Living for Christ

January 2013 Daily Devotion Archive

January 1:

Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, "Has God indeed said, You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?" - Genesis 3:1

Satan is just as deceitful today as he was in the beginning. Notice something here: He managed to trick Eve without even directly lying to her; instead, he just asked a question and told the truth in a twisted way that sounded appealing to her. He told Eve that the tree would let her know good and evil (see Genesis 3:6), which was basically true, but he made that sound like a good thing when it really was not. Verse 6 also mentions that the food on this tree looked desirable to Eve, as she pondered whether or not to disobey God for the first time.

Questions for thought and discussion:
1. How does Satan tempt and try to deceive you? (Genesis 3:1, 4-5)
2. What are some things that appear desirable but are actually harmful and sinful? (Genesis 3:6)
3. Are you ashamed before God after you have done something sinful? (Genesis 3:7-8)

January 2:
Hiding From God

Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings. And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. - Genesis 3:7-8

Adam and Eve knew that they had done something wrong after committing the very first sin against God. What was their first instinct? It was the same as ours often is: They hid from God. Or, at least, they tried to. But of course, it is impossible to hide from God, who sees all and knows all, even before it happens.

Questions for thought and discussion:
1. When you feel ashamed about something you have done, what is your first instinct? (Genesis 3:7)
2. Have you ever tried to hide from God? Why? (Genesis 3:8)
3. Have you tried turning to God and letting Him be your hiding place instead? (Psalm 119:114)

January 3:
Shifting the Blame

And He said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?" Then the man said, "The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate." And the Lord God said to the woman, "What is this you have done?" The woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate." - Genesis 3:11-13

Today, just as it was in the beginning, people don't want to admit their mistakes or accept the blame for their choices, preferring to blame someone else. Here, Adam blamed Eve, and Eve passed the blame on to the serpent. In reality, all were at fault in one way or another. Admitting your sin or mistake not only shows that you are willing to accept responsibility and learn from that mistake, but it sets a godly example for those around you.

Questions for thought and discussion:
1. When you sin or make a mistake, how often do you stand up and take full responsibility? (Genesis 3:12-13)
2. How often do you act like Adam and Eve and try to pass off the blame to someone else? (Genesis 3:12-13)
3. How often do you try to learn from your sins and mistakes? (Jeremiah 10:24)

January 4:

To the woman He said: "I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you." Then to Adam He said, "Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, You shall not eat of it: "Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life." - Genesis 3:16-17

Sin always has consequences. Some consequences are more severe than others. Often, whether you realize it or not, your sin has consequences that affect not only you, but other people as well. Some consequences are short-lived, while others can change the rest of your life and perhaps the rest of someone else's life.

Questions for thought and discussion:
1. What are some consequences that you have endured as a result of your own sin? (Genesis 3:16-17)
2. Can you think of any ways in which other people's sins have impacted you? (Genesis 3:16-17)
3. In what ways could your past sins and/or mistakes have impacted other people's lives? (Romans 5:12)

January 5:

Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the Lord respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. - Genesis 4:4-5

We all know what happens next: Cain murders his brother Abel. Once again, we see where someone refused to accept responsibility for their own choices. Abel followed God's commands and gave an offering of the firstborn, while Cain gave an offering of his own handiwork which did not follow the Lord's commands. We serve a loving, longsuffering, forgiving God, who no doubt would have forgiven Cain if he had made things right. But, instead of looking inside himself, he became jealous at his brother, and took revenge in the most extreme way.

Questions for thought and discussion:
1. When you sin against God, do you admit it? (Genesis 4:4-7)
2. When you do wrong and others around you are doing right, do you try to work on your own heart or do you become angry at them? (Genesis 4:6-8)
3. Have you ever tried to lie to God? How successful was that? (Genesis 4:9)

January 6:
Walking With God

Enoch lived sixty-five years, and begot Methuselah. After he begot Methuselah, Enoch walked with God three hundred years, and had sons and daughters. So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him. - Genesis 5:21-24

There is very little in the Bible about Enoch. We have a few verses in Genesis about him, and he is mentioned again in the "faith chapter" of Hebrews. But we know at least one thing: Enoch didn't die. He walked so closely with God that, one day, God simply took him. How amazing it would be to walk so closely with our awesome, holy God!

Questions for thought and discussion:
1. How close is your walk with God? (1 John 1:7)
2. Are your faith and the testimony of your life pleasing to God? (Hebrews 11:5-6)
3. Do you walk more by faith or more by sight? (2 Corinthians 5:7)

January 7:
Grieving God's Heart

Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the Lord said, "I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them." But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. - Genesis 6:5-8

This passage was written just before the great flood, but it could just as easily describe the world we live in today. I have no doubt that God looks down on the earth and is grieved by the sin that is so rampant in our society. Sexual immorality, murder, adultery, greed, and many more--sin is all around us.

Questions for thought and discussion:
1. Do you take a stand against the sin in this world, or are you a part of it? (1 John 2:15-17)
2. Consider the condition of your heart. Would it grieve God's heart? (Genesis 6:6)
3. When the world around you is filled with evil, would you find grace in God's eyes like Noah did? (Genesis 6:8)

January 8:
Noah's Faith

And God said to Noah, "The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence through them; and behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make yourself an ark of gopherwood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and outside with pitch." - Genesis 6:13-14

God goes on in verses 15 through 21 to tell Noah, in great detail, how to build the ark and what to bring inside with him. Then, verse 22 tells us that Noah did all that God commanded. That could not have been easy; not only was he surrounded by an evil, sinful world, but he was building this gigantic ark--and it had never even rained before! (See Genesis 2:4-6.) I can only imagine how other people probably ridiculed him, but he knew what God had asked him to do and he never wavered from the task.

Questions for thought and discussion:
1. How often do you obey God without question or hesitation? (Genesis 6:22)
2. How far are you willing to step out in faith for God? (Matthew 14:22-33)
3. Even if others are making fun of you, would you stand strong for Jesus and for what is right? (1 Corinthians 16:13)

January 9:
Pride and Arrogance

Now the whole earth had one language and one speech. ... And they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth." - Genesis 11:1, 4

After the floodwaters receded, God commanded Noah and his sons to multiply and fill the earth (see Genesis 9:1, 7). However, the people chose not to follow this command. Instead, they wanted to stay close together and build a tower to bring glory and honor to themselves.

Questions for thought and discussion:
1. What things do you do with the goal of bringing glory to yourself? (Genesis 11:4)
2. Can you remember a time when you took all the credit for something, when really it would not have been possible without God? (Psalm 12)
3. How can you do a better job of giving God the glory instead of trying to take it for yourself? (Jeremiah 9:23-24)

January 10:
The Power of God

But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. And the Lord said, "Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another's speech." So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city. - Genesis 11:5-8

God saw that the pride and arrogance of these people had gone too far, so He took the radical step of confusing their language so that they could no longer communicate and work together in such a negative way. Remember that God is always in control and He is all-powerful!

Questions for thought and discussion:
1. What has God done in your life or around you that reminds you that He is in control? (Genesis 11:7-8)
2. How is the Holy Trinity present in this passage from Genesis? (Genesis 11:7)
3. What do you see around you that shows God's power? (Genesis 11:8)

January 11:
Abram's Obedience

Now the Lord had said to Abram: "Get out of your country, from your family and from your father's house, to a land that I will show you." ... So Abram departed as the Lord had spoken to him, and Lot went with him. - Genesis 12:1, 4a

God wanted to lead Abram away from everything he knew and He promised to take Abram to a new land. How did Abram respond? Did he try to argue or make excuses? Did he simply ignore God's command? As we see, he didn't do anything of the sort. He simply obeyed. He went where God led him, seemingly without hesitation or question.

Questions for thought and discussion:
1. How does your faith in God's plan compare to that of Abram? (Genesis 12:4)
2. When God leads you down a path, do you follow immediately or do you hesitate? (Luke 14:33)
3. Do you have complete faith and trust in God and His plans, or do you question Him? (Luke 20:39-40)

January 12:
Consequences of a Half-Truth

And it came to pass, when [Abram] was close to entering Egypt, that he said to Sarai his wife, "Indeed I know that you are a woman of beautiful countenance. Therefore it will happen, when the Egyptians see you, that they will say, This is his wife; and they will kill me, but they will let you live. Please say you are my sister, that it may be well with me for your sake, and that I may live because of you." ... But the Lord plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram's wife. - Genesis 12:11-13, 17

As the famous expression goes, we need to "tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth." Sarai was Abram's half-sister (see Genesis 20:12), but that was only part of the truth. A half-truth is still a lie, and lying is a sin. Any true Christian who wants to be pleasing to God should try to avoid sinful actions. There are consequences, too, just as there are for any sin. Not only can lying have harmful consequences for you, but those consequences can also spread to others.

Questions for thought and discussion:
1. How often do you tell "half-truths" or "little white lies"? (Ephesians 4:25)
2. Why is this type of behavior sinful? (John 8:44)
3. What are some consequences that you or people around you have experienced as a result of a "half-truth" or a "little white lie"? (Genesis 12:17)

January 13:
Selfish vs. Selfless

So Abram said to Lot, "Please let there be no strife between you and me, and between my herdsmen and your herdsmen; for we are brethren. Is not the whole land before you? Please separate from me. If you take the left, then I will go to the right; or, if you go to the right, then I will go to the left." - Genesis 13:8-9

Abram and Lot had so much livestock that the land could no longer support them both (start reading in verse 1 for the full background story). Here, we see how the two men differ. Abram was selfless, allowing Lot to have the choice and knowing that he would end up with whichever land Lot did not choose. Verses 10 and 11 tell us that Lot chose the land that looked the best, which is both selfish (worrying about his own livestock more than Abram's) and vain (basing his choice on outward appearance only). However, that land bordered the wicked city of Sodom. On the other hand, Abram acted selflessly, allowing Lot to choose first, trusting the Lord to provide whatever would be best for him.

Questions for thought and discussion:
1. If you were in Abram's position, would you have been able to let Lot choose first? (Genesis 13:8-9)
2. How often do you make the selfish choice, putting your desires ahead of others' needs? (Genesis 13:10-11)
3. How often do you make a vain choice, looking at the outward appearance but not considering the evil that may lie underneath? (Genesis 13:10-11)

January 14:
The First Tithe

Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. And he blessed him and said: "Blessed be Abram of God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand." And he gave him a tithe of all. - Genesis 14:18-20

In this passage, we see the first mention of a tithe in the Bible. God commands us to tithe (Leviticus 27:30), which means to give one-tenth back to Him. Be careful to remember that everything you have ultimately belongs to God, anyway! He has simply given those things to you to take care of for a time. When you stop to consider all God has blessed you with. (Even if you don't have much, He still gave you all that you do have, which may include food, shelter, family, health, etc.)

Questions for thought and discussion:
1. When you think about who truly owns all of your possessions, how does that perspective impact your thinking? (Psalm 24:1)
2. Are you content with what you have, or are you sinfully envious of those who have more? (1 Timothy 6:6-10)
3. Are you faithful to tithe to God? Could you be more faithful in this area? (Leviticus 27:30)

January 15:
Taking Control

Now Sarai, Abram's wife, had borne him no children. And she had an Egyptian maidservant whose name was Hagar. So Sarai said to Abram, "See now, the Lord has restrained me from bearing children. Please, go in to my maid; perhaps I shall obtain children by her." And Abram heeded the voice of Sarai. Then Sarai, Abram's wife, took Hagar her maid, the Egyptian, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan. So he went in to Hagar, and she conceived. And when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress became despised in her eyes. - Genesis 16:1-4

God had promised Abram that he would have a son and descendants as numerous as the stars (see Genesis 15:4-6). But Sarai didn't have faith in God's promise as she should have, and she took matters into her own hands. Then, when she gets what she wanted, she isn't glad about it; instead, she begins to despise her maidservant for doing the very thing Sarai had asked her to do!

Questions for thought and discussion:
1. Do you wait on God, His plan and His timing? (Isaiah 40:31)
2. Have you ever sinned or asked someone else to sin as a result of your own impatience or lack of trust in God? (Genesis 16:2-3)
3. When you see the consequences of a sin, do you own up to your own sin or do you become bitter toward someone else instead? (Genesis 16:4)

January 16:
Laughing at God

Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, "Shall a child be born to a man who is one hundred years old? And shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?" And Abraham said to God, "Oh, that Ishmael might live before You!" ... And the Lord said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I surely bear a child, since I am old? Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son." But Sarah denied it, saying, "I did not laugh," for she was afraid. And He said, "No, but you did laugh!" - Genesis 17:17-18, 18:13-15

At the age of 99, God told Abraham that it was time for his son to be born. Abraham, who is known for his great faith, laughed at God! In this moment, he doubted God's power. A little while later, Sarah acted in an even worse manner, laughing at God and then lying about it! Even so, God still heard Abraham's plea, and in His great mercy and love, He cared for Ishmael as well, even though he had been born through a sinful act (see Genesis 16:1-12 and 17:19-21).

Questions for thought and discussion:
1. Have you ever doubted God's power? (Genesis 17:17, 18:12)
2. Have you ever sinned against God and then tried to lie to Him about it? (Acts 5:1-11)
3. Can you think of some specific times when God has shown mercy and love to you, even though you sin against Him and do not deserve it? (Psalm 136)

January 17:
Your Witness

Then the men said to Lot, "Have you anyone else here? Son-in-law, your sons, your daughters, and whomever you have in the city--take them out of this place! For we will destroy this place, because the outcry against them has grown great before the face of the Lord, and the Lord has sent us to destroy it." So Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who had married his daughters, and said, "Get up, get out of this place; for the Lord will destroy this city!" But to his sons-in-law he seemed to be joking. - Genesis 19:12-14

If Lot had been living a godly life, sharing God's truth with others and living with high moral standards, I believe his sons-in-law would have had reason to take him seriously when he told them that God was about to destroy the city of Sodom. However, they thought he was joking, which says to me that he was not living a godly lifestyle. Even if you are surrounded by evil, you can shine the light of Jesus--and the darkest places are where that light is needed the most!

Questions for thought and discussion:
1. What kind of Christian witness do you have around others? (John 15:1-10)
2. If your co-workers and friends were told that you are a Christian, would they already know it or would they be surprised? (1 Corinthians 10:31)
3. Do you stand up for what is right even when surrounded by evil? (Daniel 3)

January 18:
Abraham's Great Faith

Then [God] said, "Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you." So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, ... And Abraham said to his young men, "Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you." ... And Abraham said, "My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering." So the two of them went together. - Genesis 22:2-3a, 5, 8

(Read all of chapter 22 for the full story.) God didn't want Abraham to sacrifice his long-awaited son; He was just testing Abraham's faith. What are some things we can learn from this well-known story? Abraham obeyed God's difficult command without question or hesitation (verses 2-3). Abraham had faith that God would not take his son from him (verse 5). Abraham knew that God would always provide, no matter how bleak the situation may appear from our point of view (verse 8). This test, like any test from God, is really for us, because God already knows our hearts and He already knows the outcome.

Questions for thought and discussion:
1. Do you obey God's commands without hesitation? (Genesis 22:2-3)
2. Do you have enough faith in God that you will not withhold anything--no exceptions--from Him? (Hebrews 11:17-19)
3. Do you die daily to your own desires and let God have full control? (1 Corinthians 15:31)

January 19:
Isaac and His Bride

So Abraham said to the oldest servant of his house, who ruled over all that he had ... "you shall go to my country and to my family, and take a wife for my son Isaac." ... And Isaac went out to meditate in the field in the evening; and he lifted his eyes and looked, and there, the camels were coming. Then Rebekah lifted her eyes, and when she saw Isaac she dismounted from her camel - Genesis 24:2a, 4, 63-64

(Read all of chapter 24 for the full story.) I recently read something in a Sunday School lesson that allowed me to see this story in a whole new light, as a parallel to the story of Jesus. Abraham sent his servant to find a bride for his son, Isaac. Similarly, God sent the Holy Spirit to seek out the bride for His son, Jesus Christ. (The church is the bride of Christ; see Ephesians 5:23-27 and Revelation 22:17.) This story paints a beautiful picture of things to come, when God would send Jesus and the Holy Spirit into the world. (Credit for this insight goes to Stonecroft Ministries, Genesis II Study Book.)

Questions for thought and discussion:
1. Are you so in tune with the Holy Spirit that God answers your prayers before you even finish speaking them? (Genesis 24:12-15)
2. Are you eager to follow God's plan for your life? (Genesis 24:54-58)
3. Are you a part of the bride of Christ--not merely a member of a church, but truly a part of His Church? (Ephesians 5:32)

January 20:
Focused on the Present

And Esau said to Jacob, "Please feed me with that same red stew, for I am weary." Therefore his name was called Edom. But Jacob said, "Sell me your birthright as of this day." And Esau said, "Look, I am about to die; so what is this birthright to me?" Then Jacob said, "Swear to me as of this day." So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. And Jacob gave Esau bread and stew of lentils; then he ate and drank, arose, and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright. - Genesis 25:30-34

Here we find perhaps the ultimate example of someone who is completely focused on the present moment in time with no concept of future implications. The birthright was a special honor for the firstborn son, but he gave it away for a single meal because he was hungry (and overdramatic). Many people today live like this in one way or another by focusing on pleasure or materialistic things in the moment without any consideration of how their future may be impacted.

Questions for thought and discussion:
1. Do you ever make irresponsible choices with regard to money, buying things that you want while leading yourself into a future filled with debt? (Luke 15:11-16)
2. Do you seek out any kind of momentary worldly pleasure without considering the impact your choices will have on the future? (2 Timothy 3:1-5)
3. How often are you overdramatic about little, trivial things? (Genesis 25:32)

January 21:
A Christ-Like Response

Also Isaac's servants dug in the valley, and found a well of running water there. But the herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with Isaac's herdsmen, saying, "The water is ours." So he called the name of the well Esek, because they quarreled with him. Then they dug another well, and they quarreled over that one also. So he called its name Sitnah. And he moved from there and dug another well, and they did not quarrel over it. So he called its name Rehoboth, because he said, "For now the Lord has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land." - Genesis 26:19-22

Here we see how Isaac responded when the neighboring group of people tried to claim the wells his people had dug. He had every right to be angry, and he probably could have gone to war over the issue. But instead, he showed God's love and simply moved on, choosing not to start a fight. Sometimes we must give up any desires for revenge that we may have in order to truly show the love of Christ to those who treat us wrongly.

Questions for thought and discussion:
1. How do you tend to respond when someone wrongs you? (Matthew 5:38-40)
2. How could you respond with more of Christ's love? (Romans 13:10)
3. Are your priorities in the right order (God first, then family, then other needs) as Isaac's were in this situation? (Genesis 26:25)

January 22:
Selfless Love

Now Jacob loved Rachel; so he said, "I will serve you seven years for Rachel your younger daughter." And Laban said, "It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to another man. Stay with me." So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed only a few days to him because of the love he had for her. - Genesis 29:18-20

In our modern world, so many people don't have a good understanding of what true love is. This is one very good example. Jacob loved Rachel so much that he was willing to serve her father for seven years in order to marry her. In fact, because of Laban's unfair business dealings, he actually ended up serving for a total of fourteen years (see verses 21-30 for the rest of the story). But Jacob didn't mind serving and the time passed very quickly, because of the great love he had for her. What a beautiful story of love this is!

Questions for thought and discussion:
1. Is your spouse or significant other worth this much to you? (Genesis 29:20)
2. Would you be (or have been) willing to work fourteen years in order to marry your true love? (Genesis 29:30)
3. Have you ever dealt dishonestly with someone in order to get more work out of them? If so, how could you have acted more like Christ? (Genesis 29:23-25)

January 23:
Sinful Reactions

Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to see the daughters of the land. And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the country, saw her, he took her and lay with her, and violated her. ... But the sons of Jacob answered Shechem and Hamor his father, and spoke deceitfully, because he had defiled Dinah their sister. ... Two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah's brothers, each took his sword and came boldly upon the city and killed all the males. - Genesis 34:1-2, 13, 25b

(Read all of chapter 34 for the full story.) Dinah was violated by this foreign man, and from a human perspective, her brothers certainly had a right to be angry. But did they handle the situation in a Godly manner? Unfortunately, they did not. Instead of trusting God, who is Judge over all of us, they decided to handle the matter themselves, and killed not only the man responsible but many other men in that city as well. In doing so, they also displeased their father (see verse 30).

Questions for thought and discussion:
1. What would your response have been in this situation? (Genesis 34:13-29)
2. Because they failed to handle it God's way, which people in this story ended up sinning, and which sins were committed? (Exodus 20:13-17)
3. What would the proper response have been? (Romans 12:17-21)

January 24:
Joseph's Lack of Discernment

Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age. ... So [Joseph] said to them, "Please hear this dream which I have dreamed: There we were, binding sheaves in the field. Then behold, my sheaf arose and also stood upright; and indeed your sheaves stood all around and bowed down to my sheaf." And his brothers said to him, "Shall you indeed reign over us? Or shall you indeed have dominion over us?" So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words. - Genesis 37:3a, 6-8

Jacob (renamed Israel by God; see Genesis 32:28) has twelve sons, but he favored Joseph. Now, Joseph couldn't do much to change that, but he really put himself in a bad light when he bragged about this dream to his brothers. They were already envious of him because he was their father's favorite, and this just made them hate Joseph even more.

Questions for thought and discussion:
1. How could Joseph have responded in a way that was more humble and God-honoring? (Genesis 37:7)
2. What are some times in your life when you could have had a more humble attitude toward others or toward God? (James 4:10)
3. Instead of being envious or jealous of someone, how can you better show the love of Christ? (Romans 13:13-14)

January 25:
Extreme Jealousy

So Judah said to his brothers, "What profit is there if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? Come and let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him, for he is our brother and our flesh." And his brothers listened. Then Midianite traders passed by; so the brothers pulled Joseph up and lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. And they took Joseph to Egypt. - Genesis 37:26-28

Joseph's brothers were so jealous and envious of him (being his father's favorite while bragging about his dreams of greatness; see Genesis 37:1-11) that they finally took matters into their own hands. They thought about killing Joseph, but eventually decided to sell him to a group of traders who were on their way to Egypt. But as we will see over the next few days, God turned this awful act into something good, which ultimately saved Joseph's entire family.

Questions for thought and discussion:
1. Have you ever done something awful to someone out of envy? (Mark 15:9-14)
2. How can you change feelings of jealousy? (1 Peter 2:1-3)
3. Are feelings of jealousy and envy at the front of your mind? (James 3:13-18)

January 26:
Joseph's Enduring Faith

Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. And Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him down there. The Lord was with Joseph, and he was a successful man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. And his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord made all he did to prosper in his hand. So Joseph found favor in his sight, and served him. Then he made him overseer of his house, and all that he had he put under his authority. - Genesis 39:1-4

Joseph was still being held against his will after being sold by his envious brothers, but Joseph kept a strong faith in God, and God blessed him in all that he did. Joseph could have easily indulged in a pity party after the wrong that had been done to him, but instead he focused on God and on helping and serving others, regardless of the circumstances in which he found himself.

Questions for thought and discussion:
1. If you were in Joseph's situation, what would you have done--indulged in a self-pity party, or kept your eyes focused on God? (Psalm 31:21-24)
2. Can you remember a time when God was clearly blessing you, even though you were in a difficult situation that was not of your own making? (Genesis 39:3-4)
3. Even if you have been treated unfairly or you have been wronged in some way, do you still allow God to work through you? (2 Timothy 1:8-12)

January 27:
Joseph's Unwavering Morals

And it came to pass after these things that his master's wife cast longing eyes on Joseph, and she said, "Lie with me." But he refused and said to his master's wife, "...There is no one greater in this house than I, nor has he kept back anything from me but you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?" ... [Several days later,] she caught him by his garment, saying, "Lie with me." But he left his garment in her hand, and fled and ran outside. ... Then she spoke to [her husband] with words like these, saying, "The Hebrew servant whom you brought to us came in to me to mock me; so it happened, as I lifted my voice and cried out, that he left his garment with me and fled outside." - Genesis 39:7-8a, 9, 12, 17-18

(Read all of chapter 39 for the full story.) Joseph was committed to doing what was right and pure, no matter what. His master didn't believe him, though, and sent him to prison after this incident occurred. But even in prison, the Lord was with Joseph, and prospered all that he did (verse 23).

Questions for thought and discussion:
1. Are you fully committed to doing what is morally right? (Ephesians 1:4)
2. If someone tempted you in this manner, would you say no? (Proverbs 5:3-8)
3. Could you keep a positive attitude, focused on helping others and on following God's will, even if you wrongfully ended up in prison? (Genesis 39:21-23)

January 28:

Yet the chief butler did not remember Joseph, but forgot him. Then it came to pass, at the end of two full years, that Pharaoh had a dream. ... Then the chief butler spoke to Pharaoh, saying: "I remember my faults this day. ... Now there was a young Hebrew man with us there, a servant of the captain of the guard. And we told him, and he interpreted our dreams for us; to each man he interpreted according to his own dream." ... Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they brought him quickly out of the dungeon; and he shaved, changed his clothing, and came to Pharaoh. - Genesis 40:23-41:1a, 9, 12, 14

After being wrongfully sent to prison, Joseph (through God's power) correctly interpreted dreams of two of Pharaoh's servants. However, the butler did not remember to share Joseph's story with Pharaoh as he had promised to do (Genesis 40:14-15). A full two years passed before Joseph was finally freed.

Questions for thought and discussion:
1. If you were in Joseph's position, would you feel forgotten by God? (Psalm 31)
2. Are you able to continue serving God with a joyful heart, even in the midst of a terrible trial that may have been due to no wrong on your part? (Job 2:1-10)
3. Would you become bitter, or would you still trust God's plan? (Ephesians 4:31)

January 29:
Joseph Sees God's Plan

So the advice was good in the eyes of Pharaoh and in the eyes of all his servants. And Pharaoh said to his servants, "Can we find such a one as this, a man in whom is the Spirit of God?" Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, "Inasmuch as God has shown you all this, there is no one as discerning and wise as you. You shall be over my house, and all my people shall be ruled according to your word; only in regard to the throne will I be greater than you." And Pharaoh said to Joseph, "See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt." - Genesis 41:37-41

Joseph was sold by his brothers, taken away to Egypt, and thrown into jail for several years even though he was completely innocent. (Genesis 37, 39-41) But through it all, he continued to faithfully trust in God's plan, and now he finally sees why God allowed all those things to happen. After he interprets Pharaoh's dream and warns of the coming famine (Genesis 41:25-36), Pharaoh puts Joseph in charge of storing food all across the land of Egypt. Joseph had to endure many hardships, but in the end, God used him to save untold numbers of people!

Questions for thought and discussion:
1. Do you have this level of faith in God and His plan? (Hebrews 11)
2. Do you trust God, even when you don't understand why certain things are happening to you or around you? (Psalm 56)
3. Think about one or more times in your life when God has led you through a difficult time and great things happened as a result. What was the impact on others? What did you learn? How was your faith strengthened? (James 1:2-7)

January 30:
God's Plan is Revealed to All

And Joseph said to his brothers, "Please come near to me." So they came near. Then he said: "I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. ... And God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt." - Genesis 45:4-5, 7-8

Joseph finally decides to reveal his true identity to his long-lost brothers. He also tells them how God was working all the time, and he isn't angry with them because he knows that God brought a lot of good out of what was initially a bad situation. These events also set the stage for Moses' exodus out of Egypt, through which God displayed His mighty power to both the Israelites and the Egyptians.

Questions for thought and discussion:
1. Do you firmly believe that God can bring good out of anything? (Romans 8:28)
2. Knowing this, can you persevere through bad times? (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)
3. What is the biggest thing you learned from Joseph's story? (Genesis 37-45)

January 31:
The Faith of the Patriarchs

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, "In Isaac your seed shall be called," concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense. By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come. By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff. By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the departure of the children of Israel, and gave instructions concerning his bones. - Hebrews 11:17-22

(Read verses 1-22 for the full passage.) Throughout the book of Genesis, we see examples of some of the godly men who lived millennia ago. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph are just a few of these great men. They all had their own flaws and committed different sins, but all displayed great faith in one way or another. That's what God expects from us--strong, solid faith in Him and in His plan for our lives. Do you trust Him with yours?

Questions for thought and discussion:
1. What does God expect from you? (Matthew 8:5-13)
2. How does your faith measure up? (Hebrews 11:1-12:2)
3. What have you learned from both the strengths and the weaknesses of the great men of faith that we have studied in the book of Genesis? (Genesis 1-50)