Now [Jacob] loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age. Genesis 37:3
Modern blended families can present new challenges. New siblings, different parenting styles, and new living arrangements require the utmost patience. While many men in patriarchal cultures had numerous children and wives, few worked as hard to keep them together as a family as Jacob did—albeit not quite successfully.
Jacob had twelve sons by four wives: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun were born to Leah; Joseph and Benjamin were born to Rachel, Jacob’s true love (and Leah’s sister). Dan and Naphtali were born to Rachel’s maidservant; Bilhah; Gad and Asher were born to Leah’s maidservant, Zilpah. Of the twelve sons, Jacob favored Joseph and Benjamin because they were the sons of the love of his life, Rachel. And of those two sons, Jacob favored Joseph even more because he was Rachel’s firstborn. It’s one thing to have a favorite son; it’s another to let the other children know about it. Jacob’s obvious favoritism toward Joseph provoked murderous jealousy among the other sons (Genesis 37:4).
When love is unconditional, it can have no favorites. Thanks be to God that we are loved equally in His sight!
Red and yellow, black and white, all are precious in His sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world. Clarence H. Woolston
Loved and Favored
Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away. Song of Songs 8:7
When we first saw the stream in our backyard, it was just a thin vein of water trickling through a bed of rocks in the heat of the summer. Heavy wooden planks served as a bridge we could easily cross. Months later, torrents of rain pounded our area for several days in a row. Our tame little creek swelled into a quick-moving river four-feet deep and ten-feet wide! The force of this water heaved the bridgeboards up and deposited them several feet away.
Rushing water has the potential to overwhelm almost anything that stands in its path. Yet there’s something that’s indestructible in the face of a flood or other forces that might threaten to destroy it—love. “Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away” (Song of Songs 8:7). Love’s persistent strength and intensity is often present in romantic relationships, but it’s only fully expressed in the love God has for people through His Son, Jesus Christ.
When the things we consider to be sturdy and dependable are swept away, our disappointment can open the door to a new understanding of God’s love for us. His affection is higher and deeper and stronger and longer lasting than anything on earth. Whatever we face, we face with Him beside us—holding us up, helping us along, and reminding us that we’re loved.
Reflect & Pray
How can you be sure God will always love you? What’s the outcome of God’s love in your life?
Heavenly Father, thank You for comforting me with Your love during times of rejection or loss. Help me to believe I can depend on You to meet every need in my soul.
Toward the end of James’s epistle is a statement that should increase our confidence in God: “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (5:16). What a comfort to know that the Lord hears and responds to the petitions of the righteous.
The Greek word for “accomplish” is the one from which we derive our English word energy. The prayers of God’s people don’t merely drift into space but are avenues through which God does His amazing work on earth. However, He cannot be manipulated into unleashing His power—there are no prayer formulas or perfect words that cause Him to act.
What does James mean by “effective prayer”? First John 5:14 gives us a hint: “If we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” Therefore we can define effective prayer as that which is in accordance with God’s will.
What is required for us to pray effectively? According to James, effective prayer requires a righteous life. If we are harboring sin, pride, and self-reliance, it’s doubtful that our prayers will align with God’s will. We can’t hang onto our unrighteousness and expect to offer effective prayers, because sin hinders our relationship with God. Before coming to the Lord with our petitions, we must first confess our sins and turn from them.
Prayer is an amazing privilege by which God involves us as He accomplishes His will in our lives and in the world. During hardships and trouble, we come to Him in weakness and helplessness, asking for His aid, strength, and guidance. Then He answers according to His good and perfect will.
“Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 2:1)
As with so many other character attributes, a Christian cannot measure strength as the world does. True strength is not military might or athletic skill or purchasing power. “For . . . not many mighty . . . are called: But God hath chosen . . . the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty” (1 Corinthians 1:26-27).
A Christian is strong when he or she is a person of gracious character, strong in the grace manifested by Christ in word and deed. “My strength is made perfect in weakness,” the Lord told the apostle Paul (2 Corinthians 12:9), who then prayed that we would also be “strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness” (Colossians 1:11).
But how does one acquire such strength in grace? First of all, it is by the working of the indwelling Holy Spirit in the believer’s life—“strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man” (Ephesians 3:16).
Then it is by spending times of quietness before the Lord in prayer and study. “Their strength is to sit still. . . . in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength” (Isaiah 30:7, 15). Frantic efforts to acquire, by human methods, the power one needs to accomplish a task or to reach a goal will be futile in the end, “but they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength” (Isaiah 40:31).
After the people had spent a day before the Lord and His written Word, Nehemiah could assure them that “the joy of the LORD is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). “Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee,” the psalmist could say (Psalm 84:5). When we acquire our strength from Him, we can confidently claim the ancient promise: “And as thy days, so shall thy strength be” (Deuteronomy 33:25). HMM
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
The average person in the world today, without faith and without God and without hope, is engaged in a desperate personal search throughout his lifetime. He does not really know where he has been. He does not really know what he is doing here and now. He does not know where he is going.
The sad commentary is that he is doing it all on borrowed time and borrowed money and borrowed strength—and he already knows that in the end he will surely die! It boils down to the bewildered confession of many that “we have lost God somewhere along the way.”…
Man, made more like God than any other creature, has become less like God than any other creature. Created to reflect the glory of God, he has retreated sullenly into his cave—reflecting only his own sinfulness.
Certainly it is a tragedy above all tragedies in this world that man, made with a soul to worship and praise and sing to God’s glory, now sulks silently in his cave. Love has gone from his heart. Light has gone from his mind. Having lost God, he blindly stumbles on through this dark world to find only a grave at the end. WHT065-066
Lord, help me to be a light shining in this dark and gloomy cave. Let my light shine today to aid someone struggling blindly through this dark world. Amen.
Rejoice the soul of Thy servant; for unto Thee, O Lord do I lift up my soul.—Psalm 86:4.
Ah, dearest Lord! to feel that Thou art near,
Brings deepest peace, and hushes every fear;
To see Thy smile, to hear Thy gracious voice,
Makes soul and body inwardly rejoice
With praise and thanks!
Prayer is a habit; and the more we pray the better we shall pray. Sometimes to go to be alone with God and Christ in the fellowship of the Spirit, just for the joy and blessedness of it; to open, with reverent yet eager hands, the door into the presence chamber of the great King, and then to fall down before Him, it may be, in silent adoration; our very attitude an act of homage, our merely being there, through the motive that prompts it, being the testimony of our soul’s love; to have our set day-hours of close communion, with which no other friends shall interfere, and which no other occupations may interrupt; to which we learn to look forward with a living gladness; on which we look back with satisfaction and peace; this indeed is prayer.
Anthony W. Thurold
“Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.” John 15:2
This is a precious promise to one who lives for fruitfulness. At first it seems to wear a sharp aspect. Must the fruitful bough be pruned? Must the knife cut even the best and most useful? No doubt it is so, for very much of our Lord’s purging work is done by means of afflictions of one kind or another. It is not the evil but the good who have the promise of tribulation in this life. But, then, the end makes more than full amends for the painful nature of the means. If we may bring forth more fruit for our Lord, we will not mind the pruning and the loss of leafage.
Still, purging is sometimes wrought by the Word apart from trial, and this takes away whatever appeared rough in the flavor of the promise. We shall by the Word be made more gracious and more useful. The Lord, who has made us, in a measure, fruit-bearing, will operate upon us till we reach a far higher degree of fertility. Is not this a great joy? Truly there is more comfort in a promise of fruitfulness than if we had been warranted riches, or health, or honor.
Lord Jesus, speedily fulfill thy gracious word to me, and cause me to abound in fruit to thy praise!