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God Prepares His People

H – Highlight

Genesis 40:8 – They said to him, “We have had dreams, and there is no one to interpret them.” And Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Please tell them to me.”

E – explain

The context here is with Joseph in Egypt because his brothers sold him. He is in prison because of a lie. And now he meets men connected to the Pharaoh. Both men had dreams, and Joseph, by the grace of God, will be able to tell them what these prophetic dreams mean.

A – Apply

Early on, Joseph found himself offending his dad and his brothers because of the dreams that he told them. Now, years later, Joseph is in a place to hear and interpret dreams by a gift that God has given him. This tells me that, though Joseph’s life is hard, God has used Joseph’s experiences to prepare him for the moment he faces.

There are many joys and pains that we will face as followers of the Lord. And there is no way that we can know, when we face these things, how God will use those things in the future. We may presently be able to see how God has prepared us. Or, we may never understand this side of heaven. But we should see from Joseph’s experiences that God is in control and that he uses all sorts of things in our lives to shape us into what he wants us to be for his glory and for the growth of his kingdom.

R – Respond

Lord, I see in Joseph’s experience that you truly use all things in our lives, things we love and things we regret, to accomplish your ultimate will. I pray that you will help me to remember this as I look back on things in my life I regret. I pray that you will help me remember this when I recall things that have happened to me that I do not like. Please, Lord, in this text, help me be comforted as I trust you and your perfect will, a will that I cannot fully understand this side of heaven.

God Works in the Hearts of Others

H – Highlight

Genesis 31:29 – It is in my power to do you harm. But the God of your father spoke to me last night, saying, “Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.”

E – Explain

When Jacob fled from Laban, this could have led to a major conflict. In fact, it could have led to a violent battle that would threaten Jacob’s family and thus threatening the promise. But, even as Laban pursued Jacob, the Lord spoke to Laban, an unbeliever, and warned him to leave Jacob alone.

A – Apply

This text shows us that God works out situations from more than one side. Jacob thought that he was cleverly protecting himself and his family. But the Lord was at work to keep Laban from being able to do Jacob and his family harm.

So often, I find that I believe that I have to accomplish things by my own power. So often, I forget what God is doing in the hearts of others. I must not let myself forget that God does work even in the hearts of the lost, work that I cannot see until it is accomplished.

R – Respond

Lord, I praise you for your great power to change the hearts of men. I thank you that you are always at work accomplishing your will even when I cannot see what you are doing. I pray that you will grant me faith to remember that you are always at work. I pray that you will help me remember that you work in the hearts of others. I pray that you will give me courage knowing that you will never fail.

God is not Defeated by My Failure

H – Highlight

Genesis 27:20 – But Isaac said to his son, “How is it that you have found it so quickly, my son?” He answered, “Because the Lord your God granted me success.”

Genesis 28:13-15 – 13 And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. 14 Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed. 15 Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

E – Explain

In chapter 27 of Genesis, we see Jacob steal the blessing from Esau. Of course, God had already promised that Jacob should be the one to carry the blessing, but we see that this is worked out in a devious way. Jacob lied about his identity to his father, even claiming to have been aided by God in a hunt that he never went on.

In chapter 28, Jacob, in his flight from Esau, finds himself in the presence of God. And the Lord speaks to Jacob, clearly introducing himself and proclaiming that Jacob will indeed carry the promise of God, the same promise God made to Abraham. From the perspective of the New Testament, we know that this promise of God to bless the nations through a descendant of Jacob is the promise to bring the Christ into the world.

A – Apply

What catches my attention most in this reading is the fact that Jacob did nothing good or right to gain the blessing of God. The promise that God was to carry out, the promise to save people through someone from Jacob’s line, is a promise that God had taken upon himself to accomplish. An observer of simple circumstance would think that the will of God must have been thwarted by Jacob’s tactics. But, in truth, God used even the designs of Jacob and his mother to accomplish a plan that God was going to accomplish anyhow. God did not author Jacob’s sin. But God was nevertheless sovereign over Jacob’s actions, using Jacob’s desire and his sinful actions to bring about the perfect good that God always intended.

A proper application for me is to rejoice in the glory and sovereignty of God. His will is not defeated, even when evil-minded men do evil things. God is not defeated when the government does not do its job. God is not defeated when judges overreach. God is not thwarted when I fail in my own folly. While I do not desire to walk in sin, and while I would love to see our nation live in righteousness, I can know that God will never be defeated. He will accomplish his perfect plan to the end of the world and beyond.

R – Respond

Prayer: Lord, I see in this text that you are sovereign. I see that you use even sinful and scheming people to accomplish a perfect plan that they could never design. I understand that you are not the author of sin, but you can use all things to accomplish good for those who love you and who are called according to your purpose. I pray that you will give me confidence in your sovereign rule. I pray that you will remind me that you are not worried about the state of the nations. I pray that you will help me to be faithful to obey you regardless of the circumstance. God, take my life and use it to accomplish your will for your glory.

God Provides His Own Lamb

H – Highlight

Genesis 22:8 – Abraham said, "God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son." So they went both of them together.

E – Explain

God tested Abraham with a command to sacrifice Isaac. Of course, Isaac was the fulfillment of God’s promise that Abraham himself would have a son with Sarah. And Isaac was to carry the promise of god.

When Isaac noticed that they had everything they needed to make an offering to God other than a lamb, he asked his dad. Abraham confidently tells Isaac that the Lord will provide his own lamb.

A – Apply

It is hard to say if Abraham knew how meaningful his words would be. We only understand it later. Abraham knew that God would solve the problem with Isaac. Abraham believed God, and his faith did not waiver here. But I wonder if Abraham knew that, in ultimate reality, God would provide his own Lamb, the Lamb of God, to pay for the sins of all he would save.

This text calls on me to understand that God provides what is necessary for my salvation. I could never have provided the needed Lamb for my sin. No animal could take my place and cover my sin. Only Jesus, the Son of God and the perfect Lamb of God, could do this.

R – Respond

Prayer: Lord, I thank you for providing for yourself the Lamb. I could never have covered my own sin. This should make me grateful and humble. Help me to remember Jesus and be wonderfully grateful that you chose to do the impossible to save my soul. Help me live to glorify you, as you did all the work to save my soul.

Faith or Laughter

H – Highlight

Genesis 18:11-14 – 11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years. The way of women had ceased to be with Sarah. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, "After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?" 13 The LORD said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too hard for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son."

E Explain

In the conversation between the Lord and Abraham, Sarah laughed when she heard the Lord say that she would soon have a child. To her, it felt ridiculous that, at her age, she could possibly conceive. But the Lord knew and reminded her that he is able to do all things.

A – Apply

Two things grab my attention from this passage and from the next. Sarah laughs at the concept of God doing a miracle in her life. Lot’s intended sons-in-law laugh when they hear Lot warn them of the coming judgment. It is easy for people, when thinking with a this-worldly mindset, to laugh at the things of God. Miracles seem laughable until the very moment that they are not.

The other thing that gets my attention is the question that the Lord asks Sarah, “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” God wants us to remember that there is nothing too hard for him. He can bring miracles. He can bring judgments. And we should never let ourselves doubt his power or his presence.

R – Respond

Prayer: Lord, I am reminded of your great power and your very real presence. It is so easy, in my sin, for me to forget that your workings are real. Yes, I know that you are real and present, actively changing the world. Yet, if I am not careful, I can let myself think with a mind flooded only with the flesh and the things of this world. I pray that you will help me to live with my mind full of your power and full of genuine faith in you. Help me remember that you will do miracles of kindness. Help me remember that you will powerfully judge. Help me never to doubt or to stop thinking of you and your power first.

Faith Alone

H – Highlight

Genesis 15:6 – And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.

E – Explain

Abram was uncertain as to how God would fulfill his promise to him early in chapter 15. God had said Abram would have a family that would grow into a nation, but Abram and his wife had no children. When Abram asked God how this would work, God told Abram again that he would have as many descendants as he can see stars in the sky.

Abram believed God. And when Abram believed God, the Lord credited Abram with righteousness. Instead of Abram living a righteous life, fully sinless and perfect, God took Abram’s faith and credited Abram with a record of righteousness.

A – Apply

This verse got my attention because it is one of the most significant verses in all of Scripture. It lays a foundation for us to see that we do not please God by being good. Instead, God sees our faith, a faith that is a gift from him (Eph. 2:8), and he grants to us a record of righteousness.

R – Respond

Prayer: Lord, I’m so grateful that salvation is by your grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone. I’m grateful that you give us our faith as a gift. Thus, I see that my salvation is completely of your doing, by your grace, and for your glory. I praise you for this gift. I acknowledge here and now that I have never been good enough to earn anything but your judgment. I thank you for Jesus.

You Were There

H – Highlight

Job 38:21

You know, for you were born then,

and the number of your days is great!

E – Explain

Job 38 is where God begins to ask Job a series of questions as a rebuke. Job has been demanding to know why God allowed Job to face calamities. Job believes that he knows that there is no reasonable explanation for what he faces, because Job is not aware of actively doing unrighteousness.

The Lord’s rebuke of Job is a reminder that, while Job may know a few things, Job does not have nearly enough understanding to accuse the Lord of treating him unjustly. God gives multiple examples of simple things that he knows Job cannot explain. Job was not present at creation. Job does not know how God controls the day and night, the wind and rain, the stars in the sky, or the creatures in the sea. How then could Job expect to understand all the ways of the Almighty?

In the verse I highlighted, God is sarcastic with Job. After asking about things related to creation, light and darkness particularly, God says that Job must understand it; after all, Job was alive back then. Of course this is sarcasm. Job was not created then, and God is making sure that Job realizes just how ridiculous he looks in thinking that he can demand answers of God or that he could accuse God based on his puny knowledge and experience.

A – Apply

The first application for me is the reminder that I do not have nearly enough knowledge to ever question God and his ways. I do not know even the little things. I do not know how God actually hung the stars in space. Nor do I understand how God chose to make the tides work. Nor do I understand what makes atoms hold together and not fly apart. So, if I ever get to a place where I think that God must answer to me and my understanding, I’m making a mistake.

With that in mind, I also see an application for humanity as a whole. We think we have figured out the answers to many of the questions in Job 38. We think we know how the universe came into being. We have put people on the ocean floor to see the strange creatures down there. WE think we understand the patterns of the weather. And perhaps this shows that people believe that they do know the answers to God’s questions to Job and therefore have the right to question him and his ways.

But, in point of fact, all our knowledge is tiny. All our thinking is warped by sin. And we do not know even the most minuscule fraction of the truth of the universe to set ourselves up as opponents for God. Eve sinned in a grab for knowledge. Humans still sin because we think that our little knowledge makes us superior to the God of the Bible.

R – Respond

I want to think a little more on how the human grasping for knowledge, our assumption that we know how things work, has actually moved us away from praise and into further rebellion. Seeing the science behind the universe should lead us to worship the Lord. It has led us to arrogance and sin.

Pray: Lord, I know my knowledge is small. I was not there when you laid the foundation of the earth or set the stars in space. I do not know things that are easy for you. And I have no right to ever question your goodness. When you say in your word that a certain thing is right, it is right. When you say that a certain thing is wrong, then it is wrong. I submit to you, for you are God and I am not.

Turn my Eyes from Worthless Things

H – Highlight

Psalm 119:37

Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things;
and give me life in your ways.

E – Explain

This psalm is 176 verses of proclamation of praise to God for his holy word. Here, David prays that God will stop him from being distracted by worthless, useless things, things that do not matter. Instead, David wants God to focus him on his ways, on God’s word and revealed will and character.

A – Apply

This is not hard to apply in general. Our hearts need to long far more to see God than to see things that are of no consequence.

It does raise questions about entertainment, hobbies, sports, etc. And I do not think that this text would say to us that there is no room for enjoying anything that is not Scripture. But I think that we can see that, if our eyes are drawn away from God’s holiness and God’s holy word to things that do not matter, then our hearts are not as in love with the word of the Almighty as they should be. If our eyes or imaginations are drawn toward the immoral, then they are turned from the ways and word of the Lord. And it is good then that we pray that God fix our eyes on him and to help us turn them from the unworthy pursuits of this world.

R – Response

It is wise that I consider well where my mind goes. Do I let myself dwell on what is worthless? Do I turn from the word to what would dishonor God and find more pleasure in the sinful? Do I find more joy in what does not matter than what does?

Prayer: Lord, I would ask that you would, as the text says, turn my eyes and my mind from what is worthless and let me love you and your ways. May your word be a true treasure to me. I pray that you not let me enjoy anything in this world more than you and your ways. Yes, let me love my family. Yes, let me love beauty and the happy blessings you give. But let me never be turned to what is worthless and away from you. Please give me wisdom and conviction here. Please forgive me where I have failed here.

Heaven Cannot Contain You

H – Highlight

1 Kings 8:27 – “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built!”

E – Explain

The context here is Solomon praying at the dedication of the temple. In his prayer, the king acknowledges that the temple is not a house that contains God. The Lord is too great for the whole universe to contain.

A – Apply

Obviously, this text would remind us that the Lord is not bound by the walls of any church building. The church itself is not a building but the called-out people of God united in Christ.

This text also reminds me that God is great, wonderfully great. The earth cannot contain the Lord. The heavens, the vast universe beyond our atmosphere, cannot contain the Lord. And the more we think of this, the more awe it should cause.

Declaring the greatness of God, saying that God is too big to be put in a box, is not a claim that we cannot know the lord or his ways. God has shown us in his word who he is. We need not imagine that God is not as he has described himself. But his power, his glory, his majesty all are beyond compare.

R – Response

Prayer: Lord, I praise you. Earth, heaven, and all infinity beyond is too small to contain you. Your glory is measureless. No box I can build would keep you. No limits my mind can imagine can hem you in. I am but your creation. You are Lord, Master, Creator, and King. I praise you. And I pray that you will shape my life so that I live to your glory and not with my mind focused on things that are small, petty, and insignificant.

Blessed Belief

H – Highlight

Luke 1:45 – “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

E – Explain

Elizabeth is rejoicing at Mary’s arrival and the news that the Christ has come. Contextually, there is something interesting. In 1-25, Elizabeth’s husband had not believed the message from the angel, and he had suffered the inability to speak because of it. Now, Elizabeth knows that Mary is carrying the Savior in her womb, and Mary believed the Lord.

A – Apply

The biblical principle I draw here is that belief leads to blessing. I know that the Lord must bring us to faith, it is the gift of God (Eph. 2:8). At the same time, all through Scripture, the Lord has rewarded faith. God counted Abram’s faith to him as righteousness (Gen. 15:6).

What must I believe? What have I struggled to believe with my heart even when my head knows what to acknowledge?

R – Response

Prayer: Lord, I believe you and your word. I know this is a gift from you, and so I give you all the glory for any faith I have. I also know that, even as a believer, I have times when my own life would show that I only am believing with my head and not my heart. I pray that you would strengthen the faith you have given me. Help me to believe that you will fulfill all you have promised. And help me to find your blessing in faith.