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The 365 Most Important Bible Passages for YouDaily Readings and Meditations on Experiencing God's Richest Blessings in Your Life
By Rogers, Jonathan
FaithWordsCopyright © 2011 Rogers, Jonathan
All right reserved.
The story begins in a garden. God. A man. A woman. Everything unfolded from there. A fall. A promise. A hope for better things. The book of Genesis is full of strange, mysterious stories that sometimes feel as if they came from another planet. But still, in their humanness they resonate with the humanity of the reader.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. God saw that the light was good.
Genesis 1:1–4 NASB
IN THE BEGINNING
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and He separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.”
Genesis 1:1–5 NIV
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.
Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
John 1:1–5 NIV
There was only darkness, chaos, and emptiness. There was only nothing. And then there was everything, spoken into existence by the voice of God: “Let there be…” With those words, light shone out of the darkness, order arose out of chaos, and the emptiness was filled with good things, beautiful things—things that gave God pleasure.
It was good, God said. It wouldn’t be long before the perfection of the natural order would be wrecked, but this first chapter of Genesis reminds us of something we all feel in our hearts already: the way things are is not the way things were supposed to be. The Creation story tells us that everything in this universe—every single thing—is of supernatural origin. Every event is an echo, however distorted, of God’s voice speaking, “Let there be…”
It was the Word that set things in motion, and that Word still speaks. For the Word is Christ. He was with God before the beginning; indeed, he was God, shining in the darkness. The Word still speaks. The Light still shines.
IN THE IMAGE OF GOD
God spoke: “Let us make human beings in our image, make them reflecting our nature so they can be responsible for the fish in the sea, the birds in the air, the cattle, and, yes, Earth itself, and every animal that moves on the face of Earth.”
God created human beings; he created them godlike, reflecting God’s nature. He created them male and female.
God blessed them: “Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Earth! Take charge! Be responsible for fish in the sea and birds in the air, for every living thing that moves on the face of Earth.”…
God looked over everything he had made; it was so good, so very good!
Genesis 1:26–28, 31 MSG
To err is human,” according to the old saying. Maybe so. But there’s a lot more to being human than error-proneness. We have all been made in the image of God. That urge to create, to bring order out of chaos, to make our mark on the world; the anger we feel in the face of injustice, the pleasure we feel in the face of beauty, the hope we feel for a better future—all of that is the image of God finding expression in us, human beings.
It is true that the image of God we express is distorted, even fractured. But there it is nevertheless, glimmering in this interaction, shining in that choice, bursting forth in our longings. God’s image in us forever calls us back to the One who is its original.
That realization changes the way we look at ourselves. It also changes the way we look at others. “There are no ordinary people,” C. S. Lewis wrote. “You have never met a mere mortal.” Once you start seeing the image of God in yourself and others, the world never looks the same again.
MADE FOR RELATIONSHIP
The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.” So the LORD God formed from the ground all the wild animals and all the birds of the sky…. But still there was no helper just right for him. So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep. While the man slept, the LORD God took out one of the man’s ribs and closed up the opening. Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib, and he brought her to the man.
“At last!” the man exclaimed.
“This one is bone from my bone, and flesh from my flesh! She will be called ‘woman,’ because she was taken from ‘man.’ ”
Genesis 2:18–23 NLT
Throughout the Creation story, a phrase repeats like a refrain: “God saw that it was good.” The day was good. The night was good. The seas were good. The dry land was good. The trees, the plants, the mountains, the rivers, the birds, the creeping things, the beasts of the field, Adam, Eve—God saw all of it and saw that it was good.
So it is a little jarring when God declares that something is not good. “It is not good for the man to be alone,” God says. He corrected Adam’s aloneness by creating a companion out of his very flesh and bone.
“At last!” Adam said. That little exclamation is telling. The world was freshly made. This was before the Fall, remember. Adam had the delights of the Garden spread out before him. He even had the full presence of God. And yet in the absence of another human being with whom to enjoy it all, Adam couldn’t truly enjoy it. Time dragged on.
We were made for relationship, not for self-sufficiency. It isn’t good for any of us to be alone.
A NEW—BUT SKEWED—PERSPECTIVE
[The serpent] spoke to the Woman: “Do I understand that God told you not to eat from any tree in the garden?”
The Woman said to the serpent, “Not at all. We can eat from the trees in the garden. It’s only about the tree in the middle of the garden that God said, ‘Don’t eat from it; don’t even touch it or you’ll die.’ ”
The serpent told the Woman, “You won’t die. God knows that the moment you eat from that tree, you’ll see what’s really going on. You’ll be just like God, knowing everything, ranging all the way from good to evil.”
When the Woman saw that the tree looked like good eating and realized what she would get out of it—she’d know everything!—she took and ate the fruit and then gave some to her husband, and he ate.
Genesis 3:1–6 MSG
The serpent promised Eve new eyes to see what God sees. Adam and Eve got a new perspective, all right, but it wasn’t God’s perspective. The serpent taught them to doubt God’s goodness, to see convoluted hidden agendas beneath the straightforward commands God gave for their happiness. The serpent taught them, in short, to find misery where God had intended only good for them.
No longer comfortable in their own skin, Adam and Eve hid from God. They believed that the shame they were experiencing must reflect God’s true view of them. The serpent, after all, had told them that eating the forbidden fruit would open their eyes. The terrible irony is that before they ate the fruit, Adam and Eve already had a godlike view of the world they inhabited. The serpent took away the very thing he promised to give.
Since that day in the Garden, our perspective has been skewed. We find it very hard to believe what may be the simplest, most fundamental truth of all: God loves us, and he wants what is best for us.
THE DAWN OF HARD LABOR
The LORD said to the woman, “You will suffer terribly when you give birth. But you will still desire your husband, and he will rule over you.”
The LORD said to the man, “You listened to your wife and ate fruit from that tree. And so, the ground will be under a curse because of what you did. As long as you live, you will have to struggle to grow enough food. Your food will be plants, but the ground will produce thorns and thistles. You will have to sweat to earn a living; you were made out of soil, and you will once again turn into soil.”
Genesis 3:16–19 CEV
Before Adam and Eve sinned, the earth offered up its good things willingly. It even watered itself. Everything changed, however, after that first sin. Now cursed, the ground produces thorns and thistles more readily than fruits and vegetables. Since the Fall, work has been a struggle—a push back against a hostile world.
Work is not the result of the Fall. Even before they had sinned, Adam and Eve had the job of tending the Garden. From our post-Fall perspective, it’s hard to imagine what such work might have entailed if there were no weeding, no spading, no pulling rocks out of the ground. But whatever that work entailed, we can be confident that it was a work of cooperation with the earth, free from the frustration and futility of the work we experience where the weeds always grow back, no matter how many times we pull them.
Because of sin, everything is harder than it has to be. Work is harder. Childbirth is harder. Relationships are harder. And yet this is still our Father’s world, and he still calls us to push through the hardships to gain such rewards as this world yields.
THE FIRST MURDER
In the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the LORD. Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the LORD respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell.
So the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.”
Now Cain talked with Abel his brother; and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.
Genesis 4:3–8 NKJV
The brokenness of the post-Fall world reached a new level in the relationship between Cain and Abel, the first brothers. They both brought their offerings to God. Abel, a herdsman, brought an animal; Cain brought fruits or vegetables.
God accepted Abel’s sacrifice and rejected Cain’s. Cain was furious—whether furious at God or at Abel, the Bible doesn’t say. Nor does the Bible spell out why God rejected Cain’s sacrifice, but it seems likely that it was the state of Cain’s heart—and not the technicalities of produce offerings versus animal sacrifice—that stood between Cain and God. “If you do well,” God admonished Cain, “will you not be accepted?” God followed the question with a stern warning: “If you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.”
Even as he looked into Cain’s dark heart, God gave the first murderer a choice. But Cain chose to enslave himself rather than master his sin. His egregious act was a manifestation of a deeper sin inside. Each of us has the same choice: what we do with it is up to us.
THE WRATH OF “HAVE IT YOUR WAY”
The earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. God saw how corrupt the earth was, for all flesh had corrupted its way on the earth. Then God said to Noah, “I have decided to put an end to all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence because of them; therefore I am going to destroy them along with the earth.
“Make yourself an ark of gofer wood. Make rooms in the ark, and cover it with pitch inside and outside….
“Understand that I am bringing a deluge—floodwaters on the earth to destroy all flesh under heaven with the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will die. But I will establish My covenant with you, and you will enter the ark with your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives.”
Genesis 6:11–14, 17–18 HCSB
We tend to treat Noah’s flood as a children’s story. The ark floats jauntily atop the rising waters, a smiling giraffe poking its head through the upper porthole. But the story of the Flood is a story of God’s wrath.
God’s wrath is not an easy or pleasant thing to contemplate. But it expresses itself throughout the Bible, in the New Testament as well as the Old. God’s wrath is the flip side of his love. If you love anyone, you already know how your anger burns against anything that would harm that person. God’s wrath is reserved for that which seeks to destroy the people he loves. Sin destroys lives, relationships, happiness. The anger of God is the anger of surgeons who cut away cancers rather than see them consume their victims.
God pours out his wrath by finally giving people what they want. The people of Noah’s time wanted to live beyond God’s restraint. So God finally lifted his restraining hand—the hand that restrained the floodwaters. In the end, the people got exactly what they wanted, and it was the end of them.
A SIGN OF MERCY
God said, “This is the sign of the covenant which I am making between Me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all successive generations; I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth.
“It shall come about, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow will be seen in the cloud, and I will remember My covenant, which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and never again shall the water become a flood to destroy all flesh.
“When the bow is in the cloud, then I will look upon it, to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.”
Genesis 9:12–16 NASB
In the Old Testament no less than the New, God’s anger is always answered by his grace. The worldwide destruction of the Flood was followed immediately by the promise of hope. Never again, God promised, would he send the kind of flood that Noah and his family had just lived through. And the sign of that promise was a bow in the sky—a rainbow.
It is worth noticing that the bow is aimed to shoot its arrows up toward heaven, not down toward earth. The bow is not a threat against humankind that says, “Straighten up, people, or the arrows of God’s wrath are going to rain down on you again.” No, this bow is poised to shoot at the heart of God. It is as if God is saying, “Cross my heart and hope to die.” In this agreement, God puts himself on the hook.
There are some two-sided covenants in the Bible, in which God’s people agree to hold up their end of the bargain. But this covenant is all God.
[Men] said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”… The LORD said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”
So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel—because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth.
Genesis 11:4, 6–9 NIV
God’s first command to humanity was “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth” (Gen. 1:28 NASB). In other words, spread out across the earth. When people spread out, it isn’t long before they start speaking different languages and creating different cultures. That seems to have been God’s plan all along—to have not a monoculture but a full panoply of tribes and nations, each praising God in its own way. The Bible has much to say about “every tribe and nation” coming to God.
But in the generations after the Flood, the people had other plans. They didn’t want to fill the earth. They wanted to stay right where they were and become great—maybe even as great as God. So they began building a great tower that would reach to the heavens—challenging God’s authority and creating a rallying point for their culture.
God had other plans for them. He confused their language and scattered them to the four winds. It was a punishment, certainly. But it was also a mercy, for it forced the people out of their delusion of self-sufficiency and into something richer and more adventurous.
AN ASTONISHING CAPACITY FOR BELIEF
The LORD said to Abram: Go out from your land, your relatives, and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, I will bless you, I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, I will curse those who treat you with contempt, and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you.
So Abram went, as the LORD had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was 75 years old when he left Haran. He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated… in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan.
Genesis 12:1–5 HCSB
Abram hailed from somewhere in modern-day Iraq, most likely from a tribe of moon-worshippers. Nothing in the Bible indicates that there was any excellence on Abram’s part—either moral or otherwise—that attracted God’s attention among so many pagans. Subsequent events suggest, in fact, that Abram was average at best in the character and integrity department.
But God called Abram anyway. Abram, this childless seventy-five-year-old, would be a great nation someday, and through him God would bless all the nations. All Abram had to do was leave everything he had ever known and follow this mysterious voice to a new country. The voice doesn’t mention, by the way, where this new country is, or how long it will take to get there.
Amazingly, Abram followed. Whatever his shortcomings, the man had an astonishing capacity for belief. He staked his whole life on the conviction that God’s promises were true. Again and again, Abram made a mess of things. But he always returned to this first conviction: God’s promises are true. That capacity for belief is what made Abram the father of our faith.
A CHOICE: FAITH OR SELF-SUFFICIENCY
Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine in the land was severe. When he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “Look, I know what a beautiful woman you are. When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ They will kill me but let you live. Please say you’re my sister so it will go well for me because of you, and my life will be spared on your account.”
When Abram entered Egypt, the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful. Pharaoh’s officials saw her and praised her to Pharaoh, so the woman was taken to Pharaoh’s house. He treated Abram well because of her, and Abram acquired flocks and herds, male and female donkeys, male and female slaves, and camels.
Genesis 12:10–16 HCSB
The journey God called Abram to undertake wasn’t safe. Abram had to pass through the lands of many unfriendly kings. As Abram’s danger grew, his fear grew—especially in the land of the mighty pharaoh. Pharaoh was the sort of man who took whatever he wanted. Abram was afraid Pharaoh would want his wife, Sarai, and kill her husband to have her.
Abram had a choice: he could renew his trust in the God who promised to see him through, or he could attempt to solve the problem in his own strength and wisdom. He chose the latter. It was a perfectly understandable reaction; when things feel out of control, our first instinct is to attempt to take control. But in relying on his own shrewdness, Abram made a royal mess of things. He forsook his wife, prostituting her to save his own skin.
When we trust in our own resources, we draw a very strict limit around the solutions that are available to us. Many of those solutions are worse than the original problem. When we rely on God, we open ourselves to a whole universe of solutions.
THE GRACIOUSNESS OF FAITH
Lot, who was moving about with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents. But the land could not support them while they stayed together, for their possessions were so great that they were not able to stay together. And quarreling arose….
So Abram said to Lot, “Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herdsmen and mine, for we are brothers. Is not the whole land before you? Let’s part company. If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right; if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left.”
Lot looked up and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan was well watered, like the garden of the LORD…. So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan.
Genesis 13:5–11 NIV
When there was trouble between Abram’s servants and Lot’s, Abram extended a graciousness that mirrored the grace he had received from God. The two households would have to go their separate ways. As the elder relative, Abram had every right to dictate to his nephew the terms of the separation. But he didn’t; he let Lot choose which land to take.
Why was Abram willing to leave that monumental decision to another? Perhaps he understood that neither he nor Lot was really making the decision. God was at work, and God was the One who would be giving Abram the land he wanted Abram to have.
As it turned out, Lot’s choice to settle in the lush, well-watered plains of the Jordan didn’t make him a great patriarch. Life among the wicked cities of the plains—including Sodom and Gomorrah—wrecked Lot’s family completely. God rewarded Abram’s act of faith, on the other hand, with a renewal of his promise: “All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever” (Gen. 13:15 NIV). That land, by the way, included the Jordan Valley, which Abram had just given to Lot!
A MYSTERIOUS FIGURE
After [Abram’s] return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer… Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God Most High.
He blessed him and said, “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand.”
He gave him a tenth of all.
The king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give the people to me and take the goods for yourself.”
Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have sworn to the LORD God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth, that I will not take a thread or a sandal thong or anything that is yours, for fear you would say, ‘I have made Abram rich.’ ”
Genesis 14:17–23 NASB
Melchizedek is one of the most mysterious figures in the Bible. In the midst of a pagan land, this priest of the true God appears out of nowhere to speak a blessing on Abram, and then he disappears just as suddenly as he came. He would probably be mostly forgotten—like one of the names in the middle of the genealogies—except for the fact that the book of Hebrews refers to Jesus as “a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” (5:6 NASB).
That phrase itself is mysterious, but it seems to be related to the fact that Melchizedek was both a priest and a king. Throughout the Bible, the roles of priest and king are kept very separate (King Saul, for one, got in serious trouble for mixing the two roles). The two exceptions are Melchizedek and Jesus. Jesus rules over his people as King and God, but he also mediates between God and his people as a priest. Which is yet another mystery. Perhaps it is appropriate that one of the first foreshadowings of Christ be such a mysterious figure as Melchizedek.
A SKY FULL OF BLESSINGS
The word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.”
But Abram said, “O Lord GOD, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.”
And behold, the word of the LORD came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”
And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.
Genesis 15:1–6 ESV
Abram was an old man. His wife, Sarai, was old too—decades beyond childbearing age. So when God came to him in a vision and repeated the promise once more, it’s not hard to understand Abram’s incredulity. “I continue childless,” he said, “and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus.” It was a painful thing for Abram to think about: it wasn’t even a distant relative, but a servant who would inherit everything he had worked for.
But that wasn’t what God had in mind when he promised to make a great nation of Abram. He wasn’t talking about any foreign servant inheriting his estate for lack of any other heir. No, as unlikely as it sounded, God was going to give Abram his very own son.
God took him outside the tent and told him to look up to the heavens. “Number the stars,” God said, “if you are able to number them. So shall your offspring be.”
Abram lifted his head, and he took in the vast and shimmering sky—each star a son, a daughter, each one a blessing to the rest of the world. And somehow, Abram believed again.
LETTING GOD BE GOD
Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar; so she said to Abram, “The LORD has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her.”
Abram agreed to what Sarai said. So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian maidservant Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. He slept with Hagar, and she conceived.
When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my servant in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the LORD judge between you and me.”
Genesis 16:1–5 NIV
Abram’s life of faith was as full of peaks and valleys as any roller coaster. In Genesis 15 we saw Abram believing God’s impossible promise to make him a great nation. In the very next chapter we see him taking matters into his own hands again.
Knowing she couldn’t possibly bear children at her age, Sarai invited Abram to sleep with her maidservant Hagar in hopes that she would bear a child who would be the beginning of Abram’s great nation. The promise, after all, said that Abram would father a great nation; it didn’t specify that the children he fathered had to be legitimate.
So Abram slept with the servant woman, and she got pregnant. Soon Sarai began to realize what a mistake she had made. Hagar succeeded where Sarai had failed for so many decades, and Sarai could no longer stand the sight of her. In her eagerness to help God keep his promise and in her unwillingness to wait any longer, Sarai had traded in her dignity, and Abram had let her. It was a full-blown tragedy before it was over—all because Abram and Sarai couldn’t let God be God.
THE CUTTING OF THE COVENANT
GOD said, “Bring me a heifer, a goat, and a ram, each three years old, and a dove and a young pigeon.”
[Abram] brought all these animals to him, split them down the middle, and laid the halves opposite each other. But he didn’t split the birds. Vultures swooped down on the carcasses, but Abram scared them off. As the sun went down a deep sleep overcame Abram and then a sense of dread, dark and heavy….
When the sun was down and it was dark, a smoking firepot and a flaming torch moved between the split carcasses. That’s when GOD made a covenant with Abram: “I’m giving this land to your children, from the Nile River in Egypt to the River Euphrates in Assyria—the country of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaim, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites, and Jebusites.”
Genesis 15:10–12, 17–22 MSG
It was a terrible, bloody business. Abram killed three large animals, sawed each in half through bone and muscle, and laid the pieces out. He had to fight off the vultures that were attracted by the smell of blood and death.
Abram probably recognized the making of a familiar ritual—the “cutting of a covenant.” When two kings made a treaty, they sometimes cut an animal in half and walked between the pieces as a way of saying, “If I don’t keep this agreement, may I be like this animal.” Sometimes both parties walked between the pieces, sometimes it was only the weaker of the two kings.
In the darkness of night, Abram woke to a vision of God—in the form of a smoking firepot—passing between the pieces of the animals. It was not the weaker of the two parties putting himself on the line for the sake of the covenant, but the stronger. God was saying, “If I don’t give this land to your offspring as I have promised, may I be broken like these broken animals.”
SARAI’S FRESH START
God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name.
“I will bless her, and indeed I will give you a son by her. Then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.”
Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, “Will a child be born to a man one hundred years old? And will Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?”
And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before You!”
But God said, “No, but Sarah your wife will bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; and I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.”
Genesis 17:15–19 NASB
Sarai was ninety years old when God gave her a fresh start. No longer would she be known by the old Babylonian name she had been born with. Henceforth she would be called Sarah—Princess—and she would be the mother of nations.
Abram had been called upon to believe some wild things over the previous three decades. But the thought of his ninety-year-old wife giving birth was too much. He couldn’t get his head around it. So he gave God another suggestion. Why couldn’t Ishmael, Abram’s son with the servant woman Hagar, be the son of the promise? Perhaps Abram felt bad for the boy Ishmael. Illegitimate or not, he was still Abram’s flesh and blood.
More to the point, Ishmael was already there. It took enough imagination to see God making a great nation out of Ishmael. But an as-yet-unborn son of a ninety-year-old woman? That was impossible to picture.
God had his own plans. “No,” he insisted. “Sarah your wife will bear you a son.” God was doing something utterly new, and Abram’s ability or inability to picture it was immaterial.
A RIDICULOUS PREDICTION
One of them said, “I’m coming back about this time next year. When I arrive, your wife Sarah will have a son.” Sarah was listening at the tent opening, just behind the man.
Abraham and Sarah were old by this time, very old. Sarah was far past the age for having babies. Sarah laughed within herself, “An old woman like me? Get pregnant? With this old man of a husband?”
GOD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh saying, ‘Me? Have a baby? An old woman like me?’ Is anything too hard for GOD? I’ll be back about this time next year and Sarah will have a baby.”
Sarah lied. She said, “I didn’t laugh,” because she was afraid.
But he said, “Yes you did; you laughed.”
Genesis 18:10–15 MSG
Three strangers showed up at the tent of Abraham and Sarah beneath the oaks of Mamre. Abraham must have recognized them as angels—the manifestation of God—for he ran out to meet them and bowed down before them. He insisted that they stop awhile and rest in the spreading shade of the oak trees and wash their feet. He called for Sarah to prepare bread for the visitors while he selected a calf to slaughter and cook for them.
When they had eaten, the visitors made an astonishing announcement: within a year, Sarah would give birth to Abraham’s son. And from the other side of the tent flap came a short laugh of surprise. It was an old woman’s laugh—Sarah’s. Perhaps there was a touch of mockery in it.
“Why did you laugh?” the visitor asked. But surely he understood why she laughed. The thought of a ninety-year-old woman giving birth was ridiculous. But God uses the foolish things of the world to shame the wise. Sarah would soon see that nothing is too hard—or too ridiculous—for God.
A RESCUE—AND A BACKWARD LOOK
Lot reached the village just as the sun was rising over the horizon. Then the LORD rained down fire and burning sulfur from the sky on Sodom and Gomorrah. He utterly destroyed them, along with the other cities and villages of the plain, wiping out all the people and every bit of vegetation. But Lot’s wife looked back as she was following behind him, and she turned into a pillar of salt.
Abraham got up early that morning and hurried out to the place where he had stood in the LORD’s presence. He looked out across the plain toward Sodom and Gomorrah and watched as columns of smoke rose from the cities like smoke from a furnace.
But God had listened to Abraham’s request and kept Lot safe, removing him from the disaster that engulfed the cities on the plain.
Genesis 19:23–29 NLT
Lot’s sojourn in the cities of the plain ended in a hail of fire and brimstone—God’s judgment for the outrageous violence and perversity of the cities’ residents. God spared Lot and his family, allowing them to flee across the plain as the fires destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. But the refugees were under strict orders: they were not to look back. God was giving them a fresh start, a new future.
As they left, however, Lot’s wife couldn’t help herself. Perhaps she began thinking of the roots the family had put down in Sodom. In their hurry to escape, they must have left most of their possessions behind. There was wickedness aplenty in Sodom, but at least she had known what to expect there. Before them yawned an uncertainty as vast as the plain they walked across. So she turned for one last look at the life they were leaving.
That one last look was her last look. In her reluctance to leave behind the dead but familiar life of Sodom, Lot’s wife forfeited her opportunity to embrace the future God had for her.
A BOY NAMED LAUGHTER
The LORD visited Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did to Sarah as he had promised. And Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age at the time of which God had spoken to him. Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him, whom Sarah bore him, Isaac. And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him. Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.
And Sarah said, “God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh over me.” And she said, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.” And the child grew and was weaned. And Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned.
Genesis 21:1–8 ESV
A year after Sarah laughed in derision at the angel’s announcement that she would give birth to a son, the oaks of Mamre echoed again with Sarah’s laughter. It wasn’t a mocking laugh this time, though. It was the pure laughter of joy. Sarah had given birth to a son. She named him Isaac, which means “laughter.”
At long last, Sarah and Abraham could see that God was fulfilling that most unlikely promise to produce a great nation out of the dried-up bodies of a hundred-year-old man and a ninety-year-old woman. How many times had Sarah lost heart? How many nights had she cried in sorrow at not having a child? How many times in the last thirty years had she remembered God’s promise and thought of it not as a source of hope, but as a bitter taunt?
But now she had so much to laugh about. The sadness and frustration melted away like a dream. Tears of sorrow became tears of joy as Sarah held in her arms a little boy named Laughter.
HOPE FOR THE REJECTED
Early the next morning Abraham took some food and a leather bag full of water. He gave them to Hagar and sent her away. Carrying these things and her son, Hagar went and wandered in the desert of Beersheba.
Later, when all the water was gone from the bag, Hagar put her son under a bush. Then she went away a short distance and sat down. She thought, “My son will die, and I cannot watch this happen.” She sat there and began to cry.
God heard the boy crying, and God’s angel called to Hagar from heaven. He said, “What is wrong, Hagar? Don’t be afraid! God has heard the boy crying there. Help him up and take him by the hand. I will make his descendants into a great nation.”
Genesis 21:14–18 NCV
Great news for Sarah was terrible news for the servant Hagar and her son Ishmael. Now that she had produced a legitimate heir, Sarah wanted both the boy and his mother out of her household. “The son of this maid shall not be an heir with my son Isaac,” she said (Gen. 21:10 NASB). Abraham was caught in the middle. He felt a certain loyalty to Ishmael, who was, after all, his son.
God reminded Abraham that Isaac, not Ishmael, was the son of the promise. Isaac represented God’s plan. Ishmael was Sarah and Abraham’s plan, their effort to overrule the God whose timing they did not understand. So God told Abraham to listen to his wife, to send the boy Ishmael away. That doesn’t mean, however, that God abandoned Ishmael or his mother.
When Hagar gave up hope in the wilderness, God had mercy on her and on her son, rescuing them when their food and water ran out. Beyond that, he made a great nation out of Ishmael. Ishmael fathered twelve princes, who spread throughout the Middle East.
THE HARD FAITH OF A FATHER
The LORD said, “Go get Isaac, your only son…. I will show you a mountain where you must sacrifice him.”…
So Abraham got up early the next morning and chopped wood for the fire. He put a saddle on his donkey and left with Isaac and two servants for the place where God had told him to go.
Three days later Abraham looked off in the distance and saw the place. He told his servants, “Stay here with the donkey, while my son and I go over there to worship. We will come back.”
Abraham put the wood on Isaac’s shoulder, but he carried the hot coals and the knife. As the two of them walked along, Isaac said, “Father, we have the coals and the wood, but where is the lamb for the sacrifice?”
“My son,” Abraham answered, “God will provide the lamb.”
Genesis 22:2–8 CEV
What was going through Abraham’s mind as he heard those terrible words? “Go get Isaac, your only son…. I will show you a mountain where you must sacrifice him.” Yet Abraham obeyed.
Abraham had seen God make good on his promises. He knew that God was trustworthy, even when his ways seemed mysterious, or even absurd. Because—face it—it is absurd for God to require a man to kill the son that God himself had given after so many years.
“God will provide the lamb.” Abraham was sure of it. He was convinced that God had something up his sleeve—some other plan that he hadn’t yet revealed. But even in that picture of a father leading his only son to die on a hill, he was beginning to reveal the plan by which he would provide the Lamb who would take away the sins of the world. It was too absurd for God to ask Abraham to go through with the sacrifice of his only son, but thousands of years later, God would do that very thing, for our sake.
A FAITHFUL MATCHMAKER
How Abraham’s servant chose the right woman for Isaac:
[Abraham’s servant prayed,] “Let the young woman to whom I shall say, ‘Please let down your jar that I may drink,’ and who shall say, ‘Drink, and I will water your camels’—let her be the one whom you have appointed for your servant Isaac.”…
Before he had finished speaking, behold, Rebekah… came out with her water jar on her shoulder. The young woman was very attractive in appearance, a maiden whom no man had known. She went down to the spring and filled her jar and came up. Then the servant ran to meet her and said, “Please give me a little water to drink from your jar.”
She said, “Drink, my lord.” And she quickly let down her jar upon her hand and gave him a drink.
Genesis 24:14–18 ESV
Picture Abraham’s oldest, most trusted servant, standing with his camels beside the well outside a foreign city, watching the young women come and go. His master, unwilling to let his son marry a Canaanite, had given his servant the task of finding a wife for Isaac among his kinspeople in Mesopotamia. But the servant didn’t know a soul in the city of Nahor. There were many young women to choose from, and yet he knew nothing about them.
Rather than trusting outside appearances, the old man prayed for a sign that would reveal the heart of the woman who was right for Isaac. He would ask a young woman for a drink of water. If the young woman was the right one, she would not only give him a drink, but she would also offer to water his camels.
Before the servant had even finished his prayer, beautiful Rebekah came to the well. She gladly gave him a drink. Then she offered to draw water for his camels, just as the old man had prayed. Rebekah was the one; hers was the servant’s heart that would keep alive the line of Abraham.
REBEKAH PURSUES HER CALLING
The betrothal of Rebekah and Isaac:
[Rebekah’s relatives] said, “We will call the young woman and ask her personally.” Then they called Rebekah and said to her, “Will you go with this man?”
And she said, “I will go.”
So they sent away Rebekah their sister and her nurse, and Abraham’s servant and his men. And they blessed Rebekah and said to her: “Our sister, may you become the mother of thousands of ten thousands; and may your descendants possess the gates of those who hate them.”
Then Rebekah and her maids arose, and they rode on the camels and followed the man. So the servant took Rebekah and departed…. Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent; and he took Rebekah and she became his wife, and he loved her.
Genesis 24:57–61, 67 NKJV
Rebekah’s betrothal is a beautiful story of a young woman pursuing her calling. It was an unusual situation, this old servant showing up and asking the young woman if she wanted to make the long journey home with him to marry a man she had never met. Arranged marriages were common, and there was a close family connection (Isaac and Rebekah were first cousins), so this wasn’t totally unorthodox, but still it must have seemed sudden.
Rebekah’s family was sensitive to her desires: “Will you go with this man?” they asked. When she said she would, the family spoke beautiful words of blessing over her: “Our sister, may you become the mother of thousands of ten thousands”—words that proved true.
With that, the young woman left behind the tents of her old family and was brought into Sarah’s tent. Rebekah, like her in-laws before her, took a huge leap of faith, and completely new vistas opened before her. Isaac and Rebekah would have their ups and downs, but the story of how they came together is one of the great love stories of the Bible.
KINGDOMS AT WAR
Isaac’s wife could not have children, so Isaac prayed to the LORD for her. The LORD heard Isaac’s prayer, and Rebekah became pregnant.
While she was pregnant, the babies struggled inside her. She asked, “Why is this happening to me?”…
The LORD said to her, “Two nations are in your body, and two groups of people will be taken from you. One group will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.”
When the time came, Rebekah gave birth to twins. The first baby was born red. Since his skin was like a hairy robe, he was named Esau. When the second baby was born, he was holding on to Esau’s heel, so that baby was named Jacob.
Genesis 25:21–26 NCV
The stories of Genesis remind us that the universal, even the cosmic, dwells in the most mundane facts of our earthly existence. Rebekah was carrying twins—active twins who kicked in her belly. It couldn’t have been comfortable. So she asked a question that thousands of women carrying twins have no doubt asked: “Why is this happening to me?”
Perhaps it was a rhetorical question. She must have been shocked by the answer: “Two nations are in your body.” There was more than the discomfort of pregnancy happening. It was a power struggle that would continue to play out in the lives of the twins, ultimately playing out in the geopolitical struggles of the Israelites, Jacob’s descendants, and the Edomites, Esau’s descendants.
We’re all in the midst of a huge, cosmic drama. It pulses just below the surface of the mundane that consumes so much of our attention. We feel the turmoil within and ask, like Rebekah, “Why is this happening to me?” The kingdom of God and the kingdoms of the world are at war.
A NATION FOR A BOWL OF SOUP
One day Jacob was boiling a pot of vegetable soup. Esau came in from hunting in the fields, weak from hunger. So Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red soup, because I am weak with hunger.”…
But Jacob said, “You must sell me your rights as the firstborn son.”
Esau said, “I am almost dead from hunger. If I die, all of my father’s wealth will not help me.”
But Jacob said, “First, promise me that you will give it to me.” So Esau made a promise to Jacob and sold his part of their father’s wealth to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and vegetable soup, and he ate and drank, and then left. So Esau showed how little he cared about his rights as the firstborn son.
Genesis 25:29–34 NCV
Esau had a vision problem. He could see only that which was directly in front of him. Faint with hunger after a long day’s hunt, the sight and smell of a pot of stew kept him from seeing what was truly valuable.
Jacob cut a deal with Esau. Sure, he could have some stew. He just had to trade away his birthright—the right as firstborn to be the father’s main heir. Esau looked around him. His family heritage must not have been much to look at. Some herds. Some scrubby pastureland. No doubt they had heard the promises God had made to their grandfather Abraham, to make a great nation of the family. But there was no great nation in sight—just a father, a mother, and a couple of brothers who didn’t get along.
But the bowl of stew was real, and it would meet Esau’s immediate need. The way Esau saw it, you can’t head a great nation if you’ve died of hunger. Call it a lack of imagination or a lack of faith; Esau gave up his birthright for a bowl of stew.
A SCOUNDREL’S BLESSING
[Jacob] had a dream, and behold, a ladder was set on the earth with its top reaching to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.
And behold, the LORD stood above it and said, “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie, I will give it to you and to your descendants.
“Your descendants will also be like the dust of the earth… and in you and in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed.
“Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”
Genesis 28:12–15 NASB
Ever the deceiver, Jacob played one dodge too many. Having already tricked Esau out of his birthright, he posed as Esau to cheat his blind father, Isaac, into bestowing on him the blessing meant for the elder brother. Not surprisingly, Esau went into a rage that sent Jacob running for his life.
As Jacob fled, God came to him in a vision. This is where you might expect God to give Jacob a good scolding. But he didn’t. Instead, God made a promise: Jacob’s descendants would be like the dust of the earth and would inhabit the very land where Jacob lay.
Why did God bless Jacob rather than Esau? It’s a hard question to answer; perhaps it had something to do with the fact that Jacob, for all his issues, was better at believing God than Esau was. But one thing is obvious. The blessing God extended to Jacob was not a reward for good behavior. God blessed Jacob—and, by extension, the rest of us—for his own reasons. Grace is a mystery. Sometimes grace is even a scandal.
GOD’S LOVE FOR THE UNLOVELY
When GOD realized that Leah was unloved, he opened her womb. But Rachel was barren. Leah became pregnant and had a son. She named him Reuben (Look-It’s-a-Boy!).
“This is a sign,” she said, “that GOD has seen my misery; and a sign that now my husband will love me.”
She became pregnant again and had another son. “GOD heard,” she said, “that I was unloved and so he gave me this son also.” She named this one Simeon (GOD-Heard). She became pregnant yet again—another son. She said, “Now maybe my husband will connect with me—I’ve given him three sons!” That’s why she named him Levi (Connect).
She became pregnant a final time and had a fourth son. She said, “This time I’ll praise GOD.” So she named him Judah (Praise-GOD). Then she stopped having children.
Genesis 29:31–35 MSG
When Jacob ran from Esau, he stayed with his uncle Laban. He promptly fell in love with Laban’s beautiful younger daughter, Rachel. He asked for her hand in marriage; Laban agreed, but first Jacob had to work seven years in his uncle’s fields. Jacob gladly did the work, so great was his love for Rachel.
When the seven years were up, Laban gave Jacob not Rachel but her unattractive older sister, Leah. The trickster had been tricked. In the end, Jacob married both sisters. It was no secret, however, which one he really loved.
Leah’s is a pitiable story of a woman striving to win the love of a man who simply did not love her. She bore him child after child, hoping that each would be the one that turned Jacob’s heart toward her. It never happened. But God did love her, and he bestowed on her an honor that Jacob was unable to bestow on Rachel: through her firstborn son, Judah, the unloved, rejected wife of Jacob became the ancestor of Jesus, who was “despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isa. 53:3 NKJV).
THE MAN WHO HELD ON
A man came and wrestled with [Jacob] until the dawn began to break. When the man saw that he would not win the match, he touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of its socket. Then the man said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!”
But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
“What is your name?” the man asked.
He replied, “Jacob.”
“Your name will no longer be Jacob,” the man told him. “From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have won.”
“Please tell me your name,” Jacob said.
“Why do you want to know my name?” the man replied. Then he blessed Jacob there.
Jacob named the place Peniel (which means “face of God”), for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been spared.”
Genesis 32:24–30 NLT
Jacob was on the road again. He had worn out his welcome with Laban and his family and was headed back home after many years—fourteen at least—in the hope that it would be safe to face Esau again. It was a journey filled with fear.
One night on the journey, Jacob was visited by a mysterious stranger who wrestled with him in the darkness until close to daybreak. Jacob wrestled well, and the stranger, in order to escape before daylight, touched Jacob’s hip and put his leg out of the socket. But still Jacob held on, insisting that he would not let go until the stranger blessed him. He had come to understand that this stranger was God himself.
Jacob was desperate. There was danger on every side, and he had run out of tricks. He had nothing to bring to God, but he had no one to turn to besides God. There could be no better picture of faith: a man at the end of himself holds to God like grim death and says, “I won’t let you go until you bless me.”
A NEW MAN, A NEW BROTHERHOOD
Esau ran toward Jacob and hugged and kissed him. Then the two brothers started crying.
When Esau noticed the women and children he asked, “Whose children are these?”
Jacob answered, “These are the ones the LORD has been kind enough to give to me, your servant.”…
Leah and her children came and bowed down; finally, Joseph and Rachel also came and bowed down.
Esau asked Jacob, “What did you mean by these herds I met along the road?”
“Master,” Jacob answered, “I sent them so that you would be friendly to me.”
“But, brother, I already have plenty,” Esau replied. “Keep them for yourself.”
“No!” Jacob said. “Please accept these gifts as a sign of your friendship for me. When you welcomed me and I saw your face, it was like seeing the face of God.”
Genesis 33:4–5, 7–10 CEV
As Jacob neared his old home, he saw Esau coming to out meet him—Esau and four hundred men. It appeared that his fears of Esau were well founded. Jacob had dealt with trouble all his life, most of it of his own making, and had always managed to sidestep it through one trick or another. This time, however, he left the bag of tricks in the baggage train. He faced Esau like a man—a humble man, to be sure, bowing to the ground seven times on his approach—but an open-faced and honest man nevertheless.
Recognizing Jacob, Esau ran to him and embraced him. Jacob had to insist before Esau would accept any of the peace offerings he had brought. The two brothers who had contended so selfishly with each other were now trying to outdo one another in selflessness. For the first time in the biblical record, the two men loved each other like brothers. God had indeed blessed Jacob; a big part of that blessing was Jacob’s new character, earned at the expense of great hardship and rewarded with the love of a newfound brother.
NEW CONSEQUENCES FOR OLD HABITS
[Joseph’s brothers] took Joseph’s robe and slaughtered a goat and dipped the robe in the blood. 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.” 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.” Then Jacob tore his garments and put sackcloth on his loins and mourned for his son many days. 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. Meanwhile the Midianites had sold him in Egypt to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard.
Genesis 37:31–36 ESV
Jacob may have been a changed man when he went back to Canaan after his years of working for his father-in-law, Laban, but he and his family still lived with the consequences of some of his habits and choices from earlier in his life. Round two of the old rivalry between Rachel and Leah, for example, played out in dramatic fashion in the lives of Jacob’s sons.
It was no secret that Joseph was Jacob’s favorite among his twelve sons. Joseph, after all, was the son of Jacob’s favored wife, Rachel. The brothers’ jealousy of Joseph grew into resentment and then into a hatred so fierce that they seriously considered killing him. In the end, they decided to sell him into slavery and fake his death.
Jacob was the victim of a trick that was crueler than any he had ever performed himself. Seeing his favorite son’s cloak covered in blood, he descended into a deep and lasting mourning. It was a pitiful scene, but there was a peculiar justice in it; Jacob was reaping what he had sown.
CHARACTER AND CIRCUMSTANCE
Although she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her. Now one day he went into the house to do his work, and none of the household servants was there. She grabbed him by his garment and said, “Sleep with me!” But leaving his garment in her hand, he escaped and ran outside….
She put Joseph’s garment beside her until his master came home. Then she told him the same story: “The Hebrew slave you brought to us came to me to make fun of me, but when I screamed for help, he left his garment with me and ran outside.”
When his master heard the story his wife told him… he was furious and had him thrown into prison, where the king’s prisoners were confined. So Joseph was there in prison.
Genesis 39:10–12, 16–20 HCSB
Joseph had always been a young man of excellence and character. When he was shipped off to Egypt as a slave, it wasn’t long before Potiphar, his master, recognized that the Lord was with Joseph and that everything he touched prospered. Potiphar put Joseph in charge of everything he owned.
Potiphar’s wife also noticed that there was something special about Joseph, and she noticed that he was good-looking too. She tried to seduce him; she was persistent about it. But Joseph wouldn’t think of it; Potiphar had placed too much trust in him. He asked, “How then could I do this great evil and sin against God?” (Gen. 39:9 NASB).
In her frustration, Potiphar’s wife falsely accused Joseph of attempted rape, and he was thrown into prison. Ironically, it was his excellence and character that landed Joseph in prison, for it attracted the attention of Potiphar’s wife and then guarded him against her advances. Even in prison, however, he rose to the top of the heap. Character isn’t determined by circumstances. Joseph was Joseph, in whatever situation he found himself.
A BLESSING TO THE NATIONS
Pharaoh asked them, “Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?”
Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you.”
So Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I hereby put you in charge of the whole land of Egypt.” Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his finger and put it on Joseph’s finger. He dressed him in robes of fine linen and put a gold chain around his neck….
Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I am Pharaoh, but without your word no one will lift hand or foot in all Egypt.”
Genesis 41:38–42, 44 NIV
Pharaoh asked, “Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?” It’s an interesting question, coming from a man who didn’t worship Joseph’s God—indeed, a man who set himself up as a god on earth. But he was a man in whom the spirit of the true God was a blessing to everyone around him.
When God promised to make a great nation out of Abram, he promised that Abram’s descendants would be a blessing to all nations. Then, three generations later, the promise was coming true. Joseph’s God-given ability to interpret dreams attracted Pharaoh’s attention. By interpreting one of Pharaoh’s dreams, Joseph accurately predicted a coming drought. Pharaoh put Joseph in charge of preparing Egypt’s food stores in advance of the drought.
The wisdom granted by God is not strictly “spiritual.” It touches on every area of human life—even, as in Joseph’s case, agricultural policy! And, like rainfall and sunshine, the wisdom of his people is one of the ways that God blesses the world at large.
GOD’S OVERRULING MERCY
[Joseph] cried out, “Leave!”… So there was no one with Joseph when he identified himself to his brothers. But his sobbing was so violent that the Egyptians couldn’t help but hear him….
Joseph spoke to his brothers:… “I am Joseph your brother whom you sold into Egypt. But don’t feel badly, don’t blame yourselves for selling me. God was behind it…. God sent me on ahead to pave the way and make sure there was a remnant in the land, to save your lives in an amazing act of deliverance. So you see, it wasn’t you who sent me here but God. He set me in place as a father to Pharaoh, put me in charge of his personal affairs, and made me ruler of all Egypt.”
Genesis 45:1–5, 7–8 MSG
Excerpted from The 365 Most Important Bible Passages for You by Rogers, Jonathan Copyright © 2011 by Rogers, Jonathan. Excerpted by permission.
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