Pastor’s Bible Reading Notes – June 3/18

Introduction: As we look forward to a summer of refreshing Bible stories from the Old Testament as well as Matthew’s Gospel, let us continue in Genesis, remembering some of the highlights of God’s saving His people through the Egyptian Prince Joseph. This is the Joseph who was taken away from his father Jacob as a young man in order to be used years later to save Jacob’s family from famine. This week we pause as Joseph begins to plan his father’s reunion with him in Egypt. We ought to remind ourselves of the long period of silence which Joseph’s father Jacob had endured with no word from God as to his son’s fate. Not since Jacob returned to Bethel years earlier in Genesis 35:9-10 had God revealed Himself to Jacob through direct revelation. Now events will begin to move quickly as God brings Jacob down to Egypt and into the fulfillment of the long-hidden Divine purpose. May God cause us to rejoice with Joseph and Jacob at the wonderful discovery of God’s nearness after a long time of spiritual struggle, waiting and wandering.

 

Monday: read Genesis 45:1-4. Joseph’s brothers are flabbergasted into silence as he reveals himself. They can’t believe it is their brother who in verse 3 urgently asks if his father is still alive. The concern which God has placed on Joseph’s heart for his father is proof that God has not forgotten Jacob’s prayers and long, agonizing years of waiting. Now is the time when God will revive Jacob’s faith and hope in order to give him courage to come down to Egypt and be reunited with his son – see Genesis 45:27-28.

 

Meditate and Pray: While we confess that there are times in the lives of His saints where God inscrutably hides Himself, let us be sure with Jacob that the time will come when living proof of God’s blessings will return and revive our flagging faith. As William Cowper puts it in hymn

# 128 in our hymnal:

 

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take,
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.


His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

 

Tuesday: read Genesis 45:5-7. Joseph urges his brothers not to be angry with themselves for selling him into slavery. Instead, he urges them to see God’s sovereign use of their sinful expulsion of Joseph from Canaan as God’s way of sending someone ahead of them into Egypt to prepare for famine. Joseph is describing for us here the great doctrine of God’s Providence. “What his brothers meant for evil, God meant for good” (Genesis 50:20). They sold Joseph into slavery driven by jealousy and hatred. God sent Joseph to Egypt in order to save lives (Gen. 45:7).

 

Meditate and Pray: How we should thank God that He is never at a loss as to how to constructively and even savingly use the evil which we his creatures so freely commit. All the evil that was done to Joseph by his brothers was because of their hatred and jealousy, and they were completely responsible in so doing. But behold the miracle of God’s Providence! God took the evil of evil men and ordained His Providence to work through it on Joseph’s behalf without in the slightest cooperating with or approving of their evil sin! Thus we ought to bow before God as the only Living Being able to bring clean, beautiful plans of salvation out of unclean, perverse

 

actions of sinful men. Do you have the faith and courage to see all the evil which God permits into your life as ultimately useful for God’s glory? Then join Paul in his great doxology in Romans 11:33:

 

“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!

 How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!”

 

Wednesday: read Genesis 45:8-11 & Genesis 28:10-15. The old Gospel hymn says: “This world is not my home; I’m just a-passing through.” Well, “passing through” this world meant for Jacob all kinds of unexpected twists and turns. When he was young, little could Jacob have expected to flee for his life from his brother, finding stones for pillows (Gen. 28:10-11). Now that he is old, the message to “come down to Egypt” will leave him not only speechless, but stunned (Gen. 45:26). Literally, his “spirit leaves him.”

But God had enabled Jacob to obey his summons before, and would do so again.

 

Meditate and Pray: Thank God that “His commands are His enablings.” God does not command us to change direction, endure drastic changes in fortune or make any kind of difficult decision without providing His Presence and Grace to make our faltering steps firm enough to walk in the way He has set out before us. This is another miracle of God’s Grace: walking in His way by faith amazingly strengthens our wavering legs to go farther than we ever thought imaginable. As Hebrews 12:12-13 commands us:

 

Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. Make level paths for your feet, so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.

 

Thursday: read Genesis 45:12-15 & Genesis 28:10-15. With more gracious words of reassurance and even tears, Joseph seeks to load up his brothers with all the provisions of hope they will need not only to come back to Egypt themselves with their families, but to persuade their father to come as well. From brothers used to lying to their father for years, who barely compelled him to send along Benjamin with them, this campaign to assure their father that Egypt was now home would be difficult to carry out. But God is well-practiced in convincing Jacob to follow him even when hope was slim, such as back in Genesis 28:10-15, where Jacob had nothing for his trip but his staff (Gen. 32:10). And in the end, Jacob would testify to God’s strengthening Presence for every mile of his difficult life’s journey in Genesis 48:15-16: “May the God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac have walked, the God who has been my Shepherd all my life to this day…”

 

Meditate and Pray: As we see God’s shepherding care for all of Jacob’s life, give thanks that though God made Jacob walk away empty-handed from home when young and brought him back home finally weakened and limping (Gen. 32:31), God nevertheless had a plan to teach Jacob that  – even in Egypt – He alone was the one staple needed for survival.

 

Friday: read Genesis 45:16-20.  Another miracle of Divine Providence! God moves Pharaoh’s heart to a deep respect for Joseph and even joy that his shepherding family is now coming to Egypt. Pharaoh even opens up all the treasures and land of Egypt for the benefit of Joseph’s family.

 

Meditate and Pray: If God is able to move Pharaoh to open up the whole kingdom of Egypt to Jacob (Gen. 45:20), how much more confidence should we have when God Himself says to us:

 

“It is my pleasure to give you the Heavenly Kingdom” (Luke 12:32). If Pharaoh’s words brought confidence to the fearful hearts of Joseph’s brothers, how much more should God the Father’s words give us new confidence to face the world of our day. Let us ask God for such courage in the words of Lowell Mason’s hymn # 528:

 

My faith looks up to thee,

thou Lamb of Calvary,

Savior divine!

Now hear me while I pray,

take all my guilt away,

O let me from this day

be wholly thine!

May thy rich grace impart

strength to my fainting heart,

my zeal inspire!

As thou hast died for me,

O may my love to thee

pure, warm, and changeless be,

a living fire!

 

While life’s dark maze I tread,

and griefs around me spread,

be thou my guide;

bid darkness turn to day,

wipe sorrow’s tears away,

nor let me ever stray

from thee aside.