“Listening to God” Bible Reading & Devotion: May 27, 2022 – Genesis 045

Read chapter in full: biblegateway.com/passage/?version=ESV&search=Genesis+045

 

Genesis 45 (ESV)

Joseph Provides for His Brothers and Family

Then Joseph could not control himself before all those who stood by him. He cried, “Make everyone go out from me.” So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. And he wept aloud, so that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it.And Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed at his presence.

So Joseph said to his brothers, “Come near to me, please.” And they came near. And he said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; do not tarry. 10 You shall dwell in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children, and your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. 11 There I will provide for you, for there are yet five years of famine to come, so that you and your household, and all that you have, do not come to poverty.’ 12 And now your eyes see, and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see, that it is my mouth that speaks to you. 13 You must tell my father of all my honor in Egypt, and of all that you have seen. Hurry and bring my father down here.” 14 Then he fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, and Benjamin wept upon his neck. 15 And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them. After that his brothers talked with him.

 

REFLECTION

  • At last the secrets are disclosed and reconciliation is possible. Joseph emotionally revealed his identity to his brothers. He assured them of God’s sovereign control of his life and directed them to bring Jacob to Egypt. He then demonstrated his love for his brothers that he “wept”, and “kissed all his brothers and wept upon them” (vv.14-15).
  • Joseph then explained his perspective on his brothers’ treatment of him. He had discerned God’s providential control of the events of his life. Four times he stated that God, not his brothers, was behind what had happened (vv. 5, 7, 8, 9). Often only in retrospect can we see how God has been involved all along the way of our circuitous journeys.
  • When in your life have you enjoyed “God’s provision” – sovereignly, redemptively, or materially? What would you like to see God provide today?
  • What is one thing you have learned from Joseph’s story that would be most helpful to share with someone experiencing tough times? Why not pray for this person now.  Ask God to open an opportunity for you to share with this person this week.

 

PRAYER

Heavenly Father, thank You and praise You. Looking back on my life journey, You have supported me, blessed me, comforted me, healed me, and allowed me to walk safely through mountains and valleys, through rain, snow and storms, all the way to today! There are many times when I cry out to You, but You do not respond to me immediately. I had doubts and fears, but when I look back today, I understand what You have done, and I deeply appreciate Your deep and vast grace. Heavenly Father, with a joyful heart, I will carefully count Your blessings, and with a loving heart, I will help my friends who are in a similar predicament at this time, share the burden for them, and tell them from my actual experience that You have never forsaken Your children. I want to encourage them to come out of their self-pity. I want to be strong and courageous with them, to face the difficulties ahead together, and to believe that after the storm, there will be bright sunshine. Father, grant me the strength. Amen!

 

HYMN

How Great (Psalm 145) – youtu.be/PR_H2okhUiE

 

“Listening to God” Bible Reading & Devotion: May 26, 2022 – Genesis 044

Read chapter in full: biblegateway.com/passage/?version=ESV&search=Genesis+044

 

Genesis 44 (ESV)

14 When Judah and his brothers came to Joseph’s house, he was still there. They fell before him to the ground. 15 Joseph said to them, “What deed is this that you have done? Do you not know that a man like me can indeed practice divination?”16 And Judah said, “What shall we say to my lord? What shall we speak? Or how can we clear ourselves? God has found out the guilt of your servants; behold, we are my lord’s servants, both we and he also in whose hand the cup has been found.” 17 But he said, “Far be it from me that I should do so! Only the man in whose hand the cup was found shall be my servant. But as for you, go up in peace to your father.”

18 Then Judah went up to him and said, “Oh, my lord, please let your servant speak a word in my lord’s ears, and let not your anger burn against your servant, for you are like Pharaoh himself. 19 My lord asked his servants, saying, ‘Have you a father, or a brother?’ 20 And we said to my lord, ‘We have a father, an old man, and a young brother, the child of his old age. His brother is dead, and he alone is left of his mother’s children, and his father loves him.’ 21 Then you said to your servants, ‘Bring him down to me, that I may set my eyes on him.’ 22 We said to my lord, ‘The boy cannot leave his father, for if he should leave his father, his father would die.’ 23 Then you said to your servants, ‘Unless your youngest brother comes down with you, you shall not see my face again.’

24 “When we went back to your servant my father, we told him the words of my lord. 25 And when our father said, ‘Go again, buy us a little food,’ 26 we said, ‘We cannot go down. If our youngest brother goes with us, then we will go down. For we cannot see the man’s face unless our youngest brother is with us.’ 27 Then your servant my father said to us, ‘You know that my wife bore me two sons. 28 One left me, and I said, “Surely he has been torn to pieces,” and I have never seen him since. 29 If you take this one also from me, and harm happens to him, you will bring down my gray hairs in evil to Sheol.’

30 “Now therefore, as soon as I come to your servant my father, and the boy is not with us, then, as his life is bound up in the boy’s life, 31 as soon as he sees that the boy is not with us, he will die, and your servants will bring down the gray hairs of your servant our father with sorrow to Sheol.32 For your servant became a pledge of safety for the boy to my father, saying, ‘If I do not bring him back to you, then I shall bear the blame before my father all my life.’ 33 Now therefore, please let your servant remain instead of the boy as a servant to my lord, and let the boy go back with his brothers. 34 For how can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? I fear to see the evil that would find my father.”

 

REFLECTION

  • Read the whole chapter if possible.
  • Joseph next tested his brother’s loyalty to Benjamin by framing Benjamin and charging him with stealing Joseph’s cup. These events prompted the brothers to acknowledge that God was punishing them for their treatment of Joseph many years earlier. Judah’s plea for Benjamin revealed the brothers’ loyalty to Benjamin. It contrasts with their former disloyalty to Joseph.
  • As in this broken family, God is present in the hidden contours of human relationships. God’s presence is reflected in Judah’s speech as he confessed his fault and his willingness to sacrifice himself in order to protect his brother.  It is their honest confession and demonstration of love that finally led to reconciliation.
  • With whom do you still hold out hope for reconciliation and restored relationship? What encouragement does this story give?
  • Restoring a relationship fractured by injustice and injury requires repentance, confession and acceptance of responsibility for the consequences. In what way have you, like Joseph’s brothers, been involved in such a process?
  • Talk to God about this. Wait and see how God will work in you as well as in others.

 

PRAYER

Heavenly Father, in my life, like Joseph’s brothers, there are all kinds of broken relationships. You have taught me through the story of Joseph and his brothers that repairing a broken relationship requires genuine repentance, thorough confession, and taking responsibility courageously. Please work in my heart and give me the sincerity and courage of Joseph’s brothers to repair my broken relationships. I also ask You to work in the heart of the other person, no matter whether he (or she) is a believer or not, and no matter who made a bigger mistake and damaged the relationship between us, so that he can also take a step forward and accept my apology and confession, and let him see your glory through me, the quality of life of a true Christian, and lead him to You. Heavenly Father, please make my heart more meek and humble so that I can take the responsibilities bravely no matter how difficult it may be. I am so weak, but I firmly believe that as long as I trust in You and am with You, the hardest things can be done. Amen!

 

HYMN

I Want To Be More Like Jesus – youtu.be/j9YCvwthi7o

 

“Listening to God” Bible Reading & Devotion: May 25, 2022 – Genesis 043

Read chapter in full: biblegateway.com/passage/?version=ESV&search=Genesis+043

 

Genesis 43 (ESV)

16 When Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to the steward of his house, “Bring the men into the house, and slaughter an animal and make ready, for the men are to dine with me at noon.” 17 The man did as Joseph told him and brought the men to Joseph’s house. 18 And the men were afraid because they were brought to Joseph’s house, and they said, “It is because of the money, which was replaced in our sacks the first time, that we are brought in, so that he may assault us and fall upon us to make us servants and seize our donkeys.” 19 So they went up to the steward of Joseph’s house and spoke with him at the door of the house, 20 and said, “Oh, my lord, we came down the first time to buy food. 21 And when we came to the lodging place we opened our sacks, and there was each man’s money in the mouth of his sack, our money in full weight. So we have brought it again with us, 22 and we have brought other money down with us to buy food. We do not know who put our money in our sacks.” 23 He replied, “Peace to you, do not be afraid. Your God and the God of your father has put treasure in your sacks for you. I received your money.” Then he brought Simeon out to them. 24 And when the man had brought the men into Joseph’s house and given them water, and they had washed their feet, and when he had given their donkeys fodder, 25 they prepared the present for Joseph’s coming at noon, for they heard that they should eat bread there.

26 When Joseph came home, they brought into the house to him the present that they had with them and bowed down to him to the ground. 27 And he inquired about their welfare and said, “Is your father well, the old man of whom you spoke? Is he still alive?” 28 They said, “Your servant our father is well; he is still alive.” And they bowed their heads and prostrated themselves. 29 And he lifted up his eyes and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother’s son, and said, “Is this your youngest brother, of whom you spoke to me? God be gracious to you, my son!” 30 Then Joseph hurried out, for his compassion grew warm for his brother, and he sought a place to weep. And he entered his chamber and wept there. 31 Then he washed his face and came out. And controlling himself he said, “Serve the food.” 32 They served him by himself, and them by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves, because the Egyptians could not eat with the Hebrews, for that is an abomination to the Egyptians. 33 And they sat before him, the firstborn according to his birthright and the youngest according to his youth. And the men looked at one another in amazement.34 Portions were taken to them from Joseph’s table, but Benjamin’s portion was five times as much as any of theirs. And they drank and were merry with him.

 

REFLECTION

  • If time permits, it’s best to read through the whole chapter.
  • Upon returning to Canaan the brothers had to persuade Jacob to let Benjamin accompany them on their next trip to Egypt, which they did with considerable difficulty. When they went back to Egypt, they tried to return the money they had found in their sacks.
  • Joseph hosted a meal for his brothers who years before had callously sat down to eat while he languished in a pit.Joseph showered Benjamin lavishly by giving him larger and better servings of food than his brothers received (v. 34). With this favor Joseph sought not only to honor Benjamin but also to test his other brothers’ feelings toward Benjamin. He wanted to see if they would hate him as they had hated himself, his father’s former favorite. Evidently they passed this test.
  • How important is family meals for you? On what occasions will you eat with your family (or some closest friends)?  What’s the atmosphere?  Do you look forward to these gatherings or do you dread going?
  • “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Rev 19:9). How do you prepare to attend this banquet? How will God work in you and your family to bring healing and reconciliation?
  • When is the next occasion for eating together? Why not invite them this time and treat them a nice Reunion meal?  Remember to invite Jesus as well.

 

PRAYER

Heavenly Father, we have all kinds of feasts in our lives, not just for eating, but for a variety of other purposes. Some of these feasts are what I want, and some are what I want to escape. Please give me the wisdom to not despise every feast, but to treat every feast, whether it is a daily meal with my family, a festive meal with other relatives and friends, or business affairs at work, to be a great opportunity to connect with people, build deeper relationships, and guide the lost to You. Pray that You will make me remember those who are poor and laborious in the world and have no food to eat. Thank You for my current living conditions, my meal is not extravagant, not gluttonous, not wasting food, and understand that people shall not live by bread alone, but more importantly by every word that comes from Your mouth. Amen!

 

HYMN

We Will Feast In The House Of Zion – youtu.be/SFIbWR4rLJw

 

“Listening to God” Bible Reading & Devotion: May 24, 2022 – Genesis 042

Read chapter in full: biblegateway.com/passage/?version=ESV&search=Genesis+042

 

Genesis 42 (ESV)

18 On the third day Joseph said to them, “Do this and you will live, for I fear God: 19 if you are honest men, let one of your brothers remain confined where you are in custody, and let the rest go and carry grain for the famine of your households, 20 and bring your youngest brother to me. So your words will be verified, and you shall not die.” And they did so. 21 Then they said to one another, “In truth we are guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the distress of his soul, when he begged us and we did not listen. That is why this distress has come upon us.” 22 And Reuben answered them, “Did I not tell you not to sin against the boy? But you did not listen. So now there comes a reckoning for his blood.” 23 They did not know that Joseph understood them, for there was an interpreter between them. 24 Then he turned away from them and wept. And he returned to them and spoke to them. And he took Simeon from them and bound him before their eyes. 25 And Joseph gave orders to fill their bags with grain, and to replace every man’s money in his sack, and to give them provisions for the journey. This was done for them.

26 Then they loaded their donkeys with their grain and departed. 27 And as one of them opened his sack to give his donkey fodder at the lodging place, he saw his money in the mouth of his sack. 28 He said to his brothers, “My money has been put back; here it is in the mouth of my sack!” At this their hearts failed them, and they turned trembling to one another, saying, “What is this that God has done to us?”

29 When they came to Jacob their father in the land of Canaan, they told him all that had happened to them, saying, 30 “The man, the lord of the land, spoke roughly to us and took us to be spies of the land. 31 But we said to him, ‘We are honest men; we have never been spies. 32 We are twelve brothers, sons of our father. One is no more, and the youngest is this day with our father in the land of Canaan.’ 33 Then the man, the lord of the land, said to us, ‘By this I shall know that you are honest men: leave one of your brothers with me, and take grain for the famine of your households, and go your way. 34 Bring your youngest brother to me. Then I shall know that you are not spies but honest men, and I will deliver your brother to you, and you shall trade in the land.’”

35 As they emptied their sacks, behold, every man’s bundle of money was in his sack. And when they and their father saw their bundles of money, they were afraid. 36 And Jacob their father said to them, “You have bereaved me of my children: Joseph is no more, and Simeon is no more, and now you would take Benjamin. All this has come against me.” 37 Then Reuben said to his father, “Kill my two sons if I do not bring him back to you. Put him in my hands, and I will bring him back to you.” 38 But he said, “My son shall not go down with you, for his brother is dead, and he is the only one left. If harm should happen to him on the journey that you are to make, you would bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to Sheol.”

 

REFLECTION

  • Joseph awakened his brothers’ guilty consciences when he put his brothers in prison as spies after they had come to Egypt for grain. They were shaken by their brief imprisonment and by the suspicions voiced by Egypt’s ruler. The conviction that they were being punished for what they did so long ago showed they had never forgotten Joseph’s pleading as they cruelly sold him into slavery.  For over two decades they had lived with that memory.
  • People sin lightly, as if doing wrong were no great matter. But once committed, sin’s memory snaps at our heels, burdening us with guilt and shame.
  • How have you seen God use a difficult experience to prepare you for a later responsibility? How has adversity or pressure helped you become more mature in your responsibility for others?

PRAYER

Heavenly Father, we are all weak people who have fallen into the hands of the devil, fallen into sin and trespasses, and been separated from You. Because of Your love and grace, You gave Your only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, who sacrificed His life on the cross to accomplish precious salvation for us, so that we can fellowship with You and be called Your children. You have forgiven all our sins and given us a new life. However, the devil does not let us go, and still accuses us in our hearts through our sins, filling our hearts with guilt and shame, trying to bind us again. Heavenly Father, please let us now see through the tricks of the devil Satan, and use the true peace and true joy You have bestowed to completely wash away the guilt in our hearts, for though our sins are like scarlet, the precious blood of Lord Jesus has washed it white as snow. Because we believe in You, we have the courage to come before people, call ourselves righteous, and testify of You in the world. Amen!

 

HYMN

I Asked The Lord That I Might Grow – youtu.be/-44GH3NhdIA

 

“Listening to God” Bible Reading & Devotion: May 23, 2022 – Genesis 041

Read chapter in full: biblegateway.com/passage/?version=ESV&search=Genesis+041

 

Genesis 41 (ESV)

14 Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they quickly brought him out of the pit. And when he had shaved himself and changed his clothes, he came in before Pharaoh. 15 And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I have had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it. I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.” 16 Joseph answered Pharaoh, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.”

25 Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, “The dreams of Pharaoh are one; God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do. 26 The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good ears are seven years; the dreams are one. 27 The seven lean and ugly cows that came up after them are seven years, and the seven empty ears blighted by the east wind are also seven years of famine. 28 It is as I told Pharaoh; God has shown to Pharaoh what he is about to do. 29 There will come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt, 30 but after them there will arise seven years of famine, and all the plenty will be forgotten in the land of Egypt. The famine will consume the land, 31 and the plenty will be unknown in the land by reason of the famine that will follow, for it will be very severe. 32 And the doubling of Pharaoh’s dream means that the thing is fixed by God, and God will shortly bring it about. 33 Now therefore let Pharaoh select a discerning and wise man, and set him over the land of Egypt. 34 Let Pharaoh proceed to appoint overseers over the land and take one-fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt during the seven plentiful years. 35 And let them gather all the food of these good years that are coming and store up grain under the authority of Pharaoh for food in the cities, and let them keep it. 36 That food shall be a reserve for the land against the seven years of famine that are to occur in the land of Egypt, so that the land may not perish through the famine.”

Joseph Rises to Power

37 This proposal pleased Pharaoh and all his servants. 38 And Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find a man like this, in whom is the Spirit of God?” 39 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discerning and wise as you are. 40 You shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command. Only as regards the throne will I be greater than you.” 41 And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.” 42 Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his hand and put it on Joseph’s hand, and clothed him in garments of fine linen and put a gold chain about his neck. 43 And he made him ride in his second chariot. And they called out before him, “Bow the knee!” Thus he set him over all the land of Egypt. 44 Moreover, Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I am Pharaoh, and without your consent no one shall lift up hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.” 45 And Pharaoh called Joseph’s name Zaphenath-paneah. And he gave him in marriage Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera priest of On. So Joseph went out over the land of Egypt.

 

REFLECTION

  • Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s two dreams faithfully. This led to God elevating Joseph in the government and demonstrating His sovereign control over economic life in Egypt as He prepared to preserve Israel and Egypt through the coming famine.
  • When Joseph was called from prison to interpret Pharaoh’s dream, he might have taken the credit for himself in the hopes of getting out of prison. Instead Joseph was careful to give God all the credit.  Joseph’s words, “I cannot do it… but God” (v16) are an absolutely accurate reflection of our own spiritual condition.
  • All too many Christian leaders have fallen because they forgot the truth that Joseph remembered. Successes fill us with self-confidence, and too soon we begin to act as if the achievements for which we are known were our own doing.  We need to remember – and to say aloud what Joseph did, “I cannot do it… but God”.  Such a confession will point others to God.  And it will protect us from the spiritual pride that goes before a fall (Prov 16:18).
  • Spend some time today to pray for church leaders that they will be like Joseph to stay humble and dependent on God to lead the church.

 

PRAYER

Heavenly Father, for myself and for the leaders of the church, I pray to You that you will remove our pride and haughty spirit, lest we sin and fall. Our abilities and talents are all given by You, and the achievements we have achieved, although through our own efforts, are actually You through our hands to accomplish Your will. No matter what we do, without Your presence, without Your protection and guidance, we can do nothing and achieve nothing! Please help me let go of our pride in everything we do, especially our spiritual pride, and give You all the glory. Heavenly Father, please let us learn the humility of Joseph, whether in adversity or when everything is going well, we can keep our eyes on You and see what You have done from beginning to end. You are in control, we are only your weak and useless servants, and it is by Your grace that we serve You faithfully. Amen!

 

HYMN

Yet Not I But Through Christ In Me – youtu.be/zundjUFazfg

 

“Listening to God” Bible Reading & Devotion: May 20, 2022 – Genesis 040

Read chapter in full: biblegateway.com/passage/?version=ESV&search=Genesis+040

 

Genesis 40 (ESV)

Joseph Interprets Two Prisoners’ Dreams

1 Some time after this, the cupbearer of the king of Egypt and his baker committed an offense against their lord the king of Egypt. And Pharaoh was angry with his two officers, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker, and he put them in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, in the prison where Joseph was confined. The captain of the guard appointed Joseph to be with them, and he attended them. They continued for some time in custody.

And one night they both dreamed—the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt, who were confined in the prison—each his own dream, and each dream with its own interpretation. When Joseph came to them in the morning, he saw that they were troubled. So he asked Pharaoh’s officers who were with him in custody in his master’s house, “Why are your faces downcast today?” They said to him, “We have had dreams, and there is no one to interpret them.” And Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Please tell them to me.”

So the chief cupbearer told his dream to Joseph and said to him, “In my dream there was a vine before me, 10 and on the vine there were three branches. As soon as it budded, its blossoms shot forth, and the clusters ripened into grapes.11 Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand, and I took the grapes and pressed them into Pharaoh’s cup and placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand.” 12 Then Joseph said to him, “This is its interpretation: the three branches are three days. 13 In three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your office, and you shall place Pharaoh’s cup in his hand as formerly, when you were his cupbearer. 14 Only remember me, when it is well with you, and please do me the kindness to mention me to Pharaoh, and so get me out of this house.15 For I was indeed stolen out of the land of the Hebrews, and here also I have done nothing that they should put me into the pit.”

16 When the chief baker saw that the interpretation was favorable, he said to Joseph, “I also had a dream: there were three cake baskets on my head, 17 and in the uppermost basket there were all sorts of baked food for Pharaoh, but the birds were eating it out of the basket on my head.” 18 And Joseph answered and said, “This is its interpretation: the three baskets are three days. 19 In three days Pharaoh will lift up your head—from you!—and hang you on a tree. And the birds will eat the flesh from you.”

20 On the third day, which was Pharaoh’s birthday, he made a feast for all his servants and lifted up the head of the chief cupbearer and the head of the chief baker among his servants. 21 He restored the chief cupbearer to his position, and he placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand. 22 But he hanged the chief baker, as Joseph had interpreted to them. 23 Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.

 

REFLECTION

  • When Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker had disturbing dreams in prison, Joseph foretold the cupbearer’s restoration and the baker’s execution, but Joseph remained in prison because the cupbearer forgot him.
  • The trials that we encounter in our lives may be viewed from two standpoints. It will make all the difference which of these two points of view we take. From human perspective, Joseph’s suffering was due to injustice on the part of Potiphar and his wife, and ingratitude on the part of the butler.
  • From the divine perspective, these years were permitted for the purpose of training and preparing Joseph for the great work that lay before him. If we look only at the human side of each trial, we would become discouraged, and become irritated and angered. But as we turn to look at it from God’s perspective, we shall see God in everything and all things working together for our good.
  • Where in your life are you feeling imprisoned? What is your prayer for release?  What fellowship do you want restored?  What do you sense is God’s answer to these prayers?
  • How does your relationship with God sustain your hope despite circumstances to the contrary?

 

PRAYER

Heavenly Father, it is hard to fall into captivity, and it is hard to break free! Although I am not like Joseph, who was framed by others and put in a real prison, but in my life and in my heart, there are still many prisons and bondages, big and small, similar to Joseph’s predicament! Heavenly Father, please give me faith and strength, when I am in a difficult situation, I can be less frustrated, angry, and resentful, and more courageous, peaceful, and hopeful. Please teach me to see my plight through Your eyes, so that I do not lose faith and understand that all things work together for the good of those who love You. My temporary difficulties are just to hone me and equip me so that I can fight a better battle for You in the future. Father, please support me with Your great power and Your great love around me. Amen!

 

HYMN

Christ Our Hope In Life And Death – youtu.be/OibIi1rz7mw

 

“Listening to God” Bible Reading & Devotion: May 19, 2022 – Genesis 039

Read chapter in full: biblegateway.com/passage/?version=ESV&search=Genesis+039

 

Genesis 39 (ESV)

Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife

Now Joseph had been brought down to Egypt, and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard, an Egyptian, had bought him from the Ishmaelites who had brought him down there. The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master. His master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord caused all that he did to succeed in his hands. So Joseph found favor in his sight and attended him, and he made him overseer of his house and put him in charge of all that he had. From the time that he made him overseer in his house and over all that he had, the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had, in house and field. So he left all that he had in Joseph’s charge, and because of him he had no concern about anything but the food he ate.

Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance. And after a time his master’s wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, “Lie with me.” But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Behold, because of me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my charge. He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” 10 And as she spoke to Joseph day after day, he would not listen to her, to lie beside her or to be with her.

11 But one day, when he went into the house to do his work and none of the men of the house was there in the house, 12 she caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me.” But he left his garment in her hand and fled and got out of the house. 13 And as soon as she saw that he had left his garment in her hand and had fled out of the house, 14 she called to the men of her household and said to them, “See, he has brought among us a Hebrew to laugh at us. He came in to me to lie with me, and I cried out with a loud voice.15 And as soon as he heard that I lifted up my voice and cried out, he left his garment beside me and fled and got out of the house.” 16 Then she laid up his garment by her until his master came home, 17 and she told him the same story, saying, “The Hebrew servant, whom you have brought among us, came in to me to laugh at me. 18 But as soon as I lifted up my voice and cried, he left his garment beside me and fled out of the house.”

19 As soon as his master heard the words that his wife spoke to him, “This is the way your servant treated me,” his anger was kindled. 20 And Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined, and he was there in prison. 21 But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. 22 And the keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners who were in the prison. Whatever was done there, he was the one who did it. 23 The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph’s charge, because the Lord was with him. And whatever he did, the Lord made it succeed.

 

REFLECTION

  • Joseph experienced God’s blessing as he served faithfully in Potiphar’s house. His master’s wife repeatedly seduced him, but he refused her offers because he did not want to sin against God and betray Potiphar’s trust. Joseph continued to enjoy God’s abundant blessing even when imprisoned because of her false charge.
  • One of the most difficult experiences anyone has to handle is being treated unfairly. Joseph experienced injustice even though he was simply working hard.  There are three principles that could help us deal with the unfair things in our lives.
  1. Maintain a clear conscience. When his master’s wife lied and had him thrown into prison, Joseph knew what happened had not been his fault.
  2. Keep on doing the best. Even in prison Joseph did his best just as he did at Potiphar’s house.  By doing our best, we recognize that the one whom we serve is not an earthly master, and this prepares ourselves for whatever task God may have for us in the future.
  3. Practice God’s presence. God was with Joseph throughout and God is with us today even when life seems most unfair and the future bleakest.  We can survive and triumph by remembering He is with us, by prayer, by reading the Scripture daily, by consciously relying on Him, and by doing our best, aware that we serve the Lord and not man.
  • What are the unfair things you’ve encountered? Are you responding as Joseph did?  Ask for God’s help.

 

PRAYER

Heavenly Father, this is an unfair world! Every day there is tragedy of people oppressing and persecuting others. In my life, I have encountered all kinds of injustice, been hurt, and my heart is full of bitterness. Please allow me to learn from Joseph when I face injustice and even persecution again in the future, that I will have a clean heart, look only to You, and not rely on my own strength to fight back, but let You plead for me, because You are the God who manifests righteousness and executes judgment. Vengeance is Yours, You will repay all injustice and soothe all my pain. I also ask You to let me continue to work hard even in difficult situations, never give up on my goals, and always look to and rely on You, because everything I do is for You, not for others. May You be with me, remember my labors, and give me a reward in heaven. Father, please forgive me for the injustice I have done to others. I know that there is no good in me. It is because of my trust in You that I am called good. Amen!

 

HYMN

This Is Our God – youtu.be/fU6l2ZjH7LU

 

“Listening to God” Bible Reading & Devotion: May 18, 2022 – Genesis 038

Read chapter in full: biblegateway.com/passage/?version=ESV&search=Genesis+038

 

Genesis 38 (ESV)

Judah and Tamar

12 In the course of time the wife of Judah, Shua’s daughter, died. When Judah was comforted, he went up to Timnah to his sheepshearers, he and his friend Hirah the Adullamite.13 And when Tamar was told, “Your father-in-law is going up to Timnah to shear his sheep,” 14 she took off her widow’s garments and covered herself with a veil, wrapping herself up, and sat at the entrance to Enaim, which is on the road to Timnah. For she saw that Shelah was grown up, and she had not been given to him in marriage. 15 When Judah saw her, he thought she was a prostitute, for she had covered her face. 16 He turned to her at the roadside and said, “Come, let me come in to you,” for he did not know that she was his daughter-in-law. She said, “What will you give me, that you may come in to me?” 17 He answered, “I will send you a young goat from the flock.” And she said, “If you give me a pledge, until you send it—” 18 He said, “What pledge shall I give you?” She replied, “Your signet and your cord and your staff that is in your hand.” So he gave them to her and went in to her, and she conceived by him. 19 Then she arose and went away, and taking off her veil she put on the garments of her widowhood.

20 When Judah sent the young goat by his friend the Adullamite to take back the pledge from the woman’s hand, he did not find her. 21 And he asked the men of the place, “Where is the cult prostitute who was at Enaim at the roadside?” And they said, “No cult prostitute has been here.”22 So he returned to Judah and said, “I have not found her. Also, the men of the place said, ‘No cult prostitute has been here.’” 23 And Judah replied, “Let her keep the things as her own, or we shall be laughed at. You see, I sent this young goat, and you did not find her.”

24 About three months later Judah was told, “Tamar your daughter-in-law has been immoral. Moreover, she is pregnant by immorality.” And Judah said, “Bring her out, and let her be burned.” 25 As she was being brought out, she sent word to her father-in-law, “By the man to whom these belong, I am pregnant.” And she said, “Please identify whose these are, the signet and the cord and the staff.” 26 Then Judah identified them and said, “She is more righteous than I, since I did not give her to my son Shelah.” And he did not know her again.

27 When the time of her labor came, there were twins in her womb. 28 And when she was in labor, one put out a hand, and the midwife took and tied a scarlet thread on his hand, saying, “This one came out first.” 29 But as he drew back his hand, behold, his brother came out. And she said, “What a breach you have made for yourself!” Therefore his name was called Perez. 30 Afterward his brother came out with the scarlet thread on his hand, and his name was called Zerah.

 

REFLECTION

  • This chapter could be rated “PG” due to the immorality depicted. It records the compromise of the Israelites, specifically Judah. In spite of having three sons, Judah found his lineage to be in jeopardy. Then his widowed daughter-in-law Tamar deceived Judah and was conceived by him.
  • In this story, we see something unexpected: Judah declares that Tamar is “more righteous than I” (v. 26). Judah was ready to condemn Tamar according to the traditional law, but when confronted with his own sinfulness, he was willing to recognize that she is more right than he is.
  • The way of the kingdom of God is not the way of this world. How can we be like Judah and take a lesson from Jesus’ teaching and remove the log from our own eyes before we remove the speck from our neighbour’s eye (Matt 7:5)?
  • Is it true that too often you are quick to judge the unrighteous acts of others without considering your own? How can you look at people with humility as Jesus does?
  • Talk to God about it. Ask that God help you be slow to judge others and be willing to allow Jesus’ unlimited and unconditional love to be expressed in your actions.

 

PRAYER

Heavenly Father, I often see the speck in other people’s eyes, but not the beam in my own. Please give me more humility and meekness to see others better than myself. Especially in people who are not liked and rejected by others, that I can also see their strengths and appreciate their advantages. When I get along with others, even if I see the shortcomings of others, I still speak the truth in love, only for the benefit of others, not to vent my anger. Please teach me, train me, let me learn how not to get angry, even if I am angry, I should be angry for righteousness, and not hold anger for a long time, but still treat people with love. Heavenly Father, I also especially ask You to give me a vigilant and contrite heart, to be able to reflect and examine frequently, to recognize my crookedness, perversion, and hypocrisy. Please forgive me for my hidden sins and remove all pride from my heart. Amen!

 

HYMN

Unfailing Love – youtu.be/1mAvLY0PF7g

 

“Listening to God” Bible Reading & Devotion: May 17, 2022 – Genesis 037

Read chapter in full: biblegateway.com/passage/?version=ESV&search=Genesis+037

 

Genesis 37 (ESV)

Joseph Sold by His Brothers

12 Now his brothers went to pasture their father’s flock near Shechem. 13 And Israel said to Joseph, “Are not your brothers pasturing the flock at Shechem? Come, I will send you to them.” And he said to him, “Here I am.” 14 So he said to him, “Go now, see if it is well with your brothers and with the flock, and bring me word.” So he sent him from the Valley of Hebron, and he came to Shechem. 15 And a man found him wandering in the fields. And the man asked him, “What are you seeking?” 16 “I am seeking my brothers,” he said. “Tell me, please, where they are pasturing the flock.”17 And the man said, “They have gone away, for I heard them say, ‘Let us go to Dothan.’” So Joseph went after his brothers and found them at Dothan.

18 They saw him from afar, and before he came near to them they conspired against him to kill him. 19 They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer. 20 Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits. Then we will say that a fierce animal has devoured him, and we will see what will become of his dreams.” 21 But when Reuben heard it, he rescued him out of their hands, saying, “Let us not take his life.” 22 And Reuben said to them, “Shed no blood; throw him into this pit here in the wilderness, but do not lay a hand on him”—that he might rescue him out of their hand to restore him to his father. 23 So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the robe of many colors that he wore. 24 And they took him and threw him into a pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it.

25 Then they sat down to eat. And looking up they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels bearing gum, balm, and myrrh, on their way to carry it down to Egypt. 26 Then Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? 27 Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers listened to him. 28 Then Midianite traders passed by. And they drew Joseph up and lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. They took Joseph to Egypt.

29 When Reuben returned to the pit and saw that Joseph was not in the pit, he tore his clothes 30 and returned to his brothers and said, “The boy is gone, and I, where shall I go?” 31 Then they took Joseph’s robe and slaughtered a goat and dipped the robe in the blood. 32 And they sent the robe of many colors and brought it to their father and said, “This we have found; please identify whether it is your son’s robe or not.” 33 And he identified it and said, “It is my son’s robe. A fierce animal has devoured him. Joseph is without doubt torn to pieces.” 34 Then Jacob tore his garments and put sackcloth on his loins and mourned for his son many days.35 All his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted and said, “No, I shall go down to Sheol to my son, mourning.” Thus his father wept for him. 36 Meanwhile the Midianites had sold him in Egypt to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard.

 

REFLECTION

  • If time permits, read through the whole chapter.
  • Life must have seemed exciting to Joseph at 17. He was his father’s favorite. And he dreamed that he would have a great future. Filled with such visions, Joseph was not aware of how his father’s and his own behavior affected his brothers. They were jealous, and when Joseph told them of his dreams, they were angry. (vv1-11. Do spend time reading through the whole chapter.)
  • The brothers’ jealousy and anger spilled over when Joseph was sent to find them and their flocks. Most wanted to kill Joseph. But Judah, showing himself one of the better of the brothers, saved Joseph’s life by suggesting he be sold as a slave to a passing caravan of Midianite merchants.
  • None of the brothers except Reuben intended for Joseph to be returned to his father. Only Reuben seemed to care for the anguish the death of Joseph would surely cause their father (vv31-35).
  • As this chapter draws to a close, we can assume Jacob and Joseph are struggling with thoughts like: “if only I hadn’t sent him to Shechem…” (Jacob); “If only I hadn’t been so cocky…” (Joseph).
  • What is one of your biggest regrets? “If only I hadn’t…, then…”. Invite the Lord to sit with you, and talk with you.  What is He saying to you?

 

PRAYER

Heavenly Father, in my life, I have had many regrets, and a series of remorse. However, I cannot go back to restore the past. I have confessed my sins, and You have forgiven all my iniquities and transgressions. From now on, I have no need to regret it, nor do I need to be remorseful for what I did not do before, because You have given me the good portion and have accomplished the most beautiful purpose in my life, far exceeding my own plans, desires and thoughts. Please allow me to rejoice in seeking Your will in the rest of my life, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, pressing on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. So that when I look back on my life years later, I can add no new regrets and remorse, and can say without fear, that by the grace of God I am what I am today. Amen!

 

HYMN

Rock Of Ages – youtu.be/MKDj7rIHJMk

 

“Listening to God” Bible Reading & Devotion: May 16, 2022 – Genesis 036

Read chapter in full: biblegateway.com/passage/?version=ESV&search=Genesis+036

 

Genesis 36 (ESV)

Esau’s Descendants

These are the generations of Esau (that is, Edom).Esau took his wives from the Canaanites: Adah the daughter of Elon the Hittite, Oholibamah the daughter of Anah the daughter of Zibeon the Hivite, and Basemath, Ishmael’s daughter, the sister of Nebaioth. And Adah bore to Esau, Eliphaz; Basemath bore Reuel; and Oholibamah bore Jeush, Jalam, and Korah. These are the sons of Esau who were born to him in the land of Canaan.

Then Esau took his wives, his sons, his daughters, and all the members of his household, his livestock, all his beasts, and all his property that he had acquired in the land of Canaan. He went into a land away from his brother Jacob. For their possessions were too great for them to dwell together. The land of their sojournings could not support them because of their livestock. So Esau settled in the hill country of Seir. (Esau is Edom.)

These are the generations of Esau the father of the Edomites in the hill country of Seir. 10 These are the names of Esau’s sons: Eliphaz the son of Adah the wife of Esau, Reuel the son of Basemath the wife of Esau. 11 The sons of Eliphaz were Teman, Omar, Zepho, Gatam, and Kenaz.12 (Timna was a concubine of Eliphaz, Esau’s son; she boreAmalek to Eliphaz.) These are the sons of Adah, Esau’s wife. 13 These are the sons of Reuel: Nahath, Zerah, Shammah, and Mizzah. These are the sons of Basemath, Esau’s wife. 14 These are the sons of Oholibamah the daughter of Anah the daughter of Zibeon, Esau’s wife: she bore to Esau Jeush, Jalam, and Korah.

15 These are the chiefs of the sons of Esau. The sons of Eliphaz the firstborn of Esau: the chiefs Teman, Omar, Zepho, Kenaz, 16 Korah, Gatam, and Amalek; these are the chiefs of Eliphaz in the land of Edom; these are the sons of Adah. 17 These are the sons of Reuel, Esau’s son: the chiefs Nahath, Zerah, Shammah, and Mizzah; these are the chiefs of Reuel in the land of Edom; these are the sons of Basemath, Esau’s wife. 18 These are the sons of Oholibamah, Esau’s wife: the chiefs Jeush, Jalam, and Korah; these are the chiefs born of Oholibamah the daughter of Anah, Esau’s wife. 19 These are the sons of Esau (that is, Edom), and these are their chiefs.

 

REFLECTION

  • Genealogies were especially important to God’s Old Testament people. They provided a sense of continuity, enabling each generation to understand its identity by tracing its roots.  For the Hebrew people, genealogies allowed them to trace back to Abraham, thus validate their claim to be God’s chosen people, inheritors of His promise to Abraham.
  • But why trace the line of Esau? Esau isn’t in the promised line.  Perhaps, the genealogy of Esau serves as an important reminder that those outside the household of God must not be ignored or written off as unimportant.  While God chose Jacob to be one of the ancestors of his chosen people, He also chooses that Esau receive some of the blessings offered to Abraham.  God is not simply the God of Israel, but He is God of the whole world.  Every individual has worth and value in God’s sight, and is to be valued by us.  The names in this genealogy may be meaningless to us, but no person is unimportant to God.
  • Thank God that you are special in God’s sight.

 

PRAYER

Heavenly Father, although I am low, you still see me as precious! You have counted every strand of my hair, and not one will fall to the ground without your permission. Every step of my life is supported by Your graceful hand. Please make me understand more how precious my life is in Your eyes, so that I will not waste my years in the world, and I can work harder to grow, and make good use of my gifts to bear abundant fruits of life, and not to be an empty tree with only branches! I also ask You to make me understand that the life of every person in the world, whether they are beautiful and strong, or ugly and weak, or even blind, lame, or disabled, they are all equally precious in Your eyes, and show Your grace in them! You will not break a bruised reed, and You will not quench a faintly burning wick. Let me learn Your kindness, and respect and care for everyone around me, especially those who lack love, even those who are despised and rejected by others. Amen!

 

HYMN

Who Am I – youtu.be/uu0lRAl3m4w