Genesis Day Thirty Nine

by Rev Joel Yong

Genesis 50:15-18
When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.” So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this command before he died: ‘Say to Joseph, “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.”’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.”

Their deeds haunted them all the way to the end.
Even though Joseph had already forgiven them, their consciences did not let them forget.

They lived under the shadow of doubt, fearing Joseph who was now powerful, held back from vengeance for his father Jacob’s sake.

Sin is not without its price.
Often the pleasure or thrill we get from sin, lasts but a brief moment.

Yet the consequences last a lifetime.
The only relief that is possible, will come from God.

Joseph was also able to forgive his brothers, because he looked to God.
He was thus able to see the bigger picture.
That God’s plans for us, cannot be foiled by mankind’s schemes.

Genesis 50:19-21
But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.

Trust God.
Men may plot your doom but the Almighty God’s plans are not disturbed by such vain attempts.

Genesis Day Thirty Eight

by Rev Joel Yong

Genesis 49:3-7
“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! “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. Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce, and their wrath, for it is cruel! I will divide them in Jacob and scatter them in Israel.

Israel was at his deathbed and he called his sons to him, to receive his final blessings which also turned out to be prophecies.

I found it interesting, that up till his death, he never forgot that Reuben slept with Bilhah and shamed his father by doing so.

Genesis 35:22
While Israel lived in that land, Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father’s concubine. And Israel heard of it. Now the sons of Jacob were twelve.

He also did not forget that Simeon and Levi, in their anger, slew an entire city by the sword.

Genesis 34:25
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.

Of all the things they did in their life, their father could not forget these moments and by these memories, defined what his sons were like …

What memories do you wish to leave with your kids, your nephews and nieces, your spouse, your parents, your siblings, your other relatives?

Well, firstly, for it to even be possible that there are memories left behind, we have to be in their lives today …

Take time and spend time with your loved ones.

6 days a week, I attend to pastoral concerns and matters.
1 day a week, I try to be there for my kids without interruption. My wife has a long day on this particular day so I am the one with them, taking them to school and picking ’em up and coaching them in schoolwork in the afternoon, taking them to afternoon classes.

And yes, it matters to me the kind of memories I am leaving my sons with- whether I am constantly leaving them aside to be at meetings, to attend to church member’s needs, or too tired out emotionally by the time I come home, to listen to their story about their day at school …

And the latter is something I am wary of … for this job can suck up all my emotional energy and cause me to come home depleted.
Those at home, need me to have enough emotional energy to listen to their concerns too …

It’s a struggle for me, and also a priority.
What about you?
What memories are you leaving for your household?

Genesis Day Thirty Seven

by Rev Joel Yong

Genesis 48:13-20
And Joseph took them both, Ephraim in his right hand toward Israel’s left hand, and Manasseh in his left hand toward Israel’s right hand, and brought them near him. And Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on the head of Ephraim, who was the younger, and his left hand on the head of Manasseh, crossing his hands (for Manasseh was the firstborn). And he blessed Joseph and said, “The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life long to this day, the angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the boys; and in them let my name be carried on, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.” When Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand on the head of Ephraim, it displeased him, and he took his father’s hand to move it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. And Joseph said to his father, “Not this way, my father; since this one is the firstborn, put your right hand on his head.” But his father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know. He also shall become a people, and he also shall be great. Nevertheless, his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his offspring shall become a multitude of nations.” So he blessed them that day, saying, “By you Israel will pronounce blessings, saying, ‘God make you as Ephraim and as Manasseh.’” Thus he put Ephraim before Manasseh.

Joseph thought Israel was old, nearly blind and confused.
He only thought of man’s order of blessing which traditionally puts the firstborn ahead of the younger sibling.

But Israel was not mistaken.
It was a prophetic act, by which he was declaring that the younger Ephraim would become greater than the older Manasseh.

Have you been there?
Whereby you think- you were chosen by mistake and it could not possibly be so?

I did.
When I was called to become a pastor, I was only in my 2nd year in NUS. That was 1998.
I said to God, “How can this be? Pastors are old men, like sages – I am too young!”

And now I am at about my 17th year as a pastor- and some of my colleagues who have served less than 17 years as a pastor have already retired!

And I have at least 22 years left in my journey as a pastor, that is, if I remain in this job till I turn 65 … clocking 39 years in total.

I will not be the longest serving though, because remember, I was in NS and then NUS. Some of my older colleagues joined before they went to a university, straight out of NS and some did not need to serve NS at all, as they are ladies.

When God revealed my destiny to me – I was saying: “How can this be?!”
But friends, you see, God makes no mistakes.

He knew Ephraim would surpass Manasseh.
Just like He knows how you and I would turn out.
When He sends His blessings or issues His calling- it is deliberate, intentional and yes, He knows what He is doing …

It does not mean you are great, that’s not why He chose you.
I have seen too many persons want to serve in positions in ministry and they consider themselves to be God’s gift to the church and become big-headed and lose focus.

That is not why God calls us …

1 Corinthians 1:27
But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;

If you are prone to thinking, He chose you because you were talented and some kinda star – time for a reality check.

God chose us, precisely because when He does His work through us- people will see that its not possible that it came from us (because of how imperfect and broken we are), and naturally conclude that it must be God at work.

God never makes mistakes.

Genesis Day Thirty Six

by Rev Joel Yong

Genesis 46:1-4
So Israel took his journey with all that he had and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. And God spoke to Israel in visions of the night and said, “Jacob, Jacob.” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation. I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again, and Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes.”

At Joseph’s invitation, Israel moved with all he had.
There was nothing left behind, no “Just in case Egypt does not work out, let us leave a place here for us as reserved accommodation – just in case.”

Sometimes we don’t go, to a place we are called to, or sent to, with all our heart.

We long for the people we leave behind, the workplace we leave behind, the security and familiarity it affords …

Its natural but it also impedes our progress in wholeheartedly doing what God intends for us to achieve in the new place He is leading us to …

God assures Jacob/Israel that –

“Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation. I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again, and Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes.”

The place may seem strange and unfamiliar.
But what matters most, is that God is there with us.
That trumps everything else …

Genesis Day Thirty Five

by Rev Joel Yong

Genesis 45:16-20
When the report was heard in Pharaoh’s house, “Joseph’s brothers have come,” it pleased Pharaoh and his servants. And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Say to your brothers, ‘Do this: load your beasts and go back to the land of Canaan, and take your father and your households, and come to me, and I will give you the best of the land of Egypt, and you shall eat the fat of the land.’ And you, Joseph, are commanded to say, ‘Do this: take wagons from the land of Egypt for your little ones and for your wives, and bring your father, and come. Have no concern for your goods, for the best of all the land of Egypt is yours.’””

Pharaoh was happy to welcome Joseph’s family.
He was pleased to generously give them the best that Egypt had to offer.

Why was it so?

Certainly, it was due to how pleased he was with what Joseph had done.
Joseph had rescued Egypt from an impending global famine!

As a result, his brothers could enter Egypt as welcomed guests, and eat or drink of the best of the land!

Romans 3:24 (AMP)
[All] are justified and made upright and in right standing with God, freely and gratuitously by His grace (His unmerited favor and mercy), through the redemption which is [provided] in Christ Jesus

We too, enter Heaven, not because of what we have done, but because of Jesus Christ whose deeds have given us the blessing of citizenship in Heaven that we did not deserve.

Start the week by giving thanks to God for all He has done and the grace He showed you!

Genesis Day Thirty Three

by Rev Joel Yong

Genesis 44:17-34
But he (Joseph) said, “Far be it from me that I should do so! Only the man in whose hand the cup was found shall be my servant. But as for you, go up in peace to your father.” Then Judah went up to him and said, “Oh, my lord, please let your servant speak a word in my lord’s ears, and let not your anger burn against your servant, for you are like Pharaoh himself. My lord asked his servants, saying, ‘Have you a father, or a brother?’ And we said to my lord, ‘We have a father, an old man, and a young brother, the child of his old age. His brother is dead, and he alone is left of his mother’s children, and his father loves him.’ Then you said to your servants, ‘Bring him down to me, that I may set my eyes on him.’ We said to my lord, ‘The boy cannot leave his father, for if he should leave his father, his father would die.’ Then you said to your servants, ‘Unless your youngest brother comes down with you, you shall not see my face again.’ “When we went back to your servant my father, we told him the words of my lord. And when our father said, ‘Go again, buy us a little food,’ we said, ‘We cannot go down. If our youngest brother goes with us, then we will go down. For we cannot see the man’s face unless our youngest brother is with us.’ Then your servant my father said to us, ‘You know that my wife bore me two sons. One left me, and I said, “Surely he has been torn to pieces,” and I have never seen him since. If you take this one also from me, and harm happens to him, you will bring down my gray hairs in evil to Sheol.’ “Now therefore, as soon as I come to your servant my father, and the boy is not with us, then, as his life is bound up in the boy’s life, as soon as he sees that the boy is not with us, he will die, and your servants will bring down the gray hairs of your servant our father with sorrow to Sheol. For your servant became a pledge of safety for the boy to my father, saying, ‘If I do not bring him back to you, then I shall bear the blame before my father all my life.’ Now therefore, please let your servant remain instead of the boy as a servant to my lord, and let the boy go back with his brothers. For how can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? I fear to see the evil that would find my father.”

Joseph did not know if his brothers had changed.
They were jealous and sold him into slavery.

He created a situation to test them.
Judah rose to the challenge.

Remember, years ago, it was Judah who suggested- that they sell Joseph into slavery.

Genesis 37:25-27
Then they sat down to eat. And looking up they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels bearing gum, balm, and myrrh, on their way to carry it down to Egypt. Then Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers listened to him.

Now years later, this same Judah, offers to sacrifice himself for his youngest brother.

No wonder his offer, moved Joseph to the point of tears.

Genesis 45:1-2
Then Joseph could not control himself before all those who stood by him. He cried, “Make everyone go out from me.” So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. And he wept aloud, so that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it.

I find this heartwarming.
By God’s hand, people do change.

Even people who betrayed you, like Judah did.
It may take years, but let God do His work, while you move on and live your life- as Joseph did, climbing through the many betrayals he experienced in his life.

On a closing note, I wonder what Joseph did to Potiphar after becoming Pharaoh’s right hand man?

Genesis Day Thirty Two

by Rev Joel Yong

Genesis 43:34
Portions were taken to them from Joseph’s table, but Benjamin’s portion was five times as much as any of theirs. And they drank and were merry with him.

In the Hebrew perspective, firstborn sons got the double portion of any sons born thereafter.

Deuteronomy 21:15-17
If a man has two wives, the one loved and the other unloved, and both the loved and the unloved have borne him children, and if the firstborn son belongs to the unloved, then on the day when he assigns his possessions as an inheritance to his sons, he may not treat the son of the loved as the firstborn in preference to the son of the unloved, who is the firstborn, but he shall acknowledge the firstborn, the son of the unloved, by giving him a double portion of all that he has, for he is the firstfruits of his strength. The right of the firstborn is his.

That is why Esau wailed when Jacob was blessed as if he were the firstborn.
But here, Joseph, despite being a Hebrew, gives Benjamin – the youngest son of Israel, 5 times what his older brothers received!

This probably surprised the brothers who may have subsequently written it off as the ignorance of an Egyptian unfamiliar with Hebrew customs.

But Joseph did so deliberately.
Inspired, I would think.

He was showing us, how God would not let earthly rank, determine how He shows His favor or showers His blessings.

Jesus would reiterate the same truth much later on when he would teach:

Matthew 19:30
However, many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.

Jesus was teaching about how the disciples’ sacrifice, in terms of leaving their livelihoods to follow Him, in comparison with the rich young ruler’s reluctance to give up his possessions- will be duly rewarded in the kingdom of God.

There are other biblical examples of this truth.
Judas Iscariot was an early follower of Jesus but wound up betraying Him.
Paul was one of the last apostles but wound up writing many of the epistles and working so very hard for the kingdom of God.

The Israelites were the first whom Jesus made Himself known to, but the Gentiles made up many of those who began following Jesus first.

Being a last born child, I fully appreciate and understand this good news.

Thank You God, that earthly rank is no determiner or bias that influences how You operate and how Heaven’s blessings are poured forth.

Genesis Day Thirty One

by Rev Joel Yong

Genesis 42:1-5
When Jacob learned that there was grain for sale in Egypt, he said to his sons, “Why do you look at one another?” And he said, “Behold, I have heard that there is grain for sale in Egypt. Go down and buy grain for us there, that we may live and not die.” So ten of Joseph’s brothers went down to buy grain in Egypt. But Jacob did not send Benjamin, Joseph’s brother, with his brothers, for he feared that harm might happen to him. Thus the sons of Israel came to buy among the others who came, for the famine was in the land of Canaan.

He was desperate for food amidst this famine so he sends his sons to Egypt to buy grain.
But he is traumatized by the loss of Joseph, who disappeared years ago and he was allegedly killed by wild animals, according to the account told.

I do not know if he believed those accounts, and blamed himself.
After all, Jacob was the one who sent Joseph out to look for his brothers.

Genesis 37:12-14
Now his brothers went to pasture their father’s flock near Shechem. And Israel said to Joseph, “Are not your brothers pasturing the flock at Shechem? Come, I will send you to them.” And he said to him, “Here I am.” So he said to him, “Go now, see if it is well with your brothers and with the flock, and bring me word.” So he sent him from the Valley of Hebron, and he came to Shechem.

Or perhaps he found something fishy, and did not trust his sons, thinking something else may have happened to Joseph.

Whatever the case, because of his loss, he now clings tightly to his precious youngest, Benjamin. A son even younger than Joseph was.

But watch what happens next.
Joseph now unrecognizable in Egyptian garb, meets his brothers, plots to make them bring Benjamin down to Egypt for he longs to see him. He does so, by pretending to remand Simeon as prisoner until they return with Benjamin.

Jacob’s response to this, is telling.

Genesis 42:38
But he said, “My son shall not go down with you, for his brother is dead, and he is the only one left. If harm should happen to him on the journey that you are to make, you would bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to Sheol.”

He chose to keep Benjamin by his side and let Simeon languish in prison.

Sometimes when losses are inflicted upon our lives, we react by doing whatever we can to cling onto what is left and prevent a similar outcome from ever happening …

Our colleague backstabs us and we become suspicious of what other colleagues now mean when they say something to us …
Our heart gets broken when our lover leaves, and we become jealously protective of our next boyfriend or girlfriend, even stifling them …
Our tendency seems to deviate towards that of a scarcity mindset …
Instead of one that trusts God for what is ahead …

It even blinds us, like it did Jacob.
Such that he devalued one son for another by effectively letting Simeon remain in captivity, out of his fear of losing Benjamin.

We wind up hurting those around us, with our responses created by our fear of further losses …

Genesis Day Thirty

by Rev Joel Yong

Genesis 41:14-16
Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they quickly brought him out of the pit. And when he had shaved himself and changed his clothes, he came in before Pharaoh. And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I have had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it. I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.” Joseph answered Pharaoh, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.”

He could have seized the opportunity to leverage himself.
But instead he pointed to God and credits God as the Source.

We are given much in life.
Our abilities.
Our finances.
Our influence.
Our relationships.
Our time.

What do you do … do you pat yourself on the back looking at all you have?

Jesus spoke about people like that–

Luke 12:16-21
And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’” But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”

Rest not, in the security of all around you, you did not do it on your own.

It is God who gave you what you have.
Be like Joseph.

Always credit Him.
Always remember.
Always give thanks.

Then you will be a good steward of the Master’s blessings.

Genesis Day Twenty Nine

by Rev Joel Yong

Genesis 39:1-10
Now Joseph had been brought down to Egypt, and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard, an Egyptian, had bought him from the Ishmaelites who had brought him down there. The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master. His master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord caused all that he did to succeed in his hands. So Joseph found favor in his sight and attended him, and he made him overseer of his house and put him in charge of all that he had. From the time that he made him overseer in his house and over all that he had the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had, in house and field. So he left all that he had in Joseph’s charge, and because of him he had no concern about anything but the food he ate. Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance. And after a time his master’s wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, “Lie with me.” But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Behold, because of me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my charge. He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except yourself, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” And as she spoke to Joseph day after day, he would not listen to her, to lie beside her or to be with her.

His boss thought he was a valuable worker, because of the work he churned out.
His boss’ wife valued him too, because he was handsome in form.

How do the people around, appreciate you?
Do they appreciate you for what you can do for them, or for who you really are?

It’s important.
Because once you cease to be of help to them, they won’t value you anymore.

Potiphar turned against Joseph.
His wife falsely accused him of molest.

Genesis 39:16-21
Then she laid up his garment by her until his master came home, and she told him the same story, saying, “The Hebrew servant, whom you have brought among us, came in to me to laugh at me. But as soon as I lifted up my voice and cried, he left his garment beside me and fled out of the house.” As soon as his master heard the words that his wife spoke to him, “This is the way your servant treated me,” his anger was kindled. And Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined, and he was there in prison. But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.

But look at that last line.
When all human favor and support around him had ceased, God was still with Joseph.

And that is all that matters.
Because of God’s favor, Joseph rose to become the right hand man of Pharaoh.

So live, to seek God’s favor and not favor that comes from mankind, for that is fickle and untrustworthy.

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.

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.