Tag Archives: jacob

When God is nowhere to be found – Characters: Joseph, Part 2

29 Oct
Photo by Brunel Johnson on Unsplash

Have you ever felt utterly alone and abandoned by your family, friends, and even by God? If so, you’re not alone. Maybe people hurt you. Maybe you made a bad choice. Maybe life turned out different from your hopes and dreams. There are many ways we can find ourselves in despair. Keep reading as our character for this week had a very similar situation in his life. There might be something helpful to you as you read his story.

In the previous post, we met 17 year old Joseph, and we learned that his family had a lot of drama, some of which seems to be his own doing. This is a blog series on Characters, people who lived in ancient Israel, people who were flawed and troubled, but people who God still used. At the conclusion of the previous post, Joseph had angered everyone in his family, including his father, who loved Joseph more than any of his other sons. The drama is about to get worse. Way worse.

As we continue the account in Genesis 37, verses 12-36, we read that Jacob sends Joseph to check on his brothers, and the brothers see this as an opportunity to vent their jealousy and hatred of Joseph, as he is far from home, from the watchful care of their father Jacob. They debate what to do, including killing Joseph, believe it or not, but the oldest, Reuben, intercedes, and they agree to kidnap Joseph and sell him into slavery.  In the process they take Joseph’s special coat, put blood from an animal on it, and give it back to their father Jacob, telling him Joseph had died. 

Imagine this experience from Joseph’s perspective.  17 years old.  Kidnapped by your brothers.  Sold into slavery.  That had to be horrible.  This is human trafficking, perpetrated by his own brothers. Imagine the darkness in Joseph’s soul.

How would this crisis have impacted Joseph?   Have you been through a crisis, a life-changing event?  It doesn’t have to be as dramatic as Joseph’s, where he was kidnapped, and sold into slavery, betrayed by his own family.  But perhaps you can think of a difficult situation that happened in your life. 

Crisis can (and should) turn us to God. 

Crisis doesn’t always turn us to God.  Crisis sometimes makes us bitter.  Angry.  Harsh. 

How has crisis affected you?

It seems important at this point to note that something is missing in chapter 37.  Scan through the chapter.  It is a glaring omission.  What, or rather who, is missing?  God.  Not a single mention of God.  Not when Joseph is dreaming.  No mention when he is with his brothers.  And nothing about God when Joseph is sold into slavery.

I find it striking that God is nowhere to be found in this part of the story.

Hold that thought, as we see how crisis affected Joseph.

We’re going to skip over chapter 38, as that is a separate story.  Go to chapter 39 where the story of Joseph picks up.

We learn right away in Chapter 39 that a significant change has occurred in Joseph’s life.  Slave traders take him to Egypt where we meet Potiphar, one of the Egyptian King Pharoah’s officials, and Potiphar buys Joseph.  So a physical change has taken place as Joseph is far from home in a new land.  But there is a spiritual change as well.  Look who is mentioned in verse 2.  God is with Joseph, and Joseph prospered.  The Lord gives Joseph success in all he does. 

Back up with me a moment.  Think about all that Joseph has gone through.  I wish I could know if something changed in Joseph while he was in the hands of the slave traders.  The text doesn’t tell us.  But the presence and blessing of God in chapter 39 is quite striking when you consider the total absence of God in chapter 37.  Could it be that Joseph went through a dark inner struggle while he was betrayed by his brothers and sold into slavery?

Did he wrestle with God like his father Jacob did, as we saw last week?  The text doesn’t tell us, but to me that is a possible explanation for the absence of God in chapter 37 and the presence of God in 39.  Also, God is faithful in our trials.  He is there.  He was always there, even when it didn’t seem like it.  Even when the circumstances don’t change, he is there. 

We don’t know how long Joseph was in the caravan of slave traders.  Weeks probably.  Maybe months.  But imagine being a 17 year old boy in that circumstance. Can you imagine all the emotions he’s got going on!  He was in a home where he knows he is the favorite and he is beloved, but he also knows and feels the hatred of his brothers on a regular basis. Then he is sold into slavery! I suspect he cried his heart out to God.  I suspect a change took place in Joseph’s relationship with God.  And God changed Joseph.  His identity became about who he was to God and not who he was to his father and to his brothers.  When we realize our identity in God, he is sufficient for us, even when the trials of life continue. 

We read that Joseph rises in favor in Potiphar’s estimation, as Joseph was very capable and blessed by God in all he did, so Potiphar puts Joseph in charge of his whole estate.  Because of this, God blessed Potiphar too. 

Then more trouble comes.  It’s like Joseph is a magnet for drama.  We read that Joseph is very handsome.  And Potiphar’s wife tries to seduce him. Joseph’s response is amazing, showing the change that God has worked in him.   Look at Genesis chapter 39, verses 8-12.

Joseph refuses Potiphar’s wife’s advances saying, “How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?”  Here he shows his concern for purity, for following God’s ways.  Especially note verse 12 where he flees temptation.  Joseph is an amazing example for us in this.

But Potiphar’s wife is jilted and angry, and she lies to Potiphar, saying that Joseph initiated the advances on her.  Potiphar, angry, imprisons Joseph.  And yet what do we read in Genesis 39:21?  The Lord was with Joseph!  Basically the same thing happens in the prison as what happened in Potiphar’s house.  Joseph is put in charge, and God is with Joseph and blesses all he does.  But Joseph is still in jail.  So his circumstances are still difficult.  Just because Joseph is close to God and being obedient, he is still in prison.  Righteous living does not always mean that immediate results and rewards will come. When we find our identity in God, though, we find that we have all we need, even if our circumstances don’t change.

Be determined in God’s direction – Characters: Jacob, Part 5

25 Oct
Photo by sporlab on Unsplash

I love the picture above. Having done a good bit of running myself, I am always amazed at people who keep at into their older years. My grandfather participated in the Senior Games into his 90s, winning speed walking events. That is the picture of determination.

In this series of posts we’ve been following the life of Jacob, a life marked by determination. We’re not finished with Jacob’s story just yet.  Next week we’ll see him again, though we’ll be focusing on the life of one of his sons, Joseph.  For now let’s think about some of the themes we saw in Jacob’s life to this point.

First, determination.  Jacob showed his determination for the birthright, and then for the blessing, and then for wives, and for wealth.  But all this was focused on his selfish desires. We saw Jacob’s life take twists and turns, and eventually his determination changed its focus toward God’s blessing.  How did that happen? It was directly resulting from God stepping into his life, over and over.  Therefore we could say that Jacob’s life is a story of God’s determination, God’s unrelenting passion for his promises.  Yes, Jacob’s determination moves from selfishness to selflessness.  Yes, Jacob moves from being a deceiver to a truth teller.  He reconciles humbly with his brother, even at the great cost of herds of animals.  But all of it is rooted in God’s determination for Jacob.  God doesn’t give up on us! 

Second, God uses faulty, broken, sinful people.  We call this redemption.  The genealogy of Jesus is littered with broken, sinful people.  Jacob is one of them.  When we first meet Jacob, he is not a virtuous hero.  He is a sneaky, conniving, liar.  He is an opportunist who is looking out only for himself.  And yet God doesn’t give up on him.  God is faithful to his promises, even when it seems Jacob is totally lost.  In Jacob’s life, we see a specific example of one in whom God’s redemption brings a wonderful change from selfish, deceiving opportunist to a truthful, selfless worshiper of God.  God wants no deception in our lives.  We are to be people of truth, even when the truth will put us at a disadvantage.  Are there ways you are being deceptive?  On social media?  At work?  In school?  Financially? 

Thirdly, another lesson we learn from the story of God’s redemption of Jacob is that we can be so quick to write people off.  Especially those that are not behaving well.  Have you written people off in your life?  Do you think God is done with them? I know it is so hard when they hurt you, and when they don’t change.  It doesn’t mean you need to be best friends with them, even if you are in the same family, but don’t write them off.  They could be so toxic that you need to separate yourself from them.  But at the very least keep praying for them.  They might be a Jacob in his selfish stage. 

Finally, pray that God would bring them to the point where they would wrestle with God and not give up. That can apply to all of us.  Do we wrestle with God?  How does one wrestle with God? Prayer is key.  I think of the parable in Luke 18 where Jesus taught his disciples to pray and not give.  He said that wrestling in prayer is like a lady who goes to a judge to get some justice in a situation in her life, and the judge won’t hear her case.  But the lady keeps coming back.  Every day.  Nonstop.  Until finally the Judge says in frustration, “Lady, you are wearing me out!  I’ll hear your case.”  We need to pray like that.  Pray and don’t give up.  Wrestle with God. Be honest before him. 

For one of my seminary classes this fall, I have to do an assessment on a ministry, so I asked Love INC of Lancaster if I could assess their ministry, and they agreed.  One of their primary ministries is like a Christian Uber that connects church volunteers to people in need, driving them where they need to go, usually medical appointments.  I met with their director Kim Wittel this past week, and she told me the story of one of their clients, a lady who had a very grumpy personality.  This particular lady needed a ride to a medical appointment, so one of their partner churches had a volunteer who drove the lady to an appointment.  The driver began taking this lady to more appointments, even though the client was rather grumpy to the driver.  Little by little the driver learned that this lady had more needs, including food.  So the driver and a friend would bring her food.  The grumpy lady would respond that she didn’t like it and it tasted bad.  But the driver persisted in love.  As time went by the Lord broke through, and the grumpy lady admitted some horrible experiences she had in the past.  Eventually she agreed to talk with the pastor of the church, and the lady gave her life to Christ.  Sadly her medical condition worsened, but on her death bed she was not only baptized, but also volunteered to lead a prayer thanking God for all he had done in her life.  God is persistent like that!

Why we need to wrestle with God – Characters: Jacob, Part 4

24 Oct

In this series, we’ve been looking at a character in the Hebrew Bible, a guy named Jacob. In the previous post, we left Jacob about to cross over the border of his brother, Esau’s land. He had deceived his brother 20 years before, and when Esau found out, Esau threatened to kill Jacob. Jacob fled for his life, and the twins didn’t talk again for two decades. Jacob’s life and fortunes had changed dramatically in the ensuing years. Now he has a large family and great wealth through vast herds of animals. On his way home with his family and property, he arrives at Esau’s land. Jacob gets word that Esau is on the way with 400 men, coming to confront Jacob. So Jacob prepares a huge gift of numerous animals, hoping to smooth the way with Esau. He sends the gift ahead to Esau. Before we find out what happens when Esau receives the gift, something else occurs.  Read Genesis 32:22-32 to learn about this surprising event.

Jacob wrestles God!  Or should we say it as a question: Jacob wrestles with God? What is going on here?

Look at verse 26.  Jacob has refused to give up this wrestling match, even after God wrenches his hip.  Jacob will not let go, saying to God, “unless you bless me.”  Sound familiar?  Jacob determined to get a blessing?  Where have we heard this before?  20 years earlier when he stole his father’s blessing that was supposed to go to Esau!

In verse 27 God asks him a question, “What is your name?”  That should sound familiar too!  Again, go back 20 years earlier when Jacob entered his father’s tent, and Isaac asked him, “Who is it?”  And what did Jacob say?  He lied.  He said, “It is your son Esau.” 

Back to chapter 32, what will Jacob say when God asks Jacob his name?  Now he tells the truth.  He says his name, “Jacob.”  He is a changed man.  The deceiver has become a man of truth, a man who wrestles with God.

Wrestling leads to relationship.  God is relational, not distant and uninvolved.  He wants us to wrestle with him.

The physical act of wrestling is not the focus of this passage, though.  Jacob’s determination is the focus.  Jacob was always a wrestler, even in the womb, grasping his brother’s heel.  But it is his determination that is really the important point.  Early in his life, it was a determination that was focused on his own concerns, a selfish determination.  He was quite willing to connive and deceive in order to get what he wanted. 

But God intervened, even to this selfish man, and Jacob learned to be determined for God.  When he wrestles God, he is still determined, but his determination is modified by truth.  He tells his name truthfully. 

God is so pleased.  Look at verse 28.  “You have a new name.  Israel.  You struggle with God and men and overcome.”  That is where the name of the nation of Israel comes from.  The word Israel means, “he struggles with God.”  Isn’t that interesting?  The name of the nation is about relationship with God.  Israel’s name signifies what God wants, a relationship where his people wrestle with him and don’t give up!

The next morning, Genesis 33:1 tells us, Jacob looked up and saw his brother, Esau, coming with 400 men!  What happens when the two estranged brothers face each other after 20 years?

He himself went on ahead and bowed down to the ground seven times as he approached his brother. But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept.

Genesis 33:3-4 (NIV, 1984)

It is a beautiful reconciliation.  That’s what God can do!  He is in the business of redemption and reconciliation when we submit ourselves to the transforming work he wants to do in our lives. 

Throughout the rest of chapter 33, we learn that Jacob continues his journey to his home land, honoring God.  In chapter 35 he settles in land of Canaan where he honors God.  Jacob called the place Bethel, which means House of God.  God confirms the blessing, as well as Jacob’s new name, Israel, reminding us that his family will be the beginning of a nation.  Jacob sacrifices to God there. 

We’re not done with Jacob’s story. Next week we’ll learn more about him, but through the lens of his son, Joseph. Tomorrow, we’ll conclude this first Characters series by looking at what we learned through God’s work in the life of Jacob. For now, reflect on what we saw today. Jacob wrestles with God and reconciles with Esau. Can it be said of you that you are wrestling with God? It might at first sound like a bad thing, to wrestle with God. But as we saw in Jacob’s life, it was the evidence that his determination had changed focus from self to God, thus leading to reconciliation with his estranged brother Esau. How do you need to wrestle with God?

God can still use you after you sin? Characters: Jacob, Part 3

23 Oct
Photo by Jesus Kiteque on Unsplash

Have you ever messed up and thought, I’ve ruined my life? Maybe it was a mistake a work. Maybe it was a terrible relationship choice. You might have been selfish or unkind with what you said to a family member or friend, and now things between you are cold. Are you wondering if there is hope for you?

Perhaps that’s how Jacob felt. We’ve started a series called Characters, looking at people who have messed up and how God interacts with them. The first character we’ve met is a guy named Jacob. In the previous post, we learned that he was a sneaky guy, and he was on the verge of trying to steal the blessing from their father that was supposed to go to his older twin brother, Esau. Let’s jump into the narrative at Genesis, chapter 27, verse 18.

I particularly want to point out how Jacob answers his father’s greeting, when Jacob enters his father’s tent. This is important.  Isaac asks, “Who is it?”  And Jacob lies, claiming that he is Esau, who was out in the countryside hunting for food to bring his father.  Isaac, suffering from poor sight, believes Jacob, and Isaac gives Jacob the blessing that was due Esau.  As we already saw in Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, Jacob, the younger twin, has once again “grabbed the heel” of his older brother.  Esau, of course, soon finds out and is furious, threatening to kill Jacob.  So their mother Rebekah warns Jacob to leave immediately and flee to a faraway land where her brother Laban lives, until Esau calms down.

In chapter 28, in verses 10-22, we learn that Jacob has left to travel to Laban, but on the way, one night Jacob has a dream.  In the dream, God affirms that the blessing has been passed on to Jacob.  The younger is receiving the promise that was supposed to go to the older, and in this case, it is the promise that God first gave Jacob’s grandfather Abraham, then passed on to Isaac, that now God reconfirms with Jacob.  God says that just as he is the Lord of Abraham and Isaac, he is Jacob’s Lord, and he will give Jacob land, and will turn his family into a great nation through whom God will bless all people on the earth.  Jacob awakes afraid, in awe of what has just happened, and he vows that Yahweh will be his God.  It is a momentous event in Jacob’s life. 

After some really devious, sinful behavior, it is astounding to think that God, at this moment, still maintains the promise to Jacob. Doesn’t it seem like God should be punishing Jacob?  Doesn’t it seem like God should take the blessing and promise and give it to Esau?  Doesn’t this all seem unfair? 

To those questions, consider God’s ways with me for a minute.  God is a God who uses the flawed, the downright sinful.  How many of you have been redeemed?  By that I mean, how many of you have had sin in your life, harmful and hurtful choices that have damaged others, and yet God has taken a disaster and reconciled, healed, reunited, and rectified, making right what was wrong?  God is surprisingly forgiving and merciful like that. 

Jacob is not at the end of his life.  He is still a young man.  In Genesis 29-31, Jacob does go to and work for his uncle Laban.  During a long period of many years, through which Laban fools Jacob into marrying not one but two of his daughters, Jacob is persistent.

Perhaps in this we see character being formed in Jacob’s life.  No longer the deceiver, Jacob now learns what it is like to be fooled.  It is terrible to be taken, lied to.  Through the process of these years, God is still at work. Jacob gains not only two wives, but marries their two servant girls as well, for a total of four wives.  We don’t have time to discuss polygamy, except to say that in ancient Israel this did happen, not that God was approving of it.  Jacob’s wives bore him 12 sons, who would become the 12 tribes of Israel, including the half tribes of Manasseh and Ephraim who were Jacob’s grandsons, through the line of Jacob’s son Joseph (who did not become a tribe, and who we’ll meet next week).  Considering what has happened in Jacob’s life, can you start to see God fulfilling his promise to make Abraham, Isaac and Jacob’s family into a nation?

Jacob works for his uncle Laban for a total of 20 years and then decides to leave to return to the land of his family, the land of Canaan.  That story of Jacob leaving Laban takes place in most of Genesis chapters 31 and 32, and it is filled with intrigue and drama.  I’ll summarize it by saying that God blesses Jacob greatly through it all.  By the time Jacob leaves Laban with his wives, children and herds of animals, Jacob is a very wealthy man. 

At the beginning of chapter 32 we learn that Jacob’s family’s journey is taking them to the border of the land ruled by his twin brother Esau.  20 years have gone by since they last saw each other.  20 years since Jacob deceived Esau of the birthright and blessing.  20 years since Esau said that he was going to kill Jacob.  20 years since Jacob fled for his life.  Jacob never got the birthright.  He ran away in fear for his life, taking with him literally nothing but the clothes on his back and a staff.  Now 20 years later, he has four wives, 12 children and countless animals.  But things with Esau were never made right.  What would 20 years do?  Would time heal the wounds, or would it only solidify Esau’s anger? In Genesis 32:1-21, Jacob decides to send ahead of him a huge amount of animals as a gift to Esau.  Jacob is trying to smooth things over.  He’s heard that Esau is coming to meet him with a force of 400 men.  Check back tomorrow to see what happens.

Introducing “Characters” – a series about how flawed people can still be used by God

21 Oct
Image by David Zhou on Unsplash

Who in your life would you say is a real character?  Usually we say a person is a character when they are wild, crazy, bold, extroverted, or humorous.  Maybe certain people in your life come to mind. 

But the reality is that every single one of us is a character.  We are each made in God’s image, as the very first chapter of the Bible, Genesis 1, teaches us.  We are each unique, interesting and valuable, in our own ways.  Furthermore God loves each one of us.  And he loves us even when we are flawed, difficult, or struggling. 

So we are starting a series about characters, and we’re going to meet some flawed, difficult, struggling characters that God loves.  They are all found in the Old Testament stories of ancient Israel.  What we’ll see is that these characters are very down to earth.  Yes, sometimes they do amazing things, but they are also flawed.  As we study them, we’re going to find them very relatable because even though they are oftentimes considered to be heroes of the Bible, they are people just like us.  People who sometimes make terrible choices.  People with fears.  People with great potential, which they can squander.  And all people whom God loves and redeems and uses, even in spite of their weaknesses. 

Today we meet one of those characters in Genesis chapter 25, a guy named Jacob. 

Earlier in the book of Genesis, God had called a man named Abraham to leave his family and hometown and travel to a new land called Canaan, which is the area of the world that, today, we call Israel and Palestine.  God made a special covenant or treaty with Abraham saying that through Abraham, God was going make his family into a great nation that would be a blessing to the whole world.  Eventually Abraham had a son with his wife Sarah, which was miraculous because both of them were very old, and they named their son Isaac.  Isaac would grow up and marry Rebekah.  God also said to Isaac that he was going to fulfill the promise he made to Isaac’s father Abraham to turn their family into a great nation that would bless the whole world.  But you have to have children to make this happen, right?  So far, in two generations, things hadn’t progressed all that far.  Abraham, Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah.  Four people. Not a very big family, let alone the beginning of a nation.  That bring us to verse 21. If you’d like, read Genesis 25:21-26.

This is the account of Jacob’s birth.  He is the grandson of Abraham and Sarah, and he is the son of Isaac and Rebekah.  He is also the twin brother of Esau, who was older, born just before Jacob. 

The imagery we read in verse 22 is important.  Even in the womb, the twins were jostling each other.  Wrestling. Did Rebekah know she was having twins?  Maybe all the activity going on in there was enough of a hint?  Or maybe the extra movement concerned her, leading her to think something was wrong. She inquires of the Lord, and he responds that she has two nations in her womb.  Ladies, how would you feel if God told you that?  Rebekah would be left wondering, “What in the world does that mean? Two nations in my womb?” Then the Lord says something prophetic.  “One people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.” 

This is so interesting, and it is our first clue in the story that we have a character on our hands.  God’s prophetic word is confirmed in the next few verses, which tell us the birth story.  The younger son, Jacob, comes out grasping the heel of his older brother Esau!  And that is what the name Jacob means, “He grasps the heel.”  This is a foreshadowing of much more to come. Check back in to the next post to see where this is heading.

Would your family wait 500 years for God to fulfill his promise? (Surveying the history of Israel up to the time of Deuteronomy)

30 Aug

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500  years!  What if God made you a promise; a promise to you, your family and descendants?  How long do you think your family could stay faithful to God if it started to seem like his promise wasn’t coming through?  10 years?  50?  How long could they make it after you passed away?  What would you do to help prepare them to be faithful, even after you pass away?

That scenario is essentially the historical context of Deuteronomy.  This is a story of a family that is waiting a long, long time for God to bring his promise to fruition.  Let’s take a look:

In chapter 1, verse 8, we read God saying this:

“See, I have given you this land. Go in and take possession of the land that the LORD swore he would give to your fathers—to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—and to their descendants after them.”

Abraham, Isaac and Jacob?  Who are these guys?  The Lord calls them the fathers of the nation of Israel.  Let’s race through the history of Israel and see if we can place these guys.

First, there was Abraham.  If you want to read his story in detail, start at Genesis 12.  Here’s the gist of it: God promised Abraham that if he would leave his home in Haran and relocate to the land of Canaan, Abraham would be father to a great nation through whom God would bless the whole world, and his family/nation would be given that land.

So Abraham, his wife Sarah, and their household leave their home and travel to Canaan.  But here’s the kicker: they have no kids.  How are they going to be the parents of a great nation?  Time drags on, and they get really old, but still they have no kids.  It seems like this “great nation in a new land” promise is becoming a big sham.  So Abraham, with Sarah’s permission, has a baby with Sarah’s servant girl Hagar, a son named Ishmael.  Sarah becomes jealous and kicks Hagar and Ishmael out.  God intervenes and arranges for Hagar and Ishmael to return to Abraham’s family.  Ishmael himself would go on to become a great nation, the father of Arabia, but that is not the family/nation with whom God would keep his covenant promise to Abraham.  13 more years go by, and still Abraham and Sarah do not have an heir. They’re in their 90s now! God steps in, Sarah miraculously becomes pregnant in her old age, and they have a son, Isaac.

Isaac grows and marries Rebekah.  You can read Isaac’s story starting in Genesis 21.  They have twin sons, Esau the older and Jacob the younger.  Jacob is sneaky and steals the birthright inheritance traditionally given to the firstborn, Esau.  Esau, as you can imagine, is really upset, and Jacob has to flee the family.  He travels to relatives where he meets his wife, Rachel.

At this point in Jacob’s story we’re now in Genesis 27.  Jacob eventually starts to see the fulfillment of part of the promise God made to Abraham, to make his family into a great nation.  How so?  Well, Jacob has four wives who bear a total of 12 sons.  Baby boom!  God then gives Jacob a new name, Israel, and we’re at the point where the new family nation should be sounding familiar.  Israel had 12 sons.  The nation of Israel has 12 tribes. See where that is going?

Jacob/Israel eventually moves his 12 sons and their families to Egypt to avoid famine.  400+ years go by. During this time, Israel as a family nation grows exponentially, to the point where the Egyptian king, called the Pharaoh, feels threatened by them, so he enslaves them.  He uses them to build great works of architecture. In the process he treats them horribly. You can read all about it starting in Exodus 1.

The people of Israel are slaves, oppressed, forced into grueling labor, dealing with genocide (because the Pharaoh was afraid they were getting too numerous).  They cry out, and God sends a deliverer. This deliverer is a wild card, one of their own, Moses, who through a miracle grew up as a prince of Egypt.  If you continue reading in Exodus, you’ll see that it takes a while, including some amazing meetings with God, for Moses to agree to this new national savior role.  Eventually, though, he steps up.

Moses visits the Egyptian king Pharaoh, who he likely grew up with. Like the movies, some scholars believe Moses and Pharaoh would have considered themselves brothers or cousins.  Now many years had passed, and imagine the awkward family reunion when Moses says to Pharaoh, “Let my people go.” If you are following along in Exodus, this story is found in Exodus 7.  The Pharaoh is not keen on letting his massive labor force go, and he says, “Not a chance.”  So God steps in again and sends plagues on the land, wrecking Egypt, and finally after the last plague results in the death of his firstborn son, the king bitterly sneers to Moses, “Get your people out of here.”  The entire nation of Israel, likely over a million strong at this point, leaves and heads out through the Red Sea and into the desert. But the reality is that they are following a God they probably barely knew, a leader they weren’t sure they could trust, to an unknown destination.

That destination? The Promised Land. Canaan.  They were headed back to the land God had promised their forefather Abraham about 500 years before.  Will God keep his promise?  Starting in Exodus 12:31 and continuing through Leviticus and Numbers, you can read how they follow God’s direction via a pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night, Moses leading them all the way.  They have many adventures, many missteps.  There is no way it should have taken 40 years.  God allowed their journey to the Promised Land to take that long because of the nation of Israel’s disobedience.

That is the historical context for Deuteronomy. The nation of Israel has arrived on the border of Canaan, the Promised Land.  The generation that left Egypt has given way to the next generation.  The new generation of Israelites will be the ones who actually enter the Promised Land.  Not even Moses will be joining them. Instead Moses sits down to remind this next generation of God’s promises and all the family nation has been through.  More on that tomorrow as we dig into the book of Deuteronomy.