Thursday, October 22, 2015

Good intentions and all...

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

Y'all.  This home renovation stuff is not fun.

We're not even doing any work yet...just writing checks to the contractor.  Our turn will come when the rooms are ready to paint and finish out the electrical.

Which is probably still a week off.

Meantime, we have two rooms of stuff crammed, stacked, stuffed and piled around the rest of the house.  It's almost claustrophobic.

I missed the SSMT verse for Oct 15, and I missed last week's New Beginnings post. While I have been thinking a good deal about that next post, I don't think I'm going to get to it tomorrow.  My computer desk is piled as high as anything else and, well, it's not at all conducive to creative thinking.

So I've pretty much decided I'm going to take a little blogging break until we get things straightened out somewhat.

I will have pictures. :-)

Friday, October 9, 2015

All Things New - Joseph, the Road of Transformation

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

While Joseph's brothers dealt with...or endured...the consequences of their actions in Canaan, Joseph had some dealing of his own to do.

Yes, he'd been an aggravation to his brothers, but I wonder how he pondered the events that led up to his captivity as they journeyed on to Egypt. Joseph was not stupid.  I suspect that he suddenly had a massive shift in perspective that precipitated a huge change in him on that journey.  Seeing his life from his brother's viewpoint may never had occurred to him before, but he had plenty of time to think it over.

There is nothing more humiliating than the realization that other people have seen your actions and heard your words in a whole 'nuther context than you anticipated.  By the time Potiphar encountered the merchants, Joseph had reconciled his circumstances with his past actions. He willingly served Potiphar and excelled in everything he did.  No more mention of dreams of glory.  In fact, he refused to take advantage of his position when given the opportunity.  He repeatedly refused, in fact.

And that refusal landed him in prison.  Another drop in status.  From favored son to slave to prisoner...and this time, there was no foolishness on his part to which he could attribute the misfortune.  He had done what was right, with the right attitude, in the most respectful way possible.

But God was still working transformation in Joseph.  Forgiving Potiphar's wife was nothing compared to forgiving his brothers.  And he had to forgive his brothers, freely and completely, before he could be trusted with the position God had for him.

I will point out that he was not killed for the crime for which he was accused; I think Potiphar did not believe his wife's story, as he could have had Joseph executed.  But public accusations had been made and Potiphar had to make a public response.  He could not officially believe a slave's story over his wife's.  So, he put Joseph into the prison reserved for the king's prisoners...political offenders.  And, incidentally, Potiphar was the captain of the guard  (Gen. 39:1), and the prison where Joseph was kept was  'the house of the captain of the guard'  (Gen 40:3). The keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge of everything -- who was it who put the bug in his ear that this was a trustworthy prisoner?  Could Potiphar have interceded there, giving his commanding officer a valuable administrator?  But it definitely was the captain of the guard, i.e., Potiphar, who put Joseph with the king's servants -  the cupbearer and the baker (Gen 40:4) - which gave Joseph the opportunity to tell his story to men who potentially had Pharaoh's ear.

It wasn't long before Joseph had his chance with them...they both had perplexing dreams, which Joseph interpreted.  The cupbearer had a favorable interpretation, and Joseph slipped up just a the only recorded account of him complaining of his circumstances -- For I was indeed stolen out of the land of the Hebrews, and here also I have done nothing that they should put me in this pit. (Gen. 40:15)

I've often wondered if that bit of self pity is what cost Joseph two more years in the prison, as the cupbearer promptly forgot the whole incident once he was restored to his position.  Not as a punishment...but because that was an indication that his heart had not yet come completely around to where it needed to be.  Joseph had to come to the position that it was God who was moving in his life...not unfair circumstances...and as long as he felt he was being treated unfairly he could not move in faith.

Which would mean that when God saw Joseph was ready,  He started the timetable to pull his people out of Canaan and put them in isolation in Egypt, where they would grow from a tribe to a nation.

God sent Pharaoh a most perplexing dream.  And the cupbearer suddenly remembered who had given him and the baker accurate interpretations of  their respective perplexing dreams.

Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they quickly brought him out of the pit.  And when he had shaved himself and changed his clothes, he came in before Pharaoh.  (Gen 41:14)

Talk about a transformation.  An hour or two -- maybe-- and he went from another-day-just-like-the-others-in-prison to an audience with Pharaoh himself. 

But wait -- there's more.  At the end of that audience,

Pharaoh said to Joseph, 'Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discerning and wise as you are.  You shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command.  Only as regards the throne will I be greater than you...See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt."  Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his hand and put it on Joseph's hand, and clothed him in garments of fine linen and put a gold chain about his neck.  -- Gen. 41:39 - 42

Literally, in one day, Joseph had gone from forgotten prisoner to second in rank in the entire country.

It had been thirteen years since he'd left his brothers at Dothan.  Thirteen years of  service, misjudgement, unfair circumstances.  Thirteen years that seemed to be the very opposite of everything he had expected from life. But Joseph did not fight the process; he learned. He served where he was.  And it didn't matter where he was once God's timetable started...God was able to pull him out and put him exactly where he needed to be exactly when he needed to be there.

All that Joseph had to deal with people, how to be Egyptian, how to manage property...were skills that he needed now to mobilize the country for the coming famine.  Just like he'd done in Potiphar's house...just like he'd done in the king's prison...Joseph went to work.

How do I need to let my perspective shift from my viewpoint?  What differences will that make in my approach to my circumstances?  What complaining to I need to get over so that I am ready to go on to the next thing God has?  What are my circumstances teaching me that I need to be ready to apply to new scenarios and situations?

Friday, October 2, 2015

All Things New: Judah, the Guilty Road, Part 2

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

Now comes the bit in Judah's story that is not often discussed or taught.

It's a rather awkward chain of events to discuss in a church setting,  to be sure. But  it brings Judah to his first place of recognizing and confessing an error; perhaps this is the preparation for what comes later?

The story is recorded in Genesis 38;  you can go and read the details.  Judah got a bride for his firstborn son, Er, named Tamar.  We do not know her nationality or ethnic background, but she was a remarkable young woman who was determined to have a place in the family lineage.

Judah, however, does not seem to have raised his boys to honor God.  At least his first two had some real issues.  Er's error is not recorded...just that he was 'wicked in the LORD's sight'.

I checked the Lexical Aids and found that the word translated 'wicked' is ra, meaning bad, of inferior quality, wicked, evil (thoughts, actions), mischievous, severe, malignant, noxious, injurious, hurtful,unpleasant (giving pain or causing unhappiness) hideous, fierce, wild; a wrong, a moral deficiency, ...a bad thing which someone does...  Turns out that is the same word used in Genesis 6:5...The LORD saw how great man's wickedness [ra] on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.  God had basically wiped out all of humanity for the ra they were pursuing; how could He allow the lineage of the coming king to be tainted with such?  Er died very young, having fathered no children.

Onan, to whom Tamar was given as wife to raise up a son to inherit Er's portion, was little better.  He refused...and you can read for yourself the details of his engender a child that would be counted as his dead brother's.  What he did was wrong in God's sight...and Onan died.

Judah  was suspicious that something Tamar did was causing his son's deaths, and feared that Shelah would also die.  He stated that Shelah was too young for marriage so Tamar was sent back to her father's house to live until  the boy grew up and could fulfill the duty of the brother to give a son to his widowed sister-in-law.

Time passed; Shelah grew up but Tamar was not given to him.

Then Judah's wife also died, and he apparently spent some time mourning her.  But when it was time to shear the sheep, he left his mourning and headed out to oversee the shearing with his buddy Hirah.

Somehow, Tamar got word that Judah was headed to Timnah to the sheep-shearing, and she decided to take her future into her own hands.  She put away her widow's clothing and disguised herself and sat by the road where Judah would pass by.

In perhaps what is one of the most pathetic accounts of one of God's people, the newly widowed Judah spotted the young lady by the road and, assuming she was a prostitute (probably with reason, owing to her dress and location) immediately went over to avail himself of her services.  She bargained with him to receive his staff and seal  as a pledge for the young goat that would be her pay, and then fulfilled her side of the deal.

Immediately afterward, Tamar took the staff and seal and left, returning to her widow's attire in her father's house.  When Judah's buddy Hirah returned to the place to trade the goat for the items left as pledge, she was gone and no one around knew anything about her, stating that there was no such person in the area.

Judah decided to write off his staff and seal, trying to keep his one-night-stand from becoming discussed by local gossips.  And, as he heard no more from anyone, he no doubt thought it was not significant.

But, three months later someone came to him with news.  His widowed daughter-in-law was pregnant.  She had not maintained her purity in her widowhood;  now she was an affront to his family.  The rumor was that she had engaged in prostitution.  Prostitution!  Judah was furious.  But...and he may even have thought he had reason to have her killed.  It didn't matter if she was guilty of any wrongdoing with his two older sons; he was no longer obligated to risk his third son.  She was pregnant and obviously guilty...and she deserved to die. He had her brought from her father's house to his tents, telling his servants to burn her.

Do you suppose what happened next looked anything like this...

As they were building the pyre on which to burn her, one of Tamar's father's servants came to Judah, with a bundle and a message.  'Your daughter-in-law Tamar sends word to you identifying the father of her child.  She says it is the man to whom these items you know whose they are?'  He handed Judah the long, linen-wrapped bundle.  Judah tore the wrappings off, looking for the other guilty party...and saw his own staff and seal.  Suddenly, he knew what she had done.  The child was his.  Tamar had merely been trying to fulfill her duty to raise up a son to inherit his portion. Feeling nauseous, he picked up his staff and seal and went out to the almost completed judgement pyre.

"Stop!"  He bellowed. Stunned, his servants halted in their tracks and looked at him. He turned to the two servants who were holding her closely, where she could see the fire prepared. Tamar simply looked at him, knowing that her life was in his hands.  "Don't hurt her." She drew a deep, shuddering breath and closed her eyes, sagging against her captors.

Judah fumbled for words. "She is more righteous than I....I would not give her what she has taken as her right."  He took a breath and looked around him.  Most of his household was there...good, he would only have to say this once. "She should have been given to Shelah as wife, so that she could have a son and an inheritance.  I withheld that, so she has risked everything to make sure that the son will be born in spite of my actions."  He paused, making sure they all heard.  This would have to be  public, so the child's legitimacy would not be questioned.  He held up his staff and seal. "The father of her child is the man to whom these items belong.  I acknowledge in front of you all that these items are mine and that the child is my child."  A surprised murmur ran through all assembled, and he walked over to Tamar, who had recovered from her momentary swoon and stood with her head bowed, tears dripping slowly into the dust at her feet.

Judah was overwhelmed with her simple courage. He put one hand on her shoulder and, with the other, raised her chin so that she was looking into his face. 'Daughter, ' he said, his voice cracking, 'You have done what is right.  I promise you that your child shall be reckoned as firstborn, and inherit Er's portion.  You may have your own tent in my household, and no one will harm you.'  He nodded at the female servants nearby, and they came and escorted her, one on either side, to the women's tent  until her place could be prepared.

He watched as they threaded their way through the compound and had a sudden, surprising thought. 'It's a shame none of my sons were worthy of her.'  Well,  he could, perhaps, do better with her son.

Maybe it was time to return to his father and his brothers and face his mistakes there, too.  Perhaps the youngest of his sons could still grow up to be a person of courage and honor.  Like his mother.

Judah's journey to chagrined repentance is also Tamar's journey to historical significance.  We tend to think that what happens to us is all about us...forgetting that our lives also impact others.  The value Tamar placed on the inheritance may have reminded Judah of his inheritance, that he seems to have left behind. This story is not placed in a chronological flow with the rest of the narrative, but it is apparent that Judah had rejoined his brothers and father by the time the famine in the land reached the point that they felt it necessary to go to Egypt, where there was grain stored and available. 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

SSMT Verse 18 - 2 Cor. 4:17-18

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

It always amazes me that the Apostle Paul,  who would list out his sufferings later in this very book this way: 

Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one [note:  this was a prescribed punishment, so dictated because 40 lashes was deemed a fatal beating].  Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea  [note: this was written BEFORE Paul was sent to Rome and was shipwrecked off the coast of Malta]. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in  danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers.  I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. --  2 Cor 10:24 - 27.

would have a perspective on the hardships of life that challenges me today.

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.  -- 2 Cor 4:17-18, NIV84

If that was what Paul considered 'light and momentary troubles', then I am embarrassed by my petty whining and complaining.

And I need to remember that a little more often.

Beth has a great devo today on frustration...particularly regarding getting frustrated w/trying to commit scripture to memory; it's like she's been eavesdropping on my mental conversations with myself.  If you've got time, go have a listen. :-)