Peace Genesis 47-48

But God wanted Jacob around a little longer, so he didn’t die after embracing Joseph. Instead, he settled in the land of Goshen. 

Once there, Jacob first experienced God keeping his nation separate from Egyptians. Egyptians despised shepherds, so voluntarily they wouldn’t have anything to do with them.

Second, Jacob experienced meeting Pharaoh himself. Again, can you picture the encounter? Joseph himself brought Jacob to Pharoah, maybe in his fancy chariot or a parade into the city? Can you imagine Jacob’s eyes as he beheld great monuments being built? Huge storehouses of food? The wealth of the Pharaohs?

And Jacob was Joseph’s father. Earlier we heard Pharaoh saw Joseph was a father-figure, so this was like meeting a long-lost grandfather to him, a piece of who Joseph was.

The first question from Pharoah was about how old Jacob was. Jacob humbly responded, “The days of the years of my sojourning are 130 years. Few and evil have been the days of the years of my life, and they have not attained to the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their sojourning.”

Jacob knew what he was not. He was not a saint and fell sort of his ancestors. And he wasn’t afraid to admit it.

And then Jacob, after all the grandeur or Egypt he had seen, went on to bless Pharaoh. Can you imagine it? The wandering shepherd blessing the Pharaoh? I would think it came out of gratitude for all Pharoah had done for Joseph, and some out of protocol for all Pharoah had given his family, but I also believe God gave him the freedom to bless Pharaoh for believing Joseph about the interpretation of the dream and providing for not only Egypt but surrounding nations. Pharoah had also recognized God’s power in Joseph.

God does bless unbelieving nations, I believe, to bring them to himself. Blessings also reveal sin. It was also part of the “promise” to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that their nation would bless other nations.

Third, by living longer, Jacob was able to bless Joseph and his children. In Chapter 47, we see the precious scene of Joseph with his boys and his ailing father. Thinking Jacob was making a mistake in the placement of hands, he corrected him, but Joseph should have known there are no mistakes in God’s economy.

What God does, God means to do.

So in the midst of famine, Jacob and his family experienced peace. Joseph continued to be successful on Pharaoh’s behalf, bringing the Egyptian people and their land under Pharaoh’s domain. 

But Israel, the first time they are called by their national name, “Settled in the land of Egypt, in the land of Goshen. And they gained possessions in it, and were fruitful and multiplied greatly.

Making Peace – Genesis 21

I’ve struggled with including this story, because I feel as if we are creeping along in Genesis, but the Lord has reminded me that he put it here for a purpose. It seems so not a part of the story of the nation, and yet, isn’t that how our lives are? We’re in the middle of one challenge, when another one comes our way.

Abraham finally has his son and the promises of God feel like they are about to happen. Even the ruler Abimelech recognizes it, saying. “God is with you in all that you do.” And he wants to get in on a good thing.

But there is an issue between them. Abimelech’s servants had seized Abraham’s well. Abimelech didn’t even know it had happened. Instead of Abimelech making amends, Abraham was the one to give Abimelech sheep and oxen so that they could have peace.

I see two principles. First, God wants us to tell others when they have hurt us, especially if they seem unaware of it. It something stands between us, we can’t get past it until it is acknowledged. Honesty is a good thing.

Recently, Roger and I had a good, hard, conversation. As a woman, there have been times when I have felt “less than.” We grew up and served in cultures which reinforced the leadership of the man in marriage, of which I don’t disagree. But there have been times when Roger’s leadership left me feeling as if I shouldn’t enter into a conversation as an equal but needed to defer. Like Abimelech, Roger was totally unaware.

Secondly, sometimes God wants us to make the first move to give sacrificially to the other person in order to have peace. In this case, Abraham gave to Abimelech in a way that the truth about the well could never doubted.

This is harder than being honest. Usually, we want our wrong to be righted, to have the other person apologize, to make retribution to us. But sometimes, God is asking us to go over and beyond forgiveness, to blessing, blessing those who have wronged us.

God wants us to live in peace. Abraham planted a tree at the spot where they made peace. And he “called there on the name of the Lord, the Everlasting God.” He knew that someday all the land would be the land of his people. But they needed peace to get to that time and place. 

Who does God want me to go beyond forgiveness and bless today?

Greetings – Philemon

We have lots of ways of greeting others. “Hi! How are you?” is a common greeting, but have you noticed how few people really seem interested in the answer?

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Grace and peace seem to be a common greeting from Paul. It’s used in Titus, the book right before Philemon (1:4b). It makes you wonder if it’s just common or if Paul really meant every word he wrote. But let’s give him the benefit of the doubt…

Grace – grace is what they both had in common. Philemon and Paul had both received saving grace. They were also receiving grace for daily living, although in different circumstances: Philemon was in his nice house, free to live his life, while Paul was in prison. 

Peace – peace is something we all desire. Philemon certainly did not want trouble with the church in his home, although he knew every service was a risk, every newcomer suspect. And Paul certainly didn’t want things to get worse in jail. At least in peace he could continue to do ministry.

But where do grace and peace come from?

Ultimately, God the Father – he is sovereign and all powerful. He is the one in control of the world and everything in it, that he created and set into motion.

But even more, personal peace comes our Lord Jesus Christ. When we were far from God, Jesus bridged the gap. Romans 3:23-24 says, 

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
And are justified by his grace as a gift,
Through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

Through Jesus, we not only have grace, but peace.

In the midst of an election season, we need both grace and peace. We need to extend grace to others, just as we ourselves have received grace. And we need to find peace, not as the world experiences peace, but as Jesus gives us peace.

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you;
Not as the world giveth, give I unto you.
Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
(John 14:27)

Grace and peace I want to leave with you today —

Pray for Peace – Psalm 122

There’s a Twitter battle going on this morning about how much God was referenced at the RNC last night, that we are not the “promised land” and verses used in the Bible should not be applied. I try to stay away from political conversations which divide or manipulate and realize I may be heading into dangerous territory here, but Psalm 122 says:

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!

In my margin, I had written next to Jerusalem, “home country.”

What is wrong with praying for the peace of your nation, whatever your nation is? It’s not praying for a political party to win, or a type of government, or even one value system to prevail. It’s for the individuals to not be torn up with war, hate, divisiveness, death and devastation that comes with violence and war. 

And it doesn’t say how we will get to peace. Sometimes, in Bible history, the Israelites had to go through war in order to get to peace.  Some had to stand up against the government ruling them, risking their lives. Sometimes it was through treaties. We are encouraged to “seek justice” in the Bible. Why can’t we seek peace through justice? Or justice through peace?

For my brothers and companions’ sake
I will say, “Peace be within you!”
For the sake of the house of the LORD our God,
I will seek your good.

I guess I’m convicted this morning to make this my prayer: 

“For my brothers and companions’ sake, I say, ‘Peace be within you!’ And for myself, I pray the same. Whatever is taking us over the top of disagreement, whatever is taking us to the place we no longer respect others, whatever is grinding inside us that wants to take control over others, release it, Lord, I pray. I ask for us to find peace together, recognizing wrongs, repenting with a desire to change, and forgiving ourselves and others. I pray this for all political parties and individuals that we would let go of our pride and selfishness, no matter how we try to justify it.

“Lord, I pray that we seek your goodness on this earth. Humble us. Break us so that we can pray ‘your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.’ We are such a poor reflection of your goodness. We will never have perfection here on earth, in our city, in our home country. But we do pray for your peace, within us, as well as the courage to seek peace.”


Hate Yourself? Psalm 120

Ever wish you knew the context of a Psalm? Psalm 120 is fascinating, and I can’t help but wonder what motivated it…

In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me.
Deliver me, O LORD, from lying lips, for a deceitful tongue.
What shall be given to you, and what more shall be done to you, you deceitful tongue?
A warrior’s sharp arrow, with glowing coals of the broom tree!

Obviously, the Psalmist was not happy with himself. He is calling out to his God to save him from a part of himself, a part of his body, driven by thoughts within his spirit. 

He has a deceitful tongue. Deceit is defined as “the action or practice of deceiving someone by concealing or misrepresenting the truth.” Not only has the Psalmist said something hurtful, he has twisted the truth so that someone else believed something untruthful. It’s gone from saying words to resulting in actions.

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” is the childhood taunt. The deceitful tongue says words that turn into “sticks and stones” that break bones. 

This doesn’t sound like a onetime offense.  It has become a part of the character of this person’s tongue, part of its name. And it’s so powerful, it is associated with war, warriors, arrows and fire. No wonder he’s calling for help from the Lord – this is dangerous stuff!

Woe to me, that I sojourn in Mesheck, that I dwell among the tents of Kedar!
Too long have I had my dwelling among those who hate peace.
I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war.

 I’m not sure where the places are, but he doesn’t sound as if he is at home, where he once knew how to control his tongue, before it became so deceitful. He’s around influences saying something very different than what he believes. I think who we hang out with, the circumstances of our lives, does affect our vocabulary, even our motivations.

There was news report a few minutes ago about a brutal attack where a man was kicked in the head. Some may consider me naïve, but I like to believe the best of people, that the kicker didn’t leave his house thinking, “I wonder who I can kick unconscious?” But there was something about that crowd that made him think it was acceptable.

The Psalmist’s aw-ha is in the last sentence, “I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war!” First, he defines what his heart really wants, with no deception. He wants peace. Second, he defines the problem, that no matter what he says, others are looking for a fight.

He’s got a hard, hard choice to make. Does he continue with a deceitful tongue, manipulating the situation or his words to be accepted and maybe change the circumstances? Or does he say his heart’s desire?

What if the man who kicked the victim had said, “this isn’t me? This isn’t who I am.  I don’t want to do this,” and walked away? 

We may not be on the edge of war, but we face similar issues – do we express our hearts or say what others will agree with? Do we speak plainly so others see a choice or do we try to manipulate situations to get our way? 

Let’s cry out to the Lord, confessing deceitful tongues and asking for new ones who will praise God’s name.