Food for the Soul
Food for the Soul
15 The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah. 16 John answered them all, “I baptize you with[a] water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with[b] the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” 18 And with many other words John exhorted the people and proclaimed the good news to them. 19 But when John rebuked Herod the tetrarch because of his marriage to Herodias, his brother’s wife, and all the other evil things he had done, 20 Herod added this to them all: He locked John up in prison.
I find myself challenged by the single mindedness of John. No matter what people thought about him, good or bad, he stayed on mission. I wonder if he was ever tempted by the crowds? The crowds loved him. They even thought that he could have been the Messiah that they were expecting to come.
Surely, he could have stayed on mission but enjoy a more comfortable lifestyle? No one would have questioned him or thought less of him. I mean, was it really that important to keep his Nazarene vow? Maybe not to the crowd, but it meant everything to John.
This is the path that God had set for him, and I imagine that never once did he consider anything else. For John, he chose complete obedience to God. Even though this obedience put him in jail, and eventually claimed his life, he didn’t waiver.
It’s easy to get distracted by life and all the ups and downs and not focus on the mission and plan that God has for us.
Father I thank you that you have a plan and purpose for each of us, and a mission to serve you with. Help me today to not be distracted but to stay on mission for you.
Written by Andrew Martin
7 John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 9 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” 10 “What should we do then?” the crowd asked. 11 John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.” 12 Even tax collectors came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?” 13 “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them. 14 Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?” He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.”
The crowds start coming to John and he wonders who encouraged them to seek God. Are they just wanting to escape God’s wrath or are they true God seekers.
So he asks them to prove they are true God seekers, that they have truly repented. John goes further by attacking the long held belief that being born as a Jew was sufficient for approval from God.
He calls for repentance, and the people wisely ask what does this mean – practically. John gives a series of examples of what a truly repentant person would do.
Clearly John teaches that repentance is not merely confession of sin when we offended someone or God. He is teaching that repentance is living a life where we look out for the needs of others, where we live righteously doing what is right and where we do not use our authority for unjust gain, but we live in contentment.
Written by Ps. Richard Botta
3 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene— 2 during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3 He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 4 As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. 5 Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. 6 And all people will see God’s salvation.’”
What a fascinating way Luke has chosen to write this portion of his account of Jesus. It is as if he starts with a long shot to establish the setting and then zooms in closer and closer until he reaches the extreme close up. Luke starts with the highest ranking leader in the Roman Empire, Tiberius Caesar; then the Roman Governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate; then the Roman installed leader of Galilee, Herod the tetrarch; then the Jewish religious leaders, Annas and Caiaphas; and then … John.
Starting with great political power and ending with humble John. In fairness, John belonged to the tribe of Levi, God’s chosen priests, and his birth was quite remarkable… but it is almost comical to consider his everyday life against that of Caesar.
What strikes me is that all the other people in this list had great political power, wealth and influence. But it was John who received the Word of the Lord, and it was John whom God was going to use to announce His son, the saviour of the world.
God uses those He chooses, not necessarily the powerful, or wealthy, or influential to bring about His purposes. Will I answer God’s call today? Who knows how He may use me! God, I want to be part of the big story you are telling. Help me to recognise your voice and follow your leading today. Amen!
Written by Ps. Beth Waugh
41 Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. 42 When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. 43 After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. 44 Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. 45 When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.” 49 “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” 50 But they did not understand what he was saying to them. 51 Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.
In this passage, we read that every year Mary and Joseph go to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover, “as was their custom.” I am not sure if Jesus and the rest of the family joined them previously, but this year Jesus does. Today, these “customs” (or “traditions”) would be prayer, bible reading, giving and church attendance, etc. While sometimes it may seem we’re going through the motions as we do these “customs”, there’s something good to be said about them: they provide support. They become habits which help.
In this passage, I also notice how much Jesus enjoyed the relationship he has with His Heavenly Father. He loved learning and talking about him so much that he got caught up in conversation with others and lost track of time. Jesus seemed totally absorbed and energised by it that he was surprised that his parents didn’t think to check the temple first to find him but wasted three days searching for him elsewhere.
As I read this passage, I see how both customs and relationship go together. But the temptation for me can be to just focus on “doing” the customs. The danger is that if I allow these customs to take the place of my relationship with my Heavenly Father, I run dry.
Heavenly Father, may I not just rely on customs to know You, but choose to spend time soaking in Your presence too. Holy Spirit help me to stay a little longer.
Written by Gab Martin
36 There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. 39 When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. 40 And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.
Lately I’ve been thinking about the human tendency to categorise life’s circumstances as either ‘good’ or ‘bad’.
In the case of the story of Anna here, she lost her husband after only 7 years of marriage and then lived as a widow for many years afterwards. That’s ‘bad’, right? But look at what this enabled Anna to do – she lived at the temple, worshiping, praying and prophesied that the child Jesus was the coming messiah.
But what if I look at life through the lens of Romans 8:28 – our God is able to work all things together for good for those who follow Him. This helps me see things from a different perspective, and instead of labeling circumstances as either ‘good’ or ‘bad’, I am prepared to see things as ‘both’.
When difficult things happen to us, when the enemy comes at us to cause trouble, our God is able to turn those ‘bad’ things into good. He is the God of ‘both’.
What things are happening around me that I am considering categorically ‘bad’ but God doesn’t see it that way? Lord help me to see through Your eyes of faith to be a person sees the ‘both’.
Written by Shelley Witt
25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: 29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss[a] your servant in peace. 30 For my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.” 33 The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
Today’s passage says that the spirit gave Simeon a revelation and led him to have an encounter with the living Christ.
Even though the way that the bible has recorded events, may seem to lack relevance to the culture I am ministering to and the events recorded happened over 2000 years ago, I can take confidence in the notion that people still come into relationship with Christ today through revelation of Him and through encounter with Him.
Lord, as I bear witness to Christ, may I seek to see Him revealed and encountered by people anew and afresh each day
Written by Ps. Justin Ware
21 On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived. 22 When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), 24 and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”
Jesus is circumcised, named and presented to the Lord. While circumcision is a parental decision not a religious decision nowadays, although we are to be circumcised in heart, naming and presenting/dedicating our children is very important.
Naming speaks to the character, personality and nature of a child. God commonly changed the name of someone after an encounter with Him.
Jesus was also presented to the Lord. This act of dedication was made by the parents in thanksgiving to God for the child as well as to dedicate themselves to bringing the child up to know the Lord.
For each us, irrespective of what our parents may or may not have done, dedicating ourselves to knowing and following Christ is very important. Making a decision deep on the inside to obey Jesus whatever the cost, consecrating ourselves to a life of purity and purpose in pursuing the will of God is an important action.
Written by Ps. Richard Botta
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” 15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” 16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
This passage is part of the traditional Christmas nativity story however, it is v19 that caught my attention on this reading.
‘Mary kept all these things like secret treasure in her heart. She thought about them over and over’.
As Christians it’s important to ask the questions of ourselves ‘what do I value’ and ‘what are my priorities in life’. However, these questions are not easily answered, in fact it is often easier to answer these questions about others than ourselves.
Here is the beauty of v19, what we value either publicly or secretly and what we give priority to is revealed by what we think about most often.
All the best personal insights come from ‘thinking about what you are thinking about’. If you always think about eating cream buns, then you will eventual eat cream buns. In the same way if you regularly think about Christ as the saviour and risen king then your values and priorities will fall into line behind those thoughts.
So, take the opportunity today to consider how often you think about Christ each day, because that is what Mary did.
Lord, help us focus on You and give us the power to overcome any thoughts we shouldn’t be thinking.
Written by David Newton
2 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register. 4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
7 verses, simple everyday details- a girl, a boy and a baby. And yet these 7 verses describe the beginnings of events that have changed the world. To an onlooker, the events in these verses would have seemed unremarkable, but it makes me wonder how many times over the course of history has God taken ordinary events and turned them into the extraordinary. Mary and Joseph were just living their best life, and I want to do the same. Mary and Joseph did not work hard so they would be used by God. They just humbly lived their lives, loving God. He came after them and used them mightily.
So I am thinking if I want to be part of great things for God, then maybe I just need to live my best life, humbly and in obedience. Maybe I need to be open to God and allow him to use my ordinary everyday as part of his plans and let Him make my life significant for His Kingdom.
Jesus, I give my life to you. Use me Lord to bring glory to your kingdom. Help me to be faithful to your call on my life. In Jesus name I pray. Amen
Written by Christine Knight
67 His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied: 68 “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them. 69 He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David 70 (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago), 71 salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us— 72 to show mercy to our ancestors and to remember his holy covenant, 73 the oath he swore to our father Abraham: 74 to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear 75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. 76 And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, 77 to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, 78 because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven 79 to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.” 80 And the child grew and became strong in spirit[b]; and he lived in the wilderness until he appeared publicly to Israel.
Verse 66 poses a question. Zachariah answers that in his prophetic song. His son John is to be a prophet of the Most High to prepare the way for the Lord.
I love that Zachariah prophesied over his new born son, that he was involved in proclaiming his destiny.
I am grateful for how intimately our Father God is involved in our destinies and that he rejoices over each one of us. (Jer 29:11 & Zeph 3:17) Knowing that our Heavenly Father has a plan & purpose for me brings peace & purpose, I am not here randomly or by mistake.
Father I pray that you would enable each one of us truly know that you rejoice over us, you have a purpose for us and as we actively seek you, we can be assured that we will walk in the life you have for us.
Written by Suzie Hodgson
57 When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. 58 Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy. 59 On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, 60 but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.” 61 They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.” 62 Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. 63 He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.” 64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God. 65 All the neighbors were filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. 66 Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him.
Sometimes the most foolish things come out of my mouth: Sometimes words that hurt people; Sometimes words that create barriers to understanding. I hate it when that happens. Jesus said that what comes out of my mouth expresses my heart (Matt 15:10-20) – more often stupid than intending to hurt, but none the less dangerous (James 3:1-12). It seems like it might be a good thing if God shut my mouth, like Zechariah, until I have something to say that comes from obedience to God.
Instead, God lets me choose what I say. That can be a problem: its an opportunity for me to choose those stupid, hurtful, harmful things. But its also an opportunity for me to choose words that bless, encourage or speak for God. There are still plenty of times that I choose badly, but every time I choose to speak in obedience to God it’s an expression of my love for him. Every time I choose to speak encouragement its an expression of my love for the people God loves. And every time I choose to hold my tongue when something harmful is lurking there, I choose for God and his way.
Father, give me words that build up, encourage and, like Zechariah, cause people to praise you. I choose you, when I speak and when I keep quiet.
Written by David Cornell
46 And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, 49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me— holy is his name. 50 His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. 51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. 52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. 53 He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. 54 He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful 55 to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.” 56 Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.
This song by Mary is commonly known as ‘The Magnificat’. It is commonly sung in traditional carols services at Christmas, I recall singing it many times growing up in the church choir I was part of. It is a soaring song of praise of God. We do well to read it slowly and let its powerful themes lead us to God. Themes like – God notices all not based on prestige or human accolade; God’s mercy is shown to those who revere Him; God does mighty things; God opposes the proud.
As you take the time now to praise God using this song of praise let your heart thrill at your Father in heaven.
Father, hear our praises to You and as we lift our hearts to you based on Mary’s song!
Written by Ps. Richard Botta
39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”
Mary is keen to seek out what God is doing. So she goes to see for herself how her cousin Elizabeth is faring in the midst of a miracle pregnancy. I’ve no doubt this would have built her faith, and why not. And how cool that the Holy Spirit encourages her so strongly as Mary takes these steps to build her faith in God.
What steps of opportunity do I take to build my faith in God and His work in my life. Mary is such a model and example to me in this regard. God is for her in this venture, giving very specific and profound encouragement to her by the Holy Spirit.
Lord, I thank you for this reminder that it is good to take regular opportunities to build my faith through others and what you’re doing in their life. Help me not neglect this great opportunity that is often far more normal and accessible (eg. Mary’s cousin) than I recognise. Amen
Written by Ps. Rob Waugh
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” 29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” 34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.” 38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
Here is God’s marvelous plan of redemption becoming reality! Fulfilling prophesy and bringing the long promised reconciliation with God, the birth of His Son is announced.
The God of relationship once again is working through people to bring about his plan. I realised how incredible it was that God worked his plan through a young woman in Nazareth. Mary’s response especially in verses 46-56 shows she felt it was an incredible promise too. God has always been acting through people to bring about his purposes and he still is today, working through those who love him. This is God’s character, to have relationship with us, for us to know him. What a privilege!
Mary’s humble response to learning her world was about to completely change is always inspiring! Mary’s heart was full of obedience and humility at the call of God on her life. What is my response when God calls me?
Dear Lord Jesus, you are in control of my future. Your call on my life may take me somewhere unexpected, but as you are in control, help me to respond like Mary, in gratitude, and humility.
Written by Claire Moore
5 In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. 6 Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. 7 But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old. 8 Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, 9 he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside. 11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” 18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” 19 The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 20 And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.” 21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. 22 When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak. 23 When his time of service was completed, he returned home. 24 After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. 25 “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”
Here we have an amazing story of Zechariah and his encounter with an angel. The back ground to this story is what is so amazing. Firstly, Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth were old – very old – well past having children old. So old, that naturally it was impossible for them to have children. No 21st century medicine to support older women with child birth.
Secondly, despite being old, they have not stopped praying for a child. When it was easy to quit praying, they kept going. And then, one day, an angel turns up and says guess what? Your prayer has been answered; you are going to have a son!
I love Zechariah’s response in the Message Bible, “Do you expect me to believe this?” Yet, what is so amazing about this, is that they had not stopped praying. Their faith had not waivered. Even though he struggled to accept the answer, they hadn’t given up asking.
I can’t begin to list all the things that I have stopped asking God for. And to be honest, when you have been asking God for something for a long time, and there is no answer, and when it now looks like it is impossible, it’s easy to give up. We might even say it just wasn’t God’s will.
Well, as I read this story, I am encouraged, that it is never too late for God to answer my prayer. Until something else better comes from God, we should not let the naturally impossible be a reason to give up and stop asking God for it.
Father, forgive me for all the things that I have stopped praying for. For you, nothing is impossible, nothing is ever too late.
Written by Andrew Martin
1 Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. 3 With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.
Both the book of Luke and the book of Acts are written by Luke to a man called Theophilus. Theophilus name means “friend of God”.
It seems that in these first 4 verses we see that the disciples have been already writing their eyewitness accounts of Jesus (the gospels).
So here is Luke (possibly the first “theologian”) who has investigated the accounts written by the disciples and declared them as true. He confirms that both the accounts of Jesus and his account of the beginning of the church (Book of Acts of Apostles) are TRUE.
He assures Theophilus that he can be certain what he has learnt is true.
It makes me feel so encouraged that here is Luke not willing to just accept what he has been told or read; but investigates it. I think this is important for all us to investigate what we believe and why we believe it. We may not all be theologians but we can certainly read and access a huge amount of information from around the globe and also ask people to help strengthen our faith and belief.
Father thank you that Luke showed us that, and encourages us to, investigate what we believe. Thank you that he recorded not only the miracles and teachings of Jesus but authored the beginnings of the church. We are so grateful for all those before us who have translated, written, retranslated to bring us the Bible (Your Word) in a variety of ways that we are able to learn more about you and understand who You are.
Written by Ps. Sue Botta
22 Joseph stayed in Egypt, along with all his father’s family. He lived a hundred and ten years 23 and saw the third generation of Ephraim’s children. Also the children of Makir son of Manasseh were placed at birth on Joseph’s knees. 24 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” 25 And Joseph made the Israelites swear an oath and said, “God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up from this place.” 26 So Joseph died at the age of a hundred and ten. And after they embalmed him, he was placed in a coffin in Egypt.
What a beautiful ending to Joseph’s story. After all the hardship he experienced early on – separated from his family, wrongly accused of rape, being forgotten in prison – he experienced the joy of being reunited with his family, his character being redeemed and being elevated to high standing in pharaoh’s court.
What fascinates me is that even though he experienced many years of prosperity in Egypt, Joseph did not lose his sense of God’s story. It may have appeared that Joseph had ‘made it’ in life – wealth, status and power, as well as his family… but he knew that this was a stop on the way, that God was going to take His people into the promised land, and Joseph did not want to be left behind. He wasn’t going to be able to see it with his own eyes, but his bones were to go with them. I just love that sense from Joseph of – I am still going to be a part of this!
God, I want to be like Joseph, highly aware of the big story you are telling and my part within it. I want to live with the kind of faith and conviction Joseph did, that you God are going to fulfill every one of your promises. Help me to be like Joseph, trusting you in the big and the small, and prepared to journey through the tough and the rewarding seasons with you. Amen.
Written by Ps. Bethany Waugh
15 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?” 16 So they sent word to Joseph, saying, “Your father left these instructions before he died: 17 ‘This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.” When their message came to him, Joseph wept. 18 His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. “We are your slaves,” they said. 19 But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. 21 So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.
This is one of my favourite passages in the Bible. Joseph now has many years between him and the betrayal he experienced at the hands of his brothers. Their evil actions set off a chain reaction of hardships for Joseph and I have no doubt that he still carried scars, physically, emotionally and mentally, as evidenced by his weeping as they plead for forgiveness and mercy.
In this moment, Joseph’s tears are brought on not only by the overwhelming journey he has been on, but God’s amazing faithfulness through it all, and an even larger sense for Joseph that ‘it was never about him anyway’. In this precious moment, Joseph is acutely aware that God has somehow taken all the evil intent and Joseph’s arduous journey and purposed it to result in the saving of many lives, including that of his own family, the ancestors of the people of Israel and Jesus’ own earthly line.
Joseph has no axe to grind, he has no scales to bring back to balance, he has no unfinished business with his brothers. He knows now it was not about him anyway. Joseph is delighted to find himself being used by God to do something very good and his desire is to continue to serve that purpose.
Lord, only through the journey can I learn about all you are doing in and through me. Teach me to continue to walk the journey with you as my constant companion and boss. Renew my mind so that I know that it is not about me.
Written by Andrew Mellor
50 Joseph threw himself on his father and wept over him and kissed him. 2 Then Joseph directed the physicians in his service to embalm his father Israel. So the physicians embalmed him, 3 taking a full forty days, for that was the time required for embalming. And the Egyptians mourned for him seventy days. 4 When the days of mourning had passed, Joseph said to Pharaoh’s court, “If I have found favor in your eyes, speak to Pharaoh for me. Tell him, 5 ‘My father made me swear an oath and said, “I am about to die; bury me in the tomb I dug for myself in the land of Canaan.” Now let me go up and bury my father; then I will return.’” 6 Pharaoh said, “Go up and bury your father, as he made you swear to do.” 7 So Joseph went up to bury his father. All Pharaoh’s officials accompanied him—the dignitaries of his court and all the dignitaries of Egypt— 8 besides all the members of Joseph’s household and his brothers and those belonging to his father’s household. Only their children and their flocks and herds were left in Goshen. 9 Chariots and horsemen also went up with him. It was a very large company. 10 When they reached the threshing floor of Atad, near the Jordan, they lamented loudly and bitterly; and there Joseph observed a seven-day period of mourning for his father. 11 When the Canaanites who lived there saw the mourning at the threshing floor of Atad, they said, “The Egyptians are holding a solemn ceremony of mourning.” That is why that place near the Jordan is called Abel Mizraim. 12 So Jacob’s sons did as he had commanded them: 13 They carried him to the land of Canaan and buried him in the cave in the field of Machpelah, near Mamre, which Abraham had bought along with the field as a burial place from Ephron the Hittite. 14 After burying his father, Joseph returned to Egypt, together with his brothers and all the others who had gone with him to bury his father.
When a person of love and significance dies, the whole world stops.
The shock, the grief and the pain can be overwhelming. I remember when my own father died, way too young in years, when the world changed for me.
So the funeral service for a loved one is a part of dealing with this raw emotion and hopefully working through it, maybe even, eventually, some good might come out of the loss.
It’s also about honour. Jacob had requested that he be buried in a certain way in a certain location. Even though he wasn’t there to check if his request was followed, his children wanted to honour his memory and his life by treating him well in death.
But in the model death in today’s scripture, one thing (from the previous chapter) stands out to me: there is a conversation between Jacob and those who he loves, where everything that needed to be said was spoken.
As I read this passage, I’m reminded of the importance of saying the things I need to say, while there is still time, not holding back.
Lord, help me to find the words to speak the things that are of greatest importance to the people who I love.
Written by Ps. Justin Ware
29 Then he gave them these instructions: “I am about to be gathered to my people. Bury me with my fathers in the cave in the field of Ephron the Hittite, 30 the cave in the field of Machpelah, near Mamre in Canaan, which Abraham bought along with the field as a burial place from Ephron the Hittite. 31 There Abraham and his wife Sarah were buried, there Isaac and his wife Rebekah were buried, and there I buried Leah. 32 The field and the cave in it were bought from the Hittites.” 33 When Jacob had finished giving instructions to his sons, he drew his feet up into the bed, breathed his last and was gathered to his people.
As I read this record of Jacob’s final words before his death, I was taken by the phrase that he spoke to his sons, “I am about to be gathered to my people”.
I searched out a bible commentary on this phrase, and found a statement which highlighted Jacob’s confidence in facing death: “There is said to be three basic attitudes towards death. Among the ancient Greeks, they held to what can be called the death-accepting view. Our modern world is sold out to a death-denying approach. The Biblical approach is the death-defying attitude”
A death–defying attitude – I like that. As believers, we know that death is not the end of life, but rather a doorway to the next life.
Jacob faced his imminent death peacefully, knowing that he was about to be reunited with his loved ones who had gone before him.
I have faced the death of both of my parents, and knowing that we will one day be reunited is a beautiful assurance. This does not take the sorrow out of death for us, but it gives us a wonderful hope that death is not the end of the story.
Thank you Jesus, that life with You is the end of the story that actually has no end.
Written by Shelley Witt
49 Then Jacob called for his sons and said: “Gather around so I can tell you what will happen to you in days to come. 2 “Assemble and listen, sons of Jacob; listen to your father Israel. 3 “Reuben, you are my firstborn, my might, the first sign of my strength, excelling in honor, excelling in power. 4 Turbulent as the waters, you will no longer excel, for you went up onto your father’s bed, onto my couch and defiled it. 5 “Simeon and Levi are brothers— their swords[a] are weapons of violence. 6 Let me not enter their council, let me not join their assembly, for they have killed men in their anger and hamstrung oxen as they pleased. 7 Cursed be their anger, so fierce, and their fury, so cruel! I will scatter them in Jacob and disperse them in Israel. 8 “Judah,[b] your brothers will praise you; your hand will be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons will bow down to you. 9 You are a lion’s cub, Judah; you return from the prey, my son. Like a lion he crouches and lies down, like a lioness—who dares to rouse him? 10 The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,[c] until he to whom it belongs[d] shall come and the obedience of the nations shall be his. 11 He will tether his donkey to a vine, his colt to the choicest branch; he will wash his garments in wine, his robes in the blood of grapes. 12 His eyes will be darker than wine, his teeth whiter than milk.[e] 13 “Zebulun will live by the seashore and become a haven for ships; his border will extend toward Sidon. 14 “Issachar is a rawboned[f] donkey lying down among the sheep pens.[g] 15 When he sees how good is his resting place and how pleasant is his land, he will bend his shoulder to the burden and submit to forced labor. 16 “Dan[h] will provide justice for his people as one of the tribes of Israel. 17 Dan will be a snake by the roadside, a viper along the path, that bites the horse’s heels so that its rider tumbles backward. 18 “I look for your deliverance, Lord. 19 “Gad[i] will be attacked by a band of raiders, but he will attack them at their heels. 20 “Asher’s food will be rich; he will provide delicacies fit for a king. 21 “Naphtali is a doe set free that bears beautiful fawns.[j] 22 “Joseph is a fruitful vine, a fruitful vine near a spring, whose branches climb over a wall.[k] 23 With bitterness archers attacked him; they shot at him with hostility. 24 But his bow remained steady, his strong arms stayed[l] limber, because of the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob, because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel, 25 because of your father’s God, who helps you, because of the Almighty,[m] who blesses you with blessings of the skies above, blessings of the deep springs below, blessings of the breast and womb. 26 Your father’s blessings are greater than the blessings of the ancient mountains, than[n] the bounty of the age-old hills. Let all these rest on the head of Joseph, on the brow of the prince among[o] his brothers. 27 “Benjamin is a ravenous wolf; in the morning he devours the prey, in the evening he divides the plunder.” 28 All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said to them when he blessed them, giving each the blessing appropriate to him.
Here we see that Jacob has gathered his family together. He knows that his time is coming to an end and he takes this time to bless them by speaking over them. It’s a significant time, a time of “last words”. The words of our father are powerful and life-shaping. For some of these family members, perhaps what they received wasn’t what they expected to hear.
I wonder how Reuben felt when, in the presence of the rest of the family, he heard the words spoken over him? I imagine that he would be devastated. For many years earlier, Reuben had defiled his father’s bed and nothing had ever been said. Now his dad was correcting him for it and he lost his birthright blessing because of it. Yes, Reuben was still included as part of the family but his lack of repentance affected his future.
For most of the others, Jacob speaks a rich blessing over them. He speaks their future into existence. So while it may be Jacob’s end, their lives will continue. They can step into what their Father has spoken over them.
And for Rueben? Well, he might not have regained the birthright but he has an opportunity to make it right by having a change of heart and to live with honour. That he could affect.
Father, I thank you that You speak words of life over me. You call me and my future into existence.
Written by Gab Martin
17 When Joseph saw his father placing his right hand on Ephraim’s head he was displeased; so he took hold of his father’s hand to move it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. 18 Joseph said to him, “No, my father, this one is the firstborn; put your right hand on his head.” 19 But his father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know. He too will become a people, and he too will become great. Nevertheless, his younger brother will be greater than he, and his descendants will become a group of nations.” 20 He blessed them that day and said, “In your name will Israel pronounce this blessing: ‘May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh.’” So he put Ephraim ahead of Manasseh. 21 Then Israel said to Joseph, “I am about to die, but God will be with you and take you back to the land of your fathers. 22 And to you I give one more ridge of land than to your brothers, the ridge I took from the Amorites with my sword and my bow.”
God’s way isn’t our way. His way of thinking is higher than ours. His economy doesn’t follow our economy. We gain life by loosing it (Matthew 16:25), we’re called great by becoming less (Matthew 20:26). The first will be last and the last will be first (Matthew 19:30). It doesn’t make sense. I reckon Joseph would have been scratching his head as to why Jacob blessed Ephraim, the younger, over Manasseh, the older.
It should be no surprise then, that a virgin Jewish teenager would be chosen to bare the Saviour of the world. Of course the King of the world would be born in a stable. No surprise that the only sinless Man the world has even know would be known as the sinner’s friend. That the despair of the cross, the death of Jesus could become the victory of the resurrection that purchased my salvation.
Only You, Jesus.
Only You, could be so amazing and so powerful and so kind and so good! Amen
Written by Boudy Van Noppen
48 Some time later Joseph was told, “Your father is ill.” So he took his two sons Manasseh and Ephraim along with him. 2 When Jacob was told, “Your son Joseph has come to you,” Israel rallied his strength and sat up on the bed. 3 Jacob said to Joseph, “God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan, and there he blessed me 4 and said to me, ‘I am going to make you fruitful and increase your numbers. I will make you a community of peoples, and I will give this land as an everlasting possession to your descendants after you.’ 5 “Now then, your two sons born to you in Egypt before I came to you here will be reckoned as mine; Ephraim and Manasseh will be mine, just as Reuben and Simeon are mine. 6 Any children born to you after them will be yours; in the territory they inherit they will be reckoned under the names of their brothers. 7 As I was returning from Paddan, to my sorrow Rachel died in the land of Canaan while we were still on the way, a little distance from Ephrath. So I buried her there beside the road to Ephrath” (that is, Bethlehem). 8 When Israel saw the sons of Joseph, he asked, “Who are these?” 9 “They are the sons God has given me here,” Joseph said to his father. Then Israel said, “Bring them to me so I may bless them.” 10 Now Israel’s eyes were failing because of old age, and he could hardly see. So Joseph brought his sons close to him, and his father kissed them and embraced them. 11 Israel said to Joseph, “I never expected to see your face again, and now God has allowed me to see your children too.” 12 Then Joseph removed them from Israel’s knees and bowed down with his face to the ground. 13 And Joseph took both of them, Ephraim on his right toward Israel’s left hand and Manasseh on his left toward Israel’s right hand, and brought them close to him. 14 But Israel reached out his right hand and put it on Ephraim’s head, though he was the younger, and crossing his arms, he put his left hand on Manasseh’s head, even though Manasseh was the firstborn. 15 Then he blessed Joseph and said, “May the God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked faithfully, the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day, 16 the Angel who has delivered me from all harm —may he bless these boys. May they be called by my name and the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac, and may they increase greatly on the earth.”
In this passage there is such a beautiful picture of Jacob’s relationship with God and his knowledge of God’s character. Jacob speaks of God’s kindness and faithfulness, and it is clear that this knowledge comes from his personal experience of God’s goodness. Jacob says that God has allowed him to see not only his son Joseph, who he thought dead, but even Joseph’s sons. This restoration was not a happy coincidence or luck, Jacob identifies God as the one from whom all blessings flow. In blessing Joseph’s sons he describes his experience of God; the God of his father and grandfather who has remained faithful to his family; the shepherd who has looked after him all his life; and the one who has redeemed or rescued him from all harm. Wow! What a rich picture of Jacob knowing God.
I want to be like Jacob, speaking confidently of God’s character because I know my God and take time to stop and identify His workings in my life. I want to pass on to others a rich picture of God in His goodness.
God, please help me to truly seek rich relationship with you day by day, and to see your goodness all around me. Amen.
Written by Ps. Bethany Waugh
27 Now the Israelites settled in Egypt in the region of Goshen. They acquired property there and were fruitful and increased greatly in number. 28 Jacob lived in Egypt seventeen years, and the years of his life were a hundred and forty-seven. 29 When the time drew near for Israel to die, he called for his son Joseph and said to him, “If I have found favor in your eyes, put your hand under my thigh and promise that you will show me kindness and faithfulness. Do not bury me in Egypt, 30 but when I rest with my fathers, carry me out of Egypt and bury me where they are buried.” “I will do as you say,” he said. 31 “Swear to me,” he said. Then Joseph swore to him, and Israel worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.
Jacob lived a life of faithfulness. As he came to the end of his life he was still worshipping God. Despite his obvious frailty, Jacob was demonstrating his great love of God and thankfulness of all that God had done through leaning on his staff and worshipping God. He continued to trust in God’s promises and blessings for the future generations.
He remained faithful in worship and trusted in God’s promises to the end of his days – this reminds me of the Psalm 23:6 “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me to the end of my days and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
When I come to the end of my life, I pray that my trust in and my love for God will so overwhelm me that there is nothing left for me to do but to worship my God.
Lord we thank you for Jacob’s faithfulness. I pray that we always will walk in goodness and mercy. We worship you Lord and lift your name on high for all generations to see. Help us to worship you daily. Thank you that you are a faithful God and we put our trust in you. Amen
Written by Meredith O’Neill
13 There was no food, however, in the whole region because the famine was severe; both Egypt and Canaan wasted away because of the famine. 14 Joseph collected all the money that was to be found in Egypt and Canaan in payment for the grain they were buying, and he brought it to Pharaoh’s palace. 15 When the money of the people of Egypt and Canaan was gone, all Egypt came to Joseph and said, “Give us food. Why should we die before your eyes? Our money is all gone.” 16 “Then bring your livestock,” said Joseph. “I will sell you food in exchange for your livestock, since your money is gone.” 17 So they brought their livestock to Joseph, and he gave them food in exchange for their horses, their sheep and goats, their cattle and donkeys. And he brought them through that year with food in exchange for all their livestock. 18 When that year was over, they came to him the following year and said, “We cannot hide from our lord the fact that since our money is gone and our livestock belongs to you, there is nothing left for our lord except our bodies and our land. 19 Why should we perish before your eyes—we and our land as well? Buy us and our land in exchange for food, and we with our land will be in bondage to Pharaoh. Give us seed so that we may live and not die, and that the land may not become desolate.” 20 So Joseph bought all the land in Egypt for Pharaoh. The Egyptians, one and all, sold their fields, because the famine was too severe for them. The land became Pharaoh’s, 21 and Joseph reduced the people to servitude,[a] from one end of Egypt to the other. 22 However, he did not buy the land of the priests, because they received a regular allotment from Pharaoh and had food enough from the allotment Pharaoh gave them. That is why they did not sell their land. 23 Joseph said to the people, “Now that I have bought you and your land today for Pharaoh, here is seed for you so you can plant the ground. 24 But when the crop comes in, give a fifth of it to Pharaoh. The other four-fifths you may keep as seed for the fields and as food for yourselves and your households and your children.” 25 “You have saved our lives,” they said. “May we find favor in the eyes of our lord; we will be in bondage to Pharaoh.” 26 So Joseph established it as a law concerning land in Egypt—still in force today—that a fifth of the produce belongs to Pharaoh. It was only the land of the priests that did not become Pharaoh’s.
It’s funny how the tide turns. We all know how the Hebrews were slaves in Egypt but here we read it’s the Egyptians who were sold into slavery to save their lives – at the hand of a Hebrew no less – and they were grateful to him for saving them.
Why didn’t the Egyptians remember this time in history? I wonder if their treatment of the Hebrews in Exodus would have been better had they remembered they were once in the same boat. Or even if they remembered it was a Hebrew that saved their lives.
What have I failed to remember? Am I treating my Heavenly Father badly because I’ve forgotten His past provisions and miraculous answers to prayer? Am I responding to crisis situations with greater faith? Are the facts of Gods amazing stories in my life constantly in my mind so that when things go wrong it’s hardly a blip on my radar? Do we treasure these stories and think about them often like Mary did? (See Luke 2:19) Do I use them to say without a hint of doubt “because God came through for me then He will come through for me now!”?
Oh Lord my God. Jesus, forgive me for treating you badly and forgetting what you have done for me in the past. Make me like your earthly Mother – to treasure what you’ve done for me, think about it often, and let the stories fill my heart with faith. You are awesome and I praise you. Amen
Written by Boudy Van Noppen
47 Joseph went and told Pharaoh, “My father and brothers, with their flocks and herds and everything they own, have come from the land of Canaan and are now in Goshen.” 2 He chose five of his brothers and presented them before Pharaoh. 3 Pharaoh asked the brothers, “What is your occupation?” “Your servants are shepherds,” they replied to Pharaoh, “just as our fathers were.” 4 They also said to him, “We have come to live here for a while, because the famine is severe in Canaan and your servants’ flocks have no pasture. So now, please let your servants settle in Goshen.” 5 Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Your father and your brothers have come to you, 6 and the land of Egypt is before you; settle your father and your brothers in the best part of the land. Let them live in Goshen. And if you know of any among them with special ability, put them in charge of my own livestock.” 7 Then Joseph brought his father Jacob in and presented him before Pharaoh. After Jacob blessed Pharaoh, 8 Pharaoh asked him, “How old are you?” 9 And Jacob said to Pharaoh, “The years of my pilgrimage are a hundred and thirty. My years have been few and difficult, and they do not equal the years of the pilgrimage of my fathers.” 10 Then Jacob blessed Pharaoh and went out from his presence. 11 So Joseph settled his father and his brothers in Egypt and gave them property in the best part of the land, the district of Rameses, as Pharaoh directed. 12 Joseph also provided his father and his brothers and all his father’s household with food, according to the number of their children.
The Israelites exodus from Egypt is one of the most celebrated stories in the Old Testament. Although the Israelites initial experience living in Egypt was acceptable ultimately, they suffered under the Egyptians rule. In the New Testament Egypt is considered a metaphor for worldly wanton and excess and to be avoided by Christians.
This passage is interesting as it describes the circumstances of the family of Israel, believing they had no options because of a severe drought became slaves to the Egyptians. From that time onwards until the exodus all Israelites were born into slavery and harsh treatment.
This has left me wondering how often we engage in worldly excesses only to find out we have enslaved ourselves to bad habits. Instead of being a ‘light on a hill’ we compromise our valves only to find out later we have made a ‘rod for our own back’.
The good news is, like the Israelites escape from Egypt, God can make a way of escape for us.
So, take the opportunity today to consider ways you may have engaged in behaviours that conflict with your Christian values.
Lord, free us from the things we have become enslaved to. Help us to live a life which is worthy of your calling.
Written by David Newton
28 Now Jacob sent Judah ahead of him to Joseph to get directions to Goshen. When they arrived in the region of Goshen, 29 Joseph had his chariot made ready and went to Goshen to meet his father Israel. As soon as Joseph appeared before him, he threw his arms around his father[a] and wept for a long time. 30 Israel said to Joseph, “Now I am ready to die, since I have seen for myself that you are still alive.” 31 Then Joseph said to his brothers and to his father’s household, “I will go up and speak to Pharaoh and will say to him, ‘My brothers and my father’s household, who were living in the land of Canaan, have come to me. 32 The men are shepherds; they tend livestock, and they have brought along their flocks and herds and everything they own.’ 33 When Pharaoh calls you in and asks, ‘What is your occupation?’ 34 you should answer, ‘Your servants have tended livestock from our boyhood on, just as our fathers did.’ Then you will be allowed to settle in the region of Goshen, for all shepherds are detestable to the Egyptians.”
I am moved by the poignancy of the reunion between Joseph and his father. I imagine there were many times over the years when either one would have thought there was no hope of ever seeing one another again. We all face circumstances that seem hopeless, impossible and seemingly without solutions. Yet I am very challenged to think of whether I put ‘use by dates’ on things that I pray for or am believing God for. How long am I happy to pray for things until I put them aside? Even if these men had laid aside hope of being reunited, it seems that God had not abandoned either of them, and brought them together again.
The whole story of Joseph is soap opera material, and yet in God ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE. So I am challenged to keep praying, keep trusting God and never give up hope, no matter what the circumstances. I want to rest my faith in God and let Him take care of me and my circumstances.
Heavenly Father thank you for watching over me every day. Help me to trust you with all I am, all I have and all that I love. In Jesus Name Amen
Written by Christine Knight
8 These are the names of the sons of Israel (Jacob and his descendants) who went to Egypt: Reuben the firstborn of Jacob. 9 The sons of Reuben: Hanok, Pallu, Hezron and Karmi. 10 The sons of Simeon: Jemuel, Jamin, Ohad, Jakin, Zohar and Shaul the son of a Canaanite woman. 11 The sons of Levi: Gershon, Kohath and Merari. 12 The sons of Judah: Er, Onan, Shelah, Perez and Zerah (but Er and Onan had died in the land of Canaan). The sons of Perez: Hezron and Hamul. 13 The sons of Issachar: Tola, Puah, Jashub and Shimron. 14 The sons of Zebulun: Sered, Elon and Jahleel. 15 These were the sons Leah bore to Jacob in Paddan Aram, besides his daughter Dinah. These sons and daughters of his were thirty-three in all. 16 The sons of Gad: Zephon, Haggi, Shuni, Ezbon, Eri, Arodi and Areli. 17 The sons of Asher: Imnah, Ishvah, Ishvi and Beriah. Their sister was Serah. The sons of Beriah: Heber and Malkiel. 18 These were the children born to Jacob by Zilpah, whom Laban had given to his daughter Leah—sixteen in all. 19 The sons of Jacob’s wife Rachel: Joseph and Benjamin. 20 In Egypt, Manasseh and Ephraim were born to Joseph by Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On. 21 The sons of Benjamin: Bela, Beker, Ashbel, Gera, Naaman, Ehi, Rosh, Muppim, Huppim and Ard. 22 These were the sons of Rachel who were born to Jacob—fourteen in all. 23 The son of Dan: Hushim. 24 The sons of Naphtali: Jahziel, Guni, Jezer and Shillem. 25 These were the sons born to Jacob by Bilhah, whom Laban had given to his daughter Rachel—seven in all. 26 All those who went to Egypt with Jacob—those who were his direct descendants, not counting his sons’ wives—numbered sixty-six persons. 27 With the two sons who had been born to Joseph in Egypt, the members of Jacob’s family, which went to Egypt, were seventy in all.
A modern reader probably skips over the genealogies pretty quickly, but these were important markers to the first readers of Genesis. To them it says, “this is a significant point”. It pairs up with a similar list of Jacob’s sons at the very beginning of Exodus. (In Hebrew Exodus begins with “and” – it was written to continue straight on from Genesis.)
It’s as though God is counting everyone into Egypt and he’s counting everyone out at the other end. Nobody is lost on the way. It emphasises his promise in verse 4: “I will go with you down to Egypt, and I will bring you back again.”
He took Jacob and his family to Egypt as a safe place in a devastating famine, as a place for them to grow from a family into a nation; but it was not the place he had prepared for his people. He would need to rescue them from what became a place holding them in bondage rather than God’s blessing.
It reminds me that the journey of my life isn’t always in a place that looks like God’s blessing. But God can and will still achieve his purposes for me in that place and won’t forget to bring me through it to the place he has prepared for me.
Oh God, you are so faithful. You don’t forget any of your people. You don’t leave any of us behind. Even when I’m in a hard place, I will look to you to bring me through to the place you have prepared for me.
Written by David Cornell
Phone: +61 2 9875 0300
PO Box 2744,
Carlingford NSW 2118
7:00 PM Youth Service
Carlingford High School Hall,
547 North Rocks Rd, Carlingford
NSW, Australia 2118
Service times 9:30am & 5:30pm
Carlingford High School Hall,
547 North Rocks Rd, Carlingford
NSW, Australia 2118