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Showing posts from February, 2012

The Most Precious of Promises

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--> Hidden in the horrendous events of Exodus 11 and 12 are some of the most precious Gospel promises that God could ever give.
As the Hebrews come to the end of their sojourn in Egypt and as God came to the end of His patience in dealing with Pharaoh, Moses received instructions on how the people were to prepare for the Passover—for that moment when the angel of God would pass over Egypt and take the first-born from every family, every flock, every herd. The lamb was to be sacrificed and its blood sprinkled on the doorposts of every Hebrew home.
The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt” (Exodus 12:13, NIV). So Moses passed on the message and the people prepared for an event that has remained a sacred celebration for Jews since that time. Moses said: “When the Lord goes through the land to strike down the Egyptians, he will see the blood on the to…

Opportunities and Warnings

Some people DO pay attention. It has crossed my mind that ten plagues was sort-of overkill. The object was to get the Hebrews out of Egypt, so why not just do a couple of miracles, skip directly to the last plague and then presto, we’re out of here! I think one of the reasons is hidden in this statement in Exodus 9:20: “Those officials of Pharaoh who feared the word of the Lord hurried to bring their slaves and their livestock inside.” This was plague Number 7. We often forget about the Egyptians in this tug-of war between Moses and the King of Egypt, but not every Egyptian followed Pharaoh’s party line. There were a few who believed—at least to some extent—though it may have taken them seven plagues to do it. We sometimes wonder why God seems to be so slow to rain judgment down on unbelievers. It’s not that His patience is limitless. No, He will judge sin and sinners. But He is also merciful and here in Exodus we catch a glimpse of that mercy, Yes, He wanted to cement in the minds of t…

The Best is Yet to Come

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They had nothing to work with and couldn’t keep up with the demand. When they complained their overseers accused them of being lazy. If they had enough time to ask for time off to worship, then obviously they didn’t have enough to do! That’s the scene in Exodus 5 as Moses meets with Pharaoh and asks that the Hebrews be allowed to leave Egypt to go and worship their God. Poor Moses got it from both sides: The Pharaoh complained that he was keeping the slaves from their work, and the Hebrews complained that Moses’ interference was making their lives a whole lot harder. And Moses complained to God: “Moses returned to the Lord and said, ‘O Lord, why have you brought trouble upon this people? Is this why you sent me? Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble upon this people, and you have not rescued your people at all’” (Exodus 5:22, 23, NIV). Have you ever noticed that sometimes, even when you are being obedient to God’s command, things don’t work out well a…

Just an Old Stick

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Then the Lord said to him, ‘What is that in your hand?’” (Genesis 4:2, NIV). Not much. It’s just a stick, old and rough and worn. As long as it stayed in Moses’ hand, that’s all it was—an old stick. Moses was reluctant. Life might be hard in the desert. But herding sheep is a lot easier than herding people. Moses had already learned the hard way that clouting difficult people over the head had consequences that clouting a rebellious sheep didn't have (Genesis 2:11ff). Even the bleating of sheep seemed musical compared to bleating people, complaining and criticizing all the time. To be asked to go back to Egypt and take charge of a herd of humans was not high on Moses’ wish list. He hoped that God would accept his excuses for not going. God also knew that Moses was still hurting from the rejection he had experienced at the hands of his own people, and fearful because he was still wanted for murder in Egypt and could be summarily executed if, even after forty years, someone recognized…

Divine Perspective

Four hundred years have passed since Joseph ruled in Egypt. Since we tend to forget our history we also forget the lessons we should have learned from it. The records gathered dust in some corner of a local museum and the last survivors of the age had long since turned to dust. Another Pharaoh came to power who didn’t know the story of Joseph. The whole picture changed. Jacob’s descendants are now slaves in the land where they had once flourished. Their master has worked hard to keep them in submission, even to decreeing the death of all male children—something akin to cutting off your nose despite your face since it would be the males who would be required to continue to build the magnificent structure for which the Egyptians were famous. By the grace of God, one Hebrew boy has escaped the fate of many of his brothers. Moses has spent forty years in the wilderness of Midian, guarding sheep. He has married and settled down. It’s a far cry from a palace in Egypt but a whole lot safer. Ex…

My Hero

I'm over at JoE today: http://www.jewelsofencouragement.com/2012/02/case-of-pilfering-peacock.html

The post evolved out of a prayer letter I read from one of our missionaries in Pakistan, Hannah Pollock. Hannah's life journey as a missionary spans decades. She wanted to go to India. As an American back in the 60s, the door to that country was closed. But so convinced was Hannah that God wanted her there that she came to Canada, attended seminary here and became a Canadian citizen. By the time she applied for her visa to go to India, even Canadians were not being allowed in. But Shikarpur Christian Hospital was desperate for staff and when they heard about her dilemma they encouraged her to come and join them. She did, and spent decades serving the needs of Pakistani women in that place.

When she retired, she married a widower, the father of another missionary with whom she had worked in Pakistan. When he passed away, Hannah returned as a volunteer to Shikarpur to fill one of t…

The Blessing

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Genesis 48 is a chapter of blessing. Jacob, or Israel, has come to the end of his life. Joseph is called to see his father. He brings with him his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. Jacob recounts the promise that God had given to him and to his ancestors. Then he formally includes Joseph’s two sons in the blessing of the nation that God is going to form. In fact, Manasseh and Ephraim will eventually replace Jacob’s own sons, Simeon and Issachar, as heads of two of the 12 tribes that would make up the nation of Israel. Then Jacob blesses the two sons of Joseph just as his own father had blessed him and his own brother, Esau. Oddly, he blesses the younger with the older son’s blessing. In his own case, Jacob had received the older son's blessing by deceit. In this case, Jacob makes the switch quite deliberately. But what sticks out for me today is the blessing itself. How many of us verbally bless our children, or our grandchildren. We might bless them with things, or even with the occa…

Single-Mindedness

I ran into my friend, Kelly, again this morning. She’s a young woman who lives in the neighbourhood around the church and I often meet her on my way to work. Kelly has Down’s Syndrome. Two years ago, when I first met her out walking, she was quite a chunky young lady. Lately I’ve noticed a big difference in her and this morning I had the chance to ask her how much weight she had lost. She proudly told me that she is down to 134 pounds. That means that she has lost over 100 pounds in the last two years. I asked her how she had done it. “Walking,” she answered. She also has an adult sized three-wheeled bike I’ve seen her on in the summer time. She was also quite happy to tell me that she wasn’t on a diet, just eating smaller portions. I congratulated her—100 pounds is quite an achievement. I’ve often admired her persistence. I’ve seen her out walking in the morning and in the late afternoon. It doesn’t matter if it is sunny, rainy, or snowy; Kelly is out there walking. She has been single…

Turn Left at the Next Set of Lights

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Almost two years ago to the day, I began a new phase in my life’s journey. It was a major move and a pretty big career adjustment. Even though I was sure that this was the route the Lord had carved out for me, there were moments when I had a few qualms. I wonder if Jacob felt the same way. Joseph has sent for his father to join him in Egypt. If Jacob, or Israel, was still in possession of all his mental faculties he probably remembered what had happened to his father, Isaac, and his grandfather, Abraham, when they had gone to Egypt. My guess is that when he got to Beersheba and built his altar there he expressed his concerns to God. And God responded. “‘I am God, the God of your father,’ he said. ‘Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there. I will go down to Egypt with you, and I will surely bring you back again. And Joseph’s own hand will close your eyes’” (Genesis 46:3, 4, NIV). Israel had no idea that his descendants would end up as slaves in t…

At the End of the Day

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The Lord brought me here. The Lord brought me here. The Lord brought me here. The Lord…” I wonder if Joseph repeated that phrase in the dry well, on the long journey to Egypt, in Potiphar’s house, in prison? If he did, I wonder how many times he repeated it? Did it become like a mantra, a constantly remembered reassurance that even in the darkest circumstances, in the moments of despair and disappointment, God had some plan in mind? If he was anything like the rest of us, and I suspect he was, he had many moments when he wondered what good could possibly come out of any of his circumstances. We are left to speculate about that question. In Genesis 45, Joseph finally revealed himself to his brothers. Three times in three verses he used phrases that were meant to reassure his brothers. These same phrases tell us what Joseph believed about his incredible journey. “…God sent me ahead of you” (45:5, NIV). “…God sent me ahead of you” (45:7, NIV). “…it was not you who sent me here, but God” (45…

Getting Out of the Way

When it finally happened, it happened fast. One minute Joseph was in prison; the next he was standing before the Pharaoh interpreting a disturbing dream that the king had suffered repeatedly. This was his big moment, the moment to shine, the moment to put himself forward, to make a name, to take some credit and to get what he rightfully deserved after all his suffering. The Pharaoh asked Joseph if he could interpret the dream. The correct answer for the one million dollar prize was, “yes.” We are told to be positive, to be confident, to have our resumes polished and loaded with personal initiative and promising achievements. If you want to get ahead in life, you have to “toot your own horn,” “blow your own trumpet,” because no one else will do it for you. “‘I cannot do it,’ Joseph replied to Pharaoh…” (Genesis 41:16, NIV). Gasp! If Joseph had ever spoken words that demonstrated his trust in God, these were the words. He knew his own limitations, However, he also walked with the God who ha…

Forgotten

The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him” (Genesis 40:23, NIV). That must have been a cruel disappointment. Joseph does the cupbearer a huge favour in prison and all he asks is that Pharaoh’s servant put in a good word for him when he gets released. After all, the man has the king’s ear. It’s easy to point a finger until I remember all the people I forget. That phone call to ask how someone is who has been sick or who is going through a difficult time. That email to pass along an invitation, or to connect with someone far away. That person I should have spoken to on Sunday at church. That letter or card I should have sent to remember a special day. That person who needed a visit but didn’t get one from me. That time with the Lord when He was waiting—and I didn’t wait. The passage doesn’t say that Joseph was disappointed, discouraged, hurt, by the cupbearer’s forgetfulness. Perhaps as a man of faith it didn’t bother him—much. But whether or not the people we forget …

Downwardly Mobile

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As we Canadians might say, “Success, eh?” From favoured son, blessed with all the wealth and privileges of a nomadic prince, Joseph is now head slave in the house of Potiphar, the captain of the king’s guard. The Scripture says: “The Lord was with Joseph and he prospered…the Lord gave him success in everything he did…” (Genesis 39:2, 3, NIV).Somehow that doesn’t seem all that significant in terms of success to us. In addition, the position of head slave didn’t last all that long. Thanks to the evil intent of Potiphar’s wife, Joseph ends up being thrown into prison for a crime he didn’t commit. The Scriptures tell us: “…while Joseph was there is prison, the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden” (39:20, 21, NIV). So now he has gone from head slave to head prisoner. Is that a lateral move in the corporate ladder of success or would Joseph be considered to be “upwardly mobile” at this point? For most of the world, the answer would…

Nobody Knows the Trouble I'VE Seen!

Oddly enough the story of Joseph seems like a deviation from the path that takes us from God’s promise of salvation in Genesis 3:15 to the coming of the Saviour in the Gospels. Joseph isn’t in the kingly or the priestly line that leads us to Christ. His brother, Judah, is the man we should be watching for that part of the story. But then again, there are lots of stories told in the Scriptures that, while they don’t have to do with the main story about which Scripture is written, do contribute significantly to the story. And Joseph is one of those. Joseph was a younger son, the son of Israel’s favourite wife. Because of who his mother was, Joseph became a favourite son. His brothers despised him for it. Joseph also had dreams. I have dreams too, but so far none of them have gotten me into the difficulty that Joseph’s did. By the end of Genesis 37, Joseph goes from pampered favourite son to a lowly slave nobody in Egypt, courtesy of his jealous brothers. But there are two other characters …

A Good Reason for Sunday Worship

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When Jacob was running from the disaster his actions had caused within his family, he stopped to rest at a place that he would name “Bethel” (Genesis 28). On that occasion he was not prepared to surrender to God. His focus then was on the place itself rather than on the God Who had revealed Himself in that place. Years later, having returned again to Canaan, having met God for a second time and having finally surrendered to God (Genesis 32), Jacob returns to Bethel a second time. Bethel means “house of God” and Jacob had built an altar there after his first encounter with the Almighty. Now, as he returns again, he is conscious that he goes there with a different focus than he had once had. One of the things Jacob had neglected to do when he returned to Canaan was to deal with the household gods that Rachel had stolen from her father, Laban (Genesis 31). He knew he couldn’t approach the Only God without dealing with the false ones. He gives instructions: “Get rid of the foreign gods you…

The WWF Finals

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What a difference a night of wrestling with God can make! (32:22ff) Jacob, the deceiver, is now Israel, he who struggles with God. And as Israel faced the long-anticipated reunion with the brother he had wronged, what thoughts went through his head? Obviously he was frightened (Genesis 32:7). He knew Esau was coming to meet him with four hundred men (32:6). What were their intentions? It was a little much for a friendly reception committee. Israel prepared for the worst, arranging his family in the order (33:1,2) that he thought would best protect the ones he loved the most (no, he wasn’t perfect, he played favourites just as his parents had!). When Esau arrived, we discover that both men had changed (33:4). We only read in Scripture how God had been working in the old Jacob’s life, but it seems that He had also softened the heart of Esau. Israel had sent a gift ahead of him to placate his brother, but Esau didn’t want to take more where he already had plenty (33:9-11)—a stark contrast …

Home At Last

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At last, the light that has flickered for so long finally burns brightly. For Jacob, Genesis 32 describes a pivotal moment, an “aha” in his history. He’s on his way back to Canaan, the land that God promised to return him to when he had run from his brother’s anger and his family’s shame (Genesis 27:41ff). God has kept the promise He made Jacob at Bethel (28:15). Perhaps it’s the thought of facing his brother, Esau, after all these years. Perhaps it’s because Jacob is a family man now and he has more to think about than himself. Perhaps it’s because he has learned a few lessons along the way. Whatever the catalyst was, Jacob seems to have finally developed a pretty strong God-consciousness. As we read through this chapter we hear Jacob refer to his brother as “master” and “lord;” a deference that he certainly didn’t show Esau when he cheated him out of his rights as the first-born. But it is Jacob’s prayer that clues us into the heart change that is taking place: “I am unworthy of all…