Israel’s Final Blessing–Genesis 49

The blessing of Jacob to his sons is an amazing prophecy of what was to become of the nation of Israel.  As one takes the time to read the text and then look at the nation’s development, the words of Israel are spot on.  His words also speak to the idea that the choices and behaviors of a person can become the culture of a family.  

As one looks at each of the brothers, you cannot help but notice their personalities affected and shaped their clan.  It was their temperaments and behaviors that either blessed or cursed their nations in years to come.  It had to be alarming to Rueben, Simeon, Levi and Benjamin to hear the prophecy of their future–and yet, their lives and temperaments had already set a culture that would follow for hundreds of years.

So what about us?  Should we fall prey to the natural tendencies within our  family history? If we are like Joseph, Judah or Dan–probably so.   But, the awesome news is, that in Christ, we are new creations.  We can change our culture and become exactly what Christ has called us to be–His ambassadors.  People with an eternal mindset and a heart to serve others.  If we will, then our family histories will resemble a life like Christ and He will be glorified in our journey and in our families–no greater gift exists. 

God Bless You


Assemble and listen, sons of Jacob;
    listen to your father Israel.

“Reuben, you are my firstborn,
    my might, the first sign of my strength,
    excelling in honor, excelling in power.
Turbulent as the waters, you will no longer excel,
    for you went up onto your father’s bed,
    onto my couch and defiled it.

“Simeon and Levi are brothers—
    their swords[a] are weapons of violence.

I will scatter them in Jacob
    and disperse them in Israel.

“Judah,[b] your brothers will praise you;…
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.

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.

A Father’s Dying Wish and Blessing–Genesis 47-48

It is a really amazing story, Israel was very pleased to have spent 17 years in Egypt with the son he had thought was lost.  At the end, however, he needed to solidify the notion that this was not his home and these were not his people.  So Israel called the Prime minister of Egypt in and simply told him, “Son, I do not want to be buried here.  I want to be buried back home.  In addition, son–your two boys that greeted me when we were brought back together, are now my boys.  They each get a share of inheritance as would Reuben or Simeon.  So in effect, Joseph received a double portion of Israel’s inheritance.

In looking at our lives, we have to take Israel’s view of our world.  We can never see this place as our home.  No matter how nice or easy it may seem, we await our opportunity to go home.  Paul said in Philippians 3:20-21,

But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior.21 He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control.”

 
We can never be too comfortable or attached to this world.  It will always disappoint; and, it will always take our lives.  Nothing in the world or it’s culture will move us toward becoming like Christ.  That is why Paul said in Colossians 3:1-2 to set our heart and mind on things above not on earthly things.  Like Israel, we need to long for and expect a home in Heaven– where we will be blessed, as were the Son’s of Joseph…
 
God Bless You
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…Some time later Joseph was told, “Your father is ill.” So he took his two sons Manasseh and Ephraim along with him. When Jacob was told, “Your son Joseph has come to you,” Israel rallied his strength and sat up on the bed.

Jacob said to Joseph, “God Almighty[a] appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan, and there he blessed me 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.’

“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. 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. As I was returning from Paddan,[b] 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).

From Inmate to In Charge–Genesis 41 Part 2

Joseph had no way of possibly knowing that God was ready to change the entire world through the faithful walk of a local prison trustee.  He had long given up the idea of home, family and freedom and had quietly adjusted to his routine.  But, then God stepped in.  It was time to execute a plan some 12 years in the making.
 
Joseph was escorted to Pharaoh and knew immediately after hearing his dream the will of God for the life of Pharaoh. He spoke the truth, no fear, no expectations and the Pharaoh placed him in charge of all of Egypt’s operations.  Joseph had been in preparation for this job for a long time–now, as Egypt’s prime minister, he would fulfill God’s mission for his family.
 
God’s timing is never the same as our timing.  We battle through the trials, temptations and tribulations of life; never quite knowing if or when God is going to use us to shape his plan. It is most important for us to remain faithful, humble and ready to step up–for whatever he has planned for us.  When it is time, he will make it obvious that his hand is in it, and we simply need to trust Him and move forward.  It is a great gift to be able to fully rely upon God and watch him change us, and others through us.
 
God Bless You

So Pharaoh sent for Joseph, and he was quickly brought from the dungeon. When he had shaved and changed his clothes, he came before Pharaoh.

Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I had a dream, and no one can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.”

“I cannot do it,” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.”

Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, “The dreams of Pharaoh are one and the same. God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do.

“It is just as I said to Pharaoh: God has shown Pharaoh what he is about to do.

Seven years of great abundance are coming throughout the land of Egypt,

but seven years of famine will follow them. Then all the abundance in Egypt will be forgotten, and the famine will ravage the land.

The abundance in the land will not be remembered, because the famine that follows it will be so severe.

The reason the dream was given to Pharaoh in two forms is that the matter has been firmly decided by God, and God will do it soon.

Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you.

You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you.”

The Journey Begins!–Genesis 27 Part 2

Isaac had no intention of yielding to God’s will–He attempted to subvert God’s plan by blessing Esau–not simply a “God Bless You” after a sneeze–this was dictating to God who would serve whom.  But, even though Rebekah saw and corrected Isaac’s intentional disregard for God’s will–Jacob was still in danger. So, It was time to leave for Jacob.  He was not much of an adventurer, but God was about to transform this scoundrel into the leader of his nation of priests. 
 
As with any transformation, this journey would start with one step–the most difficult one.  Jacob would have to leave the comfort of his home and protection of his family to start on his own.  In his case, Jacob’s journey was aided by his circumstances–he really felt like he had no other options, and at that moment, he felt all alone. 
 
In our lives, so much of God’s plan us seems dictated by circumstance.  Marriage, jobs, family and health often send us in directions we would have never have dictated.  Still, as we continue to trust and follow him, he will lead, guide and direct us through his plan for our lives.  Then as we look back–while we have no idea how he did it–we see we have become more like him, in our thought and deeds.  We see his hand in our steps, and we finally realize–like Jeremiah, in Jerimiah 29:11; that the father meant it when he said, “I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord.  Plans to prosper you–not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future!”
 
We will never understand his plan–until it is in his right time.  In the meantime–we simply need to trust and follow him humbly, gratefully and closely!
 
God Bless You

Isaac trembled violently and said, “Who was it, then, that hunted game and brought it to me? I ate it just before you came and I blessed him—and indeed he will be blessed!”34 When Esau heard his father’s words, he burst out with a loud and bitter cry and said to his father, “Bless me—me too, my father!”

35 But he said, “Your brother came deceitfully and took your blessing.”

36 Esau said, “Isn’t he rightly named Jacob[a]? This is the second time he has taken advantage of me: He took my birthright, and now he’s taken my blessing!” Then he asked, “Haven’t you reserved any blessing for me?”

37 Isaac answered Esau, “I have made him lord over you and have made all his relatives his servants, and I have sustained him with grain and new wine. So what can I possibly do for you, my son?”… 42 When Rebekah was told what her older son Esau had said, she sent for her younger son Jacob and said to him, “Your brother Esau is planning to avenge himself by killing you. 43 Now then, my son, do what I say: Flee at once to my brother Laban in Harran. 44 Stay with him for a while until your brother’s fury subsides. 45 When your brother is no longer angry with you and forgets what you did to him, I’ll send word for you to come back from there. Why should I lose both of you in one day?”

So Long Sister Sarah–Genesis 22 Part 1

 Abraham lost his best partner.  Sarai, later Sarah stood beside Abraham during his days in Haran, then as he wandered through Canaan.  She allowed herself to be taken as Abram’s sister–by a number of Kings. She never held a grudge, nor did her years of bareness cause her to lose faith. She waited until  nearly one hundred to bear her son. She raised him faithfully and allowed God to continue to do the leading.  In that mode, she watched her family grow to be wealthy and powerful, but, never expected anything; she only followed faithfully.
 
It is also the same today.  We are in a wilderness of culture similar to the godless Canaanites. As we follow God closely, we may often feel like wanderers.  We may face points in the journey where we seem like hopeless captives, homeless foreigners or simple nomads. All the while, we journey toward the promised land–Heaven.  As we approach, we look more and more like the one we follow most closely.  Interestingly, our journey leaves a trail of others who also adopt the relationship and legacy of those who want become like our father.
 
Sarah, Abraham and those who came after, had one likeness–their desire to please and honor God.  That desire, the attitude of their heart was the greatest legacy they could leave.  It is also the greatest legacy we can leave.  God never demands perfection, only a desire to seek and follow him.  So as we follow God–we need to adopt the same spirit as Sister Sarah…
 
God Bless You
Sarah lived to be a hundred and twenty-seven years old. She died at Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan, and Abraham went to mourn for Sarah and to weep over her.

Then Abraham rose from beside his dead wife and spoke to the Hittites.[a] He said, “I am a foreigner and stranger among you. Sell me some property for a burial site here so I can bury my dead.”

The Hittites replied to Abraham, “Sir, listen to us. You are a mighty prince among us. Bury your dead in the choicest of our tombs. None of us will refuse you his tomb for burying your dead.”

Then Abraham rose and bowed down before the people of the land, the Hittites. He said to them, “If you are willing to let me bury my dead, then listen to me and intercede with Ephron son of Zohar on my behalf so he will sell me the cave of Machpelah, which belongs to him and is at the end of his field. Ask him to sell it to me for the full price as a burial site among you.”

10 Ephron the Hittite was sitting among his people and he replied to Abraham in the hearing of all the Hittites who had come to the gate of his city. 11 “No, my lord,” he said. “Listen to me; I give[b] you the field, and I give[c] you the cave that is in it. I give[d] it to you in the presence of my people. Bury your dead.”

12 Again Abraham bowed down before the people of the land 13 and he said to Ephron in their hearing, “Listen to me, if you will. I will pay the price of the field. Accept it from me so I can bury my dead there.”

14 Ephron answered Abraham, 15 “Listen to me, my lord; the land is worth four hundred shekels[e] of silver, but what is that between you and me? Bury your dead.”

16 Abraham agreed to Ephron’s terms and weighed out for him the price he had named in the hearing of the Hittites: four hundred shekels of silver, according to the weight current among the merchants.

Settling in For the Duration–Genesis 21 Part 2

Abraham was finally settled in the land.  It was not turned over to him yet, but, he was finally settled. Life, since Haran, had been turbulent–but now, with Isaac in his arms and God’s continued blessing on his journey, Abraham planted a Tamarisk tree, made a treaty and settled in for the long haul.  The most amazing part of the story of Abraham–was that he remained content–whatever circumstance he found himself in.  Whether in Haran, Egypt, Beersheba or somewhere in between–he continued to trust God and God continued to meet Abraham’s needs and fulfill his covenant with Abraham.

In our lives, we, like Abraham, have to trust God.  We have to play the long game, and understand that the Father’s work continues until we are called home. The difficult reality is that unless we are content in all circumstances, we will not be content in any.  So when like Abraham, we have to settle in for a portion–our focus remains on him and his plan–not on the circumstances we face.  It is the hardest challenge we, as his chosen, face every day.  It requires his divine intervention to release us from the chains of our culture, its stuff and its desires.  Only when we are free from the stuff–can we truly enjoy what he provides.  Help me, Lord to be content in the place where you have me!

God Bless You

 

The Treaty at Beersheba

22 At that time Abimelek and Phicol the commander of his forces said to Abraham, “God is with you in everything you do. 23 Now swear to me here before God that you will not deal falsely with me or my children or my descendants. Show to me and the country where you now reside as a foreigner the same kindness I have shown to you.”

24 Abraham said, “I swear it.”

25 Then Abraham complained to Abimelek about a well of water that Abimelek’s servants had seized. 26 But Abimelek said, “I don’t know who has done this. You did not tell me, and I heard about it only today.”

27 So Abraham brought sheep and cattle and gave them to Abimelek, and the two men made a treaty. 28 Abraham set apart seven ewe lambs from the flock, 29 and Abimelek asked Abraham, “What is the meaning of these seven ewe lambs you have set apart by themselves?”

30 He replied, “Accept these seven lambs from my hand as a witness that I dug this well.”

31 So that place was called Beersheba,[d] because the two men swore an oath there.

32 After the treaty had been made at Beersheba, Abimelek and Phicol the commander of his forces returned to the land of the Philistines. 33 Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba, and there he called on the name of the Lord, the Eternal God. 34 And Abraham stayed in the land of the Philistines for a long time.

a nation also, because he is your offspring.”

Moving Toward the Inevitable–Acts 21 Part 1

When on mission from the Lord, it is difficult to explain the drive to keep moving forward; even though the eventual end for one is not good.  Paul had been warned that his return to Jerusalem was to end in his capture. still, he also knew that his mission was to carry the Gospel throughout the world and to the gentiles.  God was moving him to a place that would ultimately change the course of history.
 
Still, all the folks he encountered hated to see him harmed.  Time and again the friends and companions tried to wave him off of his return to Jerusalem.  The question is, were they wrong for caring? No, as brothers and sisters in Christ we are tasked with the duty of speaking the truth in love.  Paul’s friends and companions were simply telling him the truth.  He ultimately had to do what he was called to do, but, his people also had to be sure he was following the journey that God was leading.
 
In our lives, we are also tasked with the duty of encouraging each other and building each other up.  I Thessalonians 5:11. In that process, we can speak the truth, but like Paul’s companions, we have to let each person fulfill his God directed mission.  It is difficult, and often as we do that, we do it with great fear and trepidation.  But, God reminds us that we are to trust him with our future and its timing.  As we do, he will use us to in some way change our lives and ultimately change the world!
 
God Bless You 
After we had torn ourselves away from them, we put out to sea and sailed straight to Kos. The next day we went to Rhodes and from there to Patara. We found a ship crossing over to Phoenicia, went on board and set sail. After sighting Cyprus and passing to the south of it, we sailed on to Syria. We landed at Tyre, where our ship was to unload its cargo. We sought out the disciples there and stayed with them seven days. Through the Spirit they urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. When it was time to leave, we left and continued on our way. All of them, including wives and children, accompanied us out of the city, and there on the beach we knelt to pray. After saying goodbye to each other, we went aboard the ship, and they returned home.We continued our voyage from Tyre and landed at Ptolemais, where we greeted the brothers and sisters and stayed with them for a day. Leaving the next day, we reached Caesarea and stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven. He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied.

10 After we had been there a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. 11 Coming over to us, he took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, “The Holy Spirit says, ‘In this way the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.’”

Ananias, I Have a Job for You–Acts 9 Part 2

So, we pray that we are ready for whatever God has planned for us. We study his word, we walk the amazing journey laid out for us. To do that, we go to church, study the bible, help others and generally look for God’s will–but no matter how much effort we expend to be ready—invariably, life throws us a curve.  Such was the day for both Paul and Ananias. 

Paul had been sitting blind, had not eaten or drank for days and was at a complete loss for what was in store.  Meanwhile, Ananias was minding his own business and God told him to go meet up with the Jewish persecutor that applauded the vanquishing of Christians. Clearly Ananias was confused, scared but faithful. 

Ananias obeyed God, healed Paul and started a movement that forever  changed the world. Had Paul not obeyed God, had Ananias failed to follow through—what we take for granted may never have happened. It is critical for us to consider that when God allows us to receive curveballs in life, our obedience forever changes us and often impacts our world for Christ.  We do not have to like the assignment, we simply have to complete it.  It may hurt, it may make our march miserable, but compared to eternity, it is a very small part of a long and amazing journey.

God Bless You

In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”

“Yes, Lord,” he answered.

11 The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”

13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”

15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength.

Stephen, One Heck of a Bus Boy–Acts 6 Part 2

So God picked 7 men to wait upon the tables of the Greek widows. He did not pick just any men, he picked men filled with His Spirit with a heart to serve.  The man at the top of their list was Stephen. Stephen wasted no time serving, but he was more than just a bus boy; he was an articulate theologian and preacher and was turning men to Jesus—it was driving the Jewish Leaders crazy!  He was the kitchen help after all—but they could not out wit, out argue or out last Stephen’s wisdom or power.

So, they did the next best thing, they lied about him.  They raised such a ruckus that the Jewish leaders had him arrested.  Much as in Jesus’ case, they had liar after liar portray Stephen as a person trying to undermine God and the Jewish faith—nothing could have been farther from the truth.  Stephen was a man that loved God and His people.  Stephen lived to serve and to lead others to salvation—he was a major threat to the enemy and to the self-absorbed Jewish leadership.

In current culture, we will see the same scenarios arise.  It will not be the loud and boisterous religious folks that cause angst among the world.  It will be those that seek and serve the Lord with a heart of  humility and gratitude.  They will be called radicals and intolerant even though they reach out with empathy and genuine concern.  Opposition will try to embarrass them with debate, but, will themselves be embarrassed as Christ’s chosen speak the truth in love.

It will be those full of his spirit and ready to be servants that will cause revival—seek them out and befriend them they will give hope, faith and joy. If you are looking for a purpose, well like Stephen, be one heck of a bus boy—God has been known to use them in amazing ways!

God Bless You

Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people. Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)—Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia—who began to argue with Stephen. 10 But they could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke.

11 Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, “We have heard Stephen speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God.”

12 So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin. 13 They produced false witnesses, who testified, “This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law. 14 For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us.”

15 All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.

O.B.E.Y–Obey Your Mom and Dad–Proverbs 6 Final

People that are successful in life learn early that the instruction of their parents was given for their benefit.  Parents adore their children and want nothing more than to prepare them for a great life. We all do it.  That is why children all over the world think parents are in some sort of conspiracy. We all say no a lot. We all make those crazy comments like—“How would you like it if your face froze like that?” Seriously, however, parents practice unconditional love more readily with the raising of their kids than at any other time.

 God and Solomon knew that—That is why Solomon stressed that listening to your folks is a very wise course. Their instruction covers all aspects of life.  What is more, parents anticipate almost every life issue, because , they have already had to face it. Parents have seen the cost of evil and the selfishness of men.  They would literally give everything they owned for their kids to avoid the many heartaches of life. While that is impossible to do, parents will prepare their kids to recognize the danger signs in life and they will share all their experience to minimize the risk of danger their kids will face. As Kids-they will be miles ahead if they will simply listen and realize that their folks know so much more than they are given credit for and only want the best for their children.  In short, trust God and listen to the teaching of your folks!!!

 God Bless You                                                                                                                                                                        

My son, keep your father’s command     and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. 21 Bind them always on your heart;     fasten them around your neck. 22 When you walk, they will guide you;     when you sleep, they will watch over you;     when you awake, they will speak to you. 23 For this command is a lamp,     this teaching is a light, and correction and instruction     are the way to life,