Small Group Study Guide, Week 5


Friends, because of time constraints this week, I was not able to provide the day-by-day summary I’ve been doing in this section. Fortunately, we are still in a section that is very familiar to many of you. Instead, let me direct you to a couple of resources that will give you additional helps and insights into the daily readings. Please give me feedback if this is helpful to you. If this is just as helpful or even more helpful to you than the narrative summary, let me know.

The Unfolding Story Podcast: This is a daily 3-5 minute podcast from Peyton Hill, pastor of FBC Prattville.

The Bible Recap podcast: Typically around nine minutes, this podcast from Tara-Leigh Cobble also provides a concise summary of the day’s readings, focusing on where you see God’s character in the readings.

Links to Blog Posts for this week’s readings from (this site):

These are short devotional posts that drill down on a specific passage from each day’s reading.

Discussion Questions:

Note to leader, especially if you are using this in Sunday School: Be sensitive to group members who may not have read or are not participating in the reading plan. Make sure you use the summary to help them get their bearings, and use the Scripture references in the parentheses so everyone can look up the passage.

As you went through the reading this week, what stood out to you? Is there anything you noticed that you had not seen before ? What questions did the readings raise?

Note to leader: This will be your first question every week. Allow group to share their highlights, but resist the temptation to comment, answer questions, or open it up for discussion. You want the group to get comfortable sharing their thoughts, without looking to you to be the expert on everything.

The following questions span the whole week’s reading. You probably will not have time to deal with all of them. Highlight the ones that are most interesting to you. As you listen to the group’s highlights, put a star next to any of the questions that address what stood out to someone in the group. Make sure you always ask Questions 9 and 10.

  1. When you look at all the dysfunction in Abraham’s family, what do you think God wants us to learn from these stories?
  2. Some stories in the Bible are prescriptive–they tell us what happened as an example to follow. Others, like Genesis 34, are descriptive–they tell us what happened without the expectation that we do the same thing. How do you discern the difference?
  3. Even after God gave Jacob the new name Israel, he is still primarily referred to as Jacob. Why do you think that is? Allow for responses, but suggest that it may simply be a way to differentiate Israel the man from Israel the nation.
  4. In the story of Jacob wrestling the man (Genesis 34), why does verse 25 say “the man” (God) “could not defeat Jacob”? Doesn’t God always win?
  5. Similarly, in verse 28, God says to Jacob, “you have struggled with God… and have prevailed.” What do you make of this?
  6. Jacob seems to demand a blessing from God in exchange for Jacob letting him go (v. 26). Is it right to “demand” anything from God? How do we make sense of this?
  7. Genesis 34:29 says that God blessed Jacob. But it doesn’t say how. Or does it?
  8. Ask a volunteer to read Genesis 12:3 (“all nations will be blessed by you”). Ask, did you see anything in the story of Joseph that was a fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham? If no one says it, ask a volunteer to read Genesis 41:52.
  9. As we wrap up, are there any questions you had about anything you read that we haven’t addressed? (Don’t stress if you don’t know the answer. For some questions, there may not be an answer! You can toss the question to the whole group, give your opinion, or promise to research before next week. And always encourage them to post questions in our Facebook group. Pastor James or someone else may have an insight or an answer).
  10. What action steps or changes do you sense the Lord is leading you to do next week as a result of this study?

Cycle Breaker, Table Maker (Genesis 37-45)

#5 in 66 in 52, A Yearlong Journey Through Scripture. January 29, 2023. Glynwood Baptist Church, Prattville, AL. James Jackson, Lead Pastor

The Big Idea: Joseph, the last major character to be introduced in Genesis, was part of a family with a long history of dysfunction, deceitfulness, rejection and resentment. Maybe you are, too. How did Joseph break the cycle?

Good morning! Today we are going to have our last sermon in this series from Genesis. You can go ahead and turn to Genesis 37, but know that we are going to be covering all the way to the end of the book this morning. If you are caught up with our Bible reading plan, we finished Genesis today! Good job! Two down, sixty four to go!

If you aren’t caught up, or are going at a different pace, that’s ok. There is nothing magical about finishing the Bible in a year. The point is you are reading it. And when you do finish, you will have done what only 11% of Americans have done. So just keep at it!

It’s been fun to hear all the comments from you guys as we’ve hit this part of the reading plan. I’ve heard people say, “Man… Abraham’s family was a dumpster fire! It’s like the Jerry Springer show on steroids! One of our church members got to chapter 38, the story of Judah sleeping with his daughter in law because he thought she was a prostitute, and it almost made him mad. He came up to me on Wednesday night and said, “What is that story even doing in the Bible?”

That’s a good question. But that’s just one story in four generations of dysfunction, distrust, deceitfulness, and double-dealing. There’s resentment, rejection, and sibling rivalry. And then you remember that God chose this family to be His chosen people. And you’re thinking, couldn’t God have chosen a normal family? These guys are like the Addams family. Only, they’re the Abrahamic Family [snap snap].

Listen: when we wonder why God didn’t choose a normal family to bless and make a great nation, God’s answer is, “Normal family? What is that?” There are no normal families. We’ve all got more problems than a math book.

But in the last quarter of Genesis, we are introduced to a guy named Joseph. And somehow, Joseph is able to break the cycle of dysfunction that has pretty much dominated his family for about two hundred years now.

This morning, we are going to look at how Joseph was able to break the cycle. And hopefully you will realize that if God can bless this crazy family, He can bless yours as well.

Let’s pray, and then we’ll dive in.

There are several points in Joseph’s story where we get some clues as to how he was able to rise above all the rivalry and pettiness that had defined his family up to this point. And the first one is this:

1. He was secure in his father’s love (Genesis 37:3; Matthew 3:17; Matthew 17:5)

Let’s look at Genesis 37:3 together.

Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his sons, because he was the son of his old age. And he made him a robe of many colors.[a] But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peacefully to him.

Joseph was Jacob’s favorite son because he was born to Jacob’s favorite wife Rachel. Long story, but Jacob had four wives—two of them sisters, both of them his cousins—remember, Jerry Springer—and Joseph was the first of two sons born to Rachel late in life. and this is why he’s the favorite.

And Jacob gives Joseph a special robe. We don’t know if this is actually a coat of many colors—the Hebrew is pretty obscure here. So some translations say that, others say a long robe, or a long sleeved robe, or a richly ornamented robe. It probably wasn’t an amazing technicolor dreamcoat, though. The point is, Joseph got one, and his brothers didn’t. So if they hated him before, they REALLY hated him now.

Now parents, if you don’t remember anything else from this morning, remember this: don’t play favorites with your kids. It will mess them up. Remember that Jacob himself had grown up knowing he wasn’t his own father’s favorite, and now he turns around and does the same thing to all his other sons.

Not long ago, researchers from wanted to see what kind of role fathers played in their children’s success and self regard as adults. They studied over 600 pairs of twins, and they found that affection from their fathers—not discipline, not permissiveness, not generosity, not a work ethic—affection– was most related to their self-esteem as an adult. And if one twin perceived that they received more affection, guess what? They typically had more self-regard, more confidence, and a better outlook on life than their sibling.[1]

Now, if you have more than one child, it’s ok for one of them to think he’s your favorite, as long as all his siblings think they are your favorite too.

Joseph knew he had his father’s favor. He had the robe to prove it.

One of the things I’m trying to do with this series is train you to pay attention to details in the Old Testament that point to Jesus. Remember our definition of “type” from last week—an OT person, thing or event that foreshadows a person, thing or event in the New Testament. So think about this: Joseph in the Old Testament knew he was his father’s beloved son before he was kidnapped by his brothers, thrown into a pit, sold to a passing caravan of Ishmaelites, and driven into the desert on the way to Egypt. 

In the New Testament, Jesus went down into the water of baptism. He heard the voice from heaven saying, “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.” And then He was driven into the desert.

And knowing he had his father’s approval would sustain both Joseph and Jesus for every trial that would follow. Dads, the most important thing you can tell your children, other than the gospel itself, is that you love them. That you approve of them. That you delight in them. When your kids know they have your approval, they are able to face whatever the world throws at them.

Notice the very next thing that happened to Jesus. For the next forty days and nights, he was tempted by the devil.

And what is the next thing that happens to Joseph? He faces temptation.

Genesis 38 interrupts Joseph’s story to tell about the twins born to Judah and his daughter in law Tamar—again, the Jerry Springer show (we’ll get back to this), but Joseph’s story picks up again in Genesis 39.

It’s now a few years later, and Joseph is a servant in the house of an Egyptian official named Potiphar. Verse 3 says,

His master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord caused all that he did to succeed in his hands. So Joseph found favor in his sight (there’s that approval factor again!)

Potiphar puts Joseph in charge of all that he had, and verse 5 says, the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had, in house and field. 

Verse 6: Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance. And after a time his master’s wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, “Lie with me.” But he refused

Stop right there and consider how epic this is. Joseph refused the offer of sex with someone he wasn’t married to.

His great grandfather Abraham didn’t do that. Back in Genesis 16, Abraham’s wife saw she wasn’t having children and said to him, sleep with my servant Hagar. Maybe God will fulfill his promise to you through her. Abraham said, “ok,” and off they went.

His father Jacob didn’t do that. Joseph had a truckload of half brothers because his mother said, My sister’s having all these babies, and I’m not having any, so sleep with my servant and have babies with her. Jacob said, “ok,” and off they went.

His brother Judah didn’t do that. One chapter before this, Judah’s daughter in law disguised herself as a prostitute, and he slept with her.

In four generations, there’s no record of anyone in Joseph’s family saying no to adultery.

Until Joseph. Joseph broke the cycle of yielding to temptation. Verse 8:

Joseph refused, and said to his master’s wife, “Behold, because of me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my charge…  he has not kept back anything from me except you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” 

2. Joseph withstood  temptation because he knew that his master hadn’t withheld anything from him. Listen, temptation almost always comes when we believe God isn’t giving us something we think we deserve. From Eve to Jesus, to us today, Satan’s had the same playbook:

  • Eve, Did God really say you can’t eat from any tree in the Garden?
  • Jesus, I can’t believe God has left you in this desert for forty days and forty nights without food! If you are really the son of God, tell these stones to become bread.
  • Husband, don’t you think God wants you to be happy? And if you aren’t happy in this marriage, then let’s find someone else who will make you happy.

But Joseph knew his earthly father loved him. And he knew his heavenly father was with him. And even after he had been sold as a slave by his own brothers, he was able to say, “My master hasn’t withheld anything from me, except his wife… How could I do this great wickedness and sin against God?

Listen: 1 Corinthians 10:13 says that we are not going to face any temptation that hasn’t already been faced by God’s people from the beginning of time. And God is faithful. He won’t let us be tempted beyond what we can bear. But with every temptation he will provide the way of escape.

And here is the way of escape: Know that your heavenly father loves you. You are his child. He delights in you. He has dressed you in a robe of righteousness that shines like a coat of many colors. He has lifted you up out of the pit and brought you into His household, so can serve a gracious and kind master.

And he is not holding out on you. James 1:16  says, “don’t be deceived. Every good gift and every perfect gift comes from above, coming down from the father of lights. 

Psalm 84:11—no good thing does He withhold from him whose walk is blameless.

You can withstand any temptation when you remember those two things. God delights in me. God doesn’t hold back from me.

Number 3, Joseph forgave his brothers’ offenses (Genesis 50:16-19)

Now, Time’s not going to allow us to cover everything that happens next, and many of you are already familiar with the rest of the story. Joseph is put in prison. He’s released from prison when Pharaoh has a dream he can’t understand. Joseph interprets the dream and tells Pharaoh there will be seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine, and that he should prepare by storing up as much grain as he can during the seven years of plenty so it will sustain the people during the seven years of famine. And Pharoah says, “Great, you’re in charge.

The famine isn’t just in Egypt. Genesis 41:57 says, “All the world came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph.” This is partial fulfillment of what God said to Abraham way back in Genesis 11, that through his offspring all nations of the world would be blessed.

So in Genesis 42, we see that the famine is also in Canaan, where Joseph’s father and all his brothers still live. So Jacob sends all of his sons except for Benjamin to Egypt to buy grain. Verse 6 says that Joseph’s brothers came and bowed themselves before Joseph with their faces to the ground. And Joseph recognized them right away. But it seems like he can’t resist giving his brothers a hard time. He accuses them of being spies. He tells them that the only way to convince him they aren’t lying is to come back with their youngest brother. And he took one of the brothers, Simeon, and kept him in prison until they came back.

And I want you to notice the first thing they say, on their way back to canaan, the brothers stop for the night. And when they open up the sacks of grain they have just bought, they find the silver they bought it with back in their sacks.

And I want you to notice what they say. The first thing that comes to mind when they are trying to figure out why all this is happening to them is what they did to their brother 20 or 30 years ago. They say,

21 Then they said to one another, “In truth we are guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the distress of his soul, when he begged us and we did not listen. That is why this distress has come upon us.” 

Isn’t that amazing—that after decades they are still thinking about what they did to Joseph. I wonder if this is the first time they feel shame or remorse. We don’t know, the text doesn’t say. But I get the feeling that this has been gnawing at them for years now. Otherwise, I don’t think they would have connected the two so quickly. Maybe for the first time, there is genuine confession.

Reuben the oldest brother, takes them one step further. Not just confessing what they did, but taking responsibility for it:

22 And Reuben answered them, “Did I not tell you not to sin against the boy? But you did not listen. So now there comes a reckoning for his blood.”

What they don’t realize is that Joseph, the one they had wronged, is understanding every word. He hears the cry of their heart. He hears the brokenness, the confession, the repentance. He hears them taking responsibility for their actions. And verse 23 says he turned away and wept. In that moment, I think Joseph forgave his brothers. And then he gives orders to replace each man’s money in his sack.

They confessed. They repented. They took responsibility. And he repaid what they owed him.

They come back home and they tell their father everything that had happened to them. A few months later, they have to go back to Egypt. And this time, they take Benjamin with them.

And here’s the best part. When they get back to Egypt, Joseph prepares a table for his brothers. Chapter 43 says he sat before them, and said them down in birth order. He fed them from his own table, it says in verse 43.

Then he sends them away again. Once again, he returns their money to them. He puts his own silver cup in Benjamin’s sack. Then, in one last test, he sends out his soldiers to bring the brothers back to him, accusing them of stealing the cup. He says in 44:17 that whichever brother stole the cup will be punished.

And in chapter 44, verse 33 Judah offers himself as a substitute for his brother.   

Two thousand years later, Jesus, from the tribe of Judah, will offer himself as a substitute for all of us. He who committed no sin will die on the cross for your sins.

In chapter 45, Joseph can stand it no longer. He sends everyone else out of the room and he turns to his brothers and says, I am Joseph, your brother.

After repentance, after the brothers confessed their  sins and took responsibility for them, Joseph revealed himself to them.

“I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.

Joseph tells them that this was God’s plan. That what they had intended for evil, God made good.

And the story ends with this beautiful picture of reconciliation.

14 Then he fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, and Benjamin wept upon his neck. 15 And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them. After that his brothers talked with him.

Beloved, when we confess our sins, when we repent and take responsibility for our actions, Jesus brings us to the table, and he reveals himself to us.

[invitation and Communion]

Communion: Before, During, and After the Table

  1. Repentance (Genesis 42:21)
  2. Responsibility (Genesis 42:22)
  3. Revelation (Genesis 45:3)
  4. Reconciliation (Genesis 45:14-15)
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Day 031: What if They Won’t Listen? (Exodus 4:1)

Moses answered, “What if they won’t believe me and will not obey me but say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you’?”
Exodus‬ ‭4‬:‭11‬-‭13‬ ‭CSB‬‬

In yesterday’s post, we looked at the first two questions Moses had for God:

  • Who am I? (Ex 3:11) Answer: You are the one I will be with through this entire ordeal (Ex. 3:12).
  • Who are you? (Ex. 3:13) in response, God revealed His personal name YHWH to Moses. In English it is pronounced Yahweh or Jehovah. In Hebrew it is not pronounced at all. They take the third commandment very seriously.

Beginning with chapter 4, we get the rest of Moses’ argument for why he thought God had picked the wrong guy. Something about the third question hit me in a different way when I read it this time:

What if they won’t listen?

I had always assumed that the “they” in that question was Pharaoh and his officials. But when I looked at it closely, I think “they” is also (if not mostly) about the Israelites. Follow along:

Moses anticipated that Pharaoh wouldn’t believe him, and so God gave him some signs to perform— a slithering staff, a leprous hand, water turned to blood. Pharaoh was unimpressed. His magicians would reproduce two of these (see Exodus 7:8-22).

What Moses maybe didn’t anticipate was that his own people the Israelites wouldn’t listen. They did at first. In 4:31, when Moses and Aaron met with the elders prior to going to Pharaoh, they did a dress rehearsal of the signs God gave them to perform before Pharaoh. Scripture says, 31 The people believed, and when they heard that the Lord had paid attention to them and that he had seen their misery, they knelt low and worshiped.

All was well until they faced opposition. Pharaoh rejected Moses request for a three day journey into the wilderness, and then spitefully took away the straw the Hebrew slaves used to make the daily quota of bricks he required. Then, the Hebrews change their tune faster than a bad karaoke singer:

21 “May the Lord take note of you and judge,” they said to them, “because you have made us reek to Pharaoh and his officials—putting a sword in their hand to kill us!” (5:21)

This reinforces Moses’ self-doubting, and he blames God for ever picking him in the first place:

22 So Moses went back to the Lord and asked, “Lord, why have you caused trouble for this people? And why did you ever send me? 23 Ever since I went in to Pharaoh to speak in your name he has caused trouble for this people, and you haven’t rescued your people at all.” (5:22-23)

In the next chapter, God again states His plan for the Israelites. Again the people don’t listen. And again Moses feels like his self-doubt is confirmed:

“Therefore tell the Israelites: I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from the forced labor of the Egyptians and rescue you from slavery to them. I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and great acts of judgment. I will take you as my people, and I will be your God. You will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from the forced labor of the Egyptians. I will bring you to the land that I swore[b] to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and I will give it to you as a possession. I am the Lord.” Moses told this to the Israelites, but they did not listen to him because of their broken spirit and hard labor.

10 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, 11 “Go and tell Pharaoh king of Egypt to let the Israelites go from his land.”

12 But Moses said in the Lord’s presence, “If the Israelites will not listen to me, then how will Pharaoh listen to me, since I am such a poor speaker?”

My heart is so tender to Moses at this point. I’ve doubted my leadership capabilities for as long as I’ve been in ministry, often feeling like I was an actor playing the part of a minister rather than actually being called.

I can preach and teach. That’s my wheelhouse. And I am a decent leader, as long as nothing ever happens.

But in ministry, something always happens. A family feels slighted if I don’t speak to them. A member reads something about a Bible teacher we are using in a video series and stops coming to church because I’m promoting it. A business meeting gets contentious. There is conflict with the staff.

And whenever there is any disruption or opposition, I point to God and say, “See? I told You You picked the wrong guy.”

But every time I do that, I submit to the heresy that all of this depends on me. I make an idol of my own insecurity, and I am continually making sacrifices to it. And when I read passages like Exodus 6:6-12, what jumps out is Moses’ confirmation bias: This is what I believe about myself, and this circumstance confirms it.

But notice there are only two lines where Moses talks about who he is and what he can do. The rest of the passage emphasizes who God is and what God will do:

  • I am the Lord.
  • I will bring you out and rescue you.
  • I will redeem yoiu.
  • I will take you as my people.
  • I will be your God.
  • I will bring you to the land I promised.
  • I will give it to you as a possession.

Oh, Lord, when I believe you picked the wrong guy, remind me that I am following the right God. When I highlight my doubt, remind me of Your truth.

A Spurgeon Snapshot: How Pain Plays a Part in God’s Plan (Exodus 1:13-14)

13 They [the Egyptian taskmasters] worked the Israelites ruthlessly 14 and made their lives bitter with difficult labor in brick and mortar and in all kinds of fieldwork. They ruthlessly imposed all this work on them. (Exodus 1:13-14)

At the church I serve, I’m currently taking a small group through a study of Tim Keller’s The Reason for God. It is a six session video series where Dr. Keller sits down with a group of nonbelievers and discusses the questions they have about Christianity. Last night’s session was “If there is a god, why is there so much suffering in the world?” It was a twenty minute video, but we spent nearly an hour talking about it together. It’s not hard to see why this topic hit such a nerve. Just in our group last night was:

  • My friend who lost his wife to cancer five years ago.
  • A licensed professional counselor.
  • A volunteer missionary who has done extensive work in Haiti.
  • A large number who are working their way through the Bible this year, so we recently spent two weeks on Job. And if you aren’t familiar with Job, “why do good people suffer” is kind of the main point.
  • All of us are still dealing with the effects of the tornado that tore through our county a few weeks ago, killing seven.

And to top it all off, we had been at the funeral of a young man who grew up in our church just the day before. 34 years old, heart attack. When our worship pastor and I visited the family to plan the service, it was one of the most painful conversations we’ve ever had with a family who has lost a loved one.

So last night, we found we were asking the same questions as the unbelievers in the video, and feeling nearly the same frustration at the oversimplified, pat answers we sometimes hear. Worse, we realized that these canned answers are the very ones we have sometimes given ourselves.

This morning, as I opened my Spurgeon Study Bible to Exodus, I read these words from Spurgeon, who was reflecting on the fact that the Israelites had settled in Egypt, even though their home was in Canaan:

The land of Goshen was fruitful, and the Israelites had been greatly favored by the Egyptian king. The mass of them, therefore, had little thought of ever leaving that country. … [So] the first thing to be done with the Israelites was to cause them to be anxious to come out of Egypt… He must bring them out in such a way that they would be willing to come out, so that they would march forth with joy and delight, being thoroughly weary and sick of all Egypt and therefore rejoicing to get away from it.

Spurgeon Study Bible, p. 72

So is it possible that God uses pain in this world to make us eager for our true home? Is that why growing old usually means growing tired? Is that why we often mutter “Come, Lord Jesus!” whenever the world seems out of control?

Perhaps you’ve heard the quote, “People don’t change until it hurts too much to stay the same.” I’ve heard it applied to making changes in a church, but I’ve also heard it said by people recovering from addiction. Like the Israelites in Egypt, we would never long for a better place if there was no suffering in this one.

I am using the Spurgeon Study Bible for my Bible Read Through in 2023. All of the study notes are quotes from Charles Spurgeon’s sermons and writing. For more on Charles Spurgeon, click here. The Spurgeon Study Bible is available from Lifeway,, and Amazon.

Day 030: “I Have Seen… So I Send” (Exodus 3:11-12)

11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” 12 He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.” (Exodus 3:11-12)

Through the Bible: Exodus 1-3

The scene of God appearing to Moses at the burning bush is one of the most significant moments in the entire biblical record. After 40 years of tending sheep in the wilderness, the 80 year old Moses turns aside to marvel at the bush that is burning but not consumed. God assures his servant that He is aware of the suffering of His people in Egypt. Notice all the pronouns. God says,

  • “I have seen their affliction… and [I] have heard their cry” (v. 7)
  • “I know their sufferings” (v. 7)
  • “I have come down to deliver them” (v. 8) 
  • “[and I will] bring them up out of that land” (v. 8)
  • “the cry of the people has come to Me” (v. 9)
  • “I have seen the oppression with which the Egyptians are oppressing them.”

Up to this point, Moses is saying, “Yes! Get ‘em, God! Sic ‘em!” I’ll bet Moses can’t wait to watch God kick some Egyptian butt. 

Then, in verse 10, God throws Moses a curve: “Therefore, I am sending you.”

Wait, what?

All this time Moses is getting pumped about how God is going to work, only to have everything come crashing down when he realizes God’s plan is to work through Moses. In Exodus 4, we will look at all the excuses Moses makes for why God’s got the wrong guy. But the first two are significant:

  1. Who am I? (verse 11)
  2. Who are You? (verse 13)

Moses may have thought to himself, “God, if you were going to use me, why didn’t you do this forty years ago, when I was a prince of Egypt? Why now, when I’m a fugitive octogenarian?”

God’s answer is not “Moses, you’re awesome! Moses, you can do it!” God doesn’t give Moses a self-esteem pep talk. He simply says, “I will be with you.”

Who are you? You’re the one that I, the Lord, will be with.”

Then God answers the question Moses hasn’t asked yet, but that God must have known was in his heart. It’s the question we all ask every time we are considering a missions opportunity, or a new job, or which college you’re supposed to go to, or if this new dating relationship is “the one.”

God, how do I know You’re in this?

I am sure Moses would have loved some visible sign of God’s presence. Some illuminated path, like that green line in the commercial about financial planning. Or maybe a talking animal sidekick, like every Disney princess ever.

Instead, God says, “and here’s how you know that I have sent you. When you’ve brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship Me on this mountain.”

Talk about delayed gratification! Moses will not worship God on that mountain again until he receives the law in Exodus 20. After the ten plagues. After the Red Sea.  After manna and quail and water from the rock. When all is said and done, Moses will look back and realize God was with him the whole time.

We may not have the assurance that God is with us until after we begin to obey Him. But when we do obey Him, we begin to realize that who we are doesn’t matter at all. Who God is makes all the difference in the world.

Day 029: A Grievous Mourning by the… Egyptians? (Genesis 50:7-11)

James Tissot, 1836-1902 Jacob’s Body Is Taken Out of Egypt

So Joseph went up to bury his father. With him went up all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his household, and all the elders of the land of Egypt, as well as all the household of Joseph, his brothers, and his father’s household. Only their children, their flocks, and their herds were left in the land of Goshen. And there went up with him both chariots and horsemen. It was a very great company. 10 When they came to the threshing floor of Atad, which is beyond the Jordan, they lamented there with a very great and grievous lamentation, and he made a mourning for his father seven days. 11 When the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, saw the mourning on the threshing floor of Atad, they said, “This is a grievous mourning by the Egyptians.” Therefore the place was named Abel-mizraim;[a] it is beyond the Jordan. Genesis 50:7-11

Through the Bible: Genesis 48-50

Genesis ends with Pharaoh granting permission for Joseph to return to Canaan along with his brothers in order to bury Jacob. So a “great company” (verse 9) formed the funeral procession. Seventy members of Jacob’s family had moved to Egypt (see Genesis 46:27). The text doesn’t specify how many made up the household of Jacob 17 years later, when Jacob died (Gen 47:28); only that they all returned to Canaan, except for the children, their flocks, and their herds (see verse 8).

What I find most interesting is that within less than a generation, the sons of Jacob had so thoroughly assimilated into Egyptian culture that their own neighbors assumed they were Egyptians. Genesis 50:11 says that the inhabitants of the land looked at each other and commented on how loud “the Egyptians” were as they mourned. They had become indistinguishable from the culture that surrounded them–unrecognizable even to their former neighbors. I guess it really is true that you can’t go home again.

The children of Israel had become indistinguishable from the culture that surrounded them.

We started talking about this on Day 027. If the famine was over, why didn’t the sons of Jacob go back home? Now, we see that when they did return to Canaan, it was only for a visit. They left their children, their flocks, and their herds back in Egypt. There was no doubt they would return. Clearly, their hearts remained in the land that would eventually enslave them.

It doesn’t take long. For Jacob’s children, it only took seventeen years to become so comfortable with the culture that they were indistinguishable from it.

I’ve noticed something interesting about my dog. When I walk with her in the morning, I can unhook her leash and let her run free, but she will never go very far from me. She has been so conditioned to look to me to meet her needs that even when she is free, she always comes back. Often, when I first unhook her, she’ll grab the leash in her mouth; tugging and tearing and pulling, never realizing that she is no longer connected to it.

This is a great thing for my dog, because I’m a good pet owner. I love her and want her to stay close so I can take care of her. But what if I’m a bad pet owner? What if i’m abusive and mistreat her? I am afraid that conditioning would still win the day. I believe she would still come back, because she’s my dog.

Tomorrow, we will begin reading about what happened when a Pharaoh who “knew not Joseph” arose in the land. We will see how the Egyptians made slaves out of God’s people. Understand this: it didn’t happen overnight. A godless culture usually doesn’t have to force anyone into slavery. Give us enough time, and we will sleepwalk into slavery ourselves.

Never stop longing for your true home. And if you have been set free from the dominion of darkness, then walk as children of the light (Col. 1:13; 1 Thess 5:5). Don’t keep pulling at what you’ve been set free from.

Carry Me Home: A Poem for Ed

Late last night, I got the call that a beloved saint in my church had his homegoing. He had been fighting cancer for years, and last summer he told me that there weren’t any more treatments to try, and he was going to let the cancer run its course.

I’ve visited with Ed several times since then, and I’ve seldom seen anyone face death with such courage and hope. The first thing he showed me was his army uniform. As soon as he had made the decision to discontinue treatment, he had it cleaned and pressed so he could be buried in it. It was in the dry cleaner’s bag, hanging well apart from any other clothes so it wouldn’t get wrinkled. “It’s ready, whenever God calls me home.” he said. “And it still fits!”

I saw Ed for the last time the day before yesterday. He was in his recliner, which later that day would be replaced with a hospital bed. He apologized for not having his dentures in. “If I’d known you were coming, I would have put my teeth in,” he said with a smile.

“How are you, Ed?” I asked, smiling back at this brave, precious old man.

“I want to go home,” he said. “I’m ready. I have no regrets.”

So Ed passed away peacefully in his sleep last night. There is sadness, but there is also great joy. He is home.

This morning, I was reading in Genesis 47 about the oath Joseph swore to Jacob that Joseph would bury his father in the land of Canaan. I wrote this poem for my friend Ed.

Carry me up out of Egypt,
'Cause my body’s not at home here.
Too long I’ve lived in a foreign land
I can feel it in my bones here.

Carry me up out of Egypt,
'Cause Pharaoh's making slaves here.
He took their silver, land, and lives
And he'll do the same with us here.

Carry me up out of Egypt;
The Nile is okay here
But over Jordan is my true home,
And I just don't wanna stay here.

Carry me up out of Egypt
Swear an oath to me here.
'Cause Egypt's sure to get in us
The longer that we be here.

Day 028: Carry Me Out of Egypt (Genesis 47:27-30)

Egypt. Pyramids. The land of Goshen with pyramids in the distance (Library of Congress)
27 Thus Israel settled in the land of Egypt, in the land of Goshen. And they gained possessions in it, and were fruitful and multiplied greatly. 9 And when the time drew near that Israel must die, he called his son Joseph and said to him, “If now I have found favor in your sight, put your hand under my thigh and promise to deal kindly and truly with me. Do not bury me in Egypt, 30 but let me lie with my fathers. Carry me out of Egypt and bury me in their burying place.” He answered, “I will do as you have said.”(Genesis 47:27-30)

Through the Bible: Genesis 46-47

The famine is over, but God’s people don’t go back to Canaan. Egypt was not the land God swore to give to Israel. And deep down, I think Jacob knows this, which is why in the next verses he makes Joseph swear to take his bones back to Canaan to bury them after Jacob dies. Maybe Jacob sees his sons getting too comfortable in Egypt, so he wants to give them a reason to leave. But as we will see in tomorrow’s reading, even when they did leave, they made sure they had plenty of reasons to return to Egypt.

This is a great word for us as well. Here in America, we are incredibly blessed, especially when compared to the rest of the world. Speaking personally, I love my house. I love all the comforts of home. And I love this country. I’ve been all over the world and seen some amazing sights. But none compare to the Grand Canyon, Yosemite Valley, Muir Woods in San Francisco, or Siesta Key in Sarasota, Florida.

I love our people. I love our system of government. Flawed as it is, it’s still the best idea for running a country that human beings have come up with.

I love everything about my home except for one thing.

This world is not my home.

I should continually long for the home God is preparing for me in heaven. As beautiful as this world is, we will always and forever be strangers and aliens in it (1 Peter 2:11). As Rich Mullins so beautifully put it,

Nobody tells you when you get born here, how much you come to love it, and how you never belong here.

So I’ll call you my country, but I’ll be lonely for my home.

I wish that I could take you there with me.

Rich Mullins, “Land of My Sojourn”

However sweet we might have it in the Land of Goshen, this world is not our home. Lord, don’t let me get so attached to this place that I forget where my bones are supposed to be.

Day 027 (Again): Silver in the Sack (Genesis 43:23)

The Cup Found by James Tissot (1836-1902)

 21 When we came to the place where we lodged for the night and opened our bags of grain, each one’s silver was at the top of his bag! It was the full amount of our silver, and we have brought it back with us. 22 We have brought additional silver with us to buy food. We don’t know who put our silver in the bags.” 23 Then the steward said, “May you be well. Don’t be afraid. Your God and the God of your father must have put treasure in your bags. I received your silver.”  (Genesis 43:21-23)

Through the Bible: Genesis 43-45

A couple of days ago, I wrote about the mind games Joseph seemed to be playing with his brothers (see A Spurgeon Snapshot: What was Joseph Up To?) I talked about how these tests were designed to bring the brothers to repentance and to root out self-righteousness.

But today, I saw something more: every time the brothers tried to buy the grain, they found their silver returned to them.

This is a picture of grace. We cannot buy grace. We can’t earn grace. We don’t work for grace or pay for grace.

We are given grace. And even when we try to pay for it, the King just chuckles at our pathetic money bags.

“Keep it,” says the King.

The prophet Isaiah records these words from the mouth of the King of Kings:

““Come, everyone who is thirsty, come to the water; and you without silver, come, buy, and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without silver and without cost! Why do you spend silver on what is not food, and your wages on what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and you will enjoy the choicest of foods. Pay attention and come to me; listen, so that you will live.” Isaiah‬ ‭55‬:‭1‬-‭3‬ ‭CSB‬‬

In Genesis 43, Joseph invites his brothers to the table. Notice that before the meal, the steward gave them water to wash their feet (verse 24). They bring their silver, along with more silver for another provision of grain. Of course, Joseph is going to give it back.

Then, he gives them even more: he gives them his silver cup. You can see this as one more mind game, or you can see it as pointing to Jesus:

Twelve brothers seated around a table (Gen. 43:33)

“When evening came, he was reclining at the table with the Twelve.” Matthew‬ ‭26‬:‭20‬ ‭CSB‬‬

They are given bread they didn’t pay for.

“As they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take and eat it; this is my body.””
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭26‬:‭26‬ ‭CSB‬‬

Their feet are washed.

“Next, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet and to dry them with the towel tied around him.”
‭‭John‬ ‭13‬:‭5‬ ‭CSB‬‬

After the bread, they received the cup.

“Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks, he gave it to them and said, “Drink from it, all of you.”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭26‬:‭27‬ ‭CSB‬‬

And when it was all over, Joseph revealed himself to his brothers (Genesis 45:1-3).

“Then they began to describe what had happened on the road and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.”
‭‭Luke‬ ‭24‬:‭35‬ ‭CSB‬‬

Beloved, every story casts His shadow!

Day 027: Trouble Brewing? (Genesis 45:17-18)

17 And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Say to your brothers, ‘Do this: load your beasts and go back to the land of Canaan, 18 and take your father and your households, and come to me, and I will give you the best of the land of Egypt, and you shall eat the fat of the land.’ (Genesis 45:17-18)

Through the Bible: Genesis 43-45

Let’s play a game: without looking at your Bible or the verse printed above, answer this question:

“Who’s idea was it to move Israel and his entire family to Egypt?”

The idea started with Joseph (Genesis 45:9-11).

It was confirmed by Pharaoh (Genesis 45:17-18).

God didn’t initiate it, and no one ever inquired of God about it.

Contrast this with the Abraham account. God explicitly told Abraham to pack up his family and move from Ur to the land God would show him (Genesis 12:1). You don’t get that in Chapter 45.

It’s true that in Genesis 46, you see the Lord telling Jacob, “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation. I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again, and Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes.” (Genesis 46:3-4).

So, yes, God promised His manifest presence, but only after Jacob had already made up His mind to leave the Promised Land. And don’t miss that God told Jacob that He would bring him, Jacob, back up from Egypt again:

I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again, (Gen. 46:4)

Seventeen years later, a full decade after the famine was over, Jacob and his entire family are still hanging out in Egypt, thriving, multiplying, and year by year forgetting their true promised land.

They are a little like the boys taken to Pleasure Island in “Pinocchio.” When they lose all sense of where they have come from and where their true home is, a Pharaoh who “knew not Joseph” could easily shackle them.

I know this post goes in a different direction than what seems plain in the text, and arguments from silence are shaky to begin with. But don’t lose sight of the fact that Moses is writing all this in retrospect. He knows what happens next. And as a gifted writer who is also writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, it is possible that Moses is foreshadowing the trouble that is to come.

At the very least, It’s a reminder to me to never get too comfortable here. This world is not my home. The pleasures of Egypt are sweet for a season, but my Promised Land lies well beyond its borders.

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