Exodus 4 to 6 Three times Moses tells God he is a man with uncircumcised lips, much like Isaiah, who said his lips were contaminated. With Isaiah, one of the seraphs placed a lump of hot coal on his lips and cleansed his lips. For Moses, God gave him some pretty powerful signs of a rod, which changed into a serpent, and his hand turned leprous. Paul would later note: “For Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks ask for wisdom,” [1Cor 1:22] Yet, even with that, Moses had excuse after excuse! “What if the people won’t believe me? O, my Lord, I am not an eloquent man.” God reminded Moses that He gave him a mouth, and He makes the blind to see or the deaf to hear. Yet, with all that, much like us, Moses began to whine and complain: send someone else; I can’t do it—which really means I won’t. Even though God was angry, He promised Moses he could have Aaron to help him.
There are some lessons to glean from this interchange between Moses and God. If God calls, He will “equip you with every good thing to do his will,” [Heb 13:21] He will be your strength; ‘for whenever we are weak, then we will be strong.’ [2Cor 12:10 paraphrase] Thirdly, Moses and our complaints are a stench in His nostrils. Learn from Moses: There are no mistakes in God’s choices; trust Him, His plan, and His timing.
Exodus 1 to 3 Joseph and his family have passed on to eternity, but their descendants continue to multiply, thus blessing God’s word to Abraham: “Go out…I will make you into a great nation…I will bless those who bless you but curse those who curse you.” [Gen 12: 1-3 paraphrased] Notice the adjectives Moses included; the “Israelites were fruitful, increased greatly, multiplied and became extremely strong so that the land was filled with them.” [Ex 1:7] Jeremiah’s words were true then and are true now: even in the midst of affliction, we can be confident of this truth:
“For I know what I have planned for you,’ says the Lord. ‘I have plans to prosper you, not to harm you. I have plans to give you a future filled with hope.” [Jer 29:11]
And so Moses writes that God heard the groaning of his children as Pharaoh increased their afflictions in hardship and slave labor. God remembered his covenant, God saw, and God understood.
“El Roi” saw and “I AM” will guide Moses as he faces Pharaoh to request he release God’s children from the bondage of Egypt. And just as Hagar and Moses trusted in “El Roi,” so we must as well, no matter what life circumstances we are in. That is why Prov 3:5-6’s truth is key: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, do not rely on your own understanding; acknowledge Him, and He will direct your path.”
Genesis 48 to 50 The covenantal blessing precedes the deaths of Jacob and Joseph as well as their last words. Abraham blessed Isaac and Ishmael, and now Jacob follows that tradition by blessing his 12 sons. In forward sight, Jacob blessed Judah noting that the Lion of Judah/the Messiah would come from his line. Judah’s is the longest, followed by Joseph’s. Moses continued that tradition in Deut 33 for all the tribes of Israel, minus Simeon, because of his sin of murdering the Shechemites.
As Jacob was nearing death, he blessed Joseph’s sons by placing his hands on their heads and symbolically passed on the gifts of heritage and inheritance. Jacob blessed the younger over the eldest just as has been seen throughout the book of Genesis: Isaac over Ishmael, Jacob over Esau, Joseph over Reuben, and Ephraim over Manasseh. Later Moses would continue that. Jacob thus passed on the privileges and blessing of land and peoples to Joseph’s sons just as he had received.
Jacob’s and Joseph’s last words are like the finishing threads of a tapestry. The underside threads may be scattered, but the top reveals God’s hand upon their life. Truly “we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them,” [Eph 2:10].
What will your tapestry reveal? What are you passing on to your children and your children’s children?
Genesis 47 and 47 Back in Genesis 12, God told Abram: “Go out from your country, your relatives, and your father’s household to the land that I will show you.” [Gen 12:1] Abram obeyed, but then he went took a detour in Egypt. Neither time did he ask God, nor did he set himself and his family aside from the Egyptian culture. There is wisdom in those events when you reap what you sow. Abram sowed seeds of disobedience and he reaped the fruit of sin. Before you set out to “go down” to Egypt, consider how you are to live. We are to be a witness to God’s faithfulness, but we are not to cohabit or marry an unbeliever for “what does a believer share in common with an unbeliever.” [2Cor 6:15]
Years later, Joseph found himself in that land yet was faithful to Yahweh while many were not. Thus, when he instructed his family to come “down” to Egypt, he wisely separated them from the temptations they might face.
If God should send you into “Egypt,” are you prepared to separate yourself from the culture and cling to holiness? God gave Moses a principle about the Nazarenes. They were to “be separated and holy to the Lord” [Num. 6:8]. That same principle is for believers as well. “Therefore “come out from their midst, and be separate,” says the Lord, “and touch no unclean thing.” [2Cor 6:17]
Why is God so clear on this subject? It is because His ways are higher than ours. [Is 55:8-9] His plans are not to harm you but to give you a future filled with hope. [Jer 29:11]
Genesis 44 and 45 As 21st-century believers, we are more apt to study the NT over the OT but hidden in the OT are the truths that the NT reveals. Take, for example, the life of Joseph. His faithfulness in the times of suffering without complaint but seeking to understand the why is ever-present. Perhaps that was on James’ mind when he wrote: “the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect effect so that you will be perfect and complete, not deficient in anything. But he must ask in faith without doubting.” [James 1:3-5]
In a time of intense temptation, God did indeed provide a way of escape. [1Cor 10:13] We may not have called false imprisonment the way out, but God used that time to hone Joseph to be a master organizer and leader. Who would have thought? Joseph’s faith was tested, and his words attest to that: “How could I do such a great evil and sin against God.”[Gen 39:9] In and out of the prison-house, Joseph honored God before his fellow prisoners and Pharaoh as he testified, “don’t interpretations belong to God?” [Gen 40:8]
When you are facing suffering or a trial, cling to these verses of comfort, knowing that God’s truth is “all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”[Rom 8:28]
Gen 41 and 42 Jacob had 12 sons; one was sold, the other remains at home. Christ had 12 disciples, one sold the Savior, and one lied to save his skin. The family dynamics continue. Yet, God in His providence guided each family group to lead others into His saving grace even though they would traverse the hard paths of life until God refined them until they shone like gold.
If we only see Joseph in prison, we have failed to see the hand of God’s providential care for him. God raised Joseph that he might be a savior in times of famine. In a similar way, we can see God’s providential care for the disciples through thick and thin that they might be prepared to share the good news of the gospel to a lost and dying world.
As you look back over your life, can you name the times God providentially protected you and then used you in the lives of others? Do you give God the praise when you can see His hand at work? “You have not seen him, but you love him. You do not see him now, but you believe in him, and so you rejoice with indescribable and glorious joy” [1Pet 1:8]
Job understood that truth: “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.” [Job 23:10]
Genesis 38-40 We have seen the shame of Jacob’s sons. They are jealous, envious, and hateful to their younger brother Joseph. They scheme and finalize a sale of him to the Midianites. Ever willing to go the extra mile to cover his guilt, Judah leaves home, so he doesn’t have to see his father in his continual mourning state. You can run away, but at some point, you can be sure “your sin will find you out.” [Num. 32:23] Judah “went down” to his BFF’s home. Whenever we see that phrase, we can know Satan is at work behind the scenes. What better participant than Judah, who despised his inheritance much like Esau. As Satan seeks to undermine God’s plan by escalating the price, God will have the last word in His providential care of His own. Tamar is God’s tool to reveal to Judah that another is more righteous than he. That must have been a blow to his ego! Years later, we will see how God will use that truth to break his spirit, so stay tuned for the rest of the story.
In between this ego-driven story of unrighteousness, we are given the picture of God’s righteous servant Joseph. Although imprisoned falsely, he states what every believer should say when Satan tempts. “How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” [Gen 39:9]
What is God teaching us through these two men? [Job 23:10] But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold. and “Righteousness guards him whose way is blameless, but sin overthrows the wicked” [Prov 13:6]
Gen 35 to 37 It all began with Abraham, who fathered Ishmael and begged God to make him his legacy, but God said no. Isaac fathered Jacob and Esau, heard the prophecy that the younger would serve the elder but because he favored Esau, the eldest, he conveniently chose to forget God’s words. Jacob, favored by Rebekah, ignored his inner ear and deceived Isaac. Jacob, like his grandfather and father, played favorites. “Fathers, do not provoke your children, so they will not become disheartened.” [Col 3:21] Jacob’s behavior caused three heart behaviors to erupt amongst his sons: jealousy, envy, and hatred for Joseph.
The Proverbs author lists 7 character qualities God hates:
“haughty eyes, lying tongues, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift to run to evil, a false witness who pours out lies, and a person who spreads discord among family members.”[Prov 6]
If we walk down that list, we see all 7 of these qualities in Jacob’s sons. Later Joseph would note: “you meant to harm me, but God intended it for a good purpose so that he could preserve the lives of many people.” Amazingly, God can and will use our wickedness to accomplish his purposes because He can see the end from the beginning.
Fathers have a unique responsibility to raise children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Today take time to pray for the fathers ( and the mothers) of our children.
Gen 32 Jacob feels like he is at the end of his rope. He is fearful when he hears Esau knows he is on his way home. Just as we do sometimes, Jacob conjured up pictures in his mind of what that encounter would entail. The element of fear, both real and imaginary, often causes us to think of what lay ahead before we face it. The what if’s and whatever’s are part of Satan’s strategy to keep us from trusting God. How do we put that to rest is what God was teaching Jacob and now centuries later he is teaching us.
And so Jacob makes a plan to divide up his family as well as sending huge gifts ahead to Esau because “Jacob was afraid and upset.” [Gen 32:7] Jacob is covering his tracks. Alone, God now has Jacob’s attention and that is what God does with us. When He gets our attention, then He can work until we are ready to submit to His way and His plan. In the end, Jacob now becomes Israel (God prevails).
Where are you and God wrestling about your fears? Will you trust Him?
Neither Jacob nor Laban are considered to be faithful and men of integrity. Their words and actions reveal their hearts, but when Jacob remarks, “my integrity will testify for me later on,” we want to add our yes and amen. How often do we echo words such as those and then wonder where did that thought come from? We want to ask Jacob; Do you really believe that truth, or is this how you want to be known?
Did Jacob really think he was a righteous man? No one is righteous apart from the saving grace of our Lord. [Rom 3:10] God wants us to know this truth: “He/God guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” [Psalm 23]It isn’t for us but for God. He is the master potter, and He molds the clay for His purposes. “Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand,” [Jer 18:1-6]
We are a sinful people and in need of His righteousness so He can guide us step by step. That is why God has put those words in that psalm. God has given us examples to ask: how is God guiding them; is God guiding me? In the case of Jacob, we can say yes— even though he hasn’t yet come to grips with his deceptive ways, God is at work in his life molding him just as He is in yours and mine.
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” [Eph 2:10]