of seeing the beauty of creation and knowing the Creator.

The list can go on. The point is to know what is true blessing and from whom you want to receive it. Jesus spoke of the Pharisees who displayed their religiosity in public so as to receive acclaim. He said that they have received the reward they will get. Seek not after temporal blessing that ends in judgment. Seek the blessing of God that enters into the dwelling of your heart now and lasts through eternity.

Genesis 49-50

49 Then Jacob called for his sons and said: ‘Gather round so that I can tell you what will happen to you in days to come.

‘Assemble and listen, sons of Jacob;
    listen to your father Israel.

‘Reuben, you are my firstborn,
    my might, the first sign of my strength,
    excelling in honour, excelling in power.
Turbulent as the waters, you will no longer excel,
    for you went up onto your father’s bed,
    onto my couch and defiled it.

‘Simeon and Levi are brothers –
    their swords are weapons of violence.
Let me not enter their council,
    let me not join their assembly,
for they have killed men in their anger
    and hamstrung oxen as they pleased.
Cursed be their anger, so fierce,
    and their fury, so cruel!
I will scatter them in Jacob
    and disperse them in Israel.

‘Judah, your brothers will praise you;
    your hand will be on the neck of your enemies;
    your father’s sons will bow down to you.
You are a lion’s cub, Judah;
    you return from the prey, my son.
Like a lion he crouches and lies down,
    like a lioness – who dares to rouse him?
10 The sceptre will not depart from Judah,
    nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
until he to whom it belongs shall come
    and the obedience of the nations shall be his.
11 He will tether his donkey to a vine,
    his colt to the choicest branch;
he will wash his garments in wine,
    his robes in the blood of grapes.
12 His eyes will be darker than wine,
    his teeth whiter than milk.

13 ‘Zebulun will live by the seashore
    and become a haven for ships;
    his border will extend towards Sidon.

14 ‘Issachar is a scrawny donkey
    lying down among the sheepfolds.
15 When he sees how good is his resting place
    and how pleasant is his land,
he will bend his shoulder to the burden
    and submit to forced labour.

16 ‘Dan will provide justice for his people
    as one of the tribes of Israel.
17 Dan will be a snake by the roadside,
    a viper along the path,
that bites the horse’s heels
    so that its rider tumbles backwards.

18 ‘I look for your deliverance, Lord.

19 ‘Gad[i] will be attacked by a band of raiders,
    but he will attack them at their heels.

20 ‘Asher’s food will be rich;
    he will provide delicacies fit for a king.

21 ‘Naphtali is a doe set free
    that bears beautiful fawns.

22 ‘Joseph is a fruitful vine,
    a fruitful vine near a spring,
    whose branches climb over a wall.
23 With bitterness archers attacked him;
    they shot at him with hostility.
24 But his bow remained steady,
    his strong arms stayed supple,
because of the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob,
    because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel,
25 because of your father’s God, who helps you,
    because of the Almighty, who blesses you
with blessings of the skies above,
    blessings of the deep springs below,
    blessings of the breast and womb.
26 Your father’s blessings are greater
    than the blessings of the ancient mountains,
    than the bounty of the age-old hills.
Let all these rest on the head of Joseph,
    on the brow of the prince among his brothers.

27 ‘Benjamin is a ravenous wolf;
    in the morning he devours the prey,
    in the evening he divides the plunder.’

28 All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said to them when he blessed them, giving each the blessing appropriate to him.

 

The death of Jacob

29 Then he gave them these instructions: ‘I am about to be gathered to my people. Bury me with my fathers in the cave in the field of Ephron the Hittite, 30 the cave in the field of Machpelah, near Mamre in Canaan, which Abraham bought along with the field as a burial place from Ephron the Hittite. 31 There Abraham and his wife Sarah were buried, there Isaac and his wife Rebekah were buried, and there I buried Leah. 32 The field and the cave in it were bought from the Hittites.’

33 When Jacob had finished giving instructions to his sons, he drew his feet up into the bed, breathed his last and was gathered to his people.

 

50 Joseph threw himself on his father and wept over him and kissed him. Then Joseph directed the physicians in his service to embalm his father Israel. So the physicians embalmed him, taking a full forty days, for that was the time required for embalming. And the Egyptians mourned for him seventy days.

When the days of mourning had passed, Joseph said to Pharaoh’s court, ‘If I have found favour in your eyes, speak to Pharaoh for me. Tell him, “My father made me swear an oath and said, ‘I am about to die; bury me in the tomb I dug for myself in the land of Canaan.’ Now let me go up and bury my father; then I will return.”’

Pharaoh said, ‘Go up and bury your father, as he made you swear to do.’

So Joseph went up to bury his father. All Pharaoh’s officials accompanied him – the dignitaries of his court and all the dignitaries of Egypt – besides all the members of Joseph’s household and his brothers and those belonging to his father’s household. Only their children and their flocks and herds were left in Goshen. Chariots and horsemen also went up with him. It was a very large company.

10 When they reached the threshing-floor of Atad, near the Jordan, they lamented loudly and bitterly; and there Joseph observed a seven-day period of mourning for his father. 11 When the Canaanites who lived there saw the mourning at the threshing-floor of Atad, they said, ‘The Egyptians are holding a solemn ceremony of mourning.’ That is why that place near the Jordan is called Abel Mizraim.

12 So Jacob’s sons did as he had commanded them: 13 they carried him to the land of Canaan and buried him in the cave in the field of Machpelah, near Mamre, which Abraham had bought along with the field as a burial place from Ephron the Hittite. 14 After burying his father, Joseph returned to Egypt, together with his brothers and all the others who had gone with him to bury his father.

 

Joseph reassures his brothers

15 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, ‘What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?’ 16 So they sent word to Joseph, saying, ‘Your father left these instructions before he died: 17 “This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.” Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.’ When their message came to him, Joseph wept.

18 His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. ‘We are your slaves,’ they said.

19 But Joseph said to them, ‘Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. 21 So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.’ And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.

 

The death of Joseph

22 Joseph stayed in Egypt, along with all his father’s family. He lived a hundred and ten years 23 and saw the third generation of Ephraim’s children. Also the children of Makir son of Manasseh were placed at birth on Joseph’s knees.

24 Then Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.’ 25 And Joseph made the Israelites swear an oath and said, ‘God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up from this place.’

26 So Joseph died at the age of a hundred and ten. And after they embalmed him, he was placed in a coffin in Egypt.

3 March 2020

Proverbs 3:32

For the Lord detests the perverse
    but takes the upright into his confidence.

Do not choose the ways of a devious person, because in so doing you put yourself at odds with the Lord. The sinner forgets this all important factor. The person who loves to “stir things up,” who finds it amusing to take advantage of others must stand before the Almighty God who will not be mocked, who will act in justice. He sees all of our schemes, and as Psalm 2:4 explains, “He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision.” No one gets away with anything.

Note how our offenses are described. They are an abomination to the Lord. He does not find sin amusing, though he laughs in derision at our arrogance. Violence and devious scheming are an abomination to him. He takes sin personally as an affront to his righteousness and holiness. Pray for the wicked; pray they will come to their senses and repent; for judgment that they cannot escape awaits them.

But the upright, take heart that you are in God’s confidence. You are looked upon with affection; you are considered God’s friend.

And yet you say, “But I too sin and am as guilty as the most notorious sinner.” You would be guilty if not for the grace bestowed upon you through Jesus Christ who bore your sin and gave to you his righteousness. Through Christ, God remains “just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:26). In Christ you are counted as upright.

Incredible? Are you unworthy? Yes! Yes! Give humble praise to your God now who has shown and continues to show his steadfast love through Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

Genesis 48

48 Some time later Joseph was told, ‘Your father is ill.’ So he took his two sons Manasseh and Ephraim along with him. When Jacob was told, ‘Your son Joseph has come to you,’ Israel rallied his strength and sat up on the bed.

Jacob said to Joseph, ‘God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan, and there he blessed me and said to me, “I am going to make you fruitful and increase your numbers. I will make you a community of peoples, and I will give this land as an everlasting possession to your descendants after you.”

‘Now then, your two sons born to you in Egypt before I came to you here will be reckoned as mine; Ephraim and Manasseh will be mine, just as Reuben and Simeon are mine. Any children born to you after them will be yours; in the territory they inherit they will be reckoned under the names of their brothers. As I was returning from Paddan, to my sorrow Rachel died in the land of Canaan while we were still on the way, a little distance from Ephrath. So I buried her there beside the road to Ephrath’ (that is, Bethlehem).

When Israel saw the sons of Joseph, he asked, ‘Who are these?’

‘They are the sons God has given me here,’ Joseph said to his father.

Then Israel said, ‘Bring them to me so that I may bless them.’

10 Now Israel’s eyes were failing because of old age, and he could hardly see. So Joseph brought his sons close to him, and his father kissed them and embraced them.

11 Israel said to Joseph, ‘I never expected to see your face again, and now God has allowed me to see your children too.’

12 Then Joseph removed them from Israel’s knees and bowed down with his face to the ground. 13 And Joseph took both of them, Ephraim on his right towards Israel’s left hand and Manasseh on his left towards Israel’s right hand, and brought them close to him. 14 But Israel reached out his right hand and put it on Ephraim’s head, though he was the younger, and crossing his arms, he put his left hand on Manasseh’s head, even though Manasseh was the firstborn.

15 Then he blessed Joseph and said,

‘May the God before whom my fathers
    Abraham and Isaac walked faithfully,
the God who has been my shepherd
    all my life to this day,
16 the Angel who has delivered me from all harm
    – may he bless these boys.
May they be called by my name
    and the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac,
and may they increase greatly
    on the earth.’

17 When Joseph saw his father placing his right hand on Ephraim’s head he was displeased; so he took hold of his father’s hand to move it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. 18 Joseph said to him, ‘No, my father, this one is the firstborn; put your right hand on his head.’

19 But his father refused and said, ‘I know, my son, I know. He too will become a people, and he too will become great. Nevertheless, his younger brother will be greater than he, and his descendants will become a group of nations.’ 20 He blessed them that day and said,

‘In your name will Israel pronounce this blessing:
    “May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh.”’

So he put Ephraim ahead of Manasseh.

21 Then Israel said to Joseph, ‘I am about to die, but God will be with you and take you back to the land of your fathers. 22 And to you I give one more ridge of land than to your brothers, the ridge I took from the Amorites with my sword and my bow.’

 

2 March 2020

Proverbs 3:31

Do not envy the violent
    or choose any of their ways.

Do not envy a person who violates the law of God. Our society exalts violence. TV shows are as popular according to the amount of violence, promiscuity, and rancour that can be displayed. Reality shows are only as interesting as the producers are able to manipulate conflict among the contestants. Shows awarded for being cutting edge are shows that glamorise the mob, other forms of violence, and promiscuity. Notoriety is the preferred form of fame and the easiest path to take to popularity. Those who are notorious are hailed for their independence and their boldness. Radio and TV talkshow hosts reach success by being rancorous.

Do not envy such persons. Do not exalt them. And definitely do not copy them. Envy the man of peace, the person who strives to serve God, the individual who is marked by humility. Envy the person who possesses wisdom; the one who follows God’s royal command to love his neighbour as himself. Envy the person who is content.

Envy the person who loves Jesus Christ because he knows the peace of Christ.

 

Genesis 46-47

46 So Israel set out with all that was his, and when he reached Beersheba, he offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac.

And God spoke to Israel in a vision at night and said, ‘Jacob! Jacob!’

‘Here I am,’ he replied.

‘I am God, the God of your father,’ he said. ‘Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there. I will go down to Egypt with you, and I will surely bring you back again. And Joseph’s own hand will close your eyes.’

Then Jacob left Beersheba, and Israel’s sons took their father Jacob and their children and their wives in the carts that Pharaoh had sent to transport him. So Jacob and all his offspring went to Egypt, taking with them their livestock and the possessions they had acquired in Canaan. Jacob brought with him to Egypt his sons and grandsons and his daughters and granddaughters – all his offspring.

These are the names of the sons of Israel (Jacob and his descendants) who went to Egypt:

Reuben the firstborn of Jacob.

The sons of Reuben:

Hanok, Pallu, Hezron and Karmi.

10 The sons of Simeon:

Jemuel, Jamin, Ohad, Jakin, Zohar and Shaul the son of a Canaanite woman.

11 The sons of Levi:

Gershon, Kohath and Merari.

12 The sons of Judah:

Er, Onan, Shelah, Perez and Zerah (but Er and Onan had died in the land of Canaan).

The sons of Perez:

Hezron and Hamul.

13 The sons of Issachar:

Tola, Puah, Jashub and Shimron.

14 The sons of Zebulun:

Sered, Elon and Jahleel.

15 These were the sons Leah bore to Jacob in Paddan Aram, besides his daughter Dinah. These sons and daughters of his were thirty-three in all.

16 The sons of Gad:

Zephon, Haggi, Shuni, Ezbon, Eri, Arodi and Areli.

17 The sons of Asher:

Imnah, Ishvah, Ishvi and Beriah.

Their sister was Serah.

The sons of Beriah:

Heber and Malkiel.

18 These were the children born to Jacob by Zilpah, whom Laban had given to his daughter Leah – sixteen in all.

19 The sons of Jacob’s wife Rachel:

Joseph and Benjamin. 20 In Egypt, Manasseh and Ephraim were born to Joseph by Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On.

21 The sons of Benjamin:

Bela, Beker, Ashbel, Gera, Naaman, Ehi, Rosh, Muppim, Huppim and Ard.

22 These were the sons of Rachel who were born to Jacob – fourteen in all.

23 The son of Dan:

Hushim.

24 The sons of Naphtali:

Jahziel, Guni, Jezer and Shillem.

25 These were the sons born to Jacob by Bilhah, whom Laban had given to his daughter Rachel – seven in all.

26 All those who went to Egypt with Jacob – those who were his direct descendants, not counting his sons’ wives – numbered sixty-six persons. 27 With the two sons who had been born to Joseph in Egypt, the members of Jacob’s family, which went to Egypt, were seventy in all.

28 Now Jacob sent Judah ahead of him to Joseph to get directions to Goshen. When they arrived in the region of Goshen, 29 Joseph had his chariot made ready and went to Goshen to meet his father Israel. As soon as Joseph appeared before him, he threw his arms around his father and wept for a long time.

30 Israel said to Joseph, ‘Now I am ready to die, since I have seen for myself that you are still alive.’

31 Then Joseph said to his brothers and to his father’s household, ‘I will go up and speak to Pharaoh and will say to him, “My brothers and my father’s household, who were living in the land of Canaan, have come to me. 32 The men are shepherds; they tend livestock, and they have brought along their flocks and herds and everything they own.” 33 When Pharaoh calls you in and asks, “What is your occupation?” 34 you should answer, “Your servants have tended livestock from our boyhood on, just as our fathers did.” Then you will be allowed to settle in the region of Goshen, for all shepherds are detestable to the Egyptians.’

47 Joseph went and told Pharaoh, ‘My father and brothers, with their flocks and herds and everything they own, have come from the land of Canaan and are now in Goshen.’ He chose five of his brothers and presented them before Pharaoh.

Pharaoh asked the brothers, ‘What is your occupation?’

‘Your servants are shepherds,’ they replied to Pharaoh, ‘just as our fathers were.’ They also said to him, ‘We have come to live here for a while, because the famine is severe in Canaan and your servants’ flocks have no pasture. So now, please let your servants settle in Goshen.’

Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Your father and your brothers have come to you, and the land of Egypt is before you; settle your father and your brothers in the best part of the land. Let them live in Goshen. And if you know of any among them with special ability, put them in charge of my own livestock.’

Then Joseph brought his father Jacob in and presented him before Pharaoh. After Jacob blessed Pharaoh, Pharaoh asked him, ‘How old are you?’

And Jacob said to Pharaoh, ‘The years of my pilgrimage are a hundred and thirty. My years have been few and difficult, and they do not equal the years of the pilgrimage of my fathers.’ 10 Then Jacob blessed[j] Pharaoh and went out from his presence.

11 So Joseph settled his father and his brothers in Egypt and gave them property in the best part of the land, the district of Rameses, as Pharaoh directed. 12 Joseph also provided his father and his brothers and all his father’s household with food, according to the number of their children.

 

Joseph and the famine

13 There was no food, however, in the whole region because the famine was severe; both Egypt and Canaan wasted away because of the famine. 14 Joseph collected all the money that was to be found in Egypt and Canaan in payment for the grain they were buying, and he brought it to Pharaoh’s palace. 15 When the money of the people of Egypt and Canaan was gone, all Egypt came to Joseph and said, ‘Give us food. Why should we die before your eyes? Our money is all gone.’

16 ‘Then bring your livestock,’ said Joseph. ‘I will sell you food in exchange for your livestock, since your money is gone.’ 17 So they brought their livestock to Joseph, and he gave them food in exchange for their horses, their sheep and goats, their cattle and donkeys. And he brought them through that year with food in exchange for all their livestock.

18 When that year was over, they came to him the following year and said, ‘We cannot hide from our lord the fact that since our money is gone and our livestock belongs to you, there is nothing left for our lord except our bodies and our land. 19 Why should we perish before your eyes – we and our land as well? Buy us and our land in exchange for food, and we with our land will be in bondage to Pharaoh. Give us seed so that we may live and not die, and that the land may not become desolate.’

20 So Joseph bought all the land in Egypt for Pharaoh. The Egyptians, one and all, sold their fields, because the famine was too severe for them. The land became Pharaoh’s, 21 and Joseph reduced the people to servitude, from one end of Egypt to the other. 22 However, he did not buy the land of the priests, because they received a fixed allowance from Pharaoh and had food enough from the allowance Pharaoh gave them. That is why they did not sell their land.

23 Joseph said to the people, ‘Now that I have bought you and your land today for Pharaoh, here is seed for you so you can plant the ground. 24 But when the crop comes in, give a fifth of it to Pharaoh. The other four-fifths you may keep as seed for the fields and as food for yourselves and your households and your children.’

25 ‘You have saved our lives,’ they said. ‘May we find favour in the eyes of our lord; we will be in bondage to Pharaoh.’

26 So Joseph established it as a law concerning land in Egypt – still in force today – that a fifth of the produce belongs to Pharaoh. It was only the land of the priests that did not become Pharaoh’s.

27 Now the Israelites settled in Egypt in the region of Goshen. They acquired property there and were fruitful and increased greatly in number.

28 Jacob lived in Egypt seventeen years, and the years of his life were a hundred and forty-seven. 29 When the time drew near for Israel to die, he called for his son Joseph and said to him, ‘If I have found favour in your eyes, put your hand under my thigh and promise that you will show me kindness and faithfulness. Do not bury me in Egypt, 30 but when I rest with my fathers, carry me out of Egypt and bury me where they are buried.’

‘I will do as you say,’ he said.

31 ‘Swear to me,’ he said. Then Joseph swore to him, and Israel worshipped as he leaned on the top of his staff.

29 February 2020

Esther 5:9-6:14

Haman’s rage against Mordecai

Haman went out that day happy and in high spirits. But when he saw Mordecai at the king’s gate and observed that he neither rose nor showed fear in his presence, he was filled with rage against Mordecai. 10 Nevertheless, Haman restrained himself and went home.

Calling together his friends and Zeresh, his wife, 11 Haman boasted to them about his vast wealth, his many sons, and all the ways the king had honoured him and how he had elevated him above the other nobles and officials. 12 ‘And that’s not all,’ Haman added. ‘I’m the only person Queen Esther invited to accompany the king to the banquet she gave. And she has invited me along with the king tomorrow. 13 But all this gives me no satisfaction as long as I see that Jew Mordecai sitting at the king’s gate.’

14 His wife Zeresh and all his friends said to him, ‘Have a pole set up, reaching to a height of fifty cubits, and ask the king in the morning to have Mordecai impaled on it. Then go with the king to the banquet and enjoy yourself.’ This suggestion delighted Haman, and he had the pole set up.

 

Mordecai honoured

That night the king could not sleep; so he ordered the book of the chronicles, the record of his reign, to be brought in and read to him. It was found recorded there that Mordecai had exposed Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s officers who guarded the doorway, who had conspired to assassinate King Xerxes.

‘What honour and recognition has Mordecai received for this?’ the king asked.

‘Nothing has been done for him,’ his attendants answered.

The king said, ‘Who is in the court?’ Now Haman had just entered the outer court of the palace to speak to the king about impaling Mordecai on the pole he had set up for him.

His attendants answered, ‘Haman is standing in the court.’

‘Bring him in,’ the king ordered.

When Haman entered, the king asked him, ‘What should be done for the man the king delights to honour?’

Now Haman thought to himself, ‘Who is there that the king would rather honour than me?’ So he answered the king, ‘For the man the king delights to honour, let them bring a royal robe the king has worn and a horse the king has ridden, one with a royal crest placed on its head. Then let the robe and horse be entrusted to one of the king’s most noble princes. Let them robe the man the king delights to honour, and lead him on the horse through the city streets, proclaiming before him, “This is what is done for the man the king delights to honour!”’

10 ‘Go at once,’ the king commanded Haman. ‘Get the robe and the horse and do just as you have suggested for Mordecai the Jew, who sits at the king’s gate. Do not neglect anything you have recommended.’

11 So Haman got the robe and the horse. He robed Mordecai, and led him on horseback through the city streets, proclaiming before him, ‘This is what is done for the man the king delights to honour!’

12 Afterwards Mordecai returned to the king’s gate. But Haman rushed home, with his head covered in grief, 13 and told Zeresh his wife and all his friends everything that had happened to him.

His advisors and his wife Zeresh said to him, ‘Since Mordecai, before whom your downfall has started, is of Jewish origin, you cannot stand against him – you will surely come to ruin!’ 14 While they were still talking with him, the king’s eunuchs arrived and hurried Haman away to the banquet Esther had prepared.

Prayer: Lord, hear with favour the prayers of Your people, that we who are justly punished for our offences may mercifully be delivered by Your goodness, for the glory of Your name; through Jesus Christ our Saviour, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

28 February 2020

Proverbs 3:30

30 Do not accuse anyone for no reason—
    when they have done you no harm.

Do not pick a fight. It seems an easy enough rule to follow, and yet we transgress it more than we may think. We don’t consciously say to ourselves that we want to start a fight, but then our actions may reveal more than we care to admit. Just trying to have a little fun, we tease someone and are “surprised” that he would take it so seriously.

Some of us take pride in speaking our mind, letting people know where we stand. Or to say it another way, we are ready to take anyone on. We contend for no reason when we speak or act rudely. We make unnecessary remarks about a person’s appearance or cut in front of another car or a person standing in line. We are contending, riling up another person unnecessarily.

This proverb does not forbid contending; it forbids contending against someone who is not doing us harm. There are enough times when we are to contend for the sake of justice, to have truth be heard, and in proper self-defence. All the more then we are not to contend when it is uncalled for. Otherwise, the appropriate times to contend lose their effectiveness because we are regarded as contentious persons anyhow. “That’s the way _____ is. Just ignore him.”

Christians should be known as those slow to anger and slow to cause anger. It is laid upon us to contend for the sake of the gospel. Thus, to be known as people who contend for the sake of trivial matters, and especially to contend without cause, embarrasses our witness for the gospel of Christ. As much as is possible, let us today be at peace for the sake of the gospel.

Genesis 44-45

A silver cup in a sack

44 Now Joseph gave these instructions to the steward of his house: ‘Fill the men’s sacks with as much food as they can carry, and put each man’s silver in the mouth of his sack. Then put my cup, the silver one, in the mouth of the youngest one’s sack, along with the silver for his grain.’ And he did as Joseph said.

As morning dawned, the men were sent on their way with their donkeys. They had not gone far from the city when Joseph said to his steward, ‘Go after those men at once, and when you catch up with them, say to them, “Why have you repaid good with evil? Isn’t this the cup my master drinks from and also uses for divination? This is a wicked thing you have done.”’

When he caught up with them, he repeated these words to them. But they said to him, ‘Why does my lord say such things? Far be it from your servants to do anything like that! We even brought back to you from the land of Canaan the silver we found inside the mouths of our sacks. So why would we steal silver or gold from your master’s house? If any of your servants is found to have it, he will die; and the rest of us will become my lord’s slaves.’

10 ‘Very well, then,’ he said, ‘let it be as you say. Whoever is found to have it will become my slave; the rest of you will be free from blame.’

11 Each of them quickly lowered his sack to the ground and opened it. 12 Then the steward proceeded to search, beginning with the eldest and ending with the youngest. And the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack. 13 At this, they tore their clothes. Then they all loaded their donkeys and returned to the city.

14 Joseph was still in the house when Judah and his brothers came in, and they threw themselves to the ground before him. 15 Joseph said to them, ‘What is this you have done? Don’t you know that a man like me can find things out by divination?’

16 ‘What can we say to my lord?’ Judah replied. ‘What can we say? How can we prove our innocence? God has uncovered your servants’ guilt. We are now my lord’s slaves – we ourselves and the one who was found to have the cup.’

17 But Joseph said, ‘Far be it from me to do such a thing! Only the man who was found to have the cup will become my slave. The rest of you, go back to your father in peace.’

18 Then Judah went up to him and said: ‘Pardon your servant, my lord, let me speak a word to my lord. Do not be angry with your servant, though you are equal to Pharaoh himself. 19 My lord asked his servants, “Do you have a father or a brother?” 20 And we answered, “We have an aged father, and there is a young son born to him in his old age. His brother is dead, and he is the only one of his mother’s sons left, and his father loves him.”

21 ‘Then you said to your servants, “Bring him down to me so I can see him for myself.” 22 And we said to my lord, “The boy cannot leave his father; if he leaves him, his father will die.” 23 But you told your servants, “Unless your youngest brother comes down with you, you will not see my face again.” 24 When we went back to your servant my father, we told him what my lord had said.

25 ‘Then our father said, “Go back and buy a little more food.” 26 But we said, “We cannot go down. Only if our youngest brother is with us will we go. We cannot see the man’s face unless our youngest brother is with us.”

27 ‘Your servant my father said to us, “You know that my wife bore me two sons. 28 One of them went away from me, and I said, ‘He has surely been torn to pieces.’ And I have not seen him since. 29 If you take this one from me too and harm comes to him, you will bring my grey head down to the grave in misery.”

30 ‘So now, if the boy is not with us when I go back to your servant my father, and if my father, whose life is closely bound up with the boy’s life, 31 sees that the boy isn’t there, he will die. Your servants will bring the grey head of our father down to the grave in sorrow. 32 Your servant guaranteed the boy’s safety to my father. I said, “If I do not bring him back to you, I will bear the blame before you, my father, all my life!”

33 ‘Now then, please let your servant remain here as my lord’s slave in place of the boy, and let the boy return with his brothers. 34 How can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? No! Do not let me see the misery that would come on my father.’

 

Joseph makes himself known

45 Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all his attendants, and he cried out, ‘Make everyone leave my presence!’ So there was no one with Joseph when he made himself known to his brothers. And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard him, and Pharaoh’s household heard about it.

Joseph said to his brothers, ‘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 be no ploughing 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.

‘So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt. Now hurry back to my father and say to him, “This is what your son Joseph says: God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; don’t delay. 10 You shall live in the region of Goshen and be near me – you, your children and grandchildren, your flocks and herds, and all you have. 11 I will provide for you there, because five years of famine are still to come. Otherwise you and your household and all who belong to you will become destitute.”

12 ‘You can see for yourselves, and so can my brother Benjamin, that it is really I who am speaking to you. 13 Tell my father about all the honour accorded me in Egypt and about everything you have seen. And bring my father down here quickly.’

14 Then he threw his arms around his brother Benjamin and wept, and Benjamin embraced him, weeping. 15 And he kissed all his brothers and wept over them. Afterwards his brothers talked with him.

16 When the news reached Pharaoh’s palace that Joseph’s brothers had come, Pharaoh and all his officials were pleased. 17 Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Tell your brothers, “Do this: load your animals and return to the land of Canaan, 18 and bring your father and your families back to me. I will give you the best of the land of Egypt and you can enjoy the fat of the land.”

19 ‘You are also instructed to tell them, “Do this: take some carts from Egypt for your children and your wives, and get your father and come. 20 Never mind about your belongings, because the best of all Egypt will be yours.”’

21 So the sons of Israel did this. Joseph gave them carts, as Pharaoh had commanded, and he also gave them provisions for their journey. 22 To each of them he gave new clothing, but to Benjamin he gave three hundred shekels of silver and five sets of clothes. 23 And this is what he sent to his father: ten donkeys loaded with the best things of Egypt, and ten female donkeys loaded with grain and bread and other provisions for his journey. 24 Then he sent his brothers away, and as they were leaving he said to them, ‘Don’t quarrel on the way!’

25 So they went up out of Egypt and came to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan. 26 They told him, ‘Joseph is still alive! In fact, he is ruler of all Egypt.’ Jacob was stunned; he did not believe them. 27 But when they told him everything Joseph had said to them, and when he saw the carts Joseph had sent to carry him back, the spirit of their father Jacob revived. 28 And Israel said, ‘I’m convinced! My son Joseph is still alive. I will go and see him before I die.’

27 February 2020

Proverbs 3:29

29 Do not plot harm against your neighbor,
    who lives trustfully near you.

This is certainly a heinous act. It is terrible to do wrong to anyone, but especially against your neighbor, who dwells trustingly beside you. Aren’t we glad we are not like that!

Have we never desired for our neighbours, when they have offended us, to get their just desserts? Are we guilty of imposing motivations and intentions on our neighbours for actions that bother us? He slammed that door on purpose. She knows I hate hearing her dog bark. They love to disturb us with their parties.

We may not plan evil, but then, we are guilty of not planning good, which may be the same thing in God’s eyes. We don’t invite them into our homes. We don’t bring over food to encourage them. We don’t do unto them as we want done for ourselves. Instead, we plan to avoid them, plan to complain to them or about them, maybe even sue them. We plan not to lift a hand to help them. Is this not evil, to withhold good when it is in our power to give it?

 
And our reasoning is that we are only seeking what is fair. Give thanks to God that he sought not what was fair in regard to us, but what was merciful.

 

Genesis 43

The second journey to Egypt

43 Now the famine was still severe in the land. So when they had eaten all the grain they had brought from Egypt, their father said to them, ‘Go back and buy us a little more food.’

But Judah said to him, ‘The man warned us solemnly, “You will not see my face again unless your brother is with you.” If you will send our brother along with us, we will go down and buy food for you. But if you will not send him, we will not go down, because the man said to us, “You will not see my face again unless your brother is with you.”’

Israel asked, ‘Why did you bring this trouble on me by telling the man you had another brother?’

They replied, ‘The man questioned us closely about ourselves and our family. “Is your father still living?” he asked us. “Do you have another brother?” We simply answered his questions. How were we to know he would say, “Bring your brother down here”?’

Then Judah said to Israel his father, ‘Send the boy along with me and we will go at once, so that we and you and our children may live and not die. I myself will guarantee his safety; you can hold me personally responsible for him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him here before you, I will bear the blame before you all my life. 10 As it is, if we had not delayed, we could have gone and returned twice.’

11 Then their father Israel said to them, ‘If it must be, then do this: put some of the best products of the land in your bags and take them down to the man as a gift – a little balm and a little honey, some spices and myrrh, some pistachio nuts and almonds. 12 Take double the amount of silver with you, for you must return the silver that was put back into the mouths of your sacks. Perhaps it was a mistake. 13 Take your brother also and go back to the man at once. 14 And may God Almighty grant you mercy before the man so that he will let your other brother and Benjamin come back with you. As for me, if I am bereaved, I am bereaved.’

15 So the men took the gifts and double the amount of silver, and Benjamin also. They hurried down to Egypt and presented themselves to Joseph. 16 When Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to the steward of his house, ‘Take these men to my house, slaughter an animal and prepare a meal; they are to eat with me at noon.’

17 The man did as Joseph told him and took the men to Joseph’s house. 18 Now the men were frightened when they were taken to his house. They thought, ‘We were brought here because of the silver that was put back into our sacks the first time. He wants to attack us and overpower us and seize us as slaves and take our donkeys.’

19 So they went up to Joseph’s steward and spoke to him at the entrance to the house. 20 ‘We beg your pardon, our lord,’ they said, ‘we came down here the first time to buy food. 21 But at the place where we stopped for the night we opened our sacks and each of us found his silver – the exact weight – in the mouth of his sack. So we have brought it back with us. 22 We have also brought additional silver with us to buy food. We don’t know who put our silver in our sacks.’

23 ‘It’s all right,’ he said. ‘Don’t be afraid. Your God, the God of your father, has given you treasure in your sacks; I received your silver.’ Then he brought Simeon out to them.

24 The steward took the men into Joseph’s house, gave them water to wash their feet and provided fodder for their donkeys. 25 They prepared their gifts for Joseph’s arrival at noon, because they had heard that they were to eat there.

26 When Joseph came home, they presented to him the gifts they had brought into the house, and they bowed down before him to the ground. 27 He asked them how they were, and then he said, ‘How is your aged father you told me about? Is he still living?’

28 They replied, ‘Your servant our father is still alive and well.’ And they bowed down, prostrating themselves before him.

29 As he looked about and saw his brother Benjamin, his own mother’s son, he asked, ‘Is this your youngest brother, the one you told me about?’ And he said, ‘God be gracious to you, my son.’ 30 Deeply moved at the sight of his brother, Joseph hurried out and looked for a place to weep. He went into his private room and wept there.

31 After he had washed his face, he came out and, controlling himself, said, ‘Serve the food.’

32 They served him by himself, the brothers by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves, because Egyptians could not eat with Hebrews, for that is detestable to Egyptians. 33 The men had been seated before him in the order of their ages, from the firstborn to the youngest; and they looked at each other in astonishment. 34 When portions were served to them from Joseph’s table, Benjamin’s portion was five times as much as anyone else’s. So they feasted and drank freely with him.

26 February 2020

Proverbs 3:28

28 Do not say to your neighbor,
    “Come back tomorrow and I’ll give it to you”—
    when you already have it with you.

The previous proverb instructs us not to put off doing good. This proverb tells us not to delay doing what we can. The most effective means to avoid doing good for our neighbour is to procrastinate. Tomorrow usually ends up being never. But even if we do intend to help the next day, we should not delay what we can do today. Why?


First, when God gives us opportunity to serve him, we should not delay. Remember, whatever good we do for another, we are doing it as to the Lord. Why, then, should we hold off serving our Lord for another day?

Another reason is that we do not know what the next day will bring. We do not control our future. Anything can happen to us and to our neighbour to prevent the opportunity from coming again.

Related to this, we are to do good today while we have it with us. The it may be money or some object that our neighbour needs. We have it now; we may not have it tomorrow. The it can also be our ability. Now we have the sharpness of mind to be of real help; tomorrow we may not. Now we have the physical energy and strength necessary for the task; tomorrow we may not. Give now when you have it with you because you don’t know when you will lose what you have.

Finally, do good and give help now because that is what you would want. Nothing is more disheartening than to ask for help and be put off when we know our neighbour has the means to help us. When we ask for help, we want it now, and to be told to come back the next day, not only inconveniences us, it discourages our spirits.

Today, if your neighbour asks for help, will you give? Will you do good today while you have it within you?

 

Genesis 42

Joseph’s brothers go to Egypt

42 When Jacob learned that there was grain in Egypt, he said to his sons, ‘Why do you just keep looking at each other?’ He continued, ‘I have heard that there is grain in Egypt. Go down there and buy some for us, so that we may live and not die.’

Then ten of Joseph’s brothers went down to buy grain from Egypt. But Jacob did not send Benjamin, Joseph’s brother, with the others, because he was afraid that harm might come to him. So Israel’s sons were among those who went to buy grain, for there was famine in the land of Canaan also.

Now Joseph was the governor of the land, the person who sold grain to all its people. So when Joseph’s brothers arrived, they bowed down to him with their faces to the ground. As soon as Joseph saw his brothers, he recognised them, but he pretended to be a stranger and spoke harshly to them. ‘Where do you come from?’ he asked.

‘From the land of Canaan,’ they replied, ‘to buy food.’

Although Joseph recognised his brothers, they did not recognise him. Then he remembered his dreams about them and said to them, ‘You are spies! You have come to see where our land is unprotected.’

10 ‘No, my lord,’ they answered. ‘Your servants have come to buy food. 11 We are all the sons of one man. Your servants are honest men, not spies.’

12 ‘No!’ he said to them. ‘You have come to see where our land is unprotected.’

13 But they replied, ‘Your servants were twelve brothers, the sons of one man, who lives in the land of Canaan. The youngest is now with our father, and one is no more.’

14 Joseph said to them, ‘It is just as I told you: you are spies! 15 And this is how you will be tested: as surely as Pharaoh lives, you will not leave this place unless your youngest brother comes here. 16 Send one of your number to get your brother; the rest of you will be kept in prison, so that your words may be tested to see if you are telling the truth. If you are not, then as surely as Pharaoh lives, you are spies!’ 17 And he put them all in custody for three days.

18 On the third day, Joseph said to them, ‘Do this and you will live, for I fear God: 19 if you are honest men, let one of your brothers stay here in prison, while the rest of you go and take grain back for your starving households. 20 But you must bring your youngest brother to me, so that your words may be verified and that you may not die.’ This they proceeded to do.

21 They said to one another, ‘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 on us.’

22 Reuben replied, ‘Didn’t I tell you not to sin against the boy? But you wouldn’t listen! Now we must give an accounting for his blood.’ 23 They did not realise that Joseph could understand them, since he was using an interpreter.

24 He turned away from them and began to weep, but then came back and spoke to them again. He had Simeon taken from them and bound before their eyes.

25 Joseph gave orders to fill their bags with grain, to put each man’s silver back in his sack, and to give them provisions for their journey. After this was done for them, 26 they loaded their grain on their donkeys and left.

27 At the place where they stopped for the night one of them opened his sack to get feed for his donkey, and he saw his silver in the mouth of his sack. 28 ‘My silver has been returned,’ he said to his brothers. ‘Here it is in my sack.’

Their hearts sank and they turned to each other trembling and said, ‘What is this that God has done to us?’

29 When they came to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan, they told him all that had happened to them. They said, 30 ‘The man who is lord over the land spoke harshly to us and treated us as though we were spying on the land. 31 But we said to him, “We are honest men; we are not spies. 32 We were twelve brothers, sons of one father. One is no more, and the youngest is now with our father in Canaan.”

33 ‘Then the man who is lord over the land said to us, “This is how I will know whether you are honest men: leave one of your brothers here with me, and take food for your starving households and go. 34 But bring your youngest brother to me so I will know that you are not spies but honest men. Then I will give your brother back to you, and you can trade in the land.”’

35 As they were emptying their sacks, there in each man’s sack was his pouch of silver! When they and their father saw the money pouches, they were frightened. 36 Their father Jacob said to them, ‘You have deprived me of my children. Joseph is no more and Simeon is no more, and now you want to take Benjamin. Everything is against me!’

37 Then Reuben said to his father, ‘You may put both of my sons to death if I do not bring him back to you. Entrust him to my care, and I will bring him back.’

38 But Jacob said, ‘My son will not go down there with you; his brother is dead and he is the only one left. If harm comes to him on the journey you are taking, you will bring my grey head down to the grave in sorrow.’

25 February 2020

Proverbs 3:27

27 Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,
    when it is in your power to act.

Break this into three parts. First, we are told not to withhold good. We tend the think that as long as we are not doing evil, then we are being good. But here we are commanded not to withhold good. Apparently, we are guilty of transgression simply by letting an opportunity to do good go by. We kill by not coming to someone’s aid. We steal by withholding a good deed.

Secondly, we are to do good to those for whom it is due. To whom do we owe good deeds? Sounds like a question once asked of Jesus: Who is my neighbour? If we follow Jesus answer to this question given in the parable of the Good Samaritan, we have to conclude that the person to whom it is due, is whatever person God places along our path. As soon as we try to determine who is worthy of receiving good, we get into trouble. For to judge anyone as unworthy of receiving good from us is to place ourselves in a position of higher value than a fellow human being. Only God can determine whom to withhold good.

Finally, there is the condition when it is in your power to do it. When is good in our power? This takes discernment. Doing good is always in our power, and it is always in our power to act in a good manner. Where some Christians get into trouble is not discerning what the good is that the other person needs and sometimes not discerning his own ability to meet those needs. We can enable others to maintain sinful patterns through our good intentions. We can also harm ourselves or our families in our unwise actions. Be ready to do good to anyone, but use wisdom, so that you are truly helping the person in need without bringing harm to others (such as your family members) who are innocent.

 

Genesis 40-41

The cupbearer and the baker

40 Some time later, the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt offended their master, the king of Egypt. Pharaoh was angry with his two officials, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker, and put them in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, in the same prison where Joseph was confined. The captain of the guard assigned them to Joseph, and he attended them.

After they had been in custody for some time, each of the two men – the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt, who were being held in prison – had a dream the same night, and each dream had a meaning of its own.

When Joseph came to them the next morning, he saw that they were dejected. So he asked Pharaoh’s officials who were in custody with him in his master’s house, ‘Why do you look so sad today?’

‘We both had dreams,’ they answered, ‘but there is no one to interpret them.’

Then Joseph said to them, ‘Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams.’

So the chief cupbearer told Joseph his dream. He said to him, ‘In my dream I saw a vine in front of me, 10 and on the vine were three branches. As soon as it budded, it blossomed, and its clusters ripened into grapes. 11 Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand, and I took the grapes, squeezed them into Pharaoh’s cup and put the cup in his hand.’

12 ‘This is what it means,’ Joseph said to him. ‘The three branches are three days. 13 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. 14 But when all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison. 15 I was forcibly carried off from the land of the Hebrews, and even here I have done nothing to deserve being put in a dungeon.’

16 When the chief baker saw that Joseph had given a favourable interpretation, he said to Joseph, ‘I too had a dream: on my head were three baskets of bread. 17 In the top basket were all kinds of baked goods for Pharaoh, but the birds were eating them out of the basket on my head.’

18 ‘This is what it means,’ Joseph said. ‘The three baskets are three days. 19 Within three days Pharaoh will lift off your head and impale your body on a pole. And the birds will eat away your flesh.’

20 Now the third day was Pharaoh’s birthday, and he gave a feast for all his officials. He lifted up the heads of the chief cupbearer and the chief baker in the presence of his officials: 21 he restored the chief cupbearer to his position, so that he once again put the cup into Pharaoh’s hand – 22 but he impaled the chief baker, just as Joseph had said to them in his interpretation.

23 The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him.

 

Pharaoh’s dreams

41 When two full years had passed, Pharaoh had a dream: he was standing by the Nile, when out of the river there came up seven cows, sleek and fat, and they grazed among the reeds. After them, seven other cows, ugly and gaunt, came up out of the Nile and stood beside those on the river-bank. And the cows that were ugly and gaunt ate up the seven sleek, fat cows. Then Pharaoh woke up.

He fell asleep again and had a second dream: seven ears of corn, healthy and good, were growing on a single stalk. After them, seven other ears of corn sprouted – thin and scorched by the east wind. The thin ears of corn swallowed up the seven healthy, full ears. Then Pharaoh woke up; it had been a dream.

In the morning his mind was troubled, so he sent for all the magicians and wise men of Egypt. Pharaoh told them his dreams, but no one could interpret them for him.

Then the chief cupbearer said to Pharaoh, ‘Today I am reminded of my shortcomings. 10 Pharaoh was once angry with his servants, and he imprisoned me and the chief baker in the house of the captain of the guard. 11 Each of us had a dream the same night, and each dream had a meaning of its own. 12 Now a young Hebrew was there with us, a servant of the captain of the guard. We told him our dreams, and he interpreted them for us, giving each man the interpretation of his dream. 13 And things turned out exactly as he interpreted them to us: I was restored to my position, and the other man was impaled.’

14 So Pharaoh sent for Joseph, and he was quickly brought from the dungeon. When he had shaved and changed his clothes, he came before Pharaoh.

15 Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘I had a dream, and no one can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.’

16 ‘I cannot do it,’ Joseph replied to Pharaoh, ‘but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.’

17 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘In my dream I was standing on the bank of the Nile, 18 when out of the river there came up seven cows, fat and sleek, and they grazed among the reeds. 19 After them, seven other cows came up – scrawny and very ugly and lean. I had never seen such ugly cows in all the land of Egypt. 20 The lean, ugly cows ate up the seven fat cows that came up first. 21 But even after they ate them, no one could tell that they had done so; they looked just as ugly as before. Then I woke up.

22 ‘In my dream I saw seven ears of corn, full and good, growing on a single stalk. 23 After them, seven other ears sprouted – withered and thin and scorched by the east wind. 24 The thin ears of corn swallowed up the seven good ears. I told this to the magicians, but none of them could explain it to me.’

25 Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, ‘The dreams of Pharaoh are one and the same. God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do. 26 The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good ears of corn are seven years; it is one and the same dream. 27 The seven lean, ugly cows that came up afterwards are seven years, and so are the seven worthless ears of corn scorched by the east wind: they are seven years of famine.

28 ‘It is just as I said to Pharaoh: God has shown Pharaoh what he is about to do. 29 Seven years of great abundance are coming throughout the land of Egypt, 30 but seven years of famine will follow them. Then all the abundance in Egypt will be forgotten, and the famine will ravage the land. 31 The abundance in the land will not be remembered, because the famine that follows it will be so severe. 32 The reason the dream was given to Pharaoh in two forms is that the matter has been firmly decided by God, and God will do it soon.

33 ‘And now let Pharaoh look for a discerning and wise man and put him in charge of the land of Egypt. 34 Let Pharaoh appoint commissioners over the land to take a fifth of the harvest of Egypt during the seven years of abundance. 35 They should collect all the food of these good years that are coming and store up the grain under the authority of Pharaoh, to be kept in the cities for food. 36 This food should be held in reserve for the country, to be used during the seven years of famine that will come upon Egypt, so that the country may not be ruined by the famine.’

37 The plan seemed good to Pharaoh and to all his officials. 38 So Pharaoh asked them, ‘Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?’

39 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. 40 You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you.’

 

Joseph in charge of Egypt

41 So Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘I hereby put you in charge of the whole land of Egypt.’ 42 Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his finger and put it on Joseph’s finger. He dressed him in robes of fine linen and put a gold chain round his neck. 43 He made him ride in a chariot as his second-in-command, and people shouted before him, ‘Make way!’ Thus he put him in charge of the whole land of Egypt.

44 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘I am Pharaoh, but without your word no one will lift hand or foot in all Egypt.’ 45 Pharaoh gave Joseph the name Zaphenath-Paneah and gave him Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On, to be his wife. And Joseph went throughout the land of Egypt.

46 Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from Pharaoh’s presence and travelled throughout Egypt. 47 During the seven years of abundance the land produced plentifully. 48 Joseph collected all the food produced in those seven years of abundance in Egypt and stored it in the cities. In each city he put the food grown in the fields surrounding it. 49 Joseph stored up huge quantities of grain, like the sand of the sea; it was so much that he stopped keeping records because it was beyond measure.

50 Before the years of famine came, two sons were born to Joseph by Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On. 51 Joseph named his firstborn Manasseh and said, ‘It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.’ 52 The second son he named Ephraim and said, ‘It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.’

53 The seven years of abundance in Egypt came to an end, 54 and the seven years of famine began, just as Joseph had said. There was famine in all the other lands, but in the whole land of Egypt there was food. 55 When all Egypt began to feel the famine, the people cried to Pharaoh for food. Then Pharaoh told all the Egyptians, ‘Go to Joseph and do what he tells you.’

56 When the famine had spread over the whole country, Joseph opened all the storehouses and sold grain to the Egyptians, for the famine was severe throughout Egypt. 57 And all the world came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was severe everywhere.

24 February 2020

Proverbs 3:25-26

25 Have no fear of sudden disaster
    or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked,
26 for the Lord will be at your side
    and will keep your foot from being snared.

It is the suddenness of destruction that strikes fear in us. One moment all is well; another moment and terror comes. And so will be the Day of Judgment. It will come suddenly, but it will come upon the wicked. And though we may feel its impact, yet we will be safe because the Lord who brings the judgment is also our protector.

Let us not be afraid as though we were not followers of Christ. We have a Redeemer who has saved us from the guilt of our sins. We have a Savior who has clothed us in his righteousness. We have a High Priest who intercedes for us. He will keep our feet from being caught in the same net as the wicked.

Can sudden trouble come upon us? Yes. But we cannot be caught in the net that drags us to destruction. What matters most the eternal security of our souls is what is most secure. Upon that basis we do not fear. We can be harmed, but we cannot be destroyed. Whatever sudden troubles may come upon us, know that there is a greater sudden phenomenon that will take place the sudden appearing of our Lord who will bring us into eternal glory.

 

Genesis 38-39

Judah and Tamar

38 At that time, Judah left his brothers and went down to stay with a man of Adullam named Hirah. There Judah met the daughter of a Canaanite man named Shua. He married her and made love to her; she became pregnant and gave birth to a son, who was named Er. She conceived again and gave birth to a son and named him Onan. She gave birth to still another son and named him Shelah. It was at Kezib that she gave birth to him.

Judah got a wife for Er, his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death.

Then Judah said to Onan, ‘Sleep with your brother’s wife and fulfil your duty to her as a brother-in-law to raise up offspring for your brother.’ But Onan knew that the child would not be his; so whenever he slept with his brother’s wife, he spilled his semen on the ground to avoid providing offspring for his brother. 10 What he did was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death also.

11 Judah then said to his daughter-in-law Tamar, ‘Live as a widow in your father’s household until my son Shelah grows up.’ For he thought, ‘He may die too, just like his brothers.’ So Tamar went to live in her father’s household.

12 After a long time Judah’s wife, the daughter of Shua, died. When Judah had recovered from his grief, he went up to Timnah, to the men who were shearing his sheep, and his friend Hirah the Adullamite went with him.

13 When Tamar was told, ‘Your father-in-law is on his way to Timnah to shear his sheep,’ 14 she took off her widow’s clothes, covered herself with a veil to disguise herself, and then sat down at the entrance to Enaim, which is on the road to Timnah. For she saw that, though Shelah had now grown up, she had not been given to him as his wife.

15 When Judah saw her, he thought she was a prostitute, for she had covered her face. 16 Not realising that she was his daughter-in-law, he went over to her by the roadside and said, ‘Come now, let me sleep with you.’

‘And what will you give me to sleep with you?’ she asked.

17 ‘I’ll send you a young goat from my flock,’ he said.

‘Will you give me something as a pledge until you send it?’ she asked.

18 He said, ‘What pledge should I give you?’

‘Your seal and its cord, and the staff in your hand,’ she answered. So he gave them to her and slept with her, and she became pregnant by him. 19 After she left, she took off her veil and put on her widow’s clothes again.

20 Meanwhile Judah sent the young goat by his friend the Adullamite in order to get his pledge back from the woman, but he did not find her. 21 He asked the men who lived there, ‘Where is the shrine-prostitute who was beside the road at Enaim?’

‘There hasn’t been any shrine-prostitute here,’ they said.

22 So he went back to Judah and said, ‘I didn’t find her. Besides, the men who lived there said, “There hasn’t been any shrine-prostitute here.”’

23 Then Judah said, ‘Let her keep what she has, or we will become a laughing-stock. After all, I did send her this young goat, but you didn’t find her.’

24 About three months later Judah was told, ‘Your daughter-in-law Tamar is guilty of prostitution, and as a result she is now pregnant.’

Judah said, ‘Bring her out and let her be burned to death!’

25 As she was being brought out, she sent a message to her father-in-law. ‘I am pregnant by the man who owns these,’ she said. And she added, ‘See if you recognise whose seal and cord and staff these are.’

26 Judah recognised them and said, ‘She is more righteous than I, since I wouldn’t give her to my son Shelah.’ And he did not sleep with her again.

27 When the time came for her to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb. 28 As she was giving birth, one of them put out his hand; so the midwife took a scarlet thread and tied it on his wrist and said, ‘This one came out first.’ 29 But when he drew back his hand, his brother came out, and she said, ‘So this is how you have broken out!’ And he was named Perez. 30 Then his brother, who had the scarlet thread on his wrist, came out. And he was named Zerah.

 

Joseph and Potiphar’s wife

39 Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. Potiphar, an Egyptian who was one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him there.

The Lord was with Joseph so that he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. When his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favour in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned. From the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the Lord blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the Lord was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field. So Potiphar left everything he had in Joseph’s care; with Joseph in charge, he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate.

Now Joseph was well-built and handsome, and after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, ‘Come to bed with me!’

But he refused. ‘With me in charge,’ he told her, ‘my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care. No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?’ 10 And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even to be with her.

11 One day he went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the household servants was inside. 12 She caught him by his cloak and said, ‘Come to bed with me!’ But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house.

13 When she saw that he had left his cloak in her hand and had run out of the house, 14 she called her household servants. ‘Look,’ she said to them, ‘this Hebrew has been brought to us to make sport of us! He came in here to sleep with me, but I screamed. 15 When he heard me scream for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house.’

16 She kept his cloak beside her until his master came home. 17 Then she told him this story: ‘That Hebrew slave you brought us came to me to make sport of me. 18 But as soon as I screamed for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house.’

19 When his master heard the story his wife told him, saying, ‘This is how your slave treated me,’ he burned with anger. 20 Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined.

But while Joseph was there in the prison, 21 the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favour in the eyes of the prison warder. 22 So the warder put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. 23 The warder paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.

22 February 2020

Esther 4:1 – 5:8

Mordecai Persuades Esther to Help

4 When Mordecai learned of all that had been done, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the city, wailing loudly and bitterly. But he went only as far as the king’s gate, because no one clothed in sackcloth was allowed to enter it. In every province to which the edict and order of the king came, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting, weeping and wailing. Many lay in sackcloth and ashes.

When Esther’s eunuchs and female attendants came and told her about Mordecai, she was in great distress. She sent clothes for him to put on instead of his sackcloth, but he would not accept them. Then Esther summoned Hathak, one of the king’s eunuchs assigned to attend her, and ordered him to find out what was troubling Mordecai and why.

So Hathak went out to Mordecai in the open square of the city in front of the king’s gate. Mordecai told him everything that had happened to him, including the exact amount of money Haman had promised to pay into the royal treasury for the destruction of the Jews. He also gave him a copy of the text of the edict for their annihilation, which had been published in Susa, to show to Esther and explain it to her, and he told him to instruct her to go into the king’s presence to beg for mercy and plead with him for her people.

Hathak went back and reported to Esther what Mordecai had said. 10 Then she instructed him to say to Mordecai, 11 “All the king’s officials and the people of the royal provinces know that for any man or woman who approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned the king has but one law: that they be put to death unless the king extends the gold scepter to them and spares their lives. But thirty days have passed since I was called to go to the king.”

12 When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai, 13 he sent back this answer: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. 14 For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”

15 Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: 16 “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.”

17 So Mordecai went away and carried out all of Esther’s instructions.

 

Esther’s Request to the King

5 On the third day Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the palace, in front of the king’s hall. The king was sitting on his royal throne in the hall, facing the entrance. When he saw Queen Esther standing in the court, he was pleased with her and held out to her the gold scepter that was in his hand. So Esther approached and touched the tip of the scepter.

Then the king asked, “What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be given you.”

“If it pleases the king,” replied Esther, “let the king, together with Haman, come today to a banquet I have prepared for him.”

“Bring Haman at once,” the king said, “so that we may do what Esther asks.”

So the king and Haman went to the banquet Esther had prepared. As they were drinking wine, the king again asked Esther, “Now what is your petition? It will be given you. And what is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be granted.”

Esther replied, “My petition and my request is this: If the king regards me with favor and if it pleases the king to grant my petition and fulfill my request, let the king and Haman come tomorrow to the banquet I will prepare for them. Then I will answer the king’s question.”

Prayer: Lord, hear with favour the prayers of Your people, that we who are justly punished for our offences may mercifully be delivered by Your goodness, for the glory of Your name; through Jesus Christ our Saviour, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

21 February 2020

Proverbs 3:21-24

21 My son, do not let wisdom and understanding out of your sight,
    preserve sound judgment and discretion;
22 they will be life for you,
    an ornament to grace your neck.
23 Then you will go on your way in safety,
    and your foot will not stumble.
24 When you lie down, you will not be afraid;
    when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.

To lie down and not be afraid now that is a blessing indeed. To lie down and not worry about who is out to get you; not to worry about how the bills will be paid; not to worry about what will happen tomorrow that is a blessing we would be happy to pay for.

And we do try. We work hard to get money to buy security through a solid bank account and a nice home. We buy contentment through a nice sound system and through exotic travel destinations. We invest heavily in security and peace through clinging desperately to relationships. We even try to buy sweet sleep through pills to dull our senses.

But sweet, peaceful sleep comes not through earnest effort but from wisdom and discretion. For security rests not in building defense systems and accumulating objects, or even people; security comes from knowing what matters; it comes from knowing the One who created us, who holds us in his hands. Peace comes from knowing the peace of our Redeemer who did the hard work on our behalf. Security and peace comes from knowing to whom we belong, who he is, and what he intends for us.

Pray for such wisdom and discretion to know what is of eternal value and what really does not matter. As you attain such knowledge; as you adorn wisdom and discretion around your neck, then you walk on your way securely and lie down without fear.

 

Genesis 37

Joseph’s dreams

37 Jacob lived in the land where his father had stayed, the land of Canaan.

This is the account of Jacob’s family line.

Joseph, a young man of seventeen, was tending the flocks with his brothers, the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives, and he brought their father a bad report about them.

Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made an ornate robe for him. When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.

Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more. He said to them, ‘Listen to this dream I had: we were binding sheaves of corn out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered round mine and bowed down to it.’

His brothers said to him, ‘Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?’ And they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said.

Then he had another dream, and he told it to his brothers. ‘Listen,’ he said, ‘I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.’

10 When he told his father as well as his brothers, his father rebuked him and said, ‘What is this dream you had? Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?’ 11 His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind.

 

Joseph sold by his brothers

12 Now his brothers had gone to graze their father’s flocks near Shechem, 13 and Israel said to Joseph, ‘As you know, your brothers are grazing the flocks near Shechem. Come, I am going to send you to them.’

‘Very well,’ he replied.

14 So he said to him, ‘Go and see if all is well with your brothers and with the flocks, and bring word back to me.’ Then he sent him off from the Valley of Hebron.

When Joseph arrived at Shechem, 15 a man found him wandering around in the fields and asked him, ‘What are you looking for?’

16 He replied, ‘I’m looking for my brothers. Can you tell me where they are grazing their flocks?’

17 ‘They have moved on from here,’ the man answered. ‘I heard them say, “Let’s go to Dothan.”’

So Joseph went after his brothers and found them near Dothan. 18 But they saw him in the distance, and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him.

19 ‘Here comes that dreamer!’ they said to each other. 20 ‘Come now, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we’ll see what comes of his dreams.’

21 When Reuben heard this, he tried to rescue him from their hands. ‘Let’s not take his life,’ he said. 22 ‘Don’t shed any blood. Throw him into this cistern here in the wilderness, but don’t lay a hand on him.’ Reuben said this to rescue him from them and take him back to his father.

23 So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe – the ornate robe he was wearing – 24 and they took him and threw him into the cistern. The cistern was empty; there was no water in it.

25 As they sat down to eat their meal, they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead. Their camels were loaded with spices, balm and myrrh, and they were on their way to take them down to Egypt.

26 Judah said to his brothers, ‘What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? 27 Come, let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood.’ His brothers agreed.

28 So when the Midianite merchants came by, his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and sold him for twenty shekels of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt.

29 When Reuben returned to the cistern and saw that Joseph was not there, he tore his clothes. 30 He went back to his brothers and said, ‘The boy isn’t there! Where can I turn now?’

31 Then they got Joseph’s robe, slaughtered a goat and dipped the robe in the blood. 32 They took the ornate robe back to their father and said, ‘We found this. Examine it to see whether it is your son’s robe.’

33 He recognised it and said, ‘It is my son’s robe! Some ferocious animal has devoured him. Joseph has surely been torn to pieces.’

34 Then Jacob tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and mourned for his son many days. 35 All his sons and daughters came to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. ‘No,’ he said, ‘I will continue to mourn until I join my son in the grave.’ So his father wept for him.

36 Meanwhile, the Midianites sold Joseph in Egypt to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard.

20 February 2020

Proverbs 3:19-20

19 By wisdom the Lord laid the earth’s foundations,
    by understanding he set the heavens in place;
20 by his knowledge the watery depths were divided,
    and the clouds let drop the dew.

Consider this proverb from two perspectives. For one, we are to understand that creation is not a cosmic happen-chance. It is the work of God, the intentional work of God. He founded the earth; he established the heavens, and brought forth the seas, rivers, and lakes. We are not here by chance. The universe may be immense and the earth by comparison nothing but a speck; but it was created by the Lord of the universe for his good purposes.

Creation also gives us a perspective about God. Its beauty, complexity, even its terror reveals a God of wisdom, understanding, and knowledge that go far beyond man’s ability to attain. Gods act of creating and sustaining the earth (and the universe) should impress upon us not to question his deeds and purposes. “Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and marked off the heavens with a span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure and weighted the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance?” asks Isaiah (Isaiah 40:12). Who then proposes to counsel God? “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding,” God asks of Job (Job 38:4). We actually do know more than Job or Isaiah about the world. But the deeper we delve into knowledge, the deeper we find the sea of complexity to be and the more marvelous creation is.

It is interesting that the proverb says nothing about God’s power. Surely creation testifies to the power of God, but let us take away one more lesson. Without wisdom power is nothing more than brute force. Without knowledge the deeps break open and destroy. We so often strive for power to overcome our obstacles, when what we really need is the wisdom and knowledge to understand those obstacles. We want power to do good oftentimes before we understand what is good. Seek wisdom; seek knowledge. You will then learn how to use the power God gives.

 

Genesis 35-36

35 Then God said to Jacob, ‘Go up to Bethel and settle there, and build an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you were fleeing from your brother Esau.’

So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, ‘Get rid of the foreign gods you have with you, and purify yourselves and change your clothes. Then come, let us go up to Bethel, where I will build an altar to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and who has been with me wherever I have gone.’ So they gave Jacob all the foreign gods they had and the rings in their ears, and Jacob buried them under the oak at Shechem. Then they set out, and the terror of God fell on the towns all around them so that no one pursued them.

Jacob and all the people with him came to Luz (that is, Bethel) in the land of Canaan. There he built an altar, and he called the place El Bethel, because it was there that God revealed himself to him when he was fleeing from his brother.

Now Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, died and was buried under the oak outside Bethel. So it was named Allon Bakuth.

After Jacob returned from Paddan Aram, God appeared to him again and blessed him. 10 God said to him, ‘Your name is Jacob, but you will no longer be called Jacob; your name will be Israel.’ So he named him Israel.

11 And God said to him, ‘I am God Almighty;[ be fruitful and increase in number. A nation and a community of nations will come from you, and kings will be among your descendants. 12 The land I gave to Abraham and Isaac I also give to you, and I will give this land to your descendants after you.’ 13 Then God went up from him at the place where he had talked with him.

14 Jacob set up a stone pillar at the place where God had talked with him, and he poured out a drink offering on it; he also poured oil on it. 15 Jacob called the place where God had talked with him Bethel.

 

The deaths of Rachel and Isaac

16 Then they moved on from Bethel. While they were still some distance from Ephrath, Rachel began to give birth and had great difficulty. 17 And as she was having great difficulty in childbirth, the midwife said to her, ‘Don’t despair, for you have another son.’ 18 As she breathed her last – for she was dying – she named her son Ben-Oni. But his father named him Benjamin.

19 So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem). 20 Over her tomb Jacob set up a pillar, and to this day that pillar marks Rachel’s tomb.

21 Israel moved on again and pitched his tent beyond Migdal Eder. 22 While Israel was living in that region, Reuben went in and slept with his father’s concubine Bilhah, and Israel heard of it.

Jacob had twelve sons:

23 The sons of Leah:

Reuben the firstborn of Jacob,

Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar and Zebulun.

24 The sons of Rachel:

Joseph and Benjamin.

25 The sons of Rachel’s servant Bilhah:

Dan and Naphtali.

26 The sons of Leah’s servant Zilpah:

Gad and Asher.

These were the sons of Jacob, who were born to him in Paddan Aram.

27 Jacob came home to his father Isaac in Mamre, near Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron), where Abraham and Isaac had stayed. 28 Isaac lived a hundred and eighty years. 29 Then he breathed his last and died and was gathered to his people, old and full of years. And his sons Esau and Jacob buried him.

 

Esau’s descendants

36 This is the account of the family line of Esau (that is, Edom).

Esau took his wives from the women of Canaan: Adah daughter of Elon the Hittite, and Oholibamah daughter of Anah and granddaughter of Zibeon the Hivite – also Basemath daughter of Ishmael and sister of Nebaioth.

Adah bore Eliphaz to Esau, Basemath bore Reuel, and Oholibamah bore Jeush, Jalam and Korah. These were the sons of Esau, who were born to him in Canaan.

Esau took his wives and sons and daughters and all the members of his household, as well as his livestock and all his other animals and all the goods he had acquired in Canaan, and moved to a land some distance from his brother Jacob. Their possessions were too great for them to remain together; the land where they were staying could not support them both because of their livestock. So Esau (that is, Edom) settled in the hill country of Seir.

This is the account of the family line of Esau the father of the Edomites in the hill country of Seir.

10 These are the names of Esau’s sons:

Eliphaz, the son of Esau’s wife Adah, and Reuel, the son of Esau’s wife Basemath.

11 The sons of Eliphaz:

Teman, Omar, Zepho, Gatam and Kenaz.

12 Esau’s son Eliphaz also had a concubine named Timna, who bore him Amalek. These were grandsons of Esau’s wife Adah.

13 The sons of Reuel:

Nahath, Zerah, Shammah and Mizzah. These were grandsons of Esau’s wife Basemath.

14 The sons of Esau’s wife Oholibamah daughter of Anah and granddaughter of Zibeon, whom she bore to Esau:

Jeush, Jalam and Korah.

15 These were the chiefs among Esau’s descendants:

The sons of Eliphaz the firstborn of Esau:

Chiefs Teman, Omar, Zepho, Kenaz, 16 Korah, Gatam and Amalek. These were the chiefs descended from Eliphaz in Edom; they were grandsons of Adah.

17 The sons of Esau’s son Reuel:

Chiefs Nahath, Zerah, Shammah and Mizzah. These were the chiefs descended from Reuel in Edom; they were grandsons of Esau’s wife Basemath.

18 The sons of Esau’s wife Oholibamah:

Chiefs Jeush, Jalam and Korah. These were the chiefs descended from Esau’s wife Oholibamah daughter of Anah.

19 These were the sons of Esau (that is, Edom), and these were their chiefs.

20 These were the sons of Seir the Horite, who were living in the region:

Lotan, Shobal, Zibeon, Anah, 21 Dishon, Ezer and Dishan. These sons of Seir in Edom were Horite chiefs.

22 The sons of Lotan:

Hori and Homam. Timna was Lotan’s sister.

23 The sons of Shobal:

Alvan, Manahath, Ebal, Shepho and Onam.

24 The sons of Zibeon:

Aiah and Anah. This is the Anah who discovered the hot springs in the desert while he was grazing the donkeys of his father Zibeon.

25 The children of Anah:

Dishon and Oholibamah daughter of Anah.

26 The sons of Dishon:

Hemdan, Eshban, Ithran and Keran.

27 The sons of Ezer:

Bilhan, Zaavan and Akan.

28 The sons of Dishan:

Uz and Aran.

29 These were the Horite chiefs:

Lotan, Shobal, Zibeon, Anah, 30 Dishon, Ezer and Dishan. These were the Horite chiefs, according to their divisions, in the land of Seir.

The rulers of Edom

31 These were the kings who reigned in Edom before any Israelite king reigned:

32 Bela son of Beor became king of Edom. His city was named Dinhabah.

33 When Bela died, Jobab son of Zerah from Bozrah succeeded him as king.

34 When Jobab died, Husham from the land of the Temanites succeeded him as king.

35 When Husham died, Hadad son of Bedad, who defeated Midian in the country of Moab, succeeded him as king. His city was named Avith.

36 When Hadad died, Samlah from Masrekah succeeded him as king.

37 When Samlah died, Shaul from Rehoboth on the river succeeded him as king.

38 When Shaul died, Baal-Hanan son of Akbor succeeded him as king.

39 When Baal-Hanan son of Akbor died, Hadad succeeded him as king. His city was named Pau, and his wife’s name was Mehetabel daughter of Matred, the daughter of Me-Zahab.

40 These were the chiefs descended from Esau, by name, according to their clans and regions:

Timna, Alvah, Jetheth, 41 Oholibamah, Elah, Pinon, 42 Kenaz, Teman, Mibzar, 43 Magdiel and Iram. These were the chiefs of Edom, according to their settlements in the land they occupied.

This is the family line of Esau, the father of the Edomites.

19 February 2020

Proverbs 3:16-18

16 Long life is in her right hand;
    in her left hand are riches and honor.
17 Her ways are pleasant ways,
    and all her paths are peace.
18 She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her;
    those who hold her fast will be blessed.

Wisdom proves her value. She provides long life. She keeps the possessor out of danger and provides discernment for knowing how to live a healthy life. She provides riches and honour. Through her the possessor makes wise decisions on the use of his money and teaches him not to waste his money on things that do not satisfy. By wisdom he receives recognition and respect from his neighbours.

Wisdom leads the possessor along the ways of pleasantness. He values and experiences those things that are good for the soul, uplifting for the spirit, and helpful to the body and mind. He walks along wisdom’s path of peace. Guided by her he finds inner peace and learns to live peacefully with his neighbours. She provides an abundant, blessed life full of rich memories.

But understand the true value of wisdom. She leads the possessor to God who provides eternal life. Through wisdom the possessor has the eyes to see who Jesus Christ truly is and to embrace him. Through wisdom he finds pleasantness and peace in Christ who has reconciled him to God.

Wisdom is the tree of life, because wisdom is the Holy Spirit granting eternal life in Christ. The Spirit reveals to us the mysteries of God that he chooses to reveal in Christ and in his written Word. It is the Spirit who makes us wise to comprehend the Gospel and the Scriptures. It is the Spirit who convicts us of sin and gives us faith. It is the Spirit who applies the blessing of God.

 

Genesis 33-34

33 Jacob looked up and there was Esau, coming with his four hundred men; so he divided the children among Leah, Rachel and the two female servants. He put the female servants and their children in front, Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph in the rear. He himself went on ahead and bowed down to the ground seven times as he approached his brother.

But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept. Then Esau looked up and saw the women and children. ‘Who are these with you?’ he asked.

Jacob answered, ‘They are the children God has graciously given your servant.’

Then the female servants and their children approached and bowed down. Next, Leah and her children came and bowed down. Last of all came Joseph and Rachel, and they too bowed down.

Esau asked, ‘What’s the meaning of all these flocks and herds I met?’

‘To find favour in your eyes, my lord,’ he said.

But Esau said, ‘I already have plenty, my brother. Keep what you have for yourself.’

10 ‘No, please!’ said Jacob. ‘If I have found favour in your eyes, accept this gift from me. For to see your face is like seeing the face of God, now that you have received me favourably. 11 Please accept the present that was brought to you, for God has been gracious to me and I have all I need.’ And because Jacob insisted, Esau accepted it.

12 Then Esau said, ‘Let us be on our way; I’ll accompany you.’

13 But Jacob said to him, ‘My lord knows that the children are tender and that I must care for the ewes and cows that are nursing their young. If they are driven hard just one day, all the animals will die. 14 So let my lord go on ahead of his servant, while I move along slowly at the pace of the flocks and herds before me and the pace of the children, until I come to my lord in Seir.’

15 Esau said, ‘Then let me leave some of my men with you.’

‘But why do that?’ Jacob asked. ‘Just let me find favour in the eyes of my lord.’

16 So that day Esau started on his way back to Seir. 17 Jacob, however, went to Sukkoth, where he built a place for himself and made shelters for his livestock. That is why the place is called Sukkoth.

18 After Jacob came from Paddan Aram, he arrived safely at the city of Shechem in Canaan and camped within sight of the city. 19 For a hundred pieces of silver, he bought from the sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem, the plot of ground where he pitched his tent. 20 There he set up an altar and called it El Elohe Israel.

 

Dinah and the Shechemites

34 Now Dinah, the daughter Leah had borne to Jacob, went out to visit the women of the land. When Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, the ruler of that area, saw her, he took her and raped her. His heart was drawn to Dinah daughter of Jacob; he loved the young woman and spoke tenderly to her. And Shechem said to his father Hamor, ‘Get me this girl as my wife.’

When Jacob heard that his daughter Dinah had been defiled, his sons were in the fields with his livestock; so he did nothing about it until they came home.

Then Shechem’s father Hamor went out to talk with Jacob. Meanwhile, Jacob’s sons had come in from the fields as soon as they heard what had happened. They were shocked and furious, because Shechem had done an outrageous thing in Israel by sleeping with Jacob’s daughter – a thing that should not be done.

But Hamor said to them, ‘My son Shechem has his heart set on your daughter. Please give her to him as his wife. Intermarry with us; give us your daughters and take our daughters for yourselves. 10 You can settle among us; the land is open to you. Live in it, trade in it, and acquire property in it.’

11 Then Shechem said to Dinah’s father and brothers, ‘Let me find favour in your eyes, and I will give you whatever you ask. 12 Make the price for the bride and the gift I am to bring as great as you like, and I’ll pay whatever you ask me. Only give me the young woman as my wife.’

13 Because their sister Dinah had been defiled, Jacob’s sons replied deceitfully as they spoke to Shechem and his father Hamor. 14 They said to them, ‘We can’t do such a thing; we can’t give our sister to a man who is not circumcised. That would be a disgrace to us. 15 We will enter into an agreement with you on one condition only: that you become like us by circumcising all your males. 16 Then we will give you our daughters and take your daughters for ourselves. We’ll settle among you and become one people with you. 17 But if you will not agree to be circumcised, we’ll take our sister and go.’

18 Their proposal seemed good to Hamor and his son Shechem. 19 The young man, who was the most honoured of all his father’s family, lost no time in doing what they said, because he was delighted with Jacob’s daughter. 20 So Hamor and his son Shechem went to the gate of their city to speak to the men of their city. 21 ‘These men are friendly towards us,’ they said. ‘Let them live in our land and trade in it; the land has plenty of room for them. We can marry their daughters and they can marry ours. 22 But the men will agree to live with us as one people only on the condition that our males be circumcised, as they themselves are. 23 Won’t their livestock, their property and all their other animals become ours? So let us agree to their terms, and they will settle among us.’

24 All the men who went out of the city gate agreed with Hamor and his son Shechem, and every male in the city was circumcised.

25 Three days later, while all of them were still in pain, two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, took their swords and attacked the unsuspecting city, killing every male. 26 They put Hamor and his son Shechem to the sword and took Dinah from Shechem’s house and left. 27 The sons of Jacob came upon the dead bodies and looted the city where their sister had been defiled. 28 They seized their flocks and herds and donkeys and everything else of theirs in the city and out in the fields. 29 They carried off all their wealth and all their women and children, taking as plunder everything in the houses.

30 Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, ‘You have brought trouble on me by making me obnoxious to the Canaanites and Perizzites, the people living in this land. We are few in number, and if they join forces against me and attack me, I and my household will be destroyed.’

31 But they replied, ‘Should he have treated our sister like a prostitute?’

18 February 2020

Proverbs 3:13-15

13 Blessed are those who find wisdom,
    those who gain understanding,
14 for she is more profitable than silver
    and yields better returns than gold.
15 She is more precious than rubies;
    nothing you desire can compare with her.

Essential for a meaningful life is knowing what to value. The cause of much unhappiness is prizing things that are either of little value or even harmful. To set great value on objects will lead to distress. You can experience the pain of losing an object, or the anxiety of holding on to it, or the restlessness of finding that it does not satisfy your pleasure. To value specific achievements causes trouble. You sacrifice and work hard to achieve your goal; then you get injured or sick and your long anticipated achievement is lost. You work hard only to find a competitor who still beats you because you are not quite good enough. Or you fail because you were cheated or fate just didn’t go your way. Or you reach your goal only to find new pressure to stay at the top, to keep your fortune.

The value of wisdom is that, first, she is of true value. Her value has nothing to do with how much others desire her; she is not subjected to fashion and ratings. She does not have to be kept locked up. Insurance is not needed to protect her as an investment. She resides easily in the possession of the poor as well as of the wealthy. There is no competition to fight against to obtain her. She resides easily in the possession of the under-educated as well as the highly-educated. The very possession of her increases peace and security rather than heightens worry about losing her. And the more that wisdom is spent, all the more then that wisdom increases.

How odd then that wisdom is so little valued, and when she is valued, it is only as a means to something trivial or of greater risk. To gain wisdom, first understand her value. Treat her with respect and know the blessing that she brings.

 

Genesis 31-32

Jacob flees from Laban

31 Jacob heard that Laban’s sons were saying, ‘Jacob has taken everything our father owned and has gained all this wealth from what belonged to our father.’ And Jacob noticed that Laban’s attitude towards him was not what it had been.

Then the Lord said to Jacob, ‘Go back to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you.’

So Jacob sent word to Rachel and Leah to come out to the fields where his flocks were. He said to them, ‘I see that your father’s attitude towards me is not what it was before, but the God of my father has been with me. You know that I’ve worked for your father with all my strength, yet your father has cheated me by changing my wages ten times. However, God has not allowed him to harm me. If he said, “The speckled ones will be your wages,” then all the flocks gave birth to speckled young; and if he said, “The streaked ones will be your wages,” then all the flocks bore streaked young. So God has taken away your father’s livestock and has given them to me.

10 ‘In the breeding season I once had a dream in which I looked up and saw that the male goats mating with the flock were streaked, speckled or spotted. 11 The angel of God said to me in the dream, “Jacob.” I answered, “Here I am.” 12 And he said, “Look up and see that all the male goats mating with the flock are streaked, speckled or spotted, for I have seen all that Laban has been doing to you. 13 I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar and where you made a vow to me. Now leave this land at once and go back to your native land.”’

14 Then Rachel and Leah replied, ‘Do we still have any share in the inheritance of our father’s estate? 15 Does he not regard us as foreigners? Not only has he sold us, but he has used up what was paid for us. 16 Surely all the wealth that God took away from our father belongs to us and our children. So do whatever God has told you.’

17 Then Jacob put his children and his wives on camels, 18 and he drove all his livestock ahead of him, along with all the goods he had accumulated in Paddan Aram, to go to his father Isaac in the land of Canaan.

19 When Laban had gone to shear his sheep, Rachel stole her father’s household gods. 20 Moreover, Jacob deceived Laban the Aramean by not telling him he was running away. 21 So he fled with all he had, crossed the River Euphrates, and headed for the hill country of Gilead.

 

Laban pursues Jacob

22 On the third day Laban was told that Jacob had fled. 23 Taking his relatives with him, he pursued Jacob for seven days and caught up with him in the hill country of Gilead. 24 Then God came to Laban the Aramean in a dream at night and said to him, ‘Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.’

25 Jacob had pitched his tent in the hill country of Gilead when Laban overtook him, and Laban and his relatives camped there too. 26 Then Laban said to Jacob, ‘What have you done? You’ve deceived me, and you’ve carried off my daughters like captives in war. 27 Why did you run off secretly and deceive me? Why didn’t you tell me, so that I could send you away with joy and singing to the music of tambourines and harps? 28 You didn’t even let me kiss my grandchildren and my daughters goodbye. You have done a foolish thing. 29 I have the power to harm you; but last night the God of your father said to me, “Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.” 30 Now you have gone off because you longed to return to your father’s household. But why did you steal my gods?’

31 Jacob answered Laban, ‘I was afraid, because I thought you would take your daughters away from me by force. 32 But if you find anyone who has your gods, that person shall not live. In the presence of our relatives, see for yourself whether there is anything of yours here with me; and if so, take it.’ Now Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen the gods.

33 So Laban went into Jacob’s tent and into Leah’s tent and into the tent of the two female servants, but he found nothing. After he came out of Leah’s tent, he entered Rachel’s tent. 34 Now Rachel had taken the household gods and put them inside her camel’s saddle and was sitting on them. Laban searched through everything in the tent but found nothing.

35 Rachel said to her father, ‘Don’t be angry, my lord, that I cannot stand up in your presence; I’m having my period.’ So he searched but could not find the household gods.

36 Jacob was angry and took Laban to task. ‘What is my crime?’ he asked Laban. ‘How have I wronged you that you hunt me down? 37 Now that you have searched through all my goods, what have you found that belongs to your household? Put it here in front of your relatives and mine, and let them judge between the two of us.

38 ‘I have been with you for twenty years now. Your sheep and goats have not miscarried, nor have I eaten rams from your flocks. 39 I did not bring you animals torn by wild beasts; I bore the loss myself. And you demanded payment from me for whatever was stolen by day or night. 40 This was my situation: the heat consumed me in the daytime and the cold at night, and sleep fled from my eyes. 41 It was like this for the twenty years I was in your household. I worked for you fourteen years for your two daughters and six years for your flocks, and you changed my wages ten times. 42 If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not been with me, you would surely have sent me away empty-handed. But God has seen my hardship and the toil of my hands, and last night he rebuked you.’

43 Laban answered Jacob, ‘The women are my daughters, the children are my children, and the flocks are my flocks. All you see is mine. Yet what can I do today about these daughters of mine, or about the children they have borne? 44 Come now, let’s make a covenant, you and I, and let it serve as a witness between us.’

45 So Jacob took a stone and set it up as a pillar. 46 He said to his relatives, ‘Gather some stones.’ So they took stones and piled them in a heap, and they ate there by the heap. 47 Laban called it Jegar Sahadutha, and Jacob called it Galeed.

48 Laban said, ‘This heap is a witness between you and me today.’ That is why it was called Galeed. 49 It was also called Mizpah, because he said, ‘May the Lord keep watch between you and me when we are away from each other. 50 If you ill-treat my daughters or if you take any wives besides my daughters, even though no one is with us, remember that God is a witness between you and me.’

51 Laban also said to Jacob, ‘Here is this heap, and here is this pillar I have set up between you and me. 52 This heap is a witness, and this pillar is a witness, that I will not go past this heap to your side to harm you and that you will not go past this heap and pillar to my side to harm me. 53 May the God of Abraham and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge between us.’

So Jacob took an oath in the name of the Fear of his father Isaac. 54 He offered a sacrifice there in the hill country and invited his relatives to a meal. After they had eaten, they spent the night there.

55 Early the next morning Laban kissed his grandchildren and his daughters and blessed them. Then he left and returned home.

 

Jacob prepares to meet Esau

32 Jacob also went on his way, and the angels of God met him. When Jacob saw them, he said, ‘This is the camp of God!’ So he named that place Mahanaim.

Jacob sent messengers ahead of him to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom. He instructed them: ‘This is what you are to say to my lord Esau: “Your servant Jacob says, I have been staying with Laban and have remained there till now. I have cattle and donkeys, sheep and goats, male and female servants. Now I am sending this message to my lord, that I may find favour in your eyes.”’

When the messengers returned to Jacob, they said, ‘We went to your brother Esau, and now he is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.’

In great fear and distress Jacob divided the people who were with him into two groups, and the flocks and herds and camels as well. He thought, ‘If Esau comes and attacks one group, the group that is left may escape.’

Then Jacob prayed, ‘O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, Lord, you who said to me, “Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper,” 10 I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant. I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan, but now I have become two camps. 11 Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me, and also the mothers with their children. 12 But you have said, “I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted.”’

13 He spent the night there, and from what he had with him he selected a gift for his brother Esau: 14 two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, 15 thirty female camels with their young, forty cows and ten bulls, and twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys. 16 He put them in the care of his servants, each herd by itself, and said to his servants, ‘Go ahead of me, and keep some space between the herds.’

17 He instructed the one in the lead: ‘When my brother Esau meets you and asks, “Who do you belong to, and where are you going, and who owns all these animals in front of you?” 18 then you are to say, “They belong to your servant Jacob. They are a gift sent to my lord Esau, and he is coming behind us.”’

19 He also instructed the second, the third and all the others who followed the herds: ‘You are to say the same thing to Esau when you meet him. 20 And be sure to say, “Your servant Jacob is coming behind us.”’ For he thought, ‘I will pacify him with these gifts I am sending on ahead; later, when I see him, perhaps he will receive me.’ 21 So Jacob’s gifts went on ahead of him, but he himself spent the night in the camp.

 

Jacob wrestles with God

22 That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. 24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, ‘Let me go, for it is daybreak.’

But Jacob replied, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’

27 The man asked him, ‘What is your name?’

‘Jacob,’ he answered.

28 Then the man said, ‘Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel,[j] because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.’

29 Jacob said, ‘Please tell me your name.’

But he replied, ‘Why do you ask my name?’ Then he blessed him there.

30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, ‘It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.’

31 The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip. 32 Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the tendon attached to the socket of the hip, because the socket of Jacob’s hip was touched near the tendon.

 

17 February 2020

Proverbs 3:11-12

11 My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline,

    and do not resent his rebuke,

12 because the Lord disciplines those he loves,

    as a father the son he delights in.

Are you experiencing trials at this time? Do you feel like you are going through a specially difficult time? Then consider the “devotional” written by the writer of Hebrews on this proverb.

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it (12:7-11).

We are disciplined for a reason. God is correcting us. We are not merely to get through our trial; we are to come out of it having learned a lesson and stronger for it. Do not make the mistake of thinking that the lesson is seeing more clearly the sins of others. Discipline is for the purpose of correcting our own sins. What is it that God would have you see about yourself? Do the difficult work of examining yourself. It is that difficult work which yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

 

Genesis 30

30 When Rachel saw that she was not bearing Jacob any children, she became jealous of her sister. So she said to Jacob, ‘Give me children, or I’ll die!’

Jacob became angry with her and said, ‘Am I in the place of God, who has kept you from having children?’

Then she said, ‘Here is Bilhah, my servant. Sleep with her so that she can bear children for me and I too can build a family through her.’

So she gave him her servant Bilhah as a wife. Jacob slept with her, and she became pregnant and bore him a son. Then Rachel said, ‘God has vindicated me; he has listened to my plea and given me a son.’ Because of this she named him Dan.

Rachel’s servant Bilhah conceived again and bore Jacob a second son. Then Rachel said, ‘I have had a great struggle with my sister, and I have won.’ So she named him Naphtali.

When Leah saw that she had stopped having children, she took her servant Zilpah and gave her to Jacob as a wife. 10 Leah’s servant Zilpah bore Jacob a son. 11 Then Leah said, ‘What good fortune!’ So she named him Gad.

12 Leah’s servant Zilpah bore Jacob a second son. 13 Then Leah said, ‘How happy I am! The women will call me happy.’ So she named him Asher.

14 During wheat harvest, Reuben went out into the fields and found some mandrake plants, which he brought to his mother Leah. Rachel said to Leah, ‘Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.’

15 But she said to her, ‘Wasn’t it enough that you took away my husband? Will you take my son’s mandrakes too?’

‘Very well,’ Rachel said, ‘he can sleep with you tonight in return for your son’s mandrakes.’

16 So when Jacob came in from the fields that evening, Leah went out to meet him. ‘You must sleep with me,’ she said. ‘I have hired you with my son’s mandrakes.’ So he slept with her that night.

17 God listened to Leah, and she became pregnant and bore Jacob a fifth son. 18 Then Leah said, ‘God has rewarded me for giving my servant to my husband.’ So she named him Issachar.

19 Leah conceived again and bore Jacob a sixth son. 20 Then Leah said, ‘God has presented me with a precious gift. This time my husband will treat me with honour, because I have borne him six sons.’ So she named him Zebulun.

21 Some time later she gave birth to a daughter and named her Dinah.

22 Then God remembered Rachel; he listened to her and enabled her to conceive. 23 She became pregnant and gave birth to a son and said, ‘God has taken away my disgrace.’ 24 She named him Joseph, and said, ‘May the Lord add to me another son.’

 

Jacob’s flocks increase

25 After Rachel gave birth to Joseph, Jacob said to Laban, ‘Send me on my way so that I can go back to my own homeland. 26 Give me my wives and children, for whom I have served you, and I will be on my way. You know how much work I’ve done for you.’

27 But Laban said to him, ‘If I have found favour in your eyes, please stay. I have learned by divination that the Lord has blessed me because of you.’ 28 He added, ‘Name your wages, and I will pay them.’

29 Jacob said to him, ‘You know how I have worked for you and how your livestock has fared under my care. 30 The little you had before I came has increased greatly, and the Lord has blessed you wherever I have been. But now, when may I do something for my own household?’

31 ‘What shall I give you?’ he asked.

‘Don’t give me anything,’ Jacob replied. ‘But if you will do this one thing for me, I will go on tending your flocks and watching over them: 32 let me go through all your flocks today and remove from them every speckled or spotted sheep, every dark-coloured lamb and every spotted or speckled goat. They will be my wages. 33 And my honesty will testify for me in the future, whenever you check on the wages you have paid me. Any goat in my possession that is not speckled or spotted, or any lamb that is not dark-coloured, will be considered stolen.’

34 ‘Agreed,’ said Laban. ‘Let it be as you have said.’ 35 That same day he removed all the male goats that were streaked or spotted, and all the speckled or spotted female goats (all that had white on them) and all the dark-coloured lambs, and he placed them in the care of his sons. 36 Then he put a three-day journey between himself and Jacob, while Jacob continued to tend the rest of Laban’s flocks.

37 Jacob, however, took fresh-cut branches from poplar, almond and plane trees and made white stripes on them by peeling the bark and exposing the white inner wood of the branches. 38 Then he placed the peeled branches in all the watering troughs, so that they would be directly in front of the flocks when they came to drink. When the flocks were in heat and came to drink, 39 they mated in front of the branches. And they bore young that were streaked or speckled or spotted. 40 Jacob set apart the young of the flock by themselves, but made the rest face the streaked and dark-coloured animals that belonged to Laban. Thus he made separate flocks for himself and did not put them with Laban’s animals. 41 Whenever the stronger females were in heat, Jacob would place the branches in the troughs in front of the animals so that they would mate near the branches, 42 but if the animals were weak, he would not place them there. So the weak animals went to Laban and the strong ones to Jacob. 43 In this way the man grew exceedingly prosperous and came to own large flocks, and female and male servants, and camels and donkeys.

15 February 2020

Esther 3:1-15

Haman’s Plot to Destroy the Jews

3 After these events, King Xerxes honored Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, elevating him and giving him a seat of honor higher than that of all the other nobles. All the royal officials at the king’s gate knelt down and paid honor to Haman, for the king had commanded this concerning him. But Mordecai would not kneel down or pay him honor.

Then the royal officials at the king’s gate asked Mordecai, “Why do you disobey the king’s command?” Day after day they spoke to him but he refused to comply. Therefore they told Haman about it to see whether Mordecai’s behavior would be tolerated, for he had told them he was a Jew.

When Haman saw that Mordecai would not kneel down or pay him honor, he was enraged. Yet having learned who Mordecai’s people were, he scorned the idea of killing only Mordecai. Instead Haman looked for a way to destroy all Mordecai’s people, the Jews, throughout the whole kingdom of Xerxes.

In the twelfth year of King Xerxes, in the first month, the month of Nisan, the pur (that is, the lot) was cast in the presence of Haman to select a day and month. And the lot fell on the twelfth month, the month of Adar.

Then Haman said to King Xerxes, “There is a certain people dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom who keep themselves separate. Their customs are different from those of all other people, and they do not obey the king’s laws; it is not in the king’s best interest to tolerate them. If it pleases the king, let a decree be issued to destroy them, and I will give ten thousand talents of silver to the king’s administrators for the royal treasury.”

10 So the king took his signet ring from his finger and gave it to Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, the enemy of the Jews. 11 “Keep the money,” the king said to Haman, “and do with the people as you please.”

12 Then on the thirteenth day of the first month the royal secretaries were summoned. They wrote out in the script of each province and in the language of each people all Haman’s orders to the king’s satraps, the governors of the various provinces and the nobles of the various peoples. These were written in the name of King Xerxes himself and sealed with his own ring. 13 Dispatches were sent by couriers to all the king’s provinces with the order to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews—young and old, women and children—on a single day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar, and to plunder their goods. 14 A copy of the text of the edict was to be issued as law in every province and made known to the people of every nationality so they would be ready for that day.

15 The couriers went out, spurred on by the king’s command, and the edict was issued in the citadel of Susa. The king and Haman sat down to drink, but the city of Susa was bewildered.

Prayer: Almighty Father, whose blessed Son was revealed so that He might destroy the works of the devil and make us the children of God and heirs of eternal life: grant that having this hope we may purify ourselves as He is pure; that when He shall appear again with power and glory, we may be made like him in His eternal and glorious kingdom, where with You, Father, and with the Holy Spirit, He lives and reigns, one God, for evermore. Amen.

14 February 2020

Proverbs 3:9-10

Honor the Lord with your wealth,
    with the firstfruits of all your crops;
10 then your barns will be filled to overflowing,
    and your vats will brim over with new wine.

This proverb is referring to tithing the firstfruits of all your produce. We talk about giving all of ourselves to the Lord and yet somehow find it difficult to part with ten percent of our income. Surely it matters how we spend all of our money, and we give to the Lord by being financially responsible, taking care of our families, and so on. But it requires faith and discipline to let go of a portion of our money as we earn it. We must trust the Lord to provide. We must give attention to how we spend the remainder. We must acknowledge that we owe to the Lord everything, that he has a right to us and what we have.

Will we then be blessed with plenty? It is more likely to happen than if we hoard what we have. Time and again the proverbs link earthly reward with righteousness and the fear of God. The blessing of the Lord is not measured by earthly prosperity; nevertheless, prosperity often comes as a byproduct. As we focus on honoring the Lord, he blesses his people. It may not always be through physical prosperity, but do not be surprised if it does come; all the more then do not let that prosperity lead you astray, but honor the Lord giving him the firstfruits of your produce.

Genesis 29

Jacob arrives in Paddan Aram

29 Then Jacob continued on his journey and came to the land of the eastern peoples. There he saw a well in the open country, with three flocks of sheep lying near it because the flocks were watered from that well. The stone over the mouth of the well was large. When all the flocks were gathered there, the shepherds would roll the stone away from the well’s mouth and water the sheep. Then they would return the stone to its place over the mouth of the well.

Jacob asked the shepherds, ‘My brothers, where are you from?’

‘We’re from Harran,’ they replied.

He said to them, ‘Do you know Laban, Nahor’s grandson?’

‘Yes, we know him,’ they answered.

Then Jacob asked them, ‘Is he well?’

‘Yes, he is,’ they said, ‘and here comes his daughter Rachel with the sheep.’

‘Look,’ he said, ‘the sun is still high; it is not time for the flocks to be gathered. Water the sheep and take them back to pasture.’

‘We can’t,’ they replied, ‘until all the flocks are gathered and the stone has been rolled away from the mouth of the well. Then we will water the sheep.’

While he was still talking with them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep, for she was a shepherd. 10 When Jacob saw Rachel daughter of his uncle Laban, and Laban’s sheep, he went over and rolled the stone away from the mouth of the well and watered his uncle’s sheep. 11 Then Jacob kissed Rachel and began to weep aloud. 12 He had told Rachel that he was a relative of her father and a son of Rebekah. So she ran and told her father.

13 As soon as Laban heard the news about Jacob, his sister’s son, he hurried to meet him. He embraced him and kissed him and brought him to his home, and there Jacob told him all these things. 14 Then Laban said to him, ‘You are my own flesh and blood.’

 

Jacob marries Leah and Rachel

After Jacob had stayed with him for a whole month, 15 Laban said to him, ‘Just because you are a relative of mine, should you work for me for nothing? Tell me what your wages should be.’

16 Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the elder one was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. 17 Leah had weak eyes, but Rachel had a lovely figure and was beautiful. 18 Jacob was in love with Rachel and said, ‘I’ll work for you seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel.’

19 Laban said, ‘It’s better that I give her to you than to some other man. Stay here with me.’ 20 So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her.

21 Then Jacob said to Laban, ‘Give me my wife. My time is completed, and I want to make love to her.’

22 So Laban brought together all the people of the place and gave a feast. 23 But when evening came, he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob, and Jacob made love to her. 24 And Laban gave his servant Zilpah to his daughter as her attendant.

25 When morning came, there was Leah! So Jacob said to Laban, ‘What is this you have done to me? I served you for Rachel, didn’t I? Why have you deceived me?’

26 Laban replied, ‘It is not our custom here to give the younger daughter in marriage before the elder one. 27 Finish this daughter’s bridal week; then we will give you the younger one also, in return for another seven years of work.’

28 And Jacob did so. He finished the week with Leah, and then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel to be his wife. 29 Laban gave his servant Bilhah to his daughter Rachel as her attendant. 30 Jacob made love to Rachel also, and his love for Rachel was greater than his love for Leah. And he worked for Laban another seven years.

 

Jacob’s children

31 When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved, he enabled her to conceive, but Rachel remained childless. 32 Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Reuben, for she said, ‘It is because the Lord has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now.’

33 She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, ‘Because the Lord heard that I am not loved, he gave me this one too.’ So she named him Simeon.

34 Again she conceived, and when she gave birth to a son she said, ‘Now at last my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.’ So he was named Levi.

35 She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, ‘This time I will praise the Lord.’ So she named him Judah. Then she stopped having children.

13 February 2020

Proverbs 3:7-8

Do not be wise in your own eyes;
    fear the Lord and shun evil.
This will bring health to your body
    and nourishment to your bones.

Verse 7 presents a good definition of humility. First, be not wise in your own eyes. This is not false humility but recognition of your limits. The essence of wisdom is recognising how little you know. There are many scholars and persons of high intellect who nevertheless are fools because they overestimate their knowledge and their ability to use that knowledge wisely.

Second, fear the Lord. Acknowledge the one who is all-wise, who knows all things, and who does accomplish his will. Acknowledge him and obey him. Third, turn away from evil. The humble person knows that if he does not turn away from evil, it will draw him in and lead to his undoing. He does not trust his ability to withstand temptation.

This humble attitude leads to well-being by keeping you out of trouble, by leading you along a peaceful path often outwardly and especially inwardly. The way of the Lord is the way of healing and refreshment.

Genesis 27-28

27 When Isaac was old and his eyes were so weak that he could no longer see, he called for his elder son Esau and said to him, ‘My son.’

‘Here I am,’ he answered.

Isaac said, ‘I am now an old man and don’t know the day of my death. Now then, get your equipment – your quiver and bow – and go out to the open country to hunt some wild game for me. Prepare me the kind of tasty food I like and bring it to me to eat, so that I may give you my blessing before I die.’

Now Rebekah was listening as Isaac spoke to his son Esau. When Esau left for the open country to hunt game and bring it back, Rebekah said to her son Jacob, ‘Look, I overheard your father say to your brother Esau, “Bring me some game and prepare me some tasty food to eat, so that I may give you my blessing in the presence of the Lord before I die.” Now, my son, listen carefully and do what I tell you: go out to the flock and bring me two choice young goats, so that I can prepare some tasty food for your father, just the way he likes it. 10 Then take it to your father to eat, so that he may give you his blessing before he dies.’

11 Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, ‘But my brother Esau is a hairy man while I have smooth skin. 12 What if my father touches me? I would appear to be tricking him and would bring down a curse on myself rather than a blessing.’

13 His mother said to him, ‘My son, let the curse fall on me. Just do what I say; go and get them for me.’

14 So he went and got them and brought them to his mother, and she prepared some tasty food, just the way his father liked it. 15 Then Rebekah took the best clothes of her elder son Esau, which she had in the house, and put them on her younger son Jacob. 16 She also covered his hands and the smooth part of his neck with the goatskins. 17 Then she handed to her son Jacob the tasty food and the bread she had made.

18 He went to his father and said, ‘My father.’

‘Yes, my son,’ he answered. ‘Who is it?’

19 Jacob said to his father, ‘I am Esau your firstborn. I have done as you told me. Please sit up and eat some of my game, so that you may give me your blessing.’

20 Isaac asked his son, ‘How did you find it so quickly, my son?’

‘The Lord your God gave me success,’ he replied.

21 Then Isaac said to Jacob, ‘Come near so I can touch you, my son, to know whether you really are my son Esau or not.’

22 Jacob went close to his father Isaac, who touched him and said, ‘The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau.’ 23 He did not recognise him, for his hands were hairy like those of his brother Esau; so he proceeded to bless him. 24 ‘Are you really my son Esau?’ he asked.

‘I am,’ he replied.

25 Then he said, ‘My son, bring me some of your game to eat, so that I may give you my blessing.’

Jacob brought it to him and he ate; and he brought some wine and he drank. 26 Then his father Isaac said to him, ‘Come here, my son, and kiss me.’

27 So he went to him and kissed him. When Isaac caught the smell of his clothes, he blessed him and said,

‘Ah, the smell of my son
    is like the smell of a field
    that the Lord has blessed.
28 May God give you heaven’s dew
    and earth’s richness –
    an abundance of grain and new wine.
29 May nations serve you
    and peoples bow down to you.
Be lord over your brothers,
    and may the sons of your mother bow down to you.
May those who curse you be cursed
    and those who bless you be blessed.’

30 After Isaac finished blessing him, and Jacob had scarcely left his father’s presence, his brother Esau came in from hunting. 31 He too prepared some tasty food and brought it to his father. Then he said to him, ‘My father, please sit up and eat some of my game, so that you may give me your blessing.’

32 His father Isaac asked him, ‘Who are you?’

‘I am your son,’ he answered, ‘your firstborn, Esau.’

33 Isaac trembled violently and said, ‘Who was it, then, that hunted game and brought it to me? I ate it just before you came and I blessed him – and indeed he will be blessed!’

34 When Esau heard his father’s words, he burst out with a loud and bitter cry and said to his father, ‘Bless me – me too, my father!’

35 But he said, ‘Your brother came deceitfully and took your blessing.’

36 Esau said, ‘Isn’t he rightly named Jacob? This is the second time he has taken advantage of me: he took my birthright, and now he’s taken my blessing!’ Then he asked, ‘Haven’t you reserved any blessing for me?’

37 Isaac answered Esau, ‘I have made him lord over you and have made all his relatives his servants, and I have sustained him with grain and new wine. So what can I possibly do for you, my son?’

38 Esau said to his father, ‘Do you have only one blessing, my father? Bless me too, my father!’ Then Esau wept aloud.

39 His father Isaac answered him,

‘Your dwelling will be
    away from the earth’s richness,
    away from the dew of heaven above.
40 You will live by the sword
    and you will serve your brother.
But when you grow restless,
    you will throw his yoke
    from off your neck.’

41 Esau held a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing his father had given him. He said to himself, ‘The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob.’

42 When Rebekah was told what her elder son Esau had said, she sent for her younger son Jacob and said to him, ‘Your brother Esau is planning to avenge himself by killing you. 43 Now then, my son, do what I say: flee at once to my brother Laban in Harran. 44 Stay with him for a while until your brother’s fury subsides. 45 When your brother is no longer angry with you and forgets what you did to him, I’ll send word for you to come back from there. Why should I lose both of you in one day?’

46 Then Rebekah said to Isaac, ‘I’m disgusted with living because of these Hittite women. If Jacob takes a wife from among the women of this land, from Hittite women like these, my life will not be worth living.’

 

28 So Isaac called for Jacob and blessed him. Then he commanded him: ‘Do not marry a Canaanite woman. Go at once to Paddan Aram, to the house of your mother’s father Bethuel. Take a wife for yourself there, from among the daughters of Laban, your mother’s brother. May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and increase your numbers until you become a community of peoples. May he give you and your descendants the blessing given to Abraham, so that you may take possession of the land where you now reside as a foreigner, the land God gave to Abraham.’ Then Isaac sent Jacob on his way, and he went to Paddan Aram, to Laban son of Bethuel the Aramean, the brother of Rebekah, who was the mother of Jacob and Esau.

Now Esau learned that Isaac had blessed Jacob and had sent him to Paddan Aram to take a wife from there, and that when he blessed him he commanded him, ‘Do not marry a Canaanite woman,’ and that Jacob had obeyed his father and mother and had gone to Paddan Aram. Esau then realised how displeasing the Canaanite women were to his father Isaac; so he went to Ishmael and married Mahalath, the sister of Nebaioth and daughter of Ishmael son of Abraham, in addition to the wives he already had.

 

Jacob’s dream at Bethel

10 Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Harran. 11 When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. 12 He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13 There above it stood the Lord, and he said: ‘I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. 14 Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. 15 I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.’

16 When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.’ 17 He was afraid and said, ‘How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.’

18 Early the next morning Jacob took the stone he had placed under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it. 19 He called that place Bethel, though the city used to be called Luz.

20 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, ‘If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear 21 so that I return safely to my father’s household, then the Lord will be my God 22 and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.’

12 February 2020

Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.

Here is the guide to life for the Christian. Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Trust God in all circumstances to know what he is doing, to keep his promises, to bring all things to a conclusion that serves our good and glorifies him. Trust his commandments; trust his written Word; trust his Redeemer Jesus Christ for your salvation. Trust the Holy Spirit to complete the “good work” of sanctification begun in you and to keep you till the day of Christ’s return.

Do not lean on your own understanding. Seek the wisdom of God laid out in his Word. Meditate on and study diligently the Scriptures, which will make you wise unto salvation.

In all your ways acknowledge him. Acknowledge God at work in your life, especially through the trials of life. Acknowledge that all your ways are to be the ways of the Lord, following along the path of righteousness. You live for God not for yourself. Every decision is to be made with the thought of serving him and glorifying him.

And he will make straight your paths. You cannot make your own paths straight. It is only by turning your life over to him, by daily turning it over to him, that you will keep along God’s path. The path may be difficult at times to walk, but it will not lead you astray as the paths you create inevitably will.

Trust in the Lord Jesus Christ with all of your heart, and he will lead you along the path of righteousness by the power of the Holy Spirit to your heavenly Father.

Genesis 26

Now there was a famine in the land – besides the previous famine in Abraham’s time – and Isaac went to Abimelek king of the Philistines in Gerar. The Lord appeared to Isaac and said, ‘Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land where I tell you to live. Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and will bless you. For to you and your descendants I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham. I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because Abraham obeyed me and did everything I required of him, keeping my commands, my decrees and my instructions.’ So Isaac stayed in Gerar.

When the men of that place asked him about his wife, he said, ‘She is my sister,’ because he was afraid to say, ‘She is my wife.’ He thought, ‘The men of this place might kill me on account of Rebekah, because she is beautiful.’

When Isaac had been there a long time, Abimelek king of the Philistines looked down from a window and saw Isaac caressing his wife Rebekah. So Abimelek summoned Isaac and said, ‘She is really your wife! Why did you say, “She is my sister”?’

Isaac answered him, ‘Because I thought I might lose my life on account of her.’

10 Then Abimelek said, ‘What is this you have done to us? One of the men might well have slept with your wife, and you would have brought guilt upon us.’

11 So Abimelek gave orders to all the people: ‘Anyone who harms this man or his wife shall surely be put to death.’

12 Isaac planted crops in that land and the same year reaped a hundredfold, because the Lord blessed him. 13 The man became rich, and his wealth continued to grow until he became very wealthy. 14 He had so many flocks and herds and servants that the Philistines envied him. 15 So all the wells that his father’s servants had dug in the time of his father Abraham, the Philistines stopped up, filling them with earth.

16 Then Abimelek said to Isaac, ‘Move away from us; you have become too powerful for us.’

17 So Isaac moved away from there and camped in the Valley of Gerar, where he settled. 18 Isaac reopened the wells that had been dug in the time of his father Abraham, which the Philistines had stopped up after Abraham died, and he gave them the same names his father had given them.

19 Isaac’s servants dug in the valley and discovered a well of fresh water there. 20 But the herdsmen of Gerar quarrelled with those of Isaac and said, ‘The water is ours!’ So he named the well Esek, because they disputed with him. 21 Then they dug another well, but they quarrelled over that one also; so he named it Sitnah. 22 He moved on from there and dug another well, and no one quarrelled over it. He named it Rehoboth, saying, ‘Now the Lord has given us room and we will flourish in the land.’

23 From there he went up to Beersheba. 24 That night the Lord appeared to him and said, ‘I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bless you and will increase the number of your descendants for the sake of my servant Abraham.’

25 Isaac built an altar there and called on the name of the Lord. There he pitched his tent, and there his servants dug a well.

26 Meanwhile, Abimelek had come to him from Gerar, with Ahuzzath his personal advisor and Phicol the commander of his forces. 27 Isaac asked them, ‘Why have you come to me, since you were hostile to me and sent me away?’

28 They answered, ‘We saw clearly that the Lord was with you; so we said, “There ought to be a sworn agreement between us”– between us and you. Let us make a treaty with you 29 that you will do us no harm, just as we did not harm you but always treated you well and sent you away peacefully. And now you are blessed by the Lord.’

30 Isaac then made a feast for them, and they ate and drank. 31 Early the next morning the men swore an oath to each other. Then Isaac sent them on their way, and they went away peacefully.

32 That day Isaac’s servants came and told him about the well they had dug. They said, ‘We’ve found water!’ 33 He called it Shibah, and to this day the name of the town has been Beersheba.

 

Jacob takes Esau’s blessing

34 When Esau was forty years old, he married Judith daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and also Basemath daughter of Elon the Hittite. 35 They were a source of grief to Isaac and Rebekah.

11 February 2020

Proverbs 3:3-4

Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
    bind them around your neck,
    write them on the tablet of your heart.
Then you will win favor and a good name
    in the sight of God and man.

Love and Faithfulness

These are new words in the Proverbs – steadfast love and faithfulness. Note the overall focus on steadiness. We are to have a love that is steadfast. This same term for love is repeated over and over again in the Psalms for the love of God. His love is a steadfast love based on his covenant promise which he will not break. Faithfulness – keeping one’s promise to keep a relationship and commitment – is also used often for God. Indeed, God’s steadfast love and faithfulness form the basis for hope and confidence for God’s covenant people. They can count on God to come through with his promises even though they stumble and fail to keep their promises.

But this proverb is not teaching that it is okay to fail to keep steadfast love and faithfulness. It makes the point that as much as one is able to keep these attributes, then he can expect to find favor and good success in the sight of God and man. For people respect a person who keeps steady, especially who loves with a steady love; a person who can be counted on to keep his word and does not change with the direction of the wind.

Such attributes are to be bound around the neck and written in the heart. How do you do this? By meditation on God’s Word that teaches what love is and to what we are to be faithful; by daily prayer for love and faithfulness; and by conscious obedience. Like any habit, it is repetition that ingrains an attribute in us. Practice love and faithfulness. Make such qualities priorities in your life. Just as you make time for what is truly important to you, so it is with these attributes. You will work at loving and being faithful if they matter to you.

How important are they? Important enough that they identify God’s relationship to us in Christ. For Christ was obedient to his Father so that steadfast love might be shown to us.

 

Genesis 24-25

24 Abraham was now very old, and the Lord had blessed him in every way. He said to the senior servant in his household, the one in charge of all that he had, “Put your hand under my thigh. I want you to swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and the God of earth, that you will not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I am living, but will go to my country and my own relatives and get a wife for my son Isaac.”

The servant asked him, “What if the woman is unwilling to come back with me to this land? Shall I then take your son back to the country you came from?”

“Make sure that you do not take my son back there,” Abraham said. “The Lord, the God of heaven, who brought me out of my father’s household and my native land and who spoke to me and promised me on oath, saying, ‘To your offspring I will give this land’—he will send his angel before you so that you can get a wife for my son from there. If the woman is unwilling to come back with you, then you will be released from this oath of mine. Only do not take my son back there.” So the servant put his hand under the thigh of his master Abraham and swore an oath to him concerning this matter.

10 Then the servant left, taking with him ten of his master’s camels loaded with all kinds of good things from his master. He set out for Aram Naharaim and made his way to the town of Nahor. 11 He had the camels kneel down near the well outside the town; it was toward evening, the time the women go out to draw water.

12 Then he prayed, “Lord, God of my master Abraham, make me successful today, and show kindness to my master Abraham. 13 See, I am standing beside this spring, and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water. 14 May it be that when I say to a young woman, ‘Please let down your jar that I may have a drink,’ and she says, ‘Drink, and I’ll water your camels too’—let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac. By this I will know that you have shown kindness to my master.”

15 Before he had finished praying, Rebekah came out with her jar on her shoulder. She was the daughter of Bethuel son of Milkah, who was the wife of Abraham’s brother Nahor. 16 The woman was very beautiful, a virgin; no man had ever slept with her. She went down to the spring, filled her jar and came up again.

17 The servant hurried to meet her and said, “Please give me a little water from your jar.”

18 “Drink, my lord,” she said, and quickly lowered the jar to her hands and gave him a drink.

19 After she had given him a drink, she said, “I’ll draw water for your camels too, until they have had enough to drink.” 20 So she quickly emptied her jar into the trough, ran back to the well to draw more water, and drew enough for all his camels. 21 Without saying a word, the man watched her closely to learn whether or not the Lord had made his journey successful.

22 When the camels had finished drinking, the man took out a gold nose ring weighing a beka and two gold bracelets weighing ten shekels. 23 Then he asked, “Whose daughter are you? Please tell me, is there room in your father’s house for us to spend the night?”

24 She answered him, “I am the daughter of Bethuel, the son that Milkah bore to Nahor.” 25 And she added, “We have plenty of straw and fodder, as well as room for you to spend the night.”

26 Then the man bowed down and worshiped the Lord, 27 saying, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who has not abandoned his kindness and faithfulness to my master. As for me, the Lord has led me on the journey to the house of my master’s relatives.”

28 The young woman ran and told her mother’s household about these things. 29 Now Rebekah had a brother named Laban, and he hurried out to the man at the spring. 30 As soon as he had seen the nose ring, and the bracelets on his sister’s arms, and had heard Rebekah tell what the man said to her, he went out to the man and found him standing by the camels near the spring. 31 “Come, you who are blessed by the Lord,” he said. “Why are you standing out here? I have prepared the house and a place for the camels.”

32 So the man went to the house, and the camels were unloaded. Straw and fodder were brought for the camels, and water for him and his men to wash their feet. 33 Then food was set before him, but he said, “I will not eat until I have told you what I have to say.”

“Then tell us,” Laban said.

34 So he said, “I am Abraham’s servant. 35 The Lord has blessed my master abundantly, and he has become wealthy. He has given him sheep and cattle, silver and gold, male and female servants, and camels and donkeys. 36 My master’s wife Sarah has borne him a son in her old age, and he has given him everything he owns. 37 And my master made me swear an oath, and said, ‘You must not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose land I live, 38 but go to my father’s family and to my own clan, and get a wife for my son.’

39 “Then I asked my master, ‘What if the woman will not come back with me?’

40 “He replied, ‘The Lord, before whom I have walked faithfully, will send his angel with you and make your journey a success, so that you can get a wife for my son from my own clan and from my father’s family. 41 You will be released from my oath if, when you go to my clan, they refuse to give her to you—then you will be released from my oath.’

42 “When I came to the spring today, I said, ‘Lord, God of my master Abraham, if you will, please grant success to the journey on which I have come. 43 See, I am standing beside this spring. If a young woman comes out to draw water and I say to her, “Please let me drink a little water from your jar,” 44 and if she says to me, “Drink, and I’ll draw water for your camels too,” let her be the one the Lord has chosen for my master’s son.’

45 “Before I finished praying in my heart, Rebekah came out, with her jar on her shoulder. She went down to the spring and drew water, and I said to her, ‘Please give me a drink.’

46 “She quickly lowered her jar from her shoulder and said, ‘Drink, and I’ll water your camels too.’ So I drank, and she watered the camels also.

47 “I asked her, ‘Whose daughter are you?’

“She said, ‘The daughter of Bethuel son of Nahor, whom Milkah bore to him.’

“Then I put the ring in her nose and the bracelets on her arms, 48 and I bowed down and worshiped the Lord. I praised the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who had led me on the right road to get the granddaughter of my master’s brother for his son. 49 Now if you will show kindness and faithfulness to my master, tell me; and if not, tell me, so I may know which way to turn.”

50 Laban and Bethuel answered, “This is from the Lord; we can say nothing to you one way or the other. 51 Here is Rebekah; take her and go, and let her become the wife of your master’s son, as the Lord has directed.”

52 When Abraham’s servant heard what they said, he bowed down to the ground before the Lord. 53 Then the servant brought out gold and silver jewelry and articles of clothing and gave them to Rebekah; he also gave costly gifts to her brother and to her mother. 54 Then he and the men who were with him ate and drank and spent the night there.

When they got up the next morning, he said, “Send me on my way to my master.”

55 But her brother and her mother replied, “Let the young woman remain with us ten days or so; then you[e] may go.”

56 But he said to them, “Do not detain me, now that the Lord has granted success to my journey. Send me on my way so I may go to my master.”

57 Then they said, “Let’s call the young woman and ask her about it.” 58 So they called Rebekah and asked her, “Will you go with this man?”

“I will go,” she said.

59 So they sent their sister Rebekah on her way, along with her nurse and Abraham’s servant and his men. 60 And they blessed Rebekah and said to her,

“Our sister, may you increase
    to thousands upon thousands;
may your offspring possess
    the cities of their enemies.”

61 Then Rebekah and her attendants got ready and mounted the camels and went back with the man. So the servant took Rebekah and left.

62 Now Isaac had come from Beer Lahai Roi, for he was living in the Negev. 63 He went out to the field one evening to meditate, and as he looked up, he saw camels approaching. 64 Rebekah also looked up and saw Isaac. She got down from her camel 65 and asked the servant, “Who is that man in the field coming to meet us?”

“He is my master,” the servant answered. So she took her veil and covered herself.

66 Then the servant told Isaac all he had done. 67 Isaac brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah, and he married Rebekah. So she became his wife, and he loved her; and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.

 

The Death of Abraham

25 Abraham had taken another wife, whose name was Keturah. She bore him Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak and Shuah. Jokshan was the father of Sheba and Dedan; the descendants of Dedan were the Ashurites, the Letushites and the Leummites. The sons of Midian were Ephah, Epher, Hanok, Abida and Eldaah. All these were descendants of Keturah.

Abraham left everything he owned to Isaac. But while he was still living, he gave gifts to the sons of his concubines and sent them away from his son Isaac to the land of the east.

Abraham lived a hundred and seventy-five years. Then Abraham breathed his last and died at a good old age, an old man and full of years; and he was gathered to his people. His sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah near Mamre, in the field of Ephron son of Zohar the Hittite, 10 the field Abraham had bought from the Hittites. There Abraham was buried with his wife Sarah. 11 After Abraham’s death, God blessed his son Isaac, who then lived near Beer Lahai Roi.

 

Ishmael’s Sons

12 This is the account of the family line of Abraham’s son Ishmael, whom Sarah’s slave, Hagar the Egyptian, bore to Abraham.

13 These are the names of the sons of Ishmael, listed in the order of their birth: Nebaioth the firstborn of Ishmael, Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, 14 Mishma, Dumah, Massa, 15 Hadad, Tema, Jetur, Naphish and Kedemah. 16 These were the sons of Ishmael, and these are the names of the twelve tribal rulers according to their settlements and camps. 17 Ishmael lived a hundred and thirty-seven years. He breathed his last and died, and he was gathered to his people. 18 His descendants settled in the area from Havilah to Shur, near the eastern border of Egypt, as you go toward Ashur. And they lived in hostility toward all the tribes related to them.

 

Jacob and Esau

19 This is the account of the family line of Abraham’s son Isaac.

Abraham became the father of Isaac, 20 and Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah daughter of Bethuel the Aramean from Paddan Aram[i] and sister of Laban the Aramean.

21 Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was childless. The Lord answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant. 22 The babies jostled each other within her, and she said, “Why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the Lord.

23 The Lord said to her,

“Two nations are in your womb,
    and two peoples from within you will be separated;
one people will be stronger than the other,
    and the older will serve the younger.”

24 When the time came for her to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb. 25 The first to come out was red, and his whole body was like a hairy garment; so they named him Esau. 26 After this, his brother came out, with his hand grasping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when Rebekah gave birth to them.

27 The boys grew up, and Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was content to stay at home among the tents. 28 Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob.

29 Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished. 30 He said to Jacob, “Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!” (That is why he was also called Edom.)

31 Jacob replied, “First sell me your birthright.”

32 “Look, I am about to die,” Esau said. “What good is the birthright to me?”

33 But Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob.

34 Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left.

So Esau despised his birthright.