I can recall specific times in my life when I felt like I just needed a fresh start. Life either felt out of control in too many areas, or just stale. I found myself in states of being that I no longer wanted to be in. I had to make a change somehow. But how? Could my life really be different? How does God fit into all of this? Am I being obedient by changing?
I had somehow changed into a person that I never wanted to become: distant from God and those closest to me, stressed, anxious, lethargic, unhealthy, lazy, secretive, overwhelmed, depressed, stuck. Fear, worry, and doubt were closer to me than before and God felt far away.
These moments where I’ve felt one or all of these things have turned into great turning points. I had to choose to say good-bye to that way of living or thinking with the hope of creating something better. Looking back, they seemed like times of rebuilding. I had been cracked or broken in some way and now was the time to make myself beautiful, or whole, again.
Often, it seems that we have to reach rock-bottom before we decide to make a change. Other times, change is thrust upon us. Sometimes, we can catch things early on to try to avoid getting those low places. However it comes, it’s an opportunity for a new way of life – hopefully better than before (though it might be a difficult journey to get there).
In this opening chapter, we find Jacob and his family with a fresh start. He tells them to clean up and leave behind their pagan idols. It’s a chance to start worshiping the true God, the one who has been protecting them this whole time.
S – Scripture: Genesis 35-37
- 35:2-3 – “So Jacob told everyone in his household, ‘Get rid of all your pagan idols, purify yourselves, and put on clean clothing. We are now going to Bethel, where I will build an altar to the God who answered my prayers when I was in distress. He has been with me wherever I have gone.'”
- 35:5 – “As they set out, a terror from God spread over the people in all the towns of that area, so no one attacked Jacob’s family.”
- 35:10 – “God blessed him, saying, ‘Your name is Jacob, but you will not be called Jacob any longer. From now on your name will be Israel.'”
- 35:15 – “And Jacob named the place Bethel (which means “house of God”), because God had spoken to him there.”
- 35:19 – “So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem).”
- 36:7 – “There was not enough land to support them both because of all the livestock and possessions they had acquired.”
- 37:3-4 – “Jacob loved Joseph more than any of his other children because Joseph had been born to him in his old age. So one day Jacob had a special gift made for Joseph–a beautiful robe. But his brothers hated Joseph because their father loved him more than the rest of them. They couldn’t say a kind word to him.”
- 37:9 – “Soon Joseph had another dream, and again he told his brothers about it. ‘Listen, I have had another dream,’ he said. ‘The sun, moon, and eleven stars bowed low before me!’ This time he told the dream to his father as well as to his brothers, but his father scolded him. ‘What kind of dream is that?’ he asked. ‘Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow to the ground before you?’ But while his brothers were jealous of Joseph, his father wondered what the dreams meant.”
- 37:22-36 – The brothers plot to kill Joseph; then decide to throw him into an empty cistern to die slowly; then they see some merchants and sell him instead. The merchants take him to Egypt and sell him into slavery to Potiphar, the Captain of the Guard, to Pharoah, the King.
O – Observation:
- Jacob was ready to move on, so he told his family to clean themselves up and destroy their pagan idols (maybe from Rachel?). It was time to honor God because of all that he had done and how he had protected them.
- God spread fear into all of the surrounding people so to protect Jacob and his family.
- Jacob’s name gets changed from “the deceiver” to Israel, or “God fights.” I love this!
- God fights for his people, kingdom, and purpose
- The battle belongs to the Lord. Exodus 14:14
- God fights for his people, kingdom, and purpose
- God has blessed both Jacob and Esau so much that the land cannot support them both. Esau moves away.
- A new saga begins with Joseph. He is favored by Jacob and hated by his brothers for it.
- Joseph experiences dreams that show everyone bowing down to him. His brothers hate him even more for this, but Jacob questions the meaning.
- His brothers seize and opportunity to get rid of him and, instead of killing him or leaving him for dead, they sell him to some merchants. He is then traded again as a slave into Potiphar’s house.
- One minute, Joseph is on top of the world with a bright future ahead. The next, he is brought about as low as you can get – humbled, stripped of any title or favor, alone, banished, and enslaved.
- Reuben and Judah were his only advocates (kind of). They weren’t going to let him be killed at least. Also, where did Reuben go when the brothers decided to sell him. It says that he came back and tore his clothes when he found out what they had done. (Maybe a sheep ran away?)
A – Application:
“The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.”
Jacob gets a fresh start – a new chance for his family. Like I mentioned before, oftentimes we are dropped into opportunities that allow us to change: a move, new job, new significant other, new baby, etc. These fresh starts may just be a chance to shed some bad or useless habits and adopt new ones.
But it doesn’t have to be a big life event to make a change happen. The Bible says that we can start fresh every morning, with new mercies from God. What you did yesterday does not have to be how you do things today. Today can be better.
Healthier eating, exercise, Bible reading, speaking kindly to your family, whatever you’ve been wanting to do, you can take a step (big or small) today. You can take a 15 minute walk, cook a veggie instead of having bread for dinner, get in bed 30 minutes earlier. If you want to get into the Bible more, check out some of my tips on the “How to” page. No matter how much time you have, you can start small today.
The great thing is, if you mess up, make a better plan for tomorrow. God never runs out of mercy and grace.
“The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14
In the last blog post we explored the idea of fighting for your dreams and goals. It takes some action on our part to get God’s purpose rolling in our lives sometimes. I love this part of the story where Jacob’s name is changed to Israel, or “God fights.”
God fights for you – let that sink in.
God knows our battles. He knows what we are up against:
“For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.”
A couple of months after my miscarriage, I was still wrestling with my faith and God. I was tired of trying to figure things out and be strong spiritually and emotionally. It took so much effort to make it through a day at work. I was an empty cup, trying my best to fill others and help them reach their fitness goals at work. I felt half alive but was pushing to run on all cylinders.
Unfortunately, I resorted (only a couple of times) to drinking so that I wouldn’t have to think or feel anything. My brain could just sit and be and do nothing. I know, not my best moments.
One night, I was lying in bed (sober), and remember praying, “God, I am so weak. I can’t fight for my heart right now.”
I was at a turning point here. I could either give my life, with all of the good and bad, fully to God to work with. Even though my faith was minuscule, I knew that’s all God needed. Or, I could give in to the ease (at the time it seemed easier) of doing nothing, without God.
As I lay in bed, praying, I felt that there was a battle going o above me for my heart. In my mind’s eye I saw dark and light colliding over me. Strange as it sounds, I strongly believe that God’s angels were battling Satan’s demons for me. God sent his army like it says in Psalms:
“For he will order his angels to protect you wherever you go. They will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.”
No matter where we are in our faith, he will meet us there. He will fight for us and protect us.
“You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head…I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence! If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there.”
But O, that verse in Exodus: “The Lord will fight for you. You need only be still.” It’s so good.
Sometimes that is just what we need. To stop and let God fight the real battle that is going on above us as we navigate the physical trails of this life. Be encouraged today that God gives new beginnings everyday and he is fighting for you. He wants you!
P – Prayer:
O God, thank you so much for your Word. It fills my soul and changes my heart. Thank you for fighting for me when I can’t. Thank you for loving me enough to do that, to want to do that. You are so good.
God I pray for those out there that need your protection and need to know that the battle is yours. Can you meet them in special ways today? Speak to their hearts, Lord. Amen.