I find historical studies fascinating and beautiful to explore. Examining the way events of the past have unfolded and how those events subsequently shaped the present reality is something that brings me joy. Whether it’s looking back on my own personal history, the history of the church, or the history of our nation, there are always lessons to be gleaned. This passage of Scripture is one of those texts that showcase God’s power and sovereignty. It paints a beautiful picture of God’s redemptive plan for a people plagued with a sin problem that they are powerless to solve. It speaks toward a spotless Lamb who is provided as the ultimate sacrifice. Though there were many pages of history that seemed at the time to be contradictory to God’s plan, His plan has remained unbroken.
God called the Israelites who were brought out of Egypt to observe the Passover Feast with the generations to come as they remembered how God provided them with protection from the tenth plague and rescued them from slavery. Though God’s people showed a penchant for straying from His ways and faced difficulty over the course of their history, they were to continue remembering and celebrating what God had done. God was faithful to His people even when they weren’t faithful in following His guidance. God was faithful even when events were unfolding in ways that showed the sinful nature of His people. God had a plan for His people so long ago and His plan remains today.
We may not be living in a hostile country as slaves to the government or required to make a hasty escape across the wilderness. We may not be called to live through plagues or find sacrificial lambs. However, we do live in a world broken by sin and in need of redemption. Thankfully God’s plan is intact. He has graciously provided Jesus as the sacrificial lamb to pay the penalty for our sin. If we have chosen to follow Him, He has redeemed us and adopted us into His family. He has blessed us and called us His own, that we may go out and make disciples and glorify His name. Let’s look back on the pages of history not with calloused hearts, but with eyes that see God’s handiwork. Let’s look around and rejoice in the redemption that we see. And finally, let’s look ahead. Look ahead and know that God’s plan is still unbroken, Jesus will be returning, and we are called to proclaim His greatness.
 The Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them.Exodus 7:5
When LeBron James joined the Miami Heat in 2010, he made a bold prediction–He wasn’t there to win a championship or two or three…or even seven. By joining forces with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami, he was putting the rest of the NBA on notice that he intended not just to win but to do so in historic fashion. Looking back ten years later, the Heat were certainly able to achieve greatness in the coming years…just not quite at the level LeBron predicted. By the time he left the Heat in 2014, they had won just two world championships. That is a remarkable accomplishment, but it was still a long way from the seven or more championships he predicted before the team had played its first game together.
Before the Lord sent the first of ten plagues upon Egypt, He made a bold declaration–the Egyptians would know that He is the Lord. Yet, every time Moses would relay the Lord’s call for Pharaoh to let the people go and every time a plague would come, Pharaoh’s heart was hardened. The same pattern played out nine times…but then, things changed.
We might be prone to hyperbole at times, but when God said the Egyptians would know that He is the Lord when He brought the people out, that’s exactly what He meant. It would be as the Lord said, and it will be as the Lord has said, “…at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,  and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11). Not one, not two, not three, not four…every tongue will one day confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Let us pray today that the hearts of those around us will be softened to receive the truth that Jesus Christ is Lord.
Maybe you’ve been where Moses is in Exodus 4–probably not having a conversation with a burning bush but at least in terms of the struggle happening in his life. By this point, Moses knew exactly what God was asking him to do. God had laid out His promises and His plan, even acknowledging the difficulty. God kept answering Moses’ questions, but after every answer God provided, Moses came up with another question. Moses was worried about how people would react when he did what God was calling him to do. Moses was worried that he wouldn’t have the answers and that he wouldn’t be able to communicate them if he did.
I know I have been there. It wasn’t that I didn’t know what God was calling me to do, but I was still raising questions and making excuses. Why? Some of my worries, like Moses’, were legitimate, but ultimately, it was for the same reason Moses finally gave here in Exodus 4–I didn’t want to do it. Moses’ heart was revealed in the fact that God’s answers to his questions were never enough, so that he finally just came out and said it, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.” And just as He had every time, God answered Moses again. God was still sending Moses, but He wasn’t sending him alone. Aaron would meet Moses, serve alongside him, and support Moses in his area of weakness.
Moses was looking at all the reasons he wasn’t up to the task, but God kept on pointing Moses back to all the ways that He was up to the task. When God calls us to do hard things, things that we can’t do on our own, we can remember that God is able to do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine. When He calls us, then He will equip us, and in our church family, He calls us to come alongside one another and to lift each other up where we are weak. Maybe you’ve been where Moses is in Exodus 4–you’ve trusted that God is able to work powerfully when you trust Him and follow Him.
In America, we have always prided ourselves in the ability to be self-sufficient. If people fall down we like to speak about them pulling themselves up by their boot straps. Or maybe we like to talk about people being self-made millionaires (I surely don’t fit that category). If nothing else, we like to pride ourselves on our achievements. Granted there is much good to talk about when we talk about one working hard and succeeding in what they do. There is though one major downfall in our view of self-sufficiency –a person can get the feeling that he or she is independent of God or at least act independently of God. God never created us to be independent of Him. He wants to be in relationship with us, even working with us to accomplish great things. Many believers have even made the mistake of crediting things to people and forgetting about God’s hand. Moses is an example. Moses rightfully gets much praise for what he did in delivering the people of Israel from Egypt. However, we must be careful to never separate what Moses did from God actually did. In Exodus chapter 3, God calls Moses to go to Egypt knowing that the success would always be in God’s presence and his power. It was never Moses’ credentials that mattered. It was God’s credentials as the great “I AM” who delivered the children of Israel. We must never forget that God is our source of power and strength. In fact, it should be God who first directs us to what he wants us to do just as he did with Moses. When you are carrying out a plan that God has given you, success is a guarantee because God gives his presence and power to accomplish his mission. Therefore, let’s never live life independent of God. Let’s look to God, hear his call, and move forward with his strength.
The selected reading for today brings us to the end of Genesis. My Bible, which is the English Standard Version, has this text separated into three sections: Jacob’s Death and Burial, God’s Good Purposes, and The Death of Joseph. While it was tempting to skim through and call it a day based on the titles, I actually ended up having to read through these verses three times before I could come up with anything to write about in this devotional.
A point that was made clear for me this week is that sometimes it is necessary to read, re-read (maybe three or four times), and meditate on the importance of God’s word. It is a modern tendency to jump to conclusions and applications. This is an important part of spiritual growth, but should not take precedence over reading and comprehending the Scripture. There is a lot in there; don’t be afraid to slow down and take it in.
Through this passage we see great examples of staying the course. Even up until Jacob’s last breath he is actively fulfilling his part in God’s plan, blessing his sons and even detailing his own burial. After Jacob’s death, Joseph’s brothers fear that he will repay their evil acts against him. Joseph’s reply shows that he is focused on God’s bigger picture as well. Like Jacob, we see that Joseph is fully centered on God even through the end of his life. Both seem to know that the importance of their actions stems from the ultimate supremacy of God’s plan.
As we finish reading through Genesis as part of Valley Creek’s Unbroken series, I hope you find yourself beginning to see that it’s all connected. Even today we are living out what God set in motion back in Genesis 1:1. Let’s keep reading, keep seeking understanding, and keep our eyes on God and His bigger picture.
If you are like me, you can look back over your life and point out some specific times of difficulty. Those times where you struggled to maintain an attitude that glorified God in the midst of a major life struggle. Or the times when you cried out to God pleading for answers and comfort when things didn’t seem to make sense. Thinking back on those times, maybe you can even feel your skin prickle or your heart beat a little faster. Joseph had an abundance of those times in his life. The suffering was great and the reasons for it seemed senseless. However, it was not senseless and God had a greater plan. Within this passage we have a window into the culmination of decades of struggle and pain as Joseph is reunited with his family. I’ve often wondered what it would be like to be in the shoes of Joseph having suffered so much injustice and sorrow at the hands of his family only to have them unknowingly come to seek his help. Would I make myself known or stay hidden? Would I give them the help they desperately needed or turn them away in bitterness? Joseph chooses forgiveness. He chooses to reach out in love and showcase God’s greater plan, explaining to them that God has used the suffering for good.
Joseph’s brothers were naturally terrified and speechless at the sight of Joseph as he revealed himself to them. It must have been a dramatic scene as Joseph was wailing so loudly that those out of the room could hear him. He was overcome with emotion as he tried his best to calm his brothers and show them how God had protected him and provided opportunities for redemption. Through his difficult circumstances people would be saved. Though his suffering lives would be changed. He could have easily lashed out in anger at his brothers but he did the opposite. He says in Genesis 45:5, “And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.” He showed them grace, mercy, and love as he led them to reconciliation.
I pray as we face suffering and difficulty in this life that we remain faithful to our Lord. I pray that we understand His ability to redeem our suffering for His glory. Let us look at those times in our lives as opportunities to grow close to Him and extend grace to those around us. In this broken world where nothing seems to make sense and the suffering seems senseless, let us remember that God’s plan is greater and His purposes are are powerful.
There aren’t many things more frustrating than being blamed for something you didn’t do, but one of the things on that list is what happened to Joseph. He wasn’t just accused but was also imprisoned for something he didn’t do. From the highest point in Potiphar’s house, Joseph was thrown into prison, but even then, Joseph trusted that God was faithful. Who would have blamed Joseph for doubting at this point? Who would have been surprised if Joseph looked around at his circumstances and decided that God had let him down? Anybody?
And yet, Joseph shows remarkable perseverance that can only be attributed to one thing–God was with him. God with Joseph meant that he faced temptation with integrity, and now we see that God with Joseph meant that he faced a desperate situation with unshakable hope. Joseph, having many reasons to be troubled and downcast, notices the trouble of the cupbearer and the baker. Joseph, in a moment when many would question God’s faithfulness, is found declaring God’s faithfulness, “Do not interpretations belong to God?”
Joseph trusted that God had not forgotten him, even when the cupbearer did just that, so that years later when he finally remembered him, Joseph still says to Pharaoh, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.” Looking back on a life that would have led many people into bitterness, Joseph confesses his total dependence upon God. After a life that would have led many people into doubt, Joseph confesses unwavering faith in God. Joseph was even able to name his sons Manasseh and Ephraim because God made him forget all of his hardship and his father’s house, and God made him fruitful in the land of his affliction.
Those names don’t mean that Joseph was in denial about the trouble he faced or that he was ignoring the difficulties around him. They meant that Joseph came to understand that God was at work even when he couldn’t see how. Joseph’s story doesn’t call us to ignore our troubles or to pretend everything is okay even when it isn’t. Joseph’s story calls us to recognize that we are totally dependent upon God, whether our circumstances resemble the lowest prison or the highest palace.
Joseph’s life was filled with some of the lowest lows and the highest highs. By the time we find Joseph in Genesis 39, he’s been sold to an Egyptian man named Potiphar, but from the low of being sold by his brothers, we’re told that Joseph rose to the highest place in Potiphar’s household. The Lord’s favor was upon Joseph and everything he touched. Potiphar withheld nothing from Joseph’s charge.
Many would have looked upon Joseph’s rise with admiration, and as we learn, Potiphar’s wife was not excluded from those admirers. She saw Joseph’s handsome appearance and issued an invitation, “Lie with me.” It’s a temptation that has drawn many powerful men and women into sin, but Joseph’s response is different. He refused the advances of Potiphar’s wife, recognizing the reality that we see over and over again in Genesis 39–the Lord was with Joseph.
The Lord was with Joseph at the point of his highest highs and at his lowest lows. Joseph had seen the Lord’s steadfast love and faithfulness, and so, he faced the advances of Potiphar’s wife with integrity. How? God’s grace fueled Joseph’s desire to walk with Him. God’s faithfulness fueled Joseph’s integrity. When temptation comes our way, whether in our highest moments or in our lowest moments, Joseph shows us how to respond–by remembering and trusting that God is with us and that He is always better than what sin is offering.
Genesis 37 introduces us to one of my favorite biblical characters–Joseph. Much happens in this chapter, but the chapter really centers around two of Joseph’s dreams. Two dreams that end with events that his family clearly interprets as them bowing down to Joseph. Now, it’s not clear from the text if Joseph fully understood what was going on here, but what we know is that God was giving Joseph a vision of what was going to happen in his life. His brothers simply got mad. His father scolded him as well. However, it is interesting in verse 11 where it says that his father kept the saying in his heart. Jacob knew by his own experience that God had given him a vision of his future and that he, too, was proclaimed as a younger brother who would rise above his older brothers. In other words, Jacob knew that quite possibly this was a vision from God. Though Jacob’s brothers and others fought against the vision, ultimately we know that what God had revealed eventually happened.
God’s plans cannot be stopped. Unfortunately, there are many times when we have a dream from God that others don’t support or believe. If God has given you a clear vision for your life, have faith that God will see it come to fruition even if others fight against it. Martin Luther King, Jr. had a vision years ago that there would be a day when in our country people would be judged by the content of their character instead of the color of their skin. It is a dream that many have fought against. Let’s pray that we are seeing a day when this dream comes to be because God has a plan that he is unfolding which includes people of all colors and nations unified and serving him. What dream has God given you? People might fight against it, but if it is a part of God’s plan, God will help it unfold.
Back in Genesis 28, fresh off his deception of his father, on his way out of the land that belonged to his family, Jacob heard from the Lord in a dream at a place he named Bethel, which means “the house of God.” God made promises to Jacob in that dream that led Jacob to make this vow in Genesis 28:20-22, “If God will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God, and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house. And of all that you give me I will give a full tenth to you.” Jacob’s posture toward the Lord in Genesis 28 could be described as hopeful skepticism. He wasn’t ready to go all in and call the Lord his God, but he wasn’t ready to close the door either. Jacob reasoned that if God could deliver on His promises, then he would worship Him, but ultimately, Jacob was at the center of his story.
As we find Jacob on his way back to Bethel in Genesis 35:2-3, we hear a different tone, “So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Put away the foreign gods that are among you and purify yourselves and change your garments. Then let us arise and go up to Bethel, so that I may make there an altar to the God who answers me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.”” What changed between Genesis 28 and Genesis 35? God didn’t change. He continued to be faithful. What changed was Jacob, who is now renamed Israel. Jacob’s posture toward the Lord is no longer hopeful skepticism. It is now a posture of faithful allegiance. God’s persevering grace in Jacob’s life turned his heart fully to the Lord. Jacob now trusted the Lord’s promises and walked in His purposes. God was now at the center of Jacob’s story.
Jacob’s story was one of total transformation, and so is ours from the moment we trust in Jesus. Think about your story. What was your life like before you trusted Jesus? What or who was at the center of your life? How has Jesus changed your heart and your life? Today, let’s give thanks to God for His transformational work in our lives, and let’s look for an opportunity to share about the God who always answers us and never leaves us.