Alone and Forgotten

Genesis 40

1Some time later, Pharaoh’s chief cup-bearer and chief baker offended him. 2Pharaoh became very angry with these officials, 3and he put them in the prison where Joseph was, in the palace of Potiphar, the captain of the guard. 4They remained in prison for quite some time, and Potiphar assigned Joseph to take care of them.

5One night the cup-bearer and the baker each had a dream, and each dream had its own meaning. 6The next morning Joseph noticed the dejected look on their faces. 7“Why do you look so worried today?” he asked.

8And they replied, “We both had dreams last night, but there is no one here to tell us what they mean.”

“Interpreting dreams is God’s business,” Joseph replied. “Tell me what you saw.”

9The cup-bearer told his dream first. “In my dream,” he said, “I saw a vine in front of me. 10It had three branches that began to bud and blossom, and soon there were clusters of ripe grapes. 11I was holding Pharaoh’s wine cup in my hand, so I took the grapes and squeezed the juice into it. Then I placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand.”

12“I know what the dream means,” Joseph said. “The three branches mean three days. 13Within three days Pharaoh will take you out of prison and return you to your position as his chief cup-bearer. 14And please have some pity on me when you are back in his favor. Mention me to Pharaoh, and ask him to let me out of here. 15For I was kidnapped from my homeland, the land of the Hebrews, and now I’m here in jail, but I did nothing to deserve it.”

16When the chief baker saw that the first dream had such a good meaning, he told his dream to Joseph, too. “In my dream,” he said, “there were three baskets of pastries on my head. 17In the top basket were all kinds of bakery goods for Pharaoh, but the birds came and ate them.”

18“I’ll tell you what it means,” Joseph told him. “The three baskets mean three days. 19Three days from now Pharaoh will cut off your head and impale your body on a pole. Then birds will come and peck away at your flesh.”

20Pharaoh’s birthday came three days later, and he gave a banquet for all his officials and household staff. He sent for his chief cup-bearer and chief baker, and they were brought to him from the prison. 21He then restored the chief cup-bearer to his former position, 22but he sentenced the chief baker to be impaled on a pole, just as Joseph had predicted. 23Pharaoh’s cup-bearer, however, promptly forgot all about Joseph, never giving him another thought. (Genesis 40:1-23, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

Joseph ends up in prison through no fault of his own, yet God continues to bless him. He finds himself overseeing the whole prison, making life very easy for the chief jailer.

In chapter 40, two important officials in Pharaoh’s service find themselves in prison after offending Pharaoh. It just so happens that both of them have dreams on the same night that Joseph is able to interpret.

The first thing of note is that Joseph understands that his ability to understand and interpret the dreams comes from God, not some supernatural or psychic ability. There is no doubt that the reason Joseph is blessed wherever he goes and whatever circumstance he finds himself in is because of his unique relationship with the Lord.

Secondly, after Joseph interprets the dream of the cup-bearer, which turns out to be a favorable outcome, Joseph appeals to the cup-bearer to remember him when he’s back in a position of influence. The text says that after the cup-bearer was reinstated to his former position, exactly as Joseph had communicated from the dream, the cup-bearer “promptly forgot all about Joseph, never giving him another thought.”

Doesn’t it seem odd that the cup-bearer completely forgets about Joseph? After all, it’s not everyday that someone interprets your dream and the events of the interpretation unfold EXACTLY as communicated. In addition, the chief baker also had his dream interpreted and though the outcome was not favorable to him, the events of his dream interpretation ALSO unfold exactly as communicated.

Wouldn’t you think this would make a profound impact on the cup-bearer? But apparently, it doesn’t, at least not yet.

I think there are two things going on here. First, I think it’s in our nature to forget the role others play in the blessings we experience. Most of us, at our core are selfish and we like to think that we alone are responsible for our successes. The reality is that often there are a host of others who play pivotal roles in our accomplishments, no matter how minor they may seem. As we revel in our own achievements, we can easily become self-absorbed and “believe our own press clippings”.

Secondly, God’s sovereignty is also displayed in this story. Though the cup-bearer forgot all about Joseph, God orchestrates events in the coming chapters that reminds the cup-bearer of Joseph’s unique ability. This new information comes at just the right time and elevates Joseph to a position of prominence he likely couldn’t have imagined when he was initially appealing to the cup-bearer to remember him.

The lesson here is that God’s timing is perfect and we don’t have access to all the information. While it may appear that my circumstances aren’t working out the way I want, it’s also possible that God is creating a greater opportunity that is beyond the horizon of my vision.

Reflection

Who are some of the people who have contributed to your successes and achievements? Who are some of the people who have played key roles in the person you are today? What can you do to acknowledge and express your appreciation to those people?

When have you experienced circumstances like Joseph, where you were in a situation that is no fault of your own and yet you felt forgotten?

How has God used a past negative circumstances for a greater purpose that you couldn’t see at the time?

 

Photo by Tim Hüfner on Unsplash

Was it Immoral for God to Ask Abraham to Sacrifice His Son Isaac?

Genesis 22

1Later on God tested Abraham’s faith and obedience. “Abraham!” God called.

“Yes,” he replied. “Here I am.”

2“Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will point out to you.”

3The next morning Abraham got up early. He saddled his donkey and took two of his servants with him, along with his son Isaac. Then he chopped wood to build a fire for a burnt offering and set out for the place where God had told him to go. 4On the third day of the journey, Abraham saw the place in the distance. 5“Stay here with the donkey,” Abraham told the young men. “The boy and I will travel a little farther. We will worship there, and then we will come right back.”

6Abraham placed the wood for the burnt offering on Isaac’s shoulders, while he himself carried the knife and the fire. As the two of them went on together, 7Isaac said, “Father?”

“Yes, my son,” Abraham replied.

“We have the wood and the fire,” said the boy, “but where is the lamb for the sacrifice?”

8“God will provide a lamb, my son,” Abraham answered. And they both went on together.

9When they arrived at the place where God had told Abraham to go, he built an altar and placed the wood on it. Then he tied Isaac up and laid him on the altar over the wood. 10And Abraham took the knife and lifted it up to kill his son as a sacrifice to the LORD. 11At that moment the angel of the LORD shouted to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”

“Yes,” he answered. “I’m listening.”

12“Lay down the knife,” the angel said. “Do not hurt the boy in any way, for now I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld even your beloved son from me.”

13Then Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by its horns in a bush. So he took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering on the altar in place of his son. 14Abraham named the place “The LORD Will Provide.” This name has now become a proverb: “On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.” (Genesis 22:1-14, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

Genesis 22 is one of the most controversial and objectionable passages to critics of Christianity (and Judaism).

The big question people often have from this passage that can cause doubt and skepticism has to do with this: why would God ask Abraham to sacrifice his son? This seems immoral.

The problem with this thinking is that we are looking at it from the vantage point of our modern day morality. We KNOW that it’s wrong to sacrifice your own child. When we see or hear of religious groups or cults that practice this, we cringe in disgust, precisely BECAUSE we know that this is wrong.

But Abraham lived in a different time and a different culture than we do. Earlier in Genesis, we learn that Abraham came out of Ur of Chaldea. In this Ancient Near Eastern culture, child sacrifice was actually quite common as a means of appeasing various regional deities.

So when the Lord asks Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Abraham would not have had the same visceral reaction that we have today. From Abraham’s perspective, this was an expected act of allegiance to the deity.

So why does God do this if it’s wrong?

God does it precisely to show Abraham how different He is from other so-called gods. He asks Abraham to sacrifice his son as a test of faith and loyalty but then He shows Abraham that He is completely different from how the people in that culture perceived deities. Human sacrifice is not His way. God provides a substitute so that Isaac is spared. This encounter also foreshadows the gospel message – we are spared and an innocent lamb, Jesus, is sacrificed in our place.

In our current culture, God does not need to ask us to sacrifice our child to show our loyalty because He has already revealed His nature on this issue.

So if someone claims that God is asking them to sacrifice their child as a test of faith, or for any other reason, we can be certain that it is NOT the Lord who is making the request, but likely the devil himself!

For more on God’s view of human sacrifice as a form of worship and appeasement, see Jeremiah 19:4-5 and  Jeremiah 32:35.

Reflection

In the past, how have you reconciled or explained this passage to others who object to it as being “immoral”?

What would you say to someone who claims God is asking them to do something that seems to go against Biblical morals and ethics?

What questions or doubts do you have about God’s character or Biblical passages? How can you gain awareness and understanding of those “sticky” passages in order to strengthen your faith?

 

Photo by Rod Long on Unsplash

Old Habits are Hard to Break

Genesis 20

1Now Abraham moved south to the Negev and settled for a while between Kadesh and Shur at a place called Gerar. 2Abraham told people there that his wife, Sarah, was his sister. So King Abimelech sent for her and had her brought to him at his palace.

3But one night God came to Abimelech in a dream and told him, “You are a dead man, for that woman you took is married.”

4But Abimelech had not slept with her yet, so he said, “Lord, will you kill an innocent man? 5Abraham told me, ‘She is my sister,’ and she herself said, ‘Yes, he is my brother.’ I acted in complete innocence!”

6“Yes, I know you are innocent,” God replied. “That is why I kept you from sinning against me; I did not let you touch her. 7Now return her to her husband, and he will pray for you, for he is a prophet. Then you will live. But if you don’t return her to him, you can be sure that you and your entire household will die.”

8Abimelech got up early the next morning and hastily called a meeting of all his servants. When he told them what had happened, great fear swept through the crowd. 9Then Abimelech called for Abraham. “What is this you have done to us?” he demanded. “What have I done to you that deserves treatment like this, making me and my kingdom guilty of this great sin? This kind of thing should not be done! 10Why have you done this to us?”

11“Well,” Abraham said, “I figured this to be a godless place. I thought, ‘They will want my wife and will kill me to get her.’ 12Besides, she is my sister—we both have the same father, though different mothers—and I married her. 13When God sent me to travel far from my father’s home, I told her, ‘Wherever we go, have the kindness to say that you are my sister.’”

14Then Abimelech took sheep and oxen and servants—both men and women—and gave them to Abraham, and he returned his wife, Sarah, to him. 15“Look over my kingdom, and choose a place where you would like to live,” Abimelech told him. 16Then he turned to Sarah. “Look,” he said, “I am giving your ‘brother’ a thousand pieces of silver to compensate for any embarrassment I may have caused you. This will settle any claim against me in this matter.”

17Then Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelech, his wife, and the other women of the household, so they could have children. 18For the LORD had stricken all the women with infertility as a warning to Abimelech for having taken Abraham’s wife. (Genesis 20, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

In Genesis 20, we find Abraham resorting to one of his old habits – deception. Abraham, fearing the locals, convinces his wife to go along with his story that Sarah is his sister, which is technically true, but still deceptive because Sarah is actually Abraham’s wife.

If you’ve followed the story of Abraham, you know that he did the same thing with the Egyptian Pharaoh in Genesis 12:10-20.

In both cases, Abraham feared for his life, thinking that if people knew Sarah was his wife, they would kill him to get her.

Throughout the Bible, Abraham is regarded as a great man of faith, and yet we see him resorting to deception on multiple occasions in order to protect himself.

What are we to make of this?

First of all, Abraham is not innocent. Abimelech pleads his innocence to the Lord, to which the Lord replies, “I know you are innocent….that is why I kept you from sinning against me.”

Secondly, Abraham does not demonstrate much faith in this situation or the situation in Genesis 12. In both cases, Abraham resorts to deception because he’s afraid that the locals will kill him because of Sarah’s beauty.

Yet Abraham had been promised by God that he would become the father of many nations. In fact, God changes his name from Abram, which means “exalted father”, to Abraham, which means “father of many”. In addition, God had promised that his wife Sarah would bear him a son and it would be through that son that his covenant promises would emerge (see Genesis 17).

If Abraham was such a great man of faith, why does he resort to deception to save himself? Wouldn’t a man of faith tell the truth and trust that the Lord would provide? Wouldn’t a great man of faith trust the Lord to save him from the locals instead of taking matters into his own hands?

The reality is that Abraham was just like us. We often see Abraham taking matters into his own hands, as he does in this situation and also when he decided to father a child through his wife’s maid, Hagar, instead of trusting the Lord to provide a child through his wife.

The story of Abraham gives me hope to know that I don’t need to be perfect in order to receive God’s blessing. Abraham doesn’t always demonstrate faith and he often falls into old sinful habits, but he’s regarded as a great man of faith, not because of these incidents, but because of how he responds to the Lord’s leading and direction and how he finishes his life.

Reflection

What are some of your old habits that you are prone to fall back into?

In what kinds of situations do you find it difficult to trust God for the outcome?

What steps or habits can you implement in your life to ensure you are regarded as a person of faith?

 

Photo by Basil MK from Pexels

 

Is God Against Construction Projects?

Genesis 11

1At one time the whole world spoke a single language and used the same words. 2As the people migrated eastward, they found a plain in the land of Babylonia and settled there. 3They began to talk about construction projects. “Come,” they said, “let’s make great piles of burnt brick and collect natural asphalt to use as mortar. 4Let’s build a great city with a tower that reaches to the skies—a monument to our greatness! This will bring us together and keep us from scattering all over the world.”

5But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. 6“Look!” he said. “If they can accomplish this when they have just begun to take advantage of their common language and political unity, just think of what they will do later. Nothing will be impossible for them! 7Come, let’s go down and give them different languages. Then they won’t be able to understand each other.”

8In that way, the LORD scattered them all over the earth; and that ended the building of the city. 9That is why the city was called Babel, because it was there that the LORD confused the people by giving them many languages, thus scattering them across the earth. (Genesis 11:1-9, NLT)


Genesis 11 documents a pivotal scene in the advancement of the human race.

The text says that the people gathered together and began to talk about construction projects. The Lord responds by scattering the people, making them unable to accomplish their objective.

Is God against construction projects?

NO.

The first problem here is not that people are building things but that God’s stated command that people “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” wasn’t being fulfilled.

Instead, the people are congregating together.

It’s clear that some were aware of God’s mandate to fill the earth because it is stated that the reason they want to congregate together and build this tower is to “keep us from scattering all over the world.”

The second problem is that they were building “a monument to our greatness.”

There is no doubt that when people work together and put their minds to something, the possibilities of what can be accomplished are limitless. There is no end to the number of examples of human cooperation and ingenuity, including space exploration and sending astronauts to the moon, the development of vaccines and medication to combat disease, industrial and other technological inventions…the list goes on and on.

But one of the potential downsides of human ingenuity is the propensity of humankind to take credit for their achievements and forget the role God has played in our lives and in the universe. It’s as if the more we advance, the more enamored we become with ourselves. We become the center of our own universe as we begin to worship our achievements and magnify our greatness. In short, we become gods unto ourselves!

This is the ultimate form of idolatry and it’s rampant in our culture. Philosophically, secular humanism is the idea that puts man at the center of a society that excludes God. In a world without God, man becomes the ultimate authority on what is good and bad, what is right and wrong, and what is moral and immoral.

With people in control instead of God, what could go wrong?

God is not against construction projects and He’s not against people working together to advance human objectives, particularly those that benefit the common good. However, He IS against man making Himself god and putting himself at the center of the universe, a position that is exclusively reserved for God Himself.

Reflection

What are some examples of humanistic philosophy have you seen  in our culture today?

In what ways are you tempted to neglect God and “make a name for yourself?”

What steps or practices can you implement to ensure that God is at the center instead of you?

 

Photo by Viktor Jakovlev on Unsplash

Why Did God Forbid This One Fruit?

1Now the serpent was the shrewdest of all the creatures the LORD God had made. “Really?” he asked the woman. “Did God really say you must not eat any of the fruit in the garden?”

2“Of course we may eat it,” the woman told him. 3“It’s only the fruit from the tree at the center of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God says we must not eat it or even touch it, or we will die.”

4“You won’t die!” the serpent hissed. 5“God knows that your eyes will be opened when you eat it. You will become just like God, knowing everything, both good and evil.”

6The woman was convinced. The fruit looked so fresh and delicious, and it would make her so wise! So she ate some of the fruit. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her. Then he ate it, too. 7At that moment, their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they strung fig leaves together around their hips to cover themselves. (Genesis 3:1-6)


Genesis 3 is a pivotal chapter in the overall narrative of the Bible. It’s the chapter that most people refer to as “The Fall”.

In this chapter, we see the devil, in the form of a serpent, questioning Eve about the forbidden fruit.

The first thing to note here is that the nature of this forbidden fruit is not described. This fruit is sometimes thought to be, or assumed to be an apple. For example, the Apple logo, according to culturecreature.com, is a symbol for knowledge. But nowhere in this text does it say or give any indication that the fruit is an apple. Therefore, to say that an apple is a biblical symbol of knowledge is a misrepresentation of the text.

The devil’s tactic is to get Eve to doubt God’s goodness; to see this restriction as an indication that God is somehow holding out on Adam and Eve. He does this by telling Eve that eating the fruit would not result in death, as God had said, but instead would result in their eyes being opened and knowing good and evil for themselves.

What Satan says is partially true. He often will wrap a lie up inside a partial truth so that we won’t recognize the lie.

The truth in the statement is that their eyes would be opened. They would recognize their condition…that they were naked.

The lie is that they would become like God, knowing everything. Of course they wouldn’t know everything and they wouldn’t know good and evil.

Have you ever wondered why God made this particular fruit forbidden? Was it just random chance or was there a reason that this particular fruit was off limits? Why was it a sin? Was it only sinful because God made it off limits or was it sinful for another reason?

I believe there is a deeper truth at play that accounts for why God forbade this particular fruit.

Eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was sinful because before this, Adam and Eve were completely dependent on God to know what was good and what was evil. Eating the fruit was desirous because, according to Satan, they would no longer need God to determine good and evil. They could determine good and evil for themselves. That was the lie.

God has designed us in such a way that He wants us to depend on Him for moral guidance. It is God who decides what is right and what is wrong. By following Him and trusting Him, we align ourselves with HIs moral code and values.

But the temptation of Adam and Eve, and the temptation we face every day, is to decide for ourselves what is right and what is wrong, thereby, forsaking God, and making ourselves god, at least as it relates to moral authority.

This scenario of people rejecting God and His moral values in favor of their own moral values has continued through history and is still alive today.

Every time we reject a biblical command or a moral standard as outlined in the Bible because we don’t like it, or because we think it’s no longer relevant to us or because we think God is being too restrictive, we are following Eve’s and Adam’s example of grabbing the fruit and taking a bite. It was sinful because it was an act of rejecting God’s role as the moral authority of the universe in favor of making oneself the moral authority.  We still do this today and it is still sinful.

Reflection

What modern examples come to mind of people rejecting God as the authority of good and evil in favor of their own ideas of what’s good and what’s evil?

In what ways are you tempted to reject God’s moral authority (as outlined in the Bible) in favor of your own preferred moral values?

What would need to change in terms of your views or lifestyle in order to completely align with God’s standards of good and evil?

If you are a person who has always thought of the forbidden fruit as an apple, why do you think you thought that when the text never says that it is an apple?

 

Photo by Gabriele Lässer on Unsplash