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for the glory of God

11 March 2019

Genesis 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?’[a
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.

The Biblical account of Joseph is a great story with lots of unexpected twists and turns, but with a happy ending. Joseph, a precocious teenager, offends his brothers, and is sold into slavery. He is falsely accused by his master’s wife of sexual harassment and ends up in prison, only to rise unexpectedly and suddenly to be ruler of Egypt, second only to Pharaoh. It reads like a rags to riches Hollywood movie that some people love to watch. Joseph’s rise to power in Egypt is showcased in this chapter. However, it is apparent that this does not happen quickly for Joseph, but in God’s timing.

In Genesis 41, the cup-bearer sins against Joseph by inexplicably forgetting to honour Joseph’s request to him in prison (cf. Genesis 40:9ff; 41:9). Consequently, Joseph languishes in prison for a further two years for a crime he did not commit (verse 11; cf. 40:15). The point, of course, is that Joseph’s rise to power and prominence in Egypt was not smooth or plain-sailing. It might have been unexpected and sudden on the day, but it certainly wasn’t quick. Indeed, a period of about 13 years elapsed between the commencement of Joseph’s slavery and his release from the Egyptian prison (cf. Genesis 37:2; 41:46). It was tough going for Joseph – for many years! But as we will see, God’s timing is always perfect. Unlike the cup-bearer, God had not forgotten Joseph; there was a reason for the two-year delay.

Joseph’s deliverance was God’s doing (verse 16). But the timing was critical. It was the interpretation of Pharaoh’s dream that secured Joseph’s release and promotion. Consider for a moment if the cup-bearer two years earlier, newly released from prison, had honoured Joseph’s request (verse 14)? Any possible deliverance at that point would have been premature for God’s purposes. God had bigger and better plans for Joseph – to become the key person in the deliverance of “every land” from a severe and extended famine (verse 57). Who would have said? Who could have known? It is not difficult at this point to see parallels between Joseph and Jesus – both were betrayed and unjustly accused; both were unexpectedly raised up by God to save the nations!

God’s dealings with Joseph are a salutary reminder to trust God’s timing in His dealings with our struggles and day-to-day difficulties. Deliverance may or may not come quickly, or it may not come at all. Whatever the case, whatever the reason, we have to trust God that it is for our good and His glory. To be sure, Joseph’s story is not our story, but Joseph’s God is our God. Trust Him!

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for the life of Joseph that assures me of Your presence through all the ups and downs of my earthly life. Forgive me, Lord, for doubting You and Your Word in any way when things don’t go according to my plans.

Thank You, Lord, that unlike the cup-bearer, You never forget me and are always at work in and through me to achieve Your good and glorious purposes. Help me to recognise and remember that it is not the pharaohs of this world who ultimately ‘call the shots’, but You, the Almighty, all-knowing God who knows the future and whose word does not fail.

Give me the grace to trust You with my future and, like Joseph, to honour You whatever my circumstances. And when the going gets tough, give me the grace and strength to persevere and remain patient and steadfast in my faith, mindful that, like Joseph, my deliverance may not be quick.

Finally, Lord, thank You for the Lord Jesus Christ, who, like Joseph, was betrayed by his brothers and unjustly suffered much, but honoured You, and was in due course raised up to save the nations. Amen.

9 March 2019

Philippians 3:10-21

I want to know Christ – yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, 14 I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus.

Following Paul’s example

15 All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained.

17 Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. 18 For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

Lord Jesus Christ, for our sake You fasted forty days and forty night: 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

8 March 2019

Luke 14

One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched. There in front of him was a man suffering from abnormal swelling of his body. Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in the law, ‘Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?’But they remained silent. So taking hold of the man, he healed him and sent him on his way.

Then he asked them, ‘If one of you has a child or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull it out?’And they had nothing to say.

When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honour at the table, he told them this parable: ‘When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honour, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited.If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, “Give this person your seat.” Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place.10 But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, “Friend, move up to a better place.” Then you will be honoured in the presence of all the other guests.11 For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.’

12 Then Jesus said to his host, ‘When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbours; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid.13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind,14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.’

The parable of the great banquet

15 When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, ‘Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.’

16 Jesus replied: ‘A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests.17 At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, “Come, for everything is now ready.”

18 ‘But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, “I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.”

19 ‘Another said, “I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.”

20 ‘Still another said, “I have just got married, so I can’t come.”

21 ‘The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, “Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.”

22 ‘“Sir,” the servant said, “what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.”

23 ‘Then the master told his servant, “Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full.24 I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.”’

The cost of being a disciple

25 Large crowds were travelling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26 ‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters – yes, even their own life – such a person cannot be my disciple.27 And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

28 ‘Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?29 For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you,30 saying, “This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.”

31 ‘Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand?32 If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace.33 In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.

34 ‘Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?35 It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure heap; it is thrown out.

‘Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.’

Prayer: Lord Jesus, You gave up everything You had ever known to come to earth as a baby. As a man You submitted completely to Your Father’s will and suffered torture and crucifixion. You did all this to draw me to Yourself, provide me with forgiveness, a new heart and a way to heaven. Help me to carry my cross and follow You in every part of my life. Grant that I would show grace and humility in following You, seeking the good of others before myself. Help me to know that everyone I encounter is made in Your image. Help me, Lord, to be Your disciple. I ask this in the name of Jesus. Amen.

7 March 2019

Luke 13

Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, ‘Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way?I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them – do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem?I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.’

Then he told this parable: ‘A man had a fig-tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any.So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, “For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig-tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?”

‘“Sir,” the man replied, “leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig round it and fertilise it.If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.”’

Jesus heals a crippled woman on the Sabbath

10 On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, 11 and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, ‘Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.’13 Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.

14 Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue leader said to the people, ‘There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.’

15 The Lord answered him, ‘You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie your ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water?16 Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?’

17 When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.

The parables of the mustard seed and the yeast

18 Then Jesus asked, ‘What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to?19 It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.’

20 Again he asked, ‘What shall I compare the kingdom of God to?21 It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about thirty kilograms of flour until it worked all through the dough.’

The narrow door

22 Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. 23 Someone asked him, ‘Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?’

He said to them, 24 ‘Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.25 Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, “Sir, open the door for us.”

‘But he will answer, “I don’t know you or where you come from.”

26 ‘Then you will say, “We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.”

27 ‘But he will reply, “I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!”

28 ‘There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out.29 People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.30 Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.’

Jesus’ sorrow for Jerusalem

31 At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, ‘Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.’

32 He replied, ‘Go and tell that fox, “I will keep on driving out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.”33 In any case, I must press on today and tomorrow and the next day – for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!

34 ‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.35 Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”

Luke 13 is characterised by parables, the growing opposition of the Jewish leaders to Jesus’ ministry and His call for people to repent.  

The call to repent is typified by the challenge of going through the Narrow Door. ‘Narrow’ paints a picture of a space that needs to be squeezed through with very little extra room. When one thinks of going through this kind of space to get in somewhere, it strongly suggests that there is no other way to gain access. Why would one squirm ones way through an entrance if there was a wider, easier way in?

As Christians, we believe that Jesus is the only One who can forgive us our sins when we repent and that faith/belief in His death and resurrection is the only means by which we can enter heaven. There is simply no other way of getting in. This is not a trite signing of a membership card asserting belief in God or having a set of laws to adhere to. It is a radical change of heart and mind that comes from God by faith. We only have to look at the synagogue leader in verse 14 to see how much needs changing. Instead of rejoicing and praising God that a woman, crippled for 18 years, had been healed, he was outraged that this healing was done on the Sabbath. Where was the person who just witnessed an end to terrible suffering? Where was the person who looked on a miraculous healing? How could he not see?? Jesus is not gentle with such people who care more for their animals than their fellow human beings but believe they are serving God.

Large crowds came to hear Jesus but how many were loyal followers?

In John 10:7 Jesus says ‘I am the door’. He is pointing to His unique divine identity and purpose. ‘The door’ is the metaphor He uses which alludes to His exclusive way of salvation. There is no other way. Anyone who believes the gospel and repents of sin is assured of entering in by ‘the door’.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You that You have opened up the way by which we are saved. Thank You that the way has been made clear and it does not require great intellect or achievement. You and You alone have made it possible. Lord, please continue to work in our hearts by the power of Your Holy Spirit so that we will continue to be changed more into Your likeness. Soften our hearts so that we will continue to listen to You and serve You. Help us to be Your loyal followers day by day, week by week and year by year. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

6 March 2019

Genesis 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.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, we pray that we would not tire of serving You, whatever the outcomes. When life is going well it can be easier but when there are lots of discouragements we can get weary. Forgive us Lord for our failings and help us to continue to be faithful to You. Grant too that we would have a spirit of gratitude and appreciation to all those who assist us during this journey of life, and not forget what they have done for us. Help us Lord Jesus, to keep our eyes on You and be mindful that You first came to serve us. May Your Holy Spirit empower us to live out our faith in You. We pray this in Your Name. Amen.  

5 March 2019

Genesis 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.

The story of Joseph moves on quickly. The arrogant, favoured seventeen year old has grown into a responsible man who takes his duties seriously. Like a diligent, gifted employee, he was quickly promoted until he was given the most senior position available to him. He had, perhaps, more than he could ever have imagined, given the circumstances of his arrival in Egypt.

Life, however, invariably throws up curve balls—whether it be disappointments in relationships, retrenchment, illness, bullying, temptations, unfairness in the workplace. The list is lengthy and the effects can be traumatic. Joseph found himself facing one of these difficult times, when he was blatantly lied about by a lusting, self-serving woman who couldn’t get what she wanted. His defining priority was not to sin against God (verse 9) but despite this he was thrown into prison when the lies were believed.

In our current context we are unlikely to be put into prison based on lies told against us, although in recent years it appears that people in our country have lost jobs in government because they refused to be corrupt. Joseph’s story similarly challenges us to be faithful to God, above all else. Whatever the cost.

This chapter, however begins (verse 2) and ends (verse 23) with an almost identical sentence. ‘The LORD was with Joseph and so he succeeded in everything he did.’ Despite his difficult circumstances Joseph was not abandoned by God. In prison, the Lord showed His faithfulness to Joseph, blessing his relationships and using his gifts. As the story unfolds we see how these circumstances were used, step by step, to clearly demonstrate God’s hand at work.

We may or may not hold great responsibility, we may or may not be hugely gifted, but as God’s children we can be assured that our Lord is with us as we journey through this life.  Whatever the circumstances He is working out His purposes.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we thankYou for the story of Joseph and his faithfulness to You in these difficult circumstances. We are mindful that You worked out Your purposes for Your people then, and You continue to work out Your purposes in our lives today. Keep us faithful to You Lord, whatever circumstances we find ourselves in. Thank You for the sure and certain hope that we have in Jesus and that He has promised that He will never leave or forsake us. Amen.

 

4 March 2019

Genesis 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.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for Your word that details the story of Your people centuries ago. We read the story of Joseph and his dreams and see so clearly that arrogance and favouritism were not helpful in family relationships. They fuelled anger, hatred and resentment amongst brothers to such an extent that they were prepared to murder their own flesh and blood. Lord, help us to be wise within the families You have placed us. Grant that we would not favour one person above another. Keep us from being arrogant and deceitful in all things, whatever our place is in our family. Help us, instead, to seek your ways and to love, encourage and build up one another. We commit ourselves to You in this purpose. Amen

2 March 2019

Philippians 3:1-9

Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh – though I myself have reasons for such confidence.

If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.

Prayer: Lord God, You know that we cannot put our trust in anything that we do: help us to have faith in You alone, and mercifully defend us by Your power against all dangers; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

1 March 2019

Luke 12

Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, saying: ‘Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.

‘I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more.But I will show you whom you should fear: fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

‘I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God.But whoever disowns me before others will be disowned before the angels of God.10 And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.

11 ‘When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say,12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.’

The parable of the rich fool

13 Someone in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.’

14 Jesus replied, ‘Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?’15 Then he said to them, ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.’

16 And he told them this parable: ‘The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest.17 He thought to himself, “What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.”

18 ‘Then he said, “This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain.19 And I’ll say to myself, ‘You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.’”

20 ‘But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?”

21 ‘This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich towards God.’

Do not worry

22 Then Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear.23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes.24 Consider the ravens: they do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!25 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?26 Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?

27 ‘Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these.28 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you – you of little faith!29 And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it.30 For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them.31 But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

32 ‘Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Watchfulness

35 ‘Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning,36 like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him.37 It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. Truly I tell you, he will dress himself to serve, will make them recline at the table and will come and wait on them.38 It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the middle of the night or towards daybreak.39 But understand this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into.40 You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.’

41 Peter asked, ‘Lord, are you telling this parable to us, or to everyone?’

42 The Lord answered, ‘Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time?43 It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns.44 Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions.45 But suppose the servant says to himself, “My master is taking a long time in coming,” and he then begins to beat the other servants, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk.46 The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers.

47 ‘The servant who knows the master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what the master wants will be beaten with many blows.48 But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.

Not peace but division

49 ‘I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!50 But I have a baptism to undergo, and what constraint I am under until it is completed!51 Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.52 From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three.53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.’

Interpreting the times

54 He said to the crowd: ‘When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, “It’s going to rain,” and it does.55 And when the south wind blows, you say, “It’s going to be hot,” and it is.56 Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret this present time?

57 ‘Why don’t you judge for yourselves what is right?58 As you are going with your adversary to the magistrate, try hard to be reconciled on the way, or your adversary may drag you off to the judge, and the judge turn you over to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison.59 I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.’

As I read through this passage, the first half made me pause and think about living life in a fallen world. It really resonated with me as I saw my daily life and struggles through Jesus’ words.

Verses 1 to 12 remind me how the world keeps chipping away at me with subtle whispers to conform, but Jesus says watch out – what I do in the dark and my impure thoughts will broadcast from the roof tops for all to hear. He says don’t conform to the world, don’t be afraid because our God loves us and He will help us.

Verses 13 to 21 make me think how the world drives us accumulate more and more and to look after ourselves. Jesus reminds us that we cannot take material things with us when we die. We need to lay up heavenly treasures by believing and trusting in our God and working to see the gospel of Jesus brought to all people.

Verses 22 to 34 – God cares for me and loves me and is intimately interested in me! I need to remember this when I feel overwhelmed by whatever situation I face. Whilst the danger or issue may be very real, God loves me. While I may face hard or difficult times now, I have the assurance that through Jesus I will have an eternity with a Heavenly Father who loves me and who has promised that all believers will share in His glorious kingdom.

Thank You Jesus that You are my Lord and Saviour, and that through You everything in my life works out for Your glory and my good. Amen.

28 February 2019

Luke 11

One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.’

He said to them, ‘When you pray, say:

‘“Father,[a]
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.[b]
Give us each day our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins,
for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.[c]
And lead us not into temptation.”’[d]

Then Jesus said to them, ‘Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, “Friend, lend me three loaves of bread;a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.”And suppose the one inside answers, “Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.”I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity[e] he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.

‘So I say to you: ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.10 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

11 ‘Which of you fathers, if your son asks for[f] a fish, will give him a snake instead?12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’

Jesus and Beelzebul

14 Jesus was driving out a demon that was mute. When the demon left, the man who had been mute spoke, and the crowd was amazed. 15 But some of them said, ‘By Beelzebul, the prince of demons, he is driving out demons.’ 16 Others tested him by asking for a sign from heaven.

17 Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them: ‘Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall.18 If Satan is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand? I say this because you claim that I drive out demons by Beelzebul.19 Now if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your followers drive them out? So then, they will be your judges.20 But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

21 ‘When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe.22 But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armour in which the man trusted and divides up his plunder.

23 ‘Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.

24 ‘When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, “I will return to the house I left.”25 When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order.26 Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first.’

27 As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, ‘Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.’

28 He replied, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.’

The sign of Jonah

29 As the crowds increased, Jesus said, ‘This is a wicked generation. It asks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.30 For as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so also will the Son of Man be to this generation.31 The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the people of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom; and now something greater than Solomon is here.32 The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and now something greater than Jonah is here.

The lamp of the body

33 ‘No one lights a lamp and puts it in a place where it will be hidden, or under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, so that those who come in may see the light.34 Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are healthy,[g] your whole body also is full of light. But when they are unhealthy,[h] your body also is full of darkness.35 See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness.36 Therefore, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it dark, it will be just as full of light as when a lamp shines its light on you.’

Woes on the Pharisees and the experts in the law

37 When Jesus had finished speaking, a Pharisee invited him to eat with him; so he went in and reclined at the table. 38 But the Pharisee was surprised when he noticed that Jesus did not first wash before the meal.

39 Then the Lord said to him, ‘Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.40 You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also?41 But now as for what is inside you – be generous to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.

42 ‘Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practised the latter without leaving the former undone.

43 ‘Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and respectful greetings in the market-places.

44 ‘Woe to you, because you are like unmarked graves, which people walk over without knowing it.’

45 One of the experts in the law answered him, ‘Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us also.’

46 Jesus replied, ‘And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.

47 ‘Woe to you, because you build tombs for the prophets, and it was your ancestors who killed them.48 So you testify that you approve of what your ancestors did; they killed the prophets, and you build their tombs.49 Because of this, God in his wisdom said, “I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and others they will persecute.”50 Therefore this generation will be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world,51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, this generation will be held responsible for it all.

52 ‘Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering.’

53 When Jesus went outside, the Pharisees and the teachers of the law began to oppose him fiercely and to besiege him with questions, 54 waiting to catch him in something he might say.

Lord, thank You that You are our Father and that You know our individual needs better than we know them. Thank You that You provide for our daily needs, and that You work out Your plans for our good and Your glory. Help us Lord to know You better and better with each passing day, and that when we come to You with our prayers and needs, that they would be aligned with Your perfect and good will. Our Father, we are not perfect, and we sin constantly, and for this we are truly sorry and we seek Your forgiveness. Thank You that as our heavenly Father You have saved us through Jesus when He died on that cross and rose again 2000 years ago. Thank You that His death has washed away the sin of every believer and that we are assured of our salvation when we stand before You. Amen

27 February 2019

Genesis 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.

How many times have I gone into a difficult meeting or gone through a frightening trial, fearing the worst?  I go through every possible scenario in my mind about what to do or say when conflict arises, only to be absolutely amazed that my fears have come to nought. This is exactly what goes through Jacob’s mind as he prepares to meet Esau, and in a worldly sense he has every right to be afraid – after all he and his mother have cheated Esau out of his birth right.  But God has worked out His plan and blessed Esau with abundant wealth and he no longer bears a grudge against Jacob.

So, while this doesn’t mean that I should not expect trouble, especially if I’m in the wrong, it does mean that I need to trust God and His promises and His plans. I need to rely on God and trust in His outcomes whether they are painful or not.

Prayer; Lord, thank You that we can call You Father and that You work out all things in our lives to our ultimate benefit and for Your glory. Forgive me Lord when I try to do things under my own steam without turning first to You and trusting in Your plans. Amen

26 February 2019

Genesis 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, 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.

This is a fascinating narrative in biblical history.  Jacob meets up with angels (verse 1); he sends messengers ahead to meet with Esau and ease the path to their eventual meeting (verse 3-5); he takes precautions to protect his people in the event of an attack by Esau (verse 7–8); he prays to God and reminds Him of his promises to Abraham and Isaac (verse 9-12) – as if he needed reminding; and he wrestles throughout the night with God (who clearly lets Jacob think that he is on top for part of the bout! (verse 24-29)).

So, what do we take out of this? Sandwiched in between Jacob’s interaction with the angels and his wrestling with God is Jacob’s prayer. He remembers how God has blessed him with great wealth and how God has promised him even greater wealth if he returns home. He pleads with God to save him and his family group from the potential danger of Esau, who God had also allowed to prosper and grow in wealth and power. In this whole narrative of Jacob from chapter 25 right through to his death in chapter 50, we see how God works out His plans, in His time, and by His means. We are reminded that we need to trust God through pain and trials, and through the good and joyful times, and that He is ultimately working out His great plan of salvation.

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank You that You are a God who keeps His promises. We can draw comfort that everything that happens to us is not by accident but rather part of Your plan for us, and that we, as believers – past, present and future – are woven into a tapestry that glorifies You. Help us to live our lives without fear and for Your glory and not our own. Amen.

25 February 2019

Genesis 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[c] 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.’

Dear Lord, as we consider this passage, and how Jacob feels that circumstances have placed his life in danger to the extent that he feels that he must flee from his home, we soon see that You are in control. You reveal heaven to him and You reiterate the promises that You made to Abraham. You show Jacob – and us – that You are a God who is faithful to keep His promises to Your people, even though we don’t deserve it.

Thank you Lord, that even though we may face trials that threaten to pull us from Your narrow path, You are that shining light that is never extinguished, that lights the way back to Your promises. Thank You Lord for Your Word, where we can read the promises that You made to Abraham, which are fulfilled through Jesus and are rooted in the gospel.

Lord, as Jacob trusted in You, I pray that as we face our daily trials and temptations, we would remember Your glory and see the glorious face of Jesus, just as Jacob glimpsed heaven in his dream. Amen.

23 February 2019

Philippians 2:12-18

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed – not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence – continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfil his good purpose.

14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’ Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labour in vain. 17 But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. 18 So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.

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.

22 February 2019

Luke 10

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.

‘When you enter a house, first say, “Peace to this house.”If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you.Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.

‘When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you.Heal those there who are ill and tell them, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.”10 But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say,11 “Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: the kingdom of God has come near.”12 I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.

13 ‘Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes.14 But it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you.15 And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades.

16 ‘Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.’

17 The seventy-two returned with joy and said, ‘Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.’

18 He replied, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.19 I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’

21 At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.

22 ‘All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.’

23 Then he turned to his disciples and said privately, ‘Blessed are the eyes that see what you see.24 For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.’

The parable of the good Samaritan

25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he asked, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’

26 ‘What is written in the Law?’ he replied. ‘How do you read it?’

27 He answered, ‘“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind”; and, “Love your neighbour as yourself.”’

28 ‘You have answered correctly,’ Jesus replied. ‘Do this and you will live.’

29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbour?’

30 In reply Jesus said: ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half-dead.31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.33 But a Samaritan, as he travelled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him.35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. “Look after him,” he said, “and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.”

36 ‘Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?’

37 The expert in the law replied, ‘The one who had mercy on him.’

Jesus told him, ‘Go and do likewise.’

At the home of Martha and Mary

38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’

41 ‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things,42 but few things are needed – or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’

Prayer: Father, we know that the “harvest is plentiful but the labourers are few”. Please raise up more people to take the gospel to all nations. Thank You for those people who I know that are away from their homes and families because they are taking the gospel to other nations and peoples. I think particularly of those who TCC support and pray that You might encourage and strengthen them in their labours. Make them aware of Your presence when they are feeling down. Most of all I pray that You might bring more people into the kingdom through their witness wherever You find them. I also pray that You might raise up more people from TCC to take the gospel to all nations. Amen.

21 February 2019

Luke 9

When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal those who were ill. He told them: ‘Take nothing for the journey – no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt.Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town.If people do not welcome you, leave their town and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.’So they set out and went from village to village, proclaiming the good news and healing people everywhere.

Now Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was going on. And he was perplexed because some were saying that John had been raised from the dead, others that Elijah had appeared, and still others that one of the prophets of long ago had come back to life. But Herod said, ‘I beheaded John. Who, then, is this I hear such things about?’ And he tried to see him.

Jesus feeds the five thousand

10 When the apostles returned, they reported to Jesus what they had done. Then he took them with him and they withdrew by themselves to a town called Bethsaida, 11 but the crowds learned about it and followed him. He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing.

12 Late in the afternoon the Twelve came to him and said, ‘Send the crowd away so they can go to the surrounding villages and countryside and find food and lodging, because we are in a remote place here.’

13 He replied, ‘You give them something to eat.’

They answered, ‘We have only five loaves of bread and two fish – unless we go and buy food for all this crowd.’ 14 (About five thousand men were there.)

But he said to his disciples, ‘Make them sit down in groups of about fifty each.’15 The disciples did so, and everyone sat down. 16 Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke them. Then he gave them to the disciples to distribute to the people. 17 They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.

Peter declares that Jesus is the Messiah

18 Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, ‘Who do the crowds say I am?’

19 They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.’

20 ‘But what about you?’ he asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’

Peter answered, ‘God’s Messiah.’

Jesus predicts his death

21 Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone. 22 And he said, ‘The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.’

23 Then he said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.25 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?26 Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

27 ‘Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.’

The transfiguration

28 About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. 29 As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. 30 Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendour, talking with Jesus. 31 They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfilment at Jerusalem. 32 Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. 33 As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, ‘Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters – one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ (He did not know what he was saying.)

34 While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and covered them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. 35 A voice came from the cloud, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.’ 36 When the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was alone. The disciples kept this to themselves and did not tell anyone at that time what they had seen.

Jesus heals a demon-possessed boy

37 The next day, when they came down from the mountain, a large crowd met him. 38 A man in the crowd called out, ‘Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, for he is my only child. 39 A spirit seizes him and he suddenly screams; it throws him into convulsions so that he foams at the mouth. It scarcely ever leaves him and is destroying him. 40 I begged your disciples to drive it out, but they could not.’

41 ‘You unbelieving and perverse generation,’ Jesus replied, ‘how long shall I stay with you and put up with you? Bring your son here.’

42 Even while the boy was coming, the demon threw him to the ground in a convulsion. But Jesus rebuked the impure spirit, healed the boy and gave him back to his father. 43 And they were all amazed at the greatness of God.

Jesus predicts his death a second time

While everyone was marvelling at all that Jesus did, he said to his disciples, 44 ‘Listen carefully to what I am about to tell you: the Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men.’45 But they did not understand what this meant. It was hidden from them, so that they did not grasp it, and they were afraid to ask him about it.

46 An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. 47 Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and made him stand beside him. 48 Then he said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.’

49 ‘Master,’ said John, ‘we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.’

50 ‘Do not stop him,’ Jesus said, ‘for whoever is not against you is for you.’

Samaritan opposition

51 As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; 53 but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. 54 When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, ‘Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?’ 55 But Jesus turned and rebuked them. 56 Then he and his disciples went to another village.

The cost of following Jesus

57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’

58 Jesus replied, ‘Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’

59 He said to another man, ‘Follow me.’

But he replied, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’

60 Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’

61 Still another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.’

62 Jesus replied, ‘No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.’

Prayer: Father, help me to be able to speak of the Kingdom of God whenever I have an opportunity to do so. I know that I often squander opportunities, so please give me the courage to speak up when I ought to, and to testify to Your greatness. Help me to not be ashamed of You especially when it might cost me personally for being a follower of Christ. Amen.

 

20 February 2019

Genesis 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.

Prayer: Lord God, I am wicked and full of deception just like Jacob. I portray myself as much better than I really am. But You know the sinful thoughts of my mind, You know my secret sins and You know the wickedness that is in my heart. Please forgive me for portraying myself as better than I really am. Please forgive me for my wicked thoughts and for the sins that I commit in secret. Help me through the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome my secret and ongoing sins. Thank You that my sins are forgiven because of the completed work of Christ. Amen.

 

19 February 2019

Genesis 22

Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, ‘Abraham!’

‘Here I am,’ he replied.

Then God said, ‘Take your son, your only son, whom you love – Isaac – and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain that I will show you.’

Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. He said to his servants, ‘Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.’

Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, ‘Father?’

‘Yes, my son?’ Abraham replied.

‘The fire and wood are here,’ Isaac said, ‘but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?’

Abraham answered, ‘God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.’ And the two of them went on together.

When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, ‘Abraham! Abraham!’

‘Here I am,’ he replied.

12 ‘Do not lay a hand on the boy,’ he said. ‘Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.’

13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, ‘On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.’

15 The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time 16 and said, ‘I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, 18 and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.’

19 Then Abraham returned to his servants, and they set off together for Beersheba. And Abraham stayed in Beersheba.

Nahor’s sons

20 Some time later Abraham was told, ‘Milkah is also a mother; she has borne sons to your brother Nahor: 21 Uz the firstborn, Buz his brother, Kemuel (the father of Aram), 22 Kesed, Hazo, Pildash, Jidlaph and Bethuel.’ 23 Bethuel became the father of Rebekah. Milkah bore these eight sons to Abraham’s brother Nahor. 24 His concubine, whose name was Reumah, also had sons: Tebah, Gaham, Tahash and Maakah.

I do not know what lies ahead,
The way I cannot see,
But one stands near to be my guide,
He’ll show the way to me.

I know who holds the future
And He’ll guide me with his hand
With God things don’t just happen,
Everything by him is planned.
So as I face tomorrow,
With its problems large and small,
I’ll trust the God of miracles,
Give to Him my all.

I do not know how many days
Of life are mine to spend,
But one who knows and cares for me
Will keep me to the end.

I do not know the course ahead,
What joys and griefs are there.
But one stands near who fully knows,
I’ll trust His loving care.

© 1947, 1958 Singspiration Music/Brentwood Benson Music Publishing (admin. by Copy Care)

Prayer:  Father, may I trust in Your provision just as Abraham implicitly trusted You would provide for him and Isaac. In particular when the future is uncertain, help me to put my trust in You alone – the God who holds the future in His hands.  May the words of this hymn above echo in my mind throughout this week and all my days to come. Amen.

18 February 2019

Genesis 21

Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised. Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him. Abraham gave the name Isaac to the son Sarah bore him. When his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God commanded him. Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.

Sarah said, ‘God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.’ And she added, ‘Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.’

Hagar and Ishmael sent away

The child grew and was weaned, and on the day Isaac was weaned Abraham held a great feast. But Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham was mocking, 10 and she said to Abraham, ‘Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.’

11 The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son. 12 But God said to him, ‘Do not be so distressed about the boy and your slave woman. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. 13 I will make the son of the slave into a nation also, because he is your offspring.’

14 Early the next morning Abraham took some food and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar. He set them on her shoulders and then sent her off with the boy. She went on her way and wandered in the Desert of Beersheba.

15 When the water in the skin was gone, she put the boy under one of the bushes. 16 Then she went off and sat down about a bow-shot away, for she thought, ‘I cannot watch the boy die.’ And as she sat there, she began to sob.

17 God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, ‘What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. 18 Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.’

19 Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink.

20 God was with the boy as he grew up. He lived in the desert and became an archer. 21 While he was living in the Desert of Paran, his mother got a wife for him from Egypt.

The treaty at Beersheba

22 At that time Abimelek and Phicol the commander of his forces said to Abraham, ‘God is with you in everything you do. 23 Now swear to me here before God that you will not deal falsely with me or my children or my descendants. Show to me and the country where you now reside as a foreigner the same kindness that I have shown to you.’

24 Abraham said, ‘I swear it.’

25 Then Abraham complained to Abimelek about a well of water that Abimelek’s servants had seized. 26 But Abimelek said, ‘I don’t know who has done this. You did not tell me, and I heard about it only today.’

27 So Abraham brought sheep and cattle and gave them to Abimelek, and the two men made a treaty. 28 Abraham set apart seven ewe lambs from the flock, 29 and Abimelek asked Abraham, ‘What is the meaning of these seven ewe lambs you have set apart by themselves?’

30 He replied, ‘Accept these seven lambs from my hand as a witness that I dug this well.’

31 So that place was called Beersheba, because the two men swore an oath there.

32 After the treaty had been made at Beersheba, Abimelek and Phicol the commander of his forces returned to the land of the Philistines. 33 Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba, and there he called on the name of the Lord, the Eternal God. 34 And Abraham stayed in the land of the Philistines for a long time.

God does as He promises. God can do immeasurably more than you can imagine. Neither Sarah nor Abraham thought that God would deliver on His promise. Abraham took matters into his own hands and conceived a son through Hagar, and Sarah laughed when she first heard the promise. But these opening verses of Genesis 21 remind us that God always keeps His promises and that natural limitations (like age) are not hurdles for God.

Why this should matter to us is because we need to trust in two key promises that He makes to us. Firstly, He promises that once we are His children we remain part of His family forever. Despite our sinfulness, our lack of trust in Him, our weak faith, our lack of self-control – God will deliver on His promise to keep us part of His family for all eternity. Secondly, He has promised that Christ is coming back again and this world (with all its problems) will come to an end one day. An eternity with Him will be ushered in and is certain.

Prayer: Father, we thank You that You have delivered on every promise You have ever made. Thank You for Your faithfulness and trustworthiness. Thank You that You promised redemption through Jesus Christ and that You delivered on that promise. Thank You that You promise to never turn us away. Help us to trust in Your promises and not to take matters into our own hands but to rely on You to deliver as You have promised. Amen.

16 February 2019

Philippians 2:1-11, 19-30

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature[b] of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death –
even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

19 I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. 20 I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare. 21 For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. 22 But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel. 23 I hope, therefore, to send him as soon as I see how things go with me. 24 And I am confident in the Lord that I myself will come soon.

25 But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs. 26 For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. 27 Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow. 28 Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety. 29 So then, welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honour people like him, 30 because he almost died for the work of Christ. He risked his life to make up for the help you yourselves could not give me.

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.

15 February 2019

Luke 8

After this, Jesus travelled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.

While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable: ‘A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds ate it up.Some fell on rocky ground, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture.Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants.Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.’

When he said this, he called out, ‘Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.’

His disciples asked him what this parable meant. 10 He said, ‘The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that,

‘“though seeing, they may not see;
though hearing, they may not understand.”

11 ‘This is the meaning of the parable: the seed is the word of God.12 Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.13 Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away.14 The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.15 But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.

A lamp on a stand

16 ‘No one lights a lamp and hides it in a clay jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, they put it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light.17 For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.18 Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they think they have will be taken from them.’

Jesus’ mother and brothers

19 Now Jesus’ mother and brothers came to see him, but they were not able to get near him because of the crowd. 20 Someone told him, ‘Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you.’

21 He replied, ‘My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.’

Jesus calms the storm

22 One day Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Let us go over to the other side of the lake.’ So they got into a boat and set out. 23 As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger.

24 The disciples went and woke him, saying, ‘Master, Master, we’re going to drown!’

He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. 25 ‘Where is your faith?’ he asked his disciples.

In fear and amazement they asked one another, ‘Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.’

Jesus restores a demon-possessed man

26 They sailed to the region of the Gerasenes, which is across the lake from Galilee. 27 When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town. For a long time this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs. 28 When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, ‘What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me!’ 29 For Jesus had commanded the impure spirit to come out of the man. Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places.

30 Jesus asked him, ‘What is your name?’

‘Legion,’ he replied, because many demons had gone into him. 31 And they begged Jesus repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss.

32 A large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into the pigs, and he gave them permission. 33 When the demons came out of the man, they went into the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.

34 When those tending the pigs saw what had happened, they ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, 35 and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. 36 Those who had seen it told the people how the demon-possessed man had been cured. 37 Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear. So he got into the boat and left.

38 The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39 ‘Return home and tell how much God has done for you.’ So the man went away and told all over the town how much Jesus had done for him.

Jesus raises a dead girl and heals a sick woman

40 Now when Jesus returned, a crowd welcomed him, for they were all expecting him. 41 Then a man named Jairus, a synagogue leader, came and fell at Jesus’ feet, pleading with him to come to his house 42 because his only daughter, a girl of about twelve, was dying.

As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. 43 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. 44 She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.

45 ‘Who touched me?’ Jesus asked.

When they all denied it, Peter said, ‘Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.’

46 But Jesus said, ‘Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.’

47 Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. 48 Then he said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.’

49 While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. ‘Your daughter is dead,’ he said. ‘Don’t bother the teacher anymore.’

50 Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, ‘Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.’

51 When he arrived at the house of Jairus, he did not let anyone go in with him except Peter, John and James, and the child’s father and mother. 52 Meanwhile, all the people were wailing and mourning for her. ‘Stop wailing,’ Jesus said. ‘She is not dead but asleep.’

53 They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. 54 But he took her by the hand and said, ‘My child, get up!’55 Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat. 56 Her parents were astonished, but he ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened.

Prayer: Almighty God, when we consider the parable of the sower, we know who we want to be – the seed that produces multiples of fruit. We know that we need to spend more time in Your Word, more time in prayer and more time living in obedience to Your teaching. So we pray, as we seek to be more fruitful, that Your Holy Spirit will empower us with a deep desire to truly know You, Lord God, to truly spend quality time with You, and to wholeheartedly respond to the prompts that You place on our hearts and minds. Help us to balance our growth in knowledge with a growth in action and service of those around us. Give us such love, that we will be attuned to the needs of those around us and humbly respond to those needs. Help us to witness with boldness and compassion and to know what to say that would draw the lost to You. We know that You are the one who saves, and we pray that we will be faithful messengers of Your gospel, and not hold back on the opportunities that you give us. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

14 February 2019

Luke 7

When Jesus had finished saying all this to the people who were listening, he entered Capernaum. There a centurion’s servant, whom his master valued highly, was ill and about to die. The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant. When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, ‘This man deserves to have you do this, because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.’ So Jesus went with them.

He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: ‘Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, “Go”, and he goes; and that one, “Come”, and he comes. I say to my servant, “Do this”, and he does it.’

When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, ‘I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.’10 Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.

Jesus raises a widow’s son

11 Soon afterwards, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. 12 As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out – the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. 13 When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, ‘Don’t cry.’

14 Then he went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, ‘Young man, I say to you, get up!’15 The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.

16 They were all filled with awe and praised God. ‘A great prophet has appeared among us,’ they said. ‘God has come to help his people.’ 17 This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country.

Jesus and John the Baptist

18 John’s disciples told him about all these things. Calling two of them, 19 he sent them to the Lord to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?’

20 When the men came to Jesus, they said, ‘John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”’

21 At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, illnesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. 22 So he replied to the messengers, ‘Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.23 Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.’

24 After John’s messengers left, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: ‘What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind?25 If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear expensive clothes and indulge in luxury are in palaces.26 But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.27 This is the one about whom it is written:

‘“I will send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way before you.”

28 I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.’

29 (All the people, even the tax collectors, when they heard Jesus’ words, acknowledged that God’s way was right, because they had been baptised by John. 30 But the Pharisees and the experts in the law rejected God’s purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptised by John.)

31 Jesus went on to say, ‘To what, then, can I compare the people of this generation? What are they like?32 They are like children sitting in the market-place and calling out to each other:

‘“We played the pipe for you,
and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge,
and you did not cry.”

33 For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, “He has a demon.”34 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, “Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.”35 But wisdom is proved right by all her children.’

Jesus anointed by a sinful woman

36 When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. 38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is – that she is a sinner.’

40 Jesus answered him, ‘Simon, I have something to tell you.’

‘Tell me, teacher,’ he said.

41 ‘Two people owed money to a certain money-lender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?’

43 Simon replied, ‘I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.’

‘You have judged correctly,’ Jesus said.

44 Then he turned towards the woman and said to Simon, ‘Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet.46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet.47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven – as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.’

48 Then Jesus said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’

49 The other guests began to say among themselves, ‘Who is this who even forgives sins?’

50 Jesus said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace.’

Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, when we consider the miracles that You performed, and the impact that this had on those who followed You, we can clearly see that You are the son of God. You knew what each person needed and who would show true faith. Lord, You healed the foreigner, forgave a wicked sinner, raised the son of a widow, yet Your greatest work was the purchase of our salvation, and taking away our sins. For us, the miracle is our new birth as a result of You changing our hearts to accept Your gift of eternal life by putting our trust in You. We pray that the amazing gospel message will never lose its significance in our daily walk. Help us to bring hope and peace to those struggling around us, and help us in our struggles to stand firm in our faith and as a result draw others to You. Amen.

13 February 2019

Genesis 15

After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision:

‘Do not be afraid, Abram.
I am your shield,
your very great reward.’

But Abram said, ‘Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?’ And Abram said, ‘You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.’

Then the word of the Lord came to him: ‘This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.’ He took him outside and said, ‘Look up at the sky and count the stars – if indeed you can count them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’

Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.

He also said to him, ‘I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.’

But Abram said, ‘Sovereign Lord, how can I know that I shall gain possession of it?’

So the Lord said to him, ‘Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.’

10 Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half. 11 Then birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away.

12 As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. 13 Then the Lord said to him, ‘Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and ill-treated there. 14 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterwards they will come out with great possessions. 15 You, however, will go to your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age. 16 In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.’

17 When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking brazier with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. 18 On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, ‘To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates – 19 the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, 20 Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, 21 Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.’

‘Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness’. This verse is used often by Paul in his letters. Romans 4, Galatians 3:6 and James 2:23 make reference to Abraham’s faith and his acting on that faith that made him righteous. We can’t earn our salvation; it is found in trusting in God’s work and the promises that God has made. Abram, despite the seeming impossibility that he would have a son of his own and descendants as numerous as the stars, trusted that God would fulfil this promise.

We are privileged today, knowing that God has fulfilled His promises. However we struggle to take God at His Word. We look at our circumstances and either leave God out of our thinking, try and fix things ourselves or think that God can’t help. Abraham’s situation was more unbelievable than most things that we face on a daily basis. Abraham didn’t have the Bible or the knowledge that Jesus, God’s own son lived and died for our salvation; however he put his full trust in God. Abraham had less to go on than we do, but still showed immense faith.

The daily challenge for us as Christians is to trust God in all circumstances, whether difficult or easy. We have the assurance that God has prepared a wonderful eternity with Him because He raised Christ from the dead. We need to rejoice in this glorious hope, and accept that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him and who have been called according to His purpose.

Prayer: Dear Father God, we are like the father who asked Jesus for help in overcoming his unbelief. We ask You to help us with our unbelief. Sometimes the troubles of this world seem overwhelming and we think You can’t possibly be in control. We pray that You will help us to have a clearer vision of who You truly are, that our picture will be big enough to accept Your sovereignty and that there is nothing impossible for You. Help our faith to grow and help us to be an encouragement to others as we grow in knowledge and understanding of who You truly are. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

12 February 2019

Genesis 12

The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.

‘I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.’

So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran. He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Harran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.

Abram travelled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. The Lord appeared to Abram and said, ‘To your offspring I will give this land.’ So he built an altar there to the Lord, who had appeared to him.

From there he went on towards the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord.

Then Abram set out and continued towards the Negev.

Abram in Egypt

10 Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe. 11 As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, ‘I know what a beautiful woman you are. 12 When the Egyptians see you, they will say, “This is his wife.” Then they will kill me but will let you live. 13 Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.’

14 When Abram came to Egypt, the Egyptians saw that Sarai was a very beautiful woman. 15 And when Pharaoh’s officials saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh, and she was taken into his palace. 16 He treated Abram well for her sake, and Abram acquired sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, male and female servants, and camels.

17 But the Lord inflicted serious diseases on Pharaoh and his household because of Abram’s wife Sarai. 18 So Pharaoh summoned Abram. ‘What have you done to me?’ he said. ‘Why didn’t you tell me she was your wife? 19 Why did you say, “She is my sister,” so that I took her to be my wife? Now then, here is your wife. Take her and go!’ 20 Then Pharaoh gave orders about Abram to his men, and they sent him on his way, with his wife and everything he had.

Genesis 12 is in many respects the turning point in the Bible where God intervenes in a world that walks the road of self-destruction. God initiates His plan of salvation by making a covenant with Abram that all nations will be blessed through Him. At this point the covenant from a human perspective seems doomed to failure as Abram and Sarai are already past child bearing age.

God does fulfil His promises and I have always looked at these first few verses from a generational and global perspective. What struck me reading this now is that I am part of the fulfilment of the promise made to Abram. The fact that God had you and me in mind when He made this promise is a really encouraging thought. While God had already chosen us in eternity past; the knowledge that God’s promise to Abram included you and me reinforces His love for us.

Our response should one of immense gratitude; lead to the strengthening of our faith; and living lives of thankfulness and praise.

Prayer: Dear heavenly Father, it is with wonder and praise that we come before You in prayer. We are so grateful that You planned our redemption and elected us to be Your children before time began. We thank You that had a plan to get sinful mankind back to a restored relationship with You. Thank You that You used Abram a sinner like us to initiate your salvation plan. Help us Lord, to fulfil the plans You have for us to be a blessing to the nations and be part of the extension of Your kingdom. Help us to obediently proclaim the amazing gospel message to those near and far. In Jesus’ name.  Amen.