Joseph: Faithful to the End (Gen 49:29-50:26)

Joseph's_Tomb
Joseph’s Tomb early 1900s (Public Domain)

Will you be faithful to the very end? If you are a Christian, you most certainly will because your salvation is not dependent upon your faithfulness, but on the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. Those who abandon their faith never had genuine faith (see 1 John 2:19-23). Those who are truly born again (John 3:3) will endure to the end because they will be preserved by Jesus unto the end. True faith never fails because the faithful are “keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith” (Heb 12:2). Jesus is the source of our faith and He is the One who will bring our faith to perfect completion. Therefore, “let us lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus” (Heb 12:1-2). In today’s sermon, we shall learn about three instances in Joseph’s life where he demonstrated faithfulness to the very end.

  1. Joseph Honored His Father (Gen 49:29-50:14). Living by faith, Joseph is able to honor his father. Jacob’s wish was to be buried in the place where Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, and Leah were buried. Jacob did not want his body to be buried in Egypt, but in the land promised to Abraham. For this reason, Joseph told Pharaoh, “my father made me take an oath, saying, ‘I am about to die. You must bury me there in the tomb that I made for myself in the land of Canaan.’” Pharaoh agreed and Joseph carried out his father’s wishes and then returned to Egypt.
    Joseph was a man of his word and understood the significance of his father’s request. The cave in which Jacob was buried was purchased by his grandfather Abraham (Gen 23) in order to bury Sarah (Abraham’s wife). Jacob wanted to be buried in this location because he knew that all this land was promised to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. His burial in the land of Canaan is a testimony to his faith that his descendants will inherit the land.
  1. Joseph Comforted His Brothers (Gen 50:15-21). Living by faith, Joseph is able to comfort his brothers. Joseph had already forgiven his brothers for their sinful act of selling him into slavery (Gen 45). Joseph told them that “God sent me ahead of you to preserve life” (Gen 45:5). Joseph’s brothers, however, thought that Joseph would change his mind now that their father had died. They were afraid that Joseph was only being nice to them in order to see Jacob again and in order to spare Jacob from more pain. With their father gone, they said to one another “If Joseph is holding a grudge against us, he will certainly repay us for all the suffering we caused him” (Gen 50:15). They devised a plan to say that it was Jacob who “gave a command: ‘Say this to Joseph: Please forgive your brothers…” (Gen 50:17). When Joseph heard their message, he wept.
    Joseph wept because his brothers apparently did not believe him when he said he forgave them. Joseph told the brothers that it was God who has ordered the circumstances of his life for good so that many people would be saved. Joseph told them directly, “You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present result ​— ​the survival of many people” (Gen 50:20). The brothers sinned grievously against Joseph, but Joseph refused to hold a grudge because he knew that God—not his brothers—was in control of his life. Joseph was able to see the goodness of God at work, even bringing goodness out of the evil of others. He trusted that God was guiding his steps. Being faithful to the end, Joseph “comforted them and spoke kindly to them” (Gen 50:21).
  1. Joseph Trusted His God (Gen 50:22-26). Living by faith, Joseph is able to trust God. In verse 24, Joseph demonstrated this when he told his brothers, “I am about to die, but God will certainly come to your aid and bring you up from this land to the land He swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” Joseph had confidence that the children of Israel would be brought back to the land promised to Abraham. He made his belief clear when he made his brothers take an oath, “When God come to your aid, you are to carry my bones up from here.” Moses would later fulfill this instruction (Ex. 13:19) and Joseph’s remains were eventually buried at Shechem (Josh. 24:32).
    How was Joseph able to endure faithfully to the very end? Joseph knew that the Lord is faithful. Joseph knew that the Lord is true to His word and guiding his steps. Troubles and trials did not cause Joseph’s faith to fail, they were used by God to strengthen his faith. In every situation, Joseph saw the mercy and goodness of God on display.

Are you worried that you will not be faithful to the end? If so, resist the temptation to base your confidence on yourself and your own obedience. Instead, see that the only true confidence comes from the righteousness of Christ that has been granted to you by grace and received by faith. Remember, you did not earn your salvation by your goodness and you cannot lose your salvation by a lack of goodness. We can endure and be faithful to the end because our salvation does not ultimately rest upon our faithfulness, but on the faithfulness of Christ. Consider carefully these words from the Apostle Paul to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:11-13): “This saying is trustworthy:

For if we died with him,
we will also live with him;
if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he will also deny us;
if we are faithless, he remains faithful,
for he cannot deny himself”

Joseph: Faith Accepts the Unexpected (Gen 46-48)

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Rembrandt – Jacob Blessing Joseph’s sons (Public Domain)

Does God always do what you expect Him to do when you expect Him to do it? If we are honest, the answer is an emphatic “No”. This is because God is not as interested in our schedule (or to-do list) as He is His own. Our God—who “works all things according to the counsel of His will” (Eph 1:11)—does not always do what we expect Him to do[1]. Genuine faith accepts the unexpected because it knows that God’s will is always right. As we get back to our study of Genesis we will move quickly through chapters 46-47 and focus on 48. In Genesis 46-47, Jacob arrived in Egypt and reunited with his son Joseph (Gen 46). Joseph was in charge of managing the affairs of Pharaoh and did so well so that many people were saved from death (Gen 47). In Genesis 48 we learn that when it came time for Jacob to meet Joseph’s sons and bless them, he gave the greater blessing to Joseph’s younger son instead of his older son. This was an unexpected act and it was done in faith (Heb 11:21). Let us examine more closely how this unexpected action was faith and faithfully received.

  1. Willing to cross your arms. We read in Genesis 48:10 that Jacob’s “eyesight was poor because of his old age; he could hardly see.” Joseph placed his older son Manasseh near Jacob’s right hand. He then placed his younger son Ephraim near Jacob’s left hand. This was intentional because the right hand symbolized greater authority and blessing. Therefore, Joseph thought it right that the greater blessing from Jacob go to his older son. But, “Israel stretched out his right hand and put it on the head of Ephraim, the younger, and crossing his hands, put his left on Manasseh’s head, although Manasseh was the firstborn” (Gen 48:14). Jacob then gave his blessing to Joseph and the sons. He praised God for being his shepherd who has “redeemed me from all harm” (Gen 48:16).
    Why did Jacob cross his arms? While we are told that his eyesight was poor and that he could hardly see, this was not done accidentally but intentionally. Why did he intentionally place the right hand on the younger son and bestow the greater blessing upon him? Because he discerned the will of God and acted accordingly. We shall see in the next section that there are times when obedience to the will of God causes others to protest.
  1. Willing to keep your arms crossed. When Joseph saw that his father crossed his arms, “he thought it was a mistake and took his father’s hand to move it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s.” Joseph said, ““Not that way, my father! This one is the firstborn. Put your right hand on his head.” Jacob refused to move his hands because he knew this was God’s will. Jacob told Joseph, “I know, my son, I know! He too will become a tribe, and he too will be great; nevertheless, his younger brother will be greater than he, and his offspring will become a populous nation.
    Joseph thought Jacob’s action was a mistake. But, as we learned earlier, Jacob had discerned the will of God in this matter and acted accordingly. Jacob was insistent that the blessing was to be bestowed in this manner and refused to uncross his arms. There are times when the Spirit of God will call you to do something that others (even fellow Christians) consider foolish. Rest assured, however, that obedience is never foolish. When we are confident of God’s will, we must act accordingly; regardless of what others say.
  1. Willing to allow the arms to remain crossed. Joseph thought his father’s actions were a mistake. He thought that Jacob messed up because of his poor eyesight, but did not realize that Jacob could see spiritually far better than he could see physically. After an initial protest, Joseph accepted his father’s action in faith as the will of God. Joseph demonstrated this by taking his hands off of Jacob’s hands. Joseph made the faithful choice to accept God’s will rather than to resist it. Jacob’s blessing for Ephraim came true in that Ephraim became a very important tribe of Israel. Also, it is worth noting that Joshua came from Ephraim (Num 13:8).

God always does what is good and always calls us to do what is morally right. God will never direct us to sin; we may be confident of that. But, God does not always do what we expect Him to do. If we are unsure of what we should do, we must always pray for God to give us wisdom and guidance. We must seek God’s will through God’s Word. If anything contradicts the clear teaching of Scripture, it must be rejected. Having said that, many times God’s way is not what we expect. Faith accepts the unexpected because God’s way is always best. Let us therefore:

  • Be willing to cross our arms in obedience. When the Lord guides our steps over unexpected paths, let us boldly walk in obedience.
  • Be willing to keep our arms crossed. When we step out in obedience to the Lord, let us hold to our conviction without wavering because, as Paul wrote in Galatians 1:10, “am I striving to please people? If I were still striving to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.
  • Be willing to allow the arms to remain crossed. When we see other Christians following Christ in a way we do not expect, we must be very careful. We must first examine whether or not they are sinning and rebelling against God. If so, we must seek to bring them back. If they are not sinning, we must refuse to be a stumbling block to them. Accept God’s will and do not resist it.

[1] Unexpected, but not sinful. God will never do anything that contradicts His character and holiness.

Joseph: Forgiveness Instead of Vengeance (Gen 43-45)

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Owen Jones Courtesy of OldBookArt.com

It has been said that revenge is a dish best served cold. I am not sure if that is true, but I do know that it is a dish that does not satisfy. Revenge may feel good, but the good feeling sours quickly. In fact, revenge never satisfies. Vengeance is a trap of the Devil meant for your destruction. Laura Hillenbrand wrote in her book Unbroken, “The paradox of vengefulness is that it makes men dependent upon those who have harmed them, believing that their release from pain will come only when their tormentors suffer.” Vengeance promises freedom but never delivers because “vengeance belongs to the Lord” (Rom 12:19), not to us. How can we avoid the trap of vengeance? Consider:

  1. A Test of Jealousy (Gen 43). In Genesis 43, it is year 2 of the 7 year famine and Jacob’s family is quickly running out of food. Previously, Jacob resisted sending Benjamin down to Egypt with the other brothers even though Simeon was in an Egyptian prison. Jacob, seeing no other option, finally sent them down for more grain saying, “May God Almighty grant you mercy before the man, and may he send back your other brother and Benjamin” (Gen 43:14). When the brothers arrived in Egypt, they were brought to Joseph’s house for a meal. Joseph, still unknown, used this meal to test his brothers. Joseph ensured that his younger brother Benjamin was privileged above the others. Would this favoritism expose their jealousy of Benjamin? Joseph did this to see how the other brothers would react.
  2. A Test of Repentance (Gen 44). After the meal, Joseph tested his brothers again. He told his steward to “put my cup, the silver cup, in the mouth of the sack of the youngest” (Gen 44:2). After the brothers left, Joseph’s steward overtook them on the road. The steward found the cup in Benjamin’s sack and said he would enslave Benjamin as punishment. Judah spoke up in defense of Benjamin and offered to take Benjamin’s punishment. It is important to note that Judah was willing to sacrifice himself on behalf of Benjamin. This is significant because 20 years earlier Judah was the one who suggested selling Joseph into slavery (Gen 37:26-27). Judah’s impassioned speech is based on concern for his father. He is willing to suffer loss for the sake of others. Joseph’s tests are over at this point.
  3. Forgiveness instead of Vengeance (Gen 45:1-15). After Judah’s speech, Joseph could not contain himself any longer and he revealed his identity to them. In doing so, he chose forgiveness instead of vengeance. How did he do it? Consider:
    1. Choosing Forgiveness. Joseph never forgot what his brothers did to him. He said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt.” While he never forgot what his brothers did to him, he never allowed their sin to destroy his confidence in the Lord. Joseph’s love for the Lord was greater than his hatred for his brothers. He was able to forgive his brothers. Forgiving does not mean forgetting; it means refusing to avenge yourself and use what has happened as a weapon against someone else. Forgiveness is not weakness. It takes great faith to forgive.
    2. Refusing Vengeance. Joseph forgave his brothers and told them, “You shall dwell in the land of Goshen…there I will provide for you, for there are yet five years of famine to come, so that you and your household, and all that you have do not come to poverty.” Joseph demonstrated his forgiveness by refusing to avenge himself and instead sought to be a blessing to his brothers. He promised to take care of them all. Joseph cared about them. He was freed from thoughts of revenge and was filled with love. God’s love breaks the bondage of hatred.
    3. Trusting God. How was Joseph able to forsake vengeance and choose forgiveness? The answer lies in what he told his brothers in verse 5, “And now don’t be grieved or angry with yourselves for selling me here, because God sent me ahead of you to preserve life.” He then said, “God sent me ahead of you to establish you as a remnant within the land and to keep you alive by a great deliverance.” Joseph was able to forgive because he knew that God—not his brothers—was in control of his life. Joseph was able to see the goodness of God at work, even bringing goodness out of the evil of others. He trusted that God was guiding his steps.
  4. A Joyful Celebration (Gen 45:16-28). After Joseph revealed his identity to his brothers, word got out to Pharaoh. Pharaoh rejoiced with Joseph and instructed him to bring all of his family to Egypt. They shall dwell in the land of Goshen and be protected during the remaining five years of famine. When the brothers got back to Jacob they told him, “Joseph is still alive, and he is ruler over all the land of Egypt!” Upon hearing this, “Jacob was stunned, for he did not believe them.” Remember, Jacob was presented with Joseph’s coat 20 years earlier and was led to believe he died. Now he is told that Joseph is alive and ruling Egypt. But, after seeing the good and materials, “the spirit of their father revived. Then Israel said, ‘Enough! My son Joseph is still alive. I will go to see him before I die.’“

Francis Bacon once wrote, “This is certain, that a man who studieth [is consumed with] revenge keeps his own wounds green [fresh], which otherwise would heal, and do well.” In order for our wounds to heal, we must go to our Healer. Let God avenge you and heal you. Do you want to be freed from the bondage of vengeance? Hand it over to God and trust that He will repay justly. Receive from Him peace that will allow you to forgive others. Vengeance is a trap. Avoid it at all costs. Entrust yourself to Jesus. Choose forgiveness and forsake vengeance.

Joseph: According to Plan (Genesis 41)

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By Didier Descouens – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48178134

Knowing that God is in control might not make your circumstances any easier, but it will make it easier to endure your circumstances. For example, Joseph knew that God was in control of his life. Even though it did not make his time in an Egyptian dungeon any easier, knowing that God is in control enabled him to have peace during this difficult time. As we pick up the story of Joseph in Genesis 41, we remember that chapter 40 ended with Joseph seemingly forgotten in an Egyptian dungeon. In our sermon, we will learn that Joseph was not forgotten, but was just where God wanted him and that everything was going according to plan.

  1. God’s Plan includes Sovereign Control (1-8). In verses 1-8, we are told that Pharaoh had two dreams. In the first dream, there were “seven healthy-looking, well-fed cows” coming out of the Nile river. They were followed by “seven other cows, sickly and thin.” Alarmingly, the seven sick cows ate the seven healthy cows. In the second dream, “seven heads of grain, plump and good, came up on one stalk.” After them, “seven heads of grain, thin and scorched by the east wind, sprouted up.” Similar to the first dream, the seven sick heads of grain “swallowed up” the seven healthy heads of grain. When Pharaoh woke up from the last dream, “he was troubled so he summoned all the magicians of Egypt and all its wise men…but no one could interpret them for him.”
    God’s plan includes His sovereign control over all of His creation. Pharaoh’s dreams were the result of God’s grace. As we read later in verse 25, “God has revealed to Pharaoh what He is about to do.” Notice that God is revealing what God intends to do. It is a gracious act on God’s part to make Pharaoh aware of what was going to happen in the future.
  1. God’s Plan involves Faithful Testimony (9-36). After Pharaoh announced that he had a dream that no one could interpret, the chief cupbearer remembered Joseph. He told Pharaoh that “a young Hebrew, a slave of the captain of the guards, was with us there. We told him our dreams and he interpreted our dreams…it turned out just as he had interpreted.” Pharaoh sent for Joseph from the dungeon and told him “I have had a dream, and no one can interpret it. But I have heard it said about you that you can hear a dream and interpret it.” Joseph replied: “I am not able to,” Joseph answered Pharaoh. “It is God who will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.” After hearing the dreams Joseph answered “Pharaoh’s dreams mean the same thing. God has revealed to Pharaoh what He is about to do.” The seven healthy cows and seven healthy heads of grain represent “seven years of great abundance.” The seven sickly cows and worthless heads of grain represent “seven years of famine that will take place, and all the abundance of the land of Egypt will be forgotten. The famine will devastate the land.
    God’s plan includes His follower’s faithfully testifying to the goodness and power of God. God not only sent the dreams to Pharaoh but sent an interpreter. Joseph made it clear to Pharaoh that it is God, not Joseph, that will give Pharaoh the interpretation. Joseph understood that the message was God’s and that he was simply the messenger. Joseph not only faithfully interpreted the contents of the dream but faithfully interpreted the application of the dream. In verses 33-36, Joseph said,
    So now, let Pharaoh look for a discerning and wise man and set him over the land of Egypt…take a fifth of the harvest of the land of Egypt during the seven years of abundance. Let them gather all the excess food during the good years…the food will be a reserve for the land during the seven years of famine.” There are no coincidences with God. God, in His Divine wisdom, has appointed for Joseph to be in the right place at the right time.
  1. God’s Plan blesses Faithful Servants (37-57). Joseph’s proposal pleased Pharaoh and he made Joseph second in command of all of Egypt. He said, “Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one as discerning and wise as you are.” Pharaoh put Joseph in charge of the plan and the Lord prospered His work. During the seven years of plenty, the excess food was stored. When the famine spread across the whole region, “Joseph opened all the storehouses and sold grain to the people.” Not only did the stored grain provide for Egypt, but “every land came to Joseph in Egypt to buy grain, for the famine was severe in every land.”
    God’s plan is a blessing to all, but especially to His faithful servants. Joseph was thirty years old when he became the second in command in Egypt. Joseph was seventeen when we learned that he was sold into slavery by his brothers. During these past thirteen years of Jacob’s life, we have seen him faithfully serve God in spite of the circumstances. Joseph knew that God was good and was obedient in every situation. We now read about Joseph being a blessing to others. True faithfulness is evident in the life of believers at all times. If you are not cheerfully giving of your current income, you will not cheerfully give after a raise. If you are not faithful in the little things, you will not be faithful in much (Luke 16:10). Joseph was just as faithful in prison as he was in Pharaoh’s palace. The secret is that our faithfulness is not tied to what we have but to the One we serve!

God has a wonderful plan for your life. God’s plan for your life is never promised to be easy, but it is wonderful because it involves you becoming more like Jesus. Knowing “that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28), you can have peace during difficult days. If we believe that God is in control of all things, we have no reason to panic. If, however, we believe that God is not in control and we are subject to “chance”, “fate”, and “luck”, we have plenty of reasons to panic. Entrust your life to Jesus. As Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.”

Joseph: A Guilty Conscience (Genesis 42)

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A guilty conscience must not be ignored. A guilty conscience is the result of unresolved guilt and unresolved guilt manifests itself in misery. Two famous literary examples of guilt are found in Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart and William Shakespeare’s Macbeth. In The Tell-Tale Heart, a guilty man hears the heartbeat of the man he murdered growing louder until he confesses his crime. In Macbeth, Lady Macbeth subconsciously washes her hands in order to wash the blood of those she and her husband have murdered. One of the famous lines she utters is, “Here’s the smell of blood still. All perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand.” What does Lady Macbeth and the man in The Tell-Tale Heart have in common with Joseph’s brothers in Genesis 42? They all have a guilty conscience that must not be ignored. Today, we shall learn that the cure for a guilty conscience is not to forget but to repent.

  1. You Never Forget. As Genesis 42 begins, the famine has spread to the Promised Land and Jacob sent his 10 oldest sons to Egypt to buy grain. Upon arriving, the brothers were unaware that the Egyptian official they meet is actually their brother Joseph (the one they sold into slavery twenty years prior). Joseph recognized them but “treated them like strangers and spoke harshly to them” (Gen 42:7). He accused them of being spies and imprisoned them for three days. He then released all but Simeon and instructed them to bring back their youngest brother Benjamin. It is clear that Joseph’s brothers never forgot what they did to him. In Genesis 42:21-22, they say to one another “Obviously, we are being punished for what we did to our brother. We saw his deep distress when he pleaded with us, but we would not listen. That is why this trouble has come to us.” But Reuben replied: ‘Didn’t I tell you not to harm the boy? But you wouldn’t listen. Now we must account for his blood!’
  2. God Never Forgets. Joseph’s brothers never forgot the sin they committed against Joseph and the fact that their consciences were awakened at this meeting means that God was working in their hearts to bring them to repentance. They were convinced that their current distress was the result of their sin against Joseph. They remembered “the distress of his soul” and said to one another this is “why this distress has come upon us.” In the midst of difficulty, it is wise to examine yourself to see if there is any unconfessed sin in your life. In this instance, they are correct. God had ordained this situation to come to pass in order to save the children of Israel. This present situation is ultimately part of God’s faithfulness to fulfill His promises to Abraham. God also brought the ten older brothers to Joseph in order to awaken their guilty consciences so that the brothers would recognize their great sin and repent.
  3. Those Affected Never Forget. The ten older brothers begin to understand their sin and are starting to turn back to the Lord after their encounter with Joseph in Egypt. They are still unwilling to be honest with their father about Joseph, but they faithfully relate to Jacob all that transpired in Egypt and the Egyptian officials request to see Benjamin. Jacob became furious and said, “It’s me that you make childless. Joseph is gone, and Simeon is gone. Now you want to take Benjamin. Everything happens to me!” Reuben, desiring to make things right, foolishly offers to put his sons to death if anything happened to Benjamin, but even that did not appease Jacob. The chapter ends with Jacob answering, “My son will not go down with you, for his brother is dead and he alone is left. If anything happens to him on your journey, you will bring my gray hairs down to Sheol in sorrow.” Jacob stubbornly refuses to forget.
  4. Do Not Forget, Repent! Since no one forgets, what shall we do? Repent! Our conscience helps us repent if we are willing to listen. Our conscience is a gift from God designed to help us have a moral awareness of right and wrong. It has been corrupted by the Fall of Adam and Eve (Genesis 3), but still operates so as to leave no excuse for sin (Rom 1:21). The conscience is very important. Those who heed the voice of their conscience will find its voice grow stronger, but those who ignore the voice of their conscience will find its voice grow fainter. A neglected or ignored conscience may become “defiled” (Titus 1:15) or “seared” (1 Tim 4:2). If you are not a Christian: (1) Admit to God that you are a sinner and repent. Repentance is a change of mind that results in a change of action. Turn away from your selfish, sinful life and turn to Jesus Christ, (2) Believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. Believe that Jesus is who the Bible says He is. Believe that He can save you, and (3) Confess your faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Accept Him as your boss/Lord. Turn over control of your life to Him and follow Him. Forsake all other ways, knowing that they are false.

Christians have a conscience that is empowered by the Holy Spirit and are held accountable to strive to have a clear/good conscience (Acts 24:16, 1 Tim 1:5). How do we have a clear/good conscience? The first thing we must do is to remember that “if we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (Gal 5:25). Strive for holiness and live a righteous life. But what do we do when we sin and our guilty conscience is awakened?

  1. Step 1: Remember – Remember that Jesus has forgiven you of all your sins. There is “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1). You have not committed the unforgiveable sin. Remember great love and mercy.
  2. Step 2: Resolve – Confess all of your sins to God. Do not withhold anything from Him in confession. Ask Him to search your heart (Psalm 139:23-24) and reveal anything you may have missed. Let His great love for you fuel your love for Him and confess all.
  3. Step 3: Reconcile – After you have confessed to God, He will guide you to reconcile with others with whom you have sinned against. Go humbly and honestly and do not hide or justify yourself. Allow God’s love to fuel your love for them and attempt to reconcile.
  4. Step 4: Rest – You can have peace regardless of what the other person thinks, says, or does. Once you have peace with God, you have peace in your heart and can live at peace in all situations. Truly, you cannot put a price tag on a clear conscience.

Why do we think we can silence our guilty conscience by trying to forget? The cure for a guilty conscience is not to forget but to repent. The only answer for a guilty conscience is Jesus. Only Jesus can remove the guilt and replace it with peace. Are you struggling with guilt? Are you needlessly miserable by your past failings? Come to Jesus and be healed.

Joseph: Ministering in Misery (Genesis 40)

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Joseph Interprets the Dreams – Foster’s Bible Pictures (Public Domain)

Are you a fair-weather fan? Fair-weather fans only show their support during the good times. For devoted fans, being called a fair-weather fan is an insult. They might reply: “I support my team win or lose because I’m committed!” A more important question is: “Do you have a fair-weather faith?” In other words, is it only visible during the good times? Fair-weather faith is deadly because it is not true, saving faith. True faith is revealed during the good times and the bad times. Specifically, true faith endures in adversity. In Genesis 40, we witness Joseph’s faith in the Lord on display in the midst of great hardship. As we study Genesis 40, let us examine ourselves by asking three important questions:
  1. Does adversity diminish your empathy? (1-7) Poor Joseph. He was mistreated on two previous occasions. First, his brothers sold him into slavery. Second, Potiphar’s wife falsely accused him of rape. The result of the first was Joseph being sold into slavery in a foreign land. The result of the second was Joseph confined in an Egyptian prison. The good news for Joseph was that the Lord continued to sustain him and make his work successful. Even in the midst of adversity, Joseph was aware that the Lord was with him and his faith grew. For example, in verse 7, Joseph asked two of his fellow prisoners an ironic question: “Why do you look so sad today?” It is ironic because they are all in an Egyptian prison, but this question reveals that Joseph actually cared about these men. Why would he care? Joseph had genuine faith that enabled him to have empathy for others. His empathy was not diminished by adversity. This is why Joseph asked his fellow prisoners, “why do you look so sad today?” Faith sustains even in misery and gives a genuine love for others. We are able to take our eyes off of ourselves long enough to see the needs of others and have concern for them. One reason God allows us to suffer is to empathize with others who suffer. We comfort others with the comfort we receive (1 Corinthians 1:3-4).

  2. Does adversity devour your ministry? (8-19) Both the baker and the cupbearer had dreams they could not interpret. Look closely at how Joseph replied, “Don’t interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams.” Consider for a moment that Joseph is in prison for a crime he did not commit. He is only in this foreign land because his brothers mistreated him by selling him into slavery. In spite of all of Joseph’s adversity, he desired to be a faithful instrument in the Lord’s hands. Joseph told the baker and the cupbearer what the dreams meant. What did the dreams mean? The cupbearer’s dream indicated that he was going to be released from prison and restored to his position. The baker’s dream indicated that he was going to be hanged. Joseph’s faith in the Lord enabled him to minister to others. His ministry was not devoured by adversity. For instance, Joseph was not complaining in prison; he was ministering in prison. He could have decided that he did not want to serve the Lord if it led to prison, but he knew that God had enabled him to interpret dreams and did not withhold his gifting in the presence of adversity. Faith sustains you in the hard times and fuels your ministry in the midst of adversity. Do you only serve God when you feel well? Do you only minister to others when you are doing well yourself? Have you considered that the difficult moments in your life are allowed by God to reveal the genuineness of your faith?

  3. Does adversity destroy your faith? (20-23) Chapter 40 ends on a somber note. Joseph empathized with the cupbearer and baker and interpreted their dreams. Joseph specifically asked the cupbearer in verse 14, “when all goes well with you, remember that I was with you. Please show kindness to me by mentioning me to Pharaoh, and get me out of this prison.” Joseph knew the Lord’s interpretation of the dreams was true because he did not ask the baker to remember him because the baker was going to die. Sadly, in verse 23, the cupbearer was released “Yet…did not remember Joseph; he forgot him.” How long did he forget him? The very next verse tells us that two years passed before the cupbearer remembered his promise to Joseph. It is easy to ask where is God in all of this? Why is God allowing Joseph to suffer in prison? Chuck Swindoll said, “It would have been so easy, it would have felt so right, for Joseph to become bitter and revengeful. But, he chose, instead, to patiently endure prison. And the Lord gave him an inner peace, as well as favor in the eyes of those around him.” Joseph’s faith in the Lord enabled him to endure adversity. His faith was not destroyed by adversity. Even when things did not go according to his plan, Joseph trusted the Lord and was able to endure.

Joseph did not have a fair-weather faith; he was committed. Joseph’s life illustrates the endurance of faith in adversity. True faith endures through hardship because it is not dependent on good times; it is dependent upon Jesus Christ. Take some time this week to examine your faith in adversity:
  • Does adversity diminish your empathy? Do you genuinely care about other people? Or are you only concerned with yourself and what you are going through?

  • Does adversity devour your ministry? God calls His followers to serve Him at all times. Regardless of whether things are good or bad, Jesus is always worthy of worship, praise, and service.

  • Does adversity destroy your faith? True faith endures! Do not let the devil cause you to distrust the Lord during difficult times. Trust Him and depend upon Him. He will sustain you in the faith, if you have genuine faith.

 

Joseph: Resisting Temptation (Genesis 39)

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Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife, by Guido Reni 1631

Out of the frying pan and into the fire! When we last left Joseph, his brothers—who hated him—came very close to killing him. They resented him for being the favorite child and for his dream of being their ruler one day. They relented on murder, however, and decided instead to sell him into slavery to some traders going to Egypt. The traders then “sold Joseph in Egypt to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh and the captain of the guards” (Gen 37:36). In our sermon today we shall continue the story of Joseph and learn that only by resting in faith are you able to resist temptation. How do we rest in faith? Consider:

  1. Recognize that the Lord Grants Success (1-6). Joseph was sold into the service of Potiphar and quickly became successful in Potiphar’s house. Verse 2 tells us that he was successful because “the Lord was with Joseph.” Potiphar recognized this. Verse 3 says, “When his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord made everything he did successful, Joseph found favor with his master.” In verse 6, “[Potiphar] left all that he owned under Joseph’s authority.”
    Joseph was very successful. Verse 5 tells us that “the Lord’s blessing was on all that [Potiphar] owned.” Success in life comes from the Lord. He is the One through whom all blessings flow. James wrote “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17). Success is not dependent on your goodness, intellect, beauty, or charm. This is important to remember because it serves to keep us humble and dependent on God. Resting in faith means that you recognize that everything good in your life is a gift from God. This produces humility and gratitude. This helps you resist pride and arrogance.
  1. Remember that the Devil Brings Temptation (7-20). At the end of verse 6 we see an ominous signal of what is to come. In verse 7 we are told that Potiphar’s wife “looked longingly at Joseph and said, ‘Sleep with me.’” Joseph refused saying that he has been entrusted with everything of Potiphar’s with the exception of his wife. He could not violate the trust of Potiphar, but more importantly for Joseph, he said: “How could I do this immense evil, and how could I sin against God?” (9). This was not a one-time proposal. Apparently, Potiphar’s wife “spoke to Joseph day after day” (10). We do not know how much time transpired but eventually she “grabbed him by his garment and said, ‘Sleep with me!’”. Joseph left his garment and escaped by running outside. Potiphar’s wife lied to her husband saying that Joseph tried to rape her. Potiphar “had him thrown into prison” (20).
    Having a humble attitude towards success and recognizing that it comes from God will help you when your world comes crashing down around you. Success is not guaranteed in this life, but temptation and trials are. Joseph was tempted by Potiphar’s wife. In this situation, as with all temptations there are three aspects: the world, the flesh, and the devil. First, Potiphar’s wife (the world) desired Joseph and was willing to sin against her husband. She was persistent in tempting Joseph. Second, Joseph (the flesh) had a difficult decision to make. Do I gratify my selfish desires or do I resist? James mentioned in James 1:14, “each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desire.” Joseph refused to give into his own evil desire and resisted Potiphar’s wife’s advances. Third, the devil encouraged and used the sinful desires of Potiphar’s wife as a means to seek to ruin Joseph. While Potiphar’s wife was the means of enticement, rest assured that it was the devil setting the trap. The devil is evil and always seeking “to steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10). He is “like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8b). We must therefore “be sober minded and watchful” (1 Peter 5:8a). Resting in faith can enable you to resist temptation in all its forms.
  1. Resolve to be Faithful in Failure (21-23). From a worldly perspective, Joseph was an utter failure. For those who believed the accusation, Joseph threw all his success away by failing to control himself. In Potiphar’s mind, Joseph should die in prison for his treachery. But, we know that Joseph is innocent of the charges and is falsely accused. God knows that Joseph resisted temptation and we read in verse 21 that “the Lord was with Joseph and extended kindness to him. He granted him favor with the prison warden.” Just as the Lord prospered Joseph in Potiphar’s house, “the warden did not bother with anything under Joseph’s authority, because the Lord was with him, and the Lord made everything that he did successful” (23).
    Joseph understood that faithfulness to God is of the utmost importance. Faithfulness is far better than sin. It does not matter where you are or what it costs you; be obedient. We also learn that Joseph’s worship and praise of God are not dependent upon his success in this life. Success and failure are opportunities to praise and glorify God. Joseph knew that, while it is true that success comes from the Lord, He will also permit suffering in your life in order to mature your faith. Peter speaks of the “tested genuineness of your faith” (1 Peter 1:7). Resting in faith means that you remember that the real enemy is the devil. This produces a hatred of evil and sin. It also helps you remember that other people are not the enemy, but captives being used against you for your ruin.

Jesus told His disciples “you will have suffering in this world” (John 16:33). But, He also said that we should be courageous and have peace because He has “overcome the world” (John 16:33). Temptation will come to you. The devil will use the world to entice you to sin against God. It may often feel as if you have gotten out of the frying pan and into the fire! Rest in faith and resist temptation. Love God more than yourself. Love God more than your sin. Live a life of faith.

Joseph: Cherished Son; Despised Brother; Beloved of God (Genesis 37)

The Story of Joseph
Cherished Son; Despised Brother; Beloved of God (Genesis 37)

Giovanni_Andrea_de_Ferrari_-_'Joseph's_Coat_Brought_to_Jacob',_oil_on_canvas,_c._1640,_El_Paso_Museum_of_Art
Joseph’s Coat being shown to Jacob (Public Domain in USA.)

God has a wonderful plan for your life! God’s wonderful plan includes “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal 5:22-23), “persecution” (2 Tim 3:12), “hardships…affliction”, (2 Cor 4:9), “great sorrow and unceasing anguish” (Rom 9:2). God’s plan for your life is never promised to be easy, but it is wonderful because it involves you becoming more like Jesus. Today our sermon series in Genesis continues with the story of Joseph. We begin in Genesis 37 where we learn that Joseph is a cherished son and a despised brother. Most importantly, however, we learn that Joseph is beloved by God. God had a wonderful plan for Joseph’s life that included many trials and troubles that God helped Joseph endure. We shall see that Joseph is:

Cherished Son (1-11)

Father’s Selfish Love (1-4). Jacob loved his son Joseph more than all his other children because he was “the son of his old age” (3). Joseph was the favorite son of the favorite wife—Rachel. Do you see the problem brewing in the family? Jacob showed favoritism. This preferential treatment of Joseph is given at the expense of the other brothers. Maybe Joseph is oblivious to it or maybe he is using it, but in verse 2 Joseph “brought a bad report” of his brothers to their father. This shows that Joseph is alienated from his brothers. In addition to this, Jacob gave Joseph a special robe to demonstrate his love to him. Joseph’s brothers were enraged with the favoritism and in verse 4 we read: “when his brothers saw that their father loved him [Joseph] more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not bring themselves to speak peaceably to him” (4). Joseph’s father’s selfish love is a cause of contention in the family.

God’s Sovereign Love (5-11). In verse 5 we are told about Joseph’s dreams. These dreams are special because they are revelations from God to show what will happen to Jacob’s family—especially Joseph. In the first dream Joseph said they were binding sheaves in the field. Then “my sheaf stood up, and your sheaves gathered around it and bowed down to my sheaf” (7). The brothers instantly knew what this dream meant as they said to Joseph, “Are you really going to reign over us?” (8). Joseph had another dream and in this one “the sun, moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me” (9). Once again the interpretation of this dream was not difficult to ascertain. Jacob replied, “What kind of dream is this that you have had…Am I and your mother and your brothers really going to come and bow down to the ground before you?” (10). These dreams were given to Joseph by God to reveal that God would raise up Joseph as a ruler and his father and family were going to acknowledge his authority.

Despised Brother (12-36)

Brother’s Bitter Rage (12-20, 23-28). The bad report and the special robe were hard for the brothers to endure and they “hated him” (4). The dreams, however, were the breaking point. After the first dream, “they hated him even more” (8) and his brothers “were jealous of him” (11). Jacob sent Joseph to check on the brothers who were watching their father’s flocks. Verse 18 says the brothers “saw him in the distance, and before he had reached them, they plotted to kill him” (18). They called Joseph the “dream expert” (CSB) or more literally, the “the lord of the dreams” (19). Their resentment for Joseph was so strong that they plotted to murder him. They wanted to kill him to “see what becomes of his dreams” (20). In other words, let’s kill him and see whether or not we bow down before him.

Reuben’s Selfish Mercy (21-22, 29-35). Joseph is saved through the actions of his eldest brother Reuben. When “Reuben heard this, he tried to save him from them” (21). Reuben wanted to “rescue him from them and return him to his father” (22). Sometime after this Reuben left the brothers. While he was gone, the other brothers decided to throw Joseph into a pit. Then they sold him into slavery to Midianite traders who were traveling to Egypt. When Reuben returned he saw that Joseph was not in the pit. He said to his brothers, “The boy is gone! What am I going to do?” (30). Reuben’s desire to save Joseph was noble but Reuben was most likely thinking about himself more than Joseph. Remember that Reuben was the one who sought to overthrow his father by sinning against him with Jacob’s wife, Bilhah (Gen 35:22). Reuben might have thought this would be a good way to get back in his father’s good favor. This is indicated by Reuben’s response: Reuben did not say, “Poor Joseph!” but “what am I going to do?”.

God’s Sovereign Grace (1-36). While it is true that Reuben acted to prevent the murder of Joseph, it is more important to note that God is the One who graciously protected Joseph from the rage of his brothers. It was God who allowed Joseph to be sent to Egypt and not killed. In fact, all throughout Joseph’s story we will observe God graciously protecting Joseph from great harm. Joseph is not protected from all harm, but is preserved so that God’s wonderful plan to save the people of Israel would come to fruition. If we fast forward to the end of Joseph’s story we find Joseph saying to his brothers: “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present result ​— ​the survival of many people” (Gen 50:20). God’s plans for Joseph—revealed in his dreams—were not going to be thwarted by jealous brothers (or anyone else).

Beloved of God

The story of Joseph is wonderful because it is a reminder that God’s love for His children is unwavering and unconditional. As we continue this study of Joseph’s life, let us be comforted that we belong to Jesus. He is our Lord. He is our Savior. God is faithful to guide our steps. We must be faithful wherever we are because we are confident that God has intentionally placed us here. Rest in the peace of God knowing that He has a wonderful plan for your life. When this wonderful plan seems difficult, trust that Jesus will guide you every step of the way. Do not give in to fear and worry. Live each day knowing that Jesus is guiding your steps and bringing good to you and to others.

 

My Day of Distress (Genesis 34-35)

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It is good to have confidence in where you are going when you die, but it is also important to have confidence in where you are going when you are alive and in desperate need of help. One of my favorite hymns is “Trusting Jesus” by Edgar Stites. It is a hymn of faith as the author proclaims His unshakeable trust in Jesus in the midst of life’s storms. The refrain is: “Trusting as the moments fly, Trusting as the days go by; Trusting Him whate’er befall, Trusting Jesus, that is all.” It takes faith to trust in Jesus “whate’er befall”. This is the lesson that Jacob has been learning. He said of the Lord that He has “answered me in my day of distress. He has been with me everywhere I have gone” (Gen 35:3). Our prayer is that in our day of distress we will confidently entrust everything to Jesus; trusting that He will preserve us one day at a time.

A Day of Grief and Anger (Genesis 34)

Where do you go for help on a day of pain and suffering? Chapter 34 speaks of a day of distress in Jacob’s family. We learn in this chapter that Dinah (Jacob and Leah’s daughter) has been raped by a man named Shechem. Also, Shechem has decided that he wants to marry her and is keeping her forcibly in his house. Jacob learned what had happened and he remained silent until his sons returned from working in the fields. Dinah’s brothers were understandably “deeply grieved and very angry” (34:7). When Shechem’s father Hamor asked for Dinah to become Shechem’s wife, Jacob’s sons devised a plan for revenge. They would not allow Dinah to marry Shechem until the men of Shechem were circumcised. This was a deceitful plan because after the men were circumcised, two of the brothers—Simeon and Levi—avenged their sister by murdering the men who were still in pain.

A Day of Grief and Death (Genesis 35:8, 16-20, 27-29)

Where do you go for help on a day of grief and death? As Jacob and his family traveled, “Deborah, the one who had nursed and raised Rebekah, died and was buried.” We know that Deborah was greatly loved because Jacob named the place of her burial Allon-Bacuth—which means “Oak of Weeping”. Sometime after this, Rachel “began to give birth, and her labor was difficult.” The birth was so difficult that Rachel began to die. When she was told that she was having a son, “with her last breath she named him Ben-oni”—which means “Son of My Sorrow. Sometime later, Jacob made his way back to see his father Isaac just as he was dying. “Isaac lived 180 years. He took his last breath and died.”

A Day of Grief and Betrayal (35:21-26)

Where do you go for help on a day of grief and betrayal?? Reuben was Jacob’s firstborn son from Leah. Reuben “went in and slept with his father’s concubine Bilhah, and Israel heard about it.” Bilhah was the maid of Rachel who was given to Jacob as a wife/concubine. Bilhah was the mother of Jacob’s sons Dan and Naphtali. This was a sinful act against God because it was sexual immorality. It was also an act of betrayal and disrespect against Jacob because Reuben seeking to usurp the headship of the house from Jacob. Reuben’s plan failed because 1 Chronicles 5:1 tells us even though Reuben was the firstborn “his birthright was given to the sons of Joseph son of Israel, because Reuben defiled his father’s bed.” Jacob mentioned this betrayal in his last words to the sons. Concerning Reuben, he says, “Reuben, you are my firstborn, my strength and the firstfruits of my virility, excelling in prominence, excelling in power. Turbulent as water, you will not excel, because you got into your father’s bed and you defiled it—he got into my bed” (Gen 49:3-4). The saddest thing about betrayal is that it never comes from your enemies.

Our Daily Bread (Genesis 35:1-7,9-15)

Jacob is preserved on every day of distress because God is faithful every day. The Lord told Jacob to return to Bethel. This is significant because of Jacob’s vow when he was at Bethel previously. Jacob’s vow was: “If God will be with me and watch over me during this journey I’m making, if he provides me with food to eat and clothing to wear, and if I return safely to my father’s family, then the Lord will be my God” (Gen 28:20-21). Now Jacob says to his family: “Get rid of the foreign gods that are among you. Purify yourselves and change your clothes. We must get up and go to Bethel. I will build an altar there to the God who answered me in the day of distress. He has been with me everywhere I have gone” (Gen 35:2-3). We can endure every day of distress because of God’s faithfulness (revealed every day). Whom shall I fear? Trusting Him whate’er befall! Trusting Jesus, that is all!

Forgiveness & Reconciliation (Genesis 33)

      

letters-229725_1280A sure sign of Christian maturity is not how well you avoid conflict, but how you respond to conflict. For example, immature Christians are quick to take offense and slow to forgive and seek reconciliation; while mature Christians are slow to take offense and quick to forgive and seek reconciliation. Forgiving a person who has mistreated you and seeking to reconcile with them is not easy. That is what makes it such a powerful picture of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Gospel reveals to us that, in Christ, God forgives our sin and reconciles us with Himself (2 Cor 5:10). In today’s sermon, we shall discuss the reconciliation of Esau and Jacob and be encouraged to seek to be reconciled with others.

  1. God is Merciful to Us. Reconciliation can only occur when each person involved takes responsibility for their own actions. Conflict arises because of sin. Every person struggles with sin and every person must repent of their sin. What leads us to repentance? Romans 2:4 says, “God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance.” God’s mercy provides the initiative for us to forgive and to pursue reconciliation with others. Jacob knows that he must return to the Promised Land and he must take responsibility for his sinful deception of his father and brother. In view of God’s great mercy towards him, Jacob is a much humbler man who seeks to make amends with his brother.
  2. God is Changing Me. Reconciliation is only possible when we release our bitterness and resentment. This can only happen through the gracious power of God at work in your life. God replaces our hatred with love. Our responsibility is to believe and obey God’s prompting. Over the past 20 years God has shown faithful love and mercy to Jacob. In the process, Jacob has been changed by God. If you remember, last week we learned about the angel of the Lord attacking Jacob in order to break him of his self-confidence. Jacob was a deceiver who did everything he could to protect himself, but Israel is a much humbler man who depends upon God. Our God is the God of peace (Heb 13:20) and He calls us to live peaceably (Rom 12:18). If you seek reconciliation with others, trust that this is God’s gracious work in your heart. A desire for reconciliation is a mark of genuine faith. A refusal to seek reconciliation is dangerous because it is a mark of a hypocrite.
  3. God is Changing Us. Forgiveness and reconciliation are not identical. Forgiveness is the decision to give our anger, resentment, etc. to God and to abandon vengeance. Reconciliation concerns the restoration of the relationship. Forgiveness can happen without reconciliation, but reconciliation cannot happen without forgiveness. Both, however, can only occur through the power of God at work in the life of all involved. We are powerless to change others, but God is able. Esau has been changed by God. We are not told what has transpired in the last 20 years but the results are remarkable. Consider that when Jacob left, Esau hated Jacob and plotted to kill him (Gen 27:41). Rebekah heard this and told Jacob to flee to his uncle’s house (Gen 27:42). When Jacob returned, he was afraid because he assumed that Esau still hated him and wanted to kill him. What Jacob did not anticipate is that God was not only changing Jacob’s heart but Esau’s as well. Genesis 33:4 tells us that “Esau ran to meet him and embraced him and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.” Let us trust that just as God is working in us for peace, he is also working in others as well. Let us forgive and pursue reconciliation in the hopes that God is working in our life and others.
  4. God is Glorified in Us. Reconciliation is a glorious picture of the gospel. We know that the conflict between Jacob and Esau was resolved well because the result was peace. Verse 18 tells us that Jacob came safely (peacefully) to the city of Shechem. Jacob and Esau separated and Jacob did something next that reminds us of his grandfather Abraham. In Genesis 21, Abraham planted a tree, dug a well and called on the name of the Lord, the Everlasting God. Jacob built an altar and called it El-Elohe-Israel (God, the God of Israel). This is significant because it is the first instance of Jacob saying that the Lord is his God. Before Jacob would refer to God as the God of my fathers. Reconciliation is a work of grace, to be sought by faith and acknowledged in praise.

Jacob was afraid that Esau still harbored hatred and bitterness. He was pleasantly surprised that Esau had forgiven him and accepted him. Who are you at odds with? Do you harbor bitterness and resentment towards them? Do you believe they harbor bitterness against you? Trust God and reach out to them in love and grace. Seek to reconcile with them. Do so out of love for them and for God. Pray that God uses it as a glorious picture of salvation.

Head, Heart, Hands Study Guide

Begin by praying for God to help you: 1) understand (Head) what the Bible says, 2) to be changed (Heart) by the truths contained, and 3) to apply (Hands) what you have learned. Read Genesis 32 and then answer following questions:

  1. What does the text say? (What happened? What happened next? What happened after that?) Why did Jacob leave his family? (Gen 27) Why is Jacob returning? What is he afraid Esau will do? What does Esau do when he sees Jacob? What reason does Jacob give for not following Esau to Seir? What does Jacob do once he arrives at Shechem? What does El-Elohe-Israel mean?
  2. What does it tell us about God? (Discuss the nature and character of God.) What had God just done to Jacob before Jacob met with Esau? Why did God change Jacob’s name to Israel? What does Israel mean? Why did Jacob erect an altar? Did God answer Jacob’s prayer in Genesis 32:9-12? If not, why not? If so, in what ways? Why, according to Genesis 28:13-15, is Jacob not in danger of Esau?
  3. What does it tell us about ourselves? (What are the human characters in the story doing or not doing that serve as a warning or encouragement to us?) Why is Jacob so nervous about meeting Esau? If God has assured Jacob that he will be blessed when he returns (Genesis 28:13-15, Gen 31:3) to the Promised Land, why is Jacob so fearful? How is it possible that Esau has forgiven Jacob when Jacob was hurtful to Esau? Is it possible for people to change? Is it possible for us to assume incorrectly? Discuss this further.
  4. How am I going to think, speak, and live differently because of what I learned? James writes that we should be doers of the word and not just hearers (James 1:22). It is not enough to know what the story says, it is important to apply the truth of the story to our lives. Take some time in prayer and consider some changes that you need to make in the following areas:
    1. Think
    2. Speak
    3. Live