The AMI QT Devotionals for January 8-14 are provided by Tina Hsu. Tina, a graduate of Biola University and Talbot School of Theology (M.Div.), currently serves as a staff at the Church of Southland, Anaheim, California.
Devotional Thoughts for Today
“The Unpredictability of God’s Promise”
Genesis 35:21-27 (NASB)
Then Israel journeyed on and pitched his tent beyond, the tower of Eder. It came about while Israel was dwelling in that land, that Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father’s concubine, and Israel heard of it. Now there were twelve, sons of Jacob–the sons of Leah: Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn, then Simeon and Levi and Judah and Issachar and Zebulun; the sons of Rachel: Joseph and Benjamin; and the sons of Bilhah, Rachel’s maid: Dan and Naphtali; and the sons of Zilpah, Leah’s maid: Gad and Asher. These are the sons of Jacob who were born to him in Paddan-aram. Jacob came to his father Isaac at Mamre of Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron), where, Abraham and Isaac had sojourned.
In my early 20’s, I naively believed that God placed me in positions because I had what it took to do it—and I took in people’s praises a little too much. Then, in the process of struggling through jobs, studies, and ministry, I began to swallow the fact that He chose me for certain roles so that He could reveal Himself to me, as well as to reveal more about myself —particularly, my weaknesses. Though learning more about myself isn’t fun sometimes, I’ve gained much freedom through it and have tasted more of God’s grace.
Similarly, stories of Jacob’s family also highlight the dynamics of God’s choice and His grace. After God promised to Jacob, saying, “I am God Almighty; be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come forth from you” (Gen. 35:11), Jacob hears the horrific news that his firstborn son, Reuben, slept with Bilhah, one of Jacob’s concubines. As the firstborn, Reuben was in a position to receive greater inheritance and a greater role among the sons of Israel, but his immoral act came with its consequences. We don’t hear again of his relations with Bilhah until Genesis 49:3-4, when Jacob speaks prophecy over his sons and says, “Reuben, you are my firstborn; my might and the beginning of my strength, preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power. Uncontrolled as water, you shall not have preeminence, because you went up to your father’s bed; then you defiled it–he went up to my couch.”
The stories of Jacob and his sons highlight both the sinfulness of man and the goodness of God. God declares a grand promise over Jacob’s line, but He knowingly chooses Jacob’s imperfect family to fulfill His plans. Stories in Genesis—such as this one—were written for its immediate audience, the later generation of Israel during Joshua’s time who were about to possess the promised land, to remind them, “Know, therefore, that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stubborn people” (Deut. 9:6). God who made a promise to Israel is gracious and merciful. He did not choose Israel based upon merit or virtue. He also chooses you and me for salvation and for His works in the same way.
Today, let’s begin our day thanking the Lord for choosing us, not because of our works, but because of His grace and His goodness.
Prayer: Praise the Lord, for You are so kind and compassionate. There certainly have been some good as well as not-so-good moments in my life, and I thank You for all of them because through them, You continue to teach me what it means to love and depend on You. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Romans 12
Lunch Break Study
Read 1 Corinthians 1:26-31: For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God. But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
Questions to Consider
- What is Paul telling the Corinthians regarding themselves?
- Why do the Corinthians need this teaching and encouragement?
- In what ways do you think your background and your current situation allows more for God’s power, wisdom, and strength to be displayed in your life?
- Paul is guiding the Corinthians to think about where they started when they first became Christians. Their significance does not derive from their own background, but now comes from the work of Jesus Christ.
- Living among non-Christian Jews and Greeks at that time, the Christians in Corinth started to become insecure about their faith in a Messiah who died, was crucified, and resurrected in full bodily form. The Jews believed that a Messiah who died cannot possibly be the Messiah as promised in the Scriptures. The Greeks also thought that it was foolish to place faith in someone who resurrected into full bodily form; in Greek thinking, flesh is bad, and only the spirit is good. For these reasons, Christians started to be insecure and ashamed of their faith and needed this encouragement.
- Personal reflection.
1 Corinthians 1:30 says, “But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption.” We are all where we are today because of “His doing.” Spend some time reflecting on how God is in every part of your life and invite Him to continue to be wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption for you.