Category Archives: Attitude

Discouraged? Take it to the LORD! (Exodus 5)

Scripture reading assignment: Exodus 5

Our study in the Book of Exodus picks up after Moses and Aaron met with the “elders of the children of Israel” (4:30). Aaron, spoke to the leaders on Moses’ behalf, as the LORD had promised he would (4:15-16), and Moses “did the signs in the sight of the people” (4:30; note 4:2-3, 6-7, 9). Convinced by Aaron’s report, and the miracles performed by Moses, the people “believed” God had heard their cry and sent Moses as their deliverer (4:31).

Exodus 5 – Confrontation with Pharaoh

Moses and Aaron, confident the LORD was with them, initiated their first audience with Pharaoh. Standing before the king of Egypt, God’s servants boldly declared, “Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Let my people go, that they may hold a feast unto me in the wilderness” (5:1).

Pharaoh answered defiantly, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go” (5:2)

Moses and Aaron said, “The God of the Hebrews hath met with us: let us go, we pray thee, three days’ journey into the desert, and sacrifice unto the Lord our God; lest he fall upon us with pestilence, or with the sword” (5:3).

Take a moment and consider Pharaoh’s position. He had asked, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice?” (5:2) The answer to his question was, “The God of the Hebrews” (5:3a). The God of slaves? The God who appears to have forsaken Israel four hundred years? That is the God you threaten will “fall upon us with pestilence, or with sword?” (5:3b)

Proud and obstinate, Pharaoh accused Moses and Aaron of attempting to lighten the burden of the children of Israel, and then double down on the slaves (5:4-5). Rather than lighten their burdens, he ordered his taskmasters to oppress the slaves and increase their workload (5:6-9). Those taskmasters then cruelly beat those officers who supervised the people (5:10-14).

Beaten and discouraged, the officers of Israel cried out to Pharaoh. The king, however, made a point of blaming their hardships on the request Moses and Aaron had made for the people to be allowed to “go and do sacrifice to the LORD” (5:17).

The officers of Israel went out from Pharaoh, and meeting Moses and Aaron along the way, accused them of adding to their troubles (5:20-21b). Failing to humble themselves and turn to the LORD, the leaders reproached them (5:21b)

The criticisms pierced the heart of Moses, and he prayed, “Lord, wherefore hast thou so evil entreated this people? why is it that thou hast sent me? 23For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in thy name, he hath done evil to this people; neither hast thou delivered thy people at all” (5:22-23).

The last thing Moses wanted, or expected, was that his commission to deliver Israel from bondage, would first require the people suffer greater afflictions. He asked, why had the LORD allowed His people to be so ill-treated (5:22). Moses was discouraged, not only questioning God, but his own leadership. He was unable to rationalize God’s promises with his calling.

I close inviting you to ponder, how you respond to discouragement? When you find yourself the object of unjust criticism, where do you turn?

Take a lesson from the life of Moses: He turned to the LORD and prayed!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

A Father’s Hope Revived: Joseph is Alive! (Genesis 46 – Part 1)

Scripture reading – Genesis 46-47

Jacob had charted an astonishing journey in life. His spiritual walk had been so transformed that God had changed his name from Jacob (“trickster”), to Israel (“God wrestles,” 32:28), and a man who had power with God.

Though blessed by the LORD, Jacob’s life had not been without disappointments and sorrows that invariably afflict us all. He was in his twilight years, and his life had been shadowed by the deaths of his wives, and the loss of two sons (Joseph whom he believed had been killed by a wild beast, and Simeon who had been left as a prisoner in Egypt). Famine had forced Jacob to send his sons back to Egypt, with the demand that Benjamin, his youngest son must accompany them. Jacob resigned himself to the worst outcome (43:14).

Waiting for word from his sons; hope returned when Jacob caught the first sight of their caravan in the distance. His sons’ greeting, and the news they had brought from Egypt caused his heart to nearly cease: Joseph is yet alive, and he is governor over all the land of Egypt” (45:26-27)!

Though old and frail, the news that Joseph was alive, revived his spirit (45:27). The journey to Egypt would be hard for an old man, but the anticipation of being reunited with Joseph had so stirred him that he looked forward to death with the contentment of a man whose life has been satisfied (45:28).

Genesis 46:1-7 – Journey from Beersheba

Located at the southernmost point of Canaan before crossing into the Arabian Peninsula, Beersheba held a significant place in Jacob’s life. Israel (Jacob) began his journey to Egypt, but not before going to Beersheba, where he “offered sacrifices unto the God of his father Isaac” (46:1; 21:30; 22:19; 26:23, 32-33). There God appeared to Israel (Jacob), and quieted his fears saying, “I am God, the God of thy father: fear not to go down into Egypt; for I will there make of thee a great nation: 4I will go down with thee into Egypt; and I will also surely bring thee up again: and Joseph shall put his hand upon thine eyes” (46:3-4). Knowing the LORD’s leading, Jacob, and all his family made their way from Beersheba, and arrived in Egypt (46:5-7).

Genesis 46:8-27 – Jacob’s Family Roster: The Twelve Sons of Jacob

Altogether, sixty-six men were identified among those who traveled to Egypt (46:8-26). Including Jacob, Joseph, and his sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, Jacob’s lineage numbered seventy souls (46:27).

Genesis 46:28-34 – Jacob’s Reunion with Joseph

Traveling with a large family, including all their livestock and belongings, had made for a slow, difficult journey. When they arrived in Egypt, Jacob sent Judah, his fourth born son, to Joseph who “made ready his chariot, and went up to meet Israel his father, to Goshen, and presented himself unto him; and he fell on his neck, and wept on his neck a good while” (46:29).

Imagine the moment Joseph embraced his father, and the tears of joy that coursed down their cheeks as twenty-two years of separation were bridged by a father and son’s love. “Israel said unto Joseph, Now let me die, since I have seen thy face, because thou art yet alive” (46:30). The son he had believed was dead, was not only alive, he was the second ruler of Egypt!

We learn that Egyptians looked upon shepherds with loathing (46:34), and Joseph wisely prepared his family for their interview with Pharaoh (46:31). Because his brothers had also tended cattle, Joseph counseled them to answer questions concerning their trade: “Thy servants’ trade hath been about cattle from our youth even until now, both we, and also our fathers: that ye may dwell in the land of Goshen; for every shepherd is an abomination unto the Egyptians” (46:32-34).

Joseph’s love, and care for his father was commendable, and is as it should always be. Though he was a ruler of Egypt, there was no greater privilege than to be the son of Israel, a man who had power with God!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Forsaken by Man, But not By God! (Genesis 45)

Scripture reading – Genesis 45

Joseph, unable to contain his emotions, cried out suddenly, “Cause every man to go out from me” (45:1b). With only his brethren present, he wept so forcefully that his servants, and even those of Pharaoh’s household heard of it (45:2). Speaking for the first time without an interpreter, Joseph cried out in Hebrew, “I am Joseph; doth my father yet live?” (45:3)

Imagine that moment! They had betrayed, sold their brother as a slave, but now he stands before them. He is a powerful ruler in Egypt, and a man to whom they bowed in fear and reverence. With the authority of a sovereign, and the compassion of a brother, Joseph stated in their tongue, “Come near to me, I pray you”(45:4a). With fear, awe, and dread, his brothers drew near, and he confessed, “I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt” (45:4b).

Calming their anxieties, he consoled his brothers, saying, “be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life” (45:5).

Take a moment, and meditate on the last phrase: “God did send me before you to preserve life” (45:5).

Rather than bitterness, and vengeance, Joseph’s words conveyed a reassuring spirit of faith and forgiveness. He had come to see the hand of God’s providences in his life. Confessing his faith, Joseph said, “8So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God: and he hath made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler [with power and authority] throughout all the land of Egypt” (45:8).

There were yet five years of famine (45:6, 11); therefore, Joseph commanded his brothers, “Go up to my father, and say unto him, Thus saith thy son Joseph, God hath made me lord of all Egypt: come down unto me, tarry not” (45:9). He promised his brothers, “thou shalt dwell in the land of Goshen, and thou shalt be near unto me, thou, and thy children, and thy children’s children, and thy flocks, and thy herds, and all that thou hast” (45:10).

When he had finished speaking, Joseph “fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck, and wept; and Benjamin wept upon his neck. 15Moreover he kissed all his brethren, and wept upon them: and after that his brethren talked with him” (45:14-15). Imagine the conversation that passed between Joseph and his brothers. Through tears, and laughter, Joseph conveyed all that had passed in the twenty-two years he had been apart from them.

The news of Joseph’s reunion with his brothers had reached Pharaoh’s household, and the king of Egypt was pleased (45:17-18). Pharaoh decreed that wagons should be taken to Canaan, and the children, wives, and Joseph’s father be conveyed to Egypt (45:19).  He promised that the “good of all the land of Egypt” would be theirs, and they would have need of nothing (45:21-25).

Stunning News: Joseph is Alive! (45:25-28)

Imagine the spectacle when an Egyptian wagon train came within sight of Jacob’s encampment in Canaan (45:25). When he heard that Joseph was alive, and was “governor over all the land of Egypt, [his] heart fainted, for he believed them not” (45:26). Seeing the wagons, and all the provisions that had been sent to him by his son, Jacob’s spirit was revived (25:27). “Israel (Jacob) said, It is enough; Joseph my son is yet alive: I will go and see him before I die” (45:28). He was content. The LORD had preserved his life into his old age, and answered the longing of his heart: He would be reunited with Joseph.

Let us take a moment and reflect on God’s providences in Joseph’s life.

His mother died giving birth to his brother Benjamin. He grew up resented, and hated by brothers who would have killed him had they not elected to sell him as a slave. He was falsely accused by his master’s wife, and was a prisoner, until the LORD directed Pharaoh to promote him to the second most powerful throne in Egypt.

Joseph was rejected, tried, and forsaken by man, but not by God!

Psalm 34:1919Many are the afflictions of the righteous: But the Lord delivereth him out of them all.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Remember: It’s Darkest Before Dawn! (Genesis 43-44)

Scripture reading – Genesis 43-44

The famine had continued in Egypt, and neighboring countries, and Israel (once named Jacob) realized the grain his sons had carried from Egypt would soon be depleted (43:1-2). Telling his sons, “Go again, buy us a little food” (43:2b), Judah, the fourth born son, reminded his father, saying,  “The man [Joseph] did solemnly protest [warned sternly] unto us, saying, Ye shall not see my face, except your [youngest] brother be with you” (43:3).

Judah stated plainly, he would return to Egypt, only if Benjamin traveled there with them (43:4-5). Jacob, frustrated with his sons, impugned them for revealing to the Egyptian ruler (Joseph) that they had a younger brother (43:6). Of course, had they failed to answer Joseph’s questions honestly, the circumstances in Egypt would probably have gone badly for them (43:7). Judah entreated his father for Benjamin, and pledged himself as surety should he fail to return (43:8-9), complaining they should have already departed for Egypt (43:10).

Reluctantly, Israel (Jacob) accepted Judah’s plead, and ordered his sons to bear gifts, and double the money, supposing their money having been returned to them on their first journey was “an oversight” (43:11-12). With Benjamin in their company, Israel (Jacob) blessed them and resigned himself to the LORD, saying, “God Almighty give you mercy before the man, that he may send away your other brother [Simeon], and Benjamin. If I be bereaved of my children, I am bereaved” (43:14).

Arriving in Egypt, the brothers “stood before Joseph.16And when Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to the ruler of his house, Bring these men home, and slay, and make ready; for these men shall dine with me at noon” (43:15b-16).

What thoughts and emotions must have swirled through the brother’s hearts when they were taken from the granaries, where they came to purchase grain, to the ruler’s house? (43:17) The answer is made known to us when we read, “And the men were afraid, because they were brought into Joseph’s house” (43:18).

Knowing the outcome of the story helps us enjoy the humor of the moment when Joseph’s brother approached his steward to plead their case (43:19-23). The steward’s response suggested the influence of Joseph’s testimony in his home, for his servant answered, “Peace be to you, fear not: your God, and the God of your father, hath given you treasure in your sacks: I had your money” (43:23). The steward’s assurance was immediately followed by a family reunion when “he brought Simeon out unto them” (43:23). How baffling it must have been for Joseph’s brothers when they, and their animals were given the “royal treatment” (43:24)!

Anticipating the arrival of the Egyptian ruler, Joseph’s brothers made ready their presents (43:25), and when he entered the house, “they brought him the present which was in their hand into the house, and bowed themselves to him to the earth” (43:26). Through an interpreter he asked of his father’s welfare, and they bowed again to Joseph (43:27-28).

The dreams and visions of Joseph’s youth, were being fulfilled as God had promised (37:5-11). When “he lifted up his eyes, and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother’s son” (43:29a), he asked, “Is this your younger brother, of whom ye spake unto me? And he said, God be gracious unto thee, my son” (43:29b).

No longer able to contain his emotions, Joseph rushed from the room, and “entered his chamber, and wept there” (43:30). Remember, Joseph had not yet made himself known to his brothers, and had continued to maintain the conduct and manner of an Egyptian ruler.

Returning to his brothers, he commanded lunch be served, though Joseph was careful to dine at a table separate from his guests: “because the Egyptians might not eat bread with the Hebrews; for that is an abomination unto the Egyptians” (43:32).

Seating his brothers according to their birth order, they “marveled one at another” (43:33), and Joseph had directed that Benjamin’s meal would be five times as much as the others (43:34).

Genesis 44 – A Crisis, and a Confession

The meal being ended, Joseph commanded his servants to fill his brother’s sacks with grain, and once again putting “every man’s money in his sack’s mouth” (44:1). Joseph made an additional request: that his personal silver cup was to be placed in Benjamin’s sack of grain (44:2).

Setting out on their journey, the brothers were overtaken by Joseph’s steward who accused them saying, “Wherefore have ye rewarded evil for good?” (44:4)

The brothers protested their innocence (44:5-8), and vowed, “9With whomsoever of thy servants it be found, both let him die, and we also will be my lord’s bondmen” (44:9). A search was made, beginning with the eldest, until coming to Benjamin’s sack where the silver cup was found (44:10-12). Overwhelmed by their emotions, the brothers “rent their clothes, and laded every man his ass, and returned to the city” (44:13), and fell on the ground before Joseph (44:14).

Joseph had continued to speak through an interpreter to this point, and he confronted his brothers as such, demanding, “What deed is this that ye have done? wot ye not that such a man as I can certainly divine?” (44:15)

Remembering how Judah had taken responsibility for his youngest brother’s care, true to his word, he confessed his brother’s sin saying, “God hath found out the iniquity of thy servants: behold, we are my lord’s servants, both we, and he also with whom the cup is found” (44:16). Joseph prolonged his brothers’ agony, vowing that Benjamin would be his servant (44:17), and sending them away to their father.

Approaching Joseph humbly, Judah pled for him to consider the grief his father would suffer should Benjamin not return, for he had already lost one son whom he presumed was dead (referring to Joseph, 44:18-28).

In a dramatic moment of contrition, Judah begged to become Joseph’s servant in Benjamin’s stead, desiring to spare his father of the sorrow that might send him to his grave (44:30-34).

To be continued: The same LORD who worked through Joseph’s life, has promised “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Dreams Do Come True” (Genesis 42)

Scripture reading – Genesis 42

Joseph’s dreams were coming to pass (37:5-11), but the path from the favored son of Jacob, to the role of a ruler in Egypt, had been one of disappointments, challenges, and injustices. He was little more than seventeen years old (37:2) when his brothers sold him to Midianite merchantmen, who then sold him as a slave in Egypt (37:27-28, 36).

Wrongfully accused by his master’s wife, Joseph had found himself a prisoner, forgotten by man, but faithful to God. Nevertheless, “the Lord was with [Joseph], and that which he did, the Lord made it to prosper” (39:23).

Headline: Thirty-Year-Old Hebrew Becomes Second Ruler of Egypt! (Genesis 41:38-57)

God had providentially worked throughout the highs, and lows of Joseph’s life. For thirteen years, he had suffered the indignity of slavery and imprisonment, but when he was thirty years old, he was dramatically promoted to sovereign of Egypt, second only to Pharoah (41:47).

Entrusted by Pharaoh to oversee the preparations for seven years of famine, “Joseph went out from [his] presence… and went throughout all the land of Egypt” (41:45-46).” For the next seven years, he served as the overseer of all that was harvested, and stored in Egypt’s granaries (41:38-44). Pharaoh also honored Joseph, giving him the name Zaphnath-paaneah (meaning, “a giver of secrets”), and “Asenath the daughter of Poti-pherah priest of On” as his wife (41:45).

“Before the years of famine came” (41:50), Asenath conceived, and God blessed Joseph with two sons. The firstborn he named Manasseh, meaning “forgetting,” for he had forgiven the hardships and mistreatments of his past (41:51). The second son he called Ephraim, meaning “fruitful,” for his life had become abundantly blessed (41:52).

As he had foretold, when the seven years of abundant harvests had passed (41:53), the seven years of famine began in Egypt (41:54). When the people cried for food, Pharaoh commanded them to go to Joseph, and he opened the granaries and began selling grain to the people (41:55).

Genesis 42 – Famine in Canaan

As famine spread (41:57), word reached Canaan, “that there was corn [grain] in Egypt, [and] Jacob said unto his sons, Why do ye look one upon another?”(42:1). “Behold, I have heard that there is corn in Egypt: get you down thither, and buy for us from thence; that we may live, and not die” (42:2).

Ten sons of Jacob, less Benjamin, the youngest, made their journey to Egypt (42:3). Perhaps suspecting his sons had a hand in Joseph’s disappearance, Jacob refused to allow Benjamin to accompany his brothers, “for he said, Lest peradventure mischief befall him” (42:4).

A Long-Awaited Family Reunion (Genesis 42:5-38)

Seeking food for their households in Canaan, God had providentially brought Joseph’s brothers to Egypt. I am sure it was incomprehensible that the brother whom they had sold as a slave, would now hold their fate in his hands (42:1-20).

Nine years had passed since he was promoted (seven years of plenty, and two years of famine), and Joseph was thirty-nine years old when he spied his brothers standing in the midst of a crowd that had gathered to purchase grain (42:5-6). Recognizing the dress of Hebrew shepherds, Joseph looked into the faces of the men who stood before him, and “made himself strange unto them [speaking through an interpreter], and spake roughly unto them…Whence come ye? And they said, From the land of Canaan to buy food” (42:7).

Joseph “knew his brethren, but they knew not him” (42:8). Though twenty-two years had passed, the memories of his childhood dreams rushed over him (37:5-11). He “remembered the dreams which he dreamed of them, and said unto them, Ye are spies; to see the nakedness of the land ye are come” (42:9).

The brother’s protested their innocence, but also revealed in their reply that Benjamin, Joseph’s brother, and his father were alive and well in Canaan (42:13). Searching out whether or not his brothers had repented of their sinful ways, he imprisoned them for three days (42:14-17). On the third day, he directed that nine of the brothers would remain in prison, and one would be allowed to return to Canaan. To prove they were not spies, Joseph demanded the youngest brother be brought to Egypt to stand before him (42:18-20).

The brothers were overcome with guilt and grief (42:21), and Reuben, the oldest brother, rebuked them, saying, “Spake I not unto you, saying, Do not sin against the child; and ye would not hear? therefore, behold, also his blood is required” (42:22). The brothers did not know that the ruler who stood before them was Joseph, and that he understood their guilt-charged conversation, and admission of the sin they had committed against him (42:23).

Emotions swept over Joseph, “and he turned himself about from them, and wept; and returned to them again, and communed with them, and took from them Simeon, and bound him before their eyes” (42:24). Commanding that their sacks be filled with grain, and the money they had brought to purchase provisions, Joseph sent the brothers away (42:25-26). Along the journey, one of the brothers opened his sack of grain, and discovered his money had been returned to him (42:27-28). Fate, it seemed, had cast its long shadow over their lives, and they asked one another, “What is this that God hath done unto us?” (42:28)

Arriving in Canaan without Simeon, the brothers shared with their father the rough words of the ruler in Egypt, and his demand that Benjamin must return with them if Simeon was to be freed from prison (42:29-34). As they emptied their sacks of grain, each man discovered his money had been returned (42:35). Fear and grief followed the discovery, but Jacob refused to allow Benjamin to return with his brothers (42:36-37).

We leave Jacob, finding his sorrows seemingly overwhelming his faith (42:38). Famine would continue five more years, and eventually Joseph’s brothers would be forced to return to Egypt. However, they will soon learn, what Jacob knows: God is in control.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

What Do You Call A Divine Appointment? – “Providence” (Genesis 40-41)

Scripture reading – Genesis 40-41

We concluded our study of Genesis 39, and left Joseph imprisoned for a false charge made by Potiphar’s wife (39:11-20). Remembering that Potiphar was “an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard” (39:1), I am of the opinion that he did not fully trust his wife’s word, for surely her charge of attempted rape would have been a capital offense (some scholars believe Potiphar might have served as the executioner).

Rather than a sentence of death, Joseph found himself in prison. Characteristic of the man of faith he was, he did not allow his circumstances to dictate his outlook. In fact, we read, “the Lord was with him, and that which he did, the Lord made it to prosper” (39:23). Joseph understood what the psalmist observed when he wrote, “As for God, His way is perfect” (Psalm 18:30). The truths he had learned of the LORD from his father, and the dreams and visions he had been given in his youth (Genesis 37), continued to resonate in his soul.

Genesis 40 – No Time for Prison Blues

Having been charged with the responsibility of “all the prisoners that were in the prison” (39:22), Joseph was serving when two prominent servants of Pharaoh’s house, “the chief of the butlers [and] the chief of the bakers” were conveyed to the prison (40:1-2). The nature of the offense those men had committed against Pharaoh is not revealed, but in the providence of God, Joseph was charged by the captain of the guard to serve them (40:4).

The chief butler (most likely a cup bearer, and therefore the most trusted of Pharaoh’s servants), and the chief baker, both “dreamed a dream” (40:5-11), and were greatly disturbed by what their dreams might forebode. Neither time, nor space permits an exhaustive study of the dreams; however, Joseph’s interpretation of them (40:12-23) left the chief butler optimistic that he would be restored to his post in three days (40:12-13). Joseph requested that the butler remember him, and appeal to Pharaoh on his behalf (40:14-15). The interpretation of the chief baker’s dream was that in three days, he would be hanged “on a tree; and the birds shall eat thy flesh from off thee” (40:18-19).

Three days passed, and the chief butler was restored, while the baker was executed according to Joseph’s interpretation of his dream (40:20-22). Joseph’s desire to be remembered by Pharaoh’s butler; however, appeared to end in disappointment when we read, “Yet did not the chief butler remember Joseph, but forgat him” (40:23).

Genesis 41 – Forgotten by Man, But Not by God

Two years passed before the butler gave any thought of the man who had interpreted his dream in prison (41:1a). That would have been demoralizing for most men; however, there is no hint that it affected Joseph’s service. In fact, he was faithful to his task, until God was ready to promote him.

In the providence of God, “Pharaoh dreamed” (41:1), and the dreams were so disturbing that the king “was troubled; and he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt, and all the wise men thereof: and Pharaoh told them his dream; but there was none that could interpret them unto Pharaoh” (41:8).

Thus the stage was set for Joseph, and the butler confessed to Pharaoh, “I do remember my faults this day” (41:9). Giving credibility for his recommendation, the butler recalled how his and the baker’s dreams were interpreted, and came to pass as Joseph had prophesied (41:10-13).

Anxious to know the interpretation of his dreams, Pharaoh commanded that Joseph be brought from prison and to his throne (41:14). Imagine what a glorious moment that was in Joseph’s life! In an instance, at a time providentially appointed by the LORD, Joseph hastened to prepare himself to stand in the presence of the most powerful figure in the world (41:14). “15And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, I have dreamed a dream, and there is none that can interpret it: and I have heard say of thee, that thou canst understand a dream to interpret it” (41:15).

Genesis 41:16-57 – From a Slave in Egypt, to the Savior of Egypt

Deflecting any praise for himself, “Joseph answered Pharaoh, saying, It is not in me: God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace” (41:16). Pharaoh then shared his dreams of seven emaciated cows devouring seven healthy cows (41:17-21), and seven blighted ears of grain devouring seven healthy ears (41:22-24). The king confessed, “I told this unto the magicians; but there was none that could declare it to me” (41:24).

God sovereignly revealed the significance of Pharaoh’s dreams to Joseph, who then gave the interpretation to the king, and advised him to “look out a man discreet and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt” (41:33). Joseph went on to suggest the administration that would be necessary to implement a storage of grain, not only to save Egypt, but also her neighbors from starving when the famine persisted for seven years (41:34-37).

Pharaoh, recognizing in Joseph not only wisdom, but that he was “a man in whom the Spirit of God is” (41:38), appointed him to serve Egypt, as second only to himself (41:33-44).  Only thirty years old when he was promoted (41:46), Joseph was entrusted with the granaries of Egypt as that nation prepared for seven years of famine that would follow seven years of plenty (41:45-57).

Genesis 41 closes with a revelation: “All countries came into Egypt to Joseph for to buy corn; because that the famine was so sore in all lands” (41:57).

The stage is set for a family reunion that would fulfill Joseph’s dreams.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Scandalous Grace and Divine Providence (Genesis 38-39)

Scripture reading – Genesis 38-39

Genesis 37 concluded with Joseph’s brothers returning to Canaan with his bloodied tunic. Deceiving their father, and breaking his heart, they led him to believe Joseph was dead (37:29-35). Meanwhile, Joseph had been transported to Egypt, and there he was sold to an Egyptian named “Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh’s, and captain of the guard” (37:36).

Genesis 38 – Judah, an Inauspicious Beginning of a Royal Lineage

The study of Joseph’s life was intersected briefly as the focus shifted to Judah (29:35), the fourth born son of Jacob (38:1). Although his lineage will be a royal one of whom King David, and Jesus Christ will be born (Mary and Joseph were both descendants of Judah), our introduction to Judah in Genesis 38 is an ignoble one.

Failing to evidence the character of a righteous man, we find Judah had a close friendship with “a certain Adullamite, whose name was Hirah” (38:1). Adullam was located in the pastoral lands of southern Judah, and it was probably while shepherding his father’s flocks that he became an acquaintance of Hirah. Judah’s questionable friendship led to an interest in a woman named Shuah, a Canaanite, and not one God or his father would have approved (38:2).

Judah took Shuah as his wife, and she conceived three sons (38:3). The firstborn was named Er (38:3), the second son was Onan, (38:4), and the third born son was Shelah (38:5). Er, Judah’s firstborn, took a wife named Tamar; however, before she conceived, the LORD slew him because he was “wicked in the sight of the LORD” (38:6-7). Following the custom of a man marrying his brother’s widow to perpetuate his lineage, Onan, Judah’s second son, rejected Tamar and the LORD “slew him also” (38:10). Twice a widow, Judah then sent Tamar to her father’s home, vowing she would be given opportunity to marry his youngest son, a promise he had no intent to keep (38:11).

Learning Judah was a widower (38:12), and realizing she had been deceived by him, Tamar set on a course to ensnare her father-in-law. Concealing her identity, and posing as a prostitute (38:14), she tempted Judah. He foolishly turned aside, and negotiated a price for her favors (38:15-17). Tamar, however, was a shrewd woman, and until Judah could fulfill her fee, she demanded a pledge, a deposit, that would serve as her security. Judah then presented her with personal items that would be easily identifiable: a “signet” that would be used to seal documents, his bracelets, and his staff (38:18).

Genesis 38:18-30 – “She conceived by him.” (38:18b)

Although a simple, four-worded phrase, it serves as a reminder that actions have consequences. Three months after she conceived, Judah learned that Tamar was with child, and he was told that “she [was] with child by whoredom” (38:24).

Hypocritically, Judah condemned Tamar to “be burnt” (38:24b); however, she produced the personal items, he had left with her: “the signet, and bracelets, and staff” (38:25). Acknowledging they were his, he confessed, “She hath been more righteous than I; because that I gave her not to Shelah my son. And he knew her again no more” (38:26).

Tamar conceived twin sons by Judah, and Pharez, the oldest son, and Zarah, became his heirs. He evidenced sincere repentance when he confessed his sin, which was seen in his withdrawal from her (38:26b).

The story of Judah and Tamar is a testimony of God’s grace and forgiveness, for they and their sons are named in the lineage of kings and Christ (Matthew 1:3). Pharez, the firstborn son is in the direct line of the Messiah.

Genesis 39 – The Providence of God: The LORD is with us!

Following the life of Joseph is akin to a spiritual rollercoaster with wonderful highs, followed by events that would threaten to plunge most men into a slough of despair.

Rather than give in to despondency and bitterness, Joseph’s faith in the LORD remained unshaken, and he rose from slave to steward over Potiphar’s household (37:36). Even when his master’s wife endeavored to entrap him in her lusts (39:7), Joseph refused her advances, and reasoned “how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” (39:9)

Though a young man, Joseph did not rationalize sin, but resisted it (39:9-11). When Potiphar’s wife thrust herself upon him, he ran from her embrace, leaving behind the garment she had seized from him (39:12-13). When she falsely accused him of indiscretion, Joseph held his peace, and was sentenced to prison (39:19-23). When he was a prisoner, and wrongfully accused, Joseph prospered, “because the Lord was with him, and that which he did, the Lord made it to prosper” (39:23).

I look forward to sharing the rest of the story, and the testimony of God’s providences in Joseph’s life, and how God made him prosper even in the darkest times!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Beautiful Dreamer (Genesis 37)

Scripture reading – Genesis 37

Our chronological study of Genesis brings us to Genesis 37, and a new crossroads in the Scriptures where the focus begins to shift from Jacob, now known as Israel, to his son Joseph. Joseph stands out as one of the most honorable, and upright men of the Old Testament.

A key detail to understanding the dynamics in this period of Joseph’s life is to remember that his mother had recently died giving birth to his brother Benjamin, Jacob’s twelfth born son (35:16-19). Recalling Rachel was Jacob’s favorite wife, and his first love, helps us to appreciate the tragic events that are recorded in Genesis 37.

Being reminded that Jacob was a shepherd, a sojourner, he was “a stranger, in the land of Canaan” (37:1). The LORD had promised him, his father Isaac, and grandfather Abraham the land of Canaan for an inheritance (Genesis 12:1; 35:12); however, the possession of that land would not come to fruition until Israel returned from four hundred years of slavery in Egypt, and conquered and possessed the land.

Joseph was seventeen years old, and was tending sheep with his half-brothers, the sons of Bilhah, and Zilpah, Jacob’s concubines who had each borne him two sons (37:2). We are not told what prompted Joseph going to his father and delivering an “evil report” concerning his brothers, but I feel there is good reason to believe that jealously might have prompted them to treat him with disdain.

Growing up in a household we would describe in our day as a “blended home,” there was constant strife and contention between Joseph and his brothers. His mother’s recent death had no doubt left him vulnerable, and his father favoring him with a “coat of many colours” (most likely a long sleeve tunic), indicated his favored stature in the home (37:3). “When his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him” (37:4).

In the providence and plan of God, the LORD prophetically revealed to Joseph in two dreams that he would one day have a position of authority in his brother’s lives, and they would bow before him (37:5-11). Unwisely in my opinion, Joseph shared the prophetic nature of his dreams with his brothers, and they “envied him” (37:11).

A fateful day came when Joseph was bid by his father to leave the safety of the home, and go out and inspect the welfare of his brothers and the flocks they were tending (37:12-14). Joseph traveled from his home in Hebron, a distance of 40 miles to Shechem (a place that has already been infamous for it was where Simeon and Levi had slain the men of that city, 34:25-31). Joseph arrived in Shechem, but learned his brothers had moved on to Dothan (37:15-17), a city that was one hundred miles from home, and was on a main trade route to Egypt.

Perhaps recognizing Joseph’s coat from a distance, the brother’s conspired together, at first to kill him (37:18-20). Reuben, the oldest brother, intervened and convinced his brothers to put Joseph in a pit, planning to return later and free him (37:21). Stripping Joseph of his tunic (37:23), the brothers cast him into a pit (37:24). When they spied the approach of Midianite merchantmen traveling to Egypt, Joseph’s brothers, in the absence of Reuben the oldest, sold him as a slave for twenty pieces of silver, and he was taken into Egypt, where he was then sold to “Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, and captain of the guard” (37:25-28, 36).

Joseph’s brothers, determined to deceive their father, and convince him that Joseph had been killed by a wild beast, dipped his coat into the blood of a goat. Seeing the frayed condition of Joseph’s coat covered in blood, Jacob believed he was dead, and “rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days…[and saying], “I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning” (37:34-35).

The stage is set for Joseph to one day deliver his brothers from a famine, and fulfilling his dream, stand in authority as they bowed before him.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Getting Back to Bethel, the House of God (Genesis 35-36)

Scripture reading – Genesis 35-36 

The LORD had commanded Jacob to return to Canaan after an absence of 20 years (Genesis 33). Receiving news his twin brother was coming, Esau came to meet him, and instead of exacting revenge, gave Jacob a loving embrace and they wept for joy. Although he had been received in peace, Jacob refused his brother’s invitation to enter the land, and traveled instead to Succoth where he lived among the heathen of the land (33:17); a decision that brought great sorrow upon his household (34:1-2, 13-29).

Genesis 35 – Journey to Bethel

Genesis 35 opened with the LORD commanding Jacob to go up to Bethel (“the house of God”), and fulfill the promise he had made to the LORD two decades prior (28:19-22). Knowing he and his family were returning to the place where the LORD had first appeared to him, Jacob commanded his family to make ready to be in the presence of the LORD.

Genesis 35:2-4 records three preparatory steps Jacob commanded his family to observe before going to Bethel.

The first step, was to “put away the strange gods that are among you” (35:2b).

How did these “strange gods” come to be with Jacob’s family? Remember that Laban, Jacob’s father-in-law, had accused him of stealing away with his gods (31:30, 34). Unbeknownst to Jacob, Rachel had taken her father’s idols. There is also a possibility that the people who had been taken captive after Simeon and Levi killed the men of Shalem, had taken their gods with them (34:28-29).

The second step in preparing to go to Bethel was to “be clean” (35:2c). Jacob commanded his people to put their lives and households in order, and to purify themselves and be holy according as God had said.

Finally, the people were to “change [their] garments” (35:2d). They were to replace the old robes that would have reminded them of their past, and put on new garments. Such is to be true of believers when Paul observed, “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Arriving at Bethel, Jacob built an altar, and most assuredly offered sacrifices, and led his family to worship the LORD there (35:6-7).

Jacob’s return to Bethel, however, was not without its sorrows, and was marked by the deaths of three loved ones.  Deborah, the elderly nurse of his mother Rebekah, and who might have assisted with raising Jacob, was the first to die (35:8). Jacob honored his beloved servant by burying her under an oak tree, and calling the name of the place “Allonbachuth,” “oak of weeping” (35:8).

Jacob’s beloved wife Rachel, the mother of Joseph, died giving birth to Benjamin, Jacob’s twelfth son (35:16-18).  Adding to his sorrows was the death of his father Isaac, the longest living patriarch, who died “being old and full of days” when he was 180 years old (35:28-29). Isaac’s death gave occasion for his sons to be reunited, and give him a proper burial (35:29).

Genesis 36 – Esau’s Lineage

Genesis 36 is the record of the births of Esau’s five sons, born of his three wives (36:1-5), and the births of his son’s sons (Esau’s grandsons).

Following their father Isaac’s death (35:29), Esau accepted that the birthright and inheritance of Canaan belonged to Jacob, and soon after moved his family to Mount Seir, in the land of Edom (36:6-8).

Genesis 36 gives no more of Esau’s history; however, the title “Duke,” given his grandsons (36:15-19), indicates they were commanders of men, and soldiers who, as was prophesied of Esau, would live by the sword (27:40).

The Edomites, who were the descendants of Esau, will play a significant role in our future study of the Twelve Tribes of Israel.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Home, Not So Sweet Home (Genesis 33-34)

Scripture reading – Genesis 33-34

Jacob was glad to be free from servitude to his father-in-law, and after he made his peace with him (31:53-55), he departed from Mount Gilead, and journeyed west to the border of  “Edom,” the land where his brother Esau had made his home (32:3).

Fearing his brother’s approach, Jacob had prepared his family for the confrontation he believed was inevitable. By trickery and deceit, he taken his brother’s birthright, and stolen his father’s blessing. Although twenty years had passed, the memory of his deception was fresh in his heart, as was the memory of his brother’s threat to kill him (27:41).

Jacob and Esau meet Genesis 33:4

The news that Esau was coming with four hundred men had filled Jacob’s heart with dread (32:6-7). Knowing he would face his brother the next day, Jacob had spent the night at Peniel, and there the LORD had met him “face to face” (32:30) and promised to preserve him, and his household.

Genesis 33 – Jacob and Esau’s Reunion

As the sun began to rise the next day, Jacob, bearing a limp he would carry the rest of his days (32:31), “lifted up his eyes, and looked, and, behold, Esau came, and with him four hundred men” (33:1a). Jacob divided his family in preparation for the meeting with his brother, not knowing if Esau’s coming was for good or for revenge (33:2). Seven times he bowed himself to Esau, “until he came near to his brother” (33:3).

In an instance, the bitterness and hardness that had separated them for twenty years, was dissolved, and “Esau ran to meet [Jacob], and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him: and they wept” (33:4). The years, and God’s blessings on the two men, had given neither cause for continuing their hostility (33:10-11).

Esau offered to accompany his brother as he continued his journey; however, Jacob declined, giving the cause was to give his children, flocks, and herds a time of rest from the arduous journey (33:12-14). Bidding his brother go on without him, and promising to join him later, Jacob remained behind, a fateful decision that would cause him and his household much sorrow.

Jacob stopped at Succoth, where he built an house, and sheltered his cattle. He “bought a parcel of a field,” from a man identified as “Hamor, Shechem’s father” (33:17-19). Failing to go on to Bethel, he erected an altar in Shalem (33:18-20).

Genesis 34 – “To See and To Be Seen: A Tragic Story of Love and Murder”

Jacob’s failure to go to Bethel took a tragic turn when his daughter Dinah, born to Leah, “went out to see the daughters of the land” (34:1). Her father had made the decision to settle his family among the heathen, idol worshipers of that day, and his children were not insulated from the fatal attraction of the world. The influence of the “daughters of the land,” inevitably brought Dinah into the company of Shechem, the son of a wealthy, powerful man of Shalem, named Hamor.

When Shechem looked upon Dinah, he seized her forcefully and “took her, and lay with her, and defiled her” (34:2). Though he had raped her violently, Hamor’s “soul clave unto Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved [sexually desired] the damsel, and spake kindly unto the damsel [speaking to her heart and emotions]” (34:3), and desired to take her as his wife (34:4).

News of Dinah’s rape reached Jacob, but he “held his peace” (34:5) until his sons came home. Hamor, Shechem’s father, came to arrange his son’s marriage to Dinah (34:6); however, her brothers were furious that their sister had been shamed, and mistreated (34:7). Hamor suggested a compromise, but such an agreement would have been a breach of Jacob’s covenant with the LORD, and would have put the promises of God in jeopardy (34:8-10). Shechem pled for forgiveness, and offered to pay whatever dowry was required (34:11-13). Plotting revenge (34:13), Jacob’s sons agreed to accept Shechem as Dinah’s husband, but only if all the men of the city agreed to be circumcised (34:14-24).

Unbeknownst to Jacob, on the third day after the men of the city were circumcised, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, drew their swords and slew all the men of the city (34:25-26). With the men of the city dead, Jacob’s other sons joined Simeon and Levi, raided the livestock, and took their children and wives captive. (34:27-29).

Jacob protested the actions of Simeon and Levi, and expressed his fear that their act of revenge would have dire consequences for his household (34:30). Dinah’s brothers, however, evidenced no remorse, and challenged their father, asking, Should he deal with our sister as with an harlot?” (34:31)

The heartache, and division that was within Jacob’s household is often mirrored in today’s homes. No home is exempt from the sorrows and violence of yesteryear. Fathers  should be attentive, and ever mindful to look ahead and see the evil., remembering, “that the friendship of the world is enmity with God” (James 4:4).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith