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I pray that the Lord will listen when you are in trouble, and that the God of Jacob will keep you safe. Psalm 20:1 (CEV)

There are times in our lives when we feel completely alone and overwhelmed with the battle before us. The uncertainty of the future and the rugged trail of the present seem to keep us from making any headway at all on the journey.

Sometimes, in the midst of the turmoil, there are no easy answers. Sometimes when life seems at its lowest, there are no clearly defined routes to victory; no words of comfort. During those times it’s nice just to have someone to listen to us. We don’t need solutions (although they’d be nice). We don’t need sympathy or advice. We’d just like to know we are heard. We’d just like to be assured that our thoughts, the deep feelings of the heart are being listened to without judgment.

Other times, listening isn’t enough. We need a defender. We need someone who will come to our aid and fight the battle for us. Our strength is gone, our will to continue is waning, and our hope of victory is dim.

It’s as though the battles we fight are two-fold. One the one hand attacks come from within, from the depths of our very soul. Doubts about our faith seep like cancer into the very sinew of our being. Questions of our worth and value linger in the corners of our minds. Accusations and our past haunt us.

On the other hand, we are in danger physically. Financial woes keep us trapped. Family and relational stress weaken out resolve to even try to reconcile. Health and old age remind us that some of our dreams are no longer accessible.

It’s during these times that the God of Jacob comes to our aid. Jacob, the man who wrestled with God and refused to give up until he was blessed. His blessing carried with it a limp for the rest of his life. A reminder that his battle was huge, but he won. A reminder that his God was a God you could get down and wrestle with over the issues of life.

Jacob, the man who approached a brother that tried to kill him. Jacob was vastly outnumbered. Esau was powerful and heavily armed. Jacobs’s strength that day wasn’t his own; it was the strength of his God.

The Psalmist reminds us in his prayer that we have a God that will listen to our deepest longings and struggles. We are loved passionately by a God who honors those of us who would dare ‘wrestle with him’ into the dark hours of the night. We are protected by a God who put his very life on a cross to guarantee our eternal protection.

Today, whatever trial you face, may you know that the God of Jacob is with you to listen, to protect and most of all to forgive.

PRAYER: Lord I thank you today that you listen to me in my hour of need. I praise you for the protection you offer in my time of physical and emotional danger. Help me to be ever aware of your presence today as I travel this journey. Amen.

When the days of mourning had passed, Joseph said to Pharaoh’s court, “If I have found favor in your eyes, speak to Pharaoh for me. Tell him, ‘My father made me swear an oath and said, “I am about to die; bury me in the tomb I dug for myself in the land of Canaan.” Now let me go up and bury my father; then I will return.’ “ Genesis 50:4-5

 Yet another chapter in the life of Joseph had come to an end. He’d enjoyed living within the blessing of his father in a large family. He’d experienced the humiliation of being rejected by his own brothers and sold as a common slave. He’d lived through years of suspicion as a result of false accusations. He’d struggled through the stress of leading an entire nation through difficult economic times as a result of a major drought. Egypt became a great nation because of the honest and generous dealings of Joseph. He’d rejoiced in the reconciliation of his family.

Now, his father Jacob had died. The death of a father is never easy. It doesn’t matter if it is early in life or during adulthood. Losing dad is tough. Even when a father has been abusive, absent or alienated that loss is traumatic.

After Jacob died and the mourning rituals were complete it was time for him to be laid to rest. As he was dying he’d asked Joseph for one thing, to be laid to rest in his homeland, the land of his father Abraham, Canaan.

Joseph had always been a man of his word. This time would be no exception. Gaining special permission and the blessing of Pharaoh, Joseph and a large contingent of his family went to Canaan for the burial.

This was no small task, nor was it an ordinary request. Yet it was granted gladly by Pharaoh. Joseph was a major figure in the government of Egypt. To let him go with a large group of people had mutiny and political threat written all over it. Still, he was granted that favor. Why?

Joseph was allowed to go bury Jacob because throughout his life Joseph had proven to be a man of integrity. In all of his business dealings he’d proven that he could be trusted and that he was a man of his word.

Secondly, Joseph lived in a land where many gods were worshipped. Even though the Egyptians didn’t follow Jehovah God as the people of Jacob did, they were impressed with the honesty, the hard work and the devotion of God’s people.

Joseph gained the respect of those around him because he was devoted first to God and then to his neighbor. It wasn’t until long after Joseph died that the Egyptian government turned against God’s people. His testimony lived on for many years.

Each of us, as Christ-followers, can take a lesson from the life of Joseph. We are being constantly watched and scrutinized by those around us to see if our faith really makes a difference in our lives. Can we be trusted? Do we do what we say we’ll do? Are our business dealings honest? Are we someone that can be counted on to offer support emotionally, physically or spiritually to anyone regardless of what they have done to us?

Few of us have had the life that Joseph had. We’ve not been in prison, sold as slaves or rejected by family. Few of us have stayed the course and remained people of integrity as well. Our past mistakes don’t matter to God. He can use you no matter what you have done.

PRAYER: Jehovah God when I look at the life of Joseph I’m both amazed and embarrassed. I’ve not suffered to the extent he did, yet I’ve made some pretty stupid decisions that have kept me from being the man/woman of integrity I know you want me to be. I ask that you forgive me for the times I didn’t stand strong. Empower me to live more fully for you so that your love may flow out to those around me. I ask this for your sake and in the name of your son Jesus Christ. Amen.

Then Isaac built an altar there and worshiped the Lord. He set up his camp at that place, and his servants dug another well. Genesis 26:25 (NLT)

In the early days of the Old Testament it was common for people to build altars to the Lord. Noah, Abraham, Isaac Jacob and Moses were the ones who most often built altars to the Lord. The altars during this time bore special significance because they involved an action or promise by the God of the Universe and a sacrifice as an act of worship by man because of what God had done for him. Altars spoke to God’s working on behalf of man.

The early patriarchs of the Old Testament weren’t just known for building altars. The land in which they lived was dry and there was a constant need to provide water for the livestock. Out of necessity wells were dug to provide life and refreshment for the animals as well as the families that owned them. On several occasions these wells were dug as special reminders of God’s blessings and promises. As the altars reminded man of God’s forgiveness and awesome power, the wells were a reminder that God is the provider of life and refreshment. Just as all living things need water to live, mankind needs the living water that God grants us for spiritual life.

God instructed the great patriarchs of the Bible to build altars and wells, not cities and houses. The reason for this is that life isn’t about settling in and being content. Life is a journey. It’s a journey that leads us through lush valleys, desert wasteland and mountain top highs. But along the way we pass the altars and the wells and remind ourselves that God is on His throne. He is all-knowing, all-loving, all-powerful and longing for a relationship with us.

In Jesus Christ we have the ultimate sacrifice so we no longer need to build altars for sacrifice. In Jesus Christ we have living water that satisfies eternally so wells are not necessary. While we no longer build physical altars or dig physical wells where God has met us, it is important for us to note spiritual benchmarks where God has met us in a real and powerful way.

These are not to be worshipped or held onto tightly. They are simply to be reminders along the journey that Jehovah God has come to us. A personal relationship with Jesus brings forgiveness when we fail and new life for eternity. Each of the most well-known altar and well builders, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses made major moral mistakes in their lives. Still God used them in mighty ways. He longs to do the same for each of us.

Live in such a way that God can reveal Himself to you so that you can build altars and wells that those who come behind you will see and use to find their own way along the journey God has for them. Altars and wells. They aren’t just for you. They aren’t just for today.

PRAYER: Father God. Thank you for the examples of men like Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Isaac and Moses. Men who failed, yet experienced your love and forgiveness. You know my heart. You know my failings, my anger, and my impatience with others. You know my tendency to be content to rest on yesterday’s victories. Empower me through your Holy Spirit to move forward so that the life I live will be altars and wells that those who come behind me will be able to use as a guide to following your ways. Amen.

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April 2023
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