Sabbatical 2017

Sabbatical 2017
Railroad tracks near our place in Bannalec

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Canonical Reading Plan for Jan 13, Gen 38-40

Today's readings are Gen 38-40.

Look at the people in these closing chapters of Genesis carefully. We're looking at the pillars of the Bible, the foundations of our faith, the revered names and places we all know. We see them for exactly who they are, ordinary people with normal struggles...just like you and me. There's not a single individual in these passages that is a holy, sanctified, super-spiritual man or woman of God. None of them get it all right. 

Still, God is using them, refining them, teaching them, loving them and moving them forward. Why? Certainly not because they have earned His affection! But, because He is God and He will use everyday, flawed, struggling people to bring that plan to fruition. 

We have hope, not because of who we are or what we do, but because we have a God that can take our imperfections and make something beautiful out of them, just as He's doing with Jacob. 

Keep your eyes open. We're about to see that God is gracious and loving (we've clearly seen that, so far)...but there is a price to pay for disobedience.  

In Gen 38, it becomes clear that Jacob's sons are beginning to slide further into the things they were told to avoid and letting the native people have an ungodly influence on them. Judah takes a wife from among the Canaanites. Marriage to a Canaanite woman has been forbidden up to this point. Like Adam and Noah, Judah has three sons. The first two are wicked. We’re not told much about the third. Judah finds a Canaanite woman (Tamar) for his first son, Er.

The events surrounding Judah and Tamar occur in the small village of Chezib (Achzib)

Things begin to worsen when Er dies. Tamar goes to the second son, Onan. Onan dies leaving Tamar without a child. The lineage of Judah is threatened to come to an end. But, God has promised to make Jacob’s sons into twelve mighty tribes. Is God's plan going askew?

Jacob’s only daughter-in-law, Tamar, conspires to have Judah father twins by her. God uses Judah’s exceptionally bad decisions and Tamar’s manipulation to preserve the bloodline of Judah, except now it will include Canaanite blood. This development will prove significant in the future. 

Notice that Judah's marriage outside his faith is neither endorsed nor condemned by the author. Previous chapters have made it clear that the practice is prohibited. Rather than looking at this incident as everything turning out OK, we should see the pain and grief that Judah’s poor decision has caused. Regardless of Judah's weakness and stumbling, God redeems the situation and proves His faithfulness.

Meanwhile, in Gen 38, Joseph is prospering in Egypt, despite his brothers' evil intent. Where Judah is weak and prone to disobedience, Joseph is a man of integrity, refusing to have immoral relations with his master’s wife and paying dearly (Gen 39:6-23).

God powerfully shows that He can protect and prosper His children, even in the most trying circumstances, in how He enables Joseph to interpret dreams while he is in jail (Gen 40). Joseph is blessed and rewarded, but significantly, not yet removed from prison.

What can we learn from Joseph’s incarceration? God can demonstrate His sovereignty over any and all of our situations but may not necessarily remove us from them. He will, however, show us that He is with us in those situations, patiently teaching us, leading us, enabling us and using us for His glory.

As Joseph's story unfolds, we'll see that God will use Joseph to remove Jacob and his backsliding sons from the evil influence of the Canaanites. 

We see God's grace once again in Judah's story as He intervenes even when His children are unfaithful and weak. The Father chastises them but continues to protect them and provide for them. Notice how God is working in Joseph's life and the life of his family long before they can see His hand moving. As we will see, God is laying the foundation for Jacob and his clan’s move to Egypt!

It should make us wonder what foundations are being built in our lives right now. What is God doing, behind the scenes in each of our lives that will reveal His gracious provision and protection when we need it most?

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