Tag Archives: Grace

We Are Never Alone…God is With Us (Genesis 41-42)

Daily reading assignment: Genesis 41-42

Now two years passed before the butler gave any thought to Joseph, the man who comforted and interpreted his dream in prison (41:1a).  In God’s time, Pharaoh’s sleep was disturbed by dreams (41:1-8) that he was moved to seek assistance in interpreting his foreboding of great trials Egypt would soon face. The stage was set for the butler to remember Joseph and commend him to Pharaoh a man as a man who could interpret dreams (41:9-32).

Interpreting the king’s dreams, Pharaoh rewarded Joseph’s faithfulness appointing him to serve over Egypt, 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 the nation prepared for seven years of famine that would follow seven years of plenty (41:45-57).

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

God had providentially set the stage for Joseph’s brothers, forced by famine in their own land, to come to Egypt seeking food for their households.

Joseph recognized his brethren; however, none of them suspected the Egyptian ruler to whom they bowed was their brother Joseph and their fate now rest in the hands of one they had despised and sold into slavery (42:1-20).  Joseph concealed his identity and repressed the emotions that swelled up in his soul as he remembered the dreams of his youth now fulfilled in his brothers bowing before him (42:9a; 37:6-9).

Joseph questioned his brethren; not only to learn the fate of his father Jacob and brother Benjamin, but also to discern whether his brothers had repented of their sins against him (42:10-19).

Overhearing their remorse (42:20-23), God confirmed in Joseph’s heart that the passing years had changed his brothers’ hearts toward him. Rather than bitterness and revenge, we read Joseph turned himself about from them, and wept” (42:24).

Choosing to not disclose his identity, Joseph set in motion a plan (42:25-28) that will ultimately conclude with Benjamin, Joseph’s younger brother, being transported to Egypt (42:29-38).

Joseph’s faith has sustained him through bleak times…from the sorrow of being rejected by his brethren, through being falsely accused and imprisoned…we have observed in Joseph’s life what King David will one day confirm, As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the LORD is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him” (Psalm 18:30).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

God Must Break You Before He Will Fully Bless You! (Genesis 32-34)

Daily reading assignment: Genesis 32-34

We continue our devotional commentary in Genesis 32 with Jacob anticipating the arrival of Esau, his elder brother whose birthright he had stolen twenty years prior.  Reminded of the proverb, “A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city: and their contentions are like the bars of a castle”(Proverbs 18:19), Jacob’s sin haunts him (32:3-5).

Told his brother Esau is approaching with four hundred men (32:6), Jacob fears the worse. Desiring to spare his family and possessions from a total loss should Esau attack, Jacob divides his household (32:7-8).  Sending gifts before him and hoping to appease the wrath of his brother, Jacob prayed to the LORD rehearsing His promise to be with him (32:9-23).

In the solitude of that night, we read of Jacob, “there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day” (32:24).

Who was this man? The man who wrestled with Jacob was the LORD Himself; a “theophany” –  the pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ in the physical form of a man (32:24-32).

Even with his thigh out of joint, Jacob refused to allow the LORD to depart until he was assured of His blessing (32:25-28).  The LORD then blessed Jacob (whose name meant trickster or schemer) and changed his name to “Israel” (meaning one who has power with God).

As the sun rose, Jacob, now named Israel, was a changed man.  He had spent his life scheming; however, he was now a man transformed by the experience of seeing “God face to face” and living to tell it (32:30).  No longer a man relying upon his own wits, the painful limp in his stride will serve as a constant reminder of the night God broke his will (32:30-31).

In the words of A.W. Tozer, “The Lord cannot fully bless a man until He has first conquered him.” [The Divine Conquest (Harrisburg, PA: Christians Publications, 1950), p. 53].

Jacob had finally come to the end of himself and the God of his grandfather Abraham and his father Isaac was his God.  More than an intellectual assent to the person and promises of the LORD, Jacob’s life was so transformed he was a new man…no longer Jacob, he was Israel.  If you saw him, you would recognize him; he was a man with a limp whose faith was in the LORD.

Genesis 33-34

After an absence of 20 years, Jacob returned to Canaan (Genesis 33) and was met by his brother Esau who, in spite of his treachery, gave him a loving embrace.  Although received in peace, Jacob refused his brother’s invitation to dwell in Bethel (lit. the house of God), and instead traveled to Succoth where he lived among the heathen of the land (33:17).

Jacob’s failure to go to Bethel and dwell with his father Isaac and brother Esau turned tragic when his daughter Dinah was raped by Shechem, the son of Hamor who was ruler in Succoth (34:1-2). Pretending to save face and make peace, the decision was made for Dinah to become Shechem’s wife and the households of Jacob and Hamor become one on the condition that Hamor’s men accepted circumcision (34:8-16).

Hamor accepted the stipulation and convinced the men of his household to accept the rite of circumcision, reasoning they would inevitably be enriched by Jacob’s possessions (34:20-23).

The circumcision of Harmor’s household was a ruse by Jacob’s sons who were bent on revenge (34:25-29).  Knowing the men would be incapacitated, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s full brothers, attacked Hamor’s household, killing the men (34:25-26).  Jacob’s other sons, joined their brothers, claiming the wives and possessions of the city for spoil.

Take a lesson from Israel’s (Jacob) life: His failure to separate himself from the ungodly citizens of the land became a grief and sorrow Jacob and his sons carried to their graves. (2 Corinthians 6:14, 17)

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

A Lesson in LAW and GRACE (Genesis 22-24)

Daily reading assignment: Genesis 22-24

Genesis 22 puts the faith of Abraham to the test as God proves his faith by commanding him to sacrifice Isaac, the son of God’s covenant promise.  Isaac’s question, “Where is the Lamb?” (22:7) is answered 2,000 years later when John the Baptist says concerning Jesus, “Behold the Lamb” (John 1:29, 36).

Reminding us God’s people are sojourners in this world of sin, we read, “Sarah was an hundred and seven and twenty years old: these were the years of the life of Sarah. 2  And Sarah died in Kirjatharba; the same is Hebron in the land of Canaan: and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her” (Genesis 23:1-2).

I close this historical crossroads in Abraham’s life inviting you to consider spiritual lessons concerning Law and Grace illustrated in the births of Ishmael and Isaac (Galatians 4:21-31). 

Ishmael, born a slave of a slave woman, was the fruit of Abraham’s effort to have a son and heir apart from God (Galatians 4:22a, 23a).   Isaac, born a free man of a free woman, was the son of promise whose birth was miraculous and the work of God (Galatians 4:22b, 23b).

The mothers, Hagar and Sarah, represent two covenants: Hagar, the LAW, the covenant between God and man (Galatians 4:24-25) reminding us the impossibility of man fulfilling the demands of the Law (Romans 3:19-20).  Sarah, represents God’s covenant of GRACE, His provision and unmerited favor (Galatians 4:26-27) extended to man.

Ishmael’s birth is a tragic reminder of man attempting in his own efforts to do and fulfill what only God can do.  Isaac’s birth, fulfilling God’s covenant promise to Abraham and Sarah, is a portrait of GRACE, God doing what only He could do.

My friend, that is why salvation is not by works that merit God’s favor, but is an act of God’s grace alone.

Ephesians 2:8-9 – “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

My theme for Genesis 24 is “Here Comes the Bride”.   Following the death of his beloved Sarah (23:1-2), Abraham was burdened that Isaac, his son and heir of God’s covenant promises, should have a fitting wife.

Fearing Isaac might be tempted to take a wife of the heathen tribes that dwelled in Canaan, Abraham determined to send his “eldest servant”  (24:2-4) to his kindred residing in “Ur of the Chaldees” (11:27-31).  Reflecting the faith of his master, Abraham’s servant prayed for the LORD to make His will clear in choosing the young woman who would become Isaac’s wife  (24:12-14).

God heard and answered the servant’s prayer even as he was praying (24:15-26).  In a prayer of praise that should comfort all who call upon and desire the will of the LORD, the servant prayed, I being in the way, the LORD led me to the house of my master’s brethren” (24:27).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Consequences of Faithlessness (Genesis 16-18)

Daily reading assignment: Genesis 16-18

Today’s Bible reading brings us to not only a crisis of faith in the lives of Abram and Sarai, but also to a crossroads for humanity as we realize the failure of one man’s faith in God’s promises bears consequences that shadow the world in our day…twenty-three centuries after Abram’s sojourn on this earth.

Years passed and Abram’s longing for a son went unfulfilled.  Abram complained, “I go childless…to me thou hast given no seed” (15:2-3).  God patiently assured him his posterity would be in number as the stars of heaven (15:5).

Genesis 16 introduces a crisis of faith for Abram when we read, “Now Sarai Abram’s wife bare him no children” (16:1).  Eighty-five years old (16:16) and his wife seventy-five years old, Abraham’s faith waned and the complaints (the word “voice” in Genesis 16:2 indicates a constant complaining, like the bleating of sheep) and barrenness of his wife Sarai moved the man to make a faithless decision.  Contrary to God’s will, Abram turned his back on the LORD’s promises and yielded to Sarai’s proposal that he have a son by her Egyptian servant Hagar (16:1-3).

Hagar conceived Ishmael (16:4); however, instead of joy, the conception and birth of Ishmael brought division and sorrow into Abram’s household (16:4-10).  Ishmael, the son of Abram born of Hagar, would become the father of the people of Arabia, many of whom are followers of Mohammad and Islam.

The character of Ishmael and his lineage is described as “a wild man [lit. “wild donkey”]; his hand will be against every man [i.e. a man of hostility], and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren” (Genesis 16:12).  The fulfillment of that prophecy is evidenced in today’s world as we see the perpetual turmoil afflicted on Israel and the world by Ishmael’s lineage.

God renewed His covenant with Abraham in Genesis 17 and ten years later when he was nearly one hundred years old, God announced the impossible: His ninety year old Sarah “shall be a mother of nations” (17:15-17).  Abraham laughed, saying in his heart, “Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear?” (17:17)

Willing to content himself with less than God’s best, Abraham suggested Ishmael should be his heir (17:18); however, God refused the son of Hagar.   Comforting Abraham with the promise that Ishmael would be father to a “great nation” (17:20), God renewed His covenant and assured Abraham that Sarah would bear him a son and his name would be Isaac (17:19).

Genesis 18 contains the fateful message from the LORD that the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were to be judged and destroyed for their wickedness (18:20-22).  Knowing Lot, his wife, and their sons and daughters lived in Sodom; Abraham made intercession to the LORD that Sodom be spared if ten righteous people would be found living in the city (18:23-33).

Of course, the rest of the story will be found in Genesis 19 and we will consider its lessons tomorrow.  I close with a reassuring quote concerning God’s promises.  Some has observed:

Faith sees the invisible, believes the incredible, and receives the impossible.”  (Encyclopedia of 15,000 Illustrations: Signs of the Times)

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

God is Faithful, His Promises Are Sure (Genesis 12-15)

Daily reading assignment: Genesis 12-15

Genesis 11 closed with Abraham (Abram) departing from “Ur of the Chaldees” (located in the vicinity of what would become Babylon) with his father Terah (Genesis 11:27-32). Journeying north from Ur, Abram stopped in Haran where he remained until his father’s death (11:32).

Genesis 12 is one of the great pivotal crossroads in history and God’s plan of redemption.

The LORD commanded Abram, “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee” (12:1).  The LORD set a covenant of seven promises He would fulfill in and through Abram’s lineage (Genesis 12:2-3) if he obeyed.

Although he was elderly (“seventy-five years old” – 12:4) and childless, Abram believed God’s promises and obeyed; departing from Haran, he traveled to Canaan.  Arriving at Bethel, he built an altar and there he worshipped the Lord (12:7-8).

Soon after Abram faced a crisis of faith when we read, “there was a famine in the land” (12:10). Abandoning the land and his faith in the LORD to provide and keep His promises, Abram journeyed to Egypt; a decision that put in jeopardy God’s covenant promise of a son (12:10-13).

Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, was a beautiful woman.  Fearing for his own life, Abram requested she to tell others she was his sister (12:11-13).  Sarai’s beauty was soon noticed and Pharaoh took her into his harem putting into jeopardy God’s covenant promise of an heir she was to bear to Abram. The LORD mercifully intervened and sent a plague of judgment on Pharaoh’s household and revealed to the ruler he had been deceived by Abram (12:17-20). Sarah was spared and Abram led his household out of Egypt and back to Canaan.

The vastness of their wealth and possessions soon provoked a conflict between Abram’s servants and those of his nephew Lot (13:1-7).  To avoid strife, Abram suggested they divide their households and possessions, graciously offering to Lot the first choice of the land (13:8-9).  Rather than defer to his elder, Lot revealed the covetousness of his heart and chose the best part of the land that included the cities in the plain; among them the wicked city of Sodom (13:10-13).  Lot departed and God again renewed His covenant promises with Abraham (13:14-18).

Genesis 14 gives us a history of the nations that inhabited the land of Israel in ancient times; in the midst we read, “the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled…And they took Lot…and his goods” (14:10-12).  Abram had become rich and powerful; arming 318 servants (14:14) he led a mission that saved Lot, his household, and the citizens and material possessions of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (14:15-16).

Genesis 15 begins a narrative regarding Abram’s longing for a son and heir.  The LORD assured Abram he would have an heir, a son born to his wife Sarai (15:2-4) and his lineage would be as great in number as the stars in the heavens (15:5). In spite of their age, Abram “believed the LORD; and He (the LORD) counted it to him [Abram] for righteousness” (15:6).

God also revealed to Abraham that his heirs would be “strangers”, foreigners, in another country for 400 years (15:13); however, when the 400 years were fulfilled, they would return to Canaan with great possessions (a prophecy fulfilled when the Twelve Tribes of Israel departed Egypt after 400 years of servitude – Exodus 12-14).  Genesis 15 sets the boundaries of the land the LORD promised to give Abram and his heirs (15:18-21).

I close today’s devotional commentary with this promise:

God assured Abraham he had no cause to fear, for the LORD was his “Shield”…his protector and defender (15:1). 

Friend, you may be at a time in your life that is a place of “spiritual famine.”  You are tempted to resign to fear or plan and plot your own course…Don’t abandon your faith.

Trust God to be your “Shield”, your protector and Savior.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Closing Thoughts on Life’s Trials, Fair-weather Friends, and the LORD’s Unfailing Grace (Job 40-42)

Daily reading assignment: Job 40-42

The LORD continues His interrogation of Job in chapter 40; however, he is now given an opportunity to respond  (40:3-5).  The first words from Job’s lips confessed his unworthiness (“Behold I am vile” – 40:4).  Humbled and at a loss for words, he is silent (40:4-5).

The LORD responds to Job, speaking to the man from the midst of the storm, Job is asked why he questioned His dealings as anything less than just (40:6-8). To summarize the LORD’s questions to Job in a modern context, “Who do you think you are to question me?” (40:9-14).

The beast described as the “behemoth” (40:15) is highly debated among scholars. Given the early writing of the book of Job, it is possible a dinosaur is described. Others suggest the behemoth was a hippopotamus, elephant or perhaps a water buffalo.

The LORD continues to question Job in chapter 41 and invites him to consider the “leviathan” (Job 41:1).  The identity of this great creature is also uncertain; however, some suggest it to be a giant saltwater crocodile.  Perhaps a giant creature of the sea that is extinct, but whose remains are identified today as those of a dinosaur.

Either way, the analogy is meant to draw Job to conclude that man is foolish to question his Creator when he pales in size and strength to the majestic beasts of His creation (41:1-9). The Lord challenged Job, if man cannot tame a “leviathan,” he has no right to question God (41:10-34).

Having heard the LORD’s revelations of Himself and pondered the evidences of His power and might as sovereign of creation, Job confessed, I abhor [despise] myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6).

Accepting Job’s humble confession and repentance, the LORD turned the focus of His wrath upon Job’s “friends” (42:7-9) and commands “Eliphaz the Temanite” (perhaps the elder of the friends) to go to Job with sacrifices, humble themselves, and ask the very man they had condemned to pray for them (42:8-9).  [An additional observation: It is interesting that Elihu, the youngest “friend” of Job’s friends, is not named among those who went to Job in humility.  Elihu had been the most vociferous of Job’s judges; however, he fails to be named among those who sought to be restored to his fellowship].

Evidencing the grace and humility of a sincere repentant man of God, Job “prayed for his “friends” and God blessed him with “twice as much as he had before” (42:10).

Consider with me a few closing thoughts on “Fair-Weather Friends”:

Job 42:11 Then[i.e. the trials now passed and God having 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], and did eat bread with him in his house: and they bemoaned [i.e. showed sympathy] him, and comforted [pitied] him over all the evil [troubles] that the LORD had brought [i.e. allowed to enter] upon him: every man also gave him a piece of money, and every one an earring of gold.”

Where were these “brethren” and “sisters” when Job lost everything?  Where were Job’s acquaintances when he lost his sons and daughters, servants, home, physical health and possessions?  Why appear now to show sympathy and comfort?  Why wait to bring Job “a piece of money” and gold earrings after the LORD has begun to pour out his blessings on him and he has need of nothing?

I close our study of Job’s life rejoicing in how the LORD blessed him and he lived another “one hundred and forty years.” Job lived to witness the birth of “his sons, and his sons’ sons, even four generations” and“died, being old and full [satisfied] of days” (Job 42:10, 16-17).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

A Word of Advice for Self-flattering Youth (Job 35-37)

Daily reading assignment: Job 35-37

Job’s “fourth friend,” the younger “Elihu,” began his monologue in chapter 32 and continues his criticism of the beleaguered man through chapter 37. Displaying youthful pride and knowing little of sorrows or suffering, Elihu continues his verbal assault over what he perceives as the sins of Job that precipitated his troubles (I confess, I too have grown weary of Elihu’s pride).

Elihu supposes to quote Job (35:1-3), but his words are hardly those of Job when he suggests the man has said, “My righteousness is more than God’s” (35:2).  Job has searched his heart and declared his innocence (10:7; 12:4; 27:6); however, nowhere has he claimed to be more righteous than God!

Indicative of youthful pride, Elihu’s words and manner evidence “selective hearing.”  Rather than ponder and heed the words of his elder, Elihu’s thoughts race to make his case against Job and his friends.

In the opening verses of chapter 36, Elihu presumes to “speak on God’s behalf” (36:1-2) and begs his small audience to be patient, perhaps sensing his “friends” felt they had heard enough from the young man (36:2a).  Lacking humility and implying he is “perfect in knowledge” (36:3-4), Elihu continues to assert that Job’s trials were a testament to the manner God deals with the wicked (36:5-17).

The younger Elihu’s arrogant monologue dribbles on through chapter 37.  Sensing a restlessness in his audience, he again urges Job and his friends to be patient and “hear attentively” (37:2).

With eloquence, Elihu displays a great knowledge of God, His sovereignty over creation and His mighty person (37:3-13).  Like a college sophomore who has learned much, but knows little; Elihu demonstrates he is nearly void of wisdom. The humility he urges in Job, he lacks himself!

I close with a quote attributed to the late president Theodore Roosevelt that is fitting counsel for youth who feel they have wisdom superior to their elders:

“No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care!”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith