Exodus 4:18, 27-31

Two can do it

Moses went back home to his father-in-law Jethro and told him that he was going to return to Egypt. Then he took his wife and his sons—and the special stick God had told him to take—and started on his journey.

Meanwhile, the Lord had told Aaron to meet Moses in the desert. So Aaron met him at the holy mountain. There, Moses told his brother everything the Lord had said.

Together, Moses and Aaron went to the leaders of the Israelites and told them that the Lord would free them from the Egyptians. After that, Moses did miracles as a sign of God’s power, and the people believed them.

Should I trust God to help me do a task on my own, or should I ask others for help?

Sometimes God may tell you to do something He knows you can’t do in your own strength. If He has promised to help you do a job on your own, He wants you to trust Him and not rely on others to make your task easier. However, at other times God wants us to work together with those whose strengths can help our weaknesses.

Whenever we do something for God, we need to be humble; either by relying on God to use us in spite of our weaknesses, or by letting others help us and allowing them to share in the joy of serving God.

Remember though, if we make excuses and expect God to use someone else to do the work, we cannot grow in our faith. God wants us to learn to depend on Him and also be willing to humbly work side by side with others.

Verse for today

“The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor” 1 Corinthians 3:8.


Exodus 4:10-16

Making excuses

After the Lord told Moses that He must free His people from slavery, Moses said, “O Lord, I do not speak well. I have never been able to speak well and nothing has changed since You started speaking to me.”

The Lord became angry with Moses. “What about your brother Aaron? He can speak well. He is on his way to meet you and will be glad when he sees you. You can tell him what to say, and I will help you both.

Take this stick with you, for with it you will do miracles.”

How can I serve God with my weakness?

Moses was no longer as sure of himself as he had been when he lived in Pharaoh’s palace. For the past forty years he had just been a shepherd looking after sheep and goats in the desert. By this time he probably felt rather unimportant and of little use. He told God that he wouldn’t be able to speak to Pharaoh because he wasn’t good at speaking.

Are you afraid that God may ask you to do something big like He asked Moses to do? Maybe you have felt the Lord telling you to speak to someone who is older than you about His forgiveness and love. God doesn’t expect you to do it in your own strength. In fact, He prefers using people who are unsure of their own ability because they rely on Him for everything: for strength, for wisdom, and for courage.

The Lord shows His power best through those who are weak! Right now, you have all you need to be useful to God. You don’t have to be perfect! All God wants is that you listen to His voice in your heart and obey.

Verse for today

“I can do everything through him who gives me strength”
Philippians 4:13.

Ups & Downs

Ups & Downs, that's how it goes

Joseph in the House of Potiphar

(Genesis 39)

Let's see, what has happened so far?

Joseph was Jacob’s little baby, and Jacob loved him very much. That was a good thing.

But then, Joseph’s older brothers got jealous and were mean to him. That was a bad thing.

Jacob gave Joseph a wonderful new coat. A good thing.

But that made Joseph’s brothers REALLY jealous. A bad thing again. Joseph’s brothers were so jealous, they decided to kill him. A really bad thing!

But, at the last minute they decide NOT to kill him – a good thing – but to throw him into a pit instead.

Bad again!

But then Joseph’s brothers decide to drag Joseph OUT of the pit, a good thing – and sell him to some traveling merchants, so he would never see his family again.

Joseph had to be wondering WHAT was going on!

But life is like that.

Sometimes there are good times and sometimes there are bad times. But ALL the time, God is with us. But even more than that, sometimes God uses what seem like the worst times to do something wonderful. THAT’S what was going on!

Meanwhile, the caravan of traveling merchants arrived in Egypt. Now, I suppose they could have sold Joseph to just any old Egyptian, who lived in some out of the way part of town, and we would have never heard of him again.

But that’s not what God had in mind.

Instead, they sold Joseph to a man named Potiphar. And Potiphar just happened to be an officer in the court of the Pharaoh, the king of all Egypt.

Well, of course it didn’t just happen that way. God planned it that way!

But Potiphar wasn’t just any officer in the Pharaoh’s court, he was the captain of the Palace guard. He was a big cheese in Egypt, and Joseph was in an important place.

So Joseph went from a pit in the wilderness to live in the beautiful house of a very rich and powerful man in the land of Egypt. A bad thing turned into a good thing again!

God was with Joseph, and he blessed him.

Everything Joseph did for his master turned out well. Really well. His master Potiphar saw this, and he was no dummy. He said to himself, “Why don’t I just let Joseph run everything, and then EVERYTHING will turn out well!”

And that’s just what he did.

Potiphar made Joseph his personal servant, and he put him in charge of all that Potiphar owned.

And God was with Joseph. God blessed Potiphar’s house and all the crops in his fields and everything he owned.

All Potiphar had to worry about was what was for dinner!

But, even then, trouble was just around the corner. Again!

Okay, Joseph was a hunk. He was handsome and strong, and if he was alive today, you would probably see his picture on People magazine while you were waiting in line at the grocery store to buy a Milky Way candy bar.

The trouble hiding around the corner was Potiphar’s wife. She saw how strong and handsome Joseph was. And she wanted him.

“Kiss me!” she said to Joseph one day while no one was looking.

Potiphar was away, working in another part of the house. Potiphar’s wife grabbed Joseph as he walked by. “Kiss me!” she said again.

“I can’t do that!” Joseph said. “My master trusts me! He has put me in charge of everything he owns. It is just like everything is mine. But he is your husband. How can you ask me to kiss you??!! That would be wrong! And God would not be pleased with me at all.”

But Potiphar’s wife would not give up.

Day after day, she secretly grabbed him and tried to kiss him. But Joseph always said no.

But one day, there was no one at home. Potiphar and all the other servants were away. And Potiphar’s wife saw her chance. She grabbed Joseph by the robe and wouldn’t let him go.

“I will not kiss you!” Joseph said, and he ran away so fast he left his coat in her hand.

Now Potiphar’s wife was angry. She was so angry that Joseph would not have her that she decided to get even. She had a terrible idea.

She screamed!

“Help me!!! Help me!!! This servant of my husband came into my bedroom and tried to kiss me!!!” By then, the other servants had come back home, and they came running into her bedroom and saw her standing there. “Look!” she said, “When I screamed, he tried to run away. He ran away so fast, he left his coat!”

That night, she told the same lie to her husband. “See, what I am saying is true. He came into my room. He even left his coat!”

Potiphar was furious.

He called for his servants at once. That very night they broke into Joseph’s room and dragged him out of bed, and they threw him into a cold, dark prison cell.

Things looked pretty terrible for Joseph again.

And maybe that night, Joseph sat in his cell, shivering and scared. Maybe he sat there with his head in his hands wondering why all this was happening. “God, where did you go?” He might have even cried.

If only he could see the amazing things God had planned.

But he couldn’t just then. For now, all he could do was trust in God, because God was with him. But, boy, it sure didn’t seem like it.

But that’s how it is. Even in the darkest times, God is still with us. And even then God is at work on a wonderful plan.

Always remember that.

The Pits

The Pits

(Genesis 37.12-36)

Bad things happen when brothers (and sisters! can't get along 

“Here I am!” Joseph answered his father one day.

“Go see what your brothers are up to.”

“Yes, Father,” Joseph said.

There is another reason why Joseph’s brothers probably didn’t like him very much. He always wanted to please his father – and they didn’t.

But let’s see what comes of that.

(illustration - dancing sheep)

Joseph’s 11 brothers were out in the pastures tending their sheep, and Jacob wanted to know how they were. And so he sent Joseph out to check on them. Little brothers are good at spying for their parents! And there’s ANOTHER reason why sometimes they aren’t liked very well by their older brothers and sisters!

But it wasn’t really that Jacob was spying on his sons. He cared about all his children deeply, and he wanted to make sure they were all right. He also knew that people can get into trouble when they think that no one is watching.

And he was right.

So Joseph set out for the distant pastures.

But he couldn’t find his brothers anywhere. Once again, they weren’t where they said they would be.

A stranger found Joseph wandering around in the fields.

“Are you looking for something?” the stranger asked.

“I am looking for my brothers – the sons of Israel. Do you know where they are?”

“Sure do,” the stranger said. “They were here a while ago. I heard them say that they were going to go to Dothan.”

“Thanks!” Joseph said, and he began to walk to Dothan.

He was still a ways away, when the colors of his coat, shining in the bright sun, caught the eye of his older brother Levi. “Oh brother! Here comes that dreamer Joseph – in his fancy-schmancy coat!”

“Now is our chance!” one of the brothers said.

“Let’s get rid of Joseph and his dreams once and for all! Let’s kill him and throw his body into this pit here in the wilderness. We can say a wild animal ate him. There is no one around. Father is far away. Who will know?”

They thought no one could see them – and so they thought they could get away with – well, murder.

But, they were wrong. Someone COULD see them.

GOD could see them.

“Great plan!” one brother said to the other.

“Good idea!”

“Let’s do it!”

But something inside the heart of the oldest brother Reuben told him that he should be looking out for his little brother – not looking to kill him. And so he said, “No, let’s just throw him into the pit – we don’t want his blood on our hands.” Secretly, he was planning to come back later and rescue his little brother.

So when Joseph got near enough, they grabbed him.

They ripped off his fancy coat – the one they were so jealous of – and threw Joseph into a hole in the ground.

These were his very own brothers, the ones he looked up to, the ones he loved so much.

Joseph looked up from the pit with tears in his eyes.

He felt so alone. His brothers hated him, his father was far away.

But he wasn’t alone. God was with him, even in that deep, dark pit.

Meanwhile, it was getting late in the morning, and the brothers were hungry. “Hey, isn’t it time for lunch?” Dan said.

They cared more about their own stomachs than they cared about their brother. And that’s what causes most of the trouble in the world.

And so they sat down for lunch.

“Pass me Reuben’s sandwich!” Dan said.

Just then, a caravan of Ishmaelites came riding by.

(If you remember, a long time ago Joseph’s great grandfather Abraham had two sons; Isaac and Ishmael. The Ishmaelites were the other side of the family, and though God loved them just as much, they were not part of God’s Chosen People. Still, God was about to use them to save his servant Joseph.)

The Ishmaelites’ camels were loaded with things to sell in Egypt. And that gave Judah an idea.

“Hey, guys!” Judah said. “Let’s be traders too! We can sell Joseph to these Ishmaelites. That way we can get rid of Joseph and make some money on the deal besides!”

And so, that’s just what they did.

They pulled poor, dirty and bewildered Joseph from the pit and sold him to the Ishmaelites for 20 pieces of silver. That’s all their little brother was worth to them.

(artist's conception.  Probably not very accurate!)

Now, you might think it was just lucky for Joseph that that caravan came by when it did. But it wasn’t luck at all. That caravan could have come by yesterday, or it could have come by tomorrow. But, no, God sent that caravan at just the right time – just like he always does.

God is always at work. And God has a plan.

Pillars of Our Faith

He erected the pillars at the portico of the temple. The pillar to the south he named Jakin and the one to the north Boaz. The capitals on top were in the shape of lilies. And so the work on the pillars was completed.—1 Kings 7:21–22

The Torah portion for this week is Vayakhel, which means “assembled,” from Exodus 35:1—38:20, and the Haftorah is from 1 Kings 7:13–26.

In this week’s Torah reading we catch a glimpse into what the Tabernacle looked like. In this week’s Haftorahreading, we fast-forward to the construction of the Holy Temple and see a glimmer of the beautiful House of God which once stood in Jerusalem.

Like the Tabernacle, the Temple contained all the ritual objects such as the Ark of the Covenant, the lampstand, the altar, the table, and other items. However, the Temple also contained some elements that were not part of the more temporary Tabernacle. We read about two such items in the Haftorah. We are told that two giant pillars – each about twenty-seven feet high and eighteen feet wide– flanked the entry to the Temple. King Solomon gave each pillar a name: “The pillar to the south he named Jakin and the one to the north Boaz.”

The naming of ritual items is not uncommon. However, usually the names are simply descriptive and functional; they describe what the vessel is used for. However, in this case, the pillars didn’t serve a purpose and they could have easily been referred to as “the pillars.” It seems that the names of the pillars were intended to be symbolic. As people passed through them into the House of God, there was a message within those pillars that was meant to be imparted to the worshipers.

Jakin means “He will establish,” as in “I will establish his kingdom forever” (1 Chronicles 28:7), and Boazmeans “In him is strength,” as in “The LORD gives strength to his people” (Psalm 29:11). Jakin symbolizes eternity; Boaz represents omnipotence. Both are fundamental characteristics of God.

Just as today we include praises to God when we come to Him in prayer so that we have an understanding of who it is that we are worshiping –so, too, the pillars were meant to place the worshiper in a proper state of mind. As the worshipers walked between the two pillars, dwarfed by their magnitude and size, it was a moment of awe and clarity in which they recognized the glory of God.

However, there is a third characteristic expressed on those mysterious pillars. They each were capped with a lily (or rose), a symbol of love, as in, Like a lily among thorns is my darling among the young women” (Song of Songs 2:2). While we worship the Lord as the eternal and almighty God, we must also remember that God is loving, merciful, and kind.

The pillars that once stood at the Temple continue to serve as the pillars of our faith today, reminding us that God is eternal, all-powerful, and all-loving. He is the foundation upon which we build our unshakable faith.

Pillars of Our Faith

Strong Foundations

Then Moses gave an order and they sent this word throughout the camp: “No man or woman is to make anything else as an offering for the sanctuary.” And so the people were restrained from bringing more, because what they already had was more than enough to do all the work.—Exodus 36:6–7

The Torah portion for this week is Vayakhel, which means “assembled,” from Exodus 35:1—38:20, and the Haftorah is from 1 Kings 7:13–26.

In this week’s Torah reading, we come across the beautiful scene describing the building of the Tabernacle. But perhaps the most stunning view is not one of the fully constructed Tabernacle, which is described in all its glory, but the preparation for the building.

God had commanded Moses to collect contributions from the people in order to “fund” the construction. In a stunning demonstration of dedication to the LORD, Moses is told: “The people are bringing more than enough for doing the work the LORD commanded to be done” (Exodus 36:5).

Imagine the scene. God gave a list of what was needed for building the sanctuary. Precious stones, gold, silver, copper, animal hides — the list of valuable materials went on and on. The people streamed in, bringing their finest belongings: “brooches, earrings, rings and ornaments” (Exodus 35:22), leather, yarn, stones, and gems. Morning after morning, the donations kept pouring in until the workers realized that there was more than enough, and Moses had to actually command the Israelites to stop bringing contributions!

Having more than enough donations is every synagogue’s, and I imagine, every church’s dream. What an amazing display of love and devotion as God and Israel built a home together!

Recently, I read an article whose title caught my attention: “Marriage Isn’t For You” by Seth Adam Smith. The author begins, “Having been married only a year and a half, I’ve recently come to the conclusion that marriage isn’t for me.” He then explains what he means by sharing some valuable advice that he received from his father when he was thinking about getting married. His father said, “I’m going to make this really simple: marriage isn’t for you. You don’t marry to make yourself happy, you marry to make someone else happy.”

Marriage is not about what we get; it’s about what we give. When a couple decides to build a home together, the home will only be as strong as the foundation – and a solid foundation is made of mutual contribution, dedication, love, and generosity.

According to a tradition in Judaism, the Tabernacle was never destroyed – just hidden away once the Temple was built. The Tabernacle was not capable of being destroyed because of its strong foundation – one of selfless giving. Similarly, we need to build a foundation of love and generosity when it comes to building our personal homes. That happens when the motto of our homes is no longer “What can I get?” but rather becomes, “What can I give?”

Hillary Clinton’s Foreign Policy Blunder of Historic Proportions

It is easy to question Hillary Clinton’s competence during her tenure as Secretary of State. U.S. relations with Russia have deteriorated, Iran and North Korea have not been restrained, and Syria has fallen into chaos.

And as far as blunders go, it’s hard to compete with her revealing congressional testimony about the reason for the Benghazi attack, during which she heartlessly asked, “What difference does it make?”

But her greatest blunder was failing to recognize the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt for what it was: a terror organization.

The Muslim Brotherhood is just like its kissing cousin, Hamas. Their definition of democracy is: one man, one vote, one time. After the first election, you’ll never see another.

Clinton’s unbridled support for the Brotherhood leader and now-disgraced former Egyptian President, Mohamed Morsi, was inexcusable. A freshman in Foreign Policy 101 would have seen through the charade that led to her historic miscalculation.

Tapes recently released by Egyptian intelligence reveal that the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas were working hand-in-glove together.

Let me summarize this disgraceful drama, act by act:

Act One

The Muslim Brotherhood gets Hamas to lob a few missiles toward Israel, thus setting the trap.

Act Two

The U.S. asks Morsi to intervene and stop Hamas from lobbing said missiles toward Israel. The Obama Administration is motivated, not out of a love for Israel, but to prevent it from retaliating.

Act Three

With the missiles stopped, Hillary is lured to Egypt, where she declares Morsi (and by inference, the Muslim Brotherhood) as a great statesman and lover of peace.

Act Four

Along with that unbridled praise, a few billion dollars is sent to Egypt—most of which ends up lining the pockets of the Brotherhood high command.

Act Five

The Western media declares that Mrs. Clinton is a statesperson of heroic proportion. Everyone lives happily ever after.

Well, maybe not that last part.

So much for Clinton’s “experience.” She fell for the Brotherhood trap—hook, line, and sinker. She failed to understand that she was praising an aspiring dictator (brought to power with the help of the American Embassy) who the majority of Egyptians loathed.

But even after that five-act blunder, her mistakes continued. When 33 million Egyptian patriots took to the streets and rejected Morsi and his Islamist deception, the Obama Administration sat on its hands. And it remained aloof after a temporary government took over and made a commitment to bring Egypt into the 21st century.

So as Mrs. Clinton might ask, “What difference does it make?”

The chain of blunders made a historic difference. The new, temporary leader of Egypt, General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi—Now field Marshal-who had acted as a steward to protect the freedom of the Egyptian people—saw no hope in dealing with the Obama Administration.

So on February 12, 2014, he visited Russia. There he was hailed as a hero and given a reception appropriate for a head of state. While President Obama felt the need to lecture Sisi, Putin declared him the up and coming leader of Egypt.

As the U.S. government continues to offer the cold shoulder, 22 million Egyptians have signed a petition to draft Sisi to run for president. No wonder the Egyptian public detests Obama more than his most ardent opponents in the U.S. are capable of doing.

Clinton may be made of Teflon when it comes to her responsibility and response to the Benghazi attack. But her culpability in losing a key U.S. ally to Russia is not only unforgettable, it should be politically unforgiveable.