Genesis 45 – The Big Reveal!

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I adore this moment! Joseph just couldn’t contain himself any longer. Consider all the time he had spent with his brothers while keeping the secret of who he really was to himself. It must have been incredibly difficult. I wonder how he knew that this was the right moment to make the big reveal? Did God nudge him or did his heart just finally bust? After all, he had waited so long to find out about his father and restore his family after he saw the hearts of his brothers had changed.

Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all his attendants, and he cried out, “Have everyone leave my presence!” So there was no one with Joseph when he made himself known to his brothers. And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard him, and Pharaoh’s household heard about it. Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still living?” But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence. (v. 1-3)

Notice, that after Joseph reveals himself, his brothers are terrified. Can you blame them? They did leave him for dead in a desert well about 22 years ago. But look at Joseph’s response.

Then he threw his arms around his brother Benjamin and wept, and Benjamin embraced him, weeping. And he kissed all his brothers and wept over them. Afterward, his brothers talked with him. (v. 14-15)

As my son would say in a fun accent, “Vwait, Vwhat?”

Seriously, if I had a quarter for every time I have said, “Please treat people how you want to be treated – NOT how they treat you.” to my children, I would have enough money to dig twenty wells in Africa. You may say this as often as I do, however, my question for us today is do we live this out? And if so, how? It’s so easy to say these words until someone drives by you, blares his horn and gives you the lift of the third finger from your pinky or thumb. It’s effortless to remind our children or friend when they are in a situation where someone has wronged them to turn the other cheek, but it’s altogether different when we have to harness the anger and do good back to the one who has harmed us.

 This is a muscle that needs constant exercising in my own life. I’ve discovered that only God can harness evil and that includes the evil in our own hearts, not just the evil in others. It’s incredible to see how Joseph illustrated this with the forgiveness and love he offered his brothers.

It is God’s power, God’s strength, God’s mercy, God’s love, God’s patience, God’s courage and God’s grace that give us the ability to always seek to do good to everyone (despite their actions), not our own. I’m living proof God can get in a heart, stir things up and revise it to more like His. This isn’t easy. In fact, it can be downright painful sometimes. I know loving EVERYONE will continue to become a challenge with each day I wake. Especially as my children grow up and face more trials and evil that I want to protect them from and respond to, but I’m praying I don’t lose sight of the fact that by standing firm and keeping a strong grip on Christ, there is “wonderful hope”, that I will continue to respond in love. Trusting God to handle all the rest.

I want to leave you with these beautiful words that Paul wrote in 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17.

Now may the Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal comfort and a wonderful hope, comfort you and strengthen you in every good thing you do and say.

 

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Genesis 44 – Hearts Can Change

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As the dramatic story continues this week, we see a very clever Joseph setting a trap for his brothers. However, I don’t think it was a devious trap as much as a plan to see how they would respond. I believe Joesph desired to see if his brother’s hearts had changed since the years they had left him for dead in the desert well.

Now Joseph gave these instructions to the steward of his house: “Fill the men’s sacks with as much food as they can carry, and put each man’s silver in the mouth of his sack. Then put my cup, the silver one, in the mouth of the youngest one’s sack, along with the silver for his grain.” And he did as Joseph said. (v. 1-2)

Joseph quickly gets his answer as his guards catch up with them outside the city, accusing them of theft, and putting Benjamin’s fate at stake. First, they stay true to their father, Jacob. As Judah speaks for his brothers and says,

“So now, if the boy is not with us when I go back to your servant my father, and if my father, whose life is closely bound up with the boy’s life, sees that the boy isn’t there, he will die. Your servants will bring the gray head of our father down to the grave in sorrow. Your servant guaranteed the boy’s safety to my father. I said, ‘If I do not bring him back to you, I will bear the blame before you, my father, all my life!’ (v. 30-32)

Not only that, Judah go on to offer himself in place of Benjamin.

“Now then, please let your servant remain here as my lord’s slave in place of the boy, and let the boy return with his brothers. How can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? No! Do not let me see the misery that would come on my father.” (v. 33-34)

What an image. I’m assuming all these brothers had suffered guilt and shame for years due to their horrendous actions of the past. Leaving your brother for dead and lying to your father about his death all because of jealousy can’t be an easy thing to live with. In these moments, it must have become clear to Joseph that God had not just been working in his own heart, but also in the hearts of his brothers.

The excitement will continue next week as we see Joseph reveal himself to his brothers and extend forgiveness that surely is from the Lord and not his own. Our God can work wonders when we allow Him into our hearts to do His incredible work. Praying you all feel His love and peace penetrating your heart this week through all your thoughts, words and deeds.

Genesis 43 – Reunions

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An incredibly dramatic scene unfolds in Chapter 43. Not only is Joesph reunited with his brothers who discarded him when he was young, but Benjamin has come along. For the first time in about twenty-two years, Joseph is seeing his brother (the one whom he shared a mother with) once again. Joseph hasn’t revealed himself to them yet, but he is taking it all in and certainly, it’s on his heart. When and how to do so must have been swirling inside his head along with all the intense emotions that came along with the encounter.

As he looked about and saw his brother Benjamin, his own mother’s son, he asked, “Is this your youngest brother, the one you told me about?” And he said, “God be gracious to you, my son.” Deeply moved at the sight of his brother, Joseph hurried out and looked for a place to weep. He went into his private room and wept there. (v. 29-30)

As you read those verses, allow yourself to be in the room and consider the deep emotion that must have been streaming through Joseph’s heart and mind.

  • Joy to see his brother alive and doing well.
  • Great sadness for not having had the opportunity to grow up playing in the fields alongside him.
  • Gratitude to God for reuniting them after all these years.
  • Excitement about what was to come.
  • Revelation into what God had been doing all those years, working to get him to just this point in time.
  • What other emotions do you think were pulsing through his heart?

After he had washed his face, he came out and, controlling himself, said, “Serve the food.” 

And what happens next is awesome!

They served him by himself, the brothers by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves, because Egyptians could not eat with Hebrews, for that is detestable to Egyptians. 

Joseph didn’t eat with the Egyptians. He couldn’t because even with his high position, he was still a Hebrew and it was considered detestable for Egyptians to eat with Hebrews. Wouldn’t that have caught your attention? Made you wonder who he was? Recognize him? And if that didn’t catch your attention. . .

The men had been seated before him in the order of their ages, from the firstborn to the youngest; and they looked at each other in astonishment. 

Joseph seats them at the table in birth order! Now, that did catch their attention but not enough to make them question or consider who Joseph might really be. Then, to top it all off . . .

When portions were served to them from Joseph’s table, Benjamin’s portion was five times as much as anyone else’s. So they feasted and drank freely with him.  (v. 31 – 34)

Didn’t they think it was strange that Joseph had met Benjamin only once, but found such favor with him that he received fives times as much food? Maybe they had to much wine, were too nervous, or guilt from their actions years ago clouded their judgment. Either way, it’s an incredibly dramatic and exciting chapter to read this week.

Genesis 42 – Illusion of Control

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There is so much going on in Genesis 42. We begin to see God unfolding his plan for the restoration of Joseph back to his family and it’s exciting. However, it’s verses three and four that stood out the most to me today and tugged at my heart.

Then ten of Joseph’s brothers went down to buy grain from Egypt. But Jacob did not send Benjamin, Joseph’s brother, with the others, because he was afraid that harm might come to him. (v. 3-4)

Maybe it’s because my children are in 7th and 10th grades now and the reality of how much they have to swim against the current of this world always sets in when I send them to school. I pray God keeps their eyes on Him, that they seek Him before any decision they make, and that they will never know a day without Him, but I know it’s challenging out there with the pull and tug of friends and the world.

In these verses, we see Jacob’s fear growing. As a father, he was worried that Benjamin might be hurt or killed if he’s sent on the journey to Egypt for grain. Benjamin was important because he was the only son left (or so he thought) from his treasured wife Rachel. To consider losing Benjamin after the devastating loss of Joseph would have been too much for him. There is that favoritism, that Jacob has shown us before, creeping in again.

What convicted my heart through these two verses was the reminder that fear and even our own children can become idols in our lives.  When we put our fear or children before God, we are under the illusion that this makes them safer and that our worry helps. But the truth is, that making these things idols (and whatever else we have on our list) doesn’t mean we have more control over them. It doesn’t mean we can protect them, make them perfect or keep them safe. That’s Satan’s lie. His lies create a diversion for us while he deludes us into thinking that if we worry or fear ourselves to death over these idols we can control and protect them.

BUT THE TRUTH . . . no amount of fear or desire to control our situation can lead to the protection or guarantee everything will end up the way we want it to. The faucet of fear can only be turned off when God is our focus. When He is at our center, the rest will fall into place. Maybe not the place we wanted, but His place. God will carry out His will, with or without our peace, idols or permission.  And along the way, when things don’t go the way we want them to go, happen when we wanted to happen or transpire as quickly as we hoped, it will be His peace and love that brings us comfort and strengthens our faith so that fear doesn’t overtake us. I pray we will all remain steadfast through trial and stormy gale with our Savior as our Rock and one true focus.

 

 

 

Genesis 41 – God’s Tricky Like That!

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This week, we finally see God’s plan for Joseph come to life. Remember, it has been TWO YEARS since Joseph interpreted the cupbearer’s dream (v. 1), but he has just remembered him.
Now a young Hebrew was there with us, a servant of the captain of the guard. We told him our dreams, and he interpreted them for us, giving each man the interpretation of his dream. And things turned out exactly as he interpreted them to us: I was restored to my position, and the other man was impaled.” (v. 12-13)
Although, if the cupbearer had remembered him before now, Joseph wouldn’t have been around to interpret the King’s dream.
Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you.” (v. 39-40)
I’m not saying it was a fun or easy wait there in that cold dark prison. In fact, there must have been many frustrating and discouraging days for Josep. However, I can imagine Joseph was finally realizing how the wait had been worth it and God’s plan was certainly better than he could have ever imagined. In his wildest dreams, I doubt he ever considered he would one day be the King’s, right-hand man. This is when the kids and I usually say, “God’s tricky like that!” God loves to surprise us, but nothing ever surprises Him.

Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20

This reminds me of a characteristic of God that we sometimes forget when things get busy, difficult or desperate. Our God stands in the center of it all. In the center of our lives, hearts, this world, and His people. His glory and beautiful promises of rest, peace, mercy and protection shine during the dark and cold moments of life. We want to hurry past the hard stuff. Get through it. Move on. We don’t like the pruning or the wait. It’s hard. It hurts. It doesn’t make sense. But, it’s in the wait that God shines the brightest. Where we grow the most. It’s in the harshest of life’s challenges He endures and uses His power to produce fruit when all odds seem against it. Nothing is impossible for Him. Nothing! He offers hope. The hope that greater things are to come. Hope that happiness will triumph over sadness and despair. Hope that forgiveness will enter and reign in a bitter heart. Hope that peace will prevail over our weary and stressful lives. Hope that love will conquer all in our lives.

But God’s not finished. He’s waiting around to be gracious to you. He’s gathering strength to show mercy to you. God takes the time to do everything right—everything. Those who wait around for him are the lucky ones. Isaiah 30:18 (The Message)

God is the solid rock that we can build our lives on. God equals strength, endurance, steadfastness, grace, and beauty. When we live with God’s power [Holy Spirit] within us He enables us to live these characteristics out daily. I pray your lives are filled with God’s strength and not your own. With His Mighty endurance as we run the race, we will not fail. I pray He gives us all a steady and unchanging desire to seek Him daily, the grace and beauty to handle conflict, and the courage to share His love with others as Christ did for us.

Genesis 40 – Right Where You Belong

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So often in my life, God’s plan just doesn’t make sense? I mentioned this some in last weeks blog. There was Joseph trying to do the right thing and he still got in trouble and was thrown into prison because of Potiphar’s wife’s lies. But this week we find out that God needed Joseph in prison! That sounds a little crazy and certainly doesn’t make sense to us, but here it is.

Sometime later, the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt offended their master, the king of Egypt. Pharaoh was angry with his two officials, the chief cupbearer, and the chief baker, and put them in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, in the same prison where Joseph was confined. The captain of the guard assigned them to Joseph, and he attended them. (v. 1-4)

For God’s amazing work in and through Joseph to be accomplished, he needed to be in prison so he could meet the King’s cupbearer and baker.  God had given Joseph the amazing gift of interpreting dreams. He was able to show the King’s helpers this talent when they shared their confusing dreams with him in prison. And just as we get our hopes up that Joseph might finally be released for the crime he didn’t commit, we read the last verse of the chapter.

He restored the chief cupbearer to his position, so that he once again put the cup into Pharaoh’s hand—but he impaled the chief baker, just as Joseph had said to them in his interpretation. The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him. (v. 21-23).

What?! After all that, more disappointment. It must have seemed like things were getting looking up again and God was hearing Joseph’s prayers. Surely, he prayed every night for God to release him from the dungeonous cell he had been sentenced to.

So no, Joseph doesn’t get out of prison in this chapter, but what if he had? It would have been tragic because when King Pharaoh (coming in Chapter 41) needs his dream interpreted we see the cupbearer’s memory is restored and it will be God’s perfect timing for Joseph to come face to face with the king so he can realize all Joseph has to offer his kingdom.

If the cupbearer had remembered Joseph in chapter 40, he would have been grateful, hit the road back home and would have never fulfilled his destiny for God’s glory and His people. This is super convicting for me. So often, I can sit and wonder where God is and why I’m having to endure the trials before me. All the while, God is at work and striving to achieve His glory and plan through me. I pray that I can remember this each and every time I am facing a challenge or trial. I pray that I can hear God’s whispers above my fear as He says, “Allison, you are right where you belong. I’m here with you. You are loved. Hang in there! Use my strength and courage. Don’t try to rely on your own. Just wait, because your story isn’t finished yet and I’ve got an amazing plan for your life.”

As much as I pray I will remember this, I pray also for each of you to remember it as well. You are loved!

Genesis 39 -Even When . . .

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The Lord was with Joseph so that he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. When his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned. (v. 1-4)

After such horrendous treatment from his brothers, things seemed to look up for Joseph. His Egyptian master saw how smart and successful he was and honored him for that by putting him in charge of his entire household.

Yes, everything was looking up, at least until lust crept in. Lust will always lead to problems. For Joseph, the problem was that the lust wasn’t coming from his own heart, but that of his bosses wife. He was in a tough situation. As we read, staying true to his values and honor didn’t work out for him. After Potiphar’s wife threw herself at Joseph day after day and he refused, she decided to get back at him by accusing him of trying to take advantage of her.

When his master heard the story his wife told him, saying, “This is how your slave treated me,” he burned with anger. Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined. (v.19-20)

I wonder if at this moment Joseph is wondering, “God, where are you? I did the right thing and I’m still sitting here in prison. What is your plan?”

Where is/was God? We hear this question a lot after shocking tragedies. Sometimes, we forget the answer when fear overcomes our faith, but God reminds us over and over again in scripture that He is with us!

He is here. He is with us, among us, crying with us, and fighting for us! He is with us when we lie. When we want to scream in despair. He is with us when we write our check to the church that isn’t 10%, when we gossip about others, when we choose someone else over our spouse. God is with us when we yell at our children, when we use His name in vain, when we lead others into sin and when our hate and rage overcome our senses. He is with us when we rejoice over a successful business deal, when we praise His name in church and serve others in our community! God is ALWAYS with us, but He will not make us choose Him or love Him. He will not make us do the right thing. He will not make us choose trust and faith over worry and doubt. He has given us the gift of choice and thankfully the gift of grace for when we make the wrong choices.

God is with us in our joy and happiness and He is with us in our sin and our mess! Even when we have made the worst choices possible or when we have made the best choice and still seem to have lost. Even when despair seems to be taking over and sadness so deep a pit there seems no way out. Even when we have strayed from His ways and His laws ~ He is with us!  His plan is always in the works and He is growing and developing strong and deep roots in preparation of our next move. May you know and feel His great love for you this week and give you a thirst to seek Him and follow His ways.

But while Joseph was there in the prison,  the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. (v. 20-21)