A Gathering – Genesis 49:29-50:26 – Sermon Notes

A summary of Genesis could be that God is gathering a people for himself. People are rubbish but God doesn’t reject people. God made promises of people, land and blessing. Abraham and Isaac tried to prostitute their own wives to save their skin. Jacob cons his own father. His sons sell their own brother into slavery and leave him for dead. God is keeping his promises despite our sin and wickedness. He takes rubbish people and makes them his own.

Joseph knows the evil intent in the hearts of his brothers but he knows that God can use it for good. For Jacob that means fixing his eyes on Canaan. He’s come to the end of his life and with his final words he’s modelling what it looks like. He wants to make sure his sons act in line with God’s promises. The mourning for Jacob is extravagant. It’s testimony to who he is and who Jacob is. For the Egyptians their saviour’s grief becomes their own grief. Joseph speaks to the court, even as the second in command. He’s showing respect and humility.

Only Joseph and his brothers cross into Canaan. They turn and go back to Egypt. Even here we see this is about more than just Canaan. If we’re Christians we are to fix our eyes on heaven if we are to live for Jesus now. For Joseph it means completely forgiving his brothers. It means cancelling debt and absorbing a cost. It means no longer bringing up the issue. It moves towards the other person and is only possible when we trust God. Joseph knows that behind the hurt God was still doing good things. It doesn’t take away the hurt but it means knowing that this isn’t all there is. If we won’t forgive others we have no right to expect God to forgive us.

God is gathering a people for himself.

Live Well – Genesis 48:1-49:28 – Sermon Notes

The Christian hope is of life after death. We live now for that future. Jesus came to pay the price for sin so that we can live forever. We can choose whether we follow him or not. What we see modelled by Jacob is how to die well.

Live now for God’s future kingdom

It’s easy to get distracted by the things around us. Jacob wants to make sure his sons don’t live for the now but for the future. He doesn’t give Joseph a list of tasks to achieve. He wants to remind him of God’s promises. He wants their lives to be shaped by that reality. Do we really believe it’s better to live for Jesus and lose everything?

Joseph notices that Jacob got the blessings the wrong way round, but Jacob knows he didn’t. He knows God blesses the weak. He knows exactly what he’s doing. Blessing is a gift and not a right. Jacob gathers the rest of the sons together and they all receive a blessing. It’s an encouragement because we know that God’s kingdom in Canaan was built.

The king of God’s kingdom comes from Judah. As God’s people there are still consequences for our actions now (1 Cor. 3). We shouldn’t get distracted by the comfort of Egypt. We are called to live for Canaan, to live for God’s future kingdom.

Death and Taxes – Genesis 47:13-31 – Sermon Notes

The slavery in this passage is different from the slavery we think of today.

The Lord cares for all people through his gracious leader (v13-26)

This is probably about four years into seven years of famine. Pharaoh gets all the money. The people go to Joseph and ask for food. They know they have a choice of either life or death. Joseph says he’ll buy their animals from them. The Egyptians know that losing their possessions and living is better. They’re at least fine for a time. When that year was over, they go to Joseph again. They offer themselves. The people make the suggestion this time to sell themselves and their land. They carry on living on the same land. It costs them a 20% tax. They get food, seeds to sow, and their land. They know it’s good.

God had brought Joseph to Egypt to save the lives of Jacob and his sons. Joseph was only ever a small picture of Jesus. When they were confronted with a choice the Egyptians would’ve been foolish to go it alone. We have the same choice. That way leads to death. We can give ourselves to Jesus. That way leads to life. We need to know the truth like the Egyptians did. We also need to show it.

The Lord cares uniquely for his people through his gracious leader (v27-28)

Every person has lots of blessings. It’s better to live as a Christian now than not to. There is comfort through suffering as the Holy Spirit is with us. We need to remind each other that this is true. The love, care and mercy that God expects us to show each other is wonderful.

The Lord’s people live now for his future promises (v29-31)

God’s future is far better. Jesus is going to remake the world and begin a new world of joy. Isn’t that what helps us to forgive? This life isn’t all there is. We need to keep encouraging each other not to live for the now but for the future promises.

Justice and Mercy – Genesis 42-44 – Sermon Notes

Sometimes we want justice to be done and we want to take it into our own hands. Justice is good but what does it look like here? God is providing for his people. He knows there will be a seven year famine across the world and he makes sure his people will survive. Joseph has been betrayed and spent 13 years in slavery and prison and another seven in Egypt. Just because God is bringing good things out of this doesn’t mean his brothers aren’t guilty.

It’s been more than 20 years since Joseph’s brothers last saw Joseph. He recognised them but they didn’t recognise him. He had had dreams that his whole family would bow down before him. He sees that this is the fulfilment. Joseph tests them. He puts them in prison. He shows mercy and tells one of them to stay behind. He tells them to prove their innocence. They know they’re guilty. Joseph orders his servants to plant their money in their sacks. They see that this is God’s judgment on their sin for their treatment of Joseph.

Reuben is a bit different. He’d intended to free Joseph. He offers to take responsibility for Benjamin. The promise he makes is foolish at best. Losing two grandchildren for losing a son is hardly retribution. Judah steps up. He had only ever cared about himself. He takes his charge personally. He does it for his family.

Joseph is thrilled at seeing his younger brother and almost can’t hide it any more. He tells his servants to plant his own cup in their sacks. Joseph then tells his steward to go after them. Is God’s justice finally catching up with them? They all claim innocence. Each sack is opened until only Benjamin is left. There’s the cup but they’re all devastated. They all stay to become slaves. They’re not the same as who they were 20 years ago. We shouldn’t judge people by that. They are still guilty. It doesn’t undo what they’ve done in the past.

We don’t want people to get away with things. Joseph shows mercy. God isn’t only the God of justice but of mercy too. None of us are any better than Joseph’s brothers. Justice for us is condemnation. A true Christian shows mercy to others. It’s costly. It opens us up to being hurt or betrayed but it is the example of Jesus. It transforms people. Joseph is merciful because God has shown mercy to him. We can be merciful to others because Jesus been merciful to us.

Trusting God – Genesis 39-41 – Sermon Notes

This is a story of real hardship and pain. Even if we’re Christians we can question if we can trust God with this going on. When we say that we’re Christians that means we follow Jesus. We’re told he sustains all things (Hebrews 1:3). Jesus allows all things to happen. That means believing that somehow, for some reason, Jesus allows the hurt and pain and brokenness of this world to continue. Even as we face that, God is good. He is with us and for us.

Even while Joseph was a slave in a foreign land, God was with him. He doesn’t know why this has happened to him. It doesn’t stop him from making the most of the situation he is in. Whatever situation you find yourself in, God has put you there for a reason. By remaining faithful to God things actually go from bad to worse. His master’s wife twisted the story.

Joseph is clinging to God but is longing to be out of his situation. We don’t know why these things happen but God proves himself trustworthy again and again. In chapter 41, Pharaoh had dreams. Joseph is able to interpret. We are to cling to God’s promises. Jesus doesn’t promise a life free of suffering. Joseph received a blessing from God. In Jesus we have certain promises. Eternal life that is free from suffering and pain. Jesus gave himself up and faced the full anger of God the Father.

Judah’s Transformation – Genesis 38 – Sermon Notes

We have this story before the story of Joseph continues. The key is v26. Why does our view of sin and our view of righteousness seem so different from God’s? The Lord is the God of transforming forgiveness.

V1-5 hint that all is not right. Judah left his brothers, the people of God. He has married a Canaanite. They’re enemies of God’s people. Judah is able to force what he wants on others.

V6-11 show this is a wicked family. We’re not told why Er is wicked but God judges him for it. He will judge sin. Judah doesn’t show sadness and seems to not care about his family when his son dies. The Lord judges Onan and so he dies.

V12-19 shows grief and deception. For once Judah mourns someone. His grief isn’t very long. Tamar dresses herself up to sleep with her father in law. What does that tell us about the kind of person Judah is? Clearly it’s not the first time for Judah (sleeping with a prostitute). He’s wicked and selfish. God blesses Tamar with a child (and later another). Children in Genesis are a sign of God’s blessing. Judah tries to cut his losses to avoid embarrassment (v20-23).

V24-26 shows judgement and forgiveness. Both the man and woman deserve judgement.

Judah and his sons were wicked and evil, not just to Tamar but to God. They went against what God’s good plans were. They were fighting against God and that’s true of our world. Ignorance isn’t an excuse. Tamar is doing everything she can to follow God. She’s been trying to bring about God’s plan. He recognises that and gives her blessing. She is allowed to have her two children. God brings about his plan of rescue through Jesus through the family line of Judah.

God can save anybody but our actions can say otherwise. Judah is transformed by God’s forgiveness. We can never write anybody off. God’s forgiveness is complete and is for all people. We need to recognise and repent of our sin. How do you treat others? Shouldn’t we treat everyone with the compassion and love that Jesus does?

If we are quick to judge others, that shows we think we shouldn’t be judged ourselves. Real Christianity is knowing how much we fail God again and again, but knowing that his forgiveness is complete.

God Meant it for Good – Genesis 37:1-36 – Sermon Notes

What can we learn about Jesus?

There are similarities between the life of Joseph and the life of Jesus. He can only be a shadow of what Jesus would be like. He was a beloved son acknowledged by his father. The dreams that God gave to him were fulfilled. Joseph knew what it was to experience rejection by his family. How much more was Jesus rejected? We see Joseph suffering in a way that he didn’t deserve. Jesus didn’t deserve his suffering. Joseph was sold for a price. Jesus was also betrayed for 30 pieces of silver. Jesus learned obedience from what he suffered.

What can we learn about salvation?

This is the prelude to Israel’s rescue from slavery in Egypt. Salvation doesn’t come without suffering. Our salvation was purchased through the suffering of Christ.

What can we learn about ourselves?

The family of Jacob is dysfunctional (rival wives, jealous brothers). God’s grace is available to them. There are dangers to parental favouritism. There is an arrogance about Joseph. Jealousy has a corrosive effect. Jacob may have grown closer to God but that didn’t mean his children were godly. Without God’s grace our children will produce the worst aspects of our character. At the end of Genesis (50:20), Joseph said his brothers intended to harm him but God intended it for good.

All the wickedness that mankind poured out on Jesus, God meant it for good. We don’t choose our sufferings, but God means it for good.

What’s in a Name? – Genesis 35-36 – Sermon Notes

Jacob means heel grabber. He likes to grab things that aren’t his. Bethel means the house of God. Jacob was assured of God’s presence in that place. Jacob has joy at the new son he has been given (Benjamin). Here we see the beginning of someone who engages with God all the time.

Jacob is himself a failure. He doesn’t trust the God who has blessed and is with him. He had been given promises by God but he doesn’t trust him (Genesis 28). Jacob tries to do everything in his own strength. He tries to deceive his own brother. He won’t protect his own daughter. None of us are any better than Jacob. It’s easy to judge him.

Our failure is like Jacob’s failure. We don’t trust the God who has blessed and is with us. To trust God is to say that he knows better than us. It’s to recognise that he knows how bad we are and our only hope is in Jesus. God has blessed all of us. Every good thing has come from him. He will provide all you need. Do you live for God’s kingdom each day? Why do we fail to live in the way Jesus says we should?

We see God’s grace in Genesis. He continues to faithfully bless despite our repeated failures. God draws closer to Jacob and reminds him of all he’s done. He’s with them and protecting them just as he had promised. He gives Jacob a better name (Israel – the one who wrestles with God). It’s not just Jacob being given this new name. His whole family become the people of God. People do great evil, but despite that God brings blessing.

We’re told about Esau. God, in his grace, blesses him. He also becomes a great nation. God blesses not just his chosen people, but all people. He isn’t a God of just one family. He is the God of the whole earth. He knows us by name. He invites each of us to trust him. Jesus comes to us in our failures. We should respond like Jacob. Whenever we fail to trust God there is always grace.

Does Jacob’s name being changed to Israel make a difference? It’s a reminder of the chances God gave him. It’s the same for us. If we trust God we are given a new identity. Our identity is someone trying to be like Jesus. It’s a good name to have. Let’s live up to it.

Considering Work – Genesis 1:26-2:3 – Sermon Notes

For many of us, work is both desirable and difficult. Work can be the problem in life. It was what you got through in order to enjoy life. There are others who immerse themselves in it and it’s their salvation. It can be an addiction. Hard workers do it for themselves. Most children would rather see less money and more of their parents.

So much of our identity is bound up in work. Every culture has its own hierarchy of work. Church cultures have their own hierarchy.

We read of a God who is moral and rational and relational. Men and women take the raw materials and cultivate it. Human beings are to bring order out of chaos. There is something God like in work. God’s astonishing creativity is in what he makes. God’s work is to make things that are useful and beautiful. His work gives value to both the functional and the aesthetic. There is dignity in all human work as our identity is not in what we do but in Jesus.

Work is good and necessary. We have a diminished and unbiblical view of work. We rightly think it’s necessary. Work itself is good as we are made in the image of a God who works. As we work we show the world what it means to be human. A wage isn’t what makes work work. It’s something you do that other people depend on. There is a profound dignity and value in work.

Work is good and difficult. The things we create requires effort. Hard work is one of the ways in which God matures us. Much work is ‘bad’ difficult. Human rebellion has made human work difficult. Work can become an idol. We take good things and make them ultimate things. When you work hard at something there is always room for the expectation that the fulfilment will be with you from that moment on. There is never enough satisfaction in our work.

Jesus’ work was to do the will of he who sent him. The cross was the central work of Jesus’ life but it wasn’t the only work of Jesus’ life. He was a carpenter. His life and work shows us what it’s like to be truly human. He came to die but wasn’t merely killing time beforehand. The life of Jesus shows there is real dignity and significance to human work. The new creation will be a place of work.

Both sin and holiness permeate every aspect of our lives. Who or what do they serve? In all our work, sharing the good news of Jesus must be central. We need to articulate the gospel, adorn the gospel and embody the gospel. People need to look at our work and see what it means to be truly human for there is real dignity and value to human work.

Work is not everything but it’s not nothing. Our identity is rooted in Christ and the work that we do counts.

Isaac – Genesis 17-18 & 21 – Bible Study Notes

Context: Genesis 16:1-18:15 & 21:1-26:5

New series on miracle births in the Bible (Jesus wasn’t the only one). In each case we see God’s kindness to the people involved and also his kindness to all people, as each child is born for a particular purpose in God’s big plan for the world.

1. Who was Abraham?

He was chosen by God to lead his people.

2. Why does God promise Isaac?

God made promises to Abraham. Kings shall come from Sarah.

3. Are you surprised by Abraham and Sarah’s response?

Both laughed. She thought it was impossible so the laughter is understandable. She shouldn’t have denied it though.

4. Do you think we can be tempted to doubt God’s promises?

Possibly. Different culture now to that of OT.

5. Are there situations we face today where we need to be reminded of God’s plan for the world?

Time of suffering. We live in a broken world and need to be reminded of the gospel and the promise that God will make things right again.

6. What do we see of God’s character through this story?

He keeps his promises. He provides the sacrifice so we (and Abraham) don’t have to.

7. How is the birth of Isaac similar to that of Jesus? How is it different?

Sarah thought it wasn’t possible. Mary didn’t understand either at first. Both births seemed impossible.

8. How do we see a picture of Jesus from what happens in chapter 22?

Abraham was told to offer Isaac (who was in his early thirties) as a sacrifice. He was told to go to a mountain called Moriah. Years later that same mountain was known as Golgotha, the place where God sacrificed his only son. God stopped Abraham at the last minute and provided another sacrifice, a ram with its head caught in thorns. Jesus is depicted in Revelation as the ram with seven horns, signifying strength. At the same spot another young man (also in his early thirties) was sacrificed with his head caught in thorns. A picture of Jesus.

9. How does Jesus show he’s greater than Isaac?

He paid the ultimate price and was sacrificed. Only he could satisfy God’s wrath. Only he can save people.