Tag Archives: daily devotionals

The Tragedy of a Hardened Heart (Exodus 8)

Scripture reading: Exodus 8

“And [the LORD] hardened Pharaoh’s heart, that he hearkened not unto them; as [He] had said.” (Exodus 7:13)

Throughout the contest between Pharaoh and Moses, a pattern will emerge in the narrative: Moses will contend with the king of Egypt, and Pharaoh will reject the LORD’s messenger, and the LORD will harden his heart through the natural consequences of refusing God’s Word.

What is the nature of a hardened heart? A hardened heart is a heart that rejects God’s Word, to the point that it is calloused, and insensitive to Truth. It is spiritually cold, and becomes openly rebellious. When calamities come upon a man, they have the potential of either humbling, or hardening his heart.

Proud, stubborn, and defiant; God hardened Pharaoh’s heart (7:13), and turned the fresh waters of Egypt to blood. The fish were killed, and the stench of putrefying flesh filled the land (7:20-22). For seven days, the blood red waters of the Nile were a testimony of the power of Israel’s God.

Frogs filled the land (8:1-15)

We are not sure how much time passed between the first plague (the river being turned to blood), and the second contest between Moses and Pharaoh. The day came when the LORD commanded Moses to go before Pharaoh, and should he fail to let the children of Israel go, the land would be filled with frogs (8:1-4).

Aaron stretched forth his rod as Moses commanded, and frogs came out of the rivers, streams, and ponds, until all the land of Egypt was filled with them (8:5-7). Frogs were in the houses, on their beds, in the ovens, and in flour kneading troughs. Pharaoh begged Moses to appeal to the LORD to take away the frogs, and promised he would “let the people go, that they may do sacrifice unto the Lord” (8:8b).

Rather than appeal to the LORD to instantly remove the frogs from the land, Moses deferred to Pharaoh, and invited him to name the time when he should ask the LORD to “destroy the frogs” (8:9). Proud and stubborn, rather than seek immediate relief, the king chose the next day for the frogs to be purged from the land (8:10).

The following day, “Moses cried unto the Lord… and the frogs died…14And they gathered them together upon heaps: and the land stank” (8:13-14). Pharaoh, however, hardened his heart and would not allow Israel to go, and offer sacrifices to the LORD (8:15).

Lice Infested the Land (8:16-19)

When Pharaoh failed to keep his word, Moses commanded Aaron to smite the dust of the land, and the LORD sent “lice throughout all the land of Egypt” (8:17). The lice may have been some form of gnat or other biting insect. Unlike other miracles, which the magicians emulated, they failed to turn dust into lice, and counseled Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God” (8:19a). Yet again, “Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he hearkened not unto them; as the Lord had said” (8:19b).

Swarms of Flies Plague Egypt (8:20-31)

The class or type of the flies has been a topic of speculation. There is in Egypt today a fly that is identified as a biting “dog fly,” and is similar to the deer flies that inhabits the southeastern United States.

The harassment of the flies moved Pharaoh to suggest a compromise to Moses. The king would allow Israel to offer sacrifices to “God in the land” (8:25), but not permit the people to go beyond the borders of Egypt. Moses, however, refused Pharaoh’s proposal, for fear that Israel’s sacrifices would be seen as an “abomination” to the Egyptians, who would then stone the people (8:26).

Moses demanded the people be allowed to go a three-day’s journey into the desert; however, the king offered a compromise (8:28). Moses promised to pray for the LORD to remove the flies, but only if Pharaoh would not default on his vow to release Israel to go and sacrifice to the LORD (8:29a). When the flies were removed; however, Pharaoh “hardened his heart” and would not “let the people go” (8:32).

Pride stood in the way of Pharaoh’s failure to humble himself. The king’s unwillingness to acknowledge Israel’s God as LORD, paved the way to sorrow and death.

Proverbs 16:1818Pride goeth before destruction, And an haughty spirit before a fall.

Is pride and a hardened heart preventing you from humbling yourself, confessing your sin, and turning to the LORD?

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Hardening One’s Heart is Not Wise! (Exodus 6-7)

Scripture reading assignment: Exodus 6-7

We have considered the first clash of wills between Pharaoh, and Moses (Exodus 5). Accosted and accused by the ones he loved and had come to deliver, Moses turned to the LORD and prayed (5:22-23). Pharaoh, however, turned a deaf ear to Moses’ requests, and remained unmoved and unwilling to let the people go.

Exodus 6 – God Heard and Answered Moses’ Prayer

But the LORD is faithful to hear and answer prayer, and responded to Moses’ plea, assuring him, “Now shalt thou see what I will do to Pharaoh: for with a strong [mighty] hand shall he let them go, and with a strong [mighty] hand shall he drive them out of his land” (6:1). The LORD promised to not only deliver Israel from slavery, but assured Moses, when He was finished dealing with Pharaoh, the king would drive Israel out of Egypt!

What was Moses learning about God, and his commission to serve Him? He was learning that Israel’s liberation was not dependent on him, but on whom he served: “God spake unto Moses, and said unto him, I am the Lord [Yahweh; eternal, self-existent]: 3And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty [El Shaddai], but by my name JEHOVAH [Yahweh] was I not known to them” (6:2-3). Though Israel had lost faith in God, He had not forgotten His covenant with them (6:4-5), and in a series of “I wills,” the LORD reminded Moses of all he had promised (6:6-8).

When Moses had spoken to the people all the LORD had conveyed to him; “they hearkened not unto [him]” (6:9). The LORD then came to Moses, and instructed him to go to Pharaoh, and command the king, “let the children of Israel go out of his land” (6:11). Moses, however, discouraged from the rejection of the people, wondered aloud, if his people spurned his words, why should Pharaoh hear him, a man “of uncircumcised lips [i.e. poor speech]?” (6:12)

Notice that the dialog between the LORD and Moses was interrupted by the genealogies of three sons of Jacob: Reuben, Simeon, and Levi (6:14-27). Reuben, the firstborn of Jacob, had committed incest with his father’s concubine (6:14; Genesis 35:22). Simeon, the second, and Levi, the third born son, had raged against the Shechemites, and in revenging the rape of their sister Dinah, murdered the men of Shechem (Genesis 34).

The lineage of Levi is of particular interest to our narrative, for Moses and Aaron were sons of the tribe of Levi, the priestly tribe. The tribe of Levi was chosen by the LORD to represent the people before Him (6:16-27).

Exodus 7

The setting of Exodus 7 is the second confrontation between Moses and Pharaoh. There was already a dynamic change in the relationship between Pharaoh and Moses, for the LORD had magnified his standing, and “made [Moses] a god to Pharaoh” (7:1). The LORD instructed Moses to command the king to “send the children of Israel out of his land” (7:2); however, God cautioned his servant that He would “harden Pharaoh’s heart, and multiply [His] signs and…wonders in the land of Egypt” (7:3).

Proud and obstinate, Pharaoh and Egypt would suffer God’s judgment in a series of ten plagues that would not only bring that nation to its knees, but would reveal the God of Israel was the God of Heaven (7:4-5).

Moses and Aaron, with God’s power and His Word as their authority, then stood before Pharaoh, and “Aaron cast down his rod before [the king], and before his servants, and it became a serpent” (7:10). Undeterred, the king’s advisors, displayed the power of evil, and cast down their rods which also became serpents (7:11-12a); however, the rod of Aaron, transformed into a serpent, displayed the supremacy of Israel’s God, and devoured the rods of Pharaoh’s men (7:12).

What was Pharaoh’s response? God “hardened” his heart (7:13), as He had said He would (7:14). The first of a series of judgments then followed (7:14-12:36). The first plague was the waters of the Nile River were turned to blood (7:15-18), the fish died, and the stench of their rotting flesh filled Egypt (7:19-21). Nevertheless, Pharaoh’s magicians seemed to have duplicated the water turning to blood (7:22), and Pharaoh turned away, and his heart was hardened (7:24).

For seven days, the people were plagued with hunger (the fish of the Nile being a major source of food), and thirst (7:24-25). The king, however, refused to humble himself and set Israel free.

Closing thought: The Egyptians idolized the Nile River. When the God of Israel turned the waters of the Nile to blood, He displayed His sovereignty and power over one of Egypt’s gods, and over nature itself. Unable to escape God’s wrath, Egypt and her king continued to defy the LORD. Nine judgments would follow, before Pharaoh humbled himself and acknowledged that Israel’s God is LORD.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

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

“I AM hath sent me unto you.” (Exodus 3-4)

Scripture reading: Exodus 3-4

Moses was forty years old when he fled Egypt into the wilderness (2:11), and he spent the next forty years of his tending his father-in-law’s sheep. He had been safe from the reign of Pharaoh, and lived far from the travail of the children of Israel. In fact, he might have contentedly lived out his days with his wife Zipporah (2:21), and his sons, Gershom (2:22) and Elizer (18:4).

Though the children of Israel were far from the thoughts of Moses, they were never beyond God’s loving compassion. When the “king of Egypt died” (2:23), and the people found no relief from their sorrows, they “cried, and their cry rose up to God by reason of the bondage [slavery; forced labor]” (2:23b).

“God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.25And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God had respect [acknowledged] unto them” (2:24-25).

Exodus 3 – Called and Commissioned (3:1-14).

God found Moses tending his father-in-law’s sheep on the backside of the desert (3:1). He had providentially made his way to Horeb, “the mountain of God” (3:1). [This same mount, also named Sinai, would become the base camp for Israel when Moses received the Ten Commandments, Exodus 19:10-11.]

At Horeb, “the angel of the Lord appeared unto [Moses] in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush… and the bush was not consumed” (3:2).

The sight of a burning bush in the desert was not unusual; however, when it was not consumed–that’s when God got Moses’ attention. He turned aside to see the sight (3:3), and God called him by name from the burning bush (fire being a symbol of God’s presence in the Scriptures, Exodus 19:18).

Instructing Moses to remove his shoes, the voice said, “I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (3:6a).

What did Moses, a prince of Egypt, know about the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? His knowledge of the God of Israel was not acquired in the palace of Pharaoh’s daughter, but instead, he was taught from the loving arms of his Hebrew mother, Jochebed (2:2, 8-10; 6:20).

God awakened in Moses a memory of the sufferings of the children of Israel (3:7), and He announced He would deliver His people out of bondage (3:8). God then commanded Moses, “10Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt” (3:10).

Moses asked, “Who am I?” (3:11). No longer the proud prince of Egypt, his question evidenced a humility that had been born in the solitude of the desert. No doubt the LORD had prepared Moses; however, the matter of his calling was not who he was, but who had called and commissioned him. God assured him, “I will be with thee; and this shall be a token unto thee, that I have sent thee: When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain” (3:12).

Moses wondered aloud, “Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them?” (3:13)

“And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you” (3:14).

God promised, not only would the children of Israel heed his voice (3:15-18a), but the king of Egypt would bow to his will. The LORD promised He would smite Egypt until that great nation bowed to His will (3:18b-22).

Exodus 4 – God Overcame Moses’ Objections

Overwhelmed by the task he had been given, God provided Moses with three miraculous signs to prove the LORD was with him. The first sign, his shepherd’s staff became a serpent (4:2-5). The second sign showed his skin turning leprous, and then completely healed (4:6-8). Turning water into blood was the third miraculous sign (4:8-9).

When Moses objected that he lacked the eloquence or language needed to stand in Pharaoh’s court (after being exiled from Egypt forty years, 4:10), God rebuked him saying, “Who hath made man’s mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the Lord?” (4:11) The LORD overcame Moses’ objection, promising to send Aaron on his behalf (4:12-16).

Moses departed for Egypt, but along the way became deathly ill (4:18-24). He might have died, but his wife Zipporah, intervened by circumcising their son (4:24-25). She then returned to her father’s house (4:24-26), and did not reunite with Moses until Israel encamped at Sinai (18:2-3).

Arriving in Egypt, Aaron gathered the elders of Israel, and Moses demonstrated the power of God was upon him (4:30). When the people witnessed the signs of God’s power, they believed, and worshipped the LORD (4:31).

The stage is set for the contest between the most powerful king on the earth, and a shepherd whom God had anointed to lead His people to the Promised Land.

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

“God Meant it Unto Good” (Genesis 50)

Scripture reading – Genesis 50

“[When] Jacob had made an end of commanding his sons, he gathered up his feet into the bed, and yielded up the ghost, and was gathered unto his people” (49:33).

Named Jacob when he was born, he fulfilled the definition of that name in the early years of his life, for he had been a trickster and deceiver. His life, however, was changed at a brook named Peniel (32:27-30), and God changed his name to Israel. Transformed into a man of faith, he became a man upon whom the power of God rested.

He had borne the weight of great sorrows, but he died surrounded by his family, and was comforted in the embrace of his son Joseph, the second ruler of Egypt (50:1). Embalmed in the manner of Egypt, even “the Egyptians mourned for [Jacob] threescore and ten days” (50:3). Joseph requested, and received, Pharaoh’s blessing for his father’s body to be taken up to Canaan and buried in the ancestral tomb of his father Isaac, and his grandfather Abraham (50:4-6).

Imagine the funeral procession that came out of Egypt, and made its way to Jacob’s tomb (50:7-13). His body, borne in an Egyptian coffin, was escorted by “all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his house, and all the elders of the land of Egypt, 8And all the house of Joseph, and his brethren, and his father’s house: only their little ones, and their flocks, and their herds, they left in the land of Goshen (50:7-8).

The Canaanite people of the region observed the royal procession of mourners, and named the place Abel-mizraim, meaning a “mourning or meadow of Egypt” (50:11). Arriving at the tomb, the sons of Jacob buried their father (50:12-13), and then returned to Egypt (50:14). Understanding the evil they had committed against Joseph, his brothers feared in their father’s absence, he might exact revenge for their wrongs against him (50:15-17).  Instead of revenge, however, “Joseph wept” (50:17b).

Though abused and rejected in his youth, Joseph had looked past the trials with eyes of faith, and rested in the providence of God. He comforted his brothers, and said, “Fear not: for am I in the place of God? 20But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive” (50:19-20). He went on to assure them, “fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them” (50:21).

Sold as a slave when he was seventeen, Joseph lived the rest of his life in Egypt. Though a ruler in Egypt, his heart longed for the land God had promised, and in death he assured his brethren: “God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land unto the land which he sware to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob” (50:24). Joseph, repeated the promise, and requested, “ye shall carry up my bones from hence” (50:25). “So Joseph died, being an hundred and ten years old: and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt” (50:26).

A Concluding Thought: I close this commentary, thanking you for accompanying me on this journey through the Scriptures.

Beginning with, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1), and closing with Joseph’s death and the request that his bones be taken up and buried in Canaan (50:25-26), we have witnessed God’s sovereignty and loving devotion to those who turn from sin to Him. Joseph confessed to his brothers, “ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive” (50:20).

It was God who worked to save Jacob, his sons, and the Tribes of Israel that He might fulfill His Covenant Promise to Abraham, that “in [him] shall all families of the earth be blessed,” (a promise fulfilled in Jesus Christ who died for the sins of the world, 12:3; John 3:16). It is God who desires all men would be saved, and “is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

God is working, and He invites you to “confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus,” and “believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Romans 10:9).

You are invited to share your decision of faith, or your thoughts with this author by emailing: HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Jacob’s Last Will and Testament (Genesis 48-49)

Scripture reading – Genesis 48-49

His father’s strength had been waning, and when Joseph received news his father was sick, he hastened with his sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, to Jacob’s bedside (48:1). Learning Joseph was approaching, Jacob (Israel) “strengthened himself, and sat upon the bed” (48:2). Joseph is about 56 years old when he comes with his sons to his father’s bedside.

Raising himself up from his bed, Jacob began to remind Joseph of the covenant promises God had imparted to him in Canaan, and said: “Behold, I [God Almighty] will make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, and I will make of thee a multitude of people; and will give this land to thy seed after thee for an everlasting possession” (48:4). [The third of the covenant promises, that of being a blessing to all people, will be related to Judah of whom Jesus Christ would be born, 49:8-12; 12:3.]

Jacob’s thoughts then turned to pronouncing God’s providential inclusion of Joseph’s sons among his own (48:5-6). Ephraim, the younger, and Manasseh the older, were foretold to be equal to Jacob’s sons, and would therefore inherit a portion of the birthright blessings in the place of Reuben, Simeon, and Levi who forfeited their portion through sinful choices (48:5b; 1 Chronicles 5:1; Numbers 26:28-37; 1 Chronicles 7:14-29; Hebrews 11:21). Reuben had morally sinned against his father (35:22), and Simeon and Levi had brought shame upon the family by their anger and violence (34:25-31). Though these sons were loved by their father, their sins had been so egregious that they were rejected from their full blessing.

Joseph put forward Manasseh, his oldest son; however, Jacob took Ephraim in his right hand, and insisted that the blessing of the firstborn would fall on him (48:8-19). Though he would die in Egypt, Jacob foretold that Joseph and his sons’ inheritance would not be in Egypt, but in Canaan (48:21). Thus, Joseph’s faithfulness to the LORD, and his care of his father and family were rewarded, and he would receive through his sons a double portion of the inheritance (48:22).

 

Genesis 49 – A Parting Blessing

Jacob’s final words to his sons, and his prophetic insight into the future of their lineages, are recorded in Genesis 49. The words of that dying man were both a blessing and sobering (49:3-15).

The Six Sons of Leah (49:3-15)

Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn, was a strong leader; however, the shame of his lying with his father’s concubine shadowed his life (49:3-4). Simeon and Levi, the second and third born sons, were reminded of their angry, vindictive spirits, and their lineages would be scattered among the tribes in the Promised Land. The tribe of Levi would be priests to the LORD (49:5-7). Judah, the fourth born son, would become a royal lineage, of whom David and Jesus Christ would be born (49:8-12). Zebulun’s lineage, the tenth born son of Jacob, would settle along the Mediterranean coast (49:13). Issachar, the ninth son, would become an agricultural people (49:14-15).

The Sons of Bilhah (49:16-18; 21)

Bilhah, one of Jacob’s concubines, gave birth to two sons of Jacob. Dan, the fifth born son, his name means “Judge,” and his lineage would be a judge of the tribes (49:16-18). Naphtali, Jacob’s sixth son, would father a lineage said to be like a “hind let loose,” a swift female deer, and gifted in words (49:21).

The Sons of Zilpah (49:19-20)

Gad, son of Bilhah, was Jacob’s seventh son, and his lineage would be known as great warriors (Joshua 22:1-6; 1 Chronicles 12:8). Asher, the eighth born, would become a rich tribe, and supply the other tribes with “bread…[and] royal dainties” (49:20).

The Sons of Rachel (49:22-27)

Rachel, Jacob’s first love, was the mother of Joseph, the eleventh son (49:22-26), and Benjamin, his twelfth son (49:27).

Jacob described Joseph as an overcomer who, though suffering the arrows of accusations from his brothers, had become a “fruitful bough” (49:22-23).  God had elevated him, and he had become the shepherd of his family, and the “stone (or rock) of Israel” (49:24). Though separated from his father and brothers, Jacob promised God would bless Joseph “with blessings of heaven above” (49:25-26).

Benjamin, Jacob’s twelfth son, was described as ravenous as a wolf (49:27). His tribe would be fearless warriors (Judges 20:15-25), and numbered among his lineage would be Saul, the first king of Israel, and the apostle Paul (Romans 11:1; Philippians 3:5). Benjamin’s tribe, along with the tribe of Judah, would be faithful to the LORD.

Jacob’s Death (49:28-33)

Jacob’s dying breaths repeated his request to be buried in Canaan, and in the ancestral tomb where Isaac and Abraham were entombed. “When Jacob had made an end of commanding his sons, he gathered up his feet into the bed, and yielded up the ghost, and was gathered unto his people” (49:33).

Jacob’s death marked the end of an era, but not the end of our study. He would be given the burial honors of a ruler in death, and Joseph’s brothers feared he would exact revenge for the evils they had committed against him.

Our next devotional will reveal how the drama between Joseph and his brothers will end.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Promises Made; Promises Kept (Genesis 47 – Part 2)

Scripture reading – Genesis 46-47

Genesis 47:1-10 – Pharaoh’s Provision, and His Meeting with Jacob

With his family established in Goshen, a place known for its lush grazing land, Joseph chose five of his brothers, “and presented them unto Pharaoh” (47:2). As he had expected, Pharaoh questioned the men concerning their occupation, and they answered, saying, “Thy servants are shepherds, both we, and also our fathers” (47:3).

Jacob’s sons made it clear that their business in Egypt was temporal, for they were there “to sojourn in the land…for thy servants have no pasture for their flocks; for the famine is sore in the land of Canaan” (47:4a). Showing themselves men of humility, they asked, “let thy servants dwell in the land of Goshen” (47:4b).

When his interview with Joseph’s brothers concluded, Pharaoh granted Joseph and his father Jacob a private audience (an indication of Pharaoh’s respect for Joseph). Pharaoh questioned Jacob, and asked, “How old art thou?” (47:8).

Jacob answered the king’s inquiry, giving not only his age, but his testimony: “The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years: few and evil have the days of the years of my life been, and have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage” (47:9).

One hundred thirty years was a long life; however, not nearly as long as his grandfather Abraham, who lived to be one hundred seventy-five, or his father Isaac who lived to one hundred eighty years old (47:9). When his meeting concluded, Jacob parted with a blessing before he “went out from before Pharaoh” (47:10). The form of that blessing is not known; however, I believe it was a verbal one, and perhaps a prayer of praise and thanksgiving for Pharaoh’s kindness.

Genesis 47:11-12 – Joseph’s Loving Care for His Family

Exercising the privilege of his office, Joseph insured his family would enjoy “the best of the land…as Pharaoh had commanded” (47:11). While all Egypt suffered famine, he “nourished his father, and his brethren, and all his father’s household, with bread, according to their families” (47:12).

Genesis 47:13-26 – Famine Enslaved the Egyptians to Pharaoh

The famine continued seven years, and inevitably caused the people to become impoverished. With no crops to harvest, the people spent all their money to purchase grain (47:13-15). When the famine continued, the Egyptians were forced to part with their livestock, and sold their cattle to Pharaoh (47:16-17). When the second year of famine was finished, the people came to Joseph, offered their lands, and finally themselves as Pharaoh’s servants (47:18-20, 23-26b).

There were two exceptions to the ravages of famine. The priests, a politically powerful presence in Egypt, were given grain by Pharaoh, and exempted from selling their lands (47:22, 26b). The second was Joseph’s family, his father, brothers, and their households, “had possessions therein, and grew, and multiplied exceedingly” (47:27).

Genesis 47:28-31 – Israel’s Longing for Home

God blessed Jacob, and he enjoyed the company of his son Joseph another seventeen years after moving to Egypt (47:28). When he was an hundred forty and seven years old, and knowing his death was imminent, Jacob summoned Joseph to his beside. The private conversation that passed between them is recorded. Though he was Joseph’s senior in age, Israel’s (Jacob) manner deferred to his son’s office, and he made his parting request.

Genesis 47:29b–31 – “If now I have found grace in thy sight, put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh, and deal kindly and truly with me; bury me not, I pray thee, in Egypt:
30But I will lie with my fathers, and thou shalt carry me out of Egypt, and bury me in their buryingplace. And he [Joseph] said, I will do as thou hast said.
31And he [Jacob] said, Swear unto me. And he [Joseph] sware unto him. And Israel bowed himself upon the bed’s head.

Joseph would honor his father’s request, and vowed he would return Jacob’s body to Canaan where he would be buried with his father Isaac, and his grandfather Abraham. (47:31).

Genesis 48 records Jacob’s parting words, and his caution and counsel to his sons and their families. I am reminded that wise men and women plan for death, and the inevitability of God’s judgment.

James 4:14 14Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.

How about you, are you ready? “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).

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