• The Decree of God Article by Derek Thomas

    FROM TABLETALK | October 2007

    Joseph has just revealed his true identity to his astonished brothers. It had been a tearful moment (Gen. 46:2, 14; cf. 42:24; 43:30). He is about to engage in a discourse on predestination and the divine decree (yes, really!), but this is no abstract theological exercise; it is theology engaging the harshest of realities — betrayal, false imprisonment, and injustice! Joseph had, from one point of view, every right to think that life made no sense at all because there was no controlling power governing the course of events. He might have been tempted to think along the … View Resource

  • Everything Is Against Me! Article by Derek Thomas

    FROM TABLETALK | September 2007

    It is Jacob’s lowest point. As far as he knows, Joseph is dead. That’s the story his sons have led him to believe, showing him the blood-stained “coat of many colors” (Gen. 37:31–33). He mourned his son’s death and “refused to be comforted” despite the hypocritical attempts of his sons who knew full well that Joseph was alive somewhere.  Many years have now passed. Joseph has spent two years in prison, been installed as second-in-command to the pharaoh, and enjoyed seven years of abundant harvest. Now the predicted seven years of famine have begun (something that Joseph had … View Resource

  • Finding God in the Dark Article by Derek Thomas

    FROM TABLETALK | August 2007 | Genesis 39

    Four times in Genesis 39 we read that God was with Joseph (39:2-3, 21, 23). The statements form a set of pillars at either end of the story of Joseph’s initial experience of Egypt. On the one end, they come at the beginning of the story after Joseph has been sold by the Ishmaelites to Potiphar, the pharaoh’s “captain of the guard” (39:1). The point of the description is to show to us that God’s presence “prospered” Joseph (39:2). He was a “successful man” (39:2) because “the Lord was with him” (39:3 … View Resource

  • The Veracity of God Article by Derek Thomas

    FROM TABLETALK | July 2007

    The story of Joseph is one of the finest examples in Scripture of what Paul meant when he wrote, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good” (Rom. 8:28). All things? Yes, including evil things. Nor should we attempt for one moment to lessen the evil intent in men’s actions (or Satan’s for that matter, for he lurks in the background of every evil deed and thought); Joseph’s brothers meant to harm him, but God overruled their actions for good. It will be Joseph’s clear announcement at the end of the story … View Resource

  • A Mother in Israel Article by Derek Thomas

    FROM TABLETALK | June 2007

    Jacob, the wily one, after ten or fifteen years, finally returns to Bethel. God has been at work in his life, drawing the wayward patriarch to himself. It has been a difficult journey. It invariably is so when our wills are set at variance against the Lord’s. From the perspective of hindsight, Jacob could now speak to his family of a God “who answers me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone” (Gen. 35:3). Jacob had been sheltered within the orbit of God’s covenant faithfulness. Despite half-hearted commitment and questionable decisions … View Resource

  • Growing Up and Growing Down Article by Derek Thomas

    FROM TABLETALK | May 2007 | Genesis 33

    Grow up!” Some of us can recall with a measure of embarrassment being told these words following an incident in which we displayed less than mature behavior. Jacob is growing up, and it has been a long and painful process. In order for him to grow upwards, he must in fact grow downwards in his estimation of himself. Humility has never been a characteristic of Jacob! Genesis 33 recounts the much-anticipated reunion of Jacob and Esau after twenty years. Moses has carefully told the story in such a way as to create a sense of anticipation: Jacob is … View Resource

  • Limping Home to God Article by Derek Thomas

    FROM TABLETALK | April 2007

    Poor Jacob! You have to love him even though he’s such a disagreeable fellow! A cheat from birth, Jacob has lived up to his name and now finds himself away from home, fearing the wrath of his twin-brother, Esau. Not that life with his uncle Laban had been a picnic. “Out of the frying-pan into the fire” the saying goes, and Jacob found his uncle to be as wily a character as himself. What had probably been a temporary arrangement turned into twenty years during which Jacob fell head-over-heels for a woman called Rachel, but was “tricked” by his uncle … View Resource

  • Snakes and Ladders Article by Derek Thomas

    FROM TABLETALK | March 2007 | Genesis 28

    Poor Jacob! You have to feel sorry for him even though he’s a most disagreeable character! A “self-willed mother’s boy,” with opportunistic instincts that enabled him to outsmart friends and foes alike in a ruthless bid at getting his own way, Jacob emerges in Genesis as the less likeable of Isaac’s twin boys. And yet, he is the one God chooses to bless! Jacob has fled for his life because his twin brother Esau is as mad as a hornet with him for his duplicity in stealing Esau’s birthright through trickery. Esau has vowed, once their father is dead … View Resource

  • Wily Jacob Article by Derek Thomas

    FROM TABLETALK | February 2007

    Sell me your birthright now,” Jacob demanded of his twin brother, Esau (Gen. 25:31). Thus begins the sorry tale of Abraham’s grandson. From the start, Jacob challenges us to dislike him: a self-willed, pampered child with ruthless skills in getting his own way.  Though the youngest of the twins, the birthright (rights to inherit) should have been Esau’s - a far more attractive personality all round. But God has other ideas, promising to his mother, Rebekah, that the birthright would be given to Jacob (Gen. 25:23). This was a recipe for trouble, designed to show that … View Resource

  • Dying Well Article by Derek Thomas

    FROM TABLETALK | January 2007

    Sarah lived 127 years…. And Sarah died…. And Abraham went in to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her” (Gen. 23:1–2). Sarah and Abraham had been married fifty-two years. He would live almost four decades without her (see Gen. 25:7). She was sixty-five when she married Abraham, who was ten years older (Gen. 12:4; see 17:17, where we learn that when he was 100, she was 90). Eleven years into their marriage, still childless, Abraham was eighty-six and took another wife, Hagar (Gen. 16:16). Fourteen years later, when Abraham was one hundred years old, Sarah … View Resource

  • The Lamb of God Article by Derek Thomas

    FROM TABLETALK | December 2006

    And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son” (Gen. 22:13). Like an old-fashioned grammar text, the Bible is a book in which many of the answers to questions posed early on are to be found in the back of the book. Take the idea that Jesus died for me. We sing Cecil Frances Alexander’s words: We may not know, we cannot tell What pains he had to bear; But we believe it was for us He hung and suffered there. And we sing these words because they reflect … View Resource

  • Sodom and Gomorrah Article by Derek Thomas

    FROM TABLETALK | November 2006

    Genesis 19 is unseemly stuff! The kind of thing we don’t want to be found reading in public on Sunday mornings when our mothers are present! Sodomy, rape, and who knows what else? Do we close our eyes and think nice thoughts rather than dwell on what this story is really about? And coming so quickly after the moving prayer of chapter 18 — what in the world are we to make of it? Assumptions are that the sin here is homosexuality of a violent nature. Genesis 19:5 simply says that the men of Sodom demanded, “Bring them out … View Resource

  • Praying with the Patriarchs Article by Derek Thomas

    FROM TABLETALK | October 2006

    Does God take risks? The question is not as silly as it sounds, and in present-day discussions regarding what is called “open theism,” it is the pertinent question to ask. But let’s ask the question again, from a different perspective. Is God’s knowledge of the future certain? Certain in the sense of being unchangeable, set down by an unalterable divine decree that cannot be changed? The answer would seem, to orthodox Christians at least, obvious. But recently a flood of literature has emerged suggesting that the future is “open.” The so-called open theists take as one of their … View Resource

  • Voices of Temptation Article by Derek Thomas

    FROM TABLETALK | September 2006

    The birth of Ishmael, son of Abram and Hagar, is a tale that in some sense at least should never have been. From it emerges a familial and ethnic strife that lasts to this very day. It is a tale of marital strife, of hobbling faith and catastrophic consequence. There is an interesting and devastating parallel in the way Moses recounts the tale of Adam’s fall in the garden of Eden and Abram’s lapse of faith in Genesis 16: both employ the phrase, they “listened to the voice of…” (Gen. 3:17; 16:2). And in both instances, the men … View Resource

  • Our Great Reward Article by Derek Thomas

    FROM TABLETALK | August 2006

    In June 2006 in this section we commented on the way in which the story of redemption focuses on Abraham’s “seed” as the line by which the Messiah will come to save God’s people from their sins (Gen. 12:7; 13:15–16). This is but an outworking of the promise made in Eden that the “seed” of the woman will triumph over the “seed” of the serpent (Gen. 3:15). This now emerges once more in Genesis 15 — the chapter that inaugurates God’s covenant with Abraham. Abraham (whose name at this point is still “Abram”) has been victorious in … View Resource