Saturday, August 16, 2014

GENESIS+—An Illustrated Summary of Life Applications from Every Chapter of the Bible by G. Campbell Morgan

"On every page of the God-breathed writings are many thoughts that stretch out like long, clear arms of light across the darkness, discovering things otherwise hidden and illuminating wider areas than those of the immediate context. They are searchlights. From a multitude of these, I have selected one in each chapter of Scripture, for at least one central thought in every chapter should arrest the mind and affect the life," wrote G. Campbell Morgan, a wise, warm-hearted, careful Bible teacher who conducted a classic 3-year chapter-by-chapter study called Life Applications from Every Chapter of the Bible. Here are the fruits of that timeless study—summarized, illustrated, and amplified—on all 66 books of the Bible (posted one book at a time, cumulatively).
Genesis 1:2 "The Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters." Initially we read,  "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." In a simple and majestic sentence, all the order in the midst of which man lives is declared to be of divine origin. The riddle of the universe as to its being is solved: it is a creation of God. The Spirit of God brooded—for such is the force of the word—upon the face of the waters. Thus the original creation is conserved. Over the void earth the Word of God sounds forth, uttering His will. That Word is never void of power and here brings about new acts of creation.

Genesis 2:7 "The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul." That statement contains an account of the nature of man, from which no biblical teaching ever departs. In the previous chapter we were told the fact of his creation and that he was created in the image of God. Here we are distinctly told how God did the work: man is composed of the material and spiritual. The physical is not all of him; neither is he complete as a disembodied spirit. His body is of the dust. His spirit is of the Breath of God. Let it be remembered that dust is also a divine creation, and no particle of it is ever lost, though it may pass through many changes, as did the body of our Lord in resurrection (Luke 24:15-52).

Genesis 3:8 "The man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the Garden." They hid because they were afraid. Their fear was not the outcome of any change in God. The change was in themselves. They had yet to learn that there can be no hiding from God. Moreover, they had yet to learn that their only chance of restoration lay in the fact that there can be no hiding from Him. The fear of God that prompts men and women to hide from Him is as potent today as ever. The hiding may take the form of denial of His existence, rebellion against His Law, or indifference to His claim over them. The fear of God is always a witness to the holiness of God, even though it may also be a proof of ignorance of His love. In that sense the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, but only the beginning. The one safe hiding place from the holy wrath of God is in the wounded heart of God. There is a Tree that will hide us, but that is the Tree where we find God in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself.

Genesis 4:25 "God has appointed me another seed instead of Abel, for Cain slew him." What tragedy and triumph merge in these words! It was the cry of a mother's heart. This is the chapter telling the story of the first children born to man. The names tell the story of hopes and fears. Cain, meaning Acquired, revealed Eve's hope that in this child the divine promise of a seed to triumph over evil (Genesis 3:15) was fulfilled. Abel, meaning Vanity, revealed her disappointment. Then came the tragedy. The boy she named Vanity grew up to know God and lived according to His will, but Cain slew him. The third boy was named Seth, which means Substitution. That was a note of hope. If the divine promised tarried, it was not broken. The story is not over. It has much to say to us about the ways of God. In His dealing with all the problems of human sin, there can be no hurrying.

Genesis 5:1 "This is the book of the generations of Adam." Only twice in the Bible do we find this exact formula: here and in the first verse of the New Testament, "the record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah" (Matthew 1:1), the second Adam (Romans 5:12-21). Here in Genesis it covers the first period of human history, up to the Deluge or Flood. It is the story of the continuity of the race under the penalty of death resulting from the Fall. Man distrusted God and rebelled against His government because he believed the word of the enemy, who had said, "You surely shall not die." Through these centuries we read it again and again: "and he died." Thus history was proving the word of the enemy to be a lie and the Word of God to be the truth. That is what history always does. Yet triumph over sin and death is illustrated in the story. Of Enoch it is written, "He was not, for God took him" (Genesis 5:24). The explanation given is that in life he walked in fellowship with God.

Genesis 6:5 "The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." These words give the reason for the Deluge. When evil choices and courses have wrought themselves out, God always acts in judgment. Over and over again has He done so—and so it will continue until the final victory is gained and evil is completely banished from the earth. God is both patient and persistent. Evil never escapes Him. He presses upon it and compels it to go on to the uttermost expression that He may destroy it.

Genesis 7:16 "And the Lord shut him in." Everywhere the destroying and cleansing waters will prevail, but riding upon them, in absolute security, is the ark. Within it are eight souls. They are safe, for God has shut them in. They are there because they have listened to Him, have believed in Him, have obeyed His Word. Therefore they are safe and the purpose of God is safe, for through them He will move on toward the final triumph. Surely this old story should speak with searching and comforting power to our hearts. It compels us to define our own relation to Him. Are we such men and women as He can shut in the ark of His preserving Grace, and through whom therefore He can work for the fulfilling of His purposes?

Genesis 8:22 "While the earth remains, seed time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night shall not cease." These words are part of the new covenant that God made with man after the Flood. The purpose of that particular judgment being accomplished, God reinstated man in his relationship to the earth. The next judgment of the earth will be its final fire cleansing (2 Peter 3:7-12). Until then the natural order abides. The continuity and regularity of the seasons is due to the faithfulness of God. Through the ages man has lived by seed time and harvest, by cold and heat, by summer and winter, by day and night because God has been faithful and patient. All earthly blessings flow from these divine arrangements. All earthly curses result from human misuse of them.

Genesis 9:13 "I do set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between Me and the earth." Apart from clouds and rain there can be no rainbow, but the bow is never seen on the clouds except when the sun is shining. In view of the judgment through which the earth had just passed, this was a fitting symbol of that covenant made with man by the God of mercy and grace. God says, "The bow shall be seen in the cloud, and I will remember My covenant.... I will look upon it that I may remember." The full value of the rainbow is not so much that when man looks at it he remembers the covenant, but that he remembers God is looking and remembering. That touches a deeper note and creates a profounder sense of peace.

Genesis 10:32 "These are the families of the sons of Noah, according to their generations, by their nations. Of these were the nations divided in the earth after the Flood." In this tenth chapter we have an account of how the nations were "divided in the earth." It precedes the story of the occasion of this division, which is found in the next chapter. The national idea is divine, but its principle is cooperation, and its purpose communion. Yet man has made its principle competition, and its experience has been conflict. When the nations are last seen in the Book of Revelation, they are walking in the light of the City of God (Revelation 21:24), where all conflict will have ended forever. The last glory of the nations will not be monotony but harmony, the cultivation by every nation of its own particular powers and resources in the interests of all. May that vision inspire to all sacrifice and service until it be realized.

Genesis 11:9 "Therefore was the name of it called Babel." A name is given to the Mystery of Lawlessness as it operates in human society. From here, the evil thing is seen running through succeeding ages in the history of man until it comes to final expression and is destroyed (Revelation 18:11). The story of Babel is of man's attempt to realize a social order in defiance of a divine purpose. The purpose of God was the full realization of the race, which necessitated replenishing  the whole earth by scattering men all over its face. Men took counsel against this scattering and attempted to realize a State at Shinar. God confused their languages and drove the nations into separation. Over and over again men have sought to establish themselves either in rebellion against or without reference to the divine plans. The result has always been confusion. God has never permitted humanity to realize a social order from which He is excluded, nor will He do so to the end. Such an order would mean the limiting and ultimate destruction of humanity.

Genesis 12:2 "I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great. So shall you be a blessing." In this chapter we have the beginning of the history of the people through whom God has acted in history to bring the redemption of the human race and the restoration of the divine order. From this point the biblical literature is concerned with that people until of its stock the Redeemer appeared. Then it is concerned with Him and the elect race resulting from His work. While this is so, we must never imagine that the nations or the world are excluded from divine thought and purpose. God's last words here, "so shall you be a blessing," are directed to "all the families of the earth" (Genesis 12:3). This blessing is the ministry of Christ the Messiah, a direct descendant of Abraham, as He builds His church from all the nations.

Genesis 13:14 "Now lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are." These words were spoken to Abram when he was in a difficult place. He was now in the land to which he had been sent by God, but an hour had come when domestic difficulties had arisen between him and his nephew Lot. With the magnanimity of a great soul, Abram had given to Lot the right to choose the place where he and his household would dwell. The result was that Abram, on that level of human arrangement, was excluded from the best of the country. It was at this juncture that God said "lift up your eyes" and directed him to look "northward and southward and eastward and westward"—to every point of the compass, including that which Lot had chosen for himself. All he thus looked upon was then secured to him ultimately by the covenant of God. Man has no final rights in any possessions other than those that are his by the gift of God. The man who by faith leaves the choices of his life to God will find his way into possessions of which he cannot be robbed.

Genesis 14:23 "I will not take a thread or a sandal strap or anything else that is yours lest you should say, 'I have made Abram rich.'" These words show how high an order of faith was that of Abram. He had rendered a great service to the King of Sodom in the victory he gained over five attacking kings, even though he entered the conflict not for the king but to rescue Lot. To a person of less keen perception, it would have seemed perfectly natural and harmless to receive some of the material substance he recovered. But true faith always sees beyond the immediate and refuses to compromise its future by any action in the present. Abram refused to put himself in any way under obligation to one who might later take advantage of his action in such a way as to bring discredit upon God. How often have churches found their spiritual influence limited or destroyed because they received gifts from those living in rebellion against God! Moreover, Abram had no need of such gifts, nor was he impoverished by refusing them. The next chapter begins, "After these things, the word of the Lord came to Abram, saying, 'Fear not, Abram, I am your shield and your exceedingly great reward'" (Genesis 15:1).

Genesis 15:6 "He believed in the Lord, and He counted it to him for righteousness." That this is a statement of central importance is corroborated by the fact that the Apostles Paul and James both quote it (James 2:23 and twice by Paul, in Romans 4:3 and Galatians 3:6). What belief on the part of Abram is referred to? That he believed God would do for him what seemed impossible on the human level. That belief God counted to him for righteousness. His belief was right and was the inspiration for righteous activity. Paul argued that only faith can make one righteous. James claimed that the only proof of faith is one's righteousness. Jesus said, "This is the work of God: that you believe in Him whom He has sent" (John 6:29). The first act of righteousness is belief. The man who believes God has righteousness counted to him because by doing so he does right, which leads to the realization of righteousness in his character and conduct.

Genesis 16:14 "Beer-lahai-roi." This was the name given to the well by which Hagar, the servant in Abram's household pregnant with Ishmael, had been visited and comforted by the Angel of the Lord. Beer means "a well," lahai means "life," and roi means "a vision."  In the previous verse Hagar said to the Person "who spoke to her, 'You are a God who sees'; for she said, 'Have I even remained alive here after seeing Him?'" That vision brought life to Hagar, and she has the honor of being the only woman in the Bible who ascribes a new name to God: El Roy, the God Who Sees. This incident shows us that God cares about people outside the covenants He made with others to carry out His purposes. He is always the God who sees and acts according to what He sees. The name of this well suggests great thoughts about God and His ways with all kinds of people, filling the heart with confidence in His justice and goodness.

Genesis 17:1 "I am God Almighty. Walk before Me and be blameless." God revealed Himself in a new way to Abram and called him to even greater devotion. The name El Shaddai is fairly translated God Almighty, but also speaks of perfect supply and comfort. We should reach the idea better by rendering it God All-sufficient. This is always God's way with His own. He reveals the perfection of their resources in Himself and then calls them to a walk made possible by those very resources. Who can walk before God blameless in his own wisdom or strength? Surely none! But who need fail to do so if depending upon God for all He, in tender and mighty strength, is able and willing to supply? The revelation of this truth about God is perfected in our Lord Jesus Christ, "for of His goodness we have all received, and grace for grace" (John 1:16).

Genesis 18:32 "I shall speak only this once: suppose ten are found there?" This is one of the greatest chapters in all the Bible in its revelation of the possibilities open to the man of faith in communion with God. Abraham is concerned for the honor of God. To him it seemed that if in the judgment of the wicked, the righteous should be involved, justice would be violated. His conviction was the direct result of his knowledge of God. Under the stress of this concern he talked to God and was answered. God declared that if fifty righteous persons were found in Sodom, He would spare the city. Encouraged by this assurance, Abraham applied his principle to forty-five on down to ten. God carried out the principle in that He delivered the one, for He compelled Lot to leave before judgment fell upon the city. God is not only better than our fears, but also better than our hopes. If we are concerned for His honor, He is ever willing to commune with us and lead us as far as our faith will travel, affirming the highest things we think of Him. Then when we dare go no further, He will go beyond our daring.

Genesis 19:22 "I cannot do anything until you arrive there." These words reveal to us that it is impossible for God to be untrue to His own character of righteousness. When reading the whole story we see that Lot was a righteous man, troubled by the lawless deeds of the men of Sodom (2 Peter 2:7-8), but his associations with the city were such that he lingered and could hardly be persuaded to leave. While he was there God could not do anything because He would not destroy that righteous man. However terrible the judgments of God, they are always carefully considered. Even when to our limited vision it may appear that the righteous are swept into the judgment of the wicked, we know it is not so. The prophet Amos had that conviction because God told him, "I will sift the house of Israel among the nations, like corn is sifted in a sieve, yet not one good kernel will fall upon the earth" (Amos 9:9). That does not mean the righteous never suffer as the result of the sin of others. They may suffer and even die, but not because they were judged with the wicked. Their suffering and death have another meaning consistent with God's character.

Genesis 20:10 "What was your reason for doing this?" These were the words of Abimelech, King of Gerar, to Abraham. In this chapter we have an account of a deflection from the pathway of faith on the part of a man of faith. He reduced himself to the expedient of making arrangements for his own safety by deceitful practices, hiding the truth that Sarah was his wife and telling the half truth that she was sister (being the daughter of his father, Terah, by another wife). The astounding thing is he had done this before and, as a result, had to leave Egypt in disgrace (Genesis 12:10-20). Abimelech's question here was an inquiry into Abraham's motive, which elicited this answer: "Because I thought, Surely the fear of God is not in this place." What blundering! Abraham thought that among a people who lacked the fear of God, he must act for himself and without God. But God taught him by this experience that the fear of God existed where he did not think it did, so it was not only unnecessary but also wholly wrong to act as he had done. What folly it is to limit God in our thinking and fall back on our own policies! To do so is to turn aside from the high ways of His purpose and imperil the possibility of working together with Him.

Genesis 21:17 "God has heard the voice of the lad where he is." This was the word of the Angel of God about Ishmael, who was the offspring of a failure of faith. When he and his mother were sent off, they did not pass out of the sight of God, nor beyond His care. God provided for them what they needed for the moment and remained with the lad, making of him a great nation. There is no nation that God has not made, no people that He has excluded from the purposes of His goodness. When at last His city is built, all the nations shall walk in its light—when the promised Seed through Isaac's line, Christ the Messiah, has won the final triumph, Ishmael's people will share in the glorious results. God's election includes those "from every tribe and tongue and people and nation" (Revelation 5:9). See in them those whom God sees and for whose ultimate recovery and blessedness He is always working.

Genesis 22:16 "Because you have done this thing." In this act, the faith of Abraham rose to its highest level and most wonderful expression.  In obedience to a divine call, Abraham took an action that by all human calculation would prevent the fulfillment of a divine promise, knowing that the Word of God could not be broken. Hebrews 11:17-19 explains, "By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, 'It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.' Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death." Because Abraham did so, God was able to make him the instrument through whom all the nations of the earth would be blessed through Isaac's seed, Christ the Savior of the world. How much is involved in any hour when our faith is put to the test! Not our own character alone but issues and results much larger than, at the moment, we can see. God does prove us by calling us to great ventures of faith, ventures that may go beyond our intellectual ability and emotional life and call us to poignant suffering. But He never does so, except to prepare us for cooperation with Him in some great purpose of His wisdom and love.

Genesis 23:20 "The field and the cave therein were deeded over to Abraham for a burial site by the sons of Heth." This field and cave constitute the only land Abraham ever had while living in the land given to him as a possession by a covenant with God. This is the perpetual victory of the man of faith. He receives the promises as promises and dies, not having received the promises as realizations. He dies triumphantly, knowing that the promise will be fulfilled. Faith is the power to do without what God has promised until the time comes when He, in His infinite wisdom, provides the thing promised. Yet all the while faith possesses and enters into the joys of the gift. God's gaining earth and our gaining heaven are assured by divine covenant.

Genesis 24:4 "You shall go to my country and to my relatives, and take a wife for my son Isaac." Abraham's sending his most trustworthy servant to seek a wife for Isaac was an act of obedient and intelligent faith. The chapter begins that God "had blessed Abraham in every way" (Genesis 24:1), and the chief blessing granted was Isaac. Through him the promises made to Abraham were to be fulfilled and the promised Seed would come. The certainty of this promise made it incumbent upon Abraham to cooperate with God intelligently. Therefore he took this method of securing the seed of his son. It was an activity of faith. This is seen in the answer Abraham gave to his servant when the servant suggested that the woman he might find might not be willing to follow him. Abraham declared that the Lord would send His angel before him, and the account shows how wonderfully this servant was guided through the ordinary circumstances of everyday life. The principle is that faith is to act reasonably in the sense of intelligent and obedient cooperation. Faith doesn't sit down and say, "God has promised so I have nothing to do." It rather says, "God has promised so I must do everything in the line of His promise and see to it that nothing interferes with His purpose to the best of my abilities."

Genesis 25:8 "Abraham breathed his last and died in a good old age, an old man and full."Abraham died full, not of years only, but of life, of experience, of all great things. By faith he had abandoned much but he had gained far more. He had come to know God—to walk with Him, to talk with Him; to enter into a true fellowship with Him. "He was called the friend of God" (James 2:23). Such life is full whatever it seems to lack. The man whose vision is bounded by the things of time and sense might say that Abraham died empty. The writer of the letter to the Hebrews said Abraham "died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar" (Hebrews 11:13). For a hundred years he had sojourned in a land given to him by a divine covenant, but he had not possessed it according to the standards of human possession. Nevertheless, he died full for in his fellowship with God he had learned to measure time by eternity. To such a man death is but passing on to wait the accomplishment of the divine purposes. The fullness of Abraham was that of a wealth which death could not touch. The fullness that men gain who live by sight and not by faith is a fullness of which they are emptied in death. They leave their possessions behind them. The men of faith carry their fullness with them.

Genesis 26:22 "He moved away from there and dug another well." In these words we see the character of Isaac and the nature of his faith. He was a quiet, peaceful man who lived a pastoral life, often digging wells to provide for the needs of his people and his livestock. But he was a man of persistence. He would not engage in strife with those who stole his wells, but would quietly go on digging until they were tired of stealing. When his persistence found its reward in a well that his enemies did not appropriate, he called it Rehoboth, saying, "God has made room for us and we shall be fruitful in this land." Faith expresses itself in different ways and by different temperaments. The faith of Abraham was of the high, adventurous order and was the means by which God could lead him to great experiences. The faith of Jacob was restless, but still was genuine faith, and so was the vantage ground God used for both refining and using him. The faith of Isaac was restful, persistent devotion to immediate duty, by which God gave him room in the land to the people He had chosen.

Genesis 27:44 "Stay with him a few days until your brother's fury subsides." Rebekah was advising Jacob to stay with her brother Laban after leading Jacob to deceive his own twin brother, Esau. She acted in harmony with her conviction that God would carry out His purposes through Jacob rather than Esau, but a right belief doesn't justify a wrong action. Rebekah thought Esau's hatred and anger would expend itself in "a few days," but those few days multiplied into twenty years. While we have no account of Rebekah's death, it is probable that she never saw Jacob again. The whole story shows how God overrules the blunders of men and women, but also illustrates that human cleverness, acting apart from divine guidance, falls into terrible miscalculations. When we turn aside from the pathway of simple obedience, we count up the cost and learn how wrong we were in our estimates. The comparatively trivial disadvantage is found to be a lifelong disability; the negligible episode becomes the permanent pain. Our cleverness is always at fault when it attempts to arrive at the divine goal any other way than by traveling along the divinely marked path. What constant pain should we be spared if we really believed that God always works for those who wait for Him! That is true faith.

Genesis 28:16 "Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it." That is what Jacob said when he awoke from dreaming about angels ascending and descending a ladder. Notice the tense of the verbs he employed: the first is present and the second is past. He did not say, "The Lord was in this place," as though he had received a visit from God. The revelation that came to Jacob  was far more wonderful than that. Those ascending and descending angels demonstrated to him the perpetual nearness of heaven to earth. He had traveled far away from home, but had not traveled away from God, despite the fact that his journey was made necessary by his wrongdoing. Seeking a stone for a pillow, Jacob laid down to rest in utter loneliness, not knowing that the God of his fathers was still with him. He woke to the realization of that fact, so that very place became to him Bethel, the house of God.

Genesis 29:15 "Tell me, what shall your wages be?" That was Laban's question to Jacob, and in the light of the whole story it is a revealing question. The name of Jacob has become synonymous for crafty cleverness, but anyone who loves straight dealing between man and man cannot help feeling satisfaction that Jacob bested Laban. Jacob was clever, but he was honorable in his dealings: he broke no contract and fulfilled his obligations. That cannot be said for Laban at any point. He cruelly deceived Jacob and every time he offered him some apparent benefit, it was with an ulterior motive that was wholly selfish. Laban was the type of man who without scruple makes use of his fellows, squeezing every advantage out of them, and then throwing them aside without compunction. It is a mean and dastardly type. For every Jacob a Laban is found whose methods are those of rank injustice. In fact it was Laban's unscrupulous methods that developed Jacob's craftiness. What are our actions bringing out in others?

Genesis 30:43 "The man became exceedingly prosperous, and had large flocks and female and male servants and camels and donkeys." And that in spite of Laban, or perhaps rather as a result of the unjust pressure Laban had brought to bear on Jacob through the years. There was nothing unjust or dishonorable in the methods of Jacob. Laban admitted he had profited by Jacob's service and had a strong desire to retain it. Therefore he consented to an arrangement Jacob proposed about dividing the livestock between them, but immediately proceeded to violate the deal. Despite the unscrupulous methods of Laban, God helped Jacob play his part against them very successfully to be in a good position for returning home.

Genesis 31:49 "The Lord watch between you and me when we are absent from one another." In this chapter we part company with Laban, and that without any regret. These words were uttered by Laban as words of suspicion rather than confidence. As Jacob and Laban parted, they were conscious of mutual distrust. Between them they heaped a pile of stones called Mizpah, which means Watchtower, as a boundary of separation. It was a witness that neither was to pass it in order to harm the other, and God was called upon as the Watcher to see that the compact was observed. Not many years ago [and still today], it was the fashion to give and wear jewelry engraved with the word Mizpah to indicate a friendship cemented in the watchfulness of God. Perhaps it was all very harmless, but it was certainly very ignorant. Let this serve as a warning to the danger of slipshod reading and careless interpretation, the results of which are not always harmless, but may lead to destructive ideas and actions. God is the Watcher who never loses sight of ancient landmarks. Woe to the man who removes them or wrongs his neighbor! But where justice is guarded by mutual love, no Mizpah is required.

Genesis 32:28 "Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel." This chapter is central to the story of Jacob. Everything depends upon a right understanding of the contrast between his two names: Jacob and Israel. Jacob literally means heel catcher, and so supplanter or usurper—starting from the womb in Jacob's case since he was grasping his twin brother's heel (Genesis 25:26). Israel is a compound of two words: Isra, which means ruled, and El, the name of God, and so means Ruled by God.  The prophet Hosea explains, "In the womb he grasped his brother's heel; as a man he struggled with God. He struggled with the Angel of the Lord and overcame Him; he wept and begged for His favor" (Hosea 12:3-4). Jacob had contended with men throughout his life and had prevailed. The effect of his successes upon his character had made him self-reliant, but often forgetful that his successes had been arranged and ruled by God. That was the lesson he had to learn to be delivered from a self-sufficiency that must inevitably ruin him. This explains the mysterious wrestling match that took place. God crippled Jacob to reveal his weakness and teach him the secret of strength. Jacob's cry, "I will not let You go until You bless me," was the sobbing wail of a man casting himself at last before God to heal him. From that day on he limped. Whatever others thought of it, Jacob gratefully knew that he was a man ruled by God.

Genesis 33:20 "El-Elohe-Israel." Jacob's naming of this altar was certainly significant: the name of God appears three times. It means God-the God of Israel-the God of the one ruled by God. The fundamental lesson of life is that we must be ruled by God, but the further lesson is that walking according to the divine rule comes only by divine strength. Yielding to God is far more than an act; it's an attitude. As the act of yielding is a response to the divine call and often the divine pressure, so also the attitude of yielding is maintained by our depending constantly and entirely upon God. Happy is the soul who is completely at the end of self-confidence!

Genesis 34:25 "Simeon and Levi, Dinah's brothers, took each man his sword and came upon the city unawares, killing all the men." This is a dark chapter in the history of Israel. The wrong done to and by Dinah is indeed a tragedy so we understand the anger of her brothers, but here is a greater wrong. These brothers had discussed the situation and had entered into an agreement with the offenders as mainly represented by Shechem and Hamor, who kept their part of the agreement. Simeon and Levi violated their part of the agreement in a horrible way. The wrong of it weighted heavily on the soul of their father. In Jacob's final charge to them before he died, he referred back to the matter and severely condemned their action (Genesis 49:5-6). No man or woman has the right to act unrighteously in a righteous cause. God never does so and is eternally opposed to such action. We must not do evil that good may come, neither must we employ evil methods for the punishment of evil. It is a hard lesson that the heart of man is slow to learn.

Genesis 35:18 "She called his name Benoni, but his father called him Benjamin." Rachel was Jacob's one love. For her, during the years of his exile, he had served fourteen years: seven while waiting for her and seven in comradeship with her. Now they were back in his own country, and in giving birth to her second child, she died. Before she passed on, she expressed her soul as she named him Benoni, son of sorrow. What did she mean? The question is an open one with different answers. One that suits the love that existed between her and Jacob is she was thinking, not of herself, but of him. He would have the son, but at the cost of the mother, and so he would be to Jacob the son of sorrow. Jacob immediately changed the name to Benjamin, son of my right hand: if he was to be bereft of his beloved Rachel, the son born to her would be his comfort and consolation. This is a sad story but it features sorrow transfigured by love. Two who have journeyed together in the joy of true love are about to be separated, but amid the deep shadow of death is the light of this new life. Rachel expresses her understanding of what the boy will be to his father: a son reminding him of sorrow. Jacob, understanding also, and desiring to give her comfort as she passed on, affirmed to her that the boy would be to him a strength in his sorrow. The story may have deeper values, but this human touch of its first natural meaning is full of beauty.

Genesis 36:1 "Esau (that is, Edom)." This is the special chapter about Esau's descendants. He is now to pass out of the story, but his descendants will remain, the people of Edom, persistently in opposition to the descendants of Jacob. They appear again and again, especially in the prophetic writings. One brief but revealing book deals with Edom. It is the prophecy of Obadiah. In it, the judgment of God upon Edom is declared. Esau was a profane person who treated his birthright with disdain; from him came a profane nation that filled the cup of iniquity to the brim. Therefore their judgment was inevitable. That is not the last word, however. The final verse of Obadiah (Obadiah 21) speaks of salvation within the one and only Kingdom of God. Those who watch with God see this always. Sin must work itself out; punishment is inherent in sin. But God is greater than sin and His eyes are ever fixed upon the issue, and toward that He is ever working. Those who watch with Him also work with Him and wait with Him, enduring the travail, but assured of the triumph.

Genesis 37:35 "I will go down to the grave mourning my son." Thus Jacob spoke when his son Joseph was lost to him. It was the language of a perfectly honest man. He saw nothing before him for the rest of his days other than sorrow, believing that the older boy of his beloved Rachel had been slain by wild beast. His sons and daughters tried to comfort him, but he was in that mood the human heart sometimes experiences when it seems a wicked thing to be comforted. Yet Jacob was wrong. His outlook was wrong and his willfulness was wrong: he did not go down to the grave sorrowing. That son he mourned was, in fact, alive, and would bring joy to his father. Jacob could not foresee that fact, but this is exactly where faith comes in. Faith, moreover, is not foresight. It is confidence in God, which means certainty that however dark our way, it is leading us to sunlit places. Sorrow is not wrong, but waywardness in it and a refusal to be comforted is always wrong. The man or woman of faith must not presume to judge circumstances as constituting the whole of things. He or she must trust in God and venture forward with Him. To do so is never to be overcome with sorrow.

Genesis 38:26 "She is more righteous than I." This chapter is another dark page in Israel's history. It constitutes a digression from the main story about Joseph, but is necessary because of its bearing upon subsequent history. It tells about the sin of Judah, which was not only carnal but also spiritual because the wrong was wrought with the daughter of a Canaanite, the race with which Judah's people were strictly forbidden to intermarry. Then it becomes a story about a breach of contract, which Judah made with Tamar to marry his son Shelah. This promise he broke, and Tamar took drastic and evil means to avenge herself. That brought home to him his guilt, which is why he said, "She is more righteous than I." Her motive was a passion for the right, which Judah lacked. This is another story that highlights the seriousness of breaking a contract, but also gives background information we otherwise wouldn't have about the ancestry of the Savior of the World, who descended from Judah and Tamar (Matthew 1:3, Luke 3:33). As God in human flesh, He condescended not only to seek and save sinners, but also to be descended from them.

Genesis 39:1-2 "Joseph was brought down to Egypt.... The Lord was with Joseph." These two statements bring before us the two matters that affect us all: circumstances and God, and they set the first in the light of the second. For Joseph, he had had his dreams, but the experiences through which he now was passing made it seem there was no possibility of their realization. Here he was, exiled from his own land, as a slave in a strange country in the midst of strangers. The other fact was that God was with him. Joseph's being brought to Egypt was no accident. Joseph himself stated that clearly (Genesis 45:5). Indeed, his whole bearing during these trying days leads us to believe that he knew all through God was with him. If we live wholly occupied by what we see, we shall know perpetual unrest. If we always see Him who is invisible, we shall surely endure.

Genesis 40:23 "Yet the chief butler did not remember Joseph, but forgot him." Many years ago I heard a forceful preacher, Thomas Champness, read this chapter as a lesson. Throughout the reading he made no comment, but as he finished this verse he closed his Bible and said, "And his name isn't always Butler!" It was an unconventional, humorous, almost startling remark, but it left an impression on me that has never left. It has helped me often to remember. The forgetfulness of this butler or cupbearer cost Joseph two more years of prison. It is perfectly true that Joseph was safe in the will of God and quietly preserved for the hour when he would be raised up as a deliverer, but that does not excuse the butler. It is well said, "Evil is wrought by want of thought as well as want of heart!" We bear no malice; we really desire to help but we forget. Our own good fortune drives out of mind the evil fortunes of those whom we would serve. To forget may be as evil in its effects upon others as the danger of doing some positive harm to them. There are many things we have done today. Have we forgotten something?

Genesis 41:38 "Can we find such a one as this, a man in whom the Spirit of God is?" This was the impression Joseph made upon Pharaoh. We need not be concerned with the exact conception of God in Pharaoh's mind. Whatever that conception was, he became convinced that Joseph was the instrument of God to him, that through him the wisdom of God was made known. When he appeared before Pharaoh he at once explained about his ability to interpret dreams, "It is not in me; God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace" (Genesis 41:16). In his interpretation he attributed the dreams of the king to God, and gave him their meaning. A notable fact is that in the heart of this king there was that which recognized the truth of these claims. This is a persistent fact that we do well to ponder. There is something in human nature that recognizes and responds to true godliness. Whether men obey or not, they know what is of God and what is not.

Genesis 42:13 "We your servants are twelve brothers...and one is no longer alive."  Just at the moment when evil should be most careful, it breaks down and puts itself in danger of discovery and defeat. To say that "murder will out" means that truth will be made known, however desirable it may seem in the interest of unrighteousness that it remain hidden. Truth is mighty and will prevail. In some unguarded moment something is said that gives up a secret which there is no wish to reveal. Joseph was the one "no longer alive" of that family circle, and sooner or later his brothers would be confronted with their sin against him. From the standpoint of their desire to hide the past—as far as they knew, this Egyptian official they were dealing with could have no knowledge of them—why did they not say, "We your servants are eleven brothers"? Evil is ultimately foolishness and overcome by the truth. By the brothers' own confession of the twelve, they must sooner or later account for the one. Thus God has created man that he cannot wholly escape from the truth. However he tries to conceal it, he himself will sooner or later utter it to his own condemnation. "Truthful lips will be established forever, but a lying tongue is only for a moment" (Proverbs 12:19). The way of truth is the way of simplicity and liberty.

Genesis 43:30 "Joseph hurried out, for his feelings were deeply stirred at the sight of his brother." This is another revelation of how wondrously Joseph was preserved by his loyalty to God through the years of his varied experiences. When at last his innocent brother Benjamin was before him, the son of his mother Rachel, his heart was moved to its very depths. This, of course, is understandable but the fact remains that natural affection is often destroyed by adversity and prosperity. Joseph had passed through experiences that might have hardened and embittered him. Moreover, he had risen to a level of eminence and authority that often renders a man callous and apt to forget old ties and associations. Human history is full of examples. It was not so with Joseph. His heart was true to his kindred. Thus it is with those who live in fellowship with God. Adversity brings them no destructive bitterness, nor prosperity proud and arrogant forgetfulness. Divine companionship keeps the heart young and tender, and all the finest things of the soul in health.

Genesis 44:33 "Please let your servant remain instead of the lad as a slave to my lord." Here Judah said the finest thing of his life. It seems a strain of true nobility was always present in this man in spite of his failures. It was Judah who saved Joseph's life by appealing on the ground of profit, suggesting to his hard and cruel brothers that they would make nothing out of the business by killing him. The real motive of his intervention seems manifested by his words, "for he is our brother, our own flesh" (Genesis 37:27). Now he saw the other son of Rachel—Benjamin—in jeopardy, and he was concerned about his father, whose grief over the loss of Joseph he vividly remembered. Judah's appeal to Joseph was full of sincere eloquence and anxiety, which reached its highest point as he declared his readiness to become a slave if Benjamin was set free. This heartfelt appeal made it impossible for Joseph any longer to restrain his emotions or conceal his identity from his brothers. And in biblical history, the tribes of Judah and Benjamin remained loyal to God and to one another longer than any of the others.

Genesis 45:5 "God sent me before you to preserve life." This, in the magnificent hour when Joseph made himself known to his brothers, is how he accounted for all the events of the past 20 years or so. It was not merely a magnanimous way of forgiving them and attempting to put them at ease. It was his reading of his life's story, and it was the true reading. Joseph was emphatic about God's purpose, for he repeated it again (verse 7) and again (verse 8). That did not automatically exonerate his guilty brothers for their past action, but it did show that God had overruled their evil deeds in the interests of His purposes through them as His chosen instruments. For this reason, Joseph could afford to forgive his brothers. Faith believes in God, however dark the day, and is assured that the divine purposes will be realized, however adverse current circumstances. Then the day comes when it can look back and understand the reason of all the strange experiences through which it has passed. It's best to antedate that hour of realization: as we shall know one day by clear sight that God has ordered our goings, let's live as those who know it now by faith.

Genesis 46:4 "I will go down with you into Egypt, and I will also surely bring you up again." It's not difficult to imagine the strangeness of Jacob's emotional experiences at this time. He had long mourned Joseph as dead, and now the astonishing news was brought to him that he was not only alive but also ruler over all the land of Egypt! When evidences were forthcoming in the laden wagons, he started on his journey to see him. On the way, God communed with Jacob and spoke these words of strength and comfort. From all that had been made known to Jacob and his forefathers so far, it must have appeared that departure with all his family from the land appointed by God was fatal to the fulfillment of the divine purpose. To go into Egypt was to leave the region of appointment. Then came the word that assured Jacob of two things: that God would be with them in Egypt and that there would be a return to the Promised Land. In the strength of that assurance he went on his way. Jacob knew nothing of the details nor was it necessary that he should. It is enough for men and women of faith at any time to know that God is with them. God is infinite in His patience with His own. In hours of special need He makes Himself known anew to them for whatever may be His will for them.

Genesis 47:29 "Please do not bury me in Egypt." Jacob lived in Egypt for seventeen years, which was long enough to see his seed greatly prospering and not long enough to see any of the trials through which they would have to pass before returning to the Promised Land. Yet Jacob knew that in the purpose of God this was not to be their final resting place so as he came near the end of his pilgrimage on earth, his heart was still in the land of the divine covenant. That is why he asked Joseph not to bury him in Egypt. The tombs of Abraham, Isaac, and Rachel were in Canaan, but all his children were with him in Goshen, and everything pointed to their remaining there. Why should he not be buried there? Simply because, whatever the appearances of the hour were, he had the Word of God to rely on. Believing God, Jacob saw them all return. He never more quietly and definitely manifested his faith than when he asked Joseph to swear that he would be laid to rest in the Promised Land.

Genesis 48:21 "Behold, I am about to die but God will be with you." Here again the faith of Jacob is manifest. They are the words of calm and satisfied assurance, which is remarkable in the light of all his history. Jacob had been a singularly self-reliant man. By his cleverness he had secured the birthright from Esau, obtained the blessing of Isaac, and outwitted the unscrupulous Laban. Then had come the night of wrestling and the great discovery of the might of God. With real understanding, he had discerned the preeminence of Joseph among all his sons, but his methods with him had resulted in apparently disastrous failure. Yet Jacob had now lived long enough to know that God was moving through these things toward the accomplishment of His own purposes. He knew he was about to die but that did not matter. What mattered is that God would not die, which is why he affirmed, "God will be with you." It is a great thing to come to the end of life strong in the conviction that we are not indispensable. There is so much we have not done. It is of no importance. We die but God remains. Then we may pass in peace.

Genesis 49:1 "Gather yourselves together so I may tell you what will befall you in the days to come." These final words of Jacob about his sons may be read from a purely human standpoint as revealing what he felt about them. We discover how their actions had impressed him, that he had not forgotten their deeds of heroism or those of their shame. He had observed them carefully and knew both the strength and weakness resident within them. But the chief value of these words of Jacob is his realization that these lives were within the government of God. Most notably that is seen in all he had to say about Judah and Joseph, which were not descriptions of natural developments of what they were in themselves. They were divine prophecies concerning them. Thus at the last Jacob was blessed with a wonderful vision of the plan and power of God. It was the crowning reward of his faith.

Genesis 50:25 "God will surely visit you, and you shall carry my bones up from here." This was the last instruction of Joseph to his family. It displays the same faith his father, Jacob, had in requesting that he not be buried in Egypt. There are some senses in which it is even more remarkable. When Jacob passed on, there were no evidences of any trouble threatening his seed. Joseph, however, thoroughly acquainted as he was with the state affairs of Egypt, would be conscious of the potential danger to his people when both he and the Pharaoh who had known him had passed from the scene. That consciousness is suggested by his declaration that God would visit them and bring them into the land He promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. As he looked ahead, he had no doubt about the issue. Whatever the difficulties ahead, there could be but one final result: the accomplishment of the divine purpose and the fulfillment of the divine promise. His request that his bones be carried up from Egypt when that day came reveals his choice to be identified with his own people in their divine destiny. Joseph had served Egypt well, and Egypt had treated him well, but he belonged to God and to His people. Thus, with a declaration of faith, ended the life of one of the greatest men presented to us in Scripture. On Joseph no stain rests and in many respects he is the most wonderful type of the coming Son and Servant of God to be found in the history of Israel.
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