His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. Genesis 50:18-20
From prison in Egypt, Joseph (with God’s provision) interprets the Pharaoh’s dream. He tells him there will be a time of plenty, followed by a time of famine. He suggests they store up food during the time of plenty to get through the famine. Joseph eventually becomes second in command over all of Egypt, the most powerful nation at the time.
Things happen just as Joseph interpreted. When famine also reaches Joseph’s family, his brothers travel to Egypt to purchase some of the stored supplies. They have no idea Joseph is still alive, much less in such a prominent position. They are ultimately reunited and Joseph’s family all move to Egypt where they will be taken care of during the famine. The brothers fear Joseph though. They assume that he would surely want revenge like they would, especially after their father (Jacob) dies.
After all that Joseph had been through – hardships and successes – his faith is unwavering. He recognizes God’s hand in all of it. He intends to bless, not seek revenge. His brothers may have meant their treatment of him for evil, but God meant it for good. Joseph landed in a position to save all of Egypt and his family.
So this is how the Israelites (remember Jacob was renamed Israel) came to live in Egypt. They flourish under the protection of Joseph. They grew in numbers as God promised long ago.
We are still a long way off from the arrival of the Messiah, but we get a glimpse here of something to come…something meant for evil against Jesus – his death on a cross – bringing about so much good.
Challenge: Like Joseph, we too will have unfair and even evil things done to us in our lives. Memorize Genesis 50:20 to remember that God can use even these things for His good purposes. “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.” Genesis 50:20 (NLT)
They [Joseph’s brothers] saw him [Joseph] from afar, and before he came near to them they conspired against him to kill him. They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer. Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits. Then we will say that a fierce animal has devoured him, and we will see what will become of his dreams.” Genesis 37:18-20
Remember Joseph, the firstborn son of Rachel (the wife Jacob loved)? Jacob loved Joseph more than the others and didn’t do much to hide it. Probably not a candidate for dad of the year! Jacob gives Joseph this amazing colorful coat. The jealousy and tension that started among Jacob and Esau, and then among these boys’ mothers, continues among the twelve sons. Left unchecked, sin will always grow and spread.
The other sons hate Joseph because he was the favorite. To make it worse, Joseph has two dreams that basically say one day they will all bow down to him. And Joseph tells them, adding to their brewing hatred of him. The brothers want to kill him, but instead, sell him to some men traveling through the land. They let their grieving father think he was eaten by a wild animal. Jacob is devastated.
It turns out Joseph is ultimately sold to an important official in Egypt. Joseph is a man of incredible character, integrity, and faith in God. Potiphar (the Egyptian official) puts his entire household under Joseph’s management.
Things are going great until Potiphar’s wife takes a liking to Joseph, but full of integrity, he refuses her. She is furious and accuses him of attacking her, which lands Joseph in prison. Despite his circumstances, Joseph remains faithful in prison and there he again gains the trust and respect of the prison guards.
It is a roller coaster of blessings and trials, but through it all – even in prison unjustly – Joseph remains full of faith in God. He never waivers.
Question: How hard is it to stay faithful to doing the right thing when everything around you seems to be falling apart, especially when it is because of other people’s bad decisions?
And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob's hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” Genesis 32:24-28
The time finally arrives for Jacob to head back home. He has worked hard for Laban and both men are wealthy with much livestock.
Remember Jacob’s encounter with God on his way to Laban’s house (the ladder dream)? Well, years later Jacob has another encounter with God while traveling with his four wives (Leah, Rachel, and the two servants), twelve sons, daughters, and livestock back home from Laban’s house.
Jacob is scared out of his mind of Esau, the brother whose birthright he stole and fled from 20 years ago. Jacob sends everyone ahead in separate groups with gifts to appease Esau if and when they meet him along the way. While alone, Jacob has another more intimate and intense encounter with God.
Jacob wrestles with God! God asks Jacob his name. A chance to redeem himself…no longer pretending to be Esau to steal the blessing God already intended him to have. God blesses him, but Jacob is forever scared with a limp. A reminder of his encounter with God with every step he takes.
Jacob thought his biggest threat was his brother, but it was himself. David Guzik says, ‘before Jacob could be delivered from the hand of his brother, he had to be delivered from his own self-will and self-reliance.” In losing the battle, Jacob gains the blessing…and a new name. No longer Jacob the deceiver, now he is to be called Israel.
Questions: Do you have a “limp” – a reminder – from an encounter with God in your life? If God were to change your name based on an experience or promise, what would your new name be?
When Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, she envied her sister. She said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I shall die!” Genesis 30:1
Drama anyone? Rachel, still unable to have children, has Jacob marry and get her servant pregnant to give her sons (sound familiar…remember Jacob’s grandmother, Sarah, Abraham’s wife, did the same).
Meanwhile, Leah continues to have more sons. Until she doesn’t. So she also has Jacob marry and get her servant pregnant for more sons. What in the world?
Rachel finally gets pregnant and ultimately has two sons. Jacob loves Joseph, the firstborn of the sons from his beloved Rachel, more than the others. Here is a recap of the twelve sons of Jacob in order of birth:
Twelve sons. The twelve tribes of Israel from this mess.
Jesus comes through the tribe of Judah, born of Leah. The fourth son from the unloved Leah. God saw and loved Leah. God loves, even when we mess it up or don’t feel loved by those around us.
God can surely use all of our messes to accomplish His plans. But our mess and disobedience aren’t without consequences. Yes, God’s plan will prevail, but it doesn’t mean it will be easy or there won’t still be pain associated with our actions. This family, steeped in deception and manipulation, is full of turmoil, strife, jealousy, and hatred.
Challenge: Ask God to show you any places you may be deceiving or manipulating to get an outcome you are hoping for.
Reference: 12 Sons of Jacob
And Leah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Reuben, for she said, “Because the Lord has looked upon my affliction; for now my husband will love me.” She conceived again and bore a son, and said, “Because the Lord has heard that I am hated, he has given me this son also.” And she called his name Simeon. Genesis 29:32-33
Jacob finally arrives at his uncle’s hometown. He immediately falls in love with Laban’s daughter, Rachel. Jacob agrees to work for his uncle for seven years in exchange for marriage to Rachel.
At last, after seven years, the day arrives to marry Rachel, but the deceiver gets deceived. Laban switches Rachel’s older sister Leah on the wedding day. Jacob finds himself married to Leah, but desperately in love with Rachel. You can’t say the Bible is boring, that is for sure! Jacob agrees to work for Laban seven more years to marry Rachel.
As you can imagine, family life is awkward. There is jealousy over the obvious love Jacob has for Rachel, but not Leah. However, Rachel can’t get pregnant while Leah delivers Jacob the prized gift…sons.
More jealousy, this time from Rachel. Leah has sons and she has none.
Names are significant in this culture, and the names Leah gives her sons says a lot. A sample of the names is in our passage today: names about affliction and trying to earn her husband’s love but feeling hated. It is hard not to feel her pain. But God sees and God will bless Leah through her sons.
Things are a bit out of control in this family. If you think God only uses people who have it all under control with perfect lives, these stories should give you hope. Through all of the pain and jealousy and hiding and heartbreak, God is working His plans. Though things may look and feel out of control, God is always in control.
Question: Have you experienced a time when everything felt horribly unfair and out of control, but later realized God was working in it all?
And he [Jacob] dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! 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. 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. 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.” Genesis 28:12-15
Jacob, escaping the self-inflicted anger of his twin Esau, begins the journey to his uncle Laban’s house. As the sun is setting, Jacob lays his head on a stone to sleep and has a pretty spectacular dream.
In the dream, a ladder reaches into heaven. Angels travel up and down the ladder that is bridging earth and heaven. God, standing above the ladder, speaks to Jacob, reaffirming His promise and presence.
Jacob changes the name of the place to Bethel, meaning house of God.
Despite Jacob’s actions to date, God made a covenant and God intends to keep His promise. He can always be trusted to do what He says he will do. Jacob is on his way to a new life. To find a wife. To start a family. And now He receives not condemnation, but instead, a fresh revelation from God.
In Jacob’s dream, we see another glimpse of Jesus as the access to heaven. In John 1:51 Jesus says, “…hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” On this side of the resurrection, we know it is not a ladder or a place that grants us access from earth to heaven, but the person Jesus.
Question: Have you ever paid attention to all the glimpses of Jesus God gave us, even in the early lives of those in the New Testament?
But the words of Esau her older son were told to Rebekah. So she sent and called Jacob her younger son and said to him, “Behold, your brother Esau comforts himself about you by planning to kill you. Now therefore, my son, obey my voice. Arise, flee to Laban my brother in Haran and stay with him a while, until your brother's fury turns away— until your brother's anger turns away from you, and he forgets what you have done to him. Genesis 27:42-45a
Jacob’s deception doesn’t stop at the bowl of stew for the inheritance. Later when their father, Isaac, is old, poor in eyesight, and about to die, the time comes to give the family blessing to the firstborn son. This is a big thing! It is like the head of household transfer. Isaac tells Esau to go hunt game to prepare a meal and he will receive his blessing.
Though God had already told Rebekah (the mother of the twins) that Esau (the elder) would serve Jacob (the younger), she conspires with Jacob to deceive Isaac into giving him the blessing. She encourages Jacob to pretend to be Esau, complete with putting goatskins on his body to be hairy like Esau. It works. Jacob gets the blessing.
Naturally, Esau is angry, causing Jacob to escape to the land of Rebekah’s family to avoid Esau’s revenge. Jacob may have gotten the blessing, but now he is fleeing the place he grew up and his family for fear of his life.
But God uses all of it. His plans won’t and can’t be deterred by our bad decisions. The Messiah who will make all things right is coming from this family line; from the heel-grabber currently running for his life.
God’s flawless plan is worked out through incredibly flawed people. We get to rest in knowing that God has a purpose for us and it doesn’t depend on us being perfect (we never will be!) or manipulating our way into it.
Questions: Did you ever think the family line of Jesus was surely full of upstanding people who always did the right thing? Does it surprise you that Jacob plays such an important role in the story of Jesus, given his early deception?
When her days to give birth were completed, behold, there were twins in her womb. The first came out red, all his body like a hairy cloak, so they called his name Esau. Afterward his brother came out with his hand holding Esau's heel, so his name was called Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them. When the boys grew up, Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field, while Jacob was a quiet man, dwelling in tents. Genesis 25:24-27
About a dozen times in the Bible God is referred to as the “God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” We’ve met Abraham and Isaac. Today we meet Jacob. He’s kind of a big deal, but you may be surprised at his journey. His name means “heel grabber” if that gives you any hints.
Isaac grows into a young man. His mother (Sarah) dies and his father, Abraham, wants to make sure Isaac marries and continues the family line. He doesn’t want Isaac to take a wife from among the Canaanites (where they are currently living), but instead from his home country. Rebekah is the lucky bride to be. Abraham dies a happy man.
Rebekah becomes pregnant with twins, Esau and Jacob. Wrestling in the womb, God tells Rebekah that the older will serve the younger. As the firstborn, Esau had certain family rights to the greater inheritance (a double portion) and family blessing (this is a big deal…especially in this family rooted in God’s covenant promise!). But Jacob may have something to say about that…a heel is not the only thing Jacob will grab from his twin brother.
Esau comes home from the fields one day exhausted and hungry. Jacob says if Esau sells his birthright, he will give him some stew. Esau agrees. Must be some good stew!
Just like that, in a snap decision out of hunger and a devaluing of his much more valuable birthright, Esau trades it all to satisfy his immediate appetite.
Questions: Are you sometimes quick to make decisions that aren’t very wise…that satisfy in the short term, but have long term consequences? Do you often value the immediate over the eternal?
He [the angel] said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. Genesis 22:12-13
Just as Abraham is about to sacrifice Isaac, an angel calls from heaven to stop him.
Why this test? This passage tells us it is to know that Abraham fears God and would not withhold his son. But God knows everything. It is Abraham who now knows his commitment to God. In the waiting, Isaac could have become an idol to Abraham; clinging to the promise over the promise-maker. We can think we know what we will do, but we aren’t certain until we are face to face with it. God has BIG plans for Abraham.
This is often a hard story for people to wrap their heads around. But it is a beautiful picture of what God has planned for us. He will be the one to sacrifice His only Son.
We see a glimpse of the power, relief, freedom of Jesus taking our place. The ram appears to be the sacrifice, just as Jesus appears to take our place. A substitution of our sin payment for His righteousness.
Mount Moriah, the mountain where Abraham takes Isaac, is the same mountain that will be the site of the Israelite King Solomon’s great temple where God will dwell with His people as they offer animal sacrifices for their sins, and later the place where Jesus will be crucified.
The Bible is a complete picture of God’s plan to save us. Through the lives of those who lived long before us, He is giving us a peek into how the story will play out. It shows us that Jesus was God’s plan from the very beginning and helps us understand the significance of what Jesus did for us when He came to die on the cross as the final and perfect sacrifice.
Question: How do you see Jesus and God’s plan for us in this story…the waiting, the testing, the trusting, the location, the sacrifice, the substitute?
After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. Genesis 22:1-3
At last, twenty-five years after the initial promise, Abraham (at 100 years old!) and Sarah have a son. Another chapter in God’s perfect plan is unfolding. Isaac is born. The beloved, and long-awaited, son of Abraham and Sarah. The lineage to which the great nation, and our ultimate Savior, Jesus, will be born.
Things are looking up, right? But then the unexpected happens. God tells Abraham to take Isaac to offer him up as a sacrifice.
Wait, what? The promised son? The heir? To be sacrificed (killed…on an altar and burned). How can this be?
This passage tells us that God is testing Abraham. It is important to know that testing is different than tempting. The Bible tells us God does not tempt us (James 1:13). The devil tempts us. Tempting is hoping for failure. Testing is hoping for success. It is to confirm and strengthen us. God needed Abraham to trust Him completely. God already knew, but He needed Abraham to know. God wanted Abraham to not only trust the promise, but also the promise-maker.
Abraham takes Isaac with him to sacrifice. Isaac asks his father where the lamb for the burnt offering is. Abraham responds that God will provide. Abraham doesn’t have all of the details, but he trusts God. He can’t see how all the pieces will fit together, but he believes God is faithful and God can be trusted. To be continued…
Questions: Think about the difference between testing and tempting. Why do you think God sometimes tests us? Does it give you comfort that testing is for our benefit (vs. tempting from the devil that is meant to bring us down)?
“Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you…” Genesis 17:4-6
A great deal of time passes since God originally gave Abram the promise of many nations being blessed from his family (Abram was 75). Abram and Sarai still have no children after decades of trying, making the promise of anything coming from their family, much less a blessing, seem impossible. Barren and impatient, Abram’s wife Sarai takes things into her own hands.
Rather than wait and trust God’s plan, Sarai convinces Abram (now 86) to have a child with her servant for the two of them to raise as their own. Big mistake! Instead of satisfying the emptiness and longing in her heart, Sarai is filled with jealousy and anger over the child. Going outside of God’s plans to try to rush and orchestrate things her own way had painful consequences. In fact, this child, Ishmael, becomes the family line of Muhammad and Islam…a religion still fighting with the Jewish people and Christianity today.
Years pass and God appears again (Abraham is now 99). God changes Abram’s name to Abraham and reaffirms His promise to make Abraham a father of a multitude of nations. Even Sarah’s (Sarai gets a name change too) costly mistake won’t thwart God’s perfect plans or nullify His promises. God is a promise keeper. God tells Abraham he will have a son with Sarah within the year, upon which God’s covenant promise will flow through.
Waiting is hard. Especially when we know something is coming; something is promised to us. God’s plans and timing are so different from our own… so much better. Like Abraham, we have to trust and obey God. In our waiting, God is working. And God loves to work in situations where it can only be His power that accomplishes the impossible.
Questions: Are you in a season of waiting? How do you handle seasons of waiting?
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” So Abram went, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. Genesis 12:1-4
Genesis 11 walks through many generations and names from Noah’s children; names that remind us the Bible is a true story with real people who lived in real places. The lineage list lands on Abram (later named Abraham). About ten generations pass from Noah and the flood to Abram, or about 400 years. He becomes an important part of God’s plan to reconcile His people to Him.
God tells Abram to go and Abram obeys. God doesn’t tell Abram where he will be going yet, but He shares with Abram some of His plans – He will make Abram a great nation, He will bless him, He will make his name great so that he will be a blessing to others. He will protect him.
God further says that in him all the families of the earth shall be blessed.
All means ALL. That would include us. We were always part of the plan.
In Abram, we see God setting His plan in motion. We see a glimpse of Jesus, a future descendant of Abram many many years down the road, who will be the one to save us and bless the earth as God promised.
Question: Do you trust God to GO when and where He tells you?
Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” Genesis 11:4
Noah’s sons had many children, who had many children, who had many children…a new beginning from those who exited the ark. The whole earth is bustling with one language; with shared common words.
Meanwhile, the devil is still lurking around, continually trying to convince us we need more…more power, more stuff, more control, more security, more attention for ourselves. The people decide to build a city and tower to try to reach into the heavens. Their goal? To make a name for themselves and to consolidate their power base rather than spread out as God commanded them.
Not surprising, this little construction project did not please God. As a result of their disobedience, He confused their language and dispersed the people.
A tower now referred to as the Tower of Babel, built in an effort to make themselves more powerful, only made them weaker and divided. Common language became babel – a scene of noisy confusion.
Disobedience created a new, never experienced division, this one in location and languages. No longer does everyone have harmony associated with a single language to understand one another.
At no time was God threatened by their power or tower building, but He knew it was a threat to them and He had to stop it. When God disrupts our building plans and causes that which we fear to happen, it is an act of mercy in His wisdom and view of an unhealthy path we are on. It is not a ladder that will help us reach heaven, but instead a cross.
Questions: Have you ever thought about what it must have been like when the entire world had unity of language and culture? What do you think the impact of sudden different languages and cultures was like to these people?
Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man's heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done.” Genesis 8:20-21
Noah’s faithfulness in trusting God and continuing to build the ark pays off. The rain comes. And comes. It comes for 40 days and 40 nights and then stays on the earth 150 days before it was possible to exit the ark.
Noah, his family, and the animals are out of the ark. Do-over time.
The first thing Noah does is build an altar and sacrifice an offering to the Lord. A sacrifice of thanksgiving and dedication of new life.
God makes a promise that He will never again curse the ground or strike down every living creature. He sets a rainbow in the sky as a sign of the covenant between God and the earth and the flesh on the earth.
A covenant is different than a contract. A contract is an agreement between two parties that is mutually beneficial and can be broken by one party, nullifying the contract. This unconditional covenant God made with Noah, however, is different. It is a pledge; a perpetual promise upheld regardless of what the other party does. God is faithful even when we are not.
God makes this promise fully aware that we will all mess up again. And again. And again. But God also knows He already has a plan for that.
It’s a hard thing to think about God destroying everything in Noah’s time, but it is important to know that God does not desire destruction. He desires redemption. He wants things to be set right between us and Him. Sin is destructive, but God is ALWAYS good.
Questions: Do you believe that God is always good? If this is something that is hard for you, take time to pray about it. Bring your thoughts to God. He delights in you coming to Him with your questions. He wants you to know the truth about who He is.
The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. Genesis 6:5-8
The people have forgotten God. The world gets so evil and corrupt that God wants a reset. He decides to destroy it all, leaving only a small remnant to start new. And God knows just the person to use to start over.
Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. Oh, to find favor in the eyes of the Lord.
God tells Noah to build an ark with very specific instructions as to how it is to be built. He tells Noah to gather two of every animal to take on the boat with his family.
Scholars estimate that it took Noah about 70 years to build the ark. And also that they may not have ever seen rain in their lifetimes (they lived in the desert!). Imagine what people were thinking. And we know that they are evil people so Noah was surely the laughing stock of the town. Would you be able to do the same under these circumstances? Sadly, I tend to cave under much less. But Noah was faithful. He believed God and he kept working.
God wants us to have the faith to do hard things, even when everyone around us thinks we are crazy. We often can’t see God’s plan when we are in the working phase…we just have to be obedient to what He is telling us.
God, help us to be obedient to the things you have called us to do. We want to find favor in Your eyes. Give us faith and courage and conviction to do the hard assignments you put on our hearts…even when we can’t yet see how it will all come together.
Questions: Have you ever stuck with doing the right thing even when others might think you are crazy or foolish? What helped you stick with it? Is there a hard assignment God has given you in this season?
Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother's keeper?” And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood is crying to me from the ground. Genesis 4:8-10
Cain kills his brother. Only one generation from the first man, sin is taking its toll, stirring up jealousy, pride, anger, and even murder.
God gives Cain the opportunity to confess, but instead, Cain replies, “Am I my broker’s keeper?” Instead of being his brother’s keeper, he became his brother’s murderer.
God confronts Cain saying, “the voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground.” Blood represents life. And blood also represents death. Blood is a sacrifice. On this day, Abel’s blood was crying out sin and judgment. Soon the blood of Jesus would cry out redemption and reconciliation. But not yet. Many sacrifices will be established and carried out leading up to Jesus’s arrival as the final and perfect sacrifice.
Am I my brother’s keeper? How we see the answer to this question changes everything. God wants His church to be a unified body. He commands us to love Him and love each other. He has given us all we need to collectively be our brothers’ keeper, but instead, we leave it government, or others, or any institution willing to step in, regardless of motives. Our brothers and sisters are hurting, barely surviving, suffering, and lonely.
What if Jesus asked, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” and refused the cross?
God, help us always be open to your truth and your voice when faced with the opportunity to be our brother’s keeper.
Questions: How would you respond to the question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” How does this look in your life?
The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.” Genesis 4:6-7
Cain doesn’t react so well to God’s lack of regard for his offering. It again reveals what is brewing in his heart and what God saw when Cain presented the offering. He has a heart full of anger and a focus on himself. God knows this is a recipe for disaster in our lives.
James, the half-brother of Jesus, tells us how these temptations from the devil grow in us. It starts with a desire that isn’t of God; a desire to focus on ourselves and/or to do wrong. If it is not addressed, it gives birth to sin. And sin grows and grows and gets easily out of control. (James 1:14-15) This is why God warns us to see it and nip it in the bud.
A quote I often repeat when I am angry like Cain is, “the level of your irritation often reveals the depth of your idolatry.” Think about the things that tend to irritate you the most. They are likely tied to things you are clinging to over God. Your reputation, your social status, your security, things you think you deserve and don’t have, work you are doing or want to do. Not necessarily bad things, but they become problematic when we elevate them to a higher position than they should be and care about protecting them at all costs; when we love them more than we love God.
God warns Cain (and us!) that sin is crouching at the door. We must rule over it. Here is some good news…While temptation is never from God (James 1:13), God promises that with any temptation, He provides a way of escape so we can endure it (1 Corinthians 10:13). We have the power in God to rule over the sin crouching at the door.
Challenge: When you feel irritated this week, stop and examine the root of it. Is sin crouching at the door? Is an idol being revealed you need to address? Immediately pray about it and ask God to show you the path to overcome it.
In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. Genesis 4:3-5
The first humans, Adam and Eve, have two sons: Cain and Able. One is a hunter and one works in the fields. They each bring an offering to God, but it doesn’t go so well for Cain.
At first glance, this may seem a little harsh. From an outside observer, it looks the same…two people bringing an offering to God. Why does God favor the offering of Abel? It is because God knows what is in our hearts and He wants our first and best.
The passage tells us that Cain brings AN offering, while Able brings the firstborn. Able brings what is best and Cain brings what is leftover. It is an indication of what is in Cain’s heart.
God wants our full devotion. Our first and best. And not because He needs it, but because He knows what is best for us; what will give us a full, instead of empty, life.
Challenge: Think about how you spend your time…. maybe even pick a day and write down in detail what you do all day in increments of 15 minutes. How does God fit into your day? How do you prioritize Him compared to other things in your life? What if you decided to give Him your first few minutes of each day? Before you check email, texts, social media, or even get out of bed, what if you took five minutes to pray to God, to thank Him for your blessings, and to read the Bible?
And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them. Genesis 3:21
Back to Adam and Eve. Remember when they disobeyed God and took a bite of the fruit; when their eyes were open to sin and their nakedness so they made fig leaves to cover themselves?
God knew this wouldn’t cover them for long. Our own efforts can never save us. Their sin was out in the open, but He wasn’t going to leave them in it. He was going to provide coverings for them.
We see the first sacrifice, as God provides garments of animal skins to clothe Adam and Eve. Sin is such a big deal to God that it requires a sacrifice. A just God can’t look the other way when there is sin. And while sometimes when we sin, we might think we want God to look the other way, the truth is, we don’t want God to ever look away from sin and injustice. We need a God who loves us deeply, but who will also punish sin and make all wrongs right. It is comforting to know that when we are wronged there will be justice. A good and just God could not let sin go unaddressed.
Here’s another spoiler alert: Yes, God is just and requires punishment for sin; but He is also merciful and He provides someone to take the punishment we deserve and satisfy the debt we owe.
The animal sacrifice to provide a covering for Adam and Eve is a temporary fix for the moment. But as God’s story unfolds, Jesus will become the permanent sacrifice that will cover all of our sins – past, present, and future – and make a way for us to be holy and right with Him again.
Questions: Do you ever wish God would turn the other way when it comes to sin in your life? What about sin done to you?
The Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel. Genesis 3:14-15
Back to the Old Testament and the backlash of that dreadful bite of fruit. God tells Adam, Eve and Satan what the consequences of their actions will be. For women, there will be multiplied sorrows and pain in childbirth. For man, work will now be hard. For all of us, there will be no more eternal life on this side of heaven. We will experience pain and death.
Sin is a big deal to God.
To Satan (the devil), God says that although he will bruise the heel of God’s people (inflicting a wounding and negative effect, but not destruction), someone greater, from the seed of the woman, will bruise Satan’s head. A mortal wound with complete destruction and death.
This is the first hint of Jesus’ work on earth to come. He is the one who will be victorious over Satan. As we progress through the Bible, we will read many stories of God’s people, but know that Jesus coming to die on the cross to save us and defeat sin and death was God’s plan of restoration from the beginning.
Sin is now in the world. Satan is doing his “bruising” in all of our lives. We continue to fall for his lies and manipulation. We experience pain and hardship and suffering. The heel-bruising is brutal, no doubt.
But have confidence knowing that sin and Satan and death will be defeated. God has a plan. He always had a plan. A plan that leads reconciliation and for us to be wholly restored and with Him forever. Our job is to believe and put our faith in His perfect plan.
Questions: Have you ever given much thought to the destructive consequences of sin? Why do you think sin is such a big deal to God?
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. Genesis 3:6-7
We have freedom to decide whether or not we want to do what God says.
But because God is perfect and holy and just, our choices have consequences.
The first humans listened to the lies of Satan over the truth of God. They chose to do the ONE thing that was forbidden. They had everything they could ever want or need…but they wanted more. With that choice…that bite… sin entered the world.
Their eyes were open. What was once only good all around them was now corrupt. They recognized their nakedness, and filled with a new emotion – shame – they tried to hide and fix things on their own with fig leaves.
Instead of owning up to their disobedience, they tried to cover it up. We fall into that trap too, don’t we? We think we can hide from our sin and conceal it with what amounts to flimsy fig leaves.
But God sees and knows everything. We will soon see that those figs leaves don’t really cover up their sin, just like our efforts on our own will never cover our sins. They – and we -- need a bigger and more powerful savior.
Questions: What is your first reaction when you realize you messed up and got caught? Do you quickly confess or try to cover it up?
He [Satan] said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:1b-5
So, things are pretty good for the first several pages of the Bible. There is no sin, no pain, no heartbreak, no toil in work, no jealousy…not even death. But it doesn’t last long. The devil is lurking around in the form of a serpent. We are told he is more crafty than any other beast of the field that God made. He seeks to plant doubt in our minds and destructive desires in our hearts. Satan’s initial words to Eve (the first woman God created to live with Adam) were,” Did God actually say…”
Oh, the pain that is caused by a strategically planted seed of doubt about who God is and what He says! The devil only has a few tricks he uses, but they are very effective: questioning the goodness of God and dangling things before us that are pleasing to the eye and ego. All rooted in pride, pleasure, and power. He does it by shifting our focus on things that look, seem, feel good…but we know are only destructive. Encouraging us to look out for ourselves instead of others. Convincing us we need something we can’t or shouldn’t have. Cheering us on to chase an upper hand or elevated position. Demanding we deserve revenge. Whispering doubt about God’s love for us.
The devil became the devil in rebellion against God, seeking a name and empire for himself. He is on a mission to drag us into his hell of the ongoing quest to find satisfaction and fulfillment in these things. Only our Creator can provide what truly satisfies us. Our job is to believe, trust, and obey Him.
Questions: What things generally tempt you the most? Do you see the root of the devil’s tactics in what draws you to these things?
The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Genesis 2:15-17
Did you catch what one of the first assignments God gave man was? It was to work in the garden. We were created to work and it is a good and pleasurable thing.
God also told Adam all of creation was his to enjoy. There is only one requirement…one tree is off limits for eating. Only ONE thing was prohibited. He mustn’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
In order for us to have free will, we must have choices. Without something being forbidden there is no choice. And God wants our love for Him to be a decision we make. He could have created us without the choice and forced us to obey Him, but that wouldn’t be genuine love. God wants our obedience and love to be something we willingly do, not something forced on us.
The forbidden tree is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Can you imagine a world where not only is there no evil, but you don’t even know of its existence? It sounds perfect, doesn’t it?! God doesn’t just tell Adam not to eat of the tree, He also tells him the consequences…death.
Absent of sin, there is no death.
As long as Adam obeys this ONE command – avoiding the fruit of the ONE tree among ALL of the abundance around him – he remains in the eternal and perfect presence of God.
Questions: Have you ever been in a situation where there were a million things you could do and one thing you couldn’t? Where does your mind usually go…to all of the things you have or the one thing you don’t?
And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. Genesis 2:2-3
Back to the creation story… God creates everything in six days and on the seventh day of creation, God rested. Have you ever thought much about this? Do you think God NEEDS to rest?
The Hebrew word translated as rest means “to cease or stop; to abstain.” God rested because His work was finished; His creation was good. And while God doesn’t need rest, He modeled for us the importance of taking time to rest…to stop; to soak life in; to worship Him at a slower and more intentional pace.
The statistics are overwhelming about the number of kids, teens, and adults who are just plain stressed out. We are anxious and full of worry. We are killing ourselves by going non-stop and putting excessive pressure on ourselves.
Even at the beginning of everything being created, God knew this. He knew we needed to pause. He knew we were prone to burn out without rest. He knew we wouldn’t take the time to stop and look around and see the good among all of the stress and worry and work. He knows we need to rest. He knows we need to be filled with His truth, and grace, and love, and wisdom.
God would soon command Sabbath rest, but on this day, He models it for us.
Challenge: Take intentional time today or at some point this week to rest. Slow down with no agenda or to-do list and simply sit quietly with God.
When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground— then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. Genesis 2:5-7
Unlike the other pieces of creation that God spoke into existence, we were formed by the mighty hands of God; awakened by the holy breath of God.
God created Adam, the first human, from dust and breathed life into him. Life is formed from mere dust and the hands and breath of God. God makes beautiful things from ashes.
The Hebrew word for breath is ruach (roo-ah), which even sounds like an exhaled breath. It is also used for the word Spirit. The Spirit of God brings us life.
Imagine being Adam and feeling air being breathed into your body, starting in your nostrils, and working its way down to every part of your being.
Adam comes to life for the first time and stands face to face with God. This is the first human with the breath of God flowing through him. Everything is perfect and complete and holy. This is our beginning!
Question: The human body is incredible when you think about it. No two fingerprints are alike. All of our parts and organs and air and blood work together to keep us alive. What is the most incredible thing to you about the human body that God created?