Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Friday, 18 February 2022:
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.”
As children of God, we must be very careful to give to others the same mercy and grace God has given to us, in so doing both proclaiming His goodness but also loving others by caring for their real needs and setting a standard of love, mercy, and grace for society. Unfortunately, Joseph uses the miraculous blessings he received from God to take advantage of others, putting in motion a cycle of pain and hatred which would last for hundreds of years. 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, and do you give freely and abundantly as an outpouring of the unmeasurable riches you have received in Christ? 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 and give 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)
Acts 7:51-53 — “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.”
Falsely accused of crimes warranting death, Stephen stood on trial before the Sanhedrin — “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” What would you do? Stephen does not seek to directly defend his actions but rather uses the opportunity (the issue at hand) to serve as an ambassador for Christ and to challenge his accusers on their rejection of the Truth.
Stephen’s bold, confrontational words aroused the Sanhedrin into a murderous rage, but Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, only saw Jesus standing (not sitting) at the right hand of God, which Stephen also proclaimed to the crowd. Still his accusers refused to listen to him, and they stoned him.
Many today might decry Stephen’s lack of ‘wisdom’ and tactlessness in dealing with the Sanhedrin. They might argue that he was only casting “pearls before pigs” and sacrificing his future opportunities to influence. Perhaps he should have stuck with what many today call “pre-evangelism,” hinting at the truth without over offending, hoping for future opportunities to share. Perhaps there are times to withhold the Gospel, but Stephen didn’t hold back. The key to Stephen’s choice was he was full of Holy Spirit discernment, not fear. Concerning Holy Spirit wisdom in discerning when to face persecution, John Bunyan in 1684 offered the following as shared previously on 11 January:
“Thou mayest do in this as it is in thy heart. If it is in thy heart to fly, fly; if it be in thy heart to stand, stand. Anything but a denial of the truth. He that flies, has warrant to do so; he that stands, has warrant to do so. Yea, the same man may both fly and stand, as the call and working of God with his heart may be. Moses fled, Ex. 2:15; Moses stood, Heb. 11:27. David fled, 1 Sam. 19:12; David stood, 1 Sam. 24:8. Jeremiah fled, Jer. 37:11– 12; Jeremiah stood, Jer. 38:17. Christ withdrew himself, Luke 19:10; Christ stood, John 18:1–8. Paul fled, 2 Cor. 11:33; Paul stood, Act 20:22–23. … There are few rules in this case. The man himself is best able to judge concerning his present strength, and what weight this or that argument has upon his heart to stand or fly…. Do not fly out of a slavish fear, but rather because flying is an ordinance of God, opening a door for the escape of some, which door is opened by God’s providence, and the escape countenanced by God’s Word.”
Inspired and empowered by the Holy Spirit, Stephen faced his trial and execution in stereo with that of His Savior, Jesus: Jesus said before Pilate, “For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth.” (John 18:37) Stephen before his accusers bore witness to the Truth. On the cross, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) Similarly, Stephen said, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” (Acts 7:60) On the Cross, Jesus, called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last. (Luke 23:46) Likewise, as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” (Acts 7:59) Truly, Stephen was a faithful disciple, ambassador and martyr (which means ‘witness’) “full of faith and of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 6:5) who glorified God unto death. May we be so bold and faithful in the Holy Spirit when opportunities to share the Gospel and glorify God arise.
- 2 Kings 7:9 — Then they said to one another, “We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news. If we are silent and wait until the morning light, punishment will overtake us.
- Proverbs 25:25 — Like cold water to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country.
- Proverbs 3:27 — Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.
- Ephesians 5:16 – Mak[e] the best use of the time, because the days are evil.
- Proverbs 27:1 — Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.
- Isaiah 52:7 — How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”
- Isaiah 61:1 — The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound….
- Luke 3:18 — So with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people.
- Luke 4:18 — “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
- Luke 4:43 — but he said to them, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.”
- Luke 7:22 — And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them.
- Luke 8:1 — Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him,
- Romans 10:15 — And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
- Mark 13:10 — And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations.
- Mark 16:15 — And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.
- Acts 20:24 — But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.
- Romans 1:16 — For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
- Romans 15:20 — I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation….
- 1 Corinthians 9:12 — Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ.
- 1 Corinthians 9:23 — I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.
- Ephesians 6:18-20 — To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel….
- 2 Timothy 1:8 — Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God….
- 1 Peter 4:6 — For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.
- 2 Timothy 4:2 — Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) — 18 Feb 22: Share the Gospel with someone today.