Search

Home thoughts from abroad.wordpress.com

Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson

Genesis 37:26-27: Big deal!

“26 Judah said to his brothers, ‘What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? 27 Come, let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood.’ His brothers agreed.” NIV

Before moving on into the murky waters of chapter 38, I want to linger over a couple of places in the second half of chapter 37. Here’s the first of them:

‘Judah said to his brothers, “What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? Come, let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood.’’ ‘

To that I want to say, ‘Big deal!’ Judah would have been happy enough to kill his brother, until he realised that there was actually greater gain to be had in selling him. He saw him (or came to see him) as a commodity, and no longer valued his personhood. Although it doesn’t always take on such a grotesque expression, this is what happens when we see people only in terms of what we can get out of them, rather than what we can give to them. What can I gain from my relationship with you? This is my only concern.

I was disturbed to read an account written by a brilliant Puerto Rican woman, in which she told of her distress upon attending a conference one time. She realised that people were looking past her to find someone ‘more important’ or ‘more influential’ with whom to network. She described how she fled to her hotel room and broke her heart, convulsed with great sobs. Many of us will be able to identify. We have been at similar events, and we know how people can make you feel little and insignificant without them having to say very much. There are those who use people as step-ladders to try to climb higher in the world.

How we treat people is so important. Jesus emphasised this when He said,

“I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40; see also v.45).

Genesis 37:25-36: Asleep in the storm?

“25 As they sat down to eat their meal, they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead. Their camels were loaded with spices, balm and myrrh, and they were on their way to take them down to Egypt.26 Judah said to his brothers, ‘What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? 27 Come, let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood.’ His brothers agreed.28 So when the Midianite merchants came by, his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and sold him for twenty shekels of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt.29 When Reuben returned to the cistern and saw that Joseph was not there, he tore his clothes. 30 He went back to his brothers and said, ‘The boy isn’t there! Where can I turn now?’31 Then they got Joseph’s robe, slaughtered a goat and dipped the robe in the blood. 32 They took the ornate robe back to their father and said, ‘We found this. Examine it to see whether it is your son’s robe.’33 He recognised it and said, ‘It is my son’s robe! Some ferocious animal has devoured him. Joseph has surely been torn to pieces.’34 Then Jacob tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and mourned for his son many days. 35 All his sons and daughters came to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. ‘No,’ he said, ‘I will continue to mourn until I join my son in the grave.’ So his father wept for him.36 Meanwhile, the Midianites sold Joseph in Egypt to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard.”

‘’You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives’’ (Genesis 50:20).

God is in control when everything looks out of control. The situation didn’t look good to Joseph (even though he knew he was still alive – just), and it looked even worse to Jacob (who believed he was dead), but God was in charge, and He was working out a great purpose. When we reach the last verse of the chapter, there is an intimation of better times ahead – although maybe we can only say this if we already know the story.

‘Joseph is one of the most important figures in the Bible. Though not without faults, he was the most upright of all his brothers. Yet he suffered greatly at their hands. As we read this account of the brothers’ cruelty, we might wonder where God was during this time – was he sleeping? Did He no longer care about justice or the protection of the innocent? But later events in Joseph’s life demonstrated that God was indeed watching over him and working out his purposes through him – even through the terrible sin of his brothers. Little did the brothers realise that in their effort to put an end to Joseph and his dreams, they were actually creating the conditions that would lead to the fulfillment of those same dreams…By means of Joseph’s suffering, God saved Joseph’s family from starvation, He brought them to Egypt and prospered them there, and He set in motion the events that would eventually bring them back to the promised land. Joseph’s life is a powerful illustration of the Apostle Paul’s famous statement…in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).’ Tom Hale: ‘The Applied Old Testament Commentary’, p.184.

Later on Hale writes:

‘Just as Jacob himself had deceived his father Isaac with a goat (Genesis 27:8-10, 16), so now his sons were deceiving him with a goat – another example of divine justice. In one way or another, our sins also come back to haunt us.’ P.185. We reap what we sow, and it’s an important observation to make.

PRAYER: Almighty God, in life’s bleakest moments, on the most difficult of days, help me to know that you are in control, and in your way and time you will still the storm.

Genesis 37:12-25: Heartless

“12 Now his brothers had gone to graze their father’s flocks near Shechem, 13 and Israel said to Joseph, ‘As you know, your brothers are grazing the flocks near Shechem. Come, I am going to send you to them.’‘Very well,’ he replied.14 So he said to him, ‘Go and see if all is well with your brothers and with the flocks, and bring word back to me.’ Then he sent him off from the Valley of Hebron.When Joseph arrived at Shechem, 15 a man found him wandering around in the fields and asked him, ‘What are you looking for?’16 He replied, ‘I’m looking for my brothers. Can you tell me where they are grazing their flocks?’17 ‘They have moved on from here,’ the man answered. ‘I heard them say, “Let’s go to Dothan.”’So Joseph went after his brothers and found them near Dothan. 18 But they saw him in the distance, and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him.19 ‘Here comes that dreamer!’ they said to each other. 20 ‘Come now, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we’ll see what comes of his dreams.’21 When Reuben heard this, he tried to rescue him from their hands. ‘Let’s not take his life,’ he said. 22 ‘Don’t shed any blood. Throw him into this cistern here in the wilderness, but don’t lay a hand on him.’ Reuben said this to rescue him from them and take him back to his father.23 So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe – the ornate robe he was wearing – 24 and they took him and threw him into the cistern. The cistern was empty; there was no water in it.25 As they sat down to eat their meal, they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead. Their camels were loaded with spices, balm and myrrh, and they were on their way to take them down to Egypt.” NIV

‘’As they sat down to eat their meal…’’ (25a)

How callous these brothers were. The only one to really come out well in the story is Reuben, and, arguably, he had the most to lose as the firstborn. We gain an insight into just how hard-hearted they were on this occasion when they later said to one another:

“Surely we are being punished because of our brother. We saw how distressed he was when he pleaded with us for his life, but we would not listen…” (42:21).

We may believe we are not so bad as they, but how de-sensitised have many become to the great sufferings of humanity. We sit eating our TV dinners, and watching the news, and somehow that screen comes between us and the appalling realities of life in this fallen world.

I so need to pray this prayer. How about you?

PRAYER: ‘Soften my heart Lord, soften my heart. From all indifference set me apart.

Genesis 37: 5-11: I Have a dream

“5 Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more. He said to them, ‘Listen to this dream I had: we were binding sheaves of corn out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered round mine and bowed down to it.’His brothers said to him, ‘Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?’ And they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said.Then he had another dream, and he told it to his brothers. ‘Listen,’ he said, ‘I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.’10 When he told his father as well as his brothers, his father rebuked him and said, ‘What is this dream you had? Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?’ 11 His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind.”NIV

“His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind” (11).

‘God gave Joseph betimes the prospect of his advancement, to support and comfort him under his long and grievous troubles. Observe, Joseph dreamed of his preferment, but he did not dream of his imprisonment. Thus many young people, when setting out in the world, think of nothing but prosperity and pleasure, and never dream of trouble. His brethren rightly interpreted the dream, though they abhorred the interpretation of it. While they committed crimes in order to defeat it, they were themselves the instruments of accomplishing it. Thus the Jews understood what Christ said of his kingdom. Determined that he should not reign over them, they consulted to put him to death; and by his crucifixion, made way for the exaltation they designed to prevent.’ Matthew Henry.

God often spoke to people in dreams in Bible days. It is interesting that in the present day, there are many stories emerging of Muslims encountering Jesus in dreams. Whether through dreams or not, God can give someone an outline sense of the direction their life will take. Sometimes a person may receive detailed insight. Among the gifts of the Holy Spirit there are ‘revelation’ gifts. We are never in control of them. The Holy Spirit is sovereign and distributes the gifts as He wills. But I believe it is my place to eagerly desire the best gifts, and be open to the supernatural manifestations of the Holy Spirit.

Young Joseph had remarkable dreams. Furthermore, they came true. ‘You can’t put an old head on young shoulders’, and he was probably unwise in how he handled what he’d been shown. But even as ‘’his father rebuked him’’ he was wise to keep ‘’the matter in mind.’’

Stay open. Keep in step with the Spirit. You never know what He might show you…or accomplish through you.

PRAYER: Lord, I pray earnestly that we your people may move in all the gifts you want to give us – to the glory of your Name.

Genesis 37: 1-4: ‘You’re my favourite!’

“Jacob lived in the land where his father had stayed, the land of Canaan.This is the account of Jacob’s family line.Joseph, a young man of seventeen, was tending the flocks with his brothers, the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives, and he brought their father a bad report about them.Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other 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 hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.” NIV

“When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him” (4).

‘In Joseph’s history we see something of Christ, who was first humbled and then exalted. It also shows the lot of Christians, who must through many tribulations enter into the kingdom. It is a history that has none like it, for displaying the various workings of the human mind, both good and bad, and the singular providence of God in making use of them for fulfilling his purposes.’ Matthew Henry.

You don’t necessarily have to tell a child, ‘I love you less.’ Who in their right mind would do that? But I’m sure it does happen; and children see things, feel things, pick things up. This goes for adult children too. I suppose it is hard for parents to not have favourites, but if you let your bias show, you do damage, and you may be sowing ugly weeds which will sprout, at some point, in your garden.

This was certainly the case with Jacob. His favouritism towards Joseph came back to bite him savagely, and had unintended consequences for the lad himself. None of this is to excuse what the brothers did to their sibling. It is indefensible. But we surely must remember that these young men came from a severely dysfunctional family. It seems they were deeply hurt, and their pain is understandable, even if their conduct is inexcusable.

Genesis 37:1-2: ‘Hidden Valleys’

“Jacob lived in the land where his father had stayed, the land of Canaan.This is the account of Jacob’s family line.Joseph, a young man of seventeen, was tending the flocks with his brothers, the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives, and he brought their father a bad report about them.”NIV

‘’Joseph, a young man of seventeen, was tending the flocks with his brothers…” (2).

This young man was destined, in the purposes of God, to become second-in-command in Egypt, a foreign nation. He had a great future ahead, but who would have thought it when he was tending sheep? There is an important Biblical principle, however, that faithfulness in little leads to faithfulness in much.

I was captured by this second verse, and it caused me to think about the words of a Steve Green – all song about another shepherd boy. This one, David, was to become Israel’s greatest king. I wonder if you can see why it came to mind as I read about Joseph? Here are the lyrics:

In a hidden valley just over the hill

A young shepherd boy surrenders his will

As he lifts his voice in praise to his King

Only the lambs will hear and follow as he sings

In a hidden valley a faithful one leads

No one looking on, he cares for their needs

For he knows the One who tries the heart

So he is steadfast and content to do his part

Hidden valleys produce a life song

Hidden valleys will make a heart strong

Desperation can cause you to sing

Hidden valleys turn shepherds to kings

In a hidden valley a leader is born

He has faced the fierce and weathered the storm

So with humble heart and love for his God

He becomes royalty with just a staff and rod

Hidden valleys produce a life song

Hidden valleys will make a heart strong

Desperation can cause you to sing

Hidden valleys turn shepherds to kings

Genesis 36: “I’ve got a little list’’

I have to say that out of all the things I have to do in my role, writing up the ‘minutes’ of meetings is not the most inspiring. Yet I do recognise the importance of good record keeping. Recently I have had reason to see this even more, as I have needed to return to the earliest recorded minutes of our church. I have been surprised by what I have found there. It is remarkable how much a person can forget! I have found myself grateful for the faithful recording of what took place.

Well, we’ve been here before, and no doubt we will be again. Passages such as Genesis 36 may not be the easiest to read. But they remind us that records, lists, accounts etc are important. God is a God of order, not of chaos, and historical records have their place in doing everything ‘decently and in order.’

Genesis 35:16-29: Repeated waves of sorrow

“16 Then they moved on from Bethel. While they were still some distance from Ephrath, Rachel began to give birth and had great difficulty. 17 And as she was having great difficulty in childbirth, the midwife said to her, ‘Don’t despair, for you have another son.’ 18 As she breathed her last – for she was dying – she named her son Ben-Oni.But his father named him Benjamin.19 So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem). 20 Over her tomb Jacob set up a pillar, and to this day that pillar marks Rachel’s tomb.21 Israel moved on again and pitched his tent beyond Migdal Eder. 22 While Israel was living in that region, Reuben went in and slept with his father’s concubine Bilhah, and Israel heard of it.Jacob had twelve sons:23 The sons of Leah:Reuben the firstborn of Jacob,Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar and Zebulun.24 The sons of Rachel:Joseph and Benjamin.25 The sons of Rachel’s servant Bilhah:Dan and Naphtali.26 The sons of Leah’s servant Zilpah:Gad and Asher.Someone observed, ‘Death is the ultimate statistic. One out of one dies!’ These were the sons of Jacob, who were born to him in Paddan Aram.27 Jacob came home to his father Isaac in Mamre, near Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron), where Abraham and Isaac had stayed. 28 Isaac lived a hundred and eighty years. 29 Then he breathed his last and died and was gathered to his people, old and full of years. And his sons Esau and Jacob buried him.”NIV

Truly, in life we are in the midst of death. But what is also true is that life goes on for everyone else, and people who may see each other little at other times (maybe never see one another) often come together for a funeral (29b). Bereavement is such a potent human experience, and it can bring people together, if only for a few hours.

I found both of these quotes helpful, and I hope you do too

‘Three deaths are recorded in chapter 35, for death is one of the facts of life. Jacob’s obedience to God did not prevent him from experiencing trials. He lost a friend, Deborah; a favourite wife, Rachel; and then his beloved father.’ Warren W. Wiersbe, ‘With the Word’, pp.39,40.

‘From Bethel to Bethlehem is not far. The one, the ‘’house of God’’; the other, the “house of Bread.” We need them both if we are to bear up under the repeated shocks of life, such as the death of the old nurse Deborah, the death of our beloved Rachels, the sins of our children, and the breakup of the old home. Well is it for Jacob that he had got right with God before these repeated waves broke upon him.’ F.B.Meyer: ‘Devotional Commentary’, p.28.

PRAYER: Lord, may I seek to be so right with you, and so rooted in you, that I am anchored when the storms of adversity threaten to toss my little life around.

Genesis 35:9-15: Mark it

“9 After Jacob returned from Paddan Aram God appeared to him again and blessed him. 10 God said to him, ‘Your name is Jacob, but you will no longer be called Jacob; your name will be Israel.’ So he named him Israel.11 And God said to him, ‘I am God Almighty; be fruitful and increase in number. A nation and a community of nations will come from you, and kings will be among your descendants. 12 The land I gave to Abraham and Isaac I also give to you, and I will give this land to your descendants after you.’ 13 Then God went up from him at the place where he had talked with him.14 Jacob set up a stone pillar at the place where God had talked with him, and he poured out a drink offering on it; he also poured oil on it. 15 Jacob called the place where God had talked with him Bethel.”NIV

‘’Jacob set up a stone pillar at the place where God had talked with him, and he poured out a drink offering on it; he also poured oil on it’’ (14)

Once again we can marvel at the mercy of God towards Jacob, and be encouraged for ourselves. The changing of a person’s name (in a Biblical context) points to the changing of their nature (10). This was, and is, a sovereign work of God, unearned and undeserved.

So God renewed the covenant with Jacob (11,12).

But note what Jacob then did (14,15). He marked it! He responded in worship, and in so doing he marked the sacred ‘’place where God had talked with him’’ (15).

God is continually speaking – in the ‘book’ of nature; but especially in the Book of books, Scripture. (Within this Book, He speaks to us predominantly in Jesus). But although God is always speaking, do you not find that, like Jacob, there are special moments in which God comes to you in (it seems) extra powerful ways/ He shows you things. He reveals truth to you. Maybe He gives you direction. You don’t want to lose that. Capture it. Make sure you mark it in some way.

I mentioned recently that I keep a diary/journal. Just before writing this piece for today, I looked at my entries for this time last year. I came across this prayer I had written on 29th March 2020:

‘’Lord, as we come into a period where it is expected that the pandemic is going to intensify, I pray you will have mercy, and cut short these days of tribulation. May many lives (and souls) be saved, in Jesus’ Name. Teach us to pray Lord. Teach us how to pray. Please douse the flames of this virus and put out the fire-for your glory. May many come to know you in these days.”

It’s still a relevant prayer I think. As I read through the old pages, I’m glad that I have been able to memorialise certain moments with God, however poor my efforts.

Don’t waste any encounter with God. Worship Him with your whole life poured out before Him like a drink offering. ‘Capture’ what He says. Mark the moment…

…and whatever He says to you, do it!

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: