Genesis 32.33-32 – June 1, 2020

Genesis 32:22–32

That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. 24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”
But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
27 The man asked him, “What is your name?”
“Jacob,” he answered.
28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel,  because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”
29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”
But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.
30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”
31 The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel,  and he was limping because of his hip. 32 Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the tendon attached to the socket of the hip, because the socket of Jacob’s hip was touched near the tendon.
 (Genesis 32:22–32, NIV)

Why DID Jacob want to know the name of this man with whom he wrestled?

Thought Questions:

How do you think Jacob felt, knowing he had seen “God face to face”?

Why does knowing someone’s name strengthen the familiarity and bond you have with that person? Why do people value their name so much and like to be called by their name?

How does a name give a blessing to the one who has that name?

Genesis 37.1-11 – May 19, 2020

Genesis 37:1–11

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.
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 grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around 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.
 (Genesis 37:1–11, NIV)

“I enjoy seeing God’s presence in all of Joseph’s life journeys. It gives me much confidence in God’s love for me.”

Thought Questions:

As you read through the introduction of Joseph, what sort of life do you think he had growing up? What would you consider normal and what seems very different to young people growing up today?

What advantages and disadvantages do you think there was for Jospeh since his father loved him more than his other sons?

Despite Joseph’s rocky start, we are going to find out that God uses him for good. How have you found God to be a part of your growing up and in what ways has this helped you do good for him today?

Genesis 41.1-40 – April 25, 2020

Genesis 41:1–40

Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. 40 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.” (Genesis 41:39–40, NIV)

Who would have thought that a young man sold into slavery would become second only to the Pharaoh in the most powerful nation of the day?

Thought Questions:

Why do you think God sent the dreams he did to Pharaoh? Do you think it unusual for God to work in this way?

In what ways did the Spirit of God guide Joseph, not only in this story but throughout his entire life? What was required from Joseph for the Spirit to work in the way he did?

How can you allow the Spirit of God to not only be present, but also direct how you go about your life?

Genesis 21.1-7 – April 11, 2020

Genesis 21:1–7

Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised. Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him. Abraham gave the name Isaac  to the son Sarah bore him. When his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God commanded him. Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. 

Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” And she added, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”

(Genesis 21:1–7, NIV)

Finally, the promise God made to Abram and his wife Sara (now Abraham and Sarah) had come to pass. This was not just any fulfillment of a promise. This promise set in motion an even greater result, that Abraham would become the father of a great nation.

Thought Questions:

If you know anything about the Abraham and Sarah story, you know they wrestled with fully believing the promise God made to them. (It really did seem impossible!) Why do you think they struggled with this instead of just taking God at his word? Why do we wrestle with God’s promises?

How do you think it would have felt to be Abraham and see this promise come true, even at 100 years of age?

How have you laughed at the fulfillment of the promises of God in your life?

Genesis 42.1-44.34 – February 15, 2020

Genesis 42.1-44.34

Now Joseph was the governor of the land, the person who sold grain to all its people. So when Joseph’s brothers arrived, they bowed down to him with their faces to the ground. As soon as Joseph saw his brothers, he recognized them, but he pretended to be a stranger and spoke harshly to them. “Where do you come from?” he asked. 

“From the land of Canaan,” they replied, “to buy food.” 

Although Joseph recognized his brothers, they did not recognize him. Then he remembered his dreams about them and said to them, “You are spies! You have come to see where our land is unprotected.” 

10 “No, my lord,” they answered. “Your servants have come to buy food. 11 We are all the sons of one man. Your servants are honest men, not spies.” (Genesis 42:6–11, NIV)

The story of Joseph and his brothers is a joy to read … if you are reading from our perspective. I can imagine that the brothers of Jospeh found no joy in their circumstances, and we will discover, saw their situation go from bad to worse. I wonder if God ever looks at our story and chuckles, since he knows our stories from a better vantage point than our own?

Thought Questions:

What do you think was going through the minds of Joseph’s brothers as they faced obstacle after obstacle in their quest to get food from Egypt?

Knowing he would reveal himself to his brothers and take them in, why do you think Joseph spent as much time as he did “playing them along?”

How would the lives of the Israelite people been different if Jospeh’s brothers had been faithful to God’s laws? If Jospeh had NOT been faithful to them?

Time Away – January 22, 2019

Genesis 44.1-45.28
Matthew 14.13-36
Psalm 18.37-50
Proverbs 4.11-13

All throughout the gospels, we see the writers demonstrate a pattern in the life of Jesus that regularly includes getting away from the crowds and the busyness to stop and spend time in prayer.

Our reading today is an example of this. In Matthew 14.23, Jesus has sent his disciples on ahead of him and “he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone.”

Question: Why did Jesus need to get away and spend time alone in prayer?

You would think that someone who was the Son of God would be so inherently connected to God that he would have a “built in” sense of knowing what to do and thus eliminate the need for prayer. (Such thinking may tell us more about our own view of prayer than Jesus’ nature, by the way.) Perhaps this is true, but I think there is more to it than that.

One might also make the argument that Jesus was providing an example for us to live by. Someone once said that the greatest single argument to pray is that Jesus prayed and this would certainly be an example of that. This also may be true, but it places prayer within a category of checklist items to be accomplished, which misses the point altogether.

No, I think the reason Jesus spent time alone in prayer, especially in Matthew 14, was that he needed to refocus or re-center his life so as not to be distracted by the distractions bombarding him at every turn.

Look at what all happened to Jesus within today’s reading:

  • He had just found out John had been killed
  • Crowds followed him to remote areas, even when he was trying to get away and be alone
  • He was faced with the challenge of feeding over 5,000 people
  • The crowds would continue to seek him out so that wherever he went, people were present seeking to be healed

It doesn’t take us long to figure out that Jesus’ schedule was overwhelming. He HAD to get away in order to maintain a focus on what was most important, otherwise the crowds would take over his time and efforts.

Stop for a moment to look at your calendar. How much “white space” is left on today? This week? How easy is it for you to refocus on what is really most important in your life?

Jesus gives you an example on how to accomplish that, by the way.

Questions:

Why do you think Joseph tells his brothers to “not quarrel about this along the way?” What did he know that perhaps we or his brothers did not?

How do you show compassion for people around you?

What can you praise and exalt God for today?

If someone asked you for the one key to life, how would you answer them? How does your answer compare to that of the Proverb writer, that his instructions are the key to life?

God Did This – January 21, 2019

Genesis 42.18-43.34
Matthew 13.47-14.12
Psalm 18.16-36
Proverbs 4.7-10

In today’s story of Joseph and his brothers, we see three different responses to a payment of money being “left” in a sack of grain.

First, Joseph’s brothers, returning from buying grain from Joseph (although they did not at the time know it was Joseph), discover the money that was to be a payment for the grain in their sacks of purchased grain. Their response: “What has God done to us?” (42.28)

Second, as they prepare to return to Egypt to purchase more grain, the brothers’ father, Jacob, reminds them to include money for a new payment, but also the old payment for: “it probably was someone’s mistake.” (43.12)

Finally, worried they were going to be imprisoned for stealing the money, the brothers immediately tell Joseph’s household manager of their plight upon their return to Joseph’s house. “Relax,” the steward replies: “Your God, the God of your father, must have put this treasure into your sacks.”

So, here’s my question: Which one of these reactions would you consider most accurate? Is God punishing the brothers? Was it all just an honest mistake, soon to be corrected by the return of the money? Is God blessing the brothers, even as they view it as a disastrous curse? Is it “D,” all of the above?

Does it surprise us that a steward of Joseph’s house understands the blessing of God? One can take a clue from the life of Joseph and his willingness to continue to have faith in God, even in the midst of his circumstances. Joseph is held out as a faithful hero in the midst of this story, so his life would certainly be an influence on others, such as those who worked in his house.

I think there is also a sense in which throughout the entire Joseph story, not only is God at work, but the twists and turns of irony surprise us. Who else BUT a servant of Joseph to remind not only the brothers, but also the readers: God is faithful and provides blessings for his people … even when they least expect it or have done anything to deserve it?

As you go through today and something happens to you or around you, ask yourself not just “Why did this happen,” but also: Where is God at work in this situation? Is his hand in this and am I just overlooking his blessing?

Questions:

How would you have liked to have been Joseph, watching the scene with his brothers unfold, seeing their reaction, and knowing everything they were saying? How do you think you would have handled this situation if you were in Joseph’s place?

We are told that Jesus did only a few miracles in his hometown of Nazareth because of the unbelief of the people. Why do you think their unbelief caused him to do so little here?

Rewrite Psalm 18 in your own words, expressing the things God has done for you as well as the life you have lived before God.

Who do you listen to for advice on how to live a good life? How helpful do you find their advice? Are there others who might be a better source of advice in your life? How can you listen to them more?