Genesis 41, Job 7, and Psalm 39

Read Genesis 41, Job 7, and Psalm 39.

This devotional is about Genesis 41.

To me, the amazing thing about Joseph’s story is not how quickly he rose after having so many down years and experiences. Throughout the painful parts of his story we were told that God was with him and was blessing him, so it isn’t surprising that things turned around for him quickly.

What’s amazing is how grateful and God-honoring Joseph was during his vindication, which we read about today here in Genesis 41. When he appeared before Pharaoh to hear his dream, he gave glory to God for the ability to interpret his dream: “‘I cannot do it,’ Joseph replied to Pharaoh, ‘but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires’” (v. 16). Later, when he named his sons, Joseph chose the name Manasseh and explained, “It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household” (v. 51b). When he named his son Ephraim, saying, “It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering” (v. 52b). These statements ring with gratitude to God; they completely lack any sense of indignation about what had happened. I don’t know what the Hebrew would be, but I’d be tempted to name my kids, “It’s about time something good happened to me for a change” and “Take that everyone who tried to hurt me!”

What made Joseph so grateful and so quick to honor and thank God? It was his faith in God. His faith in God is what carried him through all the problems he had faced in his life. So how could he be angry with God when it was his confidence in God that sustained him in the darkest days? Although it was his life, and the pain was real, it was ultimately God who was vindicated here in Genesis 41. The confusing, unhappy moments in Joseph’s life were necessary to get him to this place where God would use him.

Maybe this is a message you need today, that the confusing, unhappy experiences you’re going through right now are preparing you for what God has next for you. In that case, don’t give up on God or become bitter toward him. Things might get worse before they get better, but it is all part of making you into who God wants you to be so that he can use you and bless you according to his will.

Genesis 29, Esther 5, Psalm 28

Read Genesis 29, Esther 5, and Psalm 28.

This devotional is about Genesis 29.

Laban may have thought himself to be very clever. He managed to get 14 years of work and marry off both of his daughters at the same time.

Everyone else, however, suffered in this situation, but no one suffered more than Leah. Moses, the author of Genesis, recorded the difference in attractiveness between Leah and her little sister Rachel (v. 17). Surely Leah herself must have realized it. Watching her father trick Jacob into marrying her must not have felt good. She must have wondered if Laban felt he wouldn’t be able to find her a husband the usual way because she wasn’t attractive enough. She must have felt anxious about Jacob’s reaction when he found out what Laban had done. No doubt she was crushed by his disappointment with her and his continuing desire to marry Rachel.

The only thing that she seemed to have in her favor was her fertility. This gave her an advantage over Rachel who had difficulty conceiving (v. 31b). Since Jacob loved Rachel so much more than Leah, it seems likely that Rachel had, um, more opportunities to conceive than Leah. Yet Leah was the one producing the boys that Jacob wanted. Each child she bore was interpreted as a gift from the Lord, which it was (v. 31). Although her marriage was unhappy and her family life was stressful, Leah looked to the Lord for help and was grateful for his favor in her life.

So many people suffer from sad, unfixable situations. Thinking about Leah’s life can give us some perspective. We all have problems, heartbreaks, and disappointments in life but most of us have better lives than Leah ever had. Her marriage was sad from the beginning, from her first full day as a married woman. Most of us, probably, had (and have) a life that is better than that. Despite how messed up her situation was, Leah was thankful to the Lord for each son she bore to Jacob. Her motives were not always perfect, but her thanks to God was sincere.

When your life is unhappy, follow Leah’s advice and consider ways in which the Lord has blessed you. Praise him for what he has given you; don’t grieve over the things you have been denied. Leah’s disappointments in life were opportunities for her to learn how to walk with God. Her words after the birth of each son suggests that she made the most of those opportunities. May we do the same when we experience painful situations in our own lives.

2 Chronicles 32 and Revelation 20

Read 2 Chronicles 32 and Revelation 20.

This devotional is about 2 Chronicles 32.

Hezekiah honored the Lord from his heart, led Judah to honor and seek the Lord, and God blessed the nation with spiritual renewal.

That did not mean, however, that Hezekiah had it easy. Here in chapter 32 he had to deal with a significant military threat from Sennacherib king of Assyria. The Assyrians had built a powerful army and were intent on subjugating as many other nations as possible to their control.

In verse 1, Sennacherib picked off some of the smaller fortified cities in Judah, then set his sights on defeating Jerusalem. Remember that David chose Jerusalem to be his capital because it was built on a high hill and surrounded by other mountains which made it difficult to attack successfully. Hezekiah did what he could to prepare Jerusalem for Sennacherib’s attack. He blocked off the springs of water outside the city so that, without water, it would be difficult for the Assyrian army to camp there indefinitely (vv. 2-4). He also fixed the broken sections of Jerusalem’s wall and built some towers to improve surveillance around the city (v. 5a-b). He manufactured “large numbers of weapons and shields” (v. 5d) and built an outer wall and “reinforced the terraces of the City of David” (v. 5c).

Hezekiah also prepared his army for the attack (vv. 7-8) and held fast against the propaganda war that Sennacherib waged (vv. 9-19). Most importantly, he prayed. He and Isaiah the great prophet waged war on their knees in this moment of crisis (v. 20) and God honored them by miraculously delivering Judah from Sennacherib (vv. 21-23). Later, when he contracted a fatal illness, God honored his faith and his prayers by healing him (v. 24).

What an amazing life this man led, yet because he was a man he was not immune from sin. He had many victories and much success (vv. 27-29) but he also struggled with pride (vv. 25-26). This temptation follows many people who achieve everything, or most things, they want in life. We forget how much God and others contribute to our success and we start thinking that we have all the answers and deserve everything we’ve gotten.

God hates pride and those who succumb to its temptation usually find themselves humbled in some way before him. The ultimate test of pride is whether one is repentant or not when God deals a blow to their pride. Hezekiah did repent (v. 26) and God was merciful to him to a degree (v. 26b). His story reminds us to be careful about our thoughts when things go well for us. If you’ve had a great year this year, I am happy for you and wish you even better things in the year to come. But remember to thank and praise God rather than taking too much credit in your heart. God loves humility and rewards the humble but the proud he usually brings to humility.

1 Chronicles 17, Zechariah 10, 1 John 2

Read 1 Chronicles 17, Zechariah 10, and 1 John 2.

This devotional is about 1 Chronicles 17.

David intended to build God a permanent home in Israel, a temple that would replace the tent that Israel had used in worship for centuries. Although God was pleased with David’s desire (see 1 Ki 8:18), he decreed that Solomon, not David, would build the temple (vv. 11-12).

Instead of letting David build him a literal house, God decreed that he would build a “house” (aka, a dynasty) for David (v. 10). This is the Davidic Covenant, God’s promise that a descendant of David would rule over Israel forever (v. 14) which will ultimately be fulfilled by Christ in his kingdom.

I’ve written about the Davidic Covenant before (here, here, and here), so let’s focus on David’s response to God’s promise to him which we read in verses 16-27.

First, David gave thanks for all God had done for him in verse 16. Verse 7 reminded David that God had elevated him from the lowly job of shepherd to the exalted status of Israel’s king. David hadn’t forgotten any of that and praised the Lord for it.

Second, David gave thanks for what God had promised him in the future in the rest of this chapter, verses 17-27. David knew that God alone had honored him. David said it was “…according to your will…” (v. 19) which acknowledged that this promise was God’s gracious choice, not something that David deserved. But in verses 20-22, David widened the scope of his thanks to all that God had done and promised for Israel. Like God’s promise to David, all that God had done for Israel was a work of his grace. He redeemed Israel “for himself, and to make a name for yourself…” (v. 21). In other words, God did what he did for Israel for his own glory. Likewise, he promised what he promised to David “…so that… your name will be great forever.”

God extends grace to people because he is gracious by nature. But, the result of his grace, and his purpose for doing it, is to bring glory to himself. God shows his power, redeems his people, and makes promises so that people will know that He is God (v. 26).

The same is true in your life and mine. God saved us so that we would praise, glorify, and worship his name. He did it so that we would tell others what he has graciously done for us and call them to submit to him accordingly. But he also saves us and answers our prayers so that we will thank him and worship him directly and so that we will find “courage to pray” (v. 25) in the future.

It is easy for us to forget that God owes us nothing but punishment for our sins, yet he graciously gives us every good thing according to his will in Christ. Do we remember to speak words that glorify him to others? Do we remember to pray prayers of worship and thanks for what he has done, is doing, and promised to do in Christ?

Spend a few minutes now remembering what God has done for you and considering what he’s promised to you in Christ. Then, speak a few words of thankful prayer to him in worship.

1 Kings 3, Hosea 7, Titus 1

Read 1 Kings 3, Hosea 7, and Titus 1.

This devotional is about Hosea 7.

“I long to redeem them but they speak about me falsely. They do not cry out to me from their hearts but wail on their beds. They slash themselves, appealing to their gods for grain and new wine, but they turn away from me.”

Hosea 7:13e-14

The entire book of Hosea describes God in a specific way that is emotionally understandable to us humans. God, in Hosea, is described as a jilted spouse who is totally devoted to his bride but she is unfaithful to him despite his promises and goodness. That description shows us how our sins are a breach of faith with God and how God is wounded by our unbelief and disobedience. 

This verse and a half in Hosea 7:13-14 shows us the heart of God. He said, “I long to redeem them,” showing how personally and deeply God desires to be reconciled to humanity. But the remainder of verse 13 and verses 14-15 describe why we are not reconciled to God. Our estrangement from God is due to the fact that people “speak about me falsely” (13e). This refers to the way that people blame God for our self-inflicted problems. Those problems are described earlier in this chapter:

  • “They practice deceit” (v. 1d).
  • “They delight the king with their wickedness, the princes with their lies” (v. 3a-b).
  • “They are all adulterers” (v. 4a).
  • and so on.

When we sin against God and then blame God for our crappy lives, we speak about him falsely (v. 13e).

Furthermore, instead of turning to God in our misery, people “do not cry out to me from their hearts but wail on their beds. They slash themselves, appealing to their gods for grain and new wine, but they turn away from me.”

This explains why the world is so damaged and distorted, why people are so unhappy, and why there is so much unbelief. The result is that, at the end of history, God will judge humanity for all these sins.

Jesus has provided an escape, however. He loved us beyond what a jilted husband or wife would naturally love. He gave himself even though we “turn away” from him (v. 14e). He redeemed us from the slave market of sin we sold ourselves into and, by grace alone, changed our hearts so that we desire his love and see his goodness.

As Christians, we need to be reminded of these things because the dominant narrative of our times is that the problems of this world prove either that God cannot exist or that, if he does exist, he cannot be good. These are the same lies that God condemned when he said, “…they speak about me falsely” (v. 13f).

The truth is that God is more loving and good than we can possibly imagine. His goodness is the only reason there is anything good in life at all–and there are many good things about life, even for unbelievers! His love is the only reason that anyone believes in him at all–not because he’s hard to believe in but because our hearts are hardened so thoroughly by sin.

Take some time to think about where your life would be if God had not redeemed you in Christ. Then give thanks for all that we have in Christ and speak to others about him when they wail about their problems and appeal to other gods (v. 14). God longs to redeem and he is redeeming people all over the world. Let’s be agents of that redemption.

Joshua 4, Jeremiah 29, 2 Corinthians 11

Read Joshua 4, Jeremiah 29, and 2 Corinthians 11.

This devotional is about 2 Corinthians 11.

Yesterday, as we read chapter 10, we saw how concerned Paul was about having to confront somebody within the church at Corinth. Judging from what Paul wrote at the end of chapter 10 and here in chapter 11, the person or people he was concerned about were heavy self-promotors (10:12, 18; 11:5, 21). In today’s reading, Paul was quite emotional about how effectively these people had ingratiated themselves with the church and, it seems, how they had marginalized Paul and his ministry (v. 12). While he was concerned about these personality conflicts, he was more concerned about the false doctrine these “personalities” were bringing (v. 4, 13). This chapter is one of several in Paul’s letters where he reviewed his personal history as a servant of Christ (vv. 21-33). Not only did he suffer much for the gospel throughout his ministry, he also suffered much for the benefit of the Corinthians directly (vv. 7-12). Yet the Corinthians seemed unmoved by how much Paul had done for them and had sacrificed for the Lord. To them, Paul was an inferior speaker (v. 6) and others were deserving of equal status and respect to him (vv. 12, 19-20).

What Paul was saying in this chapter extends into chapter 12 as well, so we’ll see more on Monday when we read that. But the problem he addressed in this chapter continues today. It’s the myth of the greener grass, the idea that what I’m getting now isn’t as good as what I could get from others. I’ve seen this repeatedly in my adult life and in the ministry. Dr. So-and-so from out of town is a great speaker, a godly man, someone whose opinion isn’t inspired and infallible, but almost…. Meanwhile, faithful elders, patient pastors, good bosses, giving spouses, or others are taken for granted. This isn’t to say that Dr. So-and-so isn’t everything they claim him to be. He may be a godly man and a great servant of Christ or he may be a false teacher who is really persuasive (v. 4). The point is that people by nature get used to what they have and become bedazzled by the new thing, the author they just learned about, the new church in town, or the girl that caught their eye today. New things are exciting because they are new but the newness wears off eventually. Do we recognize and appreciate the good things in our lives that have been there a long time, consistently serving us well?

The church in Corinth was started by Paul at great personal cost (verses 7-9, Acts 18:1-11). He was willing to do hard things to purify the church for the glory of Christ (v. 2) and was tormented with concern for them even when he was doing God’s work in other cities (vv. 28-29). Yet the church never seemed to appreciate him very much and constantly, negatively compared him to others. There is probably some realm in your life or some point in your past where you did something similar-took for granted someone who was faithfully and deeply devoted to you and negatively compared them to someone who hadn’t done anything for you except, maybe, collect your money when they sold you a book or a seminar. I’m guilty of this as well and–just in case you are wondering-I’m not talking about myself here. This passage just reminded me of something I’ve seen more than a few times in my life. Whether we recognize it or not, all of us have benefited from others who served us consistently and without complaint. Let’s be careful to appreciate and be thankful to the Lord for them instead of being quick to point out their flaws when compared to others. Whether your realize it or not, you probably have it better than you think so be thankful for the contribution other people have made to your life for God’s glory.

Ephesians 1:15-16

Ephesians 1:15-16

Thanksgiving is an important American holiday. It is also an important Christian virtue and practice. But all Christians should be thankful for something important that few Christians actually ever give thanks for. What is that important something? Find out in this message from Ephesians 1:15-16.

This is a message from chapter 1 of the New Testament book of Ephesians by Pastor Brian Jones.

This message was delivered on Sunday, November 15, 2009 at Calvary Bible Church in Ypsilanti, Michigan.

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