Vs. 1, “The sons of Issachar: Tola, Puah, Jashub and Shimron—four in all.” We are now finishing out the rest of the six tribes: Issachar, Benjamin, Naphtali, Manasseh, Ephraim, & Asher. It’s important that the rest of the tribes be recognized for their contribution. In any community, we remember that everyone plays a vital role.
Regarding application…Human Emotion. Vs. 23, “Then he lay with his wife again, and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. He named him Beriah, because there had been misfortune in his family.” Ephraim (vs. 22) had lost two of his adult sons. When he had a new son born to him, he gave him the name Beriah which means “misfortune.” Question: Can you imagine introducing yourself to others, “Hi, my name is Misfortune.” When people ask why, you would have to explain your parents grief in having lost your older brothers. I don’t know about you, but that’s pretty depressing. The lesson behind this is to remember not to allow human emotions to override us.
Vs. 2, “He had a son named Saul, an impressive young man without equal among the Israelites—a head taller than any of the others.” We are now introduced to Saul, the type of king that Israel had requested. Saul was the son of Kish who had quite an impressive lineage (vs. 1). And to put icing on top, Saul happens to be a head taller than other men! Indeed, this indicates the warning of making outward appearances the most important factor. Saul is the ideal king and though the LORD grants them their king, it is not the type of king God had in mind. Woven into the selection of the king, is an intricate story of how Saul happens to run into Samuel looking for his father’s donkeys (vs. 3-14). Even before Saul comes upon Samuel (probably at Ramah), the LORD prepared Samuel to be ready for Saul (vs. 15-17). A great banquet is thrown and Saul is the honored guest (vs. 18-25). The next morning, we are held in suspense as Samuel instructs Saul to send his servant home and stay awhile to hear a message from God (vs. 25-27).
Regarding application…Outward Appearances. Society hasn’t changed as we still put such an emphasis on what we see. Saul was not God’s ideal king, for the true king would come from Judah (Genesis 49:10). Saul won the “People’s Choice” award as he would fit the description of someone that would look like a king. We live in a world that worships beauty and stature. People magazine annually comes out with their 50 most beautiful people and everyone clamors to see if they agree. Question: Are we that shallow? For the vast majority, yep! As Christians we too were set apart by God, but not based on our outward appearance. God looks at what is inside (I Samuel 16:7) our hearts to measure our value! Brothers and sisters don’t fall into the world’s trap. Remember your value as a child of God as you start your new week!
Vs. 20, “So in the course of time Hannah conceived and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, saying, “Because I asked the LORD for him.” Hannah’s vow and prayer would bring her a son in Samuel. Samuel was Israel’s last judge, priest and prophet! He is one of the pillars of faith mentioned in Hebrews (Hebrews 11:32). Samuel was born from a Kohathite family of Levitical priests. Though Elkanah had two wives, this was not an endorsement of polygamy. While allowed, it was never something God intended (Genesis 2:24). There is likelihood that Elkanah married Peninnah because Hannah had been barren many years (like Abraham, Hagar and Sarah). Nevertheless, Elkanah faithfully (vs. 3) observed the annual feats at the tabernacle in Shiloh along with his family. This was an important observation, for most of the people of the twelve tribes were spiritually astray. Hannah wept often due to the shame of not bearing her husband a child (vs. 7-8). In desperation, Hannah prays earnestly and makes a vow; if God gave her a son, she would dedicate him wholly to the Lord by making him a Nazirite (vs. 9-18). Question: What is a Nazirite? A member of a class of individuals especially devoted to God. It could be for a temporary time or for life. The birth of Samuel (vs. 19-20) is one of many important birth narratives and certainly shows us God’s providence! The name Samuel means “his name is God” or “name of God”, suggesting that Samuel’s God is the one and only God. And lastly, we read of Hannah fulfilling her vow (vs. 21-28). Upon being weaned, Samuel was probably 2-3 years old.
Regarding application…Faithful Obedience. Vs. 27-28, “I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him. 28 So now I give him to the LORD. For his whole life he will be given over to the LORD…” Question: How would you respond if you were Hannah? Hannah was a faithful servant of the LORD. Yet, her husband decides to marry another woman and still expect you to stay with him. In addition, that woman proceeds to mock and provoke you over the years because she knows you are still favored. Yet, rather than rebel or try to leave, Hannah prays to the Lord. Her prayer is not a selfish one for she desires to have this child serve the Lord. Hannah’s faithful obedience is all the more surprising in light of the spiritual condition around her. Because of Hannah’s faithfulness, God would raise her son to be a man of righteousness that would affect a whole nation. Our faithful obedience doesn’t just affect us or just our family. Question: How is/can God use you?
Vs. 1, “The men of Ephraim called out their forces, crossed over to Zaphon and said to Jephthah, “Why did you go to fight the Ammonites without calling us to go with you? We’re going to burn down your house over your head.” The Ephraimites were stirring up trouble again. You may recall, they also accused Gideon (Judges 8) of not seeking their help as well. Question: What is going on here? Basically, the Ephraimites were acting like cowardly bullies! Unlike Gideon who appeased them, the mighty warrior Jephthah wasn’t about to let these guys off the hook. Sadly, civil war ensued and 42,000 men of Ephraim were killed (vs. 6). Jephthah went from sacrificing his daughter to killing many of his own countrymen. Sadly, there is no winner here. After Jephthah, we read of three more judges: Ibzan, Elon and Abdon (vs. 8-15) who led Israel in a time of relative peace.
Regarding application…Danger of Pride. Vs. 4, “Jephthah then called together the men of Gilead and fought against Ephraim. The Gileadites struck them down because the Ephraimites had said, “You Gileadites are renegades from Ephraim and Manasseh.” This was a completely unnecessary war and the death toll was gargantuan! Jephthah was a son of a prostitute and rejected by his own family. Now, after saving his own people, again he is rejected by his fellow countrymen in the Ephraimites. Both sides allowed pride to take over. It’s a sobering reminder for us in the church. Many of us have seen the effects of pride affect the harmony and love of a church. Let’s be part of the solution and not the problem! Take time today to pray for each other and your church leaders. Remember the prayer of Jesus (John 17) that we would be one!
Vs. 1, “This was the allotment for the tribe of Manasseh as Joseph’s firstborn, that is, for Makir, Manasseh’s firstborn. Makir was the ancestor of the Gileadites, who had received Gilead and Bashan because the Makirites were great soldiers.” Yesterday’s chapter opened up the accounts of how Joseph’s sons Ephraim and Manasseh would receive a portion of the Promised Land. You may recall that half of the tribe of Manasseh elected to live on the east side of the Jordan (vs. 1-2) and the rest would claim their land west (vs. 3-12). We are reminded of Moses’ promise (Numbers 27) to Zolephehad’s daughters of receiving their inheritance since there were no sons (vs. 3-6). Like the Ephraimites in chapter 16, we see the people of Manasseh subject the stubborn Canaanites to forced labor rather than drive them out (vs. 13).
Regarding application…Complaining. Vs. 16, “The people of Joseph replied, “The hill country is not enough for us, and all the Canaanites who live in the plain have iron chariots, both those in Beth Shan and its settlements and those in the Valley of Jezreel.” Question: Why did Ephraim and Manasseh complain? They allowed their pride to get the best of them (vs. 14). From their mindset: they were the double-portion of Joseph among Israel’s tribes! Why shouldn’t they receive preferential treatment? Yet, other tribes were also swelling in abundance, but you don’t see them complaining. I like Joshua’s response (vs. 17-18) and I’m paraphrasing, “if you don’t like it, do something about it.” They were acting like spoiled children who wanted everything just given to them. Question: Are there things in your life right now that you are complaining about? In the bigger picture of life, we should be far more thankful!
Vs. 1, “The allotment for Joseph began at the Jordan of Jericho, east of the waters of Jericho, and went up from there through the desert into the hill country of Bethel.” You may recall that Joseph’s sons Manasseh and Ephraim were officially adopted by Jacob/Israel (Genesis 48) in order to bless Joseph with a double-portion when the land was to be allocated. Question: Why was Joseph given a double-portion? Reuben (Jacob’s oldest son) should have received it, but his sins (Genesis 49:4) forfeited his right. Certainly, most of us will recall Joseph’s plight into slavery to Egypt and his grace and love extended to his family during the famine. In this chapter, we see the details to the allotment given to Ephraim who was given the first-born blessing, though he was younger than his brother Manasseh. Notable Ephraimites were Joshua (Joshua 19:50), Samuel (I Samuel 1:1), and Jeroboam I (I Kings 12:25).
Regarding application…Compromising. Vs. 10, “They did not dislodge the Canaanites living in Gezer; to this day the Canaanites live among the people of Ephraim but are required to do forced labor.” Question: Why didn’t the Ephraimites drive out the Canaanites living in Gezer? Some biblical scholars note that it was simply out of greed. By ensuring the Canaanites are put to work, this would result in material gain. Question: What’s the big deal? Not only was this direct disobedience (Deuteronomy 20:16) to driving out the nations, but these same Canaanites would rise up against them as the years progressed during the times of Judges. Brothers and sisters, we must exercise wisdom when it comes to determining if something is worth compromising over. One thing that really comes to mind is the compromising we make over relationships. With good intentions, people will make compromises about their future spouse. Sadly, those compromises (not a Christian, alcoholic, gambler, sexually promiscuous, etc.) can come back and destroy that marriage. Let us prayerfully consider what is in our life that could be a stumbling block that we should get rid of.
Vs. 1, “Then Jacob called for his sons and said: “Gather around so I can tell you what will happen to you in days to come.” After 147 years, it was time for Jacob/Israel to have the opportunity to share some lasting words (vs. 2-28) about the future for his sons and their descendants. There was good news and some bad news as each son pondered their future. Reuben, should have been the chosen, but his lustful ways hurt his future. Levi and Simeon’s violence would be noted, yet God would be gracious to both of them as Simeon’s tribe would join Judah and Levi’s tribe would become the priestly tribe. Out of Judah’s tribe would come Jesus (vs. 8-12) the Lion of Judah (Revelation 5:5). The listing of the rest of the brothers ensues and through this, we see Jacob’s words of prophecy fulfilled. In the latter half of our chapter, Jacob would die peacefully (vs. 29-33).
Regarding application…Consequences to Follow. Vs. 4, “Turbulent as the waters, you will no longer excel, for you went up onto your father’s bed, onto my couch and defiled it.” For Rueben, Simeon, Levi and Dan, they would have bad consequences. For the others, their actions would have good consequences. Brothers and sisters, we reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7). I think there is a tendency for us to believe that it is our actions (works) that determine what consequences we have. Yet, most importantly, it is our faith or lack thereof. There are two consequences that transpire after this life: Heaven or Hell. We are called to live a life that is holy and pleasing to God (Romans 12:1). We live in a time where we are so blessed to see the outcome of consequences of the history of God’s people in both the Old and New Testaments. We have the gift of the church to grow and guide us. We are without excuse! Let us live a life that realizes our faith and action can determine not only our own consequences, but can also help point others to going down the right road!
Vs. 5, “Now then, your two sons born to you in Egypt before I came to you here will be reckoned as mine; Ephraim and Manasseh will be mine, just as Reuben and Simeon are mine.” Question: What is going on here? Because of Reuben (adultery with Jacob’s concubine) & Simeon’s (Massacre at Shechem) sins, Jacob would adopt Ephraim and Manasseh as his own. Since Joseph would not become a tribe technically and Levi would become priests, the addition of the two adopted grandson’s to Jacob would make it twelve tribes. To Joseph’s disappointment, Jacob would cross his arms and bless the younger Ephraim first above his older brother Manasseh (vs. 17-18). But old Jacob knew exactly what he was doing, for Ephraim would turn out to be the more Godly of the two. We are reminded that God works in ways that are not always usual. Remember, Seth over Cain, Isaac over Ishmael, Jacob over Esau…and now Joseph’s sons are reordered.
Regarding application…Remembering God’s Faithfulness. Vs. 3, “Jacob said to Joseph, “God Almighty r appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan, and there he blessed me.” Yesterday, we were reminded to be a blessing to others. And today, Jacob recalls to Joseph God’s faithfulness to him in the past. God had rescued him in the lowest times of his life as he was running from a death threat from his own brother. God had given him the continued promises He gave to Abraham and Isaac. Question: Are you remembering God’s faithfulness in your life? It’s easy to get short-sighted and forget about the many faithful ways God has worked in our life. We are living testimonies of what God has done. That is one of the reasons that compel me to share these QT reflections online. Find ways that you can share what God is doing and has done in your life!
Vs. 14, “So Pharaoh sent for Joseph, and he was quickly brought from the dungeon. When he had shaved and changed his clothes, he came before Pharaoh.” It would take two more years for the cupbearer to recall Joseph’s dream and inform Pharaoh (vs. 9). But, Joseph remained faithful to God. And God now had a chance reward Joseph’s faith. Once again, Joseph would give credit to God when asked if he could interpret dreams (vs. 16). God works in His timing, and Joseph finally gets vindicated (vs. 41-44). Through the dream brought to Pharaoh, God would ensure His people would survive the famine of seven years. It would take an intervention like this for the people in the area to live, because while times of famine were not uncommon, to have seven years was not normative. Joseph would now go from rejected, almost killed, slave, prisoner and now at the age of thirty, he would become the most powerful man in Egypt, next to Pharaoh himself (vs. 46). How interesting that a secular leader like Pharaoh would put so much confidence in a spiritual man of a foreign land. God would indeed do what Joseph had interpreted, and now the other nations would be seeking out Egypt for relief (vs. 56-57).
Regarding application…Redemption. Vs. 42, “Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his finger and put it on Joseph’s finger. He dressed him in robes of fine linen and put a gold chain around his neck.” Joseph went from riches, to rages and now back to riches! What roller-coaster journey for this young man who endured so much strife! Redemption would come to Joseph that could not have been scripted better. We’ve been cheering for Joseph and what a sigh of relief to see him redeemed from all his earlier trials. I believe that’s why stories of redemption resonate so deeply to the fabric of our minds. I’m reminded of the movie Shawshank Redemption. There is a reason a movie like this is arguably one of the top classic stories of all-time. The story of Joseph reminds us of our Lord Jesus who also endured scorn and rejection, yet would be exalted to the highest place at the right hand of the Father. Each of our own lives tell a story of redemption when we were once lost, but now found!
Vs. 1, “Do not rejoice, O Israel, with exultation like the nations! For you have played the harlot, forsaking your God. You have loved harlots’ earnings on every threshing floor.” Question: What is going on here? It was harvest time and Israel was rejoicing because the harvest was plentiful. Sadly, they followed the nations around them and gave thanks to the fertility God’s for their good fortunes. And to make matters worse, they were throwing parties that involved immorality of all kinds. Success is not always a measure of God’s favor on us and this is where Israel (Ephraim) had gone wrong. Their hearts had turned and forgotten about God. We see the broken heart of God in the last section of our chapter (vs. 10-17).
Regarding application…The Bigger Picture. Vs. 17, “My God will cast them away Because they have not listened to Him; And they will be wanderers among the nations.” It’s never easy to see the others being disciplined. If we only look at this chapter, it would be quite depressing. But, remember brothers & sisters…that we have the whole context of the Bible both Old and New Testaments. We know that God would restore those who were cast out through Jesus. When Jesus traveled through Samaria and ran into the woman at the well (John 4), she likely was a descendant of these people we just read about in Hosea. God’s love has always been extended to His creation. It’s just that not everyone turns to Him. Question: Will you turn to Him? Examine your heart as you think about the scripture in today’s reading. And remember the bigger picture!