Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Friday, 19 Jan 18:
1. Genesis 37:3 – “Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his sons, because he was the son of his old age. And he made him a robe of many colors.” Children are not equal in character and competence, and there are some attributes that are more favorable in one child or another, but a parent should never love one child more than another or show favoritism. Israel sowed the seeds of hate and destruction in his family by showing favoritism to his children.
2. Genesis 37:4 – “But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peacefully to him.” People may hate you simply because you are blessed. Again, envy is one of the most powerfully destructive emotions which often turns violent. Be careful to guard your heart against any thought of envy.
3. Genesis 37:5 – “Now Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers they hated him even more.” Mastering human relationships requires knowing what to say and what not to say. Just because you know the truth doesn’t mean the time is right to share it, and how you share it matters too. Knowledge has a tendency to puff you up, but love lifts up the other person. Verse 4 says that Joseph’s brothers “could not speak peacefully to him,” and then it says that Joseph shared his dream. So, it would seem that Joseph was intentionally goading his brothers. Proverbs says that a fool’s mouth invites a beating. Joseph, in pride, is acting foolishly, and it is going to cost him dearly. You may be right on concerning a matter, but it is never beneficial to incite a quarrel with others or to escalate an argument.
4. Genesis 37:12-14 – Joseph had become an outsider to his brothers and was viewed as an enemy because he brought bad reports of them to their father. Joseph was not an agent of reconciliation.
5. Genesis 37:13-17 — “’Are not your brothers pasturing the flock at Shechem?… Go now, see if it is well with your brothers and with the flock, and bring me word….’ Joseph went after his brothers and found them at Dothan.” The Bible records that Jacob sent his favored son alone to Shechem, the place where Jacobs son massacred a city. Jacob shows incredible negligence as a father here and is further evidenced by his careless disregard for the destructive behaviors growing in his family. If he couldn’t see what was going on between Joseph and his brothers, he was negligent. If he did understand the strife between them, he was irresponsible for sending Joseph out to report on his brothers. He should have clearly recognized the resentment this would incite. It is a parent’s responsibility to know the strengths and weaknesses of all their children and to develop their respective characters. Teaching kids to manage emotions and conflict within the home prepares them for challenges in the world. The home is intended to be the schoolhouse for character development, and the parent is the teacher, coach, mentor. The Bible then points out that in fact, Joseph would have to walk another 13 miles in the desert to meet his brothers in Dothan. Would you walk 13 miles to meet a bunch of bullies who hated you and “could not speak peacefully to [you]?” Joseph was willing because he was incredibly diligent – one of his positive character traits. God has called you to proclaim the Gospel to people who will hate you. Will you do it? Will you walk 13 miles to take a beating simply because your Father told you to?
6. Genesis 37:17 – “’And the man said, ‘They have gone away, for I heard them say, ‘Let us go to Dothan.’” So Joseph went after his brothers and found them at Dothan..” The community is always watching you and your family and making judgments whether you realize it or not. You might be very surprised if you realized all that people notice and what they think of you from what they observe. Whether you accept it or not, you and your family are a testimony to something. Does your family’s character point to Jesus and glorify God?
7. Genesis 37:18 – “They saw him from afar, and before he came near to them they conspired against him to kill him.” Joseph’s brothers had transitioned from one of the most destructive of all emotions, envy, to the most destructive of all emotions, hate. This is the opposite of love. Love promotes life, and hate promotes death. When a person or a group are driven by hate, they are capable of unspeakable sins, things that would otherwise shock you from them.
8. Genesis 37:21, 23 – “’Let us not take his life….’ And Reuben said to them, ‘Shed no blood; throw him into this pit here in the wilderness, but do not lay a hand on him’—that he might rescue him out of their hand to restore him to his father.” Reuben was still influenced by conscience, but he lacked requisite courage of conviction. Though he intended to save his brother’s life, he lacked the strength to control his brothers; so, he diverted to scheming, which didn’t work. He pretended to play along while working a hidden agenda to save his brother. How do you confront sinful popular opinion? Had he gone to trial with his brothers, he would have been found guilty too because, though he kept Joseph from being murdered on the spot, he didn’t do enough to protect Joseph. It is not enough to have ‘good intentions’, we have to fully commit to doing what is right. As the saying goes, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”. How Reuben’s guilt must have consumed him over the years after Joseph was sold into slavery! Reuben’s life is a negative leadership lesson. Reuben was the oldest who committed incest with his father’s concubine and will lose his birthright to Joseph. Reuben wanted to be the leader of his family and, his eventual birthright, but he lacked the requisite integrity and moral courage to lead. Some seek positional authority, rank, or titles to claim leadership, but it is moral authority combined with competency that makes a true leader. Notice throughout the Bible, that when God calls a leader, it is usually not from the group of pre-established positional leaders. In the midst of priests, God calls His prophets from the ranks of laymen. Are you the leader where you are? The true leader knows the way and has the character and competence to lead others along the way. Jesus is the Way – do you demonstrate the character and competence to lead others to Him? A seminary degree is not a requirement, nor is a piece of paper or special clothing. In fact, those things can stand in the way if they promote pride and self-confidence rather than humility and God-confidence.
9. Genesis 37:25 — “Then they sat down to eat.” Envy, jealousy, and hate can make a person ruthless. It is hard to believe that God could still use these terrible people who can casually eat lunch while torturing their younger brother. From what depths can God rescue a sinner today?
10. Genesis 38 – Genesis 38 is a shocking story. Judah commits unthinkable sin after unthinkable sin and at the end of it all is willing to burn to death is daughter-in-law for getting pregnant from prostitution (idol worship prostitution) without condemning himself for being the one who got her pregnant. Again, after reading Genesis 38, it is hard to believe that God would use Judah to be in the lineage of Jesus Christ. What does that tell you about how God works? Why do you think God wants you to read this story?
11. Proverbs 19:2 — “Desire without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way.” Consider very carefully what you desire to do – don’t let emotion lead the way. Is it what God wants you to do? Do you have a plan to accomplish God’s will, and are you willing to do what it takes to see it through? “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.” (Psalm 127:1)
12. Proverbs 19:3 – When we receive the natural consequences of our own actions, we tend to blame God for being unfair to us.
13. Proverbs 19:10 – God intended for His people to “subdue” the earth, to be the dominant influence on earth for His glory. What if Christians controlled Hollywood, the government, the education system, industry, banking, etc and ran things according to His law? It is not fitting that Christians have surrendered the systems of power over to the world and are now controlled by them.
14. Proverbs 19:11 — “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.” God expects us to show mercy and grace to people as He has shown us mercy and grace. Mercy is not giving people the punishment they deserve, and grace is giving them the forgiveness they don’t deserve. Judgment is giving the punishment deserved. Why is it we often want justice for those who offend us and mercy and grace for ourselves?
15. Proverbs 19:15 — “Slothfulness casts into a deep sleep, and an idle person will suffer hunger.” God expects you to be a hard worker. He does not bless laziness.
16. Matthew 15:1-20 – Religiously sincere may defend theological tradition and miss the mark on love for God and for others, the Greatest Commandments of all.
17. Matthew 15:8, 18-20 — “Their heart is far from me…. What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person.” The heart of man’s problem is the problem with man’s heart. While we tend to focus on actions; God looks at the heart behind those actions – “The Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7) The Lord searches the heart, tests the heart, weighs the heart, and judges the heart (Jeremiah 17:10, Proverbs 17:3, Proverbs 21:2). Fundamentally, our ‘heart’ is what we love. The “upright in heart”, the “wholehearted” have been given the First Commandment and Great Commandment upon which every other commandment rests: “You shall have no other gods before me…. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself. (Exodus 20:3; Luke 10:27) Well before sinful deeds are exposed to people, our sinful hearts are exposed wide open to God. Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8) Our problem is “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) Because of the deceitfulness of our hearts, we cannot even honestly critique our own motives – “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the heart.” (Proverbs 21:2) We are totally dependent on God. First, it is God, and God alone, who gives us a heart that even can love and to obey Him:
– Jeremiah 24:7 — I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart.
– Ezekiel 11:19 — And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh,
– Jeremiah 32:39 — I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them.
– Jeremiah 32:40 — And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me.
– Mark 6:52 — for they did not understand… their hearts were hardened.
– Psalm 119:32 — I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart!
Then, only God can reveal to us, through the conviction of the Holy Spirit, the truth of our hearts:
– Psalm 139:23 — Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!
But we must remain receptive to the conviction of the Holy Spirt, and act on that conviction. It starts with a humble and contrite heart:
– Psalm 51:17 — The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
– Lamentations 1:20 — Look, O Lord, for I am in distress; my stomach churns; my heart is wrung within me, because I have been very rebellious.
– Isaiah 57:15 — For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.
– Joel 2:12 — “Yet even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.”
Then, in complete reliance on God, we must diligently, relentlessly pursue love, holiness, righteousness, mercy, justice, obedience, purity, unity with God:
– Psalm 119:112 — I incline my heart to perform your statutes forever, to the end.
– Ezekiel 18:31 — Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel?
– King Rehoboam 2 Chronicles 12:14 — And he [king Rehoboam] did evil, for he did not set his heart to seek the Lord.
– Ezra 7:10 — For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.
The Bible says, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. (Proverbs 4:23) We must put all of our effort into ‘keeping’ our hearts because everything flows from the heart. An important part of keeping our hearts is continually examining our hearts (again, empowered by the Holy Spirit). Today, Jesus points out again that the tongue is a great revealer of the condition of our hearts. Of course, the relationship between heart and tongue is repeated throughout the Bible. We are held accountable by God for every careless word that comes out of our mouths. Today, ask God to show you what your words say about the true condition of your heart.
18. Matthew 15:12-14 – Religious activities and good deeds that were not commanded by God are worthless.
19. Matthew 15:27-28 – Though focused on His mission, Jesus stopped to make time to minister to the needs of people not directly tied to His ultimate objective.
20. Matthew 15:32-34 – The disciples seem unable to learn from what they have already experienced with Jesus. Has your faith grown from what you have already experienced with Jesus? Can you trust Him because you know Him to be trustworthy?
21. Matthew 15:32-34 – The disciples seem unable to learn from what they have already experienced with Jesus. Has your faith grown from what you have already experienced with Jesus? Can you trust Him because you personally and powerfully know Him to be trustworthy from your real experiences with Him, not just from what you have read about Him or heard about Him from others? You cannot grow in faith if you don’t walk in faith. Walking in faith requires walking beyond your own knowledge and capabilities that you might see Him work the impossible in your life, all for His glory rather than your desires.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 19 Jan 18: Today, be people focused rather than task focused. (See comment number 19 above)