To see the previous post from Genesis, go to Can God Use a Sinner Like You, or Like Me?
Joseph is a fruitful vine,
a fruitful vine near a spring,
whose branches climb over a wall.
With bitterness archers attacked him;
they shot at him with hostility.
But his bow remained steady,
his strong arms stayed limber,
because of the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob,
because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel
Joseph endured a difficult life. Described as “archers” in this passage, Joseph faced arrows of persecution from his own siblings–they plotted to murder him, then they settled for selling him into slavery. So he was separated from his family, while he served as a slave in Egypt. Then he was falsely accused of rape by Potiphar’s wife, after which, he was tossed into a dungeon–for years.
Jesus was another who was committed to living his life God’s way, no matter what arrows flew in his direction. He loved people, all people, including promiscuous women, prostitutes, and thieves–even when it brought brutal criticism. Although on the surface he looked as ordinary as anyone else, he healed, and helped so many, it was impossible to write it all down. (John 21:25) And though he did all these things, things no one else could do, he never bragged. The religious leadership of his day hated him. Over and over they tried to catch him in a verbal ambush, but Christ answered so cleverly and completely they eventually stopped trying. Several times they tried to kill him, but they couldn’t until his time came. His dream was to make a way for us to go to heaven, but it meant he had to die. He did it anyway.
You might be asking yourself, “How? How did Joseph and Jesus live this way?” The source of power for both Joseph and Jesus is revealed by Jacob in our text. They were both able to live the way they did “because of the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob, because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel…”
You have access to that same source of power you know.
Those decisions you’ve made the last few years that haven’t worked out for you? The ones that made you say, “Yea but…”
“Yea but she seemed like such a nice girl.”
“I know but he was so good to my five year old daughter.”
“Yes but she was so much fun to party with.” Continue reading
Read Genesis 49:1-28
“Simeon and Levi are brothers—
their swords are weapons of violence.
Let me not enter their council,
let me not join their assembly,
for they have killed men in their anger
and hamstrung oxen as they pleased.
Cursed be their anger, so fierce,
and their fury, so cruel!”
Steve Jobs’ Anger at Apple
I love apple products. I bought an Apple IIC when they first came out (to this day I can say that was the best keyboard I ever set my fingers upon). I love my iPhone. I love to Face-time with my family when we’re away from each other. I even love Apple commercials, especially the one where the girl throws the hammer at the big screen with Big Brother talking. Steve Job’s penchant for perfection resulted in some amazing products and some incredible marketing. But he also had an anger problem.
In 1985 Jobs’ boss, John Sculley, who was then the CEO of Apple, decided to remove Jobs from his position as head of the Macintosh division. When Sculley gave Jobs the news, Continue reading
At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.” -Matthew 12:1-2
How Jesus Loved People
“Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath,” the Pharisees said. Jesus’ disciples were under attack. Continue reading
To see the previous post on Genesis go to Financial Feast and Famine.
Read Genesis 47:14-27.
Joseph’s Choices and Consequences
So here we see Joseph, after his preparation for these years of famine that have come upon Egypt and Canaan. And now he’s experiencing the consequences of that preparation. You know, God gives us the freedom to make choices, but He doesn’t give us the freedom to choose the consequences of our choices. That’s just the way His universe works. If you jump off a 100 story building, that’s your choice, but you don’t get to choose whether or not you’ll experience the consequence of gravity. That’s how it is with everything. A whole lot of pain can be avoided if you can just understand that one principle.
Because Joseph chose to prepare for the famine, the consequences of his choice put him in a position to receive tremendous blessings:
He collects money from those in Egypt and Canaan, in payment for the grain they were buying.
When the money ran out, he gathered up livestock as payment.
When the livestock ran out, he exchanged land for payment.
Ultimately he received 20% of their crop production every year.
Everything listed above was on behalf of Pharaoh. But he also found himself, personally, in a position to establish his family, the Israelites, in the land of Goshen, where they acquired property, and became fruitful, and grew in number.
Individual Choices and Consequences
Often times, wisdom is simply doing now, what you will be glad you did, one, or seven, or ten, or thirty years from now. Joseph was able to receive all these blessings, and enjoy all these benefits, as a result of his preparation according to the leading of God’s Spirit, beginning seven years before.
Any individual living in Egypt or Canaan could have done the same, on a smaller scale. They could have recognized the time of plenty, and they could have anticipated a time of economic correction. They could have saved their grain. They could have put themselves in a position to receive great blessing during the time of famine.
But they chose not to. And they had to live with the consequences.
Your Choices and Consequences
Preparing for hard economic times is important. But infinitely more important is preparing for eternity. Every single one of us will die. And we know this time on earth is the briefest of time compared to our eternal life on the other side of the door of death. David asked God, “Show me, Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days…” And the answer came, …the span of David’s years was as nothing before God. “Everyone is but a breath, even those who seem secure,” David said. (Psalm 39:4-5)
As important as it was to prepare for the seven years of famine, it was only seven years. When it comes to preparing yourself for death we’re talking about eternity. There is no more important preparation to be made. Not for school, or for marriage, or for work, or for retirement. Nothing compares in importance to your preparation for eternity.
So prepare for it. Right now. Recognize you’re a sinner. You’ve made wrong choices in your life. Those wrong choices alienate you from God. There’s no way to save yourself. But God provided a way. He sent His Son to die on your behalf, to pay for your wrong choices. He says, yes, if you insist, you can spend eternity in hell, but it will have to be over my Son’s dead body!
God doesn’t want that!
He wants to spend eternity with you. He wants that so bad He sacrificed His Son to provide you a way, a path, to get you there, to get you to heaven, to spend eternity with Him.
So do it. Ask Him. Ask God to forgive you for your wrong choices. Tell God you know you’re a sinner. Tell Him you know you need a savior. Tell Him you accept the sacrifice His Son Jesus made on your behalf. Tell Him you’re opening your heart up to receive His Son into your life. Tell Him you’re giving your life over to Him.
Surrender yourself to God.
Do it now.
Peter cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.
All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff.
How Jesus Loved People:
Jesus was rejected. He was rejected in a way you or I will probably never have to experience. He had just read from the scroll of Isaiah, implying very strongly He was the One Isaiah was referring to. He had just told the Jews God miraculously provided for a Gentile widow, rather than a Jew, through Elijah. (see 1 Kings 17:8-16) And He had just told the Jews God miraculously healed a Gentile of leprosy, rather than a Jew, through Elisha. (see 2 Kings 5:1-14)
These things He said infuriated them. And the enraged mob left the synagogue en masse. They took Him to the edge of a cliff to throw Him off. (Luke 4:16-30)
I’ve never been rejected in that way. Have you? So how does Jesus respond to what can only be described as murderous hatred?
He does good. In John 4:46-54 we see Jesus, still in Galilee, not long after He had suffered at the hands of the Galileans, doing good. An official’s son lay sick, and Jesus healed him.
How to Love Like Jesus:
I lost all my followers, yesterday. What I experienced is not even remotely close to the rejection and suffering Jesus experienced, because I’m only talking about Twitter followers. I was trying to figure out a way to reach the lost, on Twitter, and my account was suspended for it. So I’m suffering (sort of).
Did you know the Bible tells you what God’s will is for you when you’re suffering? 1 Peter 2:15 tells us we’re to do good when we’re suffering.
To this you were called by God because Jesus, the One who saved you, set an example for you. (see 1 Peter 2:21-24) He did good and gained followers. He did more good and some followers rejected Him. He did more good and nearly all His followers rejected Him. He did even more good and they reviled Him. He did yet more good and they crucified Him.
So you might say, why would I do good? Jesus suffered at the hands of the Galileans and the religious leadership of His day and responded by doing good, and where did that get Him? He lost nearly all His followers, He was reviled, and He was crucified.
That’s true, but what happened in the end? What good was done — ultimately? The relatively few disciples who remained, turned the world upside down for Christ! The consistent good Jesus did while suffering at the hands of others resulted in an astounding bountiful crop for God’s kingdom. According to the Daily Mail, a British online newspaper, Jesus Christ has 2.2 billion followers today.
So how do you love like Jesus? Do good in response to suffering — even when you don’t feel like it, or perhaps, especially when you don’t feel like it.
And yes, you might do good and lose followers for it. You might be reviled for it. You might even be crucified for it. But it doesn’t matter, do good anyway.
Because it’s God’s will for you when you suffer.
Because you were called by God to respond this way.
Because ultimately it will bear abundant fruit.
Jesus loved people by consistently doing good in the face of rejection and suffering.
You can too.
Bob Thornley teaching: 9/5/12
To read the last post on Genesis, go to Ready to Die.
Read Genesis 47:1-6
Joseph’s family are now with him in Egypt, and while that’s good, he still has a big frog to swallow. He has to present some of his family members to Pharaoh and gain permission for them to settle in Egypt, in the land of Goshen.
So Joseph goes to Pharaoh and tells him his family is in Goshen. He chooses five of his brothers and he presents them to Pharaoh.
What’s your occupation? Pharaoh asks.
Your servants are shepherds just as our fathers were, they reply. And we’ve come to live here for awhile, because the famine is so bad in Canaan we have no pasture for our flocks. So please, let your servants settle in Goshen.
Pharaoh says to Joseph, Your father and your brothers can settle anywhere you like. Put them in the best part of Egypt. Let them live in Goshen. And if any of them have special talent with livestock, put them in charge of my herds.
Today is the eleventh anniversary of 9/11. While I was still a firefighter I traveled to New York City, after the towers were attacked, with a group of Christian police officers, firefighters, and dispatchers to see what we could do to help. I spoke with many firefighters who experienced the loss of family and/or friends when the twin towers were taken down. (There were so many killed, very often firefighters had to choose between attending the funeral of a fellow firefighter who was family, or one who was a friend, because they were held at the same time) I attended funerals where Mayor Giuliani addressed the crowd. I spoke with forensics specialists who collected gruesome evidence at ground zero.
I’ve given this terrible tragedy a lot of thought over the last eleven years. And I’ve not just thought about 9/11, but I’ve also given considerable thought to our country’s leadership during that tragedy, and the leadership to come in the 2012 election.
I’ve come to a conclusion.
Egypt had a tragedy with the potential to kill more than we lost on 9/11. A seven year famine could have been devastating. However through God’s intervention with His servant Joseph, Pharaoh and Egypt escaped this famine relatively unscathed. But in spite of his success, can’t you just hear the criticisms that must have come from the people?
Pharaoh didn’t handle it right. He shouldn’t have given the best of the land to Israel and his family. He shouldn’t have given them positions of authority over Pharaoh’s flocks. That land and those job positions should have been given to Egyptians. This only happened because Joseph is so well connected.
The Coming Election
Just a few minutes ago I came across a video about how 9/11 was an inside job. How President Bush knew. How it was all a part of Bush’s effort to usher in the new world order. (I’m not much of a conspiracy theorist, so I won’t dignify this video by posting a link)
The last few months of the presidential race, I’ve seen both sides meet out huge doses of negative campaigning.
On Twitter and Facebook I see my friends and family lambasting the opposition, either Republican or Democrat, Romney or Obama, depending on their political leanings.
But think this thing through with me — Remember back to that moment of optimism after “our guy” won the election? How’s that been working for us? After “our man” was in office for awhile, was there any appreciable difference? Time and time again when “our man” is in there, the real tangible changes made have been negligible. Many today maintain that the differences between the parties are rapidly narrowing. The reality is…
…putting your time and energy into politics won’t make a difference.
In a democracy, where we elect our leadership, we will continue to get what we ask for. You and I and the rest of the voting population are responsible for who serves in political office. And the voting public seems to choose leadership that doesn’t change much, time and time again.
In a democracy, the voting population gets what they deserve — every time.
You know what? Pharaoh’s decisions concerning the famine, Israel, and Israel’s family weren’t made because of Pharaoh. Pharaoh’s decisions concerning the famine, Israel, and his family were all a part of God’s divine plan.
God is where the power is for change. So why invest your time and energy into a man?
Here’s my conclusion: Take all the time and energy you invest in the political process and reapportion it into prayer. Because here’s the real solution to effecting change in a democracy:
Because after revival, the voting public will no longer put up with mediocre leadership. They’ll vote in better (not perfect but better) leaders into office. After revival, many of the country’s problems will be mitigated. We’ll see a reduction in corruption, drug and alcohol abuse, broken families, crime, etc. We’ll see these things improve because after revival more people will walk through life closer to Christ.
So stop bashing the other guy, whatever side you’re on, and start praying.
Pray for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit and revival in your family, in your church, in your city, in your state, in your entire country.
Pray for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit and revival in you.
God is where the power is for effecting change.
Read Genesis Chapter 46
To read the last post on Genesis go to Deeper Relationship With God.
Last post we saw Jacob draw close to God when he stopped to make a sacrifice to Him on his way down to Egypt. After he makes his sacrifice, God gives him direct confirmation, that he should go to Egypt and reunite with Joseph.
So Jacob loads up the carts Pharoah gave him, and he and his family, and his flocks and herds, and his entire household travel to Egypt.
When he arrives in Goshen of Egypt, Joseph takes his chariot out to meet his father. As soon as Joseph appears before him, he throws his arms around his father and weeps for a long time.
Then Israel says to Joseph, now I’m ready to die, since I have seen for myself that you’re still alive.
Jesus and Joseph:
Again we see Jesus manifested in Joseph’s life. Israel’s reunion with Joseph after seeing him alive is a picture of the Father’s reunion with His Son Jesus, after Jesus rose from the dead.
Speaking of the Old Testament scriptures, Jesus said, “These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” (John 5:39-40)
Ready to Die:
We also see a dynamic illustrated here for you and for me.
By now you’ve probably heard about the famous Stanford University marshmallow experiment involving four year old kids. One at a time these kids were presented with one marshmallow, and then offered a deal: they could either eat the one marshmallow immediately, or, not eat the marshmallow while the researcher left for a few minutes. If they were willing to wait without eating the first marshmallow, until the researcher returned, they could have an additional marshmallow.
What’s typically discussed is how this experiment proved to be a powerful predictor of success in the adult lives of these subjects as they were followed closely into their forties. Those who were willing to delay gratification were far more likely to experience success in relationships, and in life in general. For instance, the SAT scores of those who waited for the second marshmallow were on average 210 points higher than those who didn’t wait.
But what’s not often discussed, is what the experimenters discovered in the later iterations of this experiment. When I think of delayed gratification, I think of will power. But what these researchers discovered was, the how behind the ability to delay gratification has little to do with willpower. But has much to do with focus. Those who were able to focus on something else, while waiting for gratification, were the ones who were successful at achieving their goal of attaining the second marshmallow, or, later in life, experiencing a successful marriage, earning a degree, or finding success in their career.
The lead researcher made what I thought was a very insightful statement: “We can’t control the world, but we can control how we think about it.” (Read more: Don’t! — NewYorker.com)
I think in today’s world where we’re inundated with news, information, and entertainment, this idea of focus is more important than ever.
You see, our own selfish nature is like that first marshmallow. You just can’t resist it. Trying to use will power to prevail against your selfishness just doesn’t work. Like the kids who were successful in the experiment, the secret to success where selfishness is concerned lies with focus.
When Israel saw Joseph alive, or to put it another way, it was when he turned his focus on Joseph alive, that he said, “Now I am ready to die.” (v. 30)
It’s the same for you and it’s the same for me. When we focus on Jesus alive, something important happens to us. When Jesus becomes alive to me, like Israel, I become ready to die. I become ready to die to my selfish desires. When Jesus becomes alive to you, you become ready to die to yourself, in a way that elevates God and people above yourself. When Jesus becomes alive to us, we become ready to release our selfishness and put others before ourselves.
You might be asking, How? How do I turn my focus on Jesus alive? The answer is found in prayer. Our focus turns to Jesus’ aliveness, when we ask the Holy Spirit to reveal Him to us.
So before you read His word,
before you pray,
before you sing His praises,
before you take communion…
Ask God to pour out His Holy Spirit upon you,
that you will see Jesus,
in your life.
The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)
How Jesus Loved People:
Jesus didn’t care, and He still doesn’t. Women were not well regarded in the culture Jesus lived in. Neither were Samaritans. And here we see Jesus engaging a person who was both. But Jesus doesn’t care about that. Though the people around him had a low regard for women, and an outright hatred of Samaritans, Jesus didn’t care. Without regard for her gender, or her religion, or her heritage, Jesus engaged the Samaritan woman at the well. He did so to share grace, and truth, and to offer the words of eternal life.
How to Love Like Jesus:
You know, when I was a little kid, growing up in Chicago, my dad used to take me over to his friend Waverly Carter’s house. While they visited I used to play with his kids. I had a blast. Not until I was an adult did it ever occur to me I was playing with kids who were African-American. (see Matthew 18:3)
Cultural boundaries evaporated before Jesus’ love. And they should for me and you as well. The guy who belongs to the other political party, or the awkward loner at work, or the obese neighbor nobody talks to, or the obnoxious teenager, or the atheist, or the person whose lifestyle you disagree with, it doesn’t matter what category you perceive them to belong to: love them. Love them, because Jesus loves them. In fact He loves that person every bit as much as He loves you. He loves that person so much, He died for that person.
And just as Jesus died, you and I are to die, to our own judgments and criticisms. It’s not our job to judge. Judging is God’s job. It’s our job to love. You and I are the body of Christ. We’re His arms, and His hands — and His mouth (Lord, help me). You and I are to be used by God to love people, without regard for whatever perceptions we may have concerning social boundaries.
So love with eyes that are blind to perceived boundaries.
Even as Jesus died, die for the person who’s different than you are.
Die to your own inclinations to judge or criticize.
Love like a child loves, without regard for differences.
And He still does.
To read the last post on Genesis click on Starving But Afraid to Return: Genesis 43.
Read Genesis 44
In our last post we left Joseph’s brothers feasting and drinking freely with Joseph. After the end of chapter 43, one might think the brothers are out of the woods, so to speak. But look what happens next.
Before the brothers leave for home, Joseph gives the steward of his house these instructions: Fill up their sacks with all the food they can carry, and put their silver in their sacks. Also, put my silver cup in the mouth of the youngest one’s sack, along with the silver and grain.
So the steward does as Joseph instructed.
Morning comes and the men are sent on their way. They aren’t very far along on their journey when Joseph says to his steward, Go after them, and when you catch them, say, Why have you repaid good with evil? You have the cup my master drinks from and uses for divination. This is a wicked thing you’ve done.
So when the steward catches up with them he says what he was ordered to say. And they answer, Why are you saying these things? We would never do anything like that! We brought back the silver we had from last time. So why would we steal silver or gold from your master now? Tell you what, if you find the cup on any one of us, that person will die; and the rest of us will become your master’s slaves.
All right then, the steward says, It’ll be how you want it. Whoever has it will become my slave, the rest will be free from blame.
They all toss their sacks to the ground and open them up. Then the steward searches them, beginning with the oldest and working his way to the youngest. And there it is, the cup, in Benjamins sack. Right away they despair and tear their clothes. Then they load up their donkeys and head back to Joseph’s house in the city.
Joseph is still there when Judah and his brothers come in, and they throw themselves to the ground in front of Joseph. Joseph says, What have you done? Don’t you realize a man like me can find out what’s happened by divination?
What can we say? Judah responds. What can we say? What could we do to prove our innocence? God has exposed your servants’ guilt. We’re now your slaves — we ourselves and the one who had the cup.
But Joseph says, Far be it from me to do such a thing! Only the one who had the cup will become my slave. The rest can go back to your father in peace.
Then Judah goes up to him and says, Please excuse your servant, my lord, please allow me to have a word with my lord. Don’t be angry with your servant, even though you’re equal to Pharaoh himself. My lord asked his servants, Do you have a father or a brother? And we told you, We have an elderly father, and there’s a young boy born to him in his old age. His brother’s dead, and he’s the only one of his mother’s sons left, and his father loves him.
Then you said to us, your servants, Bring him down here to me so I can see him for myself. And we said to my lord, The youngest son can’t leave his father, if he leaves, his father will die. But you told us, your servants, Unless you bring him back, you won’t see me again. When we went back to your servant, my father, we told him everything you said.
Then our father said, Go back to Egypt and buy some more food. But we told him, We can’t go unless our youngest brother goes with us. We can’t see the man’s face unless we bring Benjamin.
Your servant, my father, said, You know my wife had two sons. One of them went away and never came back, I said, He has surely been torn to pieces. And I haven’t seen him since. If you take Benjamin, and harm comes to him, I’ll die from grief.
So at this point, if the youngest isn’t with us when we go back, and my father, whose life is closely bound up with the his, sees he isn’t with us, my father will die. Your servants will bring him down to the grave in grief and sorrow. I myself guaranteed the boy’s safety to my father.
So please, let me remain here as your slave in place of the boy, and let the boy return to his brothers. How can I go back to my father if he’s not with me? No! Don’t let me see the misery that would come upon my father.
What Does He Want?
Imagine with me what Judah and his brother’s must be saying to each other at this point: What, what, what? What does Joseph want? Why is this happening? When will it stop? We gave Joseph our silver to buy food. We left Simeon as a prisoner. We went home, we came back, we brought Benjamin as requested. We brought gifts, almonds, honey, the best the land has to offer. We bowed before Joseph — four times so far! But no, none of that is what Joseph wants. So what then? What? What is it?
What does Joseph want from us?
Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever asked those questions? Maybe like Judah and his brothers, you’re asking yourself those questions now: “Why is this happening to me? When will it stop? What does Jesus want from me?”
The answer for Judah and his brothers concerning what Joseph wants is this: Joseph wants the brothers themselves. He wants the brothers to give themselves to him. At the end of our text we see Judah offer himself to Joseph. And we’ll see in chapter 45, it’s not until Judah finally offers himself to Joseph, that Joseph reveals himself to Judah, and the rest of the brothers.
The answer for you is the same. It’s the same with your Joseph, Jesus. He doesn’t crave your money. He doesn’t need your worship. He doesn’t want to imprison anybody. He doesn’t need your gifts. He doesn’t need your sacrifices. What does He want?
He wants you…
…to give yourself…
All of you. Everything. Everything you are.
He wants your life.
The moment you make that commitment, the moment you flip that switch in your head and your heart, to give all of yourself to Him — as Joseph revealed himself to his brothers, Jesus will begin to reveal Himself to you.
So do it! What reason is there not to? You only have blessings awaiting you on the other side of that commitment. So what are you waiting for? Flip that switch. Pray to Him right now. Give yourself, all of yourself, to Him
Do it, and like Judah and his brothers — your life will never be the same.
See also What Would Happen If I Gave My Everything by John Dulleck.
Joseph’s brothers bowed down to him, fulfilling Joseph’s prophetic dream, a total of five times:
- Genesis 42:6: Now Joseph was the governor of the land, the person who sold grain to all its people. So when Joseph’s brothers arrived, they bowed down to him with their faces to the ground
- Genesis 43:26: When Joseph came home, they presented to him the gifts they had brought into the house, and they bowed down before him to the ground.
- Genesis 43:28: They replied, “Your servant our father is still alive and well.” And they bowed down, prostrating themselves before him.
- Genesis 44:14: Joseph was still in the house when Judah and his brothers came in, and they threw themselves to the ground before him.
- Genesis 50:18: His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. “We are your slaves,” they said.