Sowing, Reaping and Praying for a Crop Failure

Grace Works Hope and Mercy

No child of God needs to fear a horrible harvest for past sins. God specializes in crop failures. Sure, there are consequences for sin sometimes, but God promises to turn even those to our good if we “have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) John Newton wrote, “We serve a gracious Master who knows how to overrule even our mistakes to His glory and our own advantage.”

The Journey // Focus: Genesis 42:28 & 36

Their hearts sank and they turned to each other trembling and said, “What is this that God has done to us?’ … ‘Everything is against me!”

If you’ve been around the Bible much, you know this story well. Joseph’s brothers, out of envy, anger and hatred, sold Joseph into slavery to nomads travelling to Egypt. A decade or two later, unknown to the brothers, Joseph has made an improbable rise to power, and now sits as second in command of the most powerful nation on earth.

Now forced to scrounge for food in Egypt during a severe famine, the tables are turned on the brothers: they stand face-to-face with Joseph, first bowing before him (a fulfillment of Joseph’s dream; the one that originally got him into hot water with the brothers), then begging for food, and ultimately begging for their very lives. And all the time their minds cannot fathom that it is actually Joseph with whom they are pleading.

There are so many things we could say about this chapter and its larger context: Like the sovereignty of God that allowed Joseph’s mistreatment in prior years as the very means to preserve his family down the road. Or how God always squeezes good out of evil for his children. Or how Joseph remains faithful and useful to God even when the evidence suggested that God had abandoned him. Or how Joseph left retribution, revenge and judgment in God’s hands, even when the best of men would have been tempted to exact a pound of flesh from these ornery brothers once Joseph had them dead to rights.

And don’t miss the application in all of those relevant truths: God will do that for you, too, if you will trust him with your life—both in the good times and especially in the bad when the evidence seems contrary to a loving God who is supposed to be in control.

But the one feature of this particular part of the story that intrigues me is the load of guilt this family carried for all those years, obviously paralyzing them with regret, the fear of receiving their just desserts and the onerous sense that they will have to pay an impossible price to make up for their evil actions in the past:

Their hearts sank and they turned to each other trembling and said, “What is this that God has done to us?” (Genesis 42:26)

Their father Jacob said to them, “You have deprived me of my children. Joseph is no more and Simeon is no more, and now you want to take Benjamin. Everything is against me!” (Genesis 42:36)

Then Reuben said to his father, “You may put both of my sons to death if I do not bring Benjamin back to you. Entrust him to my care, and I will bring him back.” (Genesis 42:37)

So what are the take away’s for you and me from the story of these messed up brothers?

First, as it relates to the brothers, no sinful action is worth the temporary satisfaction or pleasure it falsely promises—ever! The guilt, harm and forfeiture of God’s blessings are a horrible crop to reap at some point, either sooner or perhaps later down the road.

Second, as it relates to Jacob and his lingering dread, no child of God needs to fear a horrible harvest for past sins. God specializes in crop failures. Sure, there are consequences for sin sometimes, but God promises to turn even those to our good if we “have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) As John Newton so profoundly wrote, “We serve a gracious Master who knows how to overrule even our mistakes to His glory and our own advantage.”

Third, as it relates to Reuben’s assumption that he could assuage divine punishment, no personal sacrifice for sin will be needed for the child of God to cancel his punishment since God sent his very own Son, of whom Joseph was a type, to once and for all pay the price to satisfy God’s righteous wrath rightly directed at our sin. (Hebrews 10:8-14)

I’m so glad to be a follower of Jesus and not a child of Jacob, aren’t you! God’s unlimited, unmerited grace, purchased by Christ’s sacrificial death and glorious resurrection, is a far better way.

Going Deeper: If you are living under a load of guilt and fear, or the sense that somehow you must make it up to God, meditate on and pray these truths back to God: Guilt—Romans 8:1-4; Fear—I John 1:9, Human effort to appease God—Hebrews 10:8-14. Then allow grace to wash away what doesn’t belong in the Christian’s life.

What Are You Waiting For?

In Your Wait, God Is At Work

When the Sovereign Lord planned each of your days, even before you were born, his plan permitted unpleasant people and undesirable circumstances to be included in some of those days. Why? To develop in you something very special to him: the fruit of patience. Learn to embrace the things that try your patience, because there will be no opportunity in heaven to learn it.

The Journey// Focus: Genesis 41:1,14-15

Another two full years passed while Joseph languished in prison, then Pharaoh has a dream. … Pharaoh sent for Joseph at once, and he was quickly brought from the prison. After he shaved and changed his clothes, he went in and stood before Pharaoh. Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I had a dream last night, and no one here can tell me what it means. But I have heard that when you hear about a dream you can interpret it.”

Another two years passed. Joseph had already been in prison for years—due to no fault of his own. Now there had come a glimmer of hope in Genesis 39 when he had accurately interpreted the dreams of two fellow prisoners—officials of Pharaoh—that they would be released. His only request was that they would remember him when there were out, and speak kindly of him so that he too, could be released. They didn’t. They promptly forgot.

And it would seem, behind their forgetfulness was the forgetfulness of God. Why would God allow this righteous man to languish for another two years in a fetid Egyptian prison. Why?

Why—that is the question we all have at some point in our walk of faith. And since an adequate answer to that question is likely to escape our finite understanding, it is important that we grow in patience, trust and expectancy as we await the fulfillment of God’s plan for our lives. We know that, of course, but it is much easier said than done. Nevertheless, let me remind us again today of why you and I must develop these virtues in our faith journey.

James, the first leader of the church, wrote, “Consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4)

Whatever is lacking in your life right now, patience, along with trust and expectancy, is what will bring it to you!

The nineteenth century preacher A. B. Simpson said it this way: “Beloved, have you ever thought that someday you will not have anything to try you, or anyone to vex you again? There will be no opportunity in heaven to learn or to show the spirit of patience…If you are to practice these things, it must be now.”

M. H. Lount wrote, “best gifts come slowly…growth and strength in waiting are results often greater than the end so impatiently longed for.”

God’s first concern for our lives is our growth, not our gratification. That’s why he often withholds what we would prefer and allows us to experience a long-term difficulty until we have learned to fully trust him. Again, that requires an industrial strength patience.

It is said that Joseph Hayden wrote a musical piece in which the flute player did not play a note until the 75th measure. And then, that flute player had only one note to play. On that 75th measure, on the up-beat, the flute player was to play that one and only note. And that was it. One of the flute players in the Boston Symphony said , “When Hayden wrote that musical piece, he had a very special, patient person in mind.”

When the Sovereign Lord, whom the Bible says has ordered everyone of your days, even before one of them came into existence, saw fit to allow unpleasant people or undesirable circumstances to be a part of your life, he had you, a very special and potentially patient, trusting, expectant person in mind.

That is the process by which God shapes your life. So how can you learn to work with God in a way that allows him to transform you into an instrument of usefulness? Let me suggest three things:

Pray: Begin the process of growing in patience by simply asking God for it. God, the core of whose very character is patience, is the source of it. In James 1:2-3 we’re taught that the end result of the patience process is wisdom. And what does James say about wisdom? That if any of us lacks it we should ask God for it because he will give it generously.

So if he will supply the wisdom generously, we can back up in the process to ask for the patience as well, and expect to receive it. We simply and boldly need to ask for patience.

Evaluate: What are the areas where you tend to be most impatient. Perhaps it happens to be with how you respond to your family or maybe the people you work with would say you’re a short-tempered person. Maybe you are not considering the trials in your life with pure joy; you are not giving perseverance a chance to develop character; you are not appreciating that character tempered by patience is what produces Biblical hope in you. Or maybe you are impatient with God’s timing in your life.

Identify your top two or three areas of impatience, and then get some help with them. Enter into accountability with someone who will hold your feet to the fire in terms of your behavior, who will give you the words of encouragement needed to stay patient, and will faithfully pray for you as you go through the process.

Reflect: Practice the discipline of remembering and reflecting when you are tempted to be impatient. When you are about to fly off the handle remember how patient and long-suffering God has been with you. Make a study of and memorize as many of the verses on impatience and anger as you can, like Proverbs 29:11, “A stupid man gives free reign to his anger, but a wise man waits and lets it grow cool.” Soak in God’s truth until it gets into the very fabric of your being.

When you are getting weary of waiting, reflect on the purpose of God in your circumstance: that he is bringing you to maturity, and the vehicle that will get you there is patience. Reflect on Romans 5:3-5 which says, “Suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character hope. And hope does not disappoint us.”

Give intentional effort to the practice of patience. If you will, you will grow in trust of God. And when you have developed trust, you will ultimately experience the redeemed realization of all that you expect.

Going Deeper: Patience…trust…expectation. Reframe your thinking and start thanking God for every opportunity to exhibit this eternal qualities.

Waiting Time Is Not Wasted Time

Be Patient, God Is At Work

While you may be languishing away in your prison of undesirable circumstances, God is above it all and he clearly sees the road ahead of you. Embrace that time between the frustrating and the fruitful, your period of waiting, not as a waste of time, not as prison time, but as God time.

The Journey // Genesis 40:23

Pharaoh’s chief cup-bearer, however, forgot all about Joseph, never giving him another thought.

Twenty years in prison. Two decades. 7,300 days of mistreatment (see Psalm 105:18) for doing nothing wrong whatsoever. One-third of the years typically allotted to a man, the prime years of his life, wasted in a dank, fetid Egyptian prison. But were those years really wasted? Bible commentator, Warren Wiersbe, notes,

More than one servant of God has regretted rushing ahead of God’s schedule and trying to get to the throne too soon. Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones used to say, “It’s tragic when a person succeeds before he is ready for it.” It’s through faith and patience that we inherit the promises (Heb. 6:12; see 10:36), and the best way to learn patience is through tribulation (Rom. 5:3-4). “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:2-4 nkjv). God often removes our crutches so we’ll learn to walk by faith and trust Him alone. (Wiersbe, BE Bible Study Series)

God took away Joseph’s crutches and replaced them with the characteristic he would later need to run the greatest empire in the world of that day, Egypt, through what he learned during those twenty-years in jail: he endured injustice—what truly great rulers must know to fairly govern their subjects; he developed discernment—he learned how to properly interpret dreams; he grew in trust—what the Lord’s servants must have to be greatly used in carrying out his eternal plans. The two decades of waiting on God were not wasted.

As you read the prison portion of Joseph’s story, you can’t help but be impressed with this young man’s deep and abiding trust in the goodness and sovereignty of God. Joseph believed in the core of his being that God was in control, and that God was fundamentally good, and those beliefs became settled law for Joseph. Neither his current circumstances nor his emotions at the moment would trump the fact that his life was in God’s hands. So when Joseph’s ticket out of prison, the cupbearer, forgot about him and when Joseph languished for another two years in a squalid jail, Joseph trusted.

I would like to think that’s how I would react to the disappointing and hurtful things that will get thrown at me in life. I’m guessing you would like to think that about yourself, too. The “Joseph way” is certainly the heroic way to do life—and one that must be so pleasing to the Father who takes such delight in our trust.

But to live life like Joseph, you have to understand that there are two views of the road ahead. The first view is the human perspective. That is where you simply and only see what is right in front of you—which means that sometimes all you see are bumps, barriers and beat downs. Obviously, it is quite normal to look at the world from such a point of view; you are human, after all. But if that is the only view you have, you will be prone to discouragement, enslaved to the emotional ups and downs that come from being slapped around by life, and view the unwanted circumstances that envelop you as a waste of time.

What you really need to have in order to live the “Joseph way” is an eternal perspective. That is the other view, and it is a grand one! The “Joseph way” of viewing life comes only by way of fundamental trust in the care and competence of your Heavenly Father. It understands that while you may be languishing away in your prison of unexpected and undesirable circumstances, God is above it all and he clearly sees the road ahead of you. Furthermore, this view embraces the time between the frustrating and the fruitful, the period of waiting, not as a waste of time, not as prison time, but as God time.

If you can’t learn to enfold your human perspective into that kind divine perspective of ruthless trust in the God who is in control of all things and works all things to his glory and your good, get ready for a frustrating stay in Pharaoh’s prison. If you can order your life by the “Joseph way”, everything that comes your way—especially the bad stuff—becomes fodder for the God who takes what was meant as harm and turns it to good. (Genesis 50:20)

If you are a God-follower, never forget this: Waiting on God is never time wasted.

Going Deeper: From the bottom of your heart, as sincerely as you know how, keep saying, “thank you, God” in the midst of your waiting. Practice gratitude until it becomes the natural response to life—giving thanks in everything, for this is the will of God.

No One Is Beyond God’s Redeeming Grace

Moral Failure and Unconditional Forgiveness

God’s Word reveals that there is grace and forgiveness and mercy and love to cover any sin – even sexual sin. Francis Schaeffer wrote, “The Bible does not minimize sexual sin, but neither does it make it different from any other sin.” Jesus will freely forgive you where you have messed up and heal you where you’ve been damaged and give you strength where you want to resolve to live a new kind of life. That is just what Jesus does – his continual response to the sexually broken is proof of that.

The Journey // Focus: Genesis 39:6-8

Now Joseph was well-built and handsome, and after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, “Come to bed with me!” But he refused!

A while back a Newsweek article began with this attention-grabber: “In the [near future] you’re going to have better sex than you’ve ever had before…[not] a single sexual fantasy…will go unfulfilled.” Now that really grabbed my attention—not so much for my sake, but I knew you’d be interested!

All kidding aside, you and I would both agree that we live in a sex-obsessed culture. We are constantly bombarded with messages, images, and opportunities that urge us to gratify every sexual desire. On prime time TV in a given year, you’ll watch 20,000 sexually suggestive scenes—20,000!

As a result of this relentless sexual bombardment and a cultural philosophy of boundary-less sexual gratification, we now have more abortions (around fifty million since Roe v. Wade in 1973), out-of-wedlock births, cohabitation of couples without marriage, adulterous affairs, addiction to pornography, sexual predators and sexual exploitation than ever before. Nine million Americans carry an STD—that’s even more than those who battle alcoholism. It’s predicted that 100 million will die from HIV/AIDS in Africa alone in the next 20 years—100 million! At best, the world’s sexual philosophy doesn’t work—obviously! At worst, our so-called enlightened age, rather than giving us that sexual freedom it promised, has enslaved us to sexual degradation, relational dysfunction and moral destruction.

God has a better way—a higher sexual ethic to which he calls his children. 1 Thessalonians 4:3-4 says, “God wants you to be pure and to keep clear of all sexual sin. For God hasn’t called us to be dirty-minded and full of lust but to be holy and clean.”

Now God’s people haven’t always got this right, but there was one man who did—Joseph. Under the most intense pressure and rationale to compromise sexually, he didn’t. He remained pure in a polluted environment. Notice the rich theology in Joseph’s response to being seduced by Potiphar’s wife:

With me in charge,” he told her, “my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care. No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God? (Genesis 39:8-9)

When you look at Joseph’s response to this woman, it is obvious that he had thought this through ahead of the temptation and had resolved long before the seduction to stay sexually pure. Here’s the thing: If you wait until the moment of intense passion to decide what your values and boundaries are going to be, you’ve waited too long. Authors Young and Adams write:

Nothing interferes with logic and common sense more than the sex drive. For years we referred to this as the ‘brain relocation phenomenon,’ which occurs when you are passionate about someone and you start to get intimate. Here’s how it works. Once the hormones kick in, the brain dislodges from the skull and slowly moves down the body through the neck, shoulders, chest, stomach, and finally, below the waist. This process takes 10 to 20 minutes for women and about 3 seconds for men.

And once that happens, you are thinking with your hormones, not your head! The truth is, you are a free moral agent, created by God with a will. And you must resolve ahead of time to honor God with your sexuality, including not only sexual intercourse, but all the behaviors that contribute and lead to the point of no return. How can you do that?

First, resolve to make God’s standards your standards! Psalm 119:9 says, “How can one keep his way pure? By living according to your Word.”

Second, resolve to manage your mind, especially your media intake! Proverbs 15:14 says, “The fool feeds on trash.” What you feed your mind is just as important as what you feed your body. Every temptation starts in the mind. Proverbs 4:23 says “Be careful how you think, your life is shaped by your thoughts.” The battle for purity is won or lost in your brain.

Third, resolve to magnify the consequences of sin! Do a cost-benefit analysis of sexual sin! Proverbs 6:26 says, “Immorality may cost your life.” Proverbs 6:32 says, “Anyone who commits adultery doesn’t have any sense. He’s destroying himself.” Even if you don’t want to take God’s word for it, just look at the steady stream of recent studies on the results of the so-called sexual revolution. For instance, one study noted that when couples live together before marriage, there is an 80% higher likelihood of divorce than couples who don’t. Women in these relationships are twice as likely to be physically abused and four times more likely to experience depression than married women. And that is just one of many studies similarly confirming the unintended consequence of boundary-less sex. When you put the world’s sexual philosophy under the magnifying glass, who in their right mind would want that?

Perhaps by now you are saying, “Enough already, I’m convinced. God’s got a better way. But what do you do when you’ve already blown it sexually?” Well, here is what you need to know: There is grace and forgiveness and mercy and love to cover any sexual sin you have experienced. Have you ever noticed that some of the people most attracted to Jesus were those who had failed miserably in the sexual department: The woman who’d been married to five different husbands, and was currently living with a guy…a woman caught in adultery…prostitutes who’d sold their bodies for money.

And how would Jesus respond to them? He would look them straight in the eye and just love them. And he will gladly forgive you where you have messed up and heal you where you’ve been damaged and give you strength where you want to resolve to live a new kind of life. That is just what Jesus does!

If you have messed up sexually, God has a great gift for you: Forgiveness.

Going Deeper: Offer yourself to God—body and mind—in moral purity! Then do your part to make that so, but don’t forget to expect his help.

God Works Through People—Warts and All

The Transparent Bible

God’s Word is factual—it’s rooted in human history, not folklore. That’s why it gives us the good, the bad and the ugly. That also means it’s painfully transparent—it presents God’s people, warts and all. And that’s why the Bible is a book of grace—for the desperately flawed human race could not survive without God’s unmerited patience and kindness.

The Journey // Focus: Genesis 38:16,24

Not realizing that she was his daughter-in-law, he went over to her by the roadside and said, “Come now, let me sleep with you.” …About three months later Judah was told, “Your daughter-in-law Tamar is guilty of prostitution, and as a result she is now pregnant.”

Well, this is an awkward chapter to get a devotional from, wouldn’t you say? God kills Judah’s son, Er, because he was wicked, then he slays his brother, Onan, because he refuses to carry on the family line with Er’s widowed wife, Tamar (according to custom). So Tamar, realizing that producing an heir is hopeless, disguises herself as a prostitute and seduces her father-in-law, Judah (and why this patriarch was sleeping with prostitutes is a whole different matter). Tamar gets pregnant from the encounter. Judah wants to stone her for sexual promiscuity—until he finds out the kid is his. And they all live happily ever after.

One of the things I never anticipated was having to explain Old Testament stories like this—and there are a few of them—to my children, whom I encouraged to start reading the Bible through at a certain age. On several occasions, they would come to me with, “Eww! Dad, what’s the deal with this?” And my standard answer was, “Hmmm…better ask your mom about that one.”

So why is a story like Judah sleeping with his daughter-in-law disguised as a prostitute in God’s book in the first place? And is there any devotional benefit I can wrest from this sordid account? Well, it is a gross story for sure, and definitely sad, but still, there are a handful of encouraging take-aways.

Firstly, this story is in the Bible because it is a piece of history. It happened. And since God’s work is rooted in human history and not folklore, it is important that the good, the bad and the ugly are accounted for. God’s Word is historical.

Which, secondly, leads me to the fact of transparency. God doesn’t try to hide the flaws of his people. He allows the bad to be included in the good, because that is the way sinful human life is lived out. If I were to write a fictional account of God, I would have whitewashed these stories to put God and his people in the best light possible. But you can’t whitewash non-fiction; history is what it is. And this in itself gives a high degree of credibility to the Bible. The fact that it is painfully transparent makes me love this book—and its Author—even more.

And thirdly, in this story, and throughout Genesis, the only possible explanation for the human race continuing to survive, given its propensity for every kind of evil, is simply grace. It is obvious, but often forgotten, that God ends up using people, warts and all, to carry out his purposes. And I, for one, am overwhelmingly grateful that he does. Given that fact, it is clear to me, if not to you: I’ve got a fighting chance to still be used mightily by the Lord.

Now again, keep in mind as you read accounts like this, that their inclusion in scripture doesn’t excuse the bad behavior that is recorded. It simply explains what people do, and how God works through them to accomplish his purposes.

So as I read this salacious story yet again on my periodic journey through the entire Bible, I can’t help but grow more confident in the veracity of God’s Word.

Likewise, I come away with a deeper appreciation for the stubborn providence of God to carry out his plans in spite of man’s dumb efforts to derail them. In this case, the family line of Judah continues on despite the dumb and depraved things that happen in Genesis 38—and from this line of goof ups springs forth the Lion of the Tribe of Judah.

And finally, it fills my heart with hope that I, as a deeply flawed person, can still be used by God to fulfill his purposes on this planet and bring him glory through my life, warts and all.

Going Deeper: I think a simple and heartfelt “thank you” to God that his mercy endures forever is called for in response to this story.

Killing The Not-So-Silent Killer In Your Home

Leave No Room For Envy In Your Family

If you’ve never received “the robe” of love and acceptance from the most important people in your life, learn how to receive that love and acceptance from God! Do you realize how completely and perfectly your Heavenly Father prizes you? 1 John 3:1 says, “See what love the Father has given us that we should be called children of God. And that is what we are.” Yes, that is what you are—thank God!

The Journey // Focus: Genesis 37:3-4

Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made an ornate robe for him. When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.

Jealousy! That’s the not-so-silent killer in families of all types: the nuclear family, extended families, small groups, churches and the family of mankind. It always has been, it always will be—unless you call a stop to it in yours.

Genesis 37 contains the ongoing account of Jacob’s family, which through his twelve sons, has been singled out as the progenitor of the people of God. But this family is rife with all kinds of dysfunction—especially favoritism that has now passed through four generations—and sibling rivalry which ensues, that spawns animosity and hatred to levels that almost destroy this family.

What we find in Jacob’s unique love for Joseph is an imperfect love with which all parents—including your parents, and you as a parent—inadequately love their kids. I am sure there was more to the story than just one thing, but it was the special robe that Jacob gave Joseph that seems to unleash this torrent of jealousy in the eleven siblings against Joseph.

The robe is the expression of a father’s love and affection for his child. It represents what every child inherently wants, and desperately needs: the sense that they are special and valued. But when another child learns that they’ll never wear the robe, never have their parent’s favor, a hope in that child dies and typically, an unhealthy way of responding to the world is created. And favoritism—deliberate or not—unleashes currents of jealousy and envy that will erode the peace and harmony God intends for that little community.

What’s going on in Jacob’s family isn’t unusual. It happens in most every home to some degree. Joseph is favored because he’s the son of Jacob’s old age—and his favoritism takes a very concrete form when Jacob gave Joseph a robe—the NIV calls it, “a richly ornamented robe”, while other translations say “a robe with long sleeves”, but the King James famously translates it, “a coat of many colors.”

Every time Joseph wears the robe it reminds his brothers that their father will never love them like he loves Joseph. The text tells us three times of their growing “hatred” for Joseph. Interestingly they hate Joseph, but who’s at fault? Jacob! He’s the one that has played favorites, but they take it out on Joseph. Verse 11 says, “So his brothers were jealous of him.”

What’s interesting about this story is that Jacob knew the pain of not being dad’s favorite, of what it was like not to wear the robe, yet he recycles this dysfunction, favoring Joseph but leaving his other sons to know the pain he once knew. And out of jealousy they sell Joseph into slavery and deceive their dad into thinking that Joseph is dead. Yet their deception gets them no closer to what they desperately want: they haven’t won their father’s love; they’ve only lost their brother.

What about you, and your family? Perhaps sibling rivalry, envy and jealousy have broken the shalom of God in your little community. If you are a parent, I would challenge you to think about how you can give twelve robes instead of just one—to love each person uniquely as a special creation of God.

And if you are one who has never worn the robe in your family, and likely never will, I would suggest to you that in the place of envy, you learn to receive love and acceptance in new ways. Cultivate relationships in your faith community. Imperfect as they are, your Christian brothers and sisters will do their best to give the kind of affirmation and love you need.

But mostly, learn how to receive love from God! Do you realize how completely and perfectly your Heavenly Father loves and prizes you? One of my favorite verses, 1 John 3:1 says, “See what love the Father has given us that we should be called children of God. And that is what we are.”

Personalize and memorize this truth: “See what love the Father has given me, that I should be called a child of God, and that is what I am.”

Do that—because that is what you are!

Going Deeper: Memorize 1 John 3:1 today—and quote it as often as you need to get it into your head.

God Honors His Promise

He's Not Broken One Yet — Never Will!

Nothing is unnecessary or random in the story of Esau’s descendants. God is present between the lines. And God’s love and providential care pictured in Esau’s history is a perpetual reminder, among other things, of his care and competence in managing your history as well. How wonderful, how marvelous is the love of the Savior even for the fallen sons of Adam, the Esau’s of this world—which includes you.

The Journey // Focus: Genesis 36:1, 20, 31

This is the account of the descendants of Esau (also known as Edom). …These are the names of the tribes that descended from Seir the Horite. They lived in the land of Edom: Lotan, Shobal, Zibeon, Anah, Dishon, Ezer, and Dishan. …These are the kings who ruled in the land of Edom before any king ruled over the Israelites. …These are the names of the leaders of the clans descended from Esau, who lived in the places named for them.

Genealogies—argh, thar drivin’ me nuts!

As I mentioned in the genealogical reading from Genesis 10:1, reading the Biblical genealogies is akin to reading from the phone book: an endless list of meaningless names that we’re tempted to skip past. In that case, we were reading about the history that would lead to the man, Abraham, who would become the father of many nations, the patriarch of the Hebrew nation (Romans 4:1), and the spiritual father of all who place faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 411). In this case, this is the genealogy of the brother of Jacob, Esau, who sold his birthright, who did not factor into God’s plan for the ages as Jacob did. Reading this endless list of names is not only akin to reading from the phonebook, it is like trying to read it in Russian.

Yet as I said, every name in human history, recorded or not, represents a story, and every person is significant in the history of God’s saving work and his redemptive plan for the ages. People matter to God—not only the Jacob’s of this world, but so too the Esau’s. And God desires to bless them wherever they live on planet earth and in whatever epoch of time they have lived.

You see, we should care about Esau and his descendants, the Edomites, because they were offspring of Abraham, whom God promised to multiply and make a blessing to the entire earth.

The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you. (Genesis 12:1-3)

Because Esau was the son of Isaac and the grandson of Abraham, God put his blessing upon him—he bore many sons—and not only blessing, but honor, for Esau’s sons became leaders of men:

These are the kings who ruled in the land of Edom before any king ruled over the Israelites. (Genesis 331)

Ultimately, Edom will not factor into the Biblical narrative as God focuses his plan for the redemption of the earth through Jacob’s line, the children of Israel, but this account does show us yet again that God performs his promises, in this case, that indeed Abraham would become the father of many nations. God fulfilled his word to Rebekah, the mother of the twin brothers, Esau and Jacob, that two nations were in her womb. (Genesis 25:23) And God did bring to pass the divine blessing of Isaac to Esau (Genesis 27:39-40), that he would dwell “in the fatness of the earth” and break free from the domination of his brother. (RSV)

Nothing is unnecessary or random in this story. God is present here. And God’s love and providential care is pictured in Esau’s history, as a reminder, among other reasons, of God’s care and competence in managing your history as well. How wonderful, how marvelous is the love of the Savior even for the fallen sons of Adam, the Esau’s of this world—and that is me, and that is you.

God keeps every single promise. Never forget that.

Going Deeper: Perhaps you feel like an insignificant nobody among all the billions of people who live on Planet Earth. Wrong! God has his eye on you. And he will fulfill his word to you. Take that by faith, and rejoice a little today that God has amazing plans for your life.