Tag Archives: Spiritual disciplines

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

“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

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

“Dreams Do Come True” (Genesis 42)

Scripture reading – Genesis 42

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Genesis 42 – Famine in Canaan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

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

Scripture reading – Genesis 40-41

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

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

Genesis 40 – No Time for Prison Blues

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

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

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

Genesis 41 – Forgotten by Man, But Not by God

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Scandalous Grace and Divine Providence (Genesis 38-39)

Scripture reading – Genesis 38-39

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Beautiful Dreamer (Genesis 37)

Scripture reading – Genesis 37

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

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

Scripture reading – Genesis 35-36 

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

Genesis 35 – Journey to Bethel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Genesis 36 – Esau’s Lineage

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith