"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
March 30, 2011
A few weeks ago I wrote a series of devotions from the book of Genesis, and one week was about Joseph. I won't completely repeat myself, but just enough to remind you that Joseph was governor over all Egypt when a 7-year famine took place. Jacob (also knows as Israel), his father, sent his sons to buy food and they were reunited with Joseph, whom they had sold into slavery several years prior to this. Joseph told his brothers to go back to Canaan and get their father, their families and their herds and he would see that they were given land in Egypt in which to dwell. So that's how the children of Israel came to be living in Goshin, which was in Egypt, instead of the promised land of Canaan.
Joseph, his brothers, and all that generation died. But the children of Israel were fruitful and increased abundantly, multiplied and grew exceedingly mighty; and the land of Egypt was filled with them. By this time, a new king was ruling over Egypt, and he did not know who Joseph was. There was an interim of 436 years between the time Joseph's family moved to Egypt, until God raised up Moses to lead them out of bondage. If you think about it, that's more years than the United States has been a country. That would be like us remembering people and events from approximately the year 1575.
If you remember, during the famine Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh; for every man sold his field in exchange for food. Only the land of the priests did Joseph not buy, because they had rations allotted to them by Pharaoh. Joseph told the people, "I have bought you and your land for Pharaoh. Here is seed for you, and you shall sow the land. In harvest you shall give one-fifth to Pharaoh, and keep four-fifths as seed for the field and for your food, for those of your households and as food for your little ones." Joseph made this a law over the land of Egypt.
The people replied, "You have saved our lives; let us find favor in the sight of the Lord, and we will be Pharaoh's servants."
This is how generations later, the children of Israel found themselves in bondage to Pharaoh and the Egyptians.
The new king was fearful when he saw how they were outnumbered by the Israelites. He said to his people, "Look, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we; come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and it happen in the event of war, that they join our enemies and fight against us." So he set taskmasters over them to afflict them with their burdens and build supply cities for him. But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. The Egyptians were fearful of the children of Israel.
Pharaoh made the Israelites lives bitter with hard bondage. He spoke to the two Hebrew midwives and said, "When you do the duties of a midwife for the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstools, if it is a son, then you shall kill him; but if it is a daughter, then she shall live." But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them.
The king called for the midwives and said, "Why had you done this thing, and saved the male children?" The midwives said to Pharaoh, "The Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women; for they are lively and give birth before the midwives come to them." So Pharaoh commanded all his people, saying, "Every son who is born you shall cast into the river, and every daughter you shall save alive." His hatred and fear of the Israelites made him punish his own people and kill their sons, hoping to keep the Hebrews from prospering and growing in number. You would have thought this would have caused a rebellion, but apparently the peoples fear of their leader caused them to obey. But we saw the same thing occur in Germany during WWII when Hitler reigned; the people obeyed a cruel and evil ruler out of fear.
There was a Hebrew woman who bore a son, and "when she saw he was a beautiful child, she hid him three months". When she could no longer hide him, she took a basket made of bulrushes (also called a wicker basket), coated it with tar and pitch to make it waterproof, put the child in it, and laid it in the reeds by the river's edge. The baby's sister stood afar off, to see what would happen to him. The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe in the river, saw the basket among the reeds, and sent her maid to get it. When she opened it, she saw the chid, who began crying. She had compassion on him, even though she recognized that he belonged to one of the Hebrews. The baby's sister approached Pharaoh's daughter and asked, "Shall I go and call a nurse for you from the Hebrew women, that she may nurse the child for you?" After getting permission, she ran and got the child's mother.
Pharaoh's daughter said to the mother, "Take the child away and nurse him for me, and I will give you your wages." So the woman took the child and nursed him. She kept him until he was weaned, then took him to Pharaoh's daughter, and he became her son, and she named him Moses.
Isn't it a bit ironic that the king ordered all Hebrew male babies be killed, then his daughter ended up raising one such baby as her very own son? That just goes to show that when God has a plan, nothing can stop Him. Moses was born for a very specific purpose, and God had His hand upon him from the very moment he was conceived in his mother's womb. No evil plot of man could stop God. In fact, Moses was raised in the palace by Pharaoh's very own flesh and blood daughter, right under his nose. I'm sure he was raised as a privileged member of royalty, with all the perks and monetary benefits bestowed upon a royal family grandson. The king may have had many children and grandchildren and may not have had a close personal relationship with each of them; but I'm sure he was probably told what his daughter had done. The scripture really gives no other details of the woman who raised Moses as her son. There are no details of his life from the time he was weaned from his mother and was taken to Pharaoh's daughter until he became an adult. But we do know that from the very beginning, God's hand was upon Moses and He worked out the details of his life.
Jeremiah 1:5 says, "Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you!"
That verse amazes me every time I read or hear it. Before I (Loretta) was formed in my mama's womb, God knew me! I find that astounding. He knew each and every one of us before our conception. God knew if we were going to be a boy or girl, He knew what we were going to look like, He knew the name our parents would choose for us, He knew what the future would hold for us, and He knew the purpose that He had for us; and furthermore, He knew whether or not we would choose to fulfill His purpose and plan for us, or if we would rebel against it.
God knew that Moses had a very specific, important duty to fulfill. He was to lead the children of Israel out of bondage in Egypt and take them back to Canaan, the promised land. Perhaps being raised in the palace by Pharaoh's daughter gave Moses the inside track of being granted an audience with the king, when the time came for him to begin the process of breaking the Hebrews free from the heavy hand of the Egyptians.
Even though Pharaoh tried to destroy the Hebrew male babies that were born, God placed two midwives in the position of making sure their lives were spared. God blessed the families, crops and herds of the Israelites so that they outnumbered the Egyptians. In fact, a scripture I mentioned says that the more Pharaoh had his taskmasters afflict them, the more they multiplied and grew. Man can try to stop God's plan, but God has the final say and can do what seems impossible.
Jeremiah 32:17 says, "Ah, Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing to hard for You."
Luke 1:37 says, "For with God nothing will be impossible." The angel spoke those words to the young virgin, Mary, when she was told that the Holy Spirit would come over her and she would conceive and bear a child that would be the Son of God. We hear of the virgin birth and our mind tells us this is totally impossible. Yet we know from the Word of God, this did happen and that Jesus was born of Mary. The Son of God miraculously came to earth in order to die for our sins.
It's easy for us to look at difficult situations and think, "Impossible!" We look at the tsunami disaster in Japan and see it as hopeless and overwhelming. We look at a small business struggling to stay afloat, laying off employees and think, "There's no way they'll survive in this economy!" We see once loving couples who now seemingly hate one another, and think there's no hope for their marriage to survive. We go through a heart-breaking family situation and think, "Lord, there's no way I can cope with this" and feel as if the stress is pulling us under. We look at the evil and sin in the world around us and conclude, "It's only going to get worse and worse;" thinking there's no way it will ever turn around and get any better.
But sometimes it may be small things in our lives that seem impossible. It may be teaching a Sunday School class or leading a group, when you've never before stood in front of several people and talked; paying this month's bills when your bank account has less coming in than what needs to go out; losing weight and exercising, when you've tried and failed numerous times; cooking a dish for a shut-in or needy family, when you're uncomfortable with your cooking abilities; meeting a deadline at work, when other jobs or employees continuously distract you or need your attention; getting a remodeling job finished, when you keep running into other problems that need fixed; getting over the grief of losing a loved one, when the heartache and emptiness are your constant companions...... Circumstances can be overwhelming at times, and we feel like we just can't deal with things. But generally when we're feeling overwhelmed and a sense of hopelessness, we are trying to handle things on our own, instead of allowing God to handle them. We act as if we think God is incapable of taking care of things for us, and needs our help to figure it all out. It's also our own feelings of inadequacy that often hinders us and makes a situation look unfeasible or unachievable.
Look at the story of Moses. By the king's decree, he should have been killed upon birth; yet his life was spared and he was able to be nursed by his own mother. He was raised as the king's grandson. The very man who proclaimed that he should die, ended up funding his education and upbringing (in a round about way). Who says that God doesn't have a sense of humor and can't do the absolute impossible!? When his mother put him in the basket and set him beside the river, she had no idea what was going to happen to him. Perhaps she thought one of the servants would find him and take him into their home. I doubt she dreamed of Pharaoh's daughter having compassion on him and desiring to raise him as her very own son. Yet God had a plan!
A couple years ago, the company where Jon works had a very tough year. That's when a lot of businesses were having a hard time keeping afloat with the economy problems. There were times when Jon was a bit concerned about the company being able to survive the financial difficulties. They had to lay off some of the employees, in order to stay in business. There were days when Jon was searching for duties to keep himself busy and useful. They were unable to give the employees year-end bonuses that year. But the two of us (as I'm sure the owner and other employees were doing) began praying for God's blessing upon the company, and that they would get more work than they could handle, and would make contacts with profitable customer, and prosper. Since that time, Jon has been promoted to a management position. He started out managing one employee and now has four, with a possibility of the department increasing even more. Last year the company gave out mid-year bonuses to compensate for the lack of not being able to give out year-end the previous year, plus year-end bonuses. They ended up having the most profitable year in the company's history last year; with this year looks to be even better. They were able to give all the employees raises when they did their yearly evaluations recently. And they're keeping continuously busy, with the prospect of hiring on more personnel. I hear people still complaining about the economy and how tough times are, yet God has blessed this small business and is continuing to increase and prosper it. In fact, they're looking for property to buy and build on because they've outgrown their current facility and shop. Nothing is too difficult for God!
Look at the story of Mary. A miracle occurred and she conceived the Son of God in her womb, while still remaining a virgin. Impossible!! But no, God placed His seed within her and she carried the baby and gave birth to the promised Messiah. As the angel proclaimed to Mary, "With God nothing will be impossible." God can take a situation and work in ways that makes absolutely no sense when we try to dissect and figure it out.
Those words that the angel spoke those thousands of years ago still ring true today, regardless of the situation we find ourselves in, "With God nothing will be impossible". It may look hopeless, desperate or overwhelming, yet when God is in control, He can do what no one else can do. He can turn things around in an instant. He can turn impossibilities into possibilities. He can give hope when there is none. God is the creator of the universe and there is nothing too difficult for Him.
So have hope and put your faith in God! Whenever you face difficulties, ask God to do the impossible; then believe that He will do it! Don't lose faith, but have courage to believe that God can work in ways we can't comprehend or understand. Read back over some of the stories in the Bible where it looked hopeless and impossible, and see what God did to intervene. There's an old song that says, "It is no secret what God can do. What He's done for others, He'll do for you." Be encouraged and look to God for answers. See how He can turn our impossibilities into possibilities!
It's amazing how often people try to explain away miracles. I can kind of understand a lot of them. Of course, Moses did tell Pharaoh before the frogs came, and so forth. Then God sent the frogs. I don't really care if He set up a month supply of flies so the frog population would go crazy, He still sent the frogs!
I've even heard that someone laid out some long, elaborate path that some comet could have taken to pass so close to Earth that it would divide the Red Sea, and manage several other miracles (including turning the sun backward, and blotting out the sun in midday). But that's complete nonsense. And I've heard some bizarre claim about how the Red Sea had dried up when the oceans were especially low, then an earthquake let the Indian Ocean flow back into the sea. Also nonsense. Read the scriptures. There was a wall of water on each side of the Israelites.
It's easy to do the same now. When someone is healed, we often want to say they just recovered, weren't really so sick, or that they found the right medication or surgery to fix the problem.
I'm not sure why so many people, even those who believe in God, would like to understand His miracles in terms that don't seem so miraculous. When you hear that a friend, neighbor, or family member has received a miracle, please don't try to explain it away. Just be grateful.
1 head lettuce, cut up
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
6 hard-boiled eggs, sliced
1 pkg. frozen peas, rinse and drain to thaw
1 lb. Bacon, fried and crumbled
Layer ingredients in order in a large bowl. Shredded cheese can be added as a layer, if desired. Mix together 2 cups mayonnaise, 1 cup sour cream and 1 package dry hidden valley ranch dressing; spread over the top of the salad. Do not toss the salad! Cover and refrigerate overnight (or all day) Mix when ready to serve.
We have squirrels galore in our yard! One afternoon Jon was sitting at the computer desk beside our living room window and heard a noise. He looked up and there was a squirrel up on the window ledge looking in. Jon got up and pecked on the window to scare it away, but the squirrel didn't seem to be too bothered by the noise. Jon was right in front of the squirrel and laughingly exclaimed, "Hey, that squirrel is sticking its tongue out at me!" Apparently there was something on the screen that the squirrel was licking, but it looked as if it was defying Jon and flicking its tongue in and out at him. Jon was going to go outside to shoo the squirrel off the window ledge, but the sound of the back door opening frightened it enough to jump down and run up a tree. They can be quite pesky at times! I've seen them jump up and sit on the lattice that is on each side of our porch. Our clematis, which is a climbing flowering vine, is a couple feet tall now and I kept wondering why every time I went out to check on them, one of the plants was laying over to one side. I would prop it back up and intertwine some of the vines through the lattice to stabilize it, only to find it laying back to one side the next time. I thought possibly the vine had gotten too heavy; until I looked out the kitchen window and saw a squirrel jumping up onto the lattice in that spot, and realize that was what kept knocking the plant over.
We've found an occasional dead squirrel in our yard, which kind of grosses me out. Jon will bury them; and no, we don't have a memorial service for it. One day last summer, I looked out and there was a squirrel halfway lying on our front sidewalk and half in the grass. I soon realized it was dead. I hoped no one came to visit before Jon got home from work to bury it. And I didn't go outside to walk across to our mailbox until it was taken care of. Also last summer, Jon was gone out of town on business and I needed to mow our yard. I went out to the shed to get the mower and sure enough, there was a dead squirrel laying behind a tree. I knew it was up to me to bury it. Thankfully, none of the neighbors could see me! I stood way back and poked it with the shovel, just to make sure it really was dead and wasn't lying there sick and going to suddenly move when I tried to slide it into the hole. That would have caused me to have some major reaction! I dug the hole as close to the squirrel as possible so all I had to do was use the end of the shovel to quickly slide it inside and hurriedly throw the dirt on top of it. The problem was, digging the hole deep enough to get the fluffy tail all buried. I sure didn't want to get the tail caught in the mower blade, causing a dead squirrel resurrection, and have it come flying back at me. Thankfully, that's the only squirrel burial I've had to do; and hopefully will be the last!
Worry is interest paid on trouble before it comes due. - William Ralph Inge
We love you!
Loretta & Jon