Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Wednesday, 24 Jan 18:
1. Genesis 47:20:21 — “So Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh, for all the Egyptians sold their fields, because the famine was severe on them. The land became Pharaoh’s. As for the people, he made servants of them from one end of Egypt to the other.” Read it again. The story of Joseph is almost always preached as an incredible story of forgiveness, ending in Joseph’s powerfully true statement — “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” (Genesis 50:19) However, Joseph’s story is also about the destructiveness of deep-seated resentment and un-forgiveness. Our first hint of Joseph’s unresolved emotions comes in Genesis 41 when he names his children – “God has made me forget… all my father’s house,” and “God has made me fruitful.” His mentality was to write off his family and to live by the old saying, “Success is the greatest revenge.” But his family comes to him, and exposes his pain and resentment. So, he puts them all through needless torment. He deceives them; he falsely accuses them; he imprisons them; he threatens to kill them; he frames them; etc, etc, all during a famine. Eventually, Joseph is
convicted to show mercy to his family. However, Joseph is not done with the Egyptians. God had blessed Joseph with revelation and wisdom to graciously save the Egyptians, the Jews, and other nations during a time of terrible famine. The plan God gave Joseph was to collect from the people 1/5 of their harvests for seven years as a national reserve for the looming famine. Then, that food was to be provided back to the people. However, Joseph does not just give that food back to the people. He makes them surrender everything they own for that food (which they had grown) and finally submit themselves to slavery to Pharaoh. The former slave makes everyone else a slave. The only people he does not put into complete servitude are the Jews, who now own the choicest land in Egypt, and Pharaoh’s priests (incidentally, he married the daughter of a priest). What God intended to be a blessing, Joseph turns into a curse. In so doing, Joseph sets the stage for national revenge against the Jews. We will see that, after the death of Joseph and Pharaoh, new national leadership will, in turn, put all the Jews into slavery for hundreds of years. Literally, the impact of Joseph’s ungraciousness lasts for centuries. When the Jews finally escape slavery, God will give them specific laws to prevent such abuse of power in the future. How much pain could have been avoided if Joseph had simply shown others the same grace God had shown him? Having received God’s grace through His Son, Jesus, do you now forgive others unconditionally, with no strings attached? As Jesus paid the penalty on the cross, do you carry your own cross and bear the burden of hurt in relationships with others in order to end the cycle of pain and to promote total reconciliation? Or, do you forgive with conditions or partially? Do you have deep-seated resentment you have been covering up for years that needs to be surrendered to God? Do you say, “I forgive you,” and then make people jump through hoops for you? Remember, God has given us the mission of reconciliation — “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:18, 19) “You received without paying; give without pay.” (Matthew 10:8)
2. Genesis 48:18, 19 — “And Joseph said to his father, ‘Not this way, my father; since this one is the firstborn, put your right hand on his head.’ But his father refused and said, ‘I know, my son, I know. He also shall become a people, and he also shall be great. Nevertheless, his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his offspring shall become a multitude of nations.’” God’s thoughts are not our thoughts and His was are not our ways. To understand anything, we must rely on revelation rather than just reason. God gives us reason, which has its purpose, but revelation goes beyond reason to reveal what our small minds could never understand. God gives general revelation through the Bible and Creation to guide us along the path, but He gives special revelation through the Holy Spirit to know how to rightly apply knowledge in particular situations. How did Israel know to contradict tradition and to bless Ephraim over Manasseh, despite Joseph’s protests? Israel was acting on special revelation. The Bible does not tell us how He received that revelation, but it does reveal that Israel had no doubt in the special revelation he received from God. Many people say, “I think God is telling me [this or that].” But one should not assume this is special revelation. When God speaks, there is no doubt He has spoken. There may arise doubt in obedience, but there is no doubt in the message. Don’ t confuse imagination with inspiration. And don’t confuse a “positive mental attitude” with faith. A positive mental attitude places confidence in yourself to bring positive results out of challenging circumstances. Faith trust God, despite yourself and regardless the outcome. It’s not about success; it’s about surrender. It’s not about fortune; it’s about fidelity. It’s not about winning; it’s about worship.
3. Proverbs 24:7 – “Wisdom is too high for a fool; in the gate he does not open his mouth.” In biblical times, elders or local officials met at the city gate to settle disputes and to impart wisdom to the people. As the local Ambassador for Christ, are you that person to others? Do people naturally come to you because of your godly wisdom? Notice that many people who desire to be leaders, push their ‘wisdom’ out to others who never asked for it. Many people want to be thought wise, but few people have paid the price for wisdom.
4. Proverbs 24:10 – “If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small.” Your strength is built through proper discipleship, one day at a time over time; it is tested in adversity. When the storms of life come (and everyone will go through the storms), everyone will see whether or not your house was built on a solid foundation.
5. Proverbs 24:11 — “Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.” Proverbs 24 has much to say about how we are to deal with unrepentant sinners. Most importantly, we are reminded that we have a responsibility to rescue them from their sin – we can’t ignore what they are doing; we are our brother’s keeper. Elsewhere in the Bible, God says it like this: “If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, that person shall die in his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.” (Ezekiel 33:8, 9) However, rescuing is dangerous business. Much like saving someone drowning, if you are not a strong swimmer, you are in danger of being pulled down too. We must be very careful not to go into the rescuing business casually or complacently – “And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.” (Jude 22:23) So, Proverbs warns that rescuing takes much preparation, well prior to the actual rescue attempt. (Proverbs 24:3-10) At the ‘day of adversity’ when you make the rescue attempt, you will discover how prepared you actually were. We have a responsibility to be prepared. Proverbs also gives us some ground rules for rescuing unrepentant sinners: Do not be envious of them or desire to be with them (Proverbs 24:1, 19); don’t act like you can’t see what they are doing (Proverbs 24:12; remember, silence is consent); do not rejoice when they suffer the consequences of their sin (Proverbs 24:17; the makes God unhappy); don’t worry about sinners or fear them (Proverbs 24:19); do not join with sinners (Proverbs 24:21; this is perhaps the Christian’s biggest mistake today); do not accept, tolerate, validate, excuse, or minimize their behavior (Proverbs 24:24); rebuke them by speaking honestly of their sin (Proverbs 24:25, 26); treat unrepentant sinners fairly and unemotionally (Proverbs 24:28, 29); and finally learn from their mistakes and take heed of the consequences of sin. (Proverbs 24:30) You will have plenty of opportunities to respond to sin today. What will you do? What most people seem to do is nothing. Again, silence is consent.
6. Proverbs 24:11, 12 — “…will he not repay man according to his work?” God will not excuse His messengers who do not call out for repentance. The Good News is ‘good’ in context with the ‘bad’ news, that mankind is facing the wrath of God. It is in the context of the looming wrath of God that salvation through Jesus is such Good News. Those who don’t desperately feel the need for salvation will not cry out to the Savior. We must first communicate the truth of the problem before we can point to the Truth, Jesus. Unfortunately, few want to hear the truth, so you will suffer if you have any courage to speak truth — suffer with joy and thankfulness to be found worthy. Suffer out of love for God and for the sinner. Love makes you courageous. Courage, by the way is not the absence of fear. In fact, fear is required for courage. Courage is being faithful in spite of fear.
7. Proverbs 24:16 – “for the righteous falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity.” Everyone falls, but how God’s people respond reveals the power of their God to the watching world. How God has seen you through your trials, tribulations, and personal failures is an important part of your testimony to others. A personal testimony likely eliminates any possibility for personal pride (because it is humiliating), and gives all glory to God. It is about one worthless, pathetic sinner who was saved by Jesus Christ and then used by God for His purposes. A personal testimony gives all glory to God, and the witness goes out of His was to avoid sharing any of the glory.
8. Proverbs 24:17 – “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles.” Verses 16 and 17 go together. We get up to help others up, not to step on them. The Christian does not want to see anyone fall — our heart hopes genuinely for the repentance and salvation of the most despised, wicked wretch. Remember, everything God gives us is to accomplish His mission of reconciliation. If you are not reconciling, you’re wrong.
9. Proverbs 24:24 – “Whoever says to the wicked, ‘You are in the right,’ will be cursed by peoples, abhorred by nations.” God has put in the hearts of every person a sense of justice and a conscience. Likewise, God has enabled people to have a sense of guilt. Some will respond to their guilt with self-justification, and others will understand that justification can only come through Jesus Christ.
10. Proverbs 24:26 – “Whoever gives an honest answer kisses the lips.” Love demands complete honesty, and love demands that we speak the truth about sin.
11. Proverbs 24:32-34 – “I looked and received instruction. A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.” God gives every bird its worm, but He doesn’t throw worms in nests. God expects His people to work hard, to be disciplined, diligent, and persistent. Everything that matters requires daily effort to receive a future reward – finances, fitness, relationships, knowledge, wisdom, sanctification – it all falls under the principle of the farm – you will reap what you sow. You are cultivating your future harvest today – what will you have?
12. Matthew 18:1-4 – Jesus will challenge your pride. If you are seeking to “get ahead” of others or to be #1, you don’t understand love yet. If you are always talking about yourself, you don’t understand love yet.
13. Matthew 18:10-14 – Jesus first sought His lost sheep, those who were already in the fold but had gone astray. These are those who say that they are Christians but do not really follow Jesus. This is the first focus of the church. How concerned are you about the “carnal Christian”?
14. Matthew 18:15-20 – Jesus gives very specific steps for conflict resolution. Make sure you always follow these steps.
15. Matthew 18:23-35 – Jesus Christ accepts no excuse for your un-forgiveness of those who have sinned against you. If you accepted His forgiveness, you have absolutely no right to hold forgiveness from anyone else for any reason. If you are having a hard time forgiving, you don’t really understand the gift you have received through the blood of Jesus Christ. How much you are willing to forgive others reveals how much you truly value Jesus’ sacrifice for you. Have you gone to the cross in your relationships?
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 24 Jan 18: Meditate on how you forgive: Is there someone you haven’t really forgiven? Have you said the words but still harbor resentment? Do you feel the urge to keep bringing it up? Are you holding back just a bit of love from that person as an unspoken, unacknowledged punishment? Are you harboring some sort of expectation for the other person to make it up to you? Or, have you truly ‘cancelled the debt’ of the person who has taken something (usually emotionally) from you? Are you willing to pay the price for their sin as Jesus did for you? Seek to settle your forgiveness issues today. Don’t hesitate to pick up the phone or see someone today if you need to in order to settle a matter. Don’t hesitate to apologize to someone who offended you if you did not forgive the way Jesus expects you to, unconditionally. (Gen 47:20, 21; Matthew 18:23-35)