devos from the hill


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Joseph – Submitted to His Purpose

A living example of Romans 8:28.
Lesson 32 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.”

– Genesis 50:20

Jacob had twelve sons, but there was one son named Joseph whom he loved very much. And Joseph’s brothers were very jealous of him. So they seized Joseph and threw him in a pit. Then they sold Joseph to some traders who were going to a land called Egypt. The brothers dipped Joseph’s clothing in blood, and told their father that Joseph had been eaten by a wild beast.

Joseph entered the land of Egypt as a slave. But in Egypt, God placed Joseph in the service of powerful people. And in time, Joseph was summoned to appear before the ruler of all Egypt, who was called the Pharaoh. Joseph was asked to interpret a dream. God gave Joseph the correct interpretation concerning a great famine that would come upon the earth. The Pharaoh was pleased with Joseph, and so it was that he placed Joseph in authority over the land of Egypt.

Now when the famine came over the earth, Joseph’s family suffered greatly in the land of Canaan. But in Egypt Joseph had filled the storehouses. And even though Joseph had been betrayed by his brothers, he still had a deep love for his family. Because of the position God had given Joseph, his entire family was permitted to come and live in Egypt, escaping starvation. And so it was that a people through whom God promised to bless the nations came to dwell in a land that was not their own.

– The HOPE, Chapter 6

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

Many Bible students believe that Joseph’s life foreshadows God’s promised Deliverer, who we will soon study in upcoming chapters of The HOPE. In fact, the similarities between Joseph and the promised Deliverer are truly amazing.

Consider that both Joseph and the promised Deliverer …1

As we study the lives of Joseph and the promised Deliverer, we see another similarity, one that allowed all the similarities listed above to be manifested. Both Joseph and the promised Deliverer were submitted to a purpose that was not their own doing. They understood that their lives were part of a greater plan, and they co–operated with that plan. In  John 6:38, the words of the promised Deliverer are recorded, “I have come down from heaven, not to do My will, but the will of Him who sent Me.”

In Joseph we recognize the evidence of a purposeful divine influence guiding the events of his life. Like a leaf that has fallen into a great river, Joseph’s life was moved by the powerful flow of a divine current. And with each event that came into his life (even the difficult ones), Joseph submitted to that flow rather than resisting it. God used Joseph’s life to accomplish exactly what He had planned beforehand, bringing good to Joseph and to others, and glory to Himself.

ASK & REFLECT

  •  From Joseph’s life, what can we learn about God and about our relationship with Him?
  •  Why do you think God would orchestrate Joseph’s life to have so many similarities with the life of God’s promised Deliverer?
  •  God creates every person with a purpose (Ephesians 2:10). In retrospect it is not difficult for us to recognize the purpose of Joseph’s life, but what about Joseph himself? Do you think that Joseph always understood the purpose of his life, or the reason for the events that came into his life?

DECIDE & DO

You may not yet know the purpose of your life or the things that come into your life, but you can know the One who gives purpose to your life. And like Joseph, in every circumstance you can submit to the flow of His divine current in your life.

Do you know God like Joseph knew Him? Are you confident of His guiding presence? If not, then go immediately to the Knowing God section at the end of this study guide.

Has God brought a difficult circumstance into your life? If so, follow the example of Joseph. See it as an opportunity for God to work in and through you, bringing good to you and others and glory to Himself. For “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

FOR FURTHER STUDY

Footnotes

1Some of this listing was suggested by “Parallels between Joseph and Jesus,” Life Application Study Bible: New International Version. (Tyndale House Publishers, 1997).

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB


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Abraham – Knowing the End before the Beginning

He walked out what God had already shown him.
Lesson 31 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

And God said to Abram, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years. But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve; and afterward they will come out with many possessions. And as for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a good old age.”

– Genesis 15 : 13-15

God promised to bless Abraham, and through Him to bless all the nations of the earth. God made the same kind of promise to Abraham’s son, Isaac, and to Isaac’s son, Jacob.

– The HOPE, Chapter 6

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

In Lessons 26–30 we studied Abraham and some of the events surrounding his life. As you recall, God called Abraham and promised to bless him that he might be a blessing to all the nations. Before moving forward, consider these things about God’s promised blessing:

  1. Though the blessing came through Abraham, it is for everyone who is willing, by faith, to receive it.
  2. The Bible calls this promise of blessing a covenant.1 When God makes such a covenant,2 it is an irrevocable promise to do what He has said. God will do what must be done to bring it to pass.
  3. God, who is eternal, all knowing, and all powerful,3 isn’t trying to figure out how to bring it to pass. He already has every detail planned. This will become increasingly more evident over the next few lessons.

 

As we continue on in The HOPE, we see that God made the same “kind” of promise to Abraham’s son Isaac, and Isaac’s son Jacob. By the word “kind,” The HOPE is allowing for the fact that while God may have worded it differently, it was basically the same promise being passed down through Abraham’s descendants. They are, in a sense, entering in to God’s promise to Abraham.

Now as we have noted, the fulfillment of this promise has been planned in detail by God. To understand this better, let’s go back to Genesis 15. Here we read that God declared Abraham righteous (Lesson 27). Also in this chapter, we read that God, after causing a deep sleep to come over Abraham, gave him a detailed vision of what was to come – not just in his lifetime, but for the next several hundred years! Continue reading


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God Will Provide

God provides all we need for what He calls us to do.
Lesson 30 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” And He said, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah; and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.”

– Genesis 22:1–2

And Abraham stretched out his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” And he said, “Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son. And Abraham called the name of that place The Lord Will Provide, as it is said to this day, “In the mount of the Lord it will be provided.”

– Genesis 22:10–14

And together they went to the appointed place. There they prepared the altar and arranged the wood. God had not yet provided another offering. So Abraham bound his son on the altar. Still there was no other sacrifice. So Abraham lifted his knife to slay his son. Then there came from Heaven a voice saying, “Do not lay a hand on the lad.” And there in the thicket was a ram, caught by its horns. And so it was that God provided an offering in place of Abraham’s son. This was a picture of the offering that God would one day provide for the sin of humankind.

– The HOPE, Chapter 5

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

This lesson deals with one of the most dramatic and profound stories in the Bible. Abraham was a man who loved God and followed Him with faithful abandon for decades. And yet God, who loves life and loves people, asked this man to do the unthinkable: to offer his beloved son as a sacrifice. And if that was not enough drama, recall that Isaac was the one through whom God promised to bless all people! It was not only Abraham’s hope, but the hope of the entire world that was bound to that altar. What do we do with this story? How can we understand it?

On the surface, this story seems to contradict much of what the Bible has shown us about God. But as we have also seen in previous lessons, the Bible may stretch us and challenge our understanding, but it is important not to jump to conclusions based upon what “seems’” or appears to be a contradiction as we read the Bible. From our study of God’s story thus far, we know that God is perfect in His goodness and wisdom.

So with that understanding as our foundation, let’s consider the story of Abraham and Isaac.

Genesis 22:1 says that God “tested” Abraham. There are two ways to look at a test. Most of us are familiar with tests taken in school. Such tests are meant to determine the degree to which one has mastered a course of study. Most of us know what it’s like to wonder whether or not we will do well on such a test. There is, however, another type of test, one that measures identity rather than performance. For instance, metals are often tested to determine their purity. There is nothing the metal can do to affect whether or not it will pass the test. Either the metal is pure, or it’s not. This kind of test simply measures the identity of what is being tested.

Consider that in the case of Abraham, the One who tested him was also the One who prepared him for the test, namely God. And like a precious metal that is refined by fire to remove impurities and make it pure, Abraham had been refined by God through the years by the fires of his faith walk. There was no question with God as to whether or not Abraham would do well on this test. This was not a risky experiment. God knew exactly what Abraham had become: a man who put God first, before everything, even his own son. God knew Abraham’s identity, and this test would simply reveal it! Abraham’s life is a testimony to what God can accomplish in a person who is willing to follow wherever He leads. This story dramatically shows forth Abraham’s faith for the world to see …and God is glorified as a result. Continue reading


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No Throw–Away People

With God, everyone has value.
Lesson 29 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

And as for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I will bless him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly. He shall become the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. But My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you at this season next year.

– Genesis 17:20–21

But God told Abraham not to be troubled, for Ishmael would become the father of a great nation. And through Isaac, God would fulfill His promise to bless all nations.

– The HOPE, Chapter 5

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

In the previous lesson we saw how Sarah attempted to fulfill God’s promise of a son by giving her maid, Hagar, to Abraham. And with Ishmael and Isaac becoming the fathers of all Arabic and Jewish people respectively, we also noted the tragic consequences that have resulted from this act to this very day. While this story is often reduced to a simple moral lesson – don’t get ahead of God or the results will be devastating – to view this story in such a one- dimensional way is to treat Hagar and Ishmael as mere “throw–away” characters, people who were simply necessary to the plot in order that we might learn a moral lesson.

But as we also observed in the previous lesson, it is not that simple. The God of all grace is always up to something far greater than we can understand. According to the Biblical account (Genesis 16:4-8), not long after Hagar conceived Ishmael, Sarah began to despise her and treat her harshly. Hagar fled from Sarah’s presence into the wilderness, and there the “angel of the Lord” (which is thought to be a manifestation of God Himself) met her and spoke to her by name. Hagar is the first person in the Bible to encounter “the angel of the Lord,” and this is the first time in the story that Hagar is addressed by her name. Up to this point there is no record of Abraham or Sarah referring or speaking to Hagar by name. Rather, they refer to her as “your maid” and “my maid.”1 To God, Hagar is a person with real value, made in His very image!

The angel of the Lord then tells Hagar to return to Sarah and submit to her authority. But He also makes a great promise to Hagar and her son. Ishmael’s descendants will become a great nation that cannot be counted.2 The angel does not tell her that it will be easy for her, but He does tell her God has given heed to her affliction. The God of the entire universe has acknowledged her personhood and identified with her situation. Hagar then calls God, “El Roi,” “The God Who Sees.”3 Hagar is the first person in the Bible to give God a name, and she honors God with her obedience. Continue reading