Sunday, February 19, 2017

Year 7, Day 50: Exodus 1

Theological Commentary: Click Here

Notice the change within the context of Egypt as we jump from Genesis to Exodus.  No longer is the story being written out of the perspective of respect.  No longer do we see Pharaoh’s and Joseph’s relationship affecting the story.  Of course, over 400 years have gone by, so why would those relationships affect the story?  That would be like us in the modern day respecting one another because of the relationship of people who live before America ever became a country in the first place!  It makes sense that Pharaoh would now be afraid of the massive number of Hebrew people and forget about Joseph.  I don’t fault the Pharaoh at all for being fearful of these Hebrews.  I will fault him for many things in this story, but not this.

What I do want to lift up out of the story today is the respect that these midwives have for life.  They know Pharaoh’s order.  They no doubt know the consequences for disobeying Pharaoh’s orders.  Yet, they don’t obey Pharaoh anyways.  The Hebrew babies continue to be born and live!  These midwives are willing to put their own life on the line for the sake of the life off these babies.

There isn’t any reason for these women to do this other than their respect of life.  They are Egyptian midwives, so it isn’t like these Hebrew people are family.  The midwives are not likely being paid great sums of money to turn their heads the other way.  The Hebrew people are being treated as slaves, so I wouldn’t expect them to be overly wealthy.  As I just said, the Hebrew people are looked upon as slaves, so it isn’t like they command much respect in Egypt, either.  These midwives are letting the Hebrew children live simply because it is the right thing to do.

I want to lift this up today.  Here is a group of people who are willing to disobey the orders of superiors when the orders are not just.  This is a group of people who are willing to compromise their own livelihood – perhaps even life – for the right thing.  They are not getting their ethics from the expectations of the culture around them.  They are judging right from wrong from a code of ethics that dwells within them.

God loves them for it.


Saturday, February 18, 2017

Year 7, Day 49: Genesis 50

Theological Commentary: Click Here

I really love Joseph’s maturity in this passage.  There are three significant events with which we can see this maturity.  Let’s look at each one individually.

First, Joseph experiences the death of his father.  It is not easy to lose a parent, especially when the relationship is good and the feelings between child and parent is one of respect.  Joseph valued his father’s role.  However, notice that Joseph doesn’t mourn with abandon when he dies.  Joseph does lose himself.  Joseph’s world isn’t over.  Joseph mourns maturely.  He lets the sadness within him out, but he is able to compose himself and move on after the fact.  He is able to keep his promise to bury his father as well as continue to be a good servant to Pharaoh.

Then, we see Joseph go before Pharaoh.  Joseph is mature enough to go humbly.  He asks for permission to leave.  He does not go in making demands; he does not go in a wreck of a man.  Notice how Pharaoh responds.  Pharaoh gives him time to go.  But Pharaoh also gives him supplies. There appears to be a great number of people who go with Joseph to mourn.  Pharaoh seems to give more than his blessing; he gives him enough of a retinue that the people of Canaan take notice!

The third place that we see the maturity of Joseph is when his brothers come before him.  Naturally, I can see them being a bit concerned.  They could easily have thought that Joseph was just treating them nicely out of respect for their father.  After all, they had hurt the very man who was now Pharaoh’s greatest aide.  But I love Joseph’s perspective.  Joseph isn’t focused on who hurt him.  Joseph is focused on how God was able to work through it.  Joseph has the maturity to be focused on what God has done through him rather than what others have done to him.


Friday, February 17, 2017

Year 7, Day 48: Genesis 49

Theological Commentary: Click Here

God’s generosity continues to abound in this chapter.  We have another genealogy, but this time in a voice of prophecy.  We get to hear about Jacob’s sons and the roles that they will play in the future.

Rueben was the eldest.  But his sin caused him to fall from grace.  Yet, he is not outcast.  He will continue to be a part of the Hebrew people.  His offspring will be welcome among God’s people and they will even have a role to play.  Our sinfulness can be redeemed.  Our sinfulness can be forgiven and we can have a home with God.

The same is true for Simeon and Levi.  They are also brothers who committed violent acts in their youth and who lived by the sword.  But we know that the offspring of these brothers will continue to be among God’s people.  In fact, the people of Levi will become the Levites and priests that become the spiritual backbone of the people!  Their sinfulness is overcome as well.

We can even look in the opposite light towards the majority of the middle brothers.  We are talking about the likes of Naphtali, Dan, Gad, Benjamin, Ashur, and Issachar.  These brothers have a very subtle role.  They don’t have the big type-A personalities of their brothers.  But they have a role, too.  They may not be the natural leaders, but they will still be a part of God’s people.  We don’t have to be big in fame or glory or reputation to be a part of God’s people.  We can be followers, so long as we are following the right God.

The end of Genesis gives us a good look at life through God’s eyes.  He loves those with big personalities.  He loves those with small personalities.  He loves those prone to mistakes.  He loves those who play it safe and do what is expected of them.  Whatever we are and whatever role we play, there is a place for us in His grace, love, and care.


Thursday, February 16, 2017

Year 7, Day 47: Genesis 48

Theological Commentary: Click Here

Once more we see a picture of grace in the book of Genesis.  Joseph hears that his father may not have too much longer to live.  When he hears this, he takes his sons to Jacob and asks for him to bless the sons.  Jacob willingly does this.

Naturally, this makes a bunch of sense.  Jacob spent a good portion of his life without Joseph.  Joseph’s children have not known Jacob like Jacob’s other grandchildren know him.  Joseph was Jacob’s favorite son from his favorite wife.  There seem to be every reason for Jacob to bless Joseph’s boys.

On the other hand, there are some hidden reasons why Jacob could not have wanted to bless them.  Jacob didn’t know them all that well.  They were children from a marriage that Joseph had with an Egyptian priest’s daughter. 

What I like about this chapter is that Jacob does not dwell on these reasons.  Instead, Jacob blesses the children.  Jacob looks to the positives and dwells on what the relationship means instead of looking at the negatives in life.  This is truly a show of grace.  Jacob desires to bestow his blessing upon them.

As we look at this blessing, we very much see an additional place of grace.  Jacob blesses the younger son as if he were the eldest.  In fact, we know that Jacob does this intentionally.  At first, we might simply say that Jacob was the younger and got his brother’s blessing, so he is just continuing the tradition.  But I truly think that there is more to it than that.

Let’s look back through Genesis.  Seth (and Abel) were both chosen ahead of Cain.  Isaac was chosen ahead of Ishmael.  Jacob was chosen ahead of Esau.  Joseph was chosen ahead of the vast majority of his brothers.  The pattern we see in Genesis is that the former is looked over in favor of the latter.

There is a profound spiritual message being passed along here.  We hear in the book of Hebrews that in Christ God is doing a new thing.  Hebrews 10:8-10 states that God has been working throughout history to “do away with the first” in order to “establish the second.”  God does away with the old system of forgiveness/repentance/sanctification in favor of a new system of forgiveness/repentance/sanctification through Jesus’ death on the cross.

This is a sign of grace in its own right.  God gives us grace when we do not deserve it.  He passes over our guilt with His forgiveness and even pays the cost Himself!  This is indeed a pattern that God is creating through His servants in the Old Testament.  When Jacob blesses the younger son over the elder, Jacob is laying down the foundation of a long line – and an even longer line in the future – of preparing His people to accept that the second is preferred to the first.  God’s grace through Christ on the cross is far more preferred than the sacrificial system for forgiveness.


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Year 7, Day 46: Genesis 47

Theological Commentary: Click Here

Once more we see the prosperity and the wisdom of Joseph.  Before the story of the chapter is finished, Pharaoh owns all the land in Egypt and essentially turns the whole nation into sharecroppers.  The people receive their grain from Pharaoh and have to give a portion back to Pharaoh in return.  Joseph’s wisdom – his ability and desire to listen to God, really – sets him up to be a blessing to the people as well as to his Pharaoh.

That being said, I want to take a side trip and risk chasing down a rabbit trail.  Did anyone else besides me notice the portion that Pharaoh requires?  Jacob tells the people that one-fifth will return to Pharaoh and four-fifths will be kept by the people.  That’s twenty percent!

When I read that, I really was impressed by how little God demands of us.  Yes, He wants our submission.  But He only asks that we tithe ten percent of what we are given by his hands!  That’s incredibly generous, especially with what Pharaoh demanded!  The people returning out of Egypt during the Exodus should have heard God’s request and felt an ease of burden, not a great taxation!

For that matter, look at what our own countries ask of us.  In America, it’s not uncommon for American citizens to pay on the average of 20% of their income in federal income tax.  This doesn’t even count state and local taxes.  It also doesn’t count sales tax.  When we look at it in this perspective, God really is generous.

Those living in other countries have more to see.  On the average, Americans pay less tax.  We typically receive less benefit for our tax, too.  But some countries pay as much as 40% of their income in tax. (Aruba has the highest taxation rate at 58.5% and there are about ten countries with a tax rate of 50% or higher.)  In this light, God’s tithe is really quite generous.  I think perspective really helps.  How generous is a God that asks for ten percent when fellow human beings tax one another as much as 50%!


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Year 7, Day 45: Genesis 46

Theological Commentary: Click Here

In this chapter we continue to get a taste of God’s provision.  We see it first in God’s interaction with Jacob.  Jacob seems a bit hesitant to go to Egypt.  He packs everything up, but on his way out of town he stops to worship God.

This makes much sense when we think about it.  Abraham went down to Egypt and got himself into a bit of trouble.  Isaac also went down to Egypt and got himself in a bit of trouble.  Isaac has simply learned his lesson from his father and grandfather.  He is anxious to meet his son, but he knows that when his people go to Egypt there is often trouble.

Because of this, God comes to Jacob and encourages him to go.  God provides for the motivation that Jacob needs in the moment.  God tells Jacob that it will be alright and that he has a plan.  God tells Jacob that Joseph has got things under control.  Jacob listens and goes to his son in Egypt.

We also see God’s provision for the Hebrew people when they get to Egypt.  Because of his relationship with Pharaoh, Jacob is free to negotiate fertile land for them to dwell in while performing the duties of shepherds for the Pharaoh.  This is a pretty good deal in my opinion.  The Hebrew people are allowed to live and even prosper while being granted purpose in their new homeland.  God uses Joseph to provide for His people as well as to reward Pharaoh and his faithfulness to Joseph.  God’s  provision is truly a beautiful thing.


Monday, February 13, 2017

Year 7, Day 44: Genesis 45

Theological Commentary: Click Here

Joseph unfolds his plan.  He reveals himself to his brothers.  He is not dead; he is their provider!  In this we see an incredible act of forgiveness and restoration.  For those reasons alone, this is a powerful chapter.

Today, though, I want to look at the relationship between Pharaoh and Joseph.  Remember that at one time Joseph was a forgotten slave accused of thrusting himself upon the wife of a government official.  Now, he has Pharaoh’s respect and admiration.  Pharaoh comes to Joseph’s brothers and lavishes grace upon them.

This grace comes because Joseph did not live his life in bitterness.  He was able to forgive his brothers.  He was able to move past the false accusation of Potiphar’s wife.  He was able to overlook being forgotten in prison.  He was able to focus on what God set before him and do his best in those circumstances.

However, as we move to Genesis notice how this relationship changes.  Right now, Pharaoh has respect for Joseph and his God.  He is willing to work with the Hebrew people and support them because he is grateful for what Joseph has done.  But this will not remain the same.  A Pharaoh will come who will not treat Joseph’s people as nicely.

I think what we learn here is a good lesson on character.  Joseph, in all of his forgiveness and patience was a man of impeccable character.  This Pharaoh was a man of good character.  That is why this story has such a positive ending.  Men of good character are able to lead and produce good results.  We’ll see what men of poor character produce when we turn to the Exodus story.