||Heaven is opened wide to sinners through faith in Christ Jesus our Savior. Knowing Christ by faith, also means we have the Lord’s promise that He will be with us and will bless us throughout our earthly pilgrimage, even during our loneliest of times.
||It’s a dysfunctional family right from the start. In coming chapters Jacobs’ family will experience one self-created problem after another. Yet God has grace even for a family like this. "Lord, give our families the grace and wisdom to avoid the pitfalls of this family; but may You also supply the soothing balm of Your merciful Word to all our family flaws and shortcomings”
||Despite a less than godly atmosphere in this growing family, the Lord, as He had promised, continues to be with Jacob and to bless him. But while Jacob’s flocks experience rapid growth, it’s obvious that his faith has much room for grow. But he’s not alone, is he? "Lord, increase our faith!"
||It’s time to escape the clutches of deceitful Uncle Laban. But Laban isn’t the only one hauling around spiritual baggage. Within Jacob’s own family there is a thief, and possible idol worshipper. Jacob and crew have enough baggage of their own. Let’s recognize our own baggage, bringing it to the cross, where Jesus carried the full weight of all our sins.
||A wrestling match for the ages! Jacob goes head to head with God and comes out the winner! How so? The Lord loves it when we wrestle with Him in prayer. He’s always sure to let us win, which is to say He will answer our every prayer in a way that best serves our spiritual and eternal good. Take your Lord to the mat, dear Christian. You’ll win every time!
||Even after twenty years, Jacob can’t be sure that Esau is ready to let bygones be bygones. But Christian humility and kindness can go a long way in diffusing a potentially hostile situation. Then let’s not forget God’s mighty angels, whom He sends to watch over us every day. However, ultimately we put all our trust in God to guard and guide our way.
||Scripture records the good, the bad, and the ugly, but often it’s a lot more of the bad and the ugly. The murderous deceit of Levi and Simeon shows the great evil of which humankind is capable. Lord, help us to see our own wretched sin, and daily flee to You for forgiveness.
||Jacob calls upon his family to put away their foreign gods, and to purify themselves before the Lord. What gods might we need to put away from our hearts and lives? May God give us eyes to see our own personal idols. But may we also see God’s forgiving mercy, which tenderly calls us back to His side.
||We might be tempted to gloss over chapter 36. It’s one of those long genealogy chapters in the Bible; and this family tree isn’t even one that relates directly to Jesus. Yet it’s a reminder that God cares for all peoples. Truly He wants all to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
||Beginning with chapter 37, most of the rest of Genesis concerns Jacob’s favorite son, Joseph. It’s a sad chapter, warning us that sins of the heart, if not handled with repentance and God’s forgiveness, can explode into awful things, like murder. But as we read in coming chapters, God even causes great evil to work for the good of His people.
||Chapter 38 briefly steps away from Joseph to the sordid account of his brother Judah. Judah was a great-grandson of Abraham, the father of believers. But your family pedigree doesn’t save you. Each new generation needs to believe in the Savior for itself. But what a testament to God’s condescending love, that he would include Judah and Tamar in the Savior’s family tree. (Cf. Matthew 1:3)
||Though now a slave, the Lord continues to be with Joseph, as he rises to chief overseer in the house of Potiphar. However, trouble comes when Potiphar’s wife has designs on Joseph. Joseph knows he’s made of flesh, and runs from the temptation. Just like their Lord, believers often suffer for doing right. Still, the Lord is there to see us through all our troubles.
||Joseph interprets the divinely sent dreams of the imprisoned butler and baker. He asks the soon-to-be set free butler to remember him to Pharaoh. The butler forgets, and Joseph remains in prison for two more years. But one thing is certain, the Lord never forgets His children. He always has a plan, but, like Joseph, we wait in faith for His plan to unfold.
||When Pharaoh has strange dreams, the butler finally remembers Joseph. Giving credit to God, Joseph explains the dreams. Seven years of plenty will be followed by seven years of famine. When Joseph wisely recommends that food be stored during the good years to get through the bad years, he is suddenly made prime minister of all Egypt. God’s plan for Joseph continues to unfold.
||The chance for revenge falls right into Joseph’s lap when his brothers come to Egypt to buy grain. Joseph treats them roughly, but only to help them remember their past sins. Joseph cares about their spiritual welfare, and wants to help lead them toward repentance so they can be free of the burden of guilt they’ve been carrying for twenty years.
||With food running low, the brothers need to return to Egypt. Jacob is dead set against taking Benjamin, but Joseph had made it plain: no Benjamin, no grain. Joseph’s plan to stir the consciences of his brothers continues to bear fruit. What a painful blessing it is to honestly come face to face with our sin. For only then can true Gospel healing take place.
||As a final test, Joseph’s silver cup is planted in Benjamin’s sack. The brothers are aghast that Benjamin may be killed. In Christ-like fashion, Judah pleads for the life of his brother, offering even to become a slave in exchange for Benjamin’s life. Praise God, a change of heart has taken place. Truly, the Lord wants all come to repentance and be saved.
||Here we have both a revelation and a reconciliation. Joseph finally reveals himself to his brothers, followed by a heart-warming reconciliation. So powerfully and wonderfully healing is the forgiving grace of God as it works in the hearts of His believers.
||The nation of Israel now numbers only 66. But, as promised, the Lord will increase that number many times over in the coming centuries. That’s something like how the New Testament Church began with only a handful. But now God has increased it to a multitude from every nation, countless souls who have "washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb."
||Jacob described the days of his life as few and evil. Does that sound familiar? Life as sinners in a fallen world often can be discouraging and painful. But, through all that trouble, the Lord tirelessly works to shape and mold us, so that, more and more, we learn to lean, not on our own wisdom strength, but upon the truth and mercy of our Savior God.
||Jacob blessed the sons of Joseph, prophetically, showing that the younger son would be greater than the older. God has a plan for each of us. With humble faith accept the plan He has for you, not worrying, but being happy for the blessings He gives others. Also, don’t forget that the big plan for all of His redeemed saints is life forever with Him in Heaven!
||The Great Descendant of Judah is called "Shiloh," which means "Rest-bringer". Through the Gospel in Word and Sacrament, Jesus gives perfect rest to our souls. Elsewhere is Scripture Jesus is known as the Lion from the Tribe of Judah. Yes, Jesus is a tender Lamb, but He’s also an almighty Lion, in Whom is all power and authority in heaven and on earth.
||Satan likes to haunt our minds with sins from even way back in our past. Joseph is saddened when his brothers wonder if he has truly forgiven them for their past misdeeds. The only solution? Take your guilt to the cross, where Jesus has already paid for all of it. Even guilt for which we have already received forgiveness needs to be taken to the cross.
||We conclude the month with a few readings from Hebrews. Hebrews provides good insight into the lives we’ve read about in the book of Genesis. The key word is faith. Though far from perfect, believers like Noah, Abraham, and Jacob lived their lives with God-given faith, looking ahead to the coming of Christ, as well as inhabiting the city whose builder and maker is God.
||Joseph said his bones were not to remain in Egypt, but were to be taken to Canaan. In faith, he was giving testimony that the Lord would certainly bring His chosen people back to the Promise Land. Similarly, at Christian funerals we say we are confident the remains of our Christian loved one will one day be raised, and that he will certainly be taken to that better Promised Land.
||“Oh, for a faith that will not shrink Tho’ pressed by many a foe; That will not tremble on the brink Of poverty or woe; Lord give us such a faith as this; And then, whate’er may come, We’ll taste e’en now the hallowed bliss Of an eternal home. “ – TLH #396:1, 6