Saturday, 18 February 2017

18th-25th February: Genesis 43-50

Genesis 43:1-34
It appears that Joseph is being devious. There is, however, a deeper sense in which Joseph believes that the purpose of God is being fulfilled in these events. He affirms his faith in God (Genesis 43:23). He emphasizes the need for God's blessing (Genesis 43:29). Whenever life seems to weave a complex web, we must hold on to this: God is in control. No-one else may seem to believe this, but we must not lose sight of the sovereign God, the God who is working out His perfect plan.

Genesis 44:1-34
The story of Joseph and the brothers continues. It's such  a human story. It would be very easy to miss the hand of God in all of this. Life is like this. One thing leads to another. There seems to be no obvious thread, holding the whole sequence of events together. In this chapter, there is only one reference to God (Genesis 44:16). Sometimes, He seems to be hidden away. He may be hidden, but He's not absent. He is there. He is 'the God who is there.' However much He may retreat to the wings, He does not leave the stage altogether. He never abandons us.

Genesis 45:1-28
Joseph reveals his identity to his brothers. An invitation is given by Pharaoh. Jacob is to bring the whole family to Egypt. As the story develops, it becomes clear that God is in it. There is much more direct reference to God now. Joseph speaks openly of his faith in the Lord: "God sent me ahead of you ... God sent me ahead of you ... It wasn't you who sent me here, but God ... God has made me lord of Egypt" (Genesis 45:5,7-9). Joseph and his brothers had parted company. It looked like their paths would never cross again. God can bring people together again, people who appear to be living in different worlds. he is the God of reconciliation. He is the God of new beginnings.

Genesis 46:1-34
Behind the re-uniting of the family, there was God. This is made clear in Genesis 46:1-4. When God is at work, His purpose cannot be thwarted. He is fulfilling His plan of salvation - "I will make you a great nation." God's saving purpose is more than a purely national thing. This is only the early stages of what God is doing. He has His eye on the whole world.

Genesis 47:1-31
Jacob's life is nearing its end. God's work moves forward by stages. One man slips into the background. Another emerges. It is not the man who is important. It is the Lord. All of our attention is to be directed towards Him.

Genesis 48:1-22
The best thing we can leave behind us is the blessing of God. There is nothing better than this. If our influence has been of God, then our life has been useful. It has been beneficial to others. It has been pleasing to God.   

Genesis 49:1-33
This must have been a very moving scene. Jacob speaks to each of his sons. He speaks to them about the future. He says to them, 'I am the past. You are the future.' - "Come here, and let me tell you what will happen to you in the days to come." Our future - whether it will be blessing or curse - is shaped by our response to God in the present. Reuben was "out of control" (Genesis 49:4). Simeon and Levi were "men of violence" (Genesis 49:5). They were not to receive and enjoy God's blessing. Joseph is the greatest example of a man who was being blessed by God (Genesis 49:22-26). Here, we see the hand of God at work in the most wonderful way.

Genesis 50:1-26
Time moves on relentlessly. God has been at work in Joseph's life (Genesis 50:20). Now, the time has come for Joseph's life to reach its end (Genesis 50:26). In Scripture, we read the stories of people who loved God, and people who had no real love for Him. We read about them. we must also learn from them. We must make up our mind: What is important to us? Will we plan evil? or Will we submit ourselves to God's good plan (Genesis 50:20)? This is the great question which the stories of Genesis - and the whole of Scripture - put to every one of us. It is a question which demands an answer. It is a question which keeps on coming back to us. It comes to us with persistence. It breaks through our complacency. It calls us to decision. It is this decision which will shape our future for good or for evil. When we commit ourselves to walking in the Lord's way, we can move forward confidently in the sure knowledge that God is with us. Beyond the care of man (Joseph) - "Don't be afraid! I will provide for you and your children", there is the care of God - Joseph says, "I'm about to die. God will definitely take care of you ... "(Genesis 50:21,24). As our life moves on, it is very reassuring to know that God is in control.

Friday, 10 February 2017

11th-17th February: Genesis 36-42

Genesis 36:1-43
"This is the account of Esau and his descendants. There are so many names. there is so little of any real note. What a contrast between this and the story of Jacob, leading on to Joseph and then, on from there, to the Exodus and, beyond that, to Christ. There are routes which are full of the blessing of God. They take us on the continuing story, which runs from Genesis to Revelation, the story of God's salvation. There are also dead-end streets which are going nowhere. The direction of our life is determined by the choices which we make. We can choose to go our own way. There is a better choice, a better way. We can choose to go God's way.
 
Genesis 37:1-36
At first, the story of Joseph looks like it's going to end up in a dead-end street. Joseph is sold as a slave. He is taken down into Egypt. Humanly speaking, Joseph was being rejected by his brothers. God, however, had other ideas. He had a great purpose for Joseph. His purpose was revealed in a dream. This was no ordinary dream. This was a revelation of God's plan. The remaining chapters of Genesis tell the great story of the unfolding of God's plan - in Egypt.

Genesis 38:1-30
This is a sinful and shameful chapter. As we read it, we must hear and heed the warning. Do not let things drift. Keep close to God.  "I see the sights that dazzle, the tempting sounds I hear, my foes are ever near, around me and within, but Jesus, draw nearer and shield my soul from sin." "Day-by-day, O dear Lord, three things I pray - to see thee more clearly, to love thee more dearly, to follow more nearly, day-by-day." - This should be our prayer.

Genesis 39:1-23
What a change there was in Joseph's circumstances. He was in charge of Potiphar's household (Genesis 39:4). He was in prison (Genesis 39:20). There was one thing that did not change: the love of God - "His unchanging love" (Genesis 39:21). Whatever happens, we can depend on this: God's love is unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable - "All may change, but Jesus never. Glory to His Name!"

Genesis 40:1-23
Dreams can be interpreted by Joseph, but the glory is given to God (Genesis 40:8). When we bring God's message to the people, we must remember this: it is God Himself who gives the Word. We cannot create the Word. We can only receive it from God , and then we are are to pass it on to others. We must take care that we hear and speak only what God Himself says to us. We must not allow our own ideas to drown out the Word of the Lord. God is to be glorified in our hearing and our speaking.

Genesis 41:1-57
Joseph's exaltation is a great picture of Christ's exaltation. Joseph was sent to prison. Christ was sent to the Cross. Joseph was exalted to a place of honour. Christ was raised to the place of highest honour. When Joseph came, people said, "Make way " (Genesis 41:43). We say of Jesus, "Make way, make way for the King of kings." "The whole world came to Joseph in Egypt to buy grain" (Genesis 41:57). Before Jesus Christ, every knee shall bow and every tongue will confess that He is Lord  - to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:9-11).

Genesis 42:1-38
Joseph is putting his brothers to the test - to see if they will truly repent of their sin against him. God does this with us . He speaks to us through our circumstances concerning our need of repentance. we look at ourselves. We look at the events of our life. We wonder about our actions, "Did I do right, or do I need to repent?" In all of this, Joseph never ceased to love his brothers. God never ceases to love us. In love, He calls us to repentance.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Praying Through God's Word: 7th-15th February

These prayers are also being posted, day-by-day, at A Prayer For Every Day and  
Praying Through God's Word.
7th February: Deuteronomy 31:14-32:18
We sing to You, Lord. We sing our song of praise. It's the song of Your salvation. It's the song that gives glory to You. May our song of praise be more than words. May it be the song that arises from our hearts. May it be the song that comes from lives that are being transformed by Your grace.
8th February: Deuteronomy 32:19-33:17
Lord, You speak to us the Word of condemnation. You tell us that we are "a perverse generation" You tell us that "You will hide Your face from us" (Deuteronomy 32:20). You also speak to us the Word of compassion - "The Lord will ... have compassion on His servants, when He sees their power is gone" (Deuteronomy 32:26). Help us, Lord, to hear the Word of condemnation - to know that "our power has gone", so that we can hear the Word of compassion, the Word that comes to us in our weakness, the Word that brings us into Your strength - "a new creation in Jesus Christ" (2 Corinthians 5:17).
10th February: Deuteronomy 33:18-34:12
We thank You, Lord, that You are "the eternal God." You are "our Refuge." You hold us in Your "everlasting arms" (Deuteronomy 33:27). This doesn't mean that life will be easy for us - but it does mean that You will be with us - whatever happens, and You'll never let us down. You'll always be there for us. You are "for us" - whatever problems we may have to face, may we learn to say, with triumphant faith, "If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31).
11th February: Joshua 1:1-18
We thank You, Lord, that we have Your wonderful promise - "The Lord your God is with you" - as well as Your clear command - "Be strong" (Joshua 1:9). Without Your promise, the command is no use. Again and again, we fail to keep Your commands. Again and again, we need to be reassured. You are still with us.This is what we need to hear. This is where our strength comes from. It comes from Your promise. It comes from knowing that You never fail us. You have never failed us. You never will fail us.
12th February: Joshua 2:1-24
Help us, Lord, to "give a friendly welcome" (Hebrews 11:31). What a difference the friendly welcome makes! It's the word of encouragement that makes us feel loved. It's the act of kindness that lets us know that love is more than words. Lord, You are our Father. Help us to be like You - "when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him" (Luke 15:20). What amazing grace! Before the confession of sin - "Father, I have sinned... " (Luke 15:21), there is the friendly welcome. It's Your grace that inspires our confession of sin. It's Your grace that leads us into the joy of Your forgiveness. It's not only joy for us. It's joy for You - "my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to celebrate" (Luke 15:24).
13th February: Joshua 3:1-17
Help us, Lord, to be active for You - "the people who know their God will be strong and take action" (Daniel 11:32) -  and to wait upon You - "those who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength" (Isaiah 40:31). We need both - prayer and action, seeking Your will and doing Your will. Give us wisdom to know Your will, and courage to do Your will.
14th February: Joshua 4:1-24
Lord, You have blessed us so much. Help us never to forget this. We look at the world You have made for us - and we say, "Thank You, Lord." We look at the Saviour You have sent to us - and we say, "Thank You, Lord." Why must we keep on remembering You? - We "remember" so that we might learn to fear You (Joshua 4:23-24). We remember so that we may have hope for the future - "times of refreshing" (Acts 3:19).
15th February: Joshua 5:1-15
Lord, we thank You that Your Son, Jesus, comes to us as more than our personal Saviour. He comes to us as the "commander of the army of the Lord" (Joshua 5:14). We thank You that "Christ, the Royal Master, leads against the foe." We thank You that He leads us "on to victory." Help us to be His faithful followers on His pathway of victory.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

4th-10th February: Genesis 30-35

Genesis 30:1-43
Jacob was prospering. His family and his flocks were increasing. In Jacob's prospering, we must see more than human factors. God was in this. This is the teaching of the Scriptures. We are to see the Lord in the whole of life, and not only in a carefully demarcated area labelled 'spirituality.' The most significant event in this chapter is the birth of Joseph, the son of Jacob, upon whom the remainder of the book of Genesis is centred. It is easy to lose sight of the most important thing when so many other things are happening. This is what we must not do. We must learn to see what is most important. We must learn to centre our lives around the most important priority. We must not allow ourselves to be distracted into a life with many interests and no real centre.

Genesis 31:1-55
Stories like this are so human - with all the complications of relationships between people. there is, however, a depth-dimension. If we read these stories on the surface without digging deeply for spiritual truth, we will miss their point. What we must see is this - God was with Jacob (Genesis 31:42). This is the truth we must never forget in all the complexities of our own very ordinary experiences. He is there, even when we are least aware of His presence. He will never leave us. He is the faithful God, who graciously accompanies along all the pathways of life's long and winding road.

Genesis 32:1-32
In Genesis 32:1-21, we read about Jacob's relationship with Esau. It seems to be a very ordinary story - until something extraordinary happens (Genesis 32:22-32). What an amazing experience of divine grace there was for Jacob at Peniel ('Face of God)! - "I have seen God face to face, but my life was saved" (Genesis 32:30). When we hear of God's perfect holiness, we imagine that there is no way we could possibly stand in His presence - "O Lord, who would be able to stand if you kept a record of sins?"(Psalm 130:3). In the presence of the God of perfect holiness, we discover - through divine revelation - something else: perfect love. "O perfect love, all human thought transcending" - How are we to respond to such amazing love? - "Lowly, we kneel in prayer before Thy throne" (Genesis 32:31).

Genesis 33:1-20
So often, life can be looked at from the purely human point of view - events involving people. So often, God is left out on the sidelines. It is important that we do not do this. We must learn to see the deeper significance of the things that are going on in our lives. This is brought out well in this chapter: "He set up an altar there and named it 'God is the God of Israel'" (Genesis 33:20). Life is full of incidents which can be viewed on the surface level. Here, we have the meeting of two brothers. There is more than that here. God is there. He is not obtrusive. He waits for us to recognize His presence. He waits for us to acknowledge Him as our God.

Genesis 34:1-31
The Name of the Lord is missing from this chapter. Sin - this is the stroty of human life. We do not, however, have to go any further that the first word of Genesis 35 to discover that God is there. He has been waiting in the wings, ready to speak His Word into the human situation. Often, God appears to be absent, but He is not. He is both the god of judgment and the God of grace. Sin is an offence to God, yet sinners are forgiven by God. There is a 'rollercoaster' feel about the progress of the stories in Genesis. Genesis is such a low. In Genesis 35, God Himself picks it up again. Life is like that. there can be deep valleys and high mountain-top experiences. In the valley, let us not imagine that the Lord cannot lift us. On the mountain-top, don't forget the Lord. He brought us there.

Genesis 35:1-29
What great plans God had for Jacob! This was grace. It had nothing to do with Jacob. It was grounded in God's goodness. In Genesis 35:7, we read of a place called El Bethel (God of the House of God). The house of God is important. God is even more important. It is His presence which makes our worship truly live. It is His presence which fills our worship with His blessing. God is good. He has so much to give to us, so much to say to us, so much to do for us. When we come to the house of God, let us come with expectation of His blessing. Let us not only come to the House of God. Let us come to the God of the House of God.

Genesis 36:1-43
"This is the account of Esau and his descendants. There are so many names. there is so little of any real note. What a contrast between this and the story of Jacob, leading on to Joseph and then, on from there, to the Exodus and, beyond that, to Christ. There are routes which are full of the blessing of God. They take us on the continuing story, which runs from Genesis to Revelation, the story of God's salvation. There are also dead-end streets which are going nowhere. The direction of our life is determined by the choices which we make. We can choose to go our own way. There is a better choice, a better way. We can choose to go God's way.