Tag: Genesis

Is Marital Sex for Personal Gratification?


Thanks for coming to my Ted Talk.

In all seriousness, the answer is ‘no’. Of course it’s okay if you enjoy sex (within the bounds of Biblical marriage), but enjoyment is not why God created it. Sex actually serves two purposes. One is the production of children. God told Adam and Eve (and by extension, the rest of us) to “be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and steward it” (Genesis 1:28). The second — the one I want to highlight today — is union. This is also rooted in creation. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and the two shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

This second reason is what Hosea is highlighting in today’s reading. God (via Hosea) uses a sexual metaphor to talk about the re-union of Israel to Himself. This is meant to help us understand that our commitment to God is singular, intimate, and eternal. It is an act of devotion. Obviously with God these adjectives describe a NON-sexual encounter, but nonetheless our refusal to be devoted in this way is compared to prostitution!

In the same way for our marriages to be Biblical, the primary reason for sexual union should not be an orgasm. The primary reason is an expression of singular, intimate, eternal devotion. That’s why we’ve called it “making love”. This brings me back to my pity opening statement…

The title of today’s devo asks, “Is Marital Sex for Personal Gratification?” and my response, “No”, while technically true does not tell the whole story. The answer is, of course, that while personal gratification IS an outcome of the sexual union, it is not the primary or even secondary purpose. Instead, that gratification is a reward for our faithfulness and devotion.

Does God Demand Perfection?

During the dedication of the temple, Solomon offers a lengthy prayer before the assembly. This portion stood out for me:

“When they sin against you—for there is no one who does not sin—and you become angry with them and give them over to their enemies, who take them captive to their own lands, far away or near; and if they have a change of heart in the land where they are held captive, and repent and plead with you in the land of their captors and say, ‘We have sinned, we have done wrong, we have acted wickedly’; and if they turn backto you with all their heart and soul in the land of their enemies who took them captive, and pray to you toward the land you gave their ancestors, toward the city you have chosen and the temple I have built for your Name; then from heaven, your dwelling place, hear their prayer and their plea, and uphold their cause. And forgive your people, who have sinned against you; forgive all the offenses they have committed against you, and cause their captors to show them mercy

1 Kings 8:46-50, NIV

Note the progression here, I think this may be something a lot of us can identify with — I know I can.

  1. We sin
    • For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God — Rom 3:23, NIV
  2. God gives us over to our enemies
    • Sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you — Gen 4:7b, NIV
  3. We see the consequences of our sin
    • Hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh — 1Co 5:5a, NIV
  4. We repent of AND turn from our sin
    • If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways — 2Ch 7:14a, NIV
  5. God hears us
    • Then I will hear from heaven — 2Ch 7:14b, NIV
  6. God forgives us
    • And I will forgive their sin — 2Ch 7:14c, NIV
  7. We are released from the bondage of our sin
    • So that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord — 1Co 5:5b, NIV

This is the process. If you are dealing with the consequences of sin, that’s God giving you what you’ve earned — that’s justice. If you ask for forgiveness and seek God, turning away from your sin, God will hear you and cover you with his grace — that’s mercy.

He knows we are incapable of perfection, and so Jesus came to fulfill that requirement. If we want to be covered by the blood of Jesus at Calvary, then we need to draw near to him and stand under His umbrella of grace.

What is the Wrath of God?

When we think of or hear about the ‘wrath of God’, the temptation is strong to imagine a vengeful God having a fit of rage and throwing fistfuls of lightning bolts down on a wicked populace to strike them dead. This idea comes from the capricious human-like gods popularized in Greek and Roman mythology, this is not the God of the Bible.

“Nice try, cowboy!” I hear some retort, “If God is not wrathful like Zeus or Jupiter, then explain Lot’s Wife (Genesis 19:26), Uzzah (2 Samuel 6:6-7), and Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11) !”

These are all examples of disobedience stemming from lack of proper respect for God. Lot’s wife looked back when she was explicitly told not to do so. Uzzah reached out to touch the Ark of the Covenant when that was expressly forbidden (after choosing to transport the Ark in a way OTHER than what God’ had instructed), and Ananias and Sapphira lied to the church and withheld God’s portion from Him. So God met out the ultimate punishment for this after rescuing her family (Lot’s Wife), restoring glory to Israel (Uzzah), and raising the church (Ananias & Sapphira).

This was not some reckless decision based on a whim. These were consequences for actions taken in defiance of God. And as I read today’s Psalms of Asaph, I noticed a trend…

In Psalm 80 Asaph feels like God is blessing another nation due to Israel’s disobedience. But is this the case? Was God blessing Israel’s oppressor? Or was Israel a decidedly weak nation being propped up by Yahweh? Was God blessing ANOTHER nation, or did He simply remove His hedge of protection from Israel and allow the attacks of their enemies to proceed unencumbered? This is the wrath of God.

Is Psalm 81 we see that God WANTS to rescue us, He loves us! His sincere desire is that none should perish, but that all would come to a saving knowledge of Christ Jesus. However, He will not override our free will. God has chosen to restrain Himself so that only those who freely choose Him will draw near to Him, and those same people will be saved. So what happens to the rest? That is the wrath of God.

In Psalm 82 we see a scenario where God sits in judgement of all the other gods and warns them of the folly of their wickedness. Of course those gods do not exist (except in the minds of the people who created them), so the people who “follow” them are the ones who will bear the responsibility for the actions of their “gods”. This is the path of destruction. This is the wrath of God.

The worker earns his wages (1 Timothy 5:18). And the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). This is the wrath of God. It’s really not that complicated.

Under My Own Power

I often see people cite Deuteronomy 17:17 when talking about David and Solomon, both of whom had multiple wives. And in the case of Solomon (who neared 1,000 when you factor in concubines) we see the direct statement in 1 Kings 11:3 that this did indeed result in his heart of hearts being led astray. But God never addresses Polygamy head-on as a perversion of marriage even though it is CLEARLY in contravention of Genesis 2:24 & Matthew 19:5-6.

But I actually don’t think this passage (17:17) addresses the king having more than one wife any more than the previous verse addresses the king having more than one horse (17:16). These two verses are about how Israel is to run itself as a nation, and not really about the behaviour of the king specifically. At this time there still was no king. Nor would there be for a while to come. They have the reign of Joshua still ahead of them, then the Judges… then the Kings. No what’s happening here is the establishment of a new nation with guiding principles. And God recognizes that how the king (or queen or whatever head-of-state) conducts himself will signal to the people how things ought to be done. The king is accountable for what he models for his people.

All of that to say, let’s look at what each of these prohibitions means.

  1. The king may not acquire a great number of horses — God doesn’t care how many horses the king has. God is not telling the king to be a one-horse man. Rather, the horse was a symbol of military strength. God didn’t want Israel to hoard weapons of mass destruction because they were to rely on Him! He says as much in 20:1! Amassing military strength demonstrated a lack of trust in the God who brought them out of slavery in Egypt. Solomon did this in spades (1 Kings 10:26)!
  2. The king may not send to Egypt for horses — Egyptian horses were considered to be the best horses in the Ancient Near East, taller and larger than the northern breeds. So you can see why the temptation to buy some of those sweet Egyptian studs might have been large. But the problem here is that God delivered the people FROM enslavement in Egypt, so to turn BACK to the enslaver for protection rather than the God who showed his might against them is a slap in the face to God. Solomon, of course, did this too (1 Kings 10:29). And was called out for in Isaiah 30:1-5.
  3. The king may not take many wives — This was less about marriage and more about treaties with other nations. It was common to make a deal with the king of another nation and secure it with a marriage. A son from one side would marry a daughter from the other. This was — essentially — using children as a sort of contract signature. To highlight the strength of the bond between the two nations. Why did this matter, though? Because it was a sign of political strength. Why would Nation X try to attack me if I have the support through treaties with Nations A, B, and C? And, of course, Nation E cannot attack because we have a treaty between the two of us. Once again, God is our peace and protector. We should not be trying to do his job! God doesn’t like it when we sit on His throne. And of course, these close bonds lead to adoption of worldviews, ideas, and beliefs — all of which can (and do) draw us away from God. And yes, Solomon did this as well (1 Kings 11:1-13).
  4. The king may not amass silver and gold — This is monetary strength. Having a “war chest” of sorts. Riches and opulence give us a sense of security. Confidence. Importance. Again, this is a distraction. We shouldn’t seek to acquire money just for the sake of having the money. God is our provider, not ourselves. We need to be good stewards, we need to work hard, we need to make the most of the gifts & blessings God has given us… but that doesn’t mean we bask in it, embrace it, and love it. In fact we are warned quite sternly that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6:10). And yes, Solomon also fell into this trap (1 Kings 10:27).

So then, should we marry as many people as we like? No. Of course not. But we also need to remember to trust in God’s provision and protection. This is not a call to recklessness or a vow of poverty, but it is a call to put every decision before the Lord and allow Him to make use of what you have been given. Don’t make and execute a plan then invite God to tag along. He’s not your kid brother. Go to God and ask Him to guide you through the planning process. Stop along the way and listen for his voice/leading.

Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9 | 076/365

Cold Comfort and Eternal Perspective

Rachel. The wife Jacob loved. Just to hear it hurts. Nevermind actually BEING Leah, the first wife — the one without the ‘sparkle’ in her eyes. She lived her life in Rachel’s shadow. When Jacob was afraid of his brother Esau coming to exact revenge, he lined up the concubines and their children first, then Leah with her children, Jacob was in the last wave with Rachel. An inspiring picture of male headship at it best.

Back in Genesis 35 we read about Rachel dying after giving birth to Benjamin, and she was buried there in the desert. Meanwhile at the very end of Genesis, Jacob asks to be buried in the family tomb with Abraham & Sarah, Rebekah & Isaac… and Leah. Her body is already there waiting for him. After a lifetime of faithfulness to a man who didn’t love her. Who probably raised her sister’s children when Rachel passed away. She would be the one Jacob asked to be buried next to. He would grow to love her.

And more than that, God had a plan for Leah. She was the mother of Levi. The man whose priestly tribe would produce Moses, the one who would receive the next Divine Covenant from the LORD. She was also the mother of Judah. A wild man whose tribe would produce King David, the one who would receive the next Divine Covenant after Moses. And of course, Jesus Himself, the bringer of the New Covenant would come from the line of David the king, from the line of Judah the lion, from the line of Leah, the loved of God.

It can be cold comfort to know that we have treasures in Heaven or that God is using our suffering for some greater good, but we need to keep an eternal perspective. Even if we are here for more than 100 years, Heaven is eternal. When we’ve been there 10,000 years bright shining as the sun, we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we’d first begun.

Genesis 47:28-50:26 | 018/365

Effectively Resurrected

He was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. He was brutally killed by savages. His blood spilled. His death mourned. He took love and hope and joy to the grave. Surely this was the worst of times. This is the new reality. He would no longer be the favoured son. He is now a memory. A scar. Death, after all, is a permanent thing. Or is it?

News came. He was not dead! He was still alive! Merely hearing the news from the first ones to see was enough to revive the spirit. But this was an exceptional event! Something like this had to be seen to be believed. Good news indeed!

Of course the picture I have painted here is easily evocative of Jesus, but the details also fit Jacob’s perspective on the life of his son, Joseph. Here, I think, is the very first foreshadowing of the resurrection, a son whose “death” allowed for the flourishing of God’s people. Death and brokenness bringing about new and renewed life is a common theme throughout the Bible.

And this is yet another of many reminders that God is in charge. He has a plan. He will not leave us nor forsake us, but our perspective has to remain eternal. Love and hope and joy are gifts that comes from Jesus, the one who beat Satan, death, demons, the grave, and hell to bring them to us. This is something that we should be thankful for every time we breathe.

Genesis 45:16-47:27 | 017/365

Whose Will Be Done?

“I admit the deed! — tear up the planks! — here, here! — it is the beating of his hideous heart!” The satisfying release can almost be felt as we reading the thrilling conclusion of Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’. It is the story of a man whose guilt consumes him, until he can do nothing other than admit the deed. His conscience haunted him. It is a similar condition in which we find Joseph’s brothers during today’s reading.

They are struck by the famine Joseph predicted, and so make the trek to Egypt where food has been stored for exactly this occasion. Joseph’s Brothers bring money to Egypt to purchase food as their own supplies have nearly run out. They do not recognize Joseph when they come before him to request to purchase food. Joseph questions the brothers extensively before telling them that unless they bring their youngest brother, they’ll not be allowed to purchase any additional food. So they pay for their portion and head back to Canaan.

Along the way, they find that they have not only the food they purchased, but also the money paid in their bags. A secret blessing from Joseph. But they cannot even receive the blessing, they were still, after all these years, consumed with guilt about what they had done to their brother. It is a curse! they thought, God was surely punishing them. They could never go back.

But eventually they were forced to return. Now we pull God’s careful positioning of Joseph back out of the pocket from yesterday. Because it was during this trip that Jacob revealed himself saying, “God has sent me ahead of you to keep you and your families alive and to preserve many survivors” (Gen 45:7, NLT). Does this mean that God orchestrates evil events to bring about good? Some faithful Christians would say that He does. But I would say that God, in His omniscience, knows what each of us would do in any given circumstance and that He factored in the evil free-will choices of mankind when he providentially arranged the world.

Is it good that you did a bad thing because it achieved God’s Will? No. But God’s Will cannot be defeated by the works of mankind either. His Will be done. Amen.

Genesis 42:1-45:15 | 016/365

Abandoned by God?

A Wizard is never late, nor is he early. He arrives precisely when he means to. This famous line by Gandalf the Grey introduces us to the character and sets a tone for how we see him, and how he sees himself. It is no secret that J.R.R. Tolkien was a Christian and close friend of C.S. Lewis. And we can see reflections of Christian thoughts about good and evil and temptation and the darkness inside of us strewn throughout Middle Earth.

This line in particular is one that always stuck me as true of God. In particular His providential plans. Nothing happens before it’s time. God told Abraham the land of Canaan would be his… in 400 years. Because the Canaanites had not yet become lost to their own wickedness. God tells David a King will come from His line whose Kingdom will last forever. Again, it would be about 400 years before Jesus would be born to fulfill that promise. We see such things over and over again throughout the Bible.

Today’s story is no different, even if the timeline is substantially shorter. Joseph uses his God-given gift of dream interpretation to help out fellow prisoners who were from Pharaoh’s house. Joseph asks the cup-bearer to plead his case to Pharaoh on his behalf, that Joseph might be released to go home to his family. The cup-bearer agreed, then promptly forgot.

But God had other plans for Joseph. Some time later Pharaoh had a dream that he wanted interpreted. NOW the cup-bearer remembers Joseph and tells Pharaoh. Upon correctly interpreting Pharaoh’s dream and warning him about an impending famine, Joseph is hastily foisted into command of all of Egypt under only Pharaoh himself. This position would benefit not only Jospeh, but also his family in a powerful way. But for now we’ll stick that in our pocket, ’cause we’ll come back to it later.

This point is this: I don’t know why you are going through what you are going through. I don’t know why it’s hard for you right now. But, just as Hagar said, the Lord is “El Roi”, the God who sees you. You have not been abandoned, there is something coming. Because the Lord is never late, nor is he early. He arrives precisely when he means to.

Genesis 35:38-39, 40:1-41:57 | 015/365

Bold As Love

Anger! He smiles
Towering in shiny metallic purple armor
Queen jealousy, envy waits behind him
Her fiery green gown sneers at the grassy ground

Jimi Hendrix rightly recognizes that jealousy often fuels the wrong kinds of anger. Such is the case with Joseph’s brothers. There’s plenty to be jealous about, Joseph is the youngest and the apple of his father’s eye. The little brother is a snitch. And Jospeh also appears to have no filter of any kind. When Joseph shares the dreams about his family bowing down to him, it is not clear from the text whether he is trying to flaunt/taunt his brother with it because they are so mean to him, or whether Jospeh just has a hard time reading the room.

In any case, his brother plot to kill him, but Reuben talks them into merely abandoning him in a well to die of starvation or exposure. Of course his real plan was to go rescue Joseph later, but that part is never said aloud. Well, Judah realizes they can make some cash off the deal by selling Joseph to the passing Ishmaelite traders. Later Reuben comes to rescue his brother only to find that he is gone. Similarly, Jacob is told that Joseph was mauled to death by a wild animal and mourns for a long time.

If we know that something is wrong, it isn’t enough to simply think it’s wrong and make a secret plan to circumvent the wrong-doers, we must be willing to stand up, be unpopular, possibly even be hated in order to do what is right. And by ‘right’ I mean righteous. We cannot allow ourselves to have a timid love, that is hidden and only allowed out when we think we are in the majority or it won’t ruffle any feathers. We must be bold. Bold as love.

Genesis 37-39; 1 Chronicles 2:3-6, 8 | 014/365

Ashes to Ashes and Dust to Dust

Immediately after Jacob returns home and he and Esau bury their father, Isaac, Esau moves his household out of the land because, basically, this town ain’t big enough for the two of us. He settles outside Canaan in Edom. They appointed kings and traded with Egypt, and eventually warred with Israel. How does Esau go so far wrong?

He showed no respect for his birthright, giving it away from some stew. This flippant, careless attitude would have reflected very poorly on him, and likely affected how his family, friends, and possibly even the wider community saw him.

Then he is cheated out of his Father’s blessing by his brother and his mother. It is possible that Rebekah was worried that Esau would treat his father’s blessing with the same contempt as his birthright, and thus sought to put it on the son who appreciated it’s value.

Possibly Esau was scarred by his own regrets and the actions of his family against him, and as a final act of breaking from both his family and the God of his ancestors, Esau leaves the promised land.

And so Esau’s rejection of his family and of God is complete. He will be a ‘self-made man’. And he flourishes into a small, semi-nomadic kingdom that would trade with Egypt and flourish under the Persians…

But eventually the Prophets Jeremiah, Obadiah, and Malachi would all pronounce God’s judgement on Edom. They were wiped off the face of the earth, and until 2021 they were totally absent from the archaeological record.

You can go it on your own. And you might even be quite successful at it. But as God tells Adam in Genesis 3:19, “for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” When this life is over the self-made men and women will return to the ground from which they came and then stand before the judgement throne of God. All their hard work and determination will counted for nothing and their death will be eternal.

Let us appreciate the gifts that God has given. Recognize them for what they are. Cherish them and keep them close to our hearts. In that was we can build something of value that lasts forever.

Genesis 36; 1 Chronicles 1:35-54, 2:1-2 | 013/365