Genesis 11, Ezra 10, Matthew 8

Read Genesis 11, Ezra 10, and Matthew 8 today and this devotional which is about Genesis 11.

The flood was over and back in Genesis 9 God renewed his original covenant with humanity. God had told Adam and Eve, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it” in Genesis 1:28b; in Genesis 9:1 God told Noah and his sons the same thing: “Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.'”

Chapter 10 described for us in geneaological form how the three sons of Noah developed into three branches of the human family tree. Here in Genesis 11, the people in society decided they did NOT want to follow God’s commands to “fill the earth.” In verse 4 we learned that the people felt they had to build a city because “otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” The desire for human unity, then, was to unite against God and his commands.

The Lord confused their langauge in order to keep humanity from unitiing against him. In the words of verse 6, “The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.” The phrase, “nothing… will be impossible for them” was not an expression of fear that humanity would gain omnipotence. Rather, it is a statement that the wickedness of humanity would know no boundaries if people could communicate freely. The language boundaries God created at Babel caused one language-group to distrust and fear the other language groups. That fear caused each group to seek safety in distance which “scattered them over the face of the whole earth.”

This passage does not teach that language or cultural or racial boundaries must be maintained. God did create humanity to be a unified group. It was sin that necessitated the boundaries that we read about in this chapter and that remain today.

When Jesus taught the disciples to “make disciples of all nations” (v. 19), he was re-establishing the basis on which humanity could and should function as a unit rather than as separate people groups. The basis of human unity is God. When humanity worships the true God, it can truly be one. But that “one-ness” is oneness in Christ, not in humanity or in common approaches to living in sin.

God wants the human race united but he wants us to be united in holiness, not in ungodliness. Babel is about dividing the world so that it will not be united in ungodliness. Jesus and his redemption is about uniting the world in him.

We can have great fellowship and genuine love, then, with people look different than we do, talk differently than we do, and have a different cultural heritage. When Christ returns and establishes his kingdom, all believers from every nation, language, culture, and race will be united in every aspect of reality because we are united to Christ spiritually.

So, don’t separate from others because they have a different language or skin color or whatever else. Instead, unite with other Christians from different culures, love them genuinely, and seek to reach others for Jesus regardless of human boundaries. “God does not show favoritism” according to Romans 2:10 so let’s not be guilty of that, either.

Genesis 5, Ezra 5, Proverbs 1:1-19

Today read Genesis 5, Ezra 5, Proverbs 1:1-19 and this devotional will be about Genesis 5:21-24.

The genealogy in this chapter follows a clear pattern. A man lives for a specific number of years, has a son, lives for many more years while also having “other sons and daughters.” Then his total lifespan is given followed by the fact that “he died.” Moses recorded this genealogy for historical purposes. He wanted to document the family line from Adam (v. 1) to Noah (v. 32). No interest is given to how tall or short a man was, how intelligent (or not), whether he had a great personality or a dull one, or whether he invented anything that moved the human race forward. Nobody’s story is recorded; no color is provided. They are names on a page documenting that they lived, died, and left an heir.

Except for Enoch. If it weren’t for verses 22-23, you and I would be no more likely to remember his name than we would the name Mahalalel (v. 15). Yet, after he lived 65 years and fathered Methuselah, we learned that “Enoch walked faithfully with God 300 years” then “had other sons and daughters” (v. 22). We know he didn’t live the longest in this genealogy (at least, not on earth). Was he the smartest of these men? The best looking? The most prosperous? Who cares. The Bible doesn’t compare him to the others directly and say, “he was the godliest man alive” but it says that “he walked faithfully with God.” This was remarked on because it was remarkable. Others, like Lamech (v. 29), knew God. But “Enoch walked faithfully with God.” That’s what he was known for. And, in grace, God spared him from the curse of death (v. 24). He went from walking with God by faith on earth to walking with God in person in eternity.

Because of Christ and his grace to us in the gospel, each of us is walking with God. But would you be known for that? If someone were trying to describe your life, is that the phrase they would choose–he or she walked with God? Faithfully walked with God?

As Christians, that a life we should aspire to have.

Genesis 1, Ezra 1, Matthew 1

Welcome to 2019 and to 66in365. If you do all the Bible readings in this program, you will read through the Bible this year.

Today we’re scheduled to read Genesis 1, Ezra 1, and Matthew 1 and this devotional is about Genesis 1.

What is the greatest feat of human engineering ever accomplished? Could it be the Apollo missions to the moon or the pyramids in Egypt or the creation of the Internet or the Palm Islands in Dubai?

An Internet search will yield many interesting suggestions; people have designed and built some incredible things. All those things, however, required years of thinking, planning, and building not to mention large amounts of money.

By contrast, God spoke and things were formed instantaneously. That’s the message of Genesis 1. Our massive universe with innumerable planets, including earth, were brought into existence from nothing. God willed and spoke and there they were.

This is even more impressive when we consider that God is pure spirit. He created not only the physical objects in an instant but also the very concepts of matter and energy that comprise them. Imagine writing a story with shapes and rules and beings and language that do not already exist. Before you could create the setting and the characters in the story, you’d have to make up the shapes and rules and so on. That would take time and mental effort to develop before you could even begin writing the story; God did all this and made it a reality with merely a series of commands. The more deeply I think about this, the more it causes me to stand in awe of God and has greatness.

But let’s come back to all that people have created and accomplished. Fish don’t build homes, much less rockets. Bears wouldn’t know what to do with a computer if they had one; they certainly could never build one. When verse 26 says, “Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule…,'” we understand that we create things is because we were made in the image of God our creator.

Everything that exists started with an idea but ideas themselves are worthless until someone takes action to make them into reality. When we decide to act on an idea, to put thought and energy and effort into making an idea into reality, then we are following in the image of God our creator.

A new year is upon us. What ideas do you have in your mind that would be amazing if they were reality? Did you have the same idea(s) last year? Did you do act at all to move toward making those ideas into reality? One year from now–January 1, 2020–what could be true about your life that is now only an idea? What steps do you need to take to move closer to that reality?

God gave you and me and every other human being the power to create. We can’t speak things into existence or make something out of nothing but we can take the ideas we have and the raw materials God deposited into this magnificent earth and follow the example of our creator.

Be a good steward this year of the mind and resources God gave you. Take those ideas in your head and act on them, moving them closer to reality. By doing this you will be obeying the command God gave to us through Adam in verse 28b: “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it….”

Genesis 50, Job 16-17, Psalm 48

Today’s readings are Genesis 50, Job 16-17, and Psalm 48.

This devotional is about Genesis 50.

Nothing ever prevented Joseph from exacting revenge on his brothers. From the time they first appeared in his presence to the day Jacob died, Joseph could have enslaved them or killed them if he had wanted to do that. Joseph was accountable to only one man, Pharaoh, and he was unlikely to care what Joseph did to a group of non-Egyptians.

According to verse 15, however, Joseph’s brothers had a hard time accepting Joseph’s forgiveness as genuine. They feared that Joseph was not merciful but merely long-suffering; that is, Joseph respected his father Jacob so much that he was willing to wait for Jacob’s death to pay back justice to his brothers. So they added a little something to Jacob’s last will and testament (vv. 16-17) as if Jacob himself had requested full and final forgiveness from Joseph for his other sons. They also volunteered to be Joseph’s slaves (v. 18) in hopes of staying alive.

Other than the grace of God in Joseph’s life, developing godly character in him, what led Joseph to be able to completely forgive his brothers with no hard feelings whatsoever, much less a desire for revenge? The answers are in verses 19-10 and there are two of them.

First, Joseph had a genuine sense of his accountability to God. “Am I in the place of God?” he asked rhetorically in verse 19. Humanly speaking, almost anyone could answer yes. Joseph had nearly absolute power so he was unlikely to be questioned, second-guessed, or condemned in this life no matter what he did to his brothers. Yet Joseph himself knew that God would judge him if he saw his brothers’s repentance and refused to forgive. Joseph knew that the power he had was delegated to him by God; therefore, he understood that he would be held accountable by God for how he treated his brothers.

Second, Joseph could see how the sins of his brothers and all the other painful experiences of his life had led him to this point. In verse 20 he said, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” What happened to Joseph happened by God’s sovereign will. Although it was painful and stressful for years of his life, it was ultimately for Joseph’s good and for the good of his family, God’s covenant people. Since it was God’s will for Joseph to suffer first and then be exalted, how could he remain bitter? The outcome was good and the course he took to that outcome was ordained by God.

May this give you hope in the hard struggles of your life. God is sovereign over all things, so whatever happened in your life was allowed by him. Ultimately, he will work it out for your good, which may mean simply helping you learn to trust him in all circumstances, but may mean much more than that. Believing that God is sovereign will help you accept the things that have happened to you and give you grace to forgive anyone who sinned against you but is repentant.

Genesis 49, Job 15, Psalm 47

Today’s readings are Genesis 49, Job 15, Psalm 47.

This devotional is about Genesis 49.

The leadership power in Jacob’s family was about to pass from Jacob himself to his descendants in this chapter. Isaac had one son, Jacob, accepted as the covenant heir and the other son, Esau, rejected for that role but all of Jacob’s sons would receive the covenant blessing. Each would become the leader of one of Israel’s tribes. In this chapter, Isaac conferred that blessing of tribal leadership on them and made prophecies about each one.

Although it was customary for the eldest son to to receive the greatest blessing, God had bypassed that custom with Jacob. That was based on God’s free choice alone. Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn, forfeited his covenant blessing as the firstborn by having sex with one of Jacob’s wives (v. 4, cf. Gen 35:22). This was not the last time a man’s immorality caused him to lose political power.

The next two guys in line, Simeon and Levi, disqualified themselves with cruel vengeance far beyond what was justly warranted (vv. 5-7; cf. Gen 34:25). Although Reuben, Simeon, and Levi got to be tribal heads in Israel, they did not get to have a descendent become the king of Israel.

That honor fell to Judah. He had his moral problems, too (see Gen 38), but he was chosen to be the leader of the tribe that would bring Israel her king (v. 10). And, what a king he would be! Verse 10 says that, “he obedience of the nations shall be his.” This, of course, is a reference to Christ. Jesus came to be the Messiah, the king of Israel, but he has not fully assumed that role yet. When he reigns on earth in his Millennial kingdom, this prophecy will finally be fulfilled.

Verses 11-12 describe a time of massive prosperity. Vines and branches (v. 11) are fruit bearing objects; they have value. You wouldn’t tether a donkey or a colt to them because you don’t want those animals eating such valuable fruits. Unless, of course, there is so much fruit available that even the animals can enjoy it without it costing too much financially. Likewise, wine is valuable; you wouldn’t wash clothes with it unless it was so abundant that you didn’t fear “wasting” it. This is what life in the kingdom will be like when Jesus reigns. There will be no poverty, no lack. The world will be at peace under its true, perfect king and there will be prosperity like mankind has never enjoyed.

Isn’t it amazing to read such a detailed prophecy of Christ so many thousands of years ago? This prophecy has not been fulfilled, yet, but God has identified Jesus who will fulfill it and he has repeated the prophecy and given us even more information about life in his kingdom. Passages like this are one of many reasons why we know that the Bible is not just any book; it is God’s word. In it, God has told us what the future holds. The places where his prophesies have been fulfilled already give us greater confidence in one like this which we are still waiting to come to pass.

Trust the Bible; it is God’s word and he has proven it true over and over again.

Genesis 45, Job 11, Psalm 43

Today, read Genesis 45, Job 11, and Psalm 43.

This devotional is about Genesis 45.

When Joseph was a young man, still at home with his parents and brothers, he was the favorite. His father favored him over all of his brothers, and God favored him, too, revealing to him in two dreams that someday his family would bow before him. So, at home, Joseph had power and his brothers had very little.

When they saw Joseph alone, his brothers felt that the tables had turned. They now had the power over him and they chose to use that power against him. First they plotted to kill him; then they decided to sell him into slavery.

Here in Genesis 45, the tables have turned again. Joseph here had the very power that God had prophesied he would have. How would you have treated Joseph’s brothers if you were in Joseph’s position of power?

Most people would be tempted to extract some rough justice for how his brothers treated him. Many people wouldn’t just be tempted; they would use that power to punish severely, with great vengeance.

Joseph, however, saw the power he had as a stewardship, an opportunity to do good. God had promised his ancestor Abraham that his descendants would become a great nation and that he would bless them. Joseph understood that his position now gave him the power to bless his family as part of God’s promise to them. In verse 5b he said, “…it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.” In verse 7 he told them, “But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.” And, in verse 8 he concluded, “So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God.” This realization, plus the realization that his brothers were repentant for what they had done to him (see 42:21), prevented Joseph from abusing his power to punish his family. Despite how badly he suffered, he now saw how God was using all of it to put him in a position to bless his family, just as he had promised to do.

Think about where you are in your life–your family position, your position at work, your ministry in our church, and anything else. These positions can benefit you and, in some cases, might enable you to punish others who cross you. But, as believers in God like Joseph was, we have the opportunity to look at our positions in life as a stewardship. They give us the power to serve and bless others, not to benefit ourselves or extract vengeance. Look for ways today, then, to serve those around you and not to force them to serve you.

Genesis 41, Job 7, and Psalm 39

Today we’re scheduled to read Genesis 41, Job 7, and Psalm 39.

To me, the amazing thing about Joseph’s story is not how quickly he rose after having so many down years and experiences. Throughout the painful parts of his story we were told that God was with him and was blessing him, so it isn’t surprising that things turned around for him quickly.

What’s amazing is how grateful and God-honoring Joseph was during his vindication, which we read about today here in Genesis 41. When he appeared before Pharaoh to hear his dream, he gave glory to God for the ability to interpret his dream: “‘I cannot do it,’ Joseph replied to Pharaoh, ‘but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires’” (v. 16). Later, when he named his sons, Joseph chose the name Manasseh and explained, “It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household” (v. 51b). When he named his son Ephraim, saying, “It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering” (v. 52b). These statements ring with gratitude to God; they completely lack any sense of indignation about what had happened. I don’t know what the Hebrew would be, but I’d be tempted to name my kids, “It’s about time something good happened to me for a change” and “Take that everyone who tried to hurt me!”

What made Joseph so grateful and so quick to honor and thank God? It was his faith in God. His faith in God is what carried him through all the problems he had faced in his life. So how could he be angry with God when it was his confidence in God that sustained him in the darkest days? Although it was his life, and the pain was real, it was ultimately God who was vindicated here in Genesis 41. The confusing, unhappy moments in Joseph’s life were necessary to get him to this place where God would use him.

Maybe this is a message you need today, that the confusing, unhappy experiences you’re going through right now are preparing you for what God has next for you. In that case, don’t give up on God or become bitter toward him. Things might get worse before they get better, but it is all part of making you into who God wants you to be so that he can use you and bless you according to his will.

Genesis 39, Job 5, Psalm 37

Today’s passages are Genesis 39, Job 5, and Psalm 37.

This devotional is about Genesis 39.

A guy like Joseph could easily have justified an immoral relationship with Potiphar’s wife. He had been sold and enslaved unjustly. He was deprived of the blessings that he should have had as Jacob’s favored son, not to mention the opportunity to marry and have a family of his own.

Given all this, it might have been flattering to catch the eye of Potiphar’s wife. It was she who tried to initiate the relationship with Joseph (v. 7) and she was persistent about it (v. 10). Someone in Joseph’s situation may have feared the consequences from Potiphar, but at least one of his wife’s advances happened when there was nobody around to witness it (v. 11). Joseph was able to resist the temptation, however, not because he feared Potiphar but because he feared God. As he said in verse 9, “How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?”

This is the attitude we need to help us refuse temptation. Even if nobody else ever knows about your sin, God will know and he will hold us accountable.

Joseph’s situation worsened after he obeyed God. He was unjustly accused and imprisoned but God had not abandoned him. It would take years, but his faith in God would eventually rewarded. Reminds me of some other verses we read today, Psalm 37:

Psalm 37:5-6: “Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun.”

Psalm 37:27-28: “Turn from evil and do good; then you will dwell in the land forever. For the Lord loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones.”

It’s often hard to do the right thing. Remembering that God is watching and believing his promises helps. In fact, it is what living by faith is all about.

Genesis 31, Esther 7, Psalm 30

Today, read Genesis 31, Esther 7, and Psalm 30.

People steal from their employers in different ways–taking cash, removing small items, doing personal tasks with company time or resources, etc. People do this kind of theft for different reasons but one of them is that they don’t feel they are appreciated and paid well enough for how hard they work. This kind of person feels entitled to steal as a matter of justice. He or she takes what the employer has and rationalizes it by telling themselves that they deserve it.

I wonder if something like that was a factor in Rachel’s decision to steal Laban’s idols (v. 19). The story of Laban and Jacob is told from Jacob’s perspective in scripture. He was the one who contracted to serve 7 years to marry Rachel and he was the one who was duped into marrying Leah instead. But Rachel was damaged in this deal as well. The man who loved her was given to her sister! What if Jacob decided he loved Leah after he got over the shock of being swindled? What if Laban refused to see both of his daughters married to the same man?

Furthermore, although she did eventually get to marry Jacob, she was now merely one of two wives instead of his one and only–the way Sarai was to Abram and Rebekah was to Isaac. Also, the fact that Jacob’s other wife was her sister probably heightened the tension between them. When we consider the situation from Rachel’s perspective, it is not hard to imagine that she felt used and deceived and devalued by her father. Her theft of his idols, then, might have been an act of payback for how poorly Laban had treated her.

Whatever her motivation, Rachel’s decision to steal nearly caused her to lose her life (v. 32). The consequences of her theft were far more costly than the value of his idols. I think about this whenever I see a news article about someone who embezzled money. $10,000 or $40,000 or $100,000 is a lot of money. But it isn’t worth losing years of your life in prison over. In many cases, people stole less money than they would have earned if they’d stayed out of jail.

God was merciful to Rachel despite her theft and to Jacob despite his absurdly over-the-top penalty he promised Laban if anyone was found with Laban’s idols (v. 32). Don’t count on receiving that kind of mercy yourself if you are dishonest and take something that doesn’t belong to you. The rationalizations we make to convince ourselves to sin (or soothe our conscience after we’ve sinned) sound convincing in our own heads but completely absurd when said out loud. This is why we are wiser to follow God’s commands than to justify to ourselves why we can sin.

One more thing about this passage occurs to me: Do you see how deception spreads like a cancer? Jacob deceived his brother and his father. He was deceived by his father-in-law and saw his wife do something deceitful that she hid from him. It is the principle of sowing and reaping again. Like sowing corn, you get more back than you sowed so be careful about what you’re sowing.

Genesis 29, Esther 5, Psalm 28

Today, read Genesis 29, Esther 5, and Psalm 28.

This devotional is about Genesis 29.

Laban may have thought himself to be very clever. He managed to get 14 years of work and marry off both of his daughters at the same time.

Everyone else, however, suffered in this situation, but no one suffered more than Leah. Moses, the author of Genesis, recorded the difference in attractiveness between Leah and her little sister Rachel (v. 17). Surely Leah herself must have realized it. Watching her father trick Jacob into marrying her must not have felt good. She must have wondered if Laban felt he wouldn’t be able to find her a husband the usual way because she wasn’t attractive enough. She must have felt anxious about Jacob’s reaction when he found out what Laban had done. No doubt she was crushed by his disappointment with her and his continuing desire to marry Rachel.

The only thing that she seemed to have in her favor was her fertility. This gave her an advantage over Rachel who had difficulty conceiving (v. 31b). Since Jacob loved Rachel so much more than Leah, it seems likely that Rachel had, um, more opportunities to conceive than Leah. Yet Leah was the one producing the boys that Jacob wanted. Each child she bore was interpreted as a gift from the Lord, which it was (v. 31). Although her marriage was unhappy and her family life was stressful, Leah looked to the Lord for help and was grateful for his favor in her life.

So many people suffer from sad, unfixable situations. Thinking about Leah’s life can give us some perspective. We all have problems, heartbreaks, and disappointments in life but most of us have better lives than Leah ever had. Her marriage was sad from the beginning, from her first full day as a married woman. Most of us, probably, had (and have) a life that is better than that. Despite how messed up her situation was, Leah was thankful to the Lord for each son she bore to Jacob. Her motives were not always perfect, but her thanks to God was sincere.

When your life is unhappy, follow Leah’s advice and consider ways in which the Lord has blessed you. Praise him for what he has given you; don’t grieve over the things you have been denied. Leah’s disappointments in life were opportunities for her to learn how to walk with God. Her words after the birth of each son suggests that she made the most of those opportunities. May we do the same when we experience painful situations in our own lives.