Gen devos 36-40

Daily reading: Read Genesis chapter 36

Food for Thought: Esau’s descendants…
I will be the first to admit, this is not one of my favorite chapters in the Bible. Esau’s descendants are listed, and the area where they lived is mentioned. But before we get discouraged and are tempted to close our Bibles. What if these names, and their locations were recorded to make us aware of some things? I don’t believe that the Word of God as we have it just happened. There is a reason for the stories, for the lists of names. For our purposes, we note that Genesis 36 occurs at the tale end of the Jacob cycle, for the very next chapter till the end of the books begins the Joseph cycle. So, chapter 36 serves as a marker if you will closing off the Jacob, and Esau section begun in Gen 25.
There are a couple of things from Gen 36 and text from Hebrews that we need to keep in mind about Esau and his descendants. The first observation is that Esau takes wives for himself that are from Canaan, and one that is Ishmael’s daughter. The statement that Esau took his wives from the women of Canaan seems to suggest that Esau is slowly drifting away from the intentions God has for the sons of Isaac. Esau doesn’t seem to be concerned about his birthright, or the things of God, and picks his wives with this same sort of lackadaisical attitude. The second observation that I think is helpful as we read Genesis and then the rest of the Pentateuch is that 36:6 mentions that Esau packs up his family, and his stuff and “moved to a land some distance from his brother.” This would suggest a further move away from the will and wishes of Yahweh. We know that later on in Edom’s history that will become the enemy of God’s people, and they will not let Israel pass their territory on their way out of Egypt. Also, there is mention of one of the grandsons of Esau being “Amalek” (36:16). We are supposed to read this and recognize that the Amalekites were also the enemy of the people of God. Their origins stems from Esau who intermingled with the pagan peoples of Canaan, as did his sons and grandsons. If you remember from Exodus 17 Israel and the Amalekites are at war, and it is only through God’s help, and Moses’ uplifted hands does Israel gain an important military victory (Ex 17:8-16). Fourthly, keep in mind the following passage from the book of Hebrews 12:16-17 reminds us that Esau was godless, “See that no is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit his blessing, he was rejected. Even though he sought the blessing with tears, he could not change what he had done.”
What kind of legacy are you leaving for your descendants? How will you be remembered? Coming to grips with your allegiance to Yahewh like Jacob, or godless like Esau?
Reflection:
1. What stood out to you today?
2. What is one thing you can take away from this chapter?

Prayer:

Daily reading: Read Genesis chapter 37

Food for Thought: Dreamers, cisterns, and Egypt

The attention of the book now shifts to what Hebrew narrative scholars refer to as the Joseph cycle. This section chapters 37-50 is the final section of the book of Genesis. Chapter 37 opens with mention of Jacob living in the land where his father stayed, in Canaan. The land of promise was significant to Jacob, and his father and grandfather and would continue to be significant for Israel for many years thereafter. When Genesis 37 opens up, we meet Joseph, the 17 year old favorite son of Jacob. It is tragic to read that parents sometimes pick favorites, for it most certainly affects the family dynamic (see Gen 37 4, 5, 8, 11, 18, 19-23, 26-28). Jacob loves Joseph more than any of his 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 had him and could not speak a kind word to him” (Gen 37:3-4). As a matter of fact, our reading today says that Joseph’s brothers hated him, were jealous of him, and even at one point plot his death, but settle for slavery instead! This family is dysfunctional. But, there is reason in Scripture for sharing such things. Notice, that twice in the text, Joseph is said to have had dreams that he was apparently all too eager to share with his brothers. These dreams involved his brothers, and then his parents bowing down to Joseph as their ruler. The brothers were affronted at the audacity of Joseph’s suggestion, even his father rebuked him for such things. But notice, the author in v. 11 cues our attention to a possible purpose for the these outrageous dreams of Joseph.Apparently one of Joseph’s chores involved reporting to his father of his brother’s progress and work ethic. If you remember from v. 2, Joseph had brought a bad report about them, and I would venture that this didn’t sit well with his older brothers. So once again v. 13, his father sends Joseph to check in on them. Flocks were precious, and were their way of life, their income, and Jacob had worked hard for this investment – so he sends his favorite son to see how things were going. While he is in the distance, the brothers notice his pending arrival and the Bible says “they plotted to kill him” (37:18). I am glad that when I go home to visit my family in Ohio, that my brother doesn’t wait on the side of the Interstate, looking for ways to kill me!

The brother’s plan at first is to kill Joseph, then throw him into a cistern. Their motivation for such hatred is their jealousy over Joseph’s dreams. Reuben is able to intervene, and instead of certain death, Joseph is stripped of his robe, and tossed into an empty cistern. I have always found it interesting, that right after disposing of their brother, the 10 brothers sit down to enjoy a meal together (37:25). As they are eating, they see an Ishmaelite caravan coming from Gilead headed to Egypt, and Judah devises another scheme. This time instead of death, Judah dreams up imprisonment and slavery to the Ishmaelites, so Joseph is sold for twenty shekels of silver, and is carted off to Egypt. Knowing they needed to cover their tracks, the brothers devise a further scheme involving Joseph’s precious robe. They dip the robe in blood, take it home and report Joseph’s death to Jacob who is crushed (37:34-35). But pay special attention to how chapter 37 ends, “Meanwhile, the Midianites sold Joseph in Egypt to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard” (37:36).

Joseph probably isn’t aware of it just yet, but when bad things to us the end doesn’t always to be near. Maybe, the trials and difficulties in our lives are opportunities for God to do his greatest work, if we let him? I think there are two things to guard against as learn in this chapter, one is jealousy. We should be the kind of people to applaud the promotions and accomplishments of co-workers, friends and families. Secondly, I think we have to guard against the cistern syndrome. We aren’t told Joseph was ready to throw in the towel, and call it quits. But, we have been beaten up, overlooked, and forgotten enough times, that when we face trials of whatever variety, sometimes our first response is to give up, and instead of look up. We know from the next chapter and later on, that Joseph apparently was of the opinion that when the going gets tough, it is better to look up than give up!

Reflection:
1. What stood out to you today?
2. What is one thing you can take away from this chapter?

Prayer:

Daily reading: Read Genesis chapter 38

Food for Thought: Judah, prostitutes, and the future hope of the world?
This is kind of weird story to break up the Joseph narrative with. I mean the Joseph narrative had just started in Gen 37, and now there is seemingly intrusive weird story about Joseph’s brother Judah leaving his brothers and heading to Adullam to stay with a man named Hirah (38:1). Not only did Judah leave his brothers, but while in Adullam, he meet and marries a Canaanite woman. Note Judah’s wife is not named, but she is identified as the “daughter of Shua” (38:2, 12). Together, Judah and the daughter of Shua have three sons, Er, Onan, and Shelah. The oldest son, Er, marries a woman named Tamar. The text doesn’t specify exactly how, but Er was “wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death” (38:7). Judah, told his next son, Onan to take Tamar to be his wife, and to fulfill his duty as a brother-in-law, have a child with her. But, Onan too was wicked, and knew that this child would be reckoned as his brothers, so he doesn’t follow through with Judah’s advice, and is also put to death (38:10). Judah is not off to a good start. He planned his brother Joseph’s sale into slavery, and now two of his sons are wicked and put to death. He is concerned, however, about Tamar, and asks her to live as a widow in his home until the youngest son can become her husband (38:11). She consents. But in this waiting, eventually Judah’s wife dies, and Tamar recognizes that Shelah, now older has not taken her hand in marriage either concocts a plan of her own. Judah has now recovered from his grief at the loss of his wife and goes up to Timnah to shear his sheep. Tamar takes matters into her own hands and goes on ahead of Judah. Tamar has changed her clothes, disguised herself and sits on the side of the road near the entrance of Enaim. Along comes Judah, and seeing this prostitute he hires her services, not knowing that this woman was his daughter-in-law. Tamar’s price for her services were a young goat, and a pledge of his gift which included Judah’s seal, and its cord, and the staff in his hand. This fateful visit results in Tamar getting pregnant. Tamar doesn’t stick around to receive the goat, and Judah is ready to cut his loses. Eventually in her father-in-law’s household it is discovered that she is pregnant, and Judah is quick to have her killed (38:24), and Tamar presents Judah with the items he never recovered, the seal and its cord, and his staff and recognizes Tamar’s righteousness! (38:26). Judah didn’t give Shelah to Tamar as promised, and her plan provides her with sons, twins actually!
Okay, let’s keep a couple of things in mind here. It is interesting to note the importance of the phase or something like it, “in the hand.” This is kind of theme word in the Joseph narrative, also the seemingly weird intrusion offers an interesting comparison between Judah and Joseph in chapter 39. Judah is portrayed as a bad father, rash, self-centered, and susceptible to hiring prostitutes, whereas Joseph in the next chapter is portrayed as righteous, focused on the will and ways of Yahweh. Judah gives into sexual temptation, Joseph does not. So, then the reason for the story in Genesis 38 is to highlight the noble character of Joseph. Also, Tamar is important to Biblical history. We don’t have to condone her methods to ensure children to recognize that her name is mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus, as is Judah’s. Just a reminder, there are four notable women mentioned in Jesus’ family tree, Tamar the prostitute, is one of them, along with Rahab, and Bathsheba (technically, the wife of Uriah, and Mary! (Matthew 1:1-16). So here’s the point of all of this, God definitely works in and through the messiness of his people. God wasn’t done with Judah, or Tamar yet. The good news is that God isn’t through with us either. He will work in us, and through us even we think we have messed up so bad that there cannot possibly be any good that come from this (Romans 8:28). God doesn’t abandon us when we’ve messed up, but offers us his outstretched nail-pierced hands as a reminder that no matter how bad we think we have it, he had it worse. His nail scarred hands remind us that God’s love is bigger than our sin. If you belong to Jesus, rest assured that “that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil 1:6). Of course God desires purity and holiness for his people. But if he didn’t expect his children to stray and sin, and fall short, we wouldn’t have 1 John 1;9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” So, let’s keep striving to be what God has recreated us in Christ Jesus to be, “conformed to the image of his son” (Romans 8:29).
I know we have gone longer than normal today, but I offer Psalm 103 as a final meditation for our time together:
“1 Praise the LORD, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. 2 Praise the LORD, my soul, and forget not all his benefits— 3 who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, 4 who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, 5 who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. 6 The LORD works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed. 7 He made known his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel: 8 The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. 9 He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; 10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. 11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; 12 as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. 13 As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; 14 for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. 15 The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; 16 the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. 17 But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children— 18 with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts. 19 The LORD has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all. 20 Praise the LORD, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word. 21 Praise the LORD, all his heavenly hosts, you his servants who do his will. 22 Praise the LORD, all his works everywhere in his dominion. Praise the LORD, my soul.”
Reflection:
1. What stood out to you today?
2. What is one thing you can take away from this chapter?

Prayer:

Daily reading: Read Genesis chapter 39

Food for Thought: From bad, to not so bad after all, to worse
In chapter 39 we meet up with our main character Joseph who by this time we are told is in Egypt. He winds up in the home and care of Potiphar and official of Pharoah’s who bought him from the Ishmaelites. Joseph is a long way from home, but we read twice in this chapter alone that Joseph was not alone. The Lord was with Joseph. When his world seemed to crumble, the Lord was his foundation. When his brothers bailed on him, Joseph found the reality of the truth that there is one that sticks closer than a brother (Pro 18:24). So, while in Potiphar’s service, the Lord blesses Joseph greatly and becaue Potiphar was aware of the Lord’s blessing on Joseph’s life, Potiphar puts Joseph in charge of his household, and entrusts everything that he owns to his care. Wow! Talk about job promotion. In a matter of a few weeks Joseph goes from hated brother, to slave in an unwelcomed Ishamaelite caravan, to the possession of Potiphar, to Potiphar’s attendant.
Oh, that chapter 39 would end so well for Joseph. See, Potiphar seems to be fairly decent character. He recognizes the Lord’s hand of blessing on Joseph. But, Mrs. Potiphar is a different beast. Quite literally, she recognizes that Joseph is well-built and handsome (a lot like a certain youth minister, I won’t name any names! Just kidding!!) and invites Joseph to come and sleep with her (39:7). What will Joseph do? We read in chapter 38 how Judah gave into his urges and sleeps with a prostitute. But, Joseph is different. Gen 39:8 says that at the persistent advances of Potiphar’s wife (39:10), “he refused.” We need stories like this. Stories where the good men do the right thing. Often times in our sex-saturated world, we read the opposite headlines, “another good man, fell.” But not this time. I want to point out, that this temptation Joseph experienced was not a one time deal. Gen 39:10 says “she spoke Joseph day after day” but Joseph would not, or could not turn his back on his God. He refused time and time again. Imagine coming to work every day, and being enticed this way, over and over. We need more Joseph’s in our work-places, and in our churches!
Then, there is that one day. It seems that Potiphar’s wife has orchestrated things just right, so that when Joseph comes to work, no one else is in the house. He has tried to avoid her for days, and now they are alone, and once again he refuses her advances. Only this time, in his haste to flee sexual immorality, he leaves his cloak behind (39:12). Unfortunately for Joseph, Potiphar’s wife is not the kind of woman to be treated so lightly, so she makes herself the victim and blames Joseph for something he didn’t even do. When word gets to Potiphar of what Joseph supposedly did, he is furious and I imagined hurt, and throws him into prison. You would think this would be the end of Joseph. He is used to being thrown around. But, notice, “while Joseph is in prison, the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there…because the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did” (Gen 39:21, 22, part of 23). We are reminded once again that roadblocks aren’t necessarily dead-ends, but opportunities for the Lord to put us where he needs us. Joseph may not have wanted to go to Egypt, but the Lord needs him here. Joseph’s dreams probably seem the furthest thing from his mind from chapter 37, but what we will see is that the dreams of Joseph’s teens years, become the very thing that will save his relatives and preserve Israel!

Reflection:
1. What stood out to you today?
2. What is one thing you can take away from this chapter?

Prayer

Daily reading: Read Genesis chapter 40

Food for Thought: Dream On…
Genesis 40 opens with two of Pharaoh’s officials, the chief cup bearer, and the chief baker being thrown into prison. Now, we aren’t told why they were thrown into prison. But we are told, they were put in the same prison in which Joseph was. This is no small detail. The plan of God is moving, and even though it would seem Joseph doesn’t quite know what is in store for him, God does. The captain of the guard, Joseph’s boss put these two once royal officials under the care of Joseph the dreamer. It would just happen that on the same day, that both of these political prisoners would have a dream that bothered them greatly (40:6). Their dreams were bothersome and they were even more bothered that there was no one around to interpret their dreams. Joseph speaks up, and says “do not interpretations belong to God?” Egypt was a religious place. They had lots of gods. Dreams were signs from the gods, and now Joseph offers to show them the power of Yahweh.
Both men share their dreams, and Joseph interprets. For the chief cup bearer things would return to normal in three days’ time. He would once again hold the cup of Pharaoh. But for the chief baker, his outcome in three days’ time would not be so promising. The chief baker would be publicly executed! For the first time in our Joseph narrative, he speaks out against the circumstances that he finds himself in. I don’t get from the tone of his words that he is complaining, or being whiny, just stating the fact that he has been unjustly accused and forcibly removed from his homeland without his approval. So, he asks the chief cupbearer to remember him. The chief cupbearer would have the Pharaoh’s ear and could help Joseph get out of prison. Joseph appears to still be dreaming his own plans. I would imagine that if he got out of prison at this point, he would head home! I don’t blame him. He would want his father to know that his brothers were responsible for all of this mess. But what if somehow the Lord wanted Joseph exactly where he was? Of course we know the answer to that question is “yes.”
The chapter ends just like Joseph said it would. The chief cup bearer is restored, and the chief baker is killed. But, instead of freedom for Joseph he is forgotten. It is in this two year period of imprisonment that I think helps fully prepare Joseph for the work that lies ahead. Two years of unjust imprisonment helps to defeat Joseph in his own plans to help him dream a God sized dream. A dream that once comes to fruition is larger than Joseph could even imagine. Joseph was exactly where the Lord wanted him. Even though he was in prison and falsely accused of sexual immorality, the Lord’s plan and preparation involved an Egyptian prison.
We need to rethink our perspectives when we face troublesome times. What if the Lord has you right where he wants you? What if your tough situation is exactly what has been placed before you to shape you into who God wants you to be? What if you are where the Lord has planted you because He wants you to bloom there and be a blessing to others? These are important questions to consider. If you believe that the Lord is in control then all things, good and bad are not out of his ability to use for his purposes!

Reflection:
1. What stood out to you today?
2. What is one thing you can take away from this chapter?

Prayer:

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About Jason Retherford

The random musings of a youth minister.
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