2013 – LeFleur’s Bluff State Park, Jackson, MS
Cross armed blessings
Genesis 48: He thought he had made a mistake.
With his aged father, Jacob, now close by Joseph brings his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, to meet their grandfather. It’s a big moment for all involved and Jacob prepares to bestow a blessing on his grandsons. Joseph carefully places his first born at the right hand of his father, making Manasseh the primary blessing receiver but Jacob simply crosses his arms, placing his right hand on Ephraim. When Joseph corrects his father Jacob responds that he knows what he’s doing and proceeds with the blessing, declaring that both boys will be blessed, but Ephraim will be greater and that his descendants will be a blessing to the whole world. As often happens with God we have here a surprise event that gets our attention. The fact is that the Lord loves blessing unlikely people. He takes those who shouldn’t have much of a chance at life and uses them in wonderful and unexpected ways. This passage hints at the “unexpected” nature of the blessing when Jacob says others will be blessed through Ephraim. In fact, the real difference between the blessings given to these brothers is that one will be used to bless others.
Take away: In God, we’re both blessed and used to bring blessings to others.
2013 – Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania
Genesis 18: Sarah laughed within herself.
It’s been a long journey not only in distance but also emotionally and in time. When Abraham says he’s heard from God and that they’re to relocate Sarah’s likely both concerned and excited. The promise of bearing a son fills this barren woman with sweet anticipation. The journey has taken much longer than she ever thought it would. Twenty-five years have passed and the excitement and anticipation has given way to weariness and disappointment. Now Abraham has the nerve to tell her he’s heard from the Lord again and that the promised child will be born in about a year. She laughs and it isn’t the laughter of joy. Instead, we hear a hard, brittle laugh – laughing at the impossible. This, though, isn’t the last time we hear laughter from Sarah. A year later, we hear her laughing again and this time it’s the laughter of one who’s had a miracle of God happen in her life. This is such a happy occasion that the miracle baby is named “To Laugh” or “Isaac.” Here we see that God loves surprise endings, jokes with good punch lines. And his laughter is not silliness or useless. God loves to bring about happy endings. What laughter does he want to produce in my life today? As I trust him and cooperate with him, he’ll accomplish good things and bring a smile to my face.
Take away: The Lord delights in surprising us with good things.
God’s sense of humor
Esther 6: Haman fled to his house, thoroughly mortified.
If you like a good story with both drama and comedy, you have to enjoy the Book of Esther. Xerxes, upon reading the journal of his kingdom through a sleepless night discovers Mordecai’s heroic deed and realizes that Mordecai was never properly rewarded. The next morning as he’s still thinking about this Haman shows up so Xerxes asks for his advice concerning a proper reward for such a great man. Haman immediately assumes that this “national hero” he’s being asked about is himself, so he describes an honor that he would thoroughly enjoy: a chance to dress up like the king and be treated as the king. To his horror, Xerxes orders him to do it. However, instead of it being Haman who’s honored, it will be the man Haman hates the most: Mordecai. As I imagine this story being told by Jewish people to one another, I can almost hear the laughter at this unexpected turn of events. The picture of Haman leading the horse and the praise of Mordecai brings a smile to the face even when we’ve read the story many times. No big devotional thought here; just a reminder of God’s great sense of humor.
Take Away: The Lord delights in turning the tables on situations.