Tag Archives: Bitterness

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

God Remembered Israel (Exodus 1-2)

Scripture reading: Exodus 1-2

Exodus 1 – The Twelve Tribes of Israel in Egypt

A change in leadership can be a perilous time for institutions, corporations, and nations.  Inexperienced leadership, coupled with a lack of appreciation for legacy and history, will invariably lead to decisions and course changes that are detrimental.  Such is the case in the opening verses of Exodus when we read,  Joseph died, and all his brethren, and all that generation…[and] there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph” (1:6, 8).

Joseph had been a gifted administrator, and God blessed his rise to power in Egypt where he had become second only to Pharaoh (Genesis 41:40-43). He was God’s man for the hour, and the tribes of Israel prospered under his care, and long after his death (1:7).

The new Pharaoh did not “know” Joseph, nor was he interested in the policies that had made him and Egypt prosper. He was, however, concerned the population growth “of the children of Israel” posed a threat to the nation (1:9-10). Pharaoh issued a series of commands to limit the population growth of Israel, and tasked the children of Israel with heavy burdens and hardships (1:11-14).  He then ordered the genocide of the sons born of Hebrew women (1:15-21). Finally, he demanded the drowning of every son born of a Hebrew mother (1:22).

Some might ask, “Why would God allow His people, His chosen people, to suffer such calamity?”   My answer: The sufferings and sorrows Israel faced as a people were part of God’s plan to move the Hebrews from the comfort and riches of Egypt to the land He had covenanted to give the descendants of Abraham.

Exodus 2 – Moses, Prince of Egypt

Exodus 2 introduces us to Moses, a man whom I believe was one of the greatest leaders in human history. The prosperity of the tribes of Israel during Joseph’s lifetime, had become only a distant memory when Moses was born. The children of Israel had become slaves in Egypt, and Moses was not only born in a slave’s household, but he was born under the threat of infanticide (1:15-22; 2:1-4).

Moses’ parents were pious believers of the priestly tribe of Levi. His mother, Jochebed, risked her life, and “hid him three months” (2:2) after he was born. She eventually made a small vessel of reeds, and placed him in the basket, then set her son adrift on the Nile River, entrusting his life to God’s providential care (2:3-4).

Reminded that God is sovereign, infant Moses drifted to the place where Pharaoh’s daughter was bathing, and his cry pierced her heart where he found favor and compassion (2:5-6). She realized the baby boy was a Hebrew, and at the suggestion of Moses’ sister, she employed Jochebed, to be his nurse (2:7-10).

Moses spent the first forty years of his life in the palace as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, and therefore an Egyptian prince. He was favored not only with the finest education of his day, but had become a great leader, “mighty in words and in deeds” (2:10; Acts 7:21-22).

In spite of his Egyptian facade, the heart of Moses was knit with the suffering of the Hebrews (2:11-15a; Acts 7:23-29a). There was a day when he became so incensed by the abuse his brethren suffered, that he took the life of an Egyptian (2:11-13). Realizing Pharaoh would soon know his crime (2:14-15), he fled into the wilderness, and there he spent the next forty years of his life (2:16-22; Hebrews 11:24-27).

In the providence of God, Moses, the prince of Egypt, assumed the lowly role of a hireling shepherd, to a Midianite named Reul (also known as Jethro). “Content to dwell with the man” (2:21), Reul gave his daughter Zipporah, to be the wife of Moses, and she gave birth to two sons, Gershom (2:22), and Eliezer (18:4).

In their sorrows, the children of Israel began to cry out to God, and He “heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob” (2:23-24).

God remembered Israel, and He had not forgotten Moses.

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

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

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

When the Chickens Come Home to Roost (Genesis 29)

Scripture reading – Genesis 29

Fleeing from his brother who had vowed revenge (27:41-43), Jacob had arrived at Bethel (28:17-19), where the LORD appeared to him in a vision. Facing an uncertain future, and far from home, the LORD affirmed to Jacob that he was chosen to be heir to the Abrahamic covenant (28:12-15; 12:1-3).

Genesis 29:1-14 – Jacob is United with His Mother’s Family

Jacob continued his journey eastward, and “came into the land of the people of the east” (29:1). Having traveled four to five hundred miles, “he looked, and behold a well in the field, and, lo, there were three flocks of sheep lying by it; for out of that well they watered the flocks: and a great stone was upon the well’s mouth” (29:2).

Considering the precious nature of water, there was a policy that the stone over the well’s mouth would not be removed until all the shepherds gathered with their flocks (29:3). Far from home, Jacob asked the local shepherds, “Know ye Laban the son of Nahor? And they said, We know him. 6And he said unto them, Is he well? And they said, He is well: and, behold, Rachel his daughter cometh with the sheep” (29:5-6).

Breaking the rule to keep the mouth of the well-sealed until all the flocks were present, Jacob “rolled the stone from the well’s mouth, and watered the flock of Laban his mother’s brother” (29:10) which was tended by Rachel, the daughter of Laban.

Unable to contain his joy, Jacob “kissed Rachel, and lifted up his voice, and wept…[and] told [her] that he was her father’s brother [relative], and that he was Rebekah’s son [Rebekah and Laban were siblings]: and she ran and told her father” (29:11-12). When Laban received news that his nephew, the son of his sister Rebekah had come, “he ran to meet him, and embraced him, and kissed him, and brought him to his house” (29:13).

Jacob remained in his uncle’s home for “the space of a month” (29:14), when Laban proposed to his nephew that he should not continue serving him “for nought [and requested] tell me, what shall thy wages be?” (29:15).

The Scriptures reveal a detail that will become the basis of an unfolding drama in the next several chapters: “Laban had two daughters: the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. 17Leah was tender eyed [weak; unattractive]; but Rachel was beautiful and well favoured” (29:16-17). Laban, as we will see, was a sly businessman, and reasoned, “It is better that I give her to thee, than that I should give her to another man,” Laban agreed that Jacob would labor seven years for the hand of his youngest daughter. (29:19).

Jacob was smitten with Rachel’s beauty, and the seven years he labored for her to be his wife, “seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her” (29:20). When his seven years were ended, Jacob demanded that Laban give him Rachel to be his wife (29:21).

Genesis 29:22-30 – Be sure your sin will find you out!

Jacob, a deceiver and trickster in his own right (having taken his brother’s birthright and his father’s blessing), soon learned he had met his match with Uncle Laban, the master of trickery and chicanery.

Because the bride’s face was veiled in modesty for the wedding feast, Jacob did not discover he had married Leah, Laban’s oldest daughter, (29:23-25) until the morning after the wedding. Jacob confronted Laban the morning after his wedding night; however, his marriage to Leah, though made under fraudulent circumstances, was nevertheless binding (29:25).

Laban excused his deceit, supposedly citing a local tradition that a younger sister was forbidden to marry before the older sister (29:26). Laban slyly suggested an arrangement for Jacob to labor another seven years, and if he agreed, he would give him his beloved Rachel for his second wife (29:27). Jacob agreed, and one week later he took Rachel as his wife.

Herein is a lesson: Consorting with men like Laban, a man void of integrity, is treacherous business!

Laban kept his agreement, but Jacob now found himself the husband of two wives, and committing the sin of bigamy. We read that Jacob “loved also Rachel more than Leah… 31And when the Lord saw that Leah was hated [despised], he opened her womb: but Rachel was barren” (29:30a-31).

One passing phrase in this narrative forewarns us to the troubles that will follow Jacob’s household: Jacob “loved also Rachel more than Leah” (29:30).

There is an old idiom that reads, “Chickens come home to roost!”  In other words, as it is the nature of chickens to come home to their roosting place each night, it is also true that the consequences of sinful choices invariably catch up with us all.

While his journey had taken him hundreds of miles from home, Jacob’s sins against his father and brother had come to be mirrored in the schemes of his father-in-law into which he fell victim.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

THE END: “Job Died Old, and Full of Days” (Job 42)

Scripture reading – Job 42

Job had remained silent since he had confessed, “I am vile” (40:4), and being reminded of the majesty of God, he “answered the Lord, and said, 2I know that thou canst do every thing, And that no thought can be withholden from thee” (42:1-2). He had complained, but now he resigned himself to God’s sovereignty. He acknowledged he had spoken in ignorance (42:3), and accepted that the LORD was not obligated to answer his questions.

We find a wonderful expression of Job’s humility when he confessed, 5I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: But now mine eye seeth thee(42:5). Though dreadful to have experienced the afflictions, the experience had moved Job from a theoretical knowledge (“hearing of the ear”), to a personal and practical knowledge (“now mine eye seeth thee”) of his God and Creator. Job confessed, 6Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes (42:6).

Job 42:7-10God Rewards Faithfulness

After accepting Job’s repentance, the LORD turned His focus to his foolish “friends” (42:7-9). “Eliphaz the Temanite” had been the first to challenge Job, and “the Lord said to [him], My wrath is kindled against thee, and against thy two friends: for ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath” (42:7).

God commanded Eliphaz and his peers to “take unto you now seven bullocks and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and my servant Job shall pray for you: for him will I accept: lest I deal with you after your folly, in that ye have not spoken of me the thing which is right, like my servant Job” (42:8).

What an astonishing turn of events! Job had been the object of his friends’ scorn and judgments. It was their unkindness, and false arguments that had so provoked the LORD that He commanded them to humble themselves, and appeal to Job to intercede for them.

Job, evidencing the grace of a humble man, “prayed for his friends,” and the LORD rewarded him with “twice as much as he had before” (42:10). 

Closing Thoughts

We have studied forty-two chapters in the life of Job, and with the exception of his wife who had suggested he curse God and die, and four “friends” who proposed to be his counselors but became his critics, Job’s acquaintances have been strangely absent.

With the hard times past, and Job enjoying God’s blessings and financial prosperity, we read: Then [i.e. after God prospered Job “twice as much”] came there unto him all his brethren [kindred], and all his sisters, and all they that had been of his acquaintance [i.e. friends and neighbors] before [before Job’s trials]” (42:11).

Where were these “brethren” and “sisters” when Job lost everything?  Where were his acquaintances when he lost his sons and daughters, servants, home, health and possessions?  Why appear now to show sympathy and comfort?  Why wait to bring Job “a piece of money” and gold earrings? After all, he had need of nothing (42:12-15)!

We conclude our study of the Book of Job, and my heart rejoices when I read that God had prospered him, and he “died, being old and full [satisfied] of days” (Job 42:10, 17).

Job had suffered much, and his afflictions were as severe as any we might imagine. He had borne the sorrow of his sons and daughters’ deaths. He had lost his house, possessions, and servants. Finally, he lost his health, and was afflicted from head to foot with painful sores. His friends had condemned him, and his family and neighbors had forsaken him, but God remembered him! When Job humbled himself before God, he was restored to His favor, and died very old, and content with his life (42:17).

Is that not what we all want? To not only live a long life, but be content, and satisfied when we draw our last breath!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Don’t Trifle with God! (Job 37)

Scripture reading – Job 37

Job 37 brings us to the final chapter in Elihu’s protracted admonition of Job. Like his other friends, the younger Elihu had suggested that Job’s troubles had come because he had provoked God to wrath. Humiliated by his sorrows, and troubled by friends who had shown him no pity, Job remained silent throughout Elihu’s indictment.

Job 37:1-5 – Elihu invited Job to consider the majesty of God displayed in creation.

Speaking figuratively, Elihu encouraged Job to “hear [listen] attentively the noise [rumbling] of [God’s] voice, and the sound that goeth out of his mouth. 3He directeth it [the thunder] under the whole heaven, And his lightning unto the ends of the earth” (37:2-3). The sound of thunder is as the voice of God, and He “thundereth marvellously with his voice; Great things doeth he, which we cannot comprehend” (37:5).

Job 37:6-13 – God is the Director of the Snow, Ice, Rains, and Wind.

Not only is the majesty of God displayed in thunderstorms, but He displays His power and authority over nature when He guides the snow, ice, rain, and winds according to His will. He controls winter weather, and sends spring showers (37:6). He can stop all human activity with a storm, for “He sealeth up the hand of every man; that all may know His work” (37:7a).

Speaking symbolically, Elihu suggested that frost was “the breath of God” (37:10), and the clouds a reminder of His presence and providence (37:11). Storms and winds accomplish God’s will, and “do whatsoever He commandeth them upon the face of the world in the earth” (37:12b). Sometimes storms come as an manifestation of divine judgment, and other times as a expression of God’s mercy (37:13).

Job 37:14-22 – Elihu’s Parting Admonition: No Man Should Dare Judge Divine Providence.

Having illustrated the nature and power of the Creator, Elihu challenged: “14Hearken [Listen] unto this, O Job: Stand still, and consider the wondrous works of God” (37:14). Man cannot know why God sends the lighting, nor why He distributes the clouds as He does (37:15-16). Job was reminded that man has nothing to do with how God orders nature (37:18)

Job had complained, were he given an opportunity, he would ask God for an explanation of all that he had suffered. Elihu, after describing the majesty of God over His creation, remembered Job’s boldness, and sarcastically challenged him, “19Teach us what we shall say unto Him; For we cannot order our speech by reason of darkness” (37:19). Elihu suggested, should any man be so foolish to question God’s providence, “surely he [would] be swallowed up” by Him (37:20).

Job 37:23-24 – The Majesty of Almighty God

No man can measure, define, or find El Shaddai, “the Almighty” (37:23). He is all powerful, just, and “He will not afflict” for the purpose of doing evil (37:23b). He is Sovereign, one to be feared and revered, and respects no man who thinks himself wise (37:24).

Take a lesson from Elihu: Don’t Trifle with God!

Matthew 10:2828And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear Him [the LORD] which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith