Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Friday, 11 February 2022:
Genesis 39:23, Genesis 40:23 — “The Lord was with him. And whatever he did, the Lord made it succeed…. Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.”
Genesis 39 and Genesis 40 end very differently and, together (intentionally), describe the challenge of faith both Joseph and Christians today will go through – apparent victories and agonizing defeats. Genesis 39:23 points out that God was in control of Joseph’s life; yet Genesis 40:23 seems to imply that Joseph’s fate was at the mercy of other people, circumstances, or even his own failures. No doubt, at times Joseph struggled with the question: “Where is God now?” Despite all of Joseph’s efforts to obey God, it seemed like he was just a helpless victim. Perhaps, like so many of us do at times, Joseph felt like God was blessing him when there was obvious success and then ignoring him or punishing him when there was apparent failure and massive disappointment. Surely, it is hard to feel loved, blessed, and protected by God when you are wrongly accused, abused, and forgotten in prison. At times like that, you are tempted to doubt.
You may have even made a lot of personal mistakes that caused you to create your own private ‘prison’, but “nothing can separate us from the love of God,” not even our own buffoonery. (Romans 8:35-39) We will experience consequences of sin in a sinful world, but “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) Throughout the Bible we have seen and will continue to see how God uses both good and bad circumstances, intentionally, to accomplish His purposes in both the lives of individuals and in the world. In Joseph’s case, the chief cupbearer’s forgetfulness was no surprise to God. God took Joseph through exactly what God wanted Joseph to go through as He prepared Joseph for a greater experience with God and developed in Joseph greater Christlike character. Of course, it would be impossible for Joseph to know exactly what God was doing; that takes FAITH. Also, it takes endurance and perseverance.
The Second Marine Regiment’s motto is “Keep moving,” derived from the WWII Battle of Tarawa where during the amphibious assault on the heavily defended island, Marines found themselves stuck on coral 500 yards from the shore, forcing them to wade/swim to the island under intense bombardment and machine-gun fire – hard to imagine a worse scenario. What do you do in a time like that? Keep moving! Sometimes in life, that is what the Christian must do. Keep pressing forward in faith, even joy. Faith is trusting God right now at His word, and hope is trusting God with the future from your foundation of faith. The God who IS love, loves you always and continually. “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive bad?” (Job 2:10) “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) Spoiler alert: After Joseph had gone through so much abuse by so many people, he understood that it was all simply part of God’s plan – “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” (Genesis 50:20) Just as Moses had to go through the Red Sea; just as Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego had to go through the fiery furnace; just as Daniel had to go through the lions’ den, Joseph had to go through his great test in order to become the leader God intended; and we must go through our trials too. Through trials or tests, God is doing five things: Revealing Himself to you in a greater way; revealing you to yourself in a greater way (He already knows everything about you, but you don’t); revealing Himself to the world through your life; using your life to effect change in the world; and preparing you for greater things. See how God does these things in Joseph’s life. See how He does these things in your life. God is Good!
Genesis 40:15 – “For I was indeed stolen out of the land of the Hebrews, and here also I have done nothing that they should put me into the pit.”
Once again, God was “with” Joseph, but God did not protect Joseph from terrible injustice and hardship. On the contrary, God allowed Joseph to go through seemingly hopeless situations so that God could prepare and position Joseph for greater things. Joseph accepted good and seemingly bad from God (which was really good). Do you?
Genesis 40:19 – “In three days Pharaoh will lift up your head—from you! — and hang you on a tree. And the birds will eat the flesh from you.”
Joseph did not sugar coat the word revealed to him by God but rather told people the straight truth. We too are called to communicate the unadulterated truth of God’s word to others, in love, regardless of whether they want to hear it or not. We want people to be happy, but our goal is not for people to be happy but rather holy. Flattery is telling people what they want to hear rather than what is true, and flattery is unloving. Love speaks the truth in love, solely for the benefit of the recipient, truly desiring only the very best for them, which is Jesus.
Genesis 40:23 – “Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.”
How do you respond when people let you down? How do you respond when you never seem to get a break? These times expose what you really believe is true about God. When bad things happen, focus your attention on Him rather than the issue. Only see the issue through the perspective of God’s perfect Sovereignty and perfect love for you. Would the God who gave His One and Only Son for you and promised you His perfect love for eternity allow anything to happen to you that wasn’t for your very best? Again, read Romans 8:28-29.
Acts 2:6 — “And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered….”
Once again, the power of the Holy Spirit in your life is not intended just for you but that you might reach others. You have been empowered to go into the world and make disciples.
Acts 2:17 – “And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams….”
The Spirit works in all genders and all age groups.
Acts 2:21 — “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
The Gospel is for everyone. Calling upon the name of the Lord is more than just uttering words; it is turning to God in your heart.
Acts 2:28 — “You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.”
Jesus said, “I am the way,” or the “Path of Life.” Knowing Jesus is eternal life (see John 17).
Acts 2:38 – “And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.'”
God’s basic invitation is repentance. This leads to forgiveness, salvation, and receiving the Spirit.
Acts 2:37-40 — “Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself. And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, ‘Save yourselves from this crooked generation.’”
God’s message to a fallen world remains unchanged, and it starts with the word “Repent.” In the Old Testament, “This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: ‘In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it…. The Redeemer will come to… those… who repent of their sins,’ declares the Lord (Isaiah 30:15, 59:20).” John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus preaching, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near (Matthew 3:2).” Then, Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near (Matthew 4:17).” In fact, the Bible says the Jesus, yes Jesus, denounced the cities that refused to repent (Matthew 11:20, 12:41, 21:32). Repentance means to have genuine remorse for sin which results in a changed heart and mind (a reversal of attitude toward sin). Repentance is not just saying, “What have I done (Jeremiah 8:6)?” It is turning from sin and to God with fear and trembling, seeking His mercy and grace.
Repentance comes with a correct perspective of sin, understanding, not just the earthly consequences of sin but more importantly, the seriousness of the offense committed against the Sovereign Lord who utterly hates all sin (Psalm 5:5). Genuine repentance requires an understanding of the need for salvation, not from earthly consequences but rather from God’s wrath. However, today we are losing perspective on the seriousness of sin. In fact, we have all but done away with the concept of sin and guilt. Now there are none that are guilty, only victims. Sin is explained away as a psychological problem, a chemical imbalance, a genetic disposition, a “natural” response to abuse, or simply a lack of education. We don’t need God, we need therapy. Even our churches have been conditioned to avoid the words sin and guilt, preferring to preach a “more positive and uplifting message.” In fact, if you speak of sin today, you will likely be labeled as ignorant and hateful. However, the Bible would say otherwise:
- Leviticus 19:17 — Do not hate your brother in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in his guilt.
- Jeremiah 15:19 — Therefore this is what the Lord says: “If you repent, I will restore you that you may serve me; if you utter worthy, not worthless, words, you will be my spokesman. Let this people turn to you, but you must not turn to them.
- Proverbs 24:11 — Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay each person according to what he has done?
- Ezekiel 33:8 — When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak out to dissuade him from his ways, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood.
The Good News is that through faith in Jesus Christ there is forgiveness of sin, justification and righteousness. By accepting God’s free gift of salvation through Jesus, “we [can] have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1).” Justification means to judge or regard as righteous and worthy; righteousness is to be “right” in the eyes of God. No one can make himself justified (“just-as-if-I’d… never sinned”) and righteous before God. Only by Jesus crediting (attributing) His righteousness to us can we be acceptable before the Lord. However, in the pride of their hearts, people refuse to accept the free gift of salvation that comes through Jesus, and they continue to “suppress the truth by their wickedness.” (2 Chronicles 32:26; Romans 1:18). People attempt to replace true justification through Jesus with self-justification, declaring themselves to be “good people.” They have no need for Jesus because, in their own minds, they are already righteous (or at least “good enough”), which is what Jesus was referring to when He said, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance (Luke 5:32).” Despite the clear evidence of the fallacy of the “goodness of man” and of “the enlightenment of man”, “No one repents of his wickedness, saying, ‘What have I done?’ Each pursues his own course like a horse charging into battle (Jeremiah 8:6).” Despite continued rebellion, God says,
- Ezekiel 18:32 — For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!
- 2 Peter 3:9 — The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
- Romans 10:9-15 — If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
Acts 2:37-47 – “’Brothers, what shall we do?’ And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit….’ So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls…. And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”
Acts 2 demonstrates the Great Commandment of love and the Great Commission in execution and should serve as the model today. Acts 2 also shows us the indicators of a true church – love, presence of the Holy Spirit, faithful preaching of the word, leadership, administration of the sacraments (baptism and the Lord’s Supper), membership, giving, witnessing, evangelism, ministry, worship, discipleship, individual/corporate prayer, and regular growth.
The power of the Holy Spirit was evident in this church, which was full of believers who proclaimed the Gospel to sinners. Again, as with John the Baptist and Jesus, these believers first proclaimed the need for repentance. Those who accepted the Lord were immediately baptized and then entered into true community with other believers, devoting themselves wholeheartedly to instruction, fellowship, and prayer (true discipleship), not every Sunday but every day! They cheerfully took care of the tangible needs of everyone in the church, even selling their possessions to do it, and they gave immediately – “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.” (Proverbs 3:27) What was the consequence? “The Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” And those added represented many cultures – “devout men from every nation under heaven…. the multitude came together,” a Holy Spirit reversal of the Tower of Babel curse and a representation of God’s Kingdom restoration yet to be fulfilled in completeness. (Acts 2:5–6; Genesis 11:1-9)
- Revelation 7:9-12 — After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
Does your church experience resemble the Acts 2 experience? If not, why not? Some might say that Acts 2 describes a “special” move of the Holy Spirit reserved for the inauguration of the church. However, I see nothing to indicate that God intended to limit His Spirit after these days – “The Lord is… not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Peter 3:8, 9) But the Bible does say that we can “quench” the Spirit, “grieve” the Spirit, and get out of step with the Spirit. Perhaps, we are limiting the Spirit. Let’s pray for revival in the church.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 11 Feb 22: Pray for revival within the church. Today, devote yourself to “teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer.”