“But the Lord was with Joseph and extended kindness to him, and gave him favor in the sight of the chief jailer.”

Joseph, waylaid by his brothers, sold into slavery two times over, than accused of sexually battery and jailed, still found favor with God. It seemed that all the bad that had happened to him was continually deflected by Gods grace and mercy. Not a word of complaint from Joseph, but only a willingness to move forward with the plans of the Lord. Even in lockup, he was made to prosper, or succeed by Gods blessing, as he would give glory to Him.Big lesson for us, as we are so prone to complain and question rather then give praise with thanksgiving. How do you react to the tough and scary times? I hope we are all are much like Joseph, going with the flow of the Spirit and seeing what God has.

Pastor Russell

And the neighbor women gave him a name saying, "A son has been born to Naomi!" So they named him Obed, He is the father of Jesse, the father of David.
 
It was a dark time in Israel's history where faithlessness ran rampant. Set in this period, is a story of a young Moabite widow, who turns from her pagan roots and upbringing, to embrace the people and God of Israel. Love, devotion and redemption shine forth from the Lord during this bleak time, as He rewards her by giving her a new husband and a son who was to be positioned to be in the lineage of David and Jesus Christ. Ruth's undaunting hope and trust in God allowed her to be blessed and used beyond measure. Truly inspiring for us today.
 
Pastor Russell
"Then Jacob went on his journey, and came to the land of the sons of the east."
 
The word "went" in this verse is translated as a Hebrew idiom meaning lit. "lifted up his feet". It speaks of young man's response to divine encouragement. And as Jacob received encouragement from the Lord, his journey, many hundreds of miles long, seemed of no real trouble. Although possibly hampered at times by weariness, cold, hunger, danger from bandits, bumpy and treacherous roads, he "went" it seems with no real trouble. Led and empowered by the Spirit, he had a spring in his step. For we today, whether young or older in the Lord, it's He who helps to lift our feet as we continue in this tenuous walk in this world, our journey of faith, our eyes fixed on Him, the author and finisher of our faith.
 
Pastor Russell
"and let us arise and go up to Bethel, and I will make an altar there to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone."
 
Jacob's relationship with God had been forged in the crucible of struggle, self-will, fear and hardship, now solidified he acknowledged his Lord and Savior in worship. The reality of God's faithfulness drawing him ever closer as he forsook the false gods of the world to press on in worship the true and living God. His life is a model for us, as we forge ahead in our walk and relationship with Him.
 
Pastor Russell
And he said, "Are you really my son Esau?' And he said, "I am."
 
As filled with stories of heroes and mighty men, the bible also tells of failures and defeats of men of God. Shrouded in mystery and intrigue, we look at with wonder as Jacob falls to utter deception and trickery in lying to his father Isaac, rather than trusting the Lord to work all things out. But within the heart of men, are all the same propensities and foibles that tripped up and motivated Isaac. This demonstrates our need for total dependence in the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth, and to empower us that we may stay the course of trust and faith in the Lord, as we navigate the treacherous waters of life in this world.
 
Pastor Russell
".....and I will make an altar there to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone."
 
Jacob draws a strong and resounding declaration as he purposes in his heart that he will worship the Lord. He recalls of God's sure response to all his own troubles, and how He faithfully delivered. A relationship was forged, and bonds of lasting remembrance of God's faithful dealings was made even stronger in Jacobs heart. In Jacobs life, we've seen the sketchiness of man's makeup, the waywardness of the flesh, even unfaithful at times, but God was faithful to Jacob as He is with us. Distress and uncertainty come and go, but the faithfulness of the Lord never fails. He who has begun a good work, will continue until the day of Christ Jesus.
 
Pastor Russell
"Isaac went out to meditate in the field toward evening; and he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, camels were coming."
 
As Isaac went out to ponder, to muse or wait upon the Lord, he lifted up his eyes and as it was, gazed I believe, into the face of God. Revealed in the pinks and oranges and the purples of the darkening sky, the setting sun revealing the glory of the Lord that brought peace and hope and a new found rest in the faithfulness of God. For Isaac, the Lord's answer lay close upon the horizon. For us today, it's much the same, although we too often miss God in the sunburst of daybreak, the full moon rising and illuminating the night sky, and yes, the glorious sunset and the twinkling stars, all declaring the glory of God. Busyness, rush, worry, discouragement, tiredness, all seek to rob God's people of the face to face encounters that await us in varying ways. Child of God, go seek Him today for all He has for you.
 
Pastor Russell
"Then Esau ran to meet him and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept."
 
With swift action, all the anxiety and fear that filled the heart of Jacob, all at once evaporated. Now gone were the thoughts of not knowing what his brother would do to him. And we see, twenty years in the making within the heart of his brother Esau was the magnanimous act of forgiving and forgetting. No longer any thoughts of stolen birthrights and blessing, Esau now filled with gladness at the return of his brother. Jacob, on the other hand, had struggled for the better part of his life with attaining all he had, and just the night before wrestled with all of his own desires before tapping out to the Lord. He would have to surrender before he would see and receive all that God had for him, not imagining that the Lord was able to do exceeding beyond all that he could ask or think in Christ Jesus. Now, for the child of God, we ought to stand by firmly planted in Him, and see His salvation go before us.
 
Pastor Russell
Then the man bowed down and worshiped the Lord, saying "Praise be to the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who has not abandoned His kindness and faithfulness to my master. As for me, the Lord has led me on the journey to the house of my master's relatives."
 
Upon the arrival to his destination, Abraham's servant could only think of giving glory to the Lord who had successfully directed him to his destination. Thoughts of the long journey, on hot and dusty roads with temperamental camels in caravan, along with bandits and cutthroats made for a tenuous journey, all these were quickly forgotten. So too our journey as we traverse this world as aliens on this venture of faith the Lord has called us to. With great joy and triumph, tempered with hardship and trial, our eyes should remain fixed upon Him, with our final destination in mind, our lives giving glory to Him.
 
Pastor Russell
"Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak."
 
Jacob, on his journey back to Canaan, finds himself in an awkward position. Having sent all his flocks, servants and family across the river, now all alone, he encounters a visitor in his camp and grapples with him throughout the night. He eventually confesses that he has seen God, face to face. We too at times, wrestle with things of the Lord, but more often than not it's the thing of feeling all alone in difficult times. Covid and isolation along with lack of fellowship has brought tension or discouragement into homes, the fear of future events, lack of work, mounting bills, existing physical ailments and other relational difficulties all add to the stress of the times we live in. For the child of God, here is a reminder for us to surrender these things to the Lord, taking our eyes off of what we grapple with, and look to Him. In the Word, fellowship, prayer and communion. all good places to be.
 
Pastor Russell

Abraham said, "God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son." So the two of them walked on together.

As father and son walked to the place of worship, Isaac asked his father where the lamb was for the burnt offering. To Abraham's credit, his unwavering trust and faith now lay upon God, who he considered, was able to raise people even from the dead. (Hebrews 11:19) Some two thousand years later, the Father did provide the Lamb of God, who would take away the sins of the world. Jesus came and was crucified, He died and rose again on the third day for the sins of all those who would believe in Him. Abraham we see, would offer up someone he counted so precious, and its in this precursor, we see the Lord offering up His all for us.

Pastor Russell

And she conceived again, and bore a son and said, "This time I will praise the Lord." Therefore, she named him Judah. Then she stopped bearing.
 
Leah, the young wife and mother, jockeyed fiercely for the affection and love of her husband, all the while embroiled in strife and jealousy with her competitor and sister Rachel. With much heartache and three sons later, she comes to the conclusion at the birth of son number four, Judah, or let Him (God) be praised. Within the heart of this woman, was drawn the conclusion that even though things were far from perfect, at times filled with doubt, loneliness, and discouragement, now turned to "I will praise the Lord." Choosing to turn her eyes upon the Lord brought a new resolve, a refocus on the Lord who brought a new hope and rest in the midst of the turmoil. We all can take a lesson in getting our eyes off of all the wrongs, and fixing our eyes upon the Lord and praising Him for all He already done for us.
 
Pastor Russell
Now it came about that Abimelech and Phicol, the commander of his army, spoke to Abraham, saying "God is with you in all you do......"
 
Here the Philistine king and his general come to Abraham to try and make an agreement for future peaceful dealings between the two parties. Recognizing God's blessing and His favorable dealings with Abraham, the king sought to stay in God's good graces via his relationship with the Lord's servant. Like His children in the world today, people may be attracted to God in us and the hope of His glory that we represent, or may become standoffish, even antagonistic because we represent the God they have rejected. In either case, we love, we pray for, we share the good news, we live our life for the one who so willing gave His life for us.
 
Pastor Russell