Friday, January 2, 2009

Completion of Reflections on Genesis

I have posted my final entry on the book of Genesis. I will now leave this blog for those who may be searching for comments on the first book of the Bible, authored by Moses, inspired by the Holy Spirit, and reflected on by Carol Casarez, a simple woman following God one step at a time.

Genesis Chapter 50 - Turning Inadequacy into Victory

The end of an era had come…Jacob had died. Joseph loved his father very much, and he mourned his death deeply. He followed the Egyptian tradition of embalming, which took 40 days, and Egyptian mourning, which lasted 70 days. After that Joseph asked permission from Pharaoh to honor his father’s last request of being buried in the family tomb back in Canaan that had been purchased by Abraham. There was a very large funeral procession with Jacob’s sons and their households, along with the dignitaries of Egypt who went in support of Joseph, their beloved ruler.

Once again the brothers were afraid of Joseph. Now that Jacob was dead, they wondered if Joseph would finally seek revenge. However, Joseph had truly forgiven his brothers, and he reassured them of his continued provision for them and their families. He once again reminded them that even though what they had done to him was evil, God brought good out of it. To see things from God’s perspective is the essence of wisdom, and Joseph was a very wise man. He continued to live in the land of Egypt until his death, but he knew a day would come when the Israelites would go back to the land of Canaan. When that happened they were instructed by Joseph to carry his bones out of Egypt with them.

Throughout the rest of the Bible there will be references to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. These three patriarchs had made their place in history in the nation of Israel for all time to come. The fact that they were buried in Canaan, at their request, was indication that they truly believed this land would be given to their descendants, as God had promised. This is the point where Moses ended his book of beginnings, the book of Genesis. He gave us a living portrait of the earliest fathers of faith. None of them were perfect. They were all very human, and they made their mistakes. But it was their underlying faith in God that made them repent and move forward at God’s instructions. They were very inadequate men who recognized that it was in following God that they became victorious.
I trust you have found the same great assurance that I have found in this study of Genesis. The Almighty God of the universe, through whom all things were created; the Faithful God of the patriarchs, through whom they were led…this same God is Lord of my life and abides in me. I am His created being; I am His chosen servant. God, the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, is in control of my path. I can rest in Him and rely on Him. Throughout the book of Genesis in my Bible, He has spoken to me:
"I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless." (17:1)

"Is anything too hard for the Lord?" (18:14)

"The Lord will provide." (22:14)

"The Lord, before whom I have walked, will...make your journey a success..." (24:40)

"I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go," (28:15)

"...God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done..." (50:20)

"How big is God! How big and wide His vast domain,
To try to tell these lips can only start;
He’s big enough to rule His mighty universe,
Yet, small enough to live within my heart."
(Stuart Hamblen, Copyright 1959, Hamblen Music Co.)

Joy and Peace to you,

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Genesis Chapter 49 - Passing The Faith

A story is told of a dear old saintly lady who called her pastor to her home one day to help her plan her funeral. After covering all the necessary details, she had one last request for him. She wanted to be buried with her Bible in one hand and a fork in the other hand. This seemed like an unusual request, and he asked her why she wanted to be buried with a fork in her hand. She told him that at all of the best fellowship dinners at the church, when someone would come by to collect the dirty dishes, they would say, "You can keep the fork." That meant that the best was yet to come…either pie or cake was about to be served. So when people passed by her casket and saw a fork in her hand, she wanted her pastor to be able to step up and say of this saintly lady’s life, "The best is yet to come!"

Today’s passage tells us of the time that Jacob gathered all of his sons around him for a final blessing and a prophetic word. He told each son what his future would hold for him. For some of those sons, the best had already been, and they would face days in which they would pay for some of their actions of the earlier years of their lives. It was a case of reaping what they had sowed, praying for a crop failure, and God did not answer their prayers. Our futures are shaped by our actions today.

After giving his final blessings, Jacob reminded his sons that he wanted to be buried with his fathers in Canaan. He then "drew his feet up into the bed, breathed his last and was gathered to his people." (vs. 33) For Jacob, the best was yet to come. He joined his father, Isaac, and his grandfather, Abraham, in the presence of Jehovah. What a homecoming there must have been! These three men, called of God, faithful in service, had laid the foundation for the nation of Israel. They had lived their lives so that their faith was passed along.

Are we passing the faith along today? Can our children see God at work in our lives? Have they been told of God’s continual guidance and provisions? Have they heard how one day we had an encounter with Jesus Christ that forever changed our lives? Do they know Who to turn to in their dark moments, times of confusion and distress? What an incredible responsibility we have as Christian parents. We are shaping our destiny and impacting the destiny of those coming behind us. What will we do with today? Let me repeat once again an earlier chorus that just seems to continually go through my mind, and may we live these moments we have today to the glory of God!

"We have this moment to hold in our hands
And to touch as it slips through our fingers like sand;
Yesterday’s gone and tomorrow may never come,
But we have this moment today."
(copyright 1975 William J. Gaither)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Genesis Chapte 48 - Hold On

Mark Lowry, in his video "Mouth In Action", talks about his favorite Bible verse: "And it came to pass......" He said no matter what we are going through, it will pass. That should be words of encouragement to us today. I suppose when Jacob’s sons came home one day from the fields with a shredded and blood-soaked coat that belonged to Joseph, Jacob thought life might as well be over for him. His favorite son was dead. There seemed to be no reason to live. Then the day came when Jacob learned that Joseph was alive. Not only alive, but he was also a very powerful ruler in the land of Egypt. In fact, through Joseph’s wisdom there was food available for them that would save the rest of Jacob’s family from starving to death during the time of famine.

Just knowing Joseph was still alive had to be joy unspeakable. When he heard that Joseph was a rich ruler, such news was full of glory. And then to hear that his very own son was inviting him to come live with him in Egypt, and Jacob and all of his family would be provided for…well, the half was yet to be told! I can just heard Jacob singing, "I have found His grace in all complete; He supplieth ev’ry need......" And continuing on:
"I have found the joy no tongue can tell. How its waves of glory roll!
It is like a great o’er-flowing well, Springing up within my soul.
It is joy unspeakable and full of glory, full of glory, full of glory.
It is joy unspeakable and full of glory. Oh, the half has never yet been told!
(B.E. Warren)

Jacob was getting near death now, and he called Joseph to him. He promised him that Joseph’s two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, would inherit land as though they were Jacob’s own sons. It was as if God had not only given him Joseph back, but two more sons besides. Jacob blessed the two boys, purposefully giving the younger son (Ephraim) the greater blessing. He had learned that God works in mysterious ways, ways that were unpredictable and unexpected. But now at the end of his life, he could look back across the years and see that God was always there, had always provided, had fulfilled every promise.

Whenever Jacob was distressed over his present circumstances, they came to pass. When he did not see how any good could come from tragedy, things turned out better than he could have ever imagined. Yes, Jacob’s life was full of trials and perseverance, but in the end God allowed him the opportunity to see how His Holy Presence had been there all along. Jacob, the young conniving lad, had become Israel, the father of God’s chosen people.

Probably most of us can recall a time in our lives when we felt a sense of despair. We could not see how anything could happen to erase the present sorrow from our lives. We have been hurt and disillusioned. Life has dealt us some ugly blows. Sometimes we just did not feel like it was worth it to get up and go on. But we did. Time passed. Things that did not make sense seemed to lose their importance.

Or maybe a time has come when God has revealed some of life’s mysteries to us. Regardless, we know we can trust God. We can look at the life of Jacob and know that God has a plan for each of our lives, and He will see that plan through to its completion. He’s going to be there for us. For whatever we are going through, this too shall pass. "Hold on my child!"
"If you’ve knelt beside the rubble of an aching, broken heart,
When the things you gave your life to fell apart;
You’re not the first to be acquainted with sorrow, grief or pain,
But the Master promised sunshine after rain.
Hold on my child, Joy comes in the morning,
Weeping only lasts for the night;
Hold on my child, Joy comes in the morning,
The darkest hour means dawn is just in sight."
("Joy Comes In The Morning", William J. and Gloria Gaither, Copyright 1974)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Genesis Chapter 47 - An Influential Leader

Pharaoh was very kind and gracious to Joseph’s family. He gave them the best land in Egypt to settle in and pasture their flocks. Joseph presented five of his brothers and his father to Pharaoh, and then Jacob blessed Pharaoh. This is one of those stories in the Bible that seems like it almost has a fairy tale ending. If time had ceased to exist, it would have been just that. To see how the story continues, one would have to read Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, right on through the whole Bible. God had a chosen people back then, and He still has a chosen people today. The Bible really is a book about our own history. Hopefully this study in Genesis will inspire us to keep on reading!

The famine continued in the whole region. Grain was available because of Joseph’s management of the surplus during the years of plenty. At first people came to him with money to purchase grain. When the money was gone, Joseph told them to bring their livestock in exchange for food. As the famine continued people were forced to sell their land to Pharaoh in exchange for food. They were glad to do this because it meant the difference between life or death. Life as servants of Pharaoh was better than the other option. Priests were the only ones who did not have to sell their land, as they were given an allotment of food. Joseph gave the rest of the people seed to plant, and in exchange they were to give one-fifth of their crops to Pharaoh. They could keep the remaining four-fifths for themselves to live on. Everyone was extremely grateful to Joseph for saving their lives by devising plans that would benefit them all.

Meanwhile, down on the farm, Jacob and his clan were steadily increasing in number. The land of Goshen was filling up with Israelites. After living there for 17 years, Jacob made Joseph take an oath to bury him with his fathers in his own land, not in Egypt. Joseph solemnly swore to keep this promise to his father.

When I think of Joseph and the strong leadership he showed during the famine of his day, I am reminded of a well known Christian psychologist, author, and speaker, among other things, who is providing leadership in our day of moral famine. Dr. James Dobson has been a tremendously influential leader in family values and ethical behavior. It isn’t food that we hunger for today…it is morality, integrity, and character. Somehow I think Dr. Dobson feels the same sense of urgency that Joseph felt in serving God and people. The following quotes from Dr. Dobson could have been passed from Joseph down to him. May these thoughts influence who we are and the way we live our lives:

" can see that I have chosen to make you visible and influential among my people for purposes that you may not comprehend. In so doing, I am making my church vulnerable to you. You will be able to hurt and disappoint the family of believers by the things you do and say. Don’t mess it up! Bridle your tongue. Guard your behavior. Raise your ethical standard. Protect my people!" (God speaking to Dr. Dobson)

"When I reach the end of my days, a moment or two from now, I must look backward on something more meaningful than the pursuit of houses and land and stocks and bonds. I will consider my earthly existence to have been wasted unless I can recall a loving family, a consistent investment in the lives of people, and an earnest attempt to serve the God who made me. Nothing else makes much sense."

Friday, December 12, 2008

Genesis Chapter 46 - Faith is a Journey into the Unknown

The fear of the unknown. Maybe it was a new job. Perhaps the first day of school at a new school. A blind date. A transfer to a new community. Waiting for the test results from the lab. Have you been there? You didn’t know for sure what was in store, yet you knew you had to face it…the unknown. I am sure that is how Jacob (Israel) felt when he set out for Egypt. He knew he could not stay in Canaan, or his whole family would starve to death. He also knew that Joseph was waiting for him in Egypt, which should have been a big enticement for Jacob to make this move. However, it still required him to pull up all of the stakes, gather all of his clan together, and head out from a place he could call his own, and head for a place that was new and foreign to him.

Making those kind of changes when a person is young and adventuresome is not as difficult as when a person has aged and grown very comfortable in his surroundings. Remember the day Jacob was sent away from his home by mom and dad for having deceived his brother? They were trying to protect his life, and even though he was afraid of what was ahead, he trusted them to know what was best for him. Here he is now in his last days, at the end of his life, and God Himself is sending Israel (Jacob) away from home. Again, it is to protect not only his life, but the lives of all of those in his family. They would be sheltered from the famine if they moved down to Egypt where Joseph could take care of them. Israel trusted God and set out on this journey in faith, taking a total of 66 descendants and their wives with him.

The first night on his journey Israel offered a sacrifice to God, a praise offering for what God had done in his life and was going to do. Father God knew that Jacob was scared. He came to him in a vision telling him he did not have to be afraid, for God would be with him and would make him into a great nation. God would give him Joseph to comfort him in his old age and be there for him when he died. God also promised Jacob that one day his family would return to Canaan. What comfort there must have been in that vision to a man who felt tremendous responsibility for his whole family. Just as Jacob’s family respected his leadership, and trusted him, Jacob looked to God to assure him that this was the right move for all of them.

When we face the unknown, not sure what the future holds for us, we can have the same peace and assurance that God gave to Jacob. He has promised over and over again in His Word that He would never leave us, nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6, 8; Hebrews 13:5). God knows that we are human, and it is only natural for us to be afraid at times. Jacob did not yet have God’s Word in a written form, so God appeared to him in a vision. This same God comes to us when we pick up the Bible and begin to read His comforting promises. He speaks peace to us in John 14:27: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. That peace comes from knowing that you have given control of your life over to God, and no matter what circumstances you face, you know God will be there for you. Psalm 23 is another good passage to bring a sense of calm in a time of anxiety.

What a time of rejoicing must have occurred when Joseph and Jacob were finally reunited. It was almost like Jacob had not allowed himself to die until he could see his son again (see Genesis 46:30). Pharaoh had already promised to give Joseph’s father and brothers the best land in Egypt, the land of Goshen. Since Egyptians detested shepherds, it was good that Israel and his family were located in a separate area where their flocks could graze, and they could live the lifestyle they were used to living, not having to measure up to the Egyptians. God provided them a place where He could continue to increase their number and keep His people separate from the other cultures around them. God thinks of everything, doesn’t He! What a mighty God we serve!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Genesis Chapter 45 - God is Always in Control

God is sovereign. What does that mean to you? Could you explain that to someone if asked? Joseph had a good grasp on what the sovereignty of God meant. His statement to his brothers is the essence of what it means for God to be sovereign: "So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God." (vs. 8). God has a plan, and He will work His plan through us…or in spite of us. We do not get in the way of God’s overall design for His creation. We are pawns in His hands, and He can move us about as He pleases. Or He can create circumstances, whatever it takes to fulfill His plan.

When Joseph could contain himself no longer, he wept openly before his brothers and told them who he was. While they were afraid of what he might do to them, he assured them of the sovereignty of God. Anything that they had done to try to harm him had actually been the hand of God at work in all of their lives. Not only was Joseph saved from evil and harm, God’s larger blueprint was that all of Jacob’s family would be saved from the famine of the land. They would be preserved and made into the nation of Israel. God was not finished with them yet…He was only just beginning.

God is not finished with us yet either. He tells us, "For I know the plans I have for you...plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11) No matter what satan throws our way with the intention of destroying us, God is ultimately in control. It is so good to be able to turn and grin at satan, knowing God gets the last laugh. satan is a loser…always has been, always will be. Only losers give into him. The Power of God at work in us is so much greater than the power of evil that is the world. Claim that Power. Walk in the Spirit.

Apostle Paul admonishes us in Galatians 5:16: "So I say, live by the Sprit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature." That is the secret to living an undefeated life, just as Joseph did. He knew that God was in control of his destiny. He placed his trust and his hope in God, knowing that all things would work out in the end. If Joseph could have read the New Testament, he probably would have chosen Romans 8:28 as his credo: "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

What a day of excitement it must have been when the brothers got back home to their families and their father Jacob and told them of the good news about Joseph. Their load of guilt was gone, and their future was secure. They would all be moving to Egypt where Joseph could provide for them during the years of famine. Jacob and his beloved son Joseph would be reunited! Even Pharaoh got in on the excitement of Joseph being reunited with his family. He offered them the best land in Egypt to settle in. He even gave them carts to move their families with. He offered them the best of everything Egypt had to offer.

We all love happy endings. We need to just stop the story here for a while and rejoice with Joseph and his family. Together again. The past is behind them, the future is in God’s hands, and they have this moment of time to rejoice. Enjoy the moments of your life to the fullest, for they are passing. Gaither penned some words that tell us we need to take full advantage of the moments we have today:

"We have this moment to hold in our hands
and to touch as it slips through our fingers like sand;
Yesterday’s gone and tomorrow may never come,
But we have this moment today."
(Copyright 1975 William J. Gaither)