Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 46:4

4 I will go down with thee into Egypt; and I will also surely bring thee up again: and Joseph shall put his hand upon thine eyes.

After God’s declaration that Israel will finally become a great nation in Egypt, it might be easy to overlook the two additional promises given next, but they are both significant and touching in their own ways.

For the first one, Jacob may not realize how important it is that God commits not only to “go down with thee into Egypt,” but also to “surely bring thee up again.” Jacob may not know, but God does, that while in Egypt the Israelites will become enslaved. They will become a great nation, but one that is subservient to another.

The Israelites will be great distressed in that time, and they will plead for deliverance. Then how meaningful will this seemingly innocuous pledge to “bring thee up again” become? As the Israelites in bondage review their records, they will realize that God was promising to deliver them since even before the need for deliverance existed. The promise was for them far more than for Jacob.

The following promise is most definitely for Jacob, though, which is that “Joseph shall put his hand upon thine eyes.” This expression means “to close the eyes of one who has died.” God is promising to Jacob that what the other sons have reported is true. Joseph really is alive, and Jacob is going to spend the rest of his life with him, for Joseph will outlive him.

Many parents that have had to bury a child express what a strange twist of the natural order it is to outlive the next generation. We may want to live a long life, but not at the cost of burying our own children. Jacob had to mourn the death of his child once before, but now he is being reassured that the natural order is being restored, and the returned child will continue past himself. This is a very tender promise from God, one that shows His keen understanding of the human heart.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 35:16-20

16 And they journeyed from Beth-el; and there was but a little way to come to Ephrath: and Rachel travailed, and she had hard labour.

17 And it came to pass, when she was in hard labour, that the midwife said unto her, Fear not; thou shalt have this son also.

18 And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Ben-oni: but his father called him Benjamin.

19 And Rachel died, and was buried in the way to Ephrath, which is Beth-lehem.

20 And Jacob set a pillar upon her grave: that is the pillar of Rachel’s grave unto this day.

A very somber end to the story of Rachel. It is particularly sobering how childbearing, usually a source of great joy for a mother, was such a source of travail in Rachel’s life. First, she was unable to have any children for several years, causing her to envy her sister Leah. Then she miraculously had one child, Joseph, but then ceased again for a while. Here, at last, she was able to give birth to a second…but that proved to be the death of her. Her grief is apparent in how she named the child Ben-oni, which translates to “son of my sorrow.”

That is a very heavy title for an innocent child to bear, but Jacob set for him another title: Benjamin, which means “son of the right hand.” I cannot help but wonder what sort of special companionship Joseph and Benjamin shared, the only two half-orphaned brothers born of Rachel. It seems a difficult situation for starting one’s life, but perhaps it was necessary for their development. Each of them grew to be the most faithful of sons.

I wonder also how her death affected Jacob, who still had many years to go without his most beloved companion. We do not know exactly how long she and Jacob had together before the end. It is clear that they were married after Jacob had served Laban seven years, and that Jacob served Laban twenty years in all, but we aren’t sure how long Jacob was in Shalem before travelling to Beth-el, and how long he was in Beth-el before this fatal delivery occurred. Still, it seems likely that their earthly union was somewhere in the range of fifteen-to-twenty years. He likely had many years yet to go, but he would always see a living reminder of her in their two sons.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 15:1-6

1 After these things the word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.

2 And Abram said, Lord God, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus?

3 And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir.

4 And, behold, the word of the Lord came unto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir.

5 And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.

6 And he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness.

This story of Abram is very moving to me. It has been years since God first made His lofty promises to him, and understandably Abram is feeling hurt that they are still left unfulfilled.

And I think it is important to note that Abram is not guilty of some offense here by expressing his hurt. He isn’t being harsh or abusive towards God, he isn’t giving up on the Lord, but he is stating his sincere feelings in frank and honest terms. And God can take it.

When we are hurt, when we are confused, and even when we are angry, God is big enough to hold that emotion. It is not faithless to say “God, you said that everything would be alright, but they really don’t seem alright right now. I am in a pain that I don’t understand. Can we talk about that?”

Dealing With Failure- Galatians 6:1

Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.

COMMENTARY

If a man be overtaken in a fault, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness
I spoke yesterday of how self-correction can be an act of love and protection, where I endeavor to preserve my delicate and spiritual nature from the more callous and worldly part of me. However I have also learned that rushing to the defense of the spiritual does not mean that I must become harsh with the flesh. When one shouts at oneself, one tends to shout at all of oneself, both the offender and the offended.
Yes, the flesh does need to be subdued and bridled. And yes, when I stand between it and the spirit, I must be firm and direct. But as this verse suggests, I can also have a spirit of meekness and compassion during that stance.
This might seem like a contradiction of terms, but it makes sense when I remember the times I have corrected my own children from a healthy, grounded state. A good parent will firmly enforce rules and boundaries to a child, but in the same moment will hold them, express love, and patiently explain the reasons for the rule.
Because in the end, my worldly, misbehaving self often feels like a small child himself. A young, naïve boy who is trying to get what he wants by misguided means. He is a manipulative boy, even a bully of a boy, but rather than be hated for it, he just needs someone to instruct and correct him. Firmly and directly, but also compassionately.

Dealing With Failure- Psalm 82:3-4, Matthew 18:10

Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy.
Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked.

Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.

COMMENTARY

Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked
Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones
These verses have an obvious literal interpretation: to protect and defend the helpless and the young. But also, as I considered the topic of this study, I thought of a figurative interpretation for them also.
The fact is, when I do something that I know is wrong, something that causes harm to my heart, I have a sense like that of a child crying inside. There is a youthful and needy soul within me, delicate and sensitive, and it has to be protected.
Indeed, every wrong action is an act of self-harm in some way, for we are fundamentally composed of a divine spirit, that cannot help but be wounded at the presence of vice. Self-correction, therefore, ought to be considered an act of self-protecting love.

For Our Own Good- 2 Nephi 28:30, Luke 2:52

For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.

And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.

COMMENTARY

I will give line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little
And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man

When it comes to commandments that we do not understand the reasons for, it is important to know that there is nothing wrong in our ignorance. There is no shame in saying “I do not understand why this matters.” As we see in these verses, it is the natural and expected course for us to learn one step at a time, which implies that we have not attained all knowledge yet. Even Jesus followed this pattern. Though he showed great wisdom in his youth, that does not mean he came to earth knowing absolutely everything. In fact the record showed that he learned and grew, just like the rest of us.
Consider, also, the example of a small child that has yet to learn addition. Yes, they need to learn that skill, it is important, but there is no shame that they have not attained it yet. For now, mastering counting is sufficient for them.

For unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have
What would be concerning, though, is the child that refuses to learn to count, and by extension refuses to learn every higher form of mathematics. It is okay to not know all things, but it is not okay to stop learning.
It can be tempting to take what commandments we do understand and say “I’ll just keep these ones and not worry about the rest,” but that would be limiting ourselves. Neither should we look at the commandments that we do not understand and say “I feel deeply ashamed for my ignorance,” that would be abusive. As with so many things, the middle path is the right way forward. We can accept that we are ignorant, without shame, and also strive to grow past it.

Personal Promises- Summary

Many believe in God, but true spiritual vocation does not begin until one knows Him personally. I wanted to use this study to explain why this is the case, and to convince any reader that they can and must seek this personal relationship with God.

We are immensely aided in this quest by the fact that the greatest being in the universe has this exact intention for us as well. It’s not like we have to convince God to be our friend. And if there are obstacles that are preventing Him from coming into our lives, He will work tirelessly to bring them down.

This is why people so many say that coming to know God was simply being a process of tearing down their walls and letting in the light. It’s already there reaching out for us, we only have to receive it.

No Person Can Replace the Need For God

My wife and I are expecting our second child, and I have had some concerns for how this will affect my relationship with our son. I do not doubt that my capacity for love and devotion to him will remain intact, even while cultivating the same for the new child. But there is simply no getting around the fact that my time for him will diminish.
We are finite beings with limited physical resources. When new dependencies are added, all others must necessarily receive less of those resources. That is just the way of the world.
Already I am incapable of meeting my son’s every need, and as my resources stretch thinner and his needs grow deeper, I will only become more so. Any person who has had any position of authority is well acquainted with this inadequacy, and they will realize that their real duty is simply to point their followers to the true source. Like Jairus, we must bring the Lord to our children, so that He can do for them all the things that we cannot.
Exodus 18:17-18- And Moses’ father in law said unto him, The thing that thou doest is not good. Thou wilt surely wear away, both thou, and this people that is with thee: for this thing is too heavy for thee; thou art not able to perform it thyself alone.

We All Need God in Different Ways

We may try to chart our own course, following general guidelines and generic rules, but that will only take us so far. Eventually we all run into very personal, and very specific spiritual needs. And even if our highly specific need is already answered in the scriptures, we will still need a personal touch just to show us where it is!
Even outside of receiving guidance, we also need to be seen and heard. Yes, knowing God’s will is important, but we also need to know His love. We need to feel the reality of being His child. Being told by a preacher that we are His child is not enough, we need Him to tell us that we are.
In short there is not a single one of us that does not need God to come personally in our hearts. We were never meant to follow His shadow, or to only hear secondhand the wonders that He has done. He wishes to reveal Himself to us directly.
Psalm 102:1- Hear my prayer, O LORD, and let my cry come unto thee.
Matthew 11:28-29- Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Scriptural Stories Give Us Hope For Connection

The presence of God was never meant to be limited to the prophets of ancient times. The miracles of God were never meant to cease with the Kingdom of Israel. The scriptures and the accounts of the miracles in them were not given to tell us what God theoretically could do. We have those records to give us confidence that He will do the same for us.
We often say that we are inspired by the stories of Jesus healing the sick. But “inspired” does not mean just to be made to feel good, it means to be motivated, to be stimulated, to be given a vision to reach for. We should read about the blind seeing and the lame walking and say “well then why not me, too?”
Counting on God to show up for us can be a frightful thing to do. The fact is, if we vulnerably reach out and find nothing there, that would be a very crushing experience. There’s no shame in admitting that.
But the stories in the scriptures tell us that we should dare to hope. Yes it would be crushing to learn that no one was there to meet us. But there was someone there for Bartimaeus. And for Jairus’s daughter. And for the man sick with palsy. And for Mary Magdalene. And for the widow with the cruse of oil. And for Daniel in the lion’s den. And for the army of Gideon. And for the Israelites fleeing across the Red Sea. And for so many others. He will be there for you, too.
Malachi 3:10- Prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

The Family of God- Galatians 3:28-29, Malachi 2:10

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us? why do we deal treacherously every man against his brother, by profaning the covenant of our fathers?

COMMENTARY

Have we not all one father? Why do we deal treacherously every man against his brother?
For ye are all one in Christ Jesus
We love to make divisions. For some reason we feel this need to put ourselves as better than others. There are the obvious criteria of segregation: race, religion, sex, and age. Thankfully many of us today have accepted that discriminating on these terms is entirely inappropriate.
That is good, but I don’t think that any of us are still entirely in the clear. If we keep listing out other metrics by which people judge one other, I believe sooner or later each of us will feel a twinge of guilt. You might think less of others because of their education level, or what sort of car they drive, which political party they most frequently vote for, their physical or mental handicaps, their success or their failure, their resting facial expression, their parenting style, which words they use, what clothes they wear, their weight, whether they have clear skin or not, whether they had things handed to them on a silver platter, their choices…we could go on, but I think you get the point.
Somehow we get the notion that some people are “less” children of God than us. To be sure, there are choices people make, and some truly do make poorer ones than others…. But not one bit of that makes a person any less God’s child than another. Your testimony that you are a child of God is important, but it is incomplete until it includes a fervent belief that so is everyone else.

Service to Others- Matthew 25:34-40

Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

COMMENTARY

These my brethren
I like this set of verses from Matthew…but I didn’t always. Most often I would hear people quote this passage, and then preach a message about it that rubbed me the wrong way. That message went along the lines of “so that’s why you should do kind acts for others, because really you’re just doing them for Jesus.” And I would hear that and think “well shouldn’t I really be doing service to others for their own sake?”
I mean, I would personally feel a bit hurt if someone did a kindness to me and then said “actually, that was for Jesus.” Gee, thanks.
So instead, I prefer to put the emphasis on these my brethren. Here Jesus is telling us how he views these people and testifying of his love for them. “These are my brethren, my kin, my people.” He isn’t trying to tell us to put his image over their faces, he is telling us to put his love over them. He wants us to see how important to him they are, how worthy of being helped, in and of themselves.

Ye have done it unto me
I am a father, and I can attest that any time I see someone do a kindness to my little son, I feel that a kindness has been done to me as well. I love people just for their willingness to give my son their attention and hear what he has to say. But I wouldn’t if they were doing it for me instead of for him. If they were listening to him only to please me, I would feel offended at their insincerity.
So yes, Christ feels served when we do service for others. But I am convinced that he wants us to do that service by making his brethren our brethren. By doing our kindness to them for their own joy. That he will derive joy from the service as well is simply a divine dividend.