Isaiah 61:1-3 (ESV)

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion — to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.

This beautiful passage from Isaiah describes the ministry of the Messiah, the promised King that God would send to make this sin-damaged world right again. We have seen how this King is also viewed by Isaiah as the great Servant, who would serve the broken by dying for them to redeem them. The Servant is our substitute who while innocent, took upon Himself the judgment of God for the transgressions that we committed. By taking our sin and its consequence on Himself, we can be reconciled to God, actually becoming part of His family.

This passage shows us what it looks like to be broken, but then redeemed. Our wounded hearts are mended and it is our slavery to sin that is now broken. When the Messiah comes, He will usher in a Year of Jubilee” (the year of the Lord’s favor”), which is a time for slaves to be set free, for debts to be cancelled, and for God’s people and God’s world to experience the Sabbath rest that is so desperately needed. The freedom of Jubilee results in divine comfort and gladness instead of the mourning and sadness we experience in this world.

At the beginning of His public ministry, Jesus read from this prophetic passage of hope and said these words, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21). Friend, Jesus is the One you have been waiting for. He is the King who will set you free from your sin and invite you to be part of the royal family. He is the Servant who will bring His peace (shalom) to your heal your brokenness and who will fill your anxious life with His rest. He is the Messiah who will bless your life with comfort and gladness. He is truly worthy of your praise and worship. He is worthy of your life. Turn to Him today.

Genesis 48

Genesis 48 begins a several chapter account describing Jacob blessing his children before he dies. The idea of blessing is a complicated one. God blesses men. Oh, to think that the omnipotent, omniscient God pours out His grace upon us in this life and in the life to come. Lord, bless us today!

Sometimes men bless each other, as when the priests would echo these beautiful words: “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. (Numbers 6:24–26 ESV) May you be thus blessed today!

Men can bless God, acknowledging His attributes and proclaiming their thanks and praise for who He is and what He has done. He is worthy! Bless His Holy Name!

One of the most unusual uses of this word is when a man, perhaps a parent or patriarch, blesses his family under the spirit of prophecy, proclaiming the future of his descendants. That is what we see here.

In chapter 48, Joseph, actually Joseph’s sons, receive the double-portion blessing of the firstborn. While Joseph is the firstborn of Jacob’s favorite wife, Reuben is actually the firstborn son. God’s plans do not always line up with man’s traditions. Fittingly, Joseph’s second son receives the blessing of the firstborn from Jacob’s hand.

May my children be blessed by God with a special knowledge of Him, and may they rest in His love and live for His glory all the days of their lives! And may you be blessed by God today, also.

Read Genesis 48

Genesis 47

Previously we have seen a tearful reunion between Jacob and his son Joseph, whom Jacob thought was dead. Now Jacob and his large family have escaped worldwide famine by going to live with Joseph in Egypt. Egypt was a place of escape and refuge for Abraham years before, and becomes a place of escape for young Jesus and his family centuries later. Looking ahead in the story, this place of refuge becomes a place of bondage for Jacob’s family when a Pharaoh of a different dynastic family takes the throne.

The rest of the starving world came to Egypt for food and ended up selling their livestock, their lands, and ultimately themselves as debt-slaves to Pharaoh. Jacob and his family are blessed with the gain of the land of Goshen, a fertile area perfect for raising their sheep. The Egyptians are not keen on visiting their shepherd-neighbors, as they hold shepherds in lowest regard, so the people of Israel are able to remain separate from those who worship pagan gods.

Genesis 47

Genesis 46

After a tearful reunion with his brothers in Genesis 45, in chapter 46 Joseph has an even more tear-filled reunion with his father, who for decades thought his son was dead. Nearing the end of his life, Jacob has doubts about making the journey from Canaan to Egypt, but God once again appears to him in a dream reminding Jacob that He will be with him, even in Egypt.

Read Genesis 46

Genesis 45

In Genesis 45, we enter the incredible story of Jacob’s son, Joseph. God passed down His promise from Abraham to Isaac to Jacob. We now see how Jacob’s twelve sons are also part of His promise and plan.

Just as there was great competition between Isaac and Ishmael, and then Jacob and Esau, Joseph’s brothers resented him for being the favorite son of their father. They sold him into slavery in Egypt and told their father he had been killed. While Joseph experienced betrayal, imprisonment, false accusation, and being forgotten, God caused him to gain favor with the most powerful man in the world, the Pharaoh.

When a terrible famine came upon the known world, Egypt, under Joseph’s direction, became a source of help to all who were suffering. Jacob’s sons traveled to Egypt for refuge, and through elaborate circumstances came to see that the one they ran to for help was none other than the brother they sold.

In a tear-filled reunion, Joseph makes it clear that God was in control of all things and even worked through their sinful choices to provide for their blessing, provision, and protection. God worked everything together to make sure His promise and plan would be fulfilled.

When we see how God was acting in the life of Joseph, how are we encouraged to face our own suffering?

Read Genesis 45

Psalm 11

Once again, David is in trouble. He feels afraid. His first impulse is to flee to escape his problems. He feels under attack. The very things that are supposed to bring justice and righteousness are gone – what are the righteous to do when this happens?

The answer is this – remember God is still on His throne. He still rules sovereignly over all He has made. Nothing escapes His sight. He will act in true justice and righteousness.

David closes with this precious reminder and promise: “For the LORD is righteous; he loves righteous deeds; the upright shall behold his face.” May you see His face today!

Read Psalm 11

Genesis 28

In Genesis 28, God reaffirms His promise to make a nation from which the world would be blessed out of the family of Abraham. The promise, told to Abraham multiple times, was also given to Abe’s son, Isaac, and now to Isaac’s son, Jacob. Jacob meets with God in an extraordinary dream. In the dream, Jacob sees a “ladder” connecting heaven and earth. Jesus, the promised seed from Abraham’s family, in John 1 describes Himself as that ladder. Here we see God’s desire to reconnect with mankind, separated from God because of their rebellion and sin.

Jacob sets up a memorial to remember this meeting with God. Jacob calls this place Bethel, meaning “house of God,” because this was the “gate of heaven.” Later Jesus describes Himself as the gate to heaven. In fact, Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Do we truly believe this?

Read Genesis 28

Genesis 27

In Genesis 25, the scheming Jacob tricked his hungry brother into selling him his birthright, which Esau was all too willing to do. In Genesis 27, the deceiver once again steals something from Esau – his firstborn blessing. (You may want to study the interesting topics of birthright and blessing in a Bible dictionary.) Jacob does so by pretending to be Esau to his blind and hungry father. While Jacob’s deceptions are morally wrong, God uses these sins of Jacob to give Jacob what was in His plan all along. More about this will be shared tomorrow.

Read Genesis 27

Genesis 26

In Genesis 26, we see Isaac experiencing similar experiences that his father, Abraham faced. He also repeats some of the same sins as his father. Isaac was met with opposition from his neighbors who felt threatened by Isaac’s riches and power that grew as God continued to bless.

Yet, the promise to Abraham was reaffirmed to Isaac with these beautiful words: “And the LORD appeared to him the same night and said, ‘I am the God of Abraham your father. Fear not, for I am with you and will bless you and multiply your offspring for my servant Abraham’s sake.’”

God’s word was clear. No matter how many mistakes Isaac made, God’s purpose would be fulfilled. And at the end of the chapter, even Isaac’s opponents had to admit that God was with him.

Read Genesis 26

Genesis 25

Genesis 25 shows us that God has been faithful to His promises given to Abraham. In Genesis 25, Abraham dies at 175 years of age and is buried in the only property he owned here on earth, his family tomb. The son of promise, Isaac, has been born. In fact, he is grown and married and has twin sons named Jacob and Esau. These brothers competed for everything their entire lives. I commented on Facebook about an event from Genesis 25 illustrating that reality when I wrote:

“Reading the story of Esau giving up his birthright for some stew. Asking my Heavenly Father if I ever give up my heavenly birthright for such temporary earthly pleasures.”

Abraham and his family are extremely flawed. Yet, God’s plan to work through them and bless the world will not be stopped. If God can use them, He certainly can use us.

Read Genesis 25

Genesis 18

In Genesis 18, Abraham is visited by 3 visitors. Abraham is certain that one of them is an earthly appearance of God, as is clear when Abraham addresses Him as ‘Adonay (verse 3), or Lord. This is a name for God in the Old Testament, compared to another form of the word, ‘adoni, which may be used to address a man in a respectful manner.

Abraham prepares a meal for his visitors respecting the hospitality code of his day. God encourages Abraham with the news that within a year, Abe’s aged wife will miraculously have a son as was promised multiple times years before. Sarah hears what God has promised and laughs in disbelief, as did her husband in chapter 17. No wonder they later name the boy Isaac, which means, “laughter.” She is then properly rebuked for her unbelief.

What follows next is an incredible conversation where God discloses to Abraham His plans to destroy the wicked towns of Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham intercedes for the people, asking if God will destroy the cities if even ten righteous people can be found there. Ten cannot be found, as is seen in chapter 19, when only Lot and his two daughters are rescued. What is amazing is that Abraham had the kind of relationship with God where God wanted to share with Abraham these plans of judgment. My question is, do I have the kind of relationship with God where God feels He can share things with me?

Read Genesis 18

Genesis 17

For several decades, God has been promising Abraham that he will become a father of a great nation that will be the source of a blessing from God to the entire world. In Genesis 17, Abe is now 99 and his wife is 90, and once again God reaffirms the promise to the childless couple. Abe has heard the promise over and over, but now he laughs at the improbability that a couple in their 90’s will have a son.

God Almighty, the One who has ultimate power, explains to Abraham that He wants to have a special covenant relationship with Abraham and his descendants. The sign of this covenant is to be circumcision, which reminds Abe that the promises God is giving are not only for him, but to all who will be born to his future family.

A covenant is simply an agreement that binds two parties together and lays out what is expected of each party if they are to have a relationship.  It also describes what the relationship will look like if the parties live up to their end of the agreement, and lays out the consequences if a party does not live up to the terms of the covenant.

In Genesis 15, Abraham is told to bring various animals and cut them each in half.  He then is to divide the halves.  Many scholars believe that this “cutting of a covenant” is a picture signifying what will happen if a party to the covenant does not live up to their end of the bargain.  In other words, even God is promising that if He doesn’t fulfill His covenant responsibilities, He will become like the dead animals (see Jeremiah 34:18-19).  What a picture!

Then something incredible happens.  Normally, both parties would walk through the cut-up animals together, showing that each is committing themselves to the consequences of not fulfilling the covenantal terms.  But in Genesis 15, God makes Abraham fall into a deep sleep, where he is unable to walk through and make such promises.  God walks through alone.  Mankind has always failed to live up to his end of the deal when it came to having a relationship with a holy God.  God understands our inability to do so, so He walks through and makes the promise for both parties.  This is what Jesus did when He became a Man – He entered the world to live a perfectly righteous life (thus living up to our end of the bargain for us) and taking the punishment for not being able to live up to the covenant upon Himself (thus, being crucified in our place).  Because He did what He did for us, we are now truly able to have a covenant relationship with God!

We already have seen how Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness. Abe is to be the father of an entire nation of people, marked by circumcision, who will also live lives of faith and obedience to a faithful God. As spiritual descendants of Abraham with spiritually circumcised hearts, all those who have placed their faith in the promised seed of Abraham, Jesus Christ, should do no less.

Read Genesis 17

God sees and God hears

“So she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, ‘You are a God of seeing,’ for she said, ‘Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.’ Therefore the well was called Beer-lahai-roi; it lies between Kadesh and Bered. And Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram called the name of his son, whom Hagar bore, Ishmael.”

I love the story of Hagar and Ishmael. The old, childless couple Abraham and his wife Sarah tried to fulfill God’s promise to have many descendants by having a child through a surrogate. They tried to use their servant, Hagar, to complete this foolish task. Understandably, this resulted in much bad blood between Sarah and Hagar. Hagar was mistreated by Sarah and fled for her safety.

While in the desert, an angel visited Hagar and told her that God was very aware of her situation. God would take care of her and her child. In the midst of her suffering, she was introduced to “El Roi,” which means that “God is one who sees.” She then named her son “Ishmael,” which means, “God hears.”

In Hebrew culture, to “see” means that you not only have light enter into the camera of your eye, but that you are aware of what you see, and you care, and you act. The same thing is true of “to hear,” which implies action based on what is heard and understood. Friend, God sees you and your situation and and hears your cries and prayers!

See how this all works together in the story of the Jews being enslaved by the Egyptians in the book of Exodus: “During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel—and God knew.”

God sees. God hears. God remembers. God knows. And God acts.

Genesis 16

In Genesis 15 we were reminded that we can never earn a righteous standing with a holy God, but must believe (trust, place our faith in) our holy God for His redemption. He does the work and we trust in that work. Abraham was our example. He believed God’s promise that God would give Abe’s family a land to become a nation, and that through this nation the world would be blessed. The problem was, Abe and his wife did not own any land and did not have kids, even into their old age. He believed the promise and “it was credited to him as righteousness.”

What an example of faith! Yet, yesterday’s faith does not guarantee today’s trust. Abe and his wife grew impatient waiting for the promise to be fulfilled, so they tried to start a family by using a servant as a surrogate mother. The strife and tension that resulted is still impacting our world today. Our faith is not passive, but does not try “to help God out.”

Read Genesis 16

Genesis 15

Imagine being Abraham and traveling with your large entourage from Ur to Canaan to Egypt then back to Canaan. The promise of God to Abraham years before was this: “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.” In Genesis 15, Abraham still does not have any land he owns and has no children from which a nation can be born.

Yet, God’s promise remains and is restated: “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.’”

If years passed after God gave you His promise, what would your response be? The next verse tells us how Abraham reacted: “And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.”

What an example! God promised, even though years passed and no sign of the promise being fulfilled was to be seen. Abraham is old and his wife is beyond her childbearing years. And yet Abraham trusts God’s word! He believes what God has said, as impossible as it appears.

We are to have a similar relationship with God. Righteousness implies having a right relationship with God and those made in His image. Abraham has that standing with God, not because of his own moral goodness, but because he believes! Abraham can try to be good, but will always fail, as will we. We can not earn our way into a relationship with a holy God. But like Abraham, we can believe.

Read Genesis 15

Psalm 10

Psalm 10 is a cry from the author’s heart when he sees the pride of the wicked that leads them to reject God and mistreat people, especially the poor. This pattern still dominates our world today.

The author has great confidence that God will hear and act. He closes with these wonderful hopeful words:

The LORD is king forever and ever; the nations perish from his land. O LORD, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.

Read Psalm 10

Psalm 8

This beautiful hymn celebrating the majesty of our great God also asks a wonderful question: “What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” The Scripture plainly speaks to the enormity of the sin of mankind, but it also reminds us that even so, we are still made in God’s image and likeness and carry divine given dignity. How God values us, even in our fallenness!

Read Psalm 8

Genesis 12

In Genesis 11, God thwarted the rebellion of mankind by confusing man’s language and plans. As a result, the tribes and clans of all peoples scattered around the world. But God’s plan wasn’t just to hinder the growth of evil, but to redeem all that man’s sin had corrupted.

How would He do this grand work of reconciliation? His plan was to establish a covenant relationship with a man named Abram (Abraham). Through the family of this chosen man the promised seed of a woman (Genesis 3) would come.

Point to ponder: What promises did God make to Abraham?

Read Genesis 12

Genesis 11

So far in Genesis we have seen how the sin of mankind completely corrupted God’s perfect world. The corruption became so great, the great flood of Noah’s day was sent to bring judgment and purification.

God gave Noah and his family a fresh start in a brand new world, but it did not take long for mankind to once again establish a world set in its rebellion against God. As one, they decided to “make a name” for themselves and built a tower of defiance against their Creator. Their name and glory became more important than the name and glory of God.

Once again, God wisely intervened. He knew that if sinful, rebellious mankind would continue to work together in unity, corruption would exponentially multiply unhindered. God graciously brought division to those gathered at Babel by confusing their language. It was much harder to work together in their rebellion if they could not communicate.

How often we pray for unity among God’s people to work together to spread the truth and love of Jesus around the world! Yet, unity is not always a good thing. Evil men working united with other evil men is horrifying.

Read Genesis 11

Genesis 10

After the story of the flood, it is interesting to see how the family of Noah will be able to complete the task given by God to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

The answer to this is given with the “table of nations” listed in chapter 10. It doesn’t take long to multiply to a large number of clans and peoples. Sometimes readers skim thr0ugh the genealogical sections of the scriptures, but they are actually crucial passages. They not only remind us of the importance of history, they remind us where we came from, which helps us to understand where we are today. The genealogies also help the reader to anxiously anticipate the coming of the promised offspring of a woman from Genesis 3. When would this promised One appear? To whom would He be born? What would He do when He would come to make this broken world right again? This is the main message of the rest of this incredible book we call the Bible.

Read Genesis 10

Psalm 7

In the beginning of the book of Psalms, it is evident that David has faced much conflict. In chapter 7 the opposition is coming from a fellow Israelite. David takes great comfort in the judgment of his God. The idea of judgment can be a scary one, if the idea is that I will be judged. Yet, if the focus is on a God who sees how others are mistreating you, the idea of judgment is a hopeful one. David actually asks God if he has done anything wrong in this situation, which is a very brave question. David is confident in his own innocence, but even more confident in God’s righteous judgment.

Read Psalm 7

Genesis 9

Genesis 9 reveals a new world after the flood, but a different world. No longer will man exercise his dominion over animals in the way that resembled Eden. Instead, animals would have “fear and dread” of man (setting the stage for the “great hunter,” Nimrod, introduced in chapter 10). No longer would man rely on plants alone for food. Now he would be carnivorous. Man is instructed that when animals are eaten, their blood is not to be eaten, in recognition that all life is a precious gift from God.

Now that man is starting to slaughter animals, he is reminded that man is not just an animal, but a creature made in the image of God. As such, respecting the value of a human life, severe punishment was prescribed for murder.

The chapter also includes the first covenant God establishes with man. The sign of the covenant is a rainbow. The next time you see the rainbow, remember that God is a faithful, promise-keeping God. And remember that all of God’s covenants with people are fulfilled in His Son, Jesus.

Read Genesis 9

Genesis 8

The story of the flood of Noah’s day is one that describes the horror of sin and rebellion against God and the just judgment against the rebels that is well deserved. It is a story that takes your breath away. But then the reader is directed to this passage: “But God remembered Noah…” What an incredible, hope-filled passage in a story of so little hope. To “remember” in Hebrew thought is not something done because something else has been forgotten. It is not like God said, “Oh, I almost forgot, there’s Noah in that boat.” To remember is to see someone you have a relationship with and to see all that they are going through and to then act on their behalf. God remembered his people, was well aware of their predicament, and took action to help. He still remembers His people today!

Point to ponder: What does the judgment of the flood narrative teach us about us and about God?

Read Genesis 8

Genesis 7

Genesis chapter 7 is an incredibly sobering chapter. The entire human race, consumed by its evil and rebellion toward God, is destroyed. Only one righteous man and his family, along with representatives of each animal species, is provided a way of escape to reestablish God’s earth. God takes sin seriously, but also provides a way of escape. His name is Jesus!

Read Genesis 7

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