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Category Archives: Genesis

Interpretation of Dream — Genesis 41:1-13


The image above is from Revealed: A Storybook Bible for Grown-Ups by Ned Bustard. The image is called “Joseph and the Dreams” and was created by Wayne Forte.

After two whole years, Pharaoh dreamed that he was standing by the Nile, and behold, there came up out of the Nile seven cows, attractive and plump, and they fed in the reed grass. And behold, seven other cows, ugly and thin, came up out of the Nile after them, and stood by the other cows on the bank of the Nile. And the ugly, thin cows ate up the seven attractive, plump cows. And Pharaoh awoke. And he fell asleep and dreamed a second time. And behold, seven ears of grain, plump and good, were growing on one stalk. And behold, after them sprouted seven ears, thin and blighted by the east wind. And the thin ears swallowed up the seven plump, full ears. And Pharaoh awoke, and behold, it was a dream. So in the morning his spirit was troubled, and he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt and all its wise men. Pharaoh told them his dreams, but there was none who could interpret them to Pharaoh. Then the chief cupbearer said to Pharaoh, “I remember my offenses today. When Pharaoh was angry with his servants and put me and the chief baker in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, we dreamed on the same night, he and I, each having a dream with its own interpretation. A young Hebrew was there with us, a servant of the captain of the guard. When we told him, he interpreted our dreams to us, giving an interpretation to each man according to his dream. And as he interpreted to us, so it came about. I was restored to my office, and the baker was hanged.”
Genesis 41:1-13

Dear God, it feels like it’s been a while since I really dug in and spent some time with one of the images from the Bustard book Revealed: A Storybook Bible for Grown-Ups. There is so much in this image, I might need to break my observations into categories.

Chief Cup Bearer:

  • The original dream had three branches on the vines and I see three clusters of grapes.
  • The cup bearer is small combed hair and clean shaven.
  • The cup bearer is dressed.
  • The cub bearer is obviously bearing a cup for Pharaoh.

Chief Baker:

  • The baker is hanging (some translations say he was impaled, but the artist went with the hanging translation).
  • The baker is naked.
  • The birds are literally eating his flesh while he is still hanging.
  • There is a basked by his feet to represent the basket that had been on his head in the dream.
  • In death, his face is turned towards Pharaoh.

General:

  • Pharaoh is seen as being much larger than the cup bearer.
  • His headpiece has a cobra snake on it.
  • He has the traditional eye make-up to make it obvious to us that this is Pharaoh.
  • There is a fence as a backdrop in the image. I’m not sure what that is about. Could that represent the wall that Joseph is behind, still in prison. It’s interesting that Joseph is not represented in this image.

I’ve made these observations before reading what Bustard had to say about this piece and this story.

John Piper writes: “Life is not a straight line leading from one blessing to the next and then finally to heaven. Life is a winding and troubled road. Switchback after switchback. And the point of biblical stories like Joseph…is to help us feel in our bones (not just know in our heads) that God is for us in all these strange turns. God is not just showing up after the trouble and cleaning it up. He is plotting the course and managing the troubles with far-reaching purposes for our good and for the glory of Jesus Christ.” It is often difficult to see the point of the evil circumstances in our lives, but examples like the life of Joseph serve as reminders that God is actively working for our benefit. The sometimes circuitous paths he sets us on are to keep us loving him and depending on him. They are for our good and his glory.

I like the line “…examples like the life of Joseph serve as reminders…” because the structure of the Bible is such an interesting way for you to have communicated with us and laid out the bread crumbs for us to find our way to you. I was thinking about this recently. How else would I have done it? If I were God, would I have just laid out a manual with a bunch of rules or would I just give example after example of how I have interacted with my people over thousands of years? Obviously, you picked the latter, and while that certainly gives impacts the way we develop as individuals and corporately as the church it also gives us greater insight into you. In storytelling parlance, you show more than you tell.

Father, help me to remember that you are sovereign and that there is a plan. Let that faith in something I cannot always see sustain me in my pursuit of you and the peace I experience in you. Be glorified in me so that others might be drawn to you as well.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 

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Genesis 19:36-38

As a result, both of Lot’s daughters became pregnant by their own father. When the older daughter gave birth to a son, she named him Moab. He became the ancestor of the nation now known as the Moabites. When the younger daughter gave birth to a son, she named him Ben-ammi. He became the ancestor of the nation now known as the Ammonites.
Genesis 19:36-38

Dear God, this is one of those, “What?!?” stories. So you went to the trouble of saving Lot only to have his wife killed and then leaving him alone with these daughters, giving birth (literally) to the Ammonite and Moabite nations—future enemies of Abraham’s offspring?

You don’t give us a ton about Lot, but it’s interesting to me that this is how his story abruptly ends. Our last picture of him is of him falling victim to his daughters and fathering two nations. The end. So why did you even give us Lot’s story? I suppose there are a couple of good reasons.

1. We got to see how he made a seemingly smart decision that turned out foolish when he and Abraham split up the land.

2. We got to see the Sodom and Gomorrah story and learn about your disgust with debauchery.

3.) We got to see the result of his wife’s disobedience

4.) We learned the origins of the Moabites and Ammonites (although this information was probably more relevant to readers at the time this was written than it is to us).

Father, I don’t know where I’m going with all of this, but i suppose, at the end of the day, the story of Lot is a reminder about the importance of purity. It’s a reminder about the effects of one decision. I suppose this last story about Lot and his daughters is a reminder that isolation is not good. Yes, Lot had picked the wrong community before, but to take his girls and isolate them like that was a mistake as well. Being in community, so that I can both give to and receive from it is important. So help me to remember all of these lessons today as I try to follow you.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on July 2, 2019 in Genesis

 

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The Drunkeness of Noah – Genesis 9:8-15, 20-23


The image above is from Revealed: A Storybook Bible for Grown-Ups by Ned Bustard. The image is called “Failed Savior” and was created by Ned Bustard.

Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you 10 and with every living creature that was with you—the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you—every living creature on earth. 11 I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.”

12 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: 13 I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life…

20 Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded to plant a vineyard. 21 When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent. 22 Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father naked and told his two brothers outside. 23 But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backward and covered their father’s naked body. Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father naked.
Genesis 9:8-15, 20-23

Dear God, when I opened Revealed: A Storybook Bible for Grown-Ups this morning, this is the first image I turned to. I’ve never liked this story, and I almost turned away. But then I got to thinking that perhaps I should explore this story more. Why does it hit me that way?

I’ve never liked the image of the human Noah. Why tell us this story? Why not just leave it at verse 19 and the part about you putting your bow in the sky as a reminder of your covenant with us? I really don’t need to know about Noah getting blackout drunk and being discovered by his son. Or do I?

My first inclination was to focus on Noah’s shame in this image and the reaction of his sons (and then his subsequent response to them). When I looked at Bustard’s image, I saw:

  • A fat old man passed out.
  • An umbrella. I thought it was a clever nod to the rain and a way to use it to give Noah a little modesty. Obviously, Bustard wasn’t going for a period piece.
  • The wine bottle and glass are also obviously not period, but communicate that the subject of the image is drunk and passed out.
  • The life preserver was a nice nod to the ark.

That’s what I saw. But here’s Bustard’s description of the piece:

Hebrews 11:7 states that “By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.” But although he was instrumental in saving all of the living, Noah was not the promised Savior. Noah is shown here drunk, lying in a cruciform, and with a life preserver forming a halo of sorts around his head. He is an inebriated old man, and the symbol of his saving work is broken and covers him as poorly as the fig leaves covered the shame of Adam and Eve.

Hmm. I had never thought about comparing Jesus and Noah. I hadn’t thought about Noah being your “savior” for the remnant of humanity and comparing that with Jesus being our Savior. The halo. The cruciform. The fact that the umbrella is broken. I had missed all of that. Interesting.

Father, there is none righteous, no not one (Romans 3:10). Except for Jesus, of course. Thank you for a complete savior. Thank you for an inclusive savior. Noah was an exclusive savior, sent by you to preserve the remnant of mankind. Jesus was sent to rip away the veil between you and us and present all of us to you as an unblemished bride. Help me to live into that and to carry that to others who need you today.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 

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The Flood – Genesis 7:17-24


The image above is from Revealed: A Storybook Bible for Grown-Ups by Ned Bustard. The image itself is called “And Such Were You” and was created by Matthew L. Clark and Ned Bustard.

Dear God, I looked at this passage this morning and looked at the picture for a while and, frankly, I was having trouble getting anything from it. Then I read Bustard’s commentary in the bottom paragraph on the left. It says:

This large woodcut lifts the wave from the famous Ulithi-e woodblock print The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Hokusai Katsushika and the ark from a small Washington print by Saadi Watanabe to create an image intended to communicate the idea of God’s goodness as seen through the preservation and redemption of the unworthy. The animals on this ark are not the cute, innocent animals found in a Noah’s Ark play set. According to the traditional symbolism in Christian art, these animals are all evil: the bear (evil influence), the cat (laziness), the goat (the damned), the blackbird (temptation of the flesh), the ape (malice), the leopard (cruelty), the owl (devotion), the hog (gluttony) and the fox (guile). The passengers on the ark that God chooses to save are undeserving–as are the people described in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.

So, of course, after I read that, I went to 1 Corinthians 6:9-11:

Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither the sexually immoral nor idolators nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor greedy nor dunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (NIV)

Yes, I like this. I like Bustard’s idea that you saved the unworthy with the ark and you saved me, the unworthy, with Jesus. The trick is, how do I stop grieving you with wickedness in my heart. And it’s not just the obvious that sticks out on the Corinthians passage like the idolatry and sexual immorality, but it’s the seemingly little things like slander, drunkenness and stealing. No one is innocent. We love to judge others, but none of us are pure.

Father, help me to embrace your forgiveness and pursue you. Help me to forgive others as you have forgiven me, extend grace when it isn’t deserved and being your light of love, joy, peace, gentleness, faithfulness, kindness and self control into the world.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 

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The Binding – Genesis 22:9-18

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The image above is from Redeemed: A Storybook Bible for Grown-ups by Ned Bustard. This particular piece of art was done by Kevin Lindholm and is called “Knight of Faith.”

Genesis 22:9-18 [NLT]
9 When they arrived at the place where God had told him to go, Abraham built an altar and arranged the wood on it. Then he tied his son, Isaac, and laid him on the altar on top of the wood. 10 And Abraham picked up the knife to kill his son as a sacrifice. 11 At that moment the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”
“Yes,” Abraham replied. “Here I am!”
12 “Don’t lay a hand on the boy!” the angel said. “Do not hurt him in any way, for now I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld from me even your son, your only son.”
13 Then Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by its horns in a thicket. So he took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering in place of his son. 14 Abraham named the place Yahweh-Yireh (which means “the Lord will provide”). To this day, people still use that name as a proverb: “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”
15 Then the angel of the Lord called again to Abraham from heaven. 16 “This is what the Lord says: Because you have obeyed me and have not withheld even your son, your only son, I swear by my own name that 17 I will certainly bless you. I will multiply your descendants[a] beyond number, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will conquer the cities of their enemies. 18 And through your descendants all the nations of the earth will be blessed—all because you have obeyed me.”

Dear God, I’ve spent some time with this story in the past. So much time, in fact, that I’m curious to see what I might have missed.

It’s interesting to me that Bustard chose, in this book’s telling of the story of Abraham being asked to sacrifice Isaac, to start with their arrival at the place for the sacrifice. I’ve usually spent more time in verses 1-8 than I have 9-18. So what is here that I might have missed in the past? Or what have I seen before of which you need to remind me?

Verse 9 alone must have really done something to alter the relationship between Isaac and Abraham. Frankly, I’m a little surprised that Isaac even worshipped you after that. If I had been him, I would have thought my dad was crazy and that would have included his worship of you. If I try to imagine this scene, it’s horrific. I almost need to just set that aside before I get deeper into the story because if I start to look at this story through Isaac’s eyes it freaks me out a little.

The thing I’ve noticed in this story in the past is Abraham’s possible idolization of his son and the promise that you gave him about his descendants. In verses 1-8, as he is lying to Sarah, to the servant, and to Isaac; as he is walking for a few days to reach the site; as he is eating and talking with Isaac; as he is silently thinking and praying; I am sure that he was doing a lot of repenting and wondering how much he had failed you by taking his eyes off of you and giving in to his own vanity.

With all of that said, let me see what I notice in this image:

  • The most prominent thing in the image is the knife. It seems like it’s the first thing Lindholm wants me to see. The knife, gripped by Abraham’s fist. Something horrific is about to happen and I don’t think the artist wants me to miss that fact.
  • The next thing I notice is Abraham’s face. He is staring up. Is the look in his eyes desperation? Despair? Anguish? Surprise?
  • There is a hand with two fingers touching Abraham’s hand. The fingers are no bigger than Abraham’s. They are a different color.
  • There is the boy. His eyes are closed. Given the comments I made earlier about the horror of verse 9, it would have been an interesting choice to leave Isaac’s eyes open. Did Lindholm consider that? Was that perhaps just too hard to see so he closed them instead? Was Isaac just waiting for the end? Another choice would have been to make Isaac look afraid. Terrified. But Lindholm chose to make him asleep. Interesting. Perhaps he envisioned that Abraham knocked him out.
  • There is the ram, already there, with his horns stuck in the thicket. If I had been the artist I might have shown a larger, more dense thicket, but perhaps Lindholm is suggesting that you didn’t need to do much to provide this ram for the sacrifice.

In the description of this picture, Bustard quotes Tim Keller: “God saw Abraham’s sacrifice and said, ‘Now I know that you love me, because you did not withhold your only son from me.’ But how much more can we look at his sacrifice on the cross and say to God, ‘Now we know that you love us. For you did not withhold your son, your only son, whom you love, from us.”

Father, search me today and help me to see what I have not sacrificed to you. Which parts of my vanity are still too important to me? Deal with me gently, Father. I know I am proud. I know I am vain. I know I can be selfish. Help me, Father to not get to a point where you have to go to these lengths to get my attention and repentance.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 

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Genesis 18:17

Genesis 18:17 [NLT]
“Should I hide my plan from Abraham?” the Lord asked.

Dear God, yes, please hide from me what you are doing. That’s my first response when I read this verse and I think back on my life so far. Very rarely would it have benefited me to know what you were doing in advance. I heard your call in a given moment and sometimes I obeyed it regardless of what the future held. And sometimes it was a hard future. But I am glad that I didn’t know how hard it would be going into it.

Even now, as I think of some of the challenges ahead of me and two that involve work that are predominantly on my heart, it really is better that I don’t know everything that will happen between now and when you resolve these situations. After the journey my wife and I took over 15 years ago, I came up with a saying that you keep me on a need-to-know basis and I very rarely need to know. I still think that is true.

Father, I have a couple of difficult situations with which I’m currently dealing, and I have friends who are also dealing with hard things. Please help us all. Help us to, first, cry out to you. I’ve been praying to you about one of my things all morning. Please hear my cry. Help me to do everything according to your plan and your will. Holy Spirit, fill me, pour through me, and bring glory to your name through me, even if it costs me something. Not my will, but your will be done.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2019 in Genesis

 

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Enoch Walked with God — Genesis 5:1-8, 21-29

Genesis 5:1-8,21-29 NIV
[1] This is the written account of Adam’s family line. When God created mankind, he made them in the likeness of God. [2] He created them male and female and blessed them. And he named them “Mankind” when they were created. [3] When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image; and he named him Seth. [4] After Seth was born, Adam lived 800 years and had other sons and daughters. [5] Altogether, Adam lived a total of 930 years, and then he died. [6] When Seth had lived 105 years, he became the father of Enosh. [7] After he became the father of Enosh, Seth lived 807 years and had other sons and daughters. [8] Altogether, Seth lived a total of 912 years, and then he died. [21] When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah. [22] After he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked faithfully with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. [23] Altogether, Enoch lived a total of 365 years. [24] Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away. [25] When Methuselah had lived 187 years, he became the father of Lamech. [26] After he became the father of Lamech, Methuselah lived 782 years and had other sons and daughters. [27] Altogether, Methuselah lived a total of 969 years, and then he died. [28] When Lamech had lived 182 years, he had a son. [29] He named him Noah and said, “He will comfort us in the labor and painful toil of our hands caused by the ground the Lord has cursed. ”

Dear God, My thoughts on this story really just flow around the lives we live. We are here, we are a small part of the world, and then we die, leaving behind the little ways in which our lives caused ripples in the pool. A little George Bailey-esque, if you will. Enoch’s tale is unique because he wasn’t that old when compared with his contemporaries describe in these verses, but he was apparently taken up whole to be with you. I wish I knew more details about this story. It’s all pretty vague.

Bot the fun part of going through Revealed: A Storybook Bible for Grown-ups is getting to look at the art as well. What do I see in this piece that the artist might want to tell me?

  • The first thing I notice is the size difference. God is too big for the frame and cannot be fully seen.
  • The road that Enoch is walking is not smooth, but apparently paved with stones, over which Enoch might stumble.
  • God is carrying a shepherd’s crook, but dressed in modern clothes. I don’t know that this image was specifically drawn for the Enoch story or if it just fit with the Enoch story, but the image is obviously for me as well. The picture’s title is “Walking with God” by Rick Beerhorst. Going back to the shepherd’s crook, I think the artist is intimating that you are ready to catch us at any time. And you are also ready to nudge us along the right path.
  • I suppose those are fields next to the path, but it could conceivably be a river as well. Either way, there is something to the left that the man can see, but is not interacting with.
  • I guess the last thing I noticed is that the mountains are in the distance, so this picture is taken of the man while he is in the valley, where most of life is lived. Mr. Beerhorst could have placed the man anywhere and given the picture any background, but he chose to show us “Walking with God” in the valley.

I heard a speaker one time try to make the point that all of our lives are smaller than we think they are by asking us a series of questions.

  • How many of you know what your father did/does for a living?
  • How many of you know what your grandfather did/does for a living?
  • How many of you know what your great grandfather did for a living?
  • Great-great grandfather?

He then went on to indicated that, for our great-great grandfather, his life was complicated and could be overwhelming. His problems seemed so big to him, but now with the passage of time his work is largely forgotten. What remains of our great-great grandfather’s legacy are the relationships he affected while he was living and how his touch on them ripples through to time to our lives. It was a great reminder then, and seeing the legacy and lineage around Enoch is also a good reminder that, at the end of the day, Enoch’s biggest contribution to history was to be part of Noah’s family tree and then getting out of the way.

Father, help my life to ripple through time for your glory. I don’t know what will be left of my physical work when this world is all said and done, but I hope that, even after people have forgotten my name, that the love that I showed someone today will be there for someone else through someone else tomorrow.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 

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