For the past several weeks we have been speeding through the first few books of the Old Testament. In our journey we have highlighted specific areas of interest to help us gain a better understanding of the Bible, God, and what He was up to in creating the world and in the creating of the nation of Israel as His holy chosen people.
Last week I spent our time together talking about the nation of Israel and their trek to Mt. Sinai. This journey to the mountain concluded with receiving the law (which included the Ten Commandments), the instructions to build the transportable Tabernacle, and the tragedy as the Israelites willingly walked into rebellion to God through the act of idolatry.
Today, we are going to fast-forward to the wilderness voyage and stop at the border of the Promised Land. Our text for today is Numbers 13:25 – 14:25. I would invite you to go to this passage and while you are finding it, I will give some background to get us caught up.
I am sure you noticed that I skipped completely over the Leviticus. This bypass in no way suggests that it is an unimportant book, in fact it is, as Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers are all linked concerning the preparation of the fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant and forming the Israelites into the holy people of God. We also see in these books the consistency of God’s character and responses to Israel’s behavior throughout. So, we may all be on the same page, here is a summary of each book as they link together to tell the bigger picture of what God is doing in His people…
This is where we will pick up this morning as we look at Israel’s continual trust issues and their rebellion through their lack of trust in God and His ordained leadership.
Up to this point God has faithfully guided, provided for, and protected Israel in their wilderness journey. The wilderness represents a place of preparation and testing. We see this with Israel as they were being prepared and tested in the wilderness. John the Baptist lived in the wilderness as he was being prepared to be voice of the One who was greater than he. Jesus was tempted in the wilderness for forty days.
Once the Israelites arrive at the border of the Promised Land the LORD commands Moses to send spies into the land of Canaan. He was ordered to send one leader per tribe (of the twelve tribes of Israel) to go with Joshua to spy out the land. Moses tells them to…
Numbers 13:25 – 14:25
This passage is divided into three parts, and we will look at each one individually.
I.The Good News, The Bad News, The Good News, The Bad News (25 – 33)
II.Israel’s Rebellion (14:1 – 12)
III.Moses’ Intervention (14:13 – 25)
The Good News, The Bad News, The Good News, and the Bad News
The Good News
Vs 25 – 27: The spies were exploring the land for forty days and upon their arrival back to Moses and Aaron, they gave a full report of their findings. They reported that the land is plentiful, and the soil is healthy. It is flowing with milk and honey, (this is obviously a reference to the promise God made to Moses) in Exodus 3:8, “ So I have come down to rescue them from the power of the Egyptians and lead them out of Egypt into their own fertile and spacious land. It is a land flowing with milk and honey—the land where the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites now live.” While in the land of Canaan the spies took some samples of fruit, and the grapes were so large that one cluster needed to be carried on poles. This was good news!
The Bad News
Vs 28 – 29: According to the spies the land was filled with powerful people inhabiting large and fortified cities. This becomes the new narrative. The men start to focus on the obstacles that they will face. The first obstacle was the land is filled with the descendants of Anak who was a clan or family of noted giants. They could not see past the size of some of the inhabitants and even though these giants were big, the God they served was much bigger. The second obstacle was their enemies, the Amalekites lives in the land. The Amalekites were descendants of Esau and even though their patriarch’s Esau and his brother Jacob had patched up their differences, apparently their ancestors had not. It was the Amalekites who attacked Israel in the desert on their journey to Mt. Sinai and Israel won the battle because of Moses’ hands being raised. This was bad news.
The Good News
Vs 30: But one of the spies, a young man full of faith and trust in God, spoke up and quieted all the grumbling and negativity and said, “We can do this! This land is ours for the taking!” His faith and trust were grounded in the belief that God could win this battle for them. This good news!
The Bad News
Vs 31 – 33: Unfortunately, the dissenter’s voices rose louder than Caleb’s voice. Their lack of faith and trust in God was infectious as they spread the word that the inhabitants of the Promised Land were stronger than Israel. They exaggerate their report by saying the land will devour anyone who lives there, thus referring to the supposed hostile living situations and inhabitants. The embellishment continues as they tell the Israelites that all the men they observed are of great size. Let’s not forget to mention, there are giants in the land, and they make us look like insects in comparison to them. There is no way we can defeat them! This is bad news.
Vs: 14:1 – 4: Word spread, and the Israelites cried out in protest to Moses and Aaron. Once again, they start blaming them for their current circumstances. Eventually their complaining turns to God. They say, “Why is the Lord taking us to this country only to have us die in battle? Our wives and our little ones will be carried off as plunder! Wouldn’t it be better for us to return to Egypt?” Really?! Their faith in God is so small that they would rather go back to Egypt than to stay and fight for the land He has PROMISED them. If this isn’t bad enough, they decide they want to vote Moses and Aaron out of leadership and appoint a new leader to return them Egypt!
Vs 5 – 9: Upon hearing this Moses and Aaron fall on their faces before the congregation of Israel. Theologian Gordon Wenham writes, “No wonder Moses and Aaron fell on their faces not to plead for their lives, but to express their awe at the sacrilegious blasphemy of the people.” This vulgar display of disbelief and heresy the Israelites show is VERY concerning to Moses and Aaron. Wenham continues, “(Falling on your face) in Numbers usually anticipates some great act of judgment. Moses and Aaron, sensing the presence of God, fall to the ground in fear at what he is about to do.”
Caleb and Joshua respond in a more traditional way by tearing their clothes to show how deeply distressed they are with the congregation. They try to reason with the people by telling them if God is with them, then they will be successful. In fact, they note, God is on their side and their enemies do not, so victory is inevitable.
Vs 10 – 12: One would think that after a faith filled speech encouraging the Israelites to trust God, and reminding them of his trustworthiness, that the natural response would be to rally up the troops and advance. This is not what happens. The people start talking about stoning Joshua and Caleb. This does not refer to an uncontrolled mob killing. Remember, they recently had the law given to them, so the nation had the judicial authority to have them stoned for major religious crimes. However, no crimes were committed. Ironically, the congregation wants to have them stoned for following God’s lead. Regardless, Israel rejected Caleb and Joshua’s accusation of Israel’s rebellion to God and incorrectly claim they are false witnesses worthy of stoning.
Naturally, God is not happy with the Israelites, and he vows to destroy the Israelites and start all over again. He tells Moses He will make a new nation, a stronger nation, and a greater nation.
Vs 13: Moses’ response is not what some would think. Had I been in Moses’ shoes I probably would have responded, “Ok, if that’s what you think is the right thing to do, then so be it.” But his response is just the opposite he says, “Don’t do that! What will people think if you destroy the people you delivered from captivity? Remember who you are and what you represent!”
Vs 17 – 19: Moses pleads for God to be patient with Israel and to pardon their sins. He reminds God (not that He needed reminding) of his character… He is patient, unfailing in love, forgiving of sins, and just.
Vs 20 – 25: God shows mercy and does not destroy the Israelites. He does act justly because he forbids every single person alive at that time to enter the Promised Land, except for Joshua and Caleb. He then instructs them to not advance to the Promised Land, but instead head back towards the Red Sea.
This is a sad ending to the story since the unbelief, lack of trust and rebellion against God led to more wandering in the desert. If only the Israelites would have responded properly to Caleb’s plea, then the Israelites could have entered the Promised Land that very next day… But they didn’t.
So how can this passage be applied in our everyday lives? Here are four suggestions…
 Wenham, G. J. (1981). Numbers: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 4, p. 136). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
Last week we started our very quick journey through Exodus. I spent most of my time looking at the life of Moses and how God developed him as the leader who would lead the Israelites out of captivity in the land of Egypt. What I did not go over was the true themes or as some call “the big theological ideas” of Exodus, and I saved sharing those for today since I believe they tie in closely with what we I will talk about. The first theme or theological idea is the most dominant idea, God and God alone is worthy of worship. This idea is summarized in the first commandment found in Exodus 20:2,“I am the Lord your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery. You must not have any other god but me.” There is no other God that can make this claim to the nation of Israel; thus, no other God is worthy of worship. The second theme is God’s Mountain. Mt. Sinai (sometimes called Horeb) is the place where Moses met with God. When all things are considered, the Israelites were free from captivity so they could get to God’s Mountain to worship Him. When you look at a map you can tell that Mt. Sinai was the destination at first and not the Promised Land. As you can see the route to the Promised Land was not the most direct route. So, the natural conclusion is that the Promised Land was not the original destination, Mt. Sinai was. The third theological idea is God gives a lot of commands. When reading through the latter parts of Exodus that detail the MANY commands from God, we may tend to skip over these mandates and conclude that they are boring and redundant. However, the writer of Exodus and the Israelites deemed the receiving of the law as necessary and a key moment in their story. The last theological theme is the complaining, grumbling, and rebellion of the Israelites. Israel appears to have difficulty going along with the plan and fully trusting God. Time and again God delivers them from peril, the people respond in gratitude and eventually go back to grumbling and complaining.
The Law and the Ten Commandments (I speak of these as two separate entities, but keep in mind the Ten Commandments are part of the Law) are not just a list of dos and don’ts or rules that must be followed to go to heaven, to win God’s approval or put Him in our debt. No, they are commands or mandates given by God to his people whom He just delivered, rescued, and redeemed from enslavement in Egypt. For the newly freed Israelites, receiving, observing, and keeping the commandments should be, at the minimum, the grateful response to His love, grace, and mercy. They reflect the way God’s people were called in response to be holy (set apart) and they reflect God’s nature (attributes) that shows us what He looks like and what He desires from His people.
The true purpose of the law and the ten commandments to reveal humans sin nature and rebellion: Ultimately, they reveal that people do not like God (or anyone for that matter) telling us what we can and cannot do. The truth is the Law and the Ten Commandments should bring us to our knees and point us to our great need for Jesus. They show us that we cannot reach perfection and we cannot keep His commands perfectly. They reveal that we are sinful people. Now, we can either view the Law and the ten Commandments as rules constraining and restricting to keep under God’s thumb or we can view them as ways for free people, His people, to live in obedience to the God who has truly rescued, delivered, and set them free.
In our time together we are going to look at three specific areas of Exodus 19 – 40 that highlight where God is at work and how He is preparing Israel to become the nation He intends for them to become. We will look at the wilderness, Mt. Sinai, and the Tabernacle.
Wilderness – Walking with God (trust, obedience, and grumbling)
It didn’t take long after the Israelites were delivered from the hands of Egypt that they began to start complaining. What were they complaining about? Water and food! Now, one would think that as the Israelites left Egypt that they would have made sure they had provisions for survival like food and water, but alas we see that this was an oversight on their part.
Exodus 15:22 – 27: Three days after the Exodus from Egypt the Israelites were hungry and thirsty because they had not had anything to drink for three days. When they arrived at an oasis, they realized the water was bitter (so they called the place Marah which means bitter) and undrinkable. Naturally the Israelites start to complain, so Moses brings their complaint to God, and He instructs him to put some wood in the water and the water was made pure and drinkable. God provides water two more times in the wilderness.
Exodus 16:1 – 8: Many days later the people began to complain because there was no food for them. In God’s mercy, patience, and kindness he provides meat (quail) for the Israelites at night and a flakey substance (called Manna in the morning. We are not sure what manna is and neither did the Israelites because they called the food manna which means “what is it?”.
Now, let’s see how God provides the food… God says, “I am going to rain down food from heaven for you.” God literally gives them everything they need to survive in the desert even when they are complaining against Him and openly criticizing Him. But what this provision shows us is God’s grace, mercy, and patience with his chosen people. This has not changed over the centuries… We still complain, we shake our fists at God, and we call Him unjust and despite what we say or do against God, He still provides for our every need.
Exodus 13:20 – 22: God was with Israel from the moment they left Egypt. The pillar of fire by night and the cloud during the day was the manifestation of God’s presence remaining among the Israelites. These pillars of clouds and fire remained with the Israelites throughout their wilderness journey. This passage is a reminder that God’s presence is always with us. Even though we do not have physical fire and clouds to guide us and be present with us, we are assured that God presence is with us through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Exodus 17:8 -16: Not too far along in the Exodus account we find the Israelites in a war with the Amalekites. Moses appoints Joshua to lead the charge while Moses sits and watches up on a hill, holding his hands and staff in the air. As you can imagine this would be hard and strenuous. The problem was that whenever Moses put down his arms the Amalekites would start to overtake the Israelites. Moses’ brother Aaron notices this and they give him a rock to sit on and Aaron and Hur hold his arms up. How is that this newly freed and wandering group of Nomads able to defeat the Amalekites? Certainly, they did not have the training and army that other nations did, but they had the one true God who went before them and fought for them.
Moses spoke the promise of protection to the Israelites in Exodus 14:13 - 14, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. 14 The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.” This verse has been an encouragement to me throughout my life and ministry. God fights our battles for us. When we are in the midst of trials and tribulations, we need to remain calm and know that our God is interceding, protecting, and fighting for us.
Mt. Sinai – Meeting with God
The exodus is mainly the story or account of Israel getting to Mt. Sinai, and how everything that happens there is a preparation for the Israelites and their ultimate destiny. Mt. Sinai signifies…
Exodus 19: 1- 6: Israel had been enslaved in Egypt for over 400 years and God through Moses liberated them from captivity. Moses and the Israelites had been wandering in the desert for three months and they set up camp at the foot of Mt. Sinai. Moses goes up to the mountain and God called to him from there. God instructs Moses to speak to the Israelites on His behalf and He declares that Israel will be His own possession out of all the peoples in the earth, and they will be God’s kingdom of priests and His holy nation. Ultimately, God is declaring that Israel belongs to Him. He is their God; they are His people.
Moses comes down the mountain and informs the Israelites what God has said the people respond that they will do whatever the Lord says. He then goes back up to the mountain and receives specific instructions (ceremonial consecrations) as to how the nation must prepare for God’s descent to the mountain. Once again Moses goes down and tells the people what they must do.
On the third day it began to thunder, and lightning and a thick cloud enveloped the mountain and a loud trumpet sounded. God calls Moses back to the mountain to give him the 10 commandments.
The Receiving Place
One of the main purposes of Exodus is for the Israelites to get to Mt. Sinai to receive the law from God. Theologian Pete Enns writes, “The Israelites need to learn what it means to be God’s obedient people before they can enter their new homeland, the land of Canaan.”
Exodus 20:1: Moses receives the Ten Commandments. Many of these laws or commandments were not new to the Israelites, but what made these laws so special is that Israel needed them in order to establish their society and move forward into the Promise Land.
So here is Moses up on Mt. Sinai meeting with God and the people at the foot of the mountain suddenly begin to wonder what is taking Moses so long. He has been on the mountain for 40 days and they began to grow impatient.
Exodus 32:1 – 9: The Israelites come up with this lame brain idea to have their priest, Aaron, construct an idol made from gold to represent the god who delivered them from Egypt. Now, let’s recall, before Moses gives the Law to the people, he sets up some ground rules for receiving them and the people of Israel agreed and said they would do everything they were told to do. Fast forward to chapter 32 and we see that immediately they break commandment number two and then they plan a festival to celebrate. Pete Enns writes, “It’s not a block party but a worship service, complete with a meal and perhaps sexual carousing as well. With their God far away on a high mountain in a private audience with Moses, the Israelites replace God with an image—a violation of at least the second commandment if not the first, too, which they had already heard in chapter 20. And now, rather than celebrating the festival in God’s presence as it was supposed to be (5:1), they are celebrating without God. This will not end well.” It does not end well.
Exodus 32:19 – 23: The LORD tells Moses what is happening, and he descends and sees what is going on proceeds to destroy the idol, crushes the gold into powder, puts it in water and makes the Israelites drink it. He confronts his brother Aaron, and Aaron blames the people, then he says, “I collected all the gold in camp, and I threw it in the fire and this calf just appeared!” Right Aaron! The result was 3,000 people died and God sent a great plague to the Israelites.
As we see, God does not tolerate sin, especially the sin of idolatry. We would be wise to learn a lesson here. There are no other Gods that deserve worship other than the true God of Israel. He takes the backseat to nothing… Not money, power, people, institutions, governments, politicians or etc. This is where I would challenge you all today, check your hearts… do you have things in life that you value more than God? If so, this is idolatry, and you need to destroy these idols and place God in the rightful place in your life.
Tabernacle – Worshiping God
When Moses met with God and received the Law, he also received instructions to build a tabernacle. God gave detailed instructions on how it should be built, consecrated, and where the Holy items would be placed. Unfortunately, I do not have the time to go into detail about the tabernacle, but I assure you in the weeks and months ahead we will return to the tabernacle and look at it in more detail.
Exodus 40:1 – 8, 16: The Tabernacle the place where God dwells among His people. In many ways the Tabernacle is the mobile version of Mt. Sinai. The mountain is where God’s presence dwelt as he spoke to Moses. So, when the Israelites left the foot of Mt Sinai and began their wilderness journey to Canaan they brought God with them through the Tabernacle. There are three sacred items present that represent God’s presence in the Tabernacle, the lampstand, the table, and the Ark of the Covenant.
The tabernacle was also the place of worship. Priests would offer sacrifices, enter the presence of the LORD, and make intercession for the people. Ultimately the tabernacle was a traveling Mt. Sinai. It was the meeting place with God, and it was designed to be transported with the Israelites as they traveled, so they could worship while traveling and so God’s presence would go with them.
For us the tabernacle represents worship and being in the presence of God. Jesus is the fulfilment of the tabernacle. What this means is that we no longer need a “place” to worship God because God is with us through the Holy Spirit. When Jesus was crucified, the veil separating the Holy of holies and made it so we no longer need a human High Priest to enter God’s presence. Jesus is our High Priest and through Him we may enter the presence of God to worship him in spirit and in truth.
As conclude the book of Exodus today I would like to note that this will not be the last time we speak of this book. Exodus is a key book of the Old and New Testament, and we will continually go back as points of reference throughout our journey. As I conclude the message I want to summarize and highlight the applicable points of the second part of Exodus.
 Enns, Peter. Exodus for Normal People: A Guide to the Story—and History—of the Second Book of the Bible (The Bible for Normal People) (p. 107). The Bible for Normal People. Kindle Edition.
 Enns, Peter. Exodus for Normal People: A Guide to the Story—and History—of the Second Book of the Bible (The Bible for Normal People) (p. 125). The Bible for Normal People. Kindle Edition.
This week we are moving from Genesis (book of beginnings) to Exodus which means departure. Just like Genesis Exodus is divided into two parts… The first recounts Israel’s enslavement and exodus from Egypt. The second tells the story of receiving the Law from God. Many have said Exodus is a book about Moses, and they are not completely wrong, but it is a book about God and what He does through Moses. According to Philip Ryken, “The exodus shows that there is a God who saves, who delivers his people from bondage” There is much written about Moses, in fact, four out of the first five books of the Bible (A.K.A. the Pentateuch) are devoted to him, his life, challenges, and death. It would be impossible for me to touch on every detail of his life in the time we have together, so I have chosen to focus on key characteristics of Moses’ ministry as a leader. Today we will briefly skim over Moses’ life and key points in the Book of Exodus and next week we will spend our time looking at receiving the Law.
Exodus 1:6 – 17
Before we begin, it would be good to give a little historical and cultural background to help us better understand what is going on in Exodus. Aside from God, Moses is the key character in Exodus and in the history of the nation of Israel. It is through Him, God establishes the Laws of the nation, the structure for worship, performs miracles, and deliver’s the people of Israel from slavery.
We read at the beginning of Exodus the Hebrew people (Israelites) lived in Egypt. The Hebrews and Egyptians co-existed peacefully in Egypt for nearly three centuries after the death of Joseph. Over time the various Pharaoh’s would come and go and eventually a Pharaoh came into power who felt threatened by the Hebrews. This Pharaoh began to worry that the Israelites were becoming too numerous and if something wasn’t done to control their population then Egypt could potentially be overtaken by the Hebrews.
Thus Pharaoh mandated that all male Hebrew babies be murdered (every female was spared), and he enslaves the Hebrew nation to hard labor.
Exodus 2:1 – 10
We are not told at this time the name of the mother of Moses (later we find out her name is Jochebed), but we do know that “she saw that he was a special baby and kept him hidden for three months.” Somehow, she has the foresight to know her son was special before God, and He had a plan for him. So, she places her infant in a waterproof basket and places him in the Nile so the Pharaoh’s daughter would find the baby down the river. When Pharaoh’s daughter sees the basket and the child inside, she adopts the baby as her own and names him Masha or Moses (which means “drawn out”) since she drew him out of the water. Moses is brought up as the son of the daughter of the Pharaoh and he lives a life of a prince for a good portion of his younger years.
One day Moses sees an Egyptian beating a Hebrew and he ends up murdering the Egyptian. This is a big deal! Moses flees for his life to Midian. Eventually he gets married, lives a shepherd’s life, and has an unlikely encounter with God, through a burning bush, which forever changes his life and calling.
Moses’ life could be broken down into three 40-year clusters. His first forty years could be considered his prince years. He lived in the house of Pharaoh and enjoyed the privileges of the household. His middle forty years were spent as a humble shepherd in Midian at his father-in-law’s home. It was most likely during this time Moses was being trained as a leader for the nation of Israel. His final forty years were spent as a called agent of God. It was during this time that Moses led the nation of Israel out of captivity and into the desert to the Promised Land. Unfortunately, Moses never makes it to the Promised Land, but he used this time to disciple a young man named Joshua to lead the nation as they enter the Promised Land. More on that in a few weeks.
Moses: The Leader
Today I want to spend some time talking about Moses. Moses was an influential man and a leader whom God called and used in great ways to establish his chosen people as a nation. As I spent time reading about Moses in both the Bible and extra-biblical sources, I noticed five specific qualities about Moses’ leadership that I believe can benefit us all today in the Body of Christ. Now, when I am speaking about leaders or leadership I am not just referring to Pastoral ministry, I am really talking about men and women who are in positions where they have individuals following them or authority over.
The Exodus account and the story of Moses’ life is one of the most fascinating stories in the Bible. It gives me encouragement to know that God is not out actively seeking for men and women who “have it together” to accomplish his will. I look at the successes and failures of Moses during his lifespan and I see the hand of God in all aspects of this man’s life. As individuals and as a congregation we can also be encouraged that God’s hand is upon us to accomplish his will. God has done some amazing things in the history of the nation of Israel, and I believe He can and does still have amazing things in store for his Church as well; what they may be, I don’t know, we can only pray, wait, and see.
 Ryken, P. G., & Hughes, R. K. (2005). Exodus: saved for God’s glory (pp. 16–17). Crossway Books.
For the past 5 weeks we have briefly observed God’s big picture and plan for humanity from the book of beginnings. Genesis begins with an awe-inspiring act of creation and ends with an inspirational and almost tear-jerking reunion of a father and son and the beautiful story of forgiveness and redemption. Throughout Genesis you see God’s sovereign hand at work through creation, humanity, a nation, and in redemption. You witness accounts of God working through the lives of ordinary individuals such as Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph, to accomplish God’s extraordinary will. When you read through Genesis you see God’s ways are perfect and His promises are true.
For the sake of review, let me remind you that the first 11 chapters of Genesis deal with the origins of humanity. “In the beginning God created…” It is imperative as followers of Jesus Christ to believe these first five words. It is God who creates. He is the beginning of all things. He has taken great care, love, and affection through His act of creation. His power is displayed as He merely speaks and all that is comes into existence. He creates man from the dust of the ground, and he forms woman from the man and commands them to be fruitful and multiply. He establishes relationship with them. He meets with them in the cool of the day in the garden that he created specifically for them. He gives them dominion over all creation. Man and woman are joined as one flesh and they are called to care for and tend his creation.
In the Garden we are also introduced to evil and sin and the consequences of the man and woman’s disobedience. From the moment they sinned fellowship between humanity and God was severed. Fortunately, God does not give up on humanity. We see throughout Genesis multiple times where God gets extremely frustrated with humanity (The Flood, and the Tower of Babel), but He always shows grace. It is in the introduction of sin that we made aware of humanities need for a Savior. We see the need for forgiveness and redemption. We are reminded constantly that sin separates but the Savior unites.
The second half of Genesis (12 – 50) deals primarily with the origins of a nation and the history of the patriarchs of this nation. Last week we were introduced to a man named Abram and he is the one whom God will bless and establish as the father of a chosen race of people for his glory. He makes a promise or a covenant with Abraham that God would make him the father of a great nation and he would be blessed by God even though he had no children. Through his offspring (his son that he would not see until he was 100 years old) God would fulfill his plan and purpose. God’s plan is perfect, but humanity was not. In the lives of Abraham, his son Isaac, and his grandson Jacob we see how human interference, deceit, idolatry, immorality, conformity to the world, and betrayal can cause a world of trouble. Yet still not all is lost because God uses it all of this for his glory. I haven’t covered most of this, but I would highly recommend you read Genesis chapters 18 – 36 this week to gain a better understanding. Today we are going to skip to Genesis 37 as we look briefly at the life of Joseph and God’s promise fulfilled through his father’s blessings of him and his brothers as they become a nation called by God.
Joseph - The Favored One
The story of Joseph is significant to setting the stage for the nation of Israel. It is amazing how quickly the story of Genesis goes from God’s wonderful act of creation and quickly turns into account upon account of depravity including murderer, jealousy, deceit, unbridled lust, judgment, idolatry, war, rape, adultery and so much more. Strangely Genesis could rival any modern-day drama television show…I think it would be too much for prime-time television.
We don’t get much information about Joseph when we first meet him. We do know he is important since almost a ¼ of Genesis is dedicated to his life. What we do know is that he is 17 years old. He was a good boy. He was the favored son. Dad beamed with pride when Joseph was around. He could do no wrong in his father’s eyes. Certainly, he did a lot of good things, and he most likely towed the line in life (rule follower). He was the kind of person people loved or hated.
Vs 1 - 4: Sadly, his brothers did hate him. They couldn’t and didn’t speak kind words about him. In this chapter Joseph brings a bad report about his brothers to his father. We are not sure what the report was, but it certainly did not sit well with them. Some have suggested they were doing something, and he was informing his father of what was going on. Some have called him a tattle tale. Others call him an obedient son who had a close relationship with his father. “This section portrays Joseph as faithful to his father in little things, even though unpopular—and so he will eventually be given authority over greater things.” Others think that Joseph was speaking lies about his brothers, and they resented him for his lies. Since his brothers were never held in high regard with their father it would have made them all the angrier because the lie wouldn’t have really served any real purpose.
Israel/Jacob loved Joseph the most – fatherly favoritism. Jacob does to his sons what his father did to him. Interestingly this has been a trend passed down from his father (Jacob and Esau). One would think Jacob would understand what it was like to be the least loved of the brothers. He would have empathy for his sons because he never won his own father’s affection. There was no other reason than Joseph was the favorite because he was the son of the favored wife. As we will soon see this favoritism leads to bad things.
To show his son his affection Israel gives Joseph a robe or cloak of many colors. Some versions call this garment a robe, some a tunic and others a coat. We are not exactly sure what this robe looked like. It may have been a garment that a prince wore. It is also described in other passages of the Bible as being a long garment reaching down to the ankles or wrists. I don’t believe that what the robe looked like matters as much as what it represented. Every time Joseph wore this robe the brothers were reminded how little value their father had of them. There was a deep seeded jealousy and probably not for a bad reason. The jealousy was so great that they could not speak peacefully about him. I could imagine whenever his name was spoken the brothers would spit in disgust at the mere mention of his name. He certainly was a point of tension whenever his name was brought up in discussion.
Vs 5 – 11: Joseph was a dreamer. No, he wasn’t a guy who walked around with his head in the clouds drifting in and out of reality… He was a man whom God spoke to in his dreams. He was a man who was in tune with God. He was sensitive to His presence. When God spoke, Joseph listened. As we have seen in previous accounts with Jacob and Abraham God reveals himself through dreams. This is the first of Joseph’s dreams and it gives him a glimpse of what is yet to come.
Joseph tells his dream to his brothers, and this only adds fuel to the fire. Joseph told his brothers that there will be a time when the brothers will bow down before him. The brothers certainly felt this was ludicrous. Their response was, “There is no way on God’s green earth we will ever bow down to you.” Remember their words… because the phrase, “Never say never” will eventually come in to play.
Joseph dreams a second dream. This time he tells them not only will his brothers bow before him, but his mother and father will as well. This sounded even more ridiculous. His brothers respond with jealous hatred and his father kept his saying in his mind. He put this interpretation in the back of his mind. He may have pondered the words of Joseph in his heart.
With what we know about Joseph, one would assume that he had a pretty good life, that he had an easy life. But this wasn’t the case. He was betrayed by his brothers and sold as a slave. He was falsely accused of trying to seduce an Egyptian officer’s wife. He was thrown into prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Eventually, many years later, Joseph became a man of influence among the Egyptians and more specifically the Pharaoh. He comes face to face with his brothers later in life and forgives them for the horrible things they did to him in the previous years.
It is specifically in the story of Joseph that we understand what God is up to. We are reminded when Joseph speaks to his brothers at the end of Genesis “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 about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” (50:19 – 20). The story of Joseph reminds us today that our problems, difficulties, and hardships in no way indicate abandonment from God. In fact, it can and usually does mean just the opposite. God sometimes allows difficulty in our lives so we will be more dependent on him and grow to trust him more and more.
Genesis 48 - 50
The remaining three chapters of Genesis not only bring us to the conclusion of the book of beginnings but also to the conclusion of the story of Jacob and Joseph, and the beginnings of the future of the nation of Israel. In the concluding chapters Jacob pronounces blessing upon his sons and grandsons, gives directions to where he should be buried, and he speaks a prophecy of what is yet to come.
Jacob blesses his grandsons Ephraim and Manasseh (Joseph’s sons).
Vs 11: Jacob says to his son Joseph, “I never thought I would see your face again, but now God has let me see your children, too.” God’s grace is evident in this reunion because not only does Jacob live to see his son whom he thought dead is alive and he also sees and blesses his own grandchildren.
Jacob blesses his grandsons, and he blesses the younger over the older. Joseph tries to correct his father, but his father continues to bless the younger. He declares that Ephraim will become a greater nation than his brother. Incidentally Ephraim does become a great tribe and they are one of the leading tribes with Joshua in bringing the people to the Promised Land.
Jacob gathers all 12 of his sons so he may speak final words to them.
He speaks blessings to 9 of his sons (Judah, Zebulon, Issachar, Dan, Gad, Asher, Naphtali, Joseph, and Benjamin). He speaks a prophecy concerning the future human king of Israel and the eternal King (Jesus the Lion of the Tribe of Judah) to Judah. He chastises three sons… Reuben whose lust burned so hot that he committed the sinful act of adultery with his dad’s wife. Simeon and Levi were chastised for their violent reaction to the men of Shechem. These brothers would still prosper but their tribes would be scattered among the other tribes.
At the conclusion of Chapter 49 Jacob dies and his sons return him to Canaan where he is buried in a cave with his wives.
When his father dies Joseph weeps and kisses him. He tells the servants to embalm his father so his body can be preserved for the long journey ahead. There is a time of great mourning for their father as the brothers return him to the land of promise.
Joseph’s brothers fear for their lives. They fear Joseph was still harboring bitterness and revenge in his heart. They believed that since their dad was dead, and Joseph could easily take his vengeance. Joseph assures his brothers all is well and God’s plan is perfect. Concluding this chapter, the death of Joseph is detailed. His body was not returned to the Promised Land until the Exodus of Moses,
Beautiful, Loved and Blessed
Genesis is the story of beginnings. It is the story of blessings. It is the story of God working among his people and creation. When reading through the fifty chapters of Genesis a good question to ask is, “What can we take away from the Genesis?” I believe there are three truths or more specifically blessings we observe throughout the book of beginnings.
God has blessed you. It is God’s nature to drench his people with his blessing. We are blessed. God wants to bless you and know that you are a blessing to Him. Author Bruce Wilkinson writes in his book THE PRAYER OF JABEZ, “Why not make it a lifelong commitment to ask God every day to bless you.” You are his child, his son or daughter. Just like any father who loves his children He wants to bless you abundantly, more than you know. Most of all He wants you to say, “Father, I am yours and whatever you have purposed for me, and my life is what I want. I want more of you in my life. I want all of you and you can have all of me.” There is no limit to God’s goodness and blessing and He wants to pour out His blessings on us. When we ask God to bless us, we are giving Him our complete submission and we throw ourselves at His mercy to do as He pleases in our lives for his glory and our benefit.
This is what God did through Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. From the beginning God had a plan. This plan included His divine act of creation, the fall of creation, and the promise of redemption through the nation of Israel and more specifically through Jesus Christ who would come through the line of Israel to bring redemption and eternal life to all who repent and believe.
 Biblical Studies Press. (2006). The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible. Biblical Studies Press.
Genesis 12, 15, & 17
We have spent the last four weeks talking about the acts of creation in the first few chapters of Genesis. Today we continue our series God’s Story From Beginning to End as we shift from the first of two parts of Genesis. The first part deals with the origins of humanity (creation, sin, judgment, salvation, and religion). Today we begin with the second part that deals with the origins of the nation of Israel beginning with Abraham (A.K.A. Abram) concluding with Joseph.
Today we will begin in chapter 12, but we should know A LOT takes place in chapters 4 through 11… (Cain murders his brother Abel), Noah and the flood (God destroys the world via a flood and makes a covenant to never flood the earth again), and the Tower of Babel (Man tries to reach God in their own abilities). There is also a genealogy tucked in chapter 11 and gives the lineage of Noah’s son Shem and stops at an individual named Abram, the son of Terah, his wife Sarai, and their nephew Lot.
We are told that Abram was born in the city of Ur of the Chaldeans. The results of archaeological investigations demonstrate that Abraham came from a great city, cultured, sophisticated, and powerful. The landscape was dominated by the ziggurat, or temple tower, and the life of the city was controlled by a religion with a multiplicity of gods. The chief deity was Nannar, or Sin, the moon god, who was also worshiped at Haran. Upon leaving Ur of the Chaldeans, they intended to set out for Canaan but ended up settling in Haran.
Genesis 12:1 - 7
Vs 1: The call - Abram was commanded or called by the LORD to leave his country, clan, and family and go to a land that God will show him. Abram was called to leave the familiar and go out to the unfamiliar. God calls Abram out of his comfort zone. From the onset this call doesn’t make much sense. He is calling Abram to leave his elderly father, his family, his possessions, and his heritage. Sometimes God calls us to do things that don’t necessarily make sense. It is good to be reminded, though, that when he does, he has a purpose. He may not reveal the details or his plan up front and we are called to respond in faith. This is what Abram did. It is also good to be reminded that when God calls us to do something that may not make sense at the time it is always for his sake and his glory. He is a good God, He will bless when He calls, but He doesn’t guarantee it will be an easy and smooth transition.
Vs. 2 – 3: The Covenant – God makes a promise to Abram. He says he will make Abram into a great nation (this is key since he has no children, and his wife is barren). From this initial promise God starts to build his covenant people. It is in this moment God establishes with Abram the blessing of making him a great nation that will bless the world. In contrast to the attitude of those in Babel who wanted to make a name for themselves God declares that HE will make Abram’s name great. He will bless (or make famous) Abram and his family. God’s blessing of Abram will be an example to all nations of the divine blessings of the one and true God. The blessings that others will receive will come from how they treat Abram and his family. God will bless those who bless Abram, and he will curse those who dishonor him. God shows favor to Abram. Ultimately in due time the whole world will be blessed because of God’s blessing to Abram.
Why did he choose Abram to be a vessel of blessing to all nations? This is yet another picture of God’s grace. God chose Abram, because in his sovereignty he was going to accomplish great things through him. This promise or covenant had nothing to do with Abram. God did not see spectacular characteristics in Abram that made God come to this conclusion. God calls Abram to leave and makes a promise to Abram that he will bless him and his family. Abram certainly couldn’t fully know what that blessing was since he had no children and really no land. All he had was the promise of God and this was enough
Vs 4 – 5: Obedience - Abram is 75 years old at the time of his calling and sets out as he called. He takes his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, and all their possessions. They head to the land of Canaan. Abram’s obedience was clearly connected to his faith. Galatians 3:6 – 9 says, “In the same way, “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” The real children of Abraham, then, are those who put their faith in God. What’s more, the Scriptures looked forward to this time when God would make the Gentiles right in his sight because of their faith. God proclaimed this good news to Abraham long ago when he said, “All nations will be blessed through you.” So all who put their faith in Christ share the same blessing Abraham received because of his faith.”
The response of Abram is key. He did not have to go. He had a choice. He could have pulled a Jonah and went the opposite way. The faith of Abram is great because he had nothing to go on other than God’s promise to bless him and his family.
Vs 7: Meeting with God –The Lord appears to Abram (theophany) and re-iterates the promise to give the land to Abram’s offspring. It is here that Abram builds an altar of worship and most likely offers a sacrifice to the Lord. Both building an altar and offering sacrifice were expressions of faith in the promise and were integral to the worship of God.
Genesis 15:1 - 18
Vs 1 - 3: God reaffirms his promise to Abram and says, “the Lord spoke to Abram in a vision and said to him, “Do not be afraid, Abram, for I will protect you, and your reward will be great.” Abram responds by acknowledging God’s sovereignty. Abram replies and acknowledges “O sovereign Lord…” He declares God to be sovereign and acknowledges He has made a promise to Abram, but he still has no children and he has no land. He was essentially a childless wanderer. It should be noted that in the ancient world childlessness was an absolute tragedy because there was no heir to the family, there was no one to look after the parents in old age and no way to preserve and continue the lineage of the name. It almost seems as though Abram is ungrateful for all God has done for him because God has given him victories, possessions and the promise of blessing and still complains to God because he doesn’t have any children.
In his complaint he says the only one who can rightfully claim to his inheritance is one named Eliezer of Damascus. It is believed Eliezer was a servant from Damascus. So what Abram is saying is that if he has no children then he would eventually have to adopt Eliezer as his son so he may be the rightful heir.
Vs 4 - 6: God tells Abram that Eliezer is not the intended heir, and Abram will indeed father a son from his own loins, he will be a son that is his own flesh and blood. God restates the promise he made to Abram (later to be known as Abraham); this promise was God giving Abraham a son through his wife Sara (naturally) and one day he (Abraham) would be known by all as the Father of a great nation (Israel). God proclaims that his ancestors would be as many as the stars in the sky. Abraham had no idea how God was going to accomplish his promise because at the time He made the promise Abraham was in his mid-eighties and he had no natural son with his wife Sara. He then tells Abram to go outside and shows him his descendants will be as numerous as the stars in the sky. This is a symbolic way of saying that his descendants will be many and countless.
Abraham believed and God counted it to him as righteousness. According to theologian and author Gordon Wenham, “righteousness might well be paraphrased as God-like, or at least God-pleasing, action.” The righteous were not condemned but acquitted (this thankfully applies to us today… However Jesus is our righteousness). Abram’s faith saved him. He believed God was trustworthy and his faith was a God pleasing action.
Vs 8 - 11: Abram asks God for a sign to show that He will keep his promise. Sometimes this can be read that Abram lacked faith, but nowhere does the author suggest he did, in fact this was a common response and Scripture doesn’t seem to condemn individuals for wanting to be reassured by God. Gideon asked for a fleece, Moses asked for a sign, and Thomas demanded to see the nail prints in Jesus’ hands and feet. God commands Abram to bring a three-year-old heifer, a female goat, a ram, a turtle dove and a pigeon. These were all acceptable offerings to God. Abram cuts the heifer, goat and ram in half but does not cut the birds. He separated the halves and set them opposite each other.
Vs 12 – 16: “Abram fell into a deep sleep and a terrifying darkness came down over him.” He was in the presence of God Almighty and this was an awe inspiring and frightening thing.
The Lord speaks a prophecy of Abram’s ancestor’s exile to Egypt. They will be oppressed as slaves for 400 years and they will be slaves and sojourners (Egypt and desert). God will protect them during this time and he will punish the nation that oppresses them. His ancestors will leave the country with many possessions. As for Abraham he will have passed from life to death when this happens. It will be a future event but for now Abram will live a good long life.
Vs 17 - 18: In the evening the Lord makes a covenant with Abram. “A smoking firepot and flaming torch” represent or signifies the presence of the Lord passing through the halves of the animals. We must note that this was a one-sided covenant. Traditionally It was typical for both parties involved in a covenant to pass between the offerings signifying they will keep their end of the deal. Wenham writes, “This act is then interpreted as an enacted curse. “May God make me like this animal, if I do not fulfill the demands of the covenant.” In Genesis, of course, it is God himself who walks between the pieces, and it is suggested that here God is invoking the curse on himself, if he fails to fulfill the promise.” The cut pieces of the animals could symbolize the nation of Israel and God passing through them could show that He would be with his people.
The covenant is a promise made by God alone. It is one sided which means He will do what He has promised. He tells Abram that his offspring will possess the land the from the river of Egypt (many believe this to be the eastern branch of the Nile) to the river Euphrates.
Genesis 17:1 - 7
Vs 1 - 3: Abram is 99 years old. We are reminded that nothing is impossible with God… even at the ripe old age of 99 God is still going to keep his promise of a child to Abram no matter the circumstances.
The Lord appears to Abram. In this encounter we see a sequence of events.
Vs 4 – 5: God’s covenant with Abram includes a name change. Abram means “exalted father”, but his new name Abraham means “father of multitudes.” Names in the Bible have significance. In ancient biblical times a name expresses the character or the perceived parental destiny of a child. Children are always named at birth and rarely would someone have a name change mid-life and even more rare to change a name at this late stage of life. Thus, this name change is more than a hopeful destiny of Abraham. His name change is a divine guarantee of Abraham’s future. The name change was not made by his human parents but by the divine Father. God says, “Your parents named you ‘exalted father’ but I am renaming you ‘Father of multitudes.’” His name change serves as a reminder of God’s covenant. Every time Abraham spoke or heard his name, He would be reminded of the promise of God to make him the Father of a multitude of people.
Vs 6 - 7: “I will make you extremely fruitful…” Notice this is a divine act. God will make him fruitful. The child and descendants to follow will not be accomplished by natural means. Abraham will have a child and many descendants to follow, and it will happen supernaturally. “Abraham will be given divine power to achieve this fertility…” God will make him fruitful. God will intervene. God will make Kings come from Abraham. We continually see that it is God who is going to make all this happen. This is a great reminder and example for me and for us. Healthy growth in one’s life and multiplication (in nations, families, and churches) come from God. God declares the covenant will be extended to Abraham’s descendants (Israel). The covenant is eternal; it will never expire resulting in God being their God throughout the generations and for all eternity.
In conclusion, I would be remiss if I failed to parallel God’s covenant with Israel to His covenant with us through Jesus Christ. When Jesus partook in the last supper with his disciples, he declared a new covenant has been established by his blood (i.e., Matt. 26:28; Mark 14:24; Luke 22:20; 1 Cor. 11:25). This is a promise you and I can firmly hold on to. Through the work of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary the work of God is now finished. Jesus has become the perfect sacrifice thus becoming our righteousness. We are not declared righteous by any act we perform but we are declared righteous based upon the finished work of Jesus Christ. Abraham believed God in faith and this was accounted to him as righteousness, thus our faith in Jesus Christ accounts for our righteousness as well.
Jeff has been in ministry for well over two decades. He currently serves as Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Southside Campus in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). Both are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
Preview or purchase Jeff's Books