Genesis 49-50

A Change In Perspective

“As far as I am concerned, God turned into good what you meant for evil. Genesis 50:20 NLT

I think this is one of the most encouraging verses in the Bible. It is a comforting reminder of the fact that God is in control of the affairs of men. It may not appear that way, but as the saying goes: looks can be deceiving. When all appears lost and your world seems to be caving in all around you, this verse stands as a reminder that God is in control. But it takes a heavenly perspective to see it. Joseph had that perspective. He had learned to see things from God’s point of view rather than from his own. He had developed the ability to see God’s hand in the affairs of life – even the times when things didn’t seem to be turning out too well.

Here, at the end of his long and incredibly remarkable life, he finds himself surrounded by his brothers as they confess the sin they had committed against him so many years before. Their father was now dead and they were afraid that his passing would now give Joseph the freedom to get back at them for their having sold him into slavery decades earlier. They were having a hard time imagining how Joseph could have ever forgiven them for what they had done. In spite of the fact that he was now the second most powerful man in all of Egypt. Even though things had turned out well for Joseph, they thought he was still holding a grudge. But nothing could have been further from the truth. Joseph assured them that their fears were baseless. He told them, “As far as I am concerned, God turned into good what you meant for evil. He brought me to the high position I have today so I could save the lives of many people” (Genesis 50:20 NLT). Joseph knew something his brothers didn’t know. He knew that God was in control. He knew that God had been orchestrating the circumstances surrounding his life since the beginning. He knew that God didn’t CAUSE his brothers to sell him into slavery, but that God USED their sinful action to accomplish His divine plan. Joseph knew that God was not responsible for their actions, they were. But he also knew that God was responsible for the outcome. What they had intended for evil, God had used for good. But Joseph hadn’t just arrived at this conclusion at the end of his life. He had known it for some time. We see him sharing his heavenly perspective all the way back in chapter 45.

But don’t be angry with yourselves that you did this to me, for God did it. He sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives. These two years of famine will grow to seven, during which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. God has sent me here to keep you and your families alive so that you will become a great nation. Yes, it was God who sent me here, not you! And he has made me a counselor to Pharaoh––manager of his entire household and ruler over all Egypt. – Genesis 45:5-8 NLT

God had sent Joseph to Egypt. He had an ultimate plan for Joseph’s life and it was bigger than a single moment in time. It was larger than that dark day when Joseph was betrayed by his brothers. It was big enough to include his false arrest and imprisonment, but not be derailed by it. You might say that God’s plan is flexible. It is not that He is surprised by any of our actions and has to improvise, because He is all-knowing and knows ahead of time what we are going to do. But God’s plan has always had to include the actions of sinful man. He has had to write His script for the story of redemption with the fact that fallen men and women are involved. But the end of the story remains unchanged. It all turns out right in the end. God is in control. Joseph knew this from experience. He had had dark moments in his life. He had had times when he questioned and doubted. He had asked God the “Why?” questions on more than one occasion. But he had also learned to see God’s hand in it all. He had developed a divine perspective. Oh, that I would do the same – to continually learn to see the divine fingerprints all over the pages of my life. To begin to understand that seemingly negative circumstances do not limit my God from accomplishing His will for my life. He has the ability to produce from the most difficult situations positive outcomes and powerful lessons on His faithfulness and love. Our God is large and in charge! He is in control. May we begin to truly see that and believe it in our lives.

Father, give me a divine perspective. Help me to see Your hand in my life. Forgive me when I allow the negative circumstances I encounter to make me doubt Your power and presence. You are there and You are in control. You are working Your divine plan to perfection, even when I can’t see it. Give me a growing awareness of the role You are playing in every event surrounding my life. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Genesisi 47-48

God’s Ways Are Not Our Ways

“But Jacob crossed his arms as he reached out to lay his hands on the boys’ heads. So his right hand was on the head of Ephraim, the younger boy, and his left hand was on the head of Manasseh, the older. Genesis 48:14 NLT

The danger in reading these Old Testament stories is to read them as just that – stories. In other words, we can end up reading them as simply some kind of ancient recounting of the lives of men and women who lived a long time ago in a culture and setting with which we can’t relate. In doing so, we miss out on the real message behind the stories – the message of God’s sovereign power and His redemptive plan for mankind. These are not the stories of Jacob and Joseph, they are the stories of God unfolding His divine plan for man’s future restoration through His own Son. In these stories we are given a glimpse of how God was working behind the scenes to orchestrate His plan, in spite of the fallen condition of men. You see this in the story of Jacob (Israel) blessing the sons of Joseph. We are told that in his old age, Jacob requests that Joseph bring his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim to him in order that he might bless them (Genesis 48:8-9). But an interesting thing happens as he blesses the two boys. The text says that he crossed his hands, putting his right hand on the head of the younger son and his left hand on the head of the older son. The text emphasizes Jacob’s extreme old age and seems to leave the read with the idea that he was just confused. Even Joseph sees what is happening and attempts to remove his father’s hands and correct the situation. This shouldn’t be happening! As the older son, Manasseh should be receiving the blessing. It was tradition. It was the way it had always been. Yet here was the old and seemingly senile Jacob giving his blessing to the wrong son!

Joseph was not happy with this turn of events. He wanted the blessing to go to Manasseh. But God had another plan. A plan that Jacob seemed to be in on. When Joseph attempted to remove his hand from the head of Ephraim and place it on the head of Manasseh, Jacob responded quite confidently, “I know what I’m doing, my son,” he said. “Manasseh, too, will become a great people, but his younger brother will become even greater. His descendants will become a multitude of nations” (Genesis48:19 NLT). This was not a mistake. This was not a case of dementia. And Jacob was not showing favoritism. It was part of the divine plan of God. Matthew Henry makes this assessment in his commentary on the Old Testament:

Jacob gave him to understand that he knew what he did, and that he did it not by mistake, nor in a humour, nor from a partial affection to one more than the other,but from a spirit of prophecy, and in compliance with the divine counsels. Manasseh should be great, but truly Ephraim should be greater. When the tribes were mustered in the wilderness, Ephraim was more numerous than Manasseh, and had the standard of that squadron (Num. 1:32, 33, 35; 2:18, 20), and is named first, Ps. 80:2. Joshua was of that tribe, so was Jeroboam. The tribe of Manasseh was divided, one half on one side Jordan, the other half on the other side, which made it the less powerful and considerable.

God had a plan for Ephraim. It did not follow the plans of men. God’s ways are not our ways. His plans trump our own. He may choose to do things differently than we would like. But in the end, His plans are always best, and His plans are always right. Matthew Henry goes on to say:

God, in bestowing his blessings upon his people, gives more to some than to others, more gifts, graces, and comforts, and more of the good things of this life. He often gives most to those that are least likely. He chooses the weak things of the world; raises the poor out of the dust. Grace observes not the order of nature, nor does God prefer those whom we think fittest to be preferred, but as it pleases him. It is observable how often God, by the distinguishing favours of his covenant, advanced the younger above the elder, Abel above Cain, Shem above Japheth, Abraham above Nahor and Haran, Isaac above Ishmael, Jacob above Esau; Judah and Joseph were preferred before Reuben, Moses before Aaron, David and Solomon before their elder brethren. See 1 Samuel 16:7. He tied the Jews to observe the birthright (Deuteronomy 21:17), but he never tied himself to observe it. Some make this typical of the preference given to the Gentiles above the Jews; the Gentile converts were much more numerous than those of the Jews. See Galatians 4:27. Thus free grace becomes more illustrious.

The real star of the Bible is God. This is about Him. It is about His plan. It is about His gracious interaction with fallen mankind and His orchestration of a flawless plan to redeem men from the effects of the fall. It is about grace. John Wesley said this about the story of the blessing of Ephraim over Manasseh: “Grace observes not the order of nature, nor doth God prefer those whom we think fittest to be preferred but as it pleaseth him. God always does what pleases Him. He always does what is best. We may not understand it or even like it, but we can rest assured that God’s ways are always better than our ways. His plan is always better than our plan. And He is still working that plan out through our lives today, just as He did in the lives of Jacob, Joseph and Ephraim. Are you willing to trust God with your life today? 

Father, I want to grow in my trust of You. I want to become increasingly comfortable that things will not always work out the way I think they should, but that’s OK, because You are in control. You are working Your plan. You are doing things that I cannot see. I don’t have to panic or demand that You do things my way. I can even give up on my plans and expectations and not worry about it, because You are going to work out all things according to Your divine plan. You will do what pleases You and I will continue to learn that that outcome will always end up pleasing me. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Genesis 45-46

God’s Plan Is Greater Than Man’s

“God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. Genesis 45:7 NASB

These two chapters contain one of my favorite stories in the entire Bible. It is an amazing picture of the sovereignty of God and His amazing behind-the-scenes control over the affairs of men. We have seen all that has happened in the life of Joseph up until this point. Born into a large, God-fearing family, Joseph is loved by his father, but despised by his own brothers. Out of jealousy over his father’s inordinate affection, they plan to murder their brother, but then decide to sell him to slave traders at the last minute. Then they spend years covering up their act with lies, leaving their father believing his favorite son was killed by an animal of some kind. Joseph is carried to Egypt and sold on the auction block and ends up in the home of Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh’s bodyguard. But even in that, we saw that the Lord was with Joseph. He was watching over him. It was no coincidence that he ended up in Potiphar’s house. There he would encounter Potiphar’s wife, a woman who would attempt to seduce Joseph into committing adultery with her. But he refused, causing her to falsely accuse him of attempted rape. He ended up in prison, but not just ANY prison. He was placed in the prison where the prisoners of Pharaoh were confined. Yet another example of God’s sovereign hand in the affairs of Joseph’s life. And there in that prion, Joseph would meet two men who worked directly for Pharaoh. Joseph would end up interpreting their dreams – a skill Joseph demonstrated no where else before. God gave him that ability during his time in jail. One of those men was released and two years later would recommend Joseph as a possible interpreter for Pharaoh’s disturbing dreams. So Joseph ends up in the court of Pharaoh himself. And after providing Pharaoh with the meaning of his dreams and a recommended course of action, Joseph ends up as the second highest official in the land of Egypt! In that position he would orchestrate a huge relief effort designed to feed the nation and protect them through seven years of drought.

And in all that had happened to Joseph, he recognized the unmistakable hand of God. He told his brothers, “God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance” (Genesis 45:7 NASB). He assured them, “So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt” (Genesis 45:8 NASB). Joseph’s entire life was a picture of the sovereign hand of God. It had not been easy. It had been filled with trials and difficulties, but God was there, working behind the scenes to bring about just the right outcome at just the right time.

The sovereign will of God is hard for us to grasp. Yet the Scriptures assure us of its reality. “You can make many plans, but the LORD’s purpose will prevail” (Proverbs 19:21 NLT). “We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps” (Proverbs 16:9 NLT). God is in control. He is ALWAYS in control. He says of Himself, “What I have said, that will I bring about; what I have planned, that will I do” (Isaiah 46:11 NIV). And nowhere do you see that better illustrated than in the life of Joseph. God’s plans for Joseph had been in place long before he arrived in Egypt as a slave. His brothers formulated their plan to sell their brother, but God’s plan trumped theirs. God is able to use even what was meant for evil to accomplish His divine will. At the end of his life, Joseph would remind his brothers of his belief in the sovereign will of God: “As for you, you meant to harm me, but God intended it for a good purpose, so he could preserve the lives of many people, as you can see this day.” (Genesis 50:20 NET). Our God is sovereign. He reigns over the affairs of men. He rules over all creation and all created things. He holds everything in His hands and has the power to do with it what He alone desires. His plans cannot be derailed, defeated, or delayed. He will do what He has set out to do. And even the mistakes, sinful reactions, and ungodly plans of men cannot alter His plans for even a moment. God is never worried. God is never surprised. God is never fearful that His plans might fail. Because He knows, “What I have said, that will I bring about; what I have planned, that will I do” (Isaiah 46:11 NIV).

Father, what an assuring passage this should be to me. That you are in complete control of the affairs of men. You have a plan for my life and nothing I or anyone else can do will thwart that plan. You can even use my mistakes and sinful actions in such a way that Your will for me is still accomplished. I don’t always know how, but I know You do. You move in ways I cannot see. You act behind the scenes – invisible to my eyes, but intimately involved in my life each day. What you have planned for me, You will do. Thank You!  Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Genesis 44

A Changed Man

“Please, my lord, let me stay here as a slave instead of the boy, and let the boy return with his brothers. Genesis 44:33 NLT

When we last left Jacob’s brothers, they were taking part in a sumptuous feast as the guests of Pharaoh’s right-hand man. Little did they know that they were actually eating with their long-lost brother. They were too busy enjoying the grace and mercy of this powerful, yet beneficent dignitary. They were happy to be alive and not in prison. But to be eating great food as the guests of the one man they thought was going throw them all in prison when they returned – that was too good to be true.

Now we come to chapter 44. And in no time at all their feasting will turn to fear. Joseph is about to give them yet one more test of their integrity. He has his steward fill their sacks with grain and hide a valuable silver cup in the sack belonging to Benjamin. Joseph is going to see just how honest these guys really are. Have they really changed? Or are they the same brothers who sold him into slavery out of jealousy for the favoritism that Jacob had shown Joseph all those years ago (Genesis 37:18-24). Just look how Joseph set all this up. At the feast, he gave Benjamin five times the amount of food than he did the brothers (Genesis 43:34). He was showing this younger brother favoritism. And in doing so, he was testing the reactions of his older brothers. How would they respond? What would they do?

After the brothers left to return home, Joseph sends his servant after them. When he found them he was to accuse them of stealing a valuable silver cup. They would end up denying the accusation, but upon searching their belongings, it would be found in Benjamin’s sack. Just imagine how this must have hit these guys. In a matter of hours they had gone from a time of feasting to a time of fear. They must have been devastated. They were so sure of their innocence that they had vowed to surrender the life of the one caught with the cup and turn themselves over as slaves for life. Now they stood before his powerful Egyptian dignitary with no hope and the painful reality that they had just become slaves for the rest of their lives. But Joseph is not done with his test. Now he tells them that they can all go free – except for the one in whose sack the cup was found – Benjamin. This was their chance! They could all walk away as free men. All they had to be willing to do was sacrifice the life of their youngest brother.

But Judah spoke up. He recounts their trip home after their first journey to Egypt. He tells how his father had initially refused to allow Benjamin to accompany them on their return trip. But when they ran out of grain, he finally gave in – with much fear and heartache. Now Judah tells Joseph that he cannot return to his father without his younger brother. Even if it meant giving up his freedom. So he makes an astounding offer. He gives himself as the substitute for Benjamin. He will take the penalty intended for his younger brother. What makes this so unique is that years earlier, Judah had been the one to come up with the idea of selling Joseph into slavery. “‘What can we gain by killing our brother? That would just give us a guilty conscience. Let’s sell Joseph to those Ishmaelite traders. Let’s not be responsible for his death; after all, he is our brother!’ And his brothers agreed” (Genesis 37:26-27 NLT). He was quick to sell his brother up the river. Now, when confronted with the chance to do it all over again, he came up with a different solution. He would sacrifice himself. Judah was not the same man. He had changed. He now had a love for his father that he hadn’t had before. He had seen the pain his first decision had caused his father. He had witnessed the loss and knew that to subject his father to that same thing again would kill him. Rather than obsessing about himself and his own needs, Judah put others first – maybe for the first time in his life. He was living out the very words that Jesus would speak years later: “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13 NASB). Judah passed Joseph’s test. He did what Joseph was hoping he would do. Joseph knew that God was behind this whole story of his life. We will see that clearly in the chapters ahead. He knew that God had orchestrated this whole situation in order to put him right where he was. But he wanted to see that his brothers had also learned from their mistake. He wanted to see that they had changed. And they had. God had been working in their lives as well.

God is great. God is good. He is above and beyond all our circumstances – working behind the scenes in ways that we may not initially see or comprehend. But He is there. He was working in Judah. And He changed his heart. Circumstances have a way of doing that. Especially when we see that God is in the midst of them.

Father, You are in control. You always are. I just don’t always see it. You are even working in the lives of others in ways that I can’t see. I may expect them to be the same old person I have always known them to be, but You have a way of working in ways that are out of my sight and beyond my ability to understand. Thank You for reminding me through this story that You are in the life-changing, heart-transforming business. You always have been. And You are in the middle of changing me.  Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Genesis 42-43

The Unexpected, Undeserved Joy of Grace

“So they all feasted and drank freely with him. Genesis 43:34 NLT

If you had never read this story before, you would expect it to end in revenge and retribution. Joseph, the young man sold into slavery by his own brothers, had the chance to get even. He had every right and every opportunity to pay back his brothers for their treatment of him all those years ago. He could have had them imprisoned, beaten, permanently enslaved, or even killed. But instead, Joseph extends grace. He shows them mercy. This story ends in an unexpected way – with the brothers seated at the table of the one whom they have betrayed – eating and feasting together. In the midst of a time of famine, they are treated to a sumptuous feast. Instead of being treated as enemies, they are treated as special guests. They are given the royal treatment. Joseph’s actions towards his brothers is a perfect illustration of grace. He showed them unmerited favor. They did not deserve what they were receiving. In fact, they deserved just the opposite. Not only did Joseph throw a party in their favor, he is the one who had filled their sacks with money when they departed the first time (Genesis 42:27). Joseph paid for their grain our of his own pocket and returned their money to them. When they tried to give the money back, Joseph’s house steward informs them that their God must have put the money there, because he had their initial payment in his possession the whole time (Genesis 43:23). In other words, Joseph paid their debt. The grain they had been eating all this time had been a gift and had cost them nothing.

I can’t help but read this story and be reminded of how many times I have offended my Savior, Jesus Christ. Yet He showers me with grace. I regularly betray Him and turn my back on Him, and His response if the invite me to feast with Him. He extends to me grace, kindness, and mercy. These brothers knew what they deserved for their treatment of Joseph, and they had lived their lives fully expecting the other shoe to drop. They were waiting for God to get even with them for what they had done. “This has all happened because of what we did to Joseph long ago. We saw his terror and anguish and heard his pleadings, but we wouldn’t listen. That’s why this trouble has come upon us. ‘Didn’t I tell you not to do it?’ Reuben asked. ‘But you wouldn’t listen. And now we are going to die because we murdered him'” (Genesis 42:21-22 NLT). They were guilt-ridden and lived their lives fully expecting to be paid back for their indiscretion. But to their surprise, they found themselves being treated to a feast. And they don’t even know the whole story yet! Tomorrow, we will see their shock when they discover who it is that is treating them to a feast and showering them with favor. But we should be reminded that our God is showering us with favor each and every day of our lives. He is showing us undeserved grace. He is extending mercy. We have the opportunity to feast at His table each day. It makes no sense. It seems illogical. But it is the way of our Savior. “So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it” (Hebrews 4:16 NLT).

Father, thank You for Your grace. Thank You for reminding me that every day that I get to spend with You is a picture of the grace made available through Your Son. I can come boldly before Your throne and not fear retribution or revenge, because Jesus Christ has paid my debt in full. I owe nothing, but at the same time, I deserve nothing. And yet what I receive from Your hand is grace upon grace. Unbelievable!  Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Genesis 41

When the World Sees God In You

“As they discussed who should be appointed for the job, Pharaoh said, ‘Who could do it better than Joseph? For he is a man who is obviously filled with the spirit of God.’ Genesis 41:38 NET

Let’s face it. There are a lot of people out there today who are turned off by Christians and anything having to do with Christianity. They talk about our hypocrisy, our judgmental spirit, our it’s-my-way-or-the-highway mentality, our self-righteous behavior, and the overall lack of difference between our lifestyles and those of every other person in the world. Sure, some of it is unfair and uncalled for, but sometimes they have a point. When the world looks at our lives, what do they really see? Do they see Christ in us or do they simply see us trying to fake a Christ-like lifestyle?

In this story of Joseph, we see a young man who made an impression on everyone he met. There was something about him that was different. We see it in his reaction to the sexual advances of Potiphar’s wife. We see it in the way he handled himself in Potiphar’s house as his servant. We see it in his behavior even while in prison. Joseph was different. And the one thing that made him so different is pointed out to us by the author of the book of Genesis: “The Lord was with Joseph” (Genesis 39:2 NASB). God was with him and others were able to SEE the difference that the Lord’s presence made in Joseph’s life. We’re told that Potiphar “saw that the Lord was with  him and how the Lord caused all that he did to prosper in his hands” (Genesis 39:3 NASB). Even after his imprisonment, Joseph was given charge over everything in the prison by the chief jailer. Why? Because he saw that the Lord was with Joseph. He saw something different in the lifestyle of Joseph. He wasn’t just kind and gracious. He was intelligent and resourceful. He wasn’t just loving and patient. He was wise and had a way with people. There was just something about this young man that made him stand out from the rest. God was with him!

We see this most clearly in chapter 41 when Joseph is brought before Pharaoh himself. Two years earlier Joseph had successfully interpreted the dream of Pharaoh’s chief cupbearer, who had been imprisoned alongside Joseph. This man had promised to remember Joseph, but had said nothing for two long years. But now he recalled this special young man who had told him the meaning of his own dream, and he recommended him to Pharaoh. Joseph is cleaned up and brought before the great Egyptian leader. After listening to Pharaoh’s description of his dreams, Joseph gives him the meaning. But before doing so, Joseph told Pharaoh who the real interpreter of the dream was: God Himself. “It is beyond my power to do this,” Joseph replied. “But God will tell you what it means and will set you at ease” (Genesis 41:16 NLT).

Joseph told Pharaoh the meaning of his dream, then gave him a recommended course of action. Pharaoh was blown away by this young man. He saw in Joseph something he had not seen in any of his other leaders. He saw the Spirit of God. “Are we going to find anyone else who has God’s spirit in him like this?” (Genesis 41:38 MSG). Even Pharaoh, a pagan king of a godless nation, recognized the Spirit of God in Joseph’s life. This was not ordinary wisdom at work. This was not magic or sorcery he was witnessing. He clearly saw, as others had, the presence of the Almighty God in the life of Joseph. Pharaoh saw what he had in this young man – an opportunity to access the wisdom of God. He said of Joseph, ““Because God has enabled you to know all this, there is no one as wise and discerning as you are!” (Genesis 41:39 NET). So he put Joseph on his payroll. He wanted this guy on his team. He knew Joseph was something special because of his relationship with the Lord.

So what about you and me? Do others see God in us? Are they attracted to us because the see something in us that is not of this world? Or do they only see our abilities, our attitudes, our intelligence, our wisdom? The story of the life of Joseph is NOT the story of the life of Joseph. It is the story of the presence of God in the life of Joseph. God’s fingerprints are all over this story. God’s presence can be seen in every circumstance and situation in the life of this otherwise ordinary man. It is the presence of God that made Joseph special. And His presence made those around Joseph sit up and take notice. The world is looking for the same thing today. They would love to see men and women who have the true presence of God in them. They would love to see those of us who claim to know Christ, live as if we are under the control of Christ. And if we were, they would see a marked difference in our attitudes and actions. They would recognize that there is something greater at work in us than we could manufacture ourselves. Pharaoh was surrounded by the best and brightest Egypt had to offer. But when he encountered Joseph, he saw something he had never seen before – the power and the presence of God in the life of a man. And he couldn’t get enough of Joseph and his God.

What if that were to be the case for you and me today?

Father, may my life reflect that of Joseph. May I so allow the Your presence to live in me and direct me, that others would see You and not me. May they see Your power and not mind. May they witness your wisdom in place of mine. May they easily conclude that there is something radically different about me. And it is You!  Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Genesis 39-40

Out Of Sight, But Not Out Of Mind

“…the Lord was with him and whatever he was doing the Lord was making successful. Genesis 39:23 NET

In the previous three chapters, God seemed no where to be found. He was mentioned only once in the entire text, yet He was there – behind the scenes orchestrating and controlling events that to us looked completely out of His control. And now, as we pick up the rest of the story of Joseph, God seems to be everywhere. And there is a phrase that is repeated over and over again in this passage that should be a real source of comfort and encouragement to those of who are children of God and Christ-followers: “the Lord was with Him.” This story is full of the ups and downs of a young man’s life. It all started with Joseph being sold into slavery by his own brothers – all out of jealousy and the desire for revenge. He did nothing to deserve their actions – other than share with them a dream that they didn’t particularly like the meaning of. Yet they sold him to a band of Ishmaelite slave traders. They take him to Egypt, bound in chains, and sell him to Potiphar, the caption of Pharaoh’s bodyguard. But what does the text tell us? “The Lord was with Joseph.” Not just at this point, but He had been with Joseph all along the way. It is no coincidence that Joseph ended up in Egypt and was sold to this particular man. God was with Him. God was in complete control of the circumstances. And He made Joseph “successful.” We are told that “the Lord made everything he was doing successful” (Genesis 39:3 NET). Now keep in mind, Joseph was still a slave. He was still a long way from home. He was still suffering the injustice forced upon him by his own brothers. But the Lord was with him.

Everything was going great for Joseph. His presence in Potiphar’s house was even having a positive impact on his master. Things were looking up. Then the bottom falls out again. This time he is falsely accused of attempted rape by Potiphar’s wife – all because he turned down her sexual advances. But wait a minute! Wasn’t the Lord with him? Had the Lord left him? No. The Lord was with him and knew exactly what was going on. He had other plans for this young man and it was going to include imprisonment. The next thing we know, Joseph is in prison under false charges. He is innocent, but incarcerated none-the-less. His stock had dipped, but His God had not abandoned him. “But the LORD was with Joseph there, too, and he granted Joseph favor with the chief jailer” (Genesis 39:21 NLT). Now be honest. If you had been Joseph, wouldn’t your natural reaction to these circumstances have been to conclude that God had somehow left you or abandoned you? How could this be in God’s will? Why would a good and loving God allow this to happen to you? But the Lord was with Joseph there – even in the middle of prison. And the Lord made everything he did successful – even in prison!

But God was not done. Because in chapter 40 we are introduced to two characters who would have a profound impact on Joseph’s life. They would used by God to help introduce another new chapter into the story of Joseph and the story of God’s redemptive plan for His people. Chapter 40 ends on a negative note. It simply says, “Pharaoh’s cup–bearer, however, promptly forgot all about Joseph, never giving him another thought” (Genesis 40:23 NLT). Joseph had done this man a favor, and asked him to extend a favor in return. But he forgot all about Joseph. We are left with a picture of Joseph sitting in prison – forgotten and alone. But was he? No, the Lord was with him. The Lord had always been with him. The Lord was directing his path and determining his destiny. God was not done with Joseph yet. But if we stop here in the story, we will wrongly conclude that all is lost. We will falsely determine that Joseph has been abandoned by God. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Now think about this. Is God with you? Is He part of your life story? Is He behind the scenes orchestrating events and determining outcomes? It might be easy to conclude that He is not because of how things have turned out. But what if Joseph had done that? What if Joseph had decided that God was nowhere in his life story just because he had been wrongly imprisoned and unjustly forgotten? We can’t judge the presence of God based on our circumstances. He is there, regardless of how things may appear to be going for us – and He can prosper us even in the midst of difficulty. He has a bigger and better plan for you than what your current circumstances seem to indicate. In fact, difficulty can be a lousy determiner of God’s proximity. Things may not look like they’re going too well, but that does not mean God is uninvolved or out of control. The loss of a job does not indicate the loss of God’s favor. It may just be the opportunity to learn to trust Him. It could be your opportunity to see Him work in ways you never would have expected. Would Joseph have chosen to be sold into slavery? Did he enjoy being falsely accused and unjustly imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit? Was he happy at the prospect of being left to die in prison? NO! But he was learning a valuable lesson. He was learning to see the hand of God in his life. Did he fully recognize it at this point? Probably not. But there would come a day when he would look back over the span of his life and see the unmistakable hand of God over every event and circumstance he had ever encountered. God had been with Him. And God is with you!

Father, You are with me. I can’t always see you, but You are there. Thank You for reminding me that my circumstances cannot be the tool by which I determine your presence. Things are not always as they appear when You are involved. Because You are behind he scenes working Your plan to perfection. Prison could be a step towards promotion. Slavery could be a precursor to salvation. Help me rest in the reality that You are intimately involved in every circumstance of my life – whether I can see You or not. You are with me! Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Genesis 36-38

When the One Who Sees Is Hard to See

“Come on, let’s kill him and throw him into a deep pit. We can tell our father that a wild animal has eaten him. Then we’ll see what becomes of all his dreams! Genesis 37:20 NLT

These three chapters are filled with genealogies, stories of jealousy, hatred, and family disfunctionality. It would be so easy to read these chapters and conclude that God is nowhere to be found. His name is just mentioned once, and only in reference to the evil life that one of Judah’s sons lived before Him. There is no renewal of the covenant like we have seen so often before. There are no visions of God or visits from angels. No, there are only seemingly pointless lists of the generations of Esau, the shockingly sinister behavior of the sons of Jacob toward their younger brother Joseph, and the sad story of Judah and his treatment of Tamar. Where is God in all of this?

But if you know much about the Bible at all, you know “the rest of the story.” You know that what happens to Joseph has the hand print of God all over it. This extremely sad story would have a very happy ending. Even the story of Judah and Tamar, as dark and depressing as it appears to be, has a glimmer of light within it. Because one of the sons born to Tamar from her incestuous relationship with her own father-in-law, would end up being listed in the genealogy of the Messiah (Matthew 1:3).

I am reminded that while it is sometimes difficult to see God in the midst of the circumstances of life, He is there. God is ALWAYS there and He is always orchestrating and overseeing the affairs of men. At no time are we out of His sight or operating outside of His sovereign authority. We may violate His plans and disobey His law, we may act in unrighteous ways and do unconscionable things, but God is still there and He is still in control. We may not see Him, but He sees us. We may feel like things are completely out of His control, but time will always prove us wrong. While we may have a hard time seeing God in these three chapters, He is there. The story of Joseph may sound like a twisted tale of sibling rivalry gone bad, but we will learn that it is really the story of the sovereign hand of God over the affairs of men. God is behind the scenes putting in place His plan of salvation for the people of Israel, and setting the stage for His miraculous deliverance of them from slavery and bondage. Little did the brothers of Joseph know that they were setting in motion an incredible series of circumstances that would result in the Exodus, the great Old Testament foreshadowing of the coming Messiah and His deliverance of mankind from slavery to sin.

As you read through the Old Testament, always look for God. He is there. You may not see Him immediately, but rest assured that He is there, hidden behind all the scenes and shadows of deception, hatred, moral failure, and human sinfulness. He is there. And He is the God who sees. Do you see Him in your life today? Look for Him. He is not always obvious. But rest assured that He is there behind those circumstances that appear so bleak and foreboding. He is there behind that relationship that looks hopeless. He is there behind your feelings of helplessness. He is there behind all your doubts, fears, and feelings of weakness. He is there. But we must look for Him. And sometimes we will not see Him clearly until time has passed and we are able to look back and see His fingerprints all over that portrait of our lives.

Father, You are there. You are here. You have not gone anywhere and You are not busy somewhere else. You are intimately and powerfully involved in my life and, while I may not see You clearly right now, the day will come when I will. Open my eyes today so that I might see You in the midst of my day. And when I can’t, give me the faith to believe that You are there. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Genesis 34-35

A Faithful God Among Unfaithful People

“So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Get rid of the foreign gods you have with you, and purify yourselves and change your clothes. Genesis 35:2 NLT

These two chapters continue to document the sad saga of mankind’s downward spiral into sin and and depravity. As we follow the lives of God’s covenant people, we are exposed to the flaws and failures in their lives as well as the lives of the others inhabitants of the planet. And the picture is not a pretty one. Chapter 34 begins with the rape of Jacob’s only daughter, Dinah, by Shechem, one of the “princes of the land.” Dinah is probably 14-15 years old when this tragedy occurs. Having defiled this young girl, Shechem begs his father to get her for his bride. No shame. No remorse or regret. Just unbridled  lust. His actions lead the sons of Jacob to seek revenge. And like their father, they do so by deceit. They trick their enemies, convincing them to agree to have all the males in their community circumcised. Three days after going through this ritual the men of Shechem’s family are slaughtered by Simeon and Levi. Then the rest of the sons of Jacob loot the city and take everything in it. Revenge, greed, murder, deception. Sin breeds sin – both inside and outside of the family of God.

Then right in the middle of all this wickedness, God enters in. He calls Jacob to return to Bethel, where God first confirmed His covenant with him (Genesis 28:10-19). But before Jacob can obey, he has to instruct his household to do a little housekeeping. “Get rid of the foreign gods you have with you, and purify yourselves and change your clothes” (Genesis 35:2 NIV). I find it fascinating that Jacob has to instruct his own family to purge their tents of any and all foreign gods. This would have included the household idols that Rachel had stolen from her father (Genesis 31:19). Jacob collects all the idols, rings, amulets, and other cultic tokens and then hides them under a tree which was near the city of Shechem. Notice that he doesn’t destroy them, he just conveniently hides them until they return from worshiping God. In the face of God’s faithfulness we see the constant faithlessness of men. The passage seems to infer that Jacob had every intention of returning to that tree and digging up the idols and pagan trinkets and returning them to their rightful owners. He was working both sides of the street, keeping his relationship with Yahweh intact, but also hedging his bets by allowing the worship of other gods as well.

Yet in spite of the unfaithfulness of men, God once again confirms His covenant promise to Jacob, reminding him of his recent name change and confirming the promise made to Jacob’s grandfather years earlier. “I am God Almighty; be fruitful and increase in number. A nation and a community of nations will come from you, and kings will come from your body. The land I gave to Abraham and Isaac I also give to you, and I will give this land to your descendants after you” (Genesis 35:11-12 NIV). God is faithful. God is a covenant-keeping God who never fails to keep His word, regardless of the fickleness and failings of fallen men. He tells Jacob that He is God Almighty, El Shaddai, the mighty or overpowering One. He is great, powerful, strong, and in complete control of any and all circumstances. Yet He is gracious, merciful, and faithful. It should be a comfort to us that in the midst of all the sin and corruption surrounding us, there is a God who loves us faithfully and fully. He will do what He has promised to do. He will never fail us or let us down.

Father, You are faithful in spite of my unfaithfulness. You stay true to Your word, even when I tend to break mine. I can count on You to be there for me, even in the middle of all the sin that surrounds me. Thank You for reminding me that You are the almighty God, powerful and true. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Genesis 31-33

A Mighty God

“Then he built an altar there and named it El-Elohe-Israel (Mighty Is the God of Israel). Genesis 33:20 MSG

Here at the end of chapter 33 we have a different Jacob than the one we saw leave under less-than-perfect circumstances 24 years earlier. On that day, he left a deceiver and a runaway, attempting to escape the wrath of his brother Esau, for having cheated him out of his birthright. He had left alone and in fear for his life. But now, 24 years later, he returns home, a very wealthy man with a very large family. But he still has lingering fears and doubts about how he will be received. He still has the heart of a deceiver. He struggles with deception and dishonesty. He wrestles with fear and doubt. He even wrestled with God. And that seems to be the main difference between the old Jacob and the new Israel. His awareness of God in his life. All throughout these three chapters we are given a glimpse into his growing awareness of and experience with God. God had been with him from day one. Back in chapter 28, we saw God make a promise to Jacob long before he got to the land of his uncle Laban: “What’s more, I will be with you, and I will protect you wherever you go. I will someday bring you safely back to this land. I will be with you constantly until I have finished giving you everything I have promised” (Genesis 28:15 NLT). And God had kept His promise. He had prospered and protected Jacob for 24 years, and Jacob recognized it. He saw the hand of God in his life. “…the God of my father has been with me…” (Genesis 31:5 NASB). “Yet your father has cheated me and changed my wages ten times; however, God did not allow him to hurt me” (Genesis 31:7 NASB). “Thus God has taken away your father’s livestock and given them to me” (Genesis 31:9 NASB).

Jacob had a growing awareness that the Lord God had been with him during these “wilderness days.” God had been watching over him. In fact, God confirms that fact when He tells Jacob in a dream, “I have seen all that Laban has been doing to you” (Genesis 31:13 NASB). God had been watching Jacob the entire time. And He had been working behind the scenes to direct Jacob’s paths. So when God appeared to Jacob and commanded him to return home, Jacob obeyed. Sure, he still struggled with doubt and fear. He allowed his old deceptive self to take over, refusing to tell his uncle he was leaving and clandestinely departing without saying a word. The old Jacob was alive and well, but he was growing in his awareness of and trust in God. He even went to the mat with God – literally. He got to go hand-to-hand with the pre-incarnate Christ Himself, refusing to let Him go until He blessed him. Which reveals the Jacob we all know and love. In spite of God’s verbal promise to watch over and keep him, and Jacob’s personal testimony that God had done just that, he still was not satisfied until he got a verbal blessing from the mouth of God. So he wrestled with God and got his blessing, along with a name change and a limp. From that point forward he was to be called Israel – “he fights with God.” What a perfect name for this guy. Jacob knew he had seen God and said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been spared” (Genesis 32:30 NASB). Jacob had seen the face of and felt the hand of God in his life. And he would never be quite the same.

Fear and doubt would still be his constant companions. He would still struggle with deception and deceit. He would tend to take matters into his own hands. But he knew that God was there. When returning to confront his brother Esau, we see Jacob relying on his own scheming, but he also couples it with prayer. He recognizes his unworthiness and asks God to keep His promise to protect him (Genesis 32:9-12). Jacob bounced between faith in the promises of God and his fear of men. But don’t we all? Don’t we all see the hand of God in our life, but still doubt and fear? Don’t we all wrestle and contend with God, and then take matters into our own hands, doubting that He can really do what He has promised to do?

But when Jacob finally arrived safely home, having been restored to a right relationship with his long-estranged brother, he put up an altar and worshiped the One who had made it all possible. Jacob knew he had little or nothing to do with his success those 24 years or with his brother’s warm reception. It was all the work of God. So he called the place where he built his altar, El-Elohe-Israel – “a mighty God is the God of Israel.” It had taken 24 years, but Jacob had learned a valuable lesson about his God. Because this name was a personal statement. He is Israel and the God of whom he speaks is HIS God. He, Israel, served a mighty, powerful, personal God. His God was involved in his life. His God saw everything going on in his life. His God was a promise-keeping God. His God was a God who was willing to wrestle with him and not destroy him. His God was involved in every area of his life, behind the scenes, orchestrating every event and every circumstance. So what about your God? What about my God? Can I say, “a mighty God is the God of Ken?” Do I see Him? Am I wrestling with Him? Is my awareness of Him growing with each passing day? Do I trust Him to keep His promises to me?

Father, You are a mighty God. And You are trying to show me just how mighty You really are. Not just in history, but in my life every day. Give me a growing awareness of Your presence and power in my life. You are there and You care. You are working behind the scenes in ways I can’t even see. You wrestle with me virtually every day. Sometimes You leave me limping. But never let me miss Your presence in my life. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men