Genesis Day Twenty Eight

by Rev Joel Yong

Genesis 38:6-11
And Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord put him to death. Then Judah said to Onan, Go in to your brother’s wife and perform the duty of a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother. But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his. So whenever he went in to his brother’s wife he would waste the semen on the ground, so as not to give offspring to his brother. And what he did was wicked in the sight of the Lord, and he put him to death also. Then Judah said to Tamar his daughter-in-law, Remain a widow in your father’s house, till Shelah my son grows up—for he feared that he would die, like his brothers. So Tamar went and remained in her father’s house.

The commentaries of old are often shy to discuss this passage for obvious reasons.

But it is necessary. It highlights that Judah’s sons were evil.
And God struck them down, one by one.

Onan, seemed to have an opportunity to do right though.
Back then, when a husband dies, it’s the duty of the husband’s family to send his brother to take his place, so the widow would not be defenseless and prone to mistreatment from society.

She would have a husband again.
But any children conceived, would be considered descendants of her dead husband’s line.

Strange to us, but that was their custom back then in the Middle East.

But here, we read that Onan did not want children, that were not listed in the books, or seen as of his own.
Even if it was his brother’s line of descent, that was not good enough of him.

So … he slept with Tamar but did not want to complete the reproductive act.
He used her body but did not desire to give her descendants.
It was not family planning; it was pure selfishness …

And for that, God struck him down too.

Then we read that Judah becomes worried and makes up an excuse to Tamar.
He does not want to seem cold and heartless and does not cast her out as a defenseless widow, but he is reluctant to let his next son marry her too.

He somehow thinks she might be the cause of why her husbands are each dropping off dead!!

Strange behavior.
Either he cannot see that his sons were evil and that is why they all died, when judged by God.
Or he knew they were evil but feels helpless to prevent their descent into sinfulness that culminates in their deaths.

I think it’s the former and not the latter …
Perhaps sometimes we are blind to not just our own sinful state but that of those around us.
We are blind because we love them too much, to the extent that we think they can do no wrong or aren’t that bad …
So when God acts to correct this evil, we still seem clueless as to why things happened the way they did …

Like Judah.

Keep reading the next few chapters and see what folly he gets up to next …

Genesis Day Twenty Six

by Rev Joel Yong

Genesis 35:10
And God said to him, “Your name is Jacob; no longer shall your name be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.” So he called his name Israel.

Strange …
This is not the first time, God has said this.

He said it earlier when He wrestled Jacob.

Genesis 32:28
Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel,[a] for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.”

And it’s not the first time God repeats phrases and instructions either.
Look at what He said to Joshua –

Joshua 1:6-7
Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. 7 Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success[a]wherever you go.

Joshua 1:9
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

In a teenager’s terms, they would call this “nagging”.
To a Singaporean Chinese, he may say its “loh soh”.

But John Wesley knew better.
Here is what he believed about teaching-
“And finally, if teaching is to bear any fruit, teach patiently. You must tell them the same thing ten times over or you do nothing.” – John Wesley
(from ‘The Works of the Reverend John Wesley, Vol. II, cited by Elmer L. Towns in his work ‘John Wesley and Religious Education’)

After all, he remembered his own father saying to his mother about raising him-
Why do you tell that blockhead the same thing twenty times over?” asked John Wesley’s father. “Because,” replied his mother, “if I had told him but nineteen times, all my labor would have been lost, …”

We are all prone to forgetfulness- kids and adults alike.
God our Father knows this.
That is why much of Scripture contains instructions from Him to institute reminders for ourselves, about what God has done:

Exodus 12:23-27
For the Lord will pass through to strike the Egyptians, and when he sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you. You shall observe this rite as a statute for you and for your sons forever. And when you come to the land that the Lord will give you, as he has promised, you shall keep this service. And when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ you shall say, ‘It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses.’” And the people bowed their heads and worshiped.

Joshua 4:5-7
And Joshua said to them, “Pass on before the ark of the Lord your God into the midst of the Jordan, and take up each of you a stone upon his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the people of Israel, that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever.”

1 Corinthians 11:24-25
and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

What deliberate reminders do you follow on a daily, weekly and even monthly basis to remind yourself of who you are, whom you serve and what you exist to do?

Genesis Day Twenty Five

by Rev Joel Yong

Genesis 33:18-34:2
And Jacob came safely to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, on his way from Paddan-aram, and he camped before the city. And from the sons of Hamor, Shechem’s father, he bought for a hundred pieces of money the piece of land on which he had pitched his tent. There he erected an altar and called it El-Elohe-Israel. Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to see the women of the land. And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, the prince of the land, saw her, he seized her and lay with her and humiliated her.

Jacob was now in Canaan.
Dinah, his daughter, thought she would go out, presumably alone- to see how the women dressed, did their hair, or even how they danced.

It was natural to yearn to do so- being a curious young woman.
But this passage highlights the sinful state of the land as well- for it was the royalty of the land that raped her.
The leadership being corrupt, signified how evil the land was.

The sons of Jacob plot their revenge, and when Shechem asks to marry the poor rape victim, Dinah- they deceive Shechem by pretending to agree and ask for circumcision of all their males as a condition, for agreeing to intermarry.

Look at the Canaanites’ response:

Genesis 34:21-23
“These men are at peace with us; let them dwell in the land and trade in it, for behold, the land is large enough for them. Let us take their daughters as wives, and let us give them our daughters. Only on this condition will the men agree to dwell with us to become one people—when every male among us is circumcised as they are circumcised. Will not their livestock, their property and all their beasts be ours? Only let us agree with them, and they will dwell with us.”

They agree to do so! But they were not getting circumcised so that they could follow God but so that they could garner more crops, more livestock, more wives! It was a fleshly motive that drove them to agree.

They had no interest in following God at all.
This is exactly the reason why God forbade intermarrying amongst the Israelites and the people of other nations- it would dilute their faith and eventually cause the Israelites themselves to no longer follow God!

Watch how Simeon and Levi responded –

Genesis 34:25-29
On the third day, when they were sore, two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, took their swords and came against the city while it felt secure and killed all the males. They killed Hamor and his son Shechem with the sword and took Dinah out of Shechem’s house and went away. The sons of Jacob came upon the slain and plundered the city, because they had defiled their sister. They took their flocks and their herds, their donkeys, and whatever was in the city and in the field. All their wealth, all their little ones and their wives, all that was in the houses, they captured and plundered.

The fleshly motivations of Hamor, Shechem and their people clouded their perspectives and they wound up dead- unable to discern that Shechem’s crime was severe in the eyes of Jacob’s sons and not easily brushed away by proposal of marriage.

What Simeon and Levi did, wasn’t right either.
They acted deceitfully and were also bloodthirsty in their vengeance, wiping out the entire city as a result.

This passage is one of many examples of the sinful state of a world that is unsafe (for the likes of curious Dinah), that is untrustworthy (instead of being hospitable, Shecem raped a female stranger in the land), that does not deliver on its word (Simeon and Levi managed to wipe out an entire city, beginning with their lies)

But it also highlights a world so much in need of God’s light, His truth and His ways …

Genesis Day Twenty Four

by Rev Joel Yong

Genesis 33:1-4
And Jacob lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, Esau was coming, and four hundred men with him. So he divided the children among Leah and Rachel and the two female servants. And he put the servants with their children in front, then Leah with her children, and Rachel and Joseph last of all. He himself went on before them, bowing himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother. But Esau ran to meet him and embraced him and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.

I wonder what Esau thought, when he prepped his 400 strong contingent.
Were they armed? Or was it just a massive welcoming party?

The general view was that, in payment for what Jacob had done years ago, Esau planned to hurt him.

This is, after all, how Esau and Jacob last parted ways.

Genesis 27:41
Now Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him, and Esau said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are approaching; then I will kill my brother Jacob.”

When someone hurts you, particularly someone close to you, the cut goes deep.
It can take a long time, and even years later, the memory of the incident brings deep-seated pain.

But Jacob thought up a plan, to try to placate Esau.
He put himself in a humbled position, like a servant, whilst addressing Esau as a lord, in his messages sent via his servants.

He gave lots of gifts, sending them ahead of him, to Esau.

Jacob, was in essence, making restitution for all he had ‘stolen’ from Esau previously, when he took the blessing of the firstborn from their blind father, Isaac.

What about you?
Who have you wronged and in what way?
What would attempts at making restitution look like?
Remember, Jacob’s attempts addressed the loss which was inflicted on Esau.

It’s the beginning of peacemaking efforts.

But mind you, it also depends on whether the other party accepts.
He did not know how Esau would respond, so he divided his family into groups, hoping that if Esau attacked, at least 1 group may survive.

So if the other party does not accept, take heart at least you tried. The key word here is TRY …

Hebrews 12:14
Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

Voice of the opposition

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Reading: 2 Chronicles 35:1-36:23; Psalm 104:24-35

READ (verses chosen for meditation)
2 Chronicles 35:20-22 “After all this, when Josiah had prepared the temple, Neco king of Egypt went up to fight at Carchemish on the Euphrates and Josiah went out to meet him. But he sent envoys to him, saying, “What have we to do with each other, king of Judah? I am not coming against you this day, but against the house with which I am at war. And God has commanded me to hurry. Cease opposing God, who is with me, lest he destroy you.” Nevertheless, Josiah did not turn away from him, but disguised himself in order to fight with him. He did not listen to the words of Neco from the mouth of God, but came to fight in the plain of Megiddo.”

REFLECT
King Josiah did what most kings would have done. He stopped the advancement of a foreign army as it attempted to march through his own land. Yet, Josiah died for such an act. What did he do wrong? Even if Neco sent envoys to Josiah; Josiah was not obligated to let the army through.

Perhaps the only thing that Josiah did wrong was the failure to seek God concerning Neco’s claims that he had heard from God. The enemy from Egypt had claimed that he had heard from God, but Josiah failed to seek God if he was speaking the truth. He took things into his own hands and suffered demise. The truth is that God can use even our “enemies” or people who seemingly oppose us to speak into our lives. We will need to consult God for His wisdom to learn the truth through such conversations.

RELATE
In my previous workplace and current ministry as a pastor; I faced the voices of those who opposed to what I was trying to do. I also faced those who are opposed to the ways of God. While the “biblical” way was to seek God on what had been communicated; the natural tendency was to take things into my own hands. There are times when I would think that this person was just out to oppose me. This person was just trying to further his or her agenda. This person did not really understand what I was trying to say or do. This person was just trying to be nasty to those who believe in Jesus.

Today’s passage reminded me that I would need to go deeper with God about the voices of those whom i do not agree. Are they placed here to help me do better? What was it that they are really saying? Have God spoken to them as well? Am I wrong? Let me hear God with what was being said or done and let God provide His discernment on how to handle the situation. Let me also be humble to accept that the message of God can come through the voice of an opposing party. That would be the best. For the Lord can use the most unimaginable and creative way to speak with us.

REST
Help me Lord to see what You see and discern Your ways. This is so I can depend more on You. Amen.

Genesis Day Twenty Three

by Rev Joel Yong

Genesis 31:1-5
Now Jacob heard that the sons of Laban were saying, “Jacob has taken all that was our father’s, and from what was our father’s he has gained all this wealth.” And Jacob saw that Laban did not regard him with favor as before. Then the Lord said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your fathers and to your kindred, and I will be with you.” So Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah into the field where his flock was and said to them, “I see that your father does not regard me with favor as he did before. But the God of my father has been with me.

When Laban saw that Jacob was doing better, than himself, he started to think less favorably of Jacob. Even Laban’s sons became jealous and antagonistic towards Jacob in their attitudes.

Don’t bet your future on being in someone’s good books, in order to either advance your career or to find security and stability in life.

People change.
They have always been doing so, for thousands of years.

Here is the great news though …
Check out the last verse of today’s passage.
“I see that your father does not regard me with favor as he did before. But the God of my father has been with me. ”

God is always with us.
Even when people turn against us.

People are unpredictable but God is always the same, yesterday, today and forever.

Genesis Day Twenty Two

by Rev Joel Yong

Genesis 30:1-8
When Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, she envied her sister. She said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I shall die!” Jacob’s anger was kindled against Rachel, and he said, “Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?” Then she said, “Here is my servant Bilhah; go in to her, so that she may give birth on my behalf, that even I may have children through her.” So she gave him her servant Bilhah as a wife, and Jacob went in to her. And Bilhah conceived and bore Jacob a son. Then Rachel said, “God has judged me, and has also heard my voice and given me a son.” Therefore she called his name Dan. Rachel’s servant Bilhah conceived again and bore Jacob a second son. Then Rachel said, “With mighty wrestlings I have wrestled with my sister and have prevailed.” So she called his name Naphtali.

The wives were competing to see who could provide more children, to add to the family line.
They felt it would bring them honor and glory if they did.

Back then, the servants of these women, if taken to be their husband’s concubine- then any subsequent children they produced, would be credited to this particular wife’s name!

You can read about this intense competition and the chaos it creates.

Try and imagine how the servants felt as they were implicated in this race, and made to become concubines.
Try and imagine how this story got retold to the kids subsequently.

The reason why kids were being birthed – was not out of careful intent for their welfare, but out of competition.

Be careful of the motives, out of which you birth, not just children, but projects, endeavors and other such things in life.

Birthed for the wrong reason … it only leads to subsequent strife, whereby you reap the effects of your impure motives for doing so.

The sons of Jacob were a mess in so many ways.
Read about how Jacob summarizes a few of their exploits at his deathbed.

Genesis 49:3-4
“Reuben, you are my firstborn, my might, and the firstfruits of my strength, preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power. Unstable as water, you shall not have preeminence, because you went up to your father’s bed; then you defiled it–he went up to my couch!

Genesis 49:5-6
“Simeon and Levi are brothers; weapons of violence are their swords. Let my soul come not into their council; O my glory, be not joined to their company. For in their anger they killed men, and in their willfulness they hamstrung oxen.

And let us not forget, these brothers sold one of their own into slavery, out of jealousy- they sold Joseph and returned to their father, lying that he had been killed by wild animals.

Are you starting on a new project or endeavor in life?
Examine your own motives for doing so.

Unless you do so, it may yield generations of chaotic mess that you end up trying to undo!

Genesis Day Twenty One

by Rev Joel Yong

Genesis 27:45
until your brother’s anger turns away from you, and he forgets what you have done to him. Then I will send and bring you from there. Why should I be bereft of you both in one day?”

This puzzles me.
She was sending Jacob away because she feared that Esau would kill Jacob in anger, for having deceived their father and taken a blessing meant for Esau.

In her mind, Esau is lost to her …
Now Jacob could be lost too, if his brother slays him.

But wait …
She was the mastermind behind this scheme, for Jacob to steal Esau’s blessing!

Genesis 27:5-17
Now Rebekah was listening when Isaac spoke to his son Esau. So when Esau went to the field to hunt for game and bring it, Rebekah said to her son Jacob, “I heard your father speak to your brother Esau, ‘Bring me game and prepare for me delicious food, that I may eat it and bless you before the LORD before I die.’ Now therefore, my son, obey my voice as I command you. Go to the flock and bring me two good young goats, so that I may prepare from them delicious food for your father, such as he loves. And you shall bring it to your father to eat, so that he may bless you before he dies.” But Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, “Behold, my brother Esau is a hairy man, and I am a smooth man. Perhaps my father will feel me, and I shall seem to be mocking him and bring a curse upon myself and not a blessing.” His mother said to him, “Let your curse be on me, my son; only obey my voice, and go, bring them to me.” So he went and took them and brought them to his mother, and his mother prepared delicious food, such as his father loved. Then Rebekah took the best garments of Esau her older son, which were with her in the house, and put them on Jacob her younger son. And the skins of the young goats she put on his hands and on the smooth part of his neck. And she put the delicious food and the bread, which she had prepared, into the hand of her son Jacob.

Sooo what was she thinking?
Did she not realize she was creating sibling rivalry with her malicious deed?
Was she blinded in seeking the best for her favorite son and not the other?

Jacob would go on, to play favorites too.

Genesis 37:3-4
Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his sons, because he was the son of his old age. And he made him a robe of many colors. But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peacefully to him.

He wasn’t the only one.
Even Abraham would do so, and send Ishmael into the wilderness, keeping only Isaac.

Genesis 21:14-16
So Abraham rose early in the morning and took bread and a skin of water and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away. And she departed and wandered in the wilderness of Beersheba. When the water in the skin was gone, she put the child under one of the bushes. Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot, for she said, “Let me not look on the death of the child.” And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept.

Ishmael grew up to father a people, that would become enemies of the descendants of Isaac.

Genesis 16:11-12
And the angel of the LORD said to her, “Behold, you are pregnant and shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael, because the LORD has listened to your affliction. He shall be a wild donkey of a man, his hand against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he shall dwell over against all his kinsmen.”

So how did all these sibling rivalries start?
The parents had a hand in it!

What do we as parents think, will happen when we treat our kids in unequal terms, valuing and rewarding one over another?

It breeds strife.

God is not like this.
He loves all His children. He chose Israel, intending for them to be a light to the world, so that all nations might see their example and come to know God too.

Acts 10:34-35
So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.

He urges us to do the same, through James.

James 2:1-3
My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place, “while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,”

The foolishness of playing favorites, leads to dissension, divides people and causes strife.
Be fair … you need not treat people the same, but be fair to all, treating them equally.

Discipline them when they have erred. Reward them when they have done well.

Genesis Day Nineteen

by Rev Joel Yong

Genesis 25:29-34
Once when Jacob was cooking stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was exhausted. And Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stew, for I am exhausted!” (Therefore his name was called Edom.) Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright now.” Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” Jacob said, “Swear to me now.” So he swore to him and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.

Esau was driven by his senses.
If he was hungry, it made sense to him to placate his growling stomach.
He could not see beyond that.

That’s why he said: “What good is my birthright?”

Esau was shallow.

Successful athletes tell us they have made sacrifices to time- training hard when they would rather be sleeping.
They also make sacrifices in terms of food- they cannot just eat whatever they choose, they are on strict diets to ensure their bodies are properly fueled/conditioned for top level competitions.

They cannot just live to placate their urges.
Successful athletes look beyond the present, envisioning a future that they press on towards.

Esau lost his birthright because he could not see far enough.
He had no vision.

Vision, is a picture of the future that produces passion in the present … someone once said.

What is that vision which God has placed in your heart?
Don’t live shallow- led by the desire to pleasure your senses.
Live purposefully, making sacrifices needed in the present for success in the future.

Remember

When I was training for the marathon, I told my running friends that my wife does marathon. They were utterly surprised. And I qualified it’s the Korean Drama Marathon. She can spend hours on end watching over 50 episodes of a Korean drama all the way to the finish line.

Occasionally I join my wife to watch not the entire drama but few episodes where she will bring me up to speed the characters and the plot.

It wasn’t long I noticed there is always the typical scenario.

Boy loves girl. Girl loves boy. But there is a rival love interest. Developing situation has caused the boy and girl to seriously consider breaking away from their relationship and turn towards their competing interests. It was a critical moment because both knew it would be a decision of no return.

RememberAt that crucial moment as they were about to walk away, the flashback came. Repeated scenes from earlier episodes came on. That’s why Korean dramas are so long. And the couple’s minds went back to that day they met each other. They remember that moment they fell for each other. The surrounding blurred as they eyeballed each other with googly eyes. They remember falling into each other arms. They remember embracing each other. They remember holding each other tight.

Typically the outcome of that remembering changes everything. It halts them from gravitating towards the pull of competitive rivals. It guides their decision. It influences their outlook. Eventually they return to what they hold most dear.

And the viewers sob, tear and cry with relief as the tissue box emptied out.

There is something deeply powerful about remembering.

The Lord in the institution of the Holy Communion said twice, “Do this in remembrance of Me” (I Corinthians 11:24-25).

He also said to the Church of Ephesus, Remember therefore from where you have fallen” (Revelation 2:5).

Can you remember when you first met Jesus?

Can you remember how in love you were with Jesus?

Can you remember how fervent you were in witnessing for Him?

Can you remember how you longed to share the Gospel with everyone you know?

Can you remember how fervent you used to pray – often kneeling on the bedside or on chair?

Can you remember how you used to read the Bible as if it was a love letter from God?

Can you remember how enthusiastic you were in serving the Lord, giving to the Church and going on mission trips?

Can you remember how passionately you used to worship God with teary eyes?

Can you remember that first love?

Since we are in the month of September, there is a popular song by Brothers Four. If you know this song you are the Merdeka Generation (those born in the 50s).

The lyrics go:

Try to remember the kind of September
When life was slow and oh so mellow.
Try to remember the kind of September
When grass was green and grain was yellow.
Try to remember the kind of September
When you were a tender and callow fellow.
Try to remember and if you remember
then follow … follow.

Note the ending of song: and if you remember then follow … follow.”

The point is remembering is not complete unless you follow through and act on what you remember.

Remembering is never nostalgic. It is not enough to remember how far you have fallen. You need to do something about it. You need to repent. You need to make amends.

Remember that.

Genesis Day Eighteen

by Rev Joel Yong

Genesis 24:12-15
And he said, “O LORD, God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today and show steadfast love to my master Abraham. Behold, I am standing by the spring of water, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water. 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. By this I shall know that you have shown steadfast love to my master.” Before he had finished speaking, behold, Rebekah, who was born to Bethuel the son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham’s brother, came out with her water jar on her shoulder.

I wrote to the primary school principal …
Once, to offer to donate money to a pocket money fund, if any.
Another time, to enquire if the latest change in the Mandarin teacher (it was the 3rd teacher in 3 terms), would be the last one.

Both times she chose to ask one of her vice principals to reply, without she, herself even acknowledging that she had seen my email.

No “Thank you, I have seen your email and will get X to reply …”

Maybe she was too busy.
Maybe she felt this was too lowly a task, to reply to a parent’s query.
Maybe she never checks emails.

Ever been there?
You send out a message and you wonder if the other party saw it?
You wonder if they are still pondering their response or if they just cannot be bothered …

I don’t like that hanging feeling …
So sometimes when there is no reply, after a few days, I do a resend – in case for some inexplicable reason the email goes missing …
After all, who knows …

Aren’t you glad that God isn’t like that primary school principal, I encountered?

When Abraham’s servant prayed, while he was still praying, the answer appeared … and Rebekah walked out.

It was not a one-off either. See what the angel says to Daniel.

Daniel 10:12
Then he said to me, “Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words.

God always answers.
He might answer with a YES or a NO or a WAIT. But your prayers NEVER fall on deaf ears and if you pray in faith, He will respond- even if it’s in the NEGATIVE or if a DELAY is mandated.

He won’t leave you hanging or out in the cold.
That is NOT the God we follow.

Moses pleaded to go into the Promised Land and God responded. He would not be the one leading Israel into it, but Joshua would be the one taking them to the next level. But in God’s mercy, He allowed Moses to see it.

Deuteronomy 3:23-28
“And I pleaded with the LORD at that time, saying, ‘O Lord GOD, you have only begun to show your servant your greatness and your mighty hand. For what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do such works and mighty acts as yours? Please let me go over and see the good land beyond the Jordan, that good hill country and Lebanon.’ But the LORD was angry with me because of you and would not listen to me. And the LORD said to me, ‘Enough from you; do not speak to me of this matter again. Go up to the top of Pisgah and lift up your eyes westward and northward and southward and eastward, and look at it with your eyes, for you shall not go over this Jordan. But charge Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him, for he shall go over at the head of this people, and he shall put them in possession of the land that you shall see.’

God ALWAYS answers His children.
The only wall that can come between us and Him, is when we build a wall of sin, repeatedly ignoring the prompting and direction of the Spirit and engage in constant rebellion against Him.

Isaiah 59:1-2
Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.

Call to Him today … He hears you.

Genesis Day Seventeen

by Rev Joel Yong

Genesis 22:13-14
And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called the name of that place, “The LORD will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.”

He was to provide a sacrifice to God.
Initially he thought it would have to be his beloved son, Isaac.

But at the final moment, God stops Abraham and provides THE sacrifice instead.
Abraham looked and saw a ram with its horns caught in the thicket.

Now this is very specific and deliberate imagery.
A sacrifice provided by God, with its head, surrounded by thorns.

Sound familiar?

Matthew 27:27-29
Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!”

Why a crown of thorns?

Thorns, in Genesis, are the image of suffering and hardship.
In particular, they were first spoken of, when Adam and Eve sinned and fell.

Genesis 3:17-19
And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Because sin had entered the world, the ground ceased to be always fruitful, even yielding thorns and thistles, despite Adam’ s hard labor.

Jesus came to take this cursed state, this fallen state away from Creation.
He came to save Mankind from our sinful state.
So instead, of having us bound and caught in the thicket of the sinful fallen condition – Christ came, and took our place.

Sometimes we are so used to paying our own bills, taking care of our own meals – that some of us, are actually uncomfortable at the thought of being given a free meal, receive a treat from a friend, or have someone clear our debt.

But that is what Jesus did.
He came because God saw, we could not afford the bills/debts brought on by our own sinful nature.

Romans 6:23
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

And so God provided.
Just like He did for Abraham, He did it again when Jesus went up on the cross for you, and for me,

Take time, to give thanks, and to praise Jesus right now.

God’s sovereignty and our roles

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Reading: 2 Chronicles 21:1-23:21; Proverbs 26:21-22

READ (verses chosen for meditation)
2 Chronicles 21:7 “Yet the LORD was not willing to destroy the house of David, because of the covenant that he had made with David, and since he had promised to give a lamp to him and to his sons forever.”

REFLECT
Even for the evil that King Jehoram had done, God was not willing to destroy the house of David. This was not because God favoured Jehoram more than anyone else; nor was He condoning of Jehoram’s evil. God stayed His hand because of the covenant that He had made with David. The covenant that God made with David was not a tool that God invented to bind Himself to certain outcomes. Instead, the covenant revealed the sovereignty of God. The covenant was made because God knew the evil of men. The covenant was God’s way of allowing men to come into His sovereign plan; or they can choose to rebel against it. Whatever it is, God will not allow the evil of Jehoram or any other human beings to mess with His plan.

RELATE
Have we thought to ourselves: “If God is sovereign, then what part do I get to play?” “If everything is planned and will go according to God’s way; why am I even here?” “If everything is planned; why do I even need to be right with God?”

Yes, God is sovereign. He will get what He wants. He knows what is best for humanity. Yet, He graciously invites people to partner Him in His plan. So when we walk right with Him; we participate in the plan and reaps the blessings of that partnership. When we rebel against Him; we are out of the plan and will walk ourselves right into disaster.

God is sovereign; but it does not mean that we are robots created to amuse an ego-manic God. God is sovereign because He is God. Whether we like it or not, He will have control over all things. He will prevail. Jesus will be back. Evil will be destroyed. The world will undergo tribulations and a new heaven and a new earth will be created. Tears will be no more. Sin will be no more. Death will give way to eternal life.

REST
Question is: Where will God find us when His sovereign plan unfolds and come into completion? What are our roles now in the light of God’s sovereignty? Shall we persevere? Or give up? May the Lord so help me to persevere in Him so as to bear fruit in the light of His sovereignty over my life. Amen.

Genesis Day Sixteen

by Rev Joel Yong

Genesis 21:5-7
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.”

They thought, the door had been shut.
Even when told that it would be reopened, Sarah laughed at its impossibility.

They wrote themselves off.

Has that ever happened to you?
The odds were stacked against you.
And you were the least likely candidate for the opportunity – maybe you were not even on the list.

Then God comes.
God speaks.
He redraws the boundaries in your favor.
The impossible becomes possible.
The distant now draws near.

Don’t be surprised when it happens.

Matthew 19:26
But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

After all, an old barren couple conceives and successfully delivers …
A virgin becomes with child …
The Son of God walks in human flesh on the Earth and dies on behalf of every single sinner in the history of the human race …
A gravestone is rolled away, and resurrection takes place …

It’s not over till God says it is.

Don’t let go of God.
Hold on tightly to His hand, forsaking all else.
When you do, you hold onto HOPE ETERNAL.

Genesis Day Fifteen

by Rev Joel Yong

Genesis 19:1-3
The two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them and bowed himself with his face to the earth and said, “My lords, please turn aside to your servant’s house and spend the night and wash your feet. Then you may rise up early and go on your way.” They said, “No; we will spend the night in the town square.” But he pressed them strongly; so they turned aside to him and entered his house. And he made them a feast and baked unleavened bread, and they ate.

They were new in town and they did not know anyone.
He could have just kept quiet, ignored them, kept to himself and let them learn how harsh this town would be.

But no. Lot chose to break the ice and speak to them, welcome them and invite them to his home.

When they declined his hospitality, he could have felt rejected and shrunk back to his abode.
But no. Lot chose to press on, “thickening his skin” as it were- and insist they spend the night at his home.

Why???
Lot’s love and concern for the strangers’ welfare, was so overwhelming that he came out of his comfort zone.

What about you?
In a world that advocates watching out for your own back. what steps do you take, to extend hospitality to the strangers in your community?

Do not forget the instruction in Hebrews.

Hebrews 13:2
Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

Lot’s efforts, ended up saving his own life!
The angels were the ones who warned him of impending doom and instructed him on the way to escape!

I wonder why the angels came to Lot in disguise.
Have you ever pondered the same question?

Could it be- they did so, hoping to test the reaction of the people in the town?

Genesis 19:4-5
But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house. And they called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them.”

After all, God’s intention was to see if Sodom was as evil as He had heard it was!
I wonder if He still does so today, sending angels in disguise to see if the evil in our land is as widespread as He has heard.

What would you do, the next time you meet a stranger, defenseless in your land?
Who, in today’s context, qualifies as a stranger in your land?

Genesis Day Fourteen

by Rev Joel Yong

Genesis 17:4-5
“Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.

When I was born, my grandparents had the major say, not my parents, in the naming of my brother and I.

Apparently there was a clan book, from which our names were derived.
It was so determined that each generation would have prescribed names – if the child turned out to be a son, or a daughter.

We had no English names then, and these were taken on, only later as we grew older.

Under what circumstances, were you named and what hopes did those who named you have?

It’s interesting to note, that God loves to rename His people every now and then.

Abram becomes Abraham.
Sarai becomes Sarah.
Jacob becomes Israel.
Simon becomes Peter.

John 1:40-42
One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter).

Each time God renames a person, He re-orientates their journey.
He gives them a new destiny.

Now you may not have received a new name when God called you to Him.
But you definitely began a new journey and received new purpose.

He called and set Abraham on a path towards becoming a father of nations.
Sarah was set on a journey towards becoming a princess, royalty as it were.
Israel was now no longer just a man, but the father of a nation that would journey long and hard with God, an example to the world, that they too might know God.

You, my friend, need not live a dreary meaningless existence. That is not the life Jesus calls us to.
In fact, He calls us to such a life in abundance –

John 10:10
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

You too, have a journey that God has set you on.
Its purpose filled and intentionally laid out.

What is it?

Genesis Day Twelve

by Rev Joel Yong

Genesis 16:1-2
Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. She had a female Egyptian servant whose name was Hagar. And Sarai said to Abram, “Behold now, the LORD has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my servant; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai.

I call this “The Hagar Solution”.
It happens when people think God needs their “help”, before He can bless them.

When a person gambles with his money, instead of stewarding it well, and thinks ” Maybe God can bless me with winnings and multiply my income.”

When a parent tells a child to skip church and go for tuition during the exam season and thinks: “Surely God wants them to do well as a student and glorify Him with great results, so exam time … surely He will understand.”

When a man does what is unethical, to keep his job and thinks: “Surely God does not want me to lose my job, what will happen to my family if I do not do this?”

All of the above, put God in a box.
They think: “Beyond these parameters, God cannot work His blessings.”

That is what happened to the old couple.
God had promised Abraham and Sarah a child.
But they waited and waited.
And when nothing happened, they thought they would help God along- “Go sleep with my servant, take her as a concubine, surely I am too old for God to use, surely He needs a working fertile body at least.”

And here thousands of years later, we read of their doubt and disbelief, and shake our heads.
But really, we are no better ourselves.

So many of us think “God helps those who help themselves.” is actually a verse from the Bible.
It’s NOT.

On the contrary, often God shows up for the completely helpless.
He was there for the little boy David, staring down a giant of a war veteran.
He was there for the lone prophet Elijah, though he was severely outnumbered by the 400 false prophets.
He was there for Daniel, though he was held in captivity and his enemies schemed to get him thrown into a lions’ den, to be torn to pieces by the hungry predators.

And God was there for Abraham and Sarah – when the odds were stacked against them …
Old, beyond fertility age … they conceive a child.

Why did God do this?
To show, without a doubt that the child came because of Him.
There can be no possible answer otherwise.

All the other Hagar Solutions we manufacture, dishonor God and belittle Him.
They are but a construct of a mind and heart, unfamiliar or forgetful of the stories in Scripture of the great, no … the Almighty God we follow.