Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Gen 41b Devotional

When all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for bread. Pharaoh said to all the Egyptians, “Go to Joseph. What he says to you, do.” (Genesis 41:55)
Joseph had spent 13 years (cf. Genesis 37:2, 41:46) being stolen out of the promised land of the Hebrews, away from his beloved father and his family. He had been enslaved, tempted, abused, thrown into jail and forgotten. Yet all he had done was consistently looked out for the welfare and blessing of others.
Now exalted to power, Joseph’s character still doesn’t change. The light that shined, shined in the darkness and now shines in the spotlight.
Moses then has only one instruction for the whole world:
“Go to Joseph. What he says to you, do.”
Go to Joseph, do whatever he says! Well of course! Where else could we find such a gifted administrator, able to be a blessing to all even in the most unfortunate of circumstances? In his own household, he looked out for his older brothers. In Potiphar’s household he did so well that Potiphar worried for nothing except what choice of food he would have that day. In the prison, the keeper of the jail trusted him so much that all the other important prisoners were kept under his care. Now even Pharaoh recognizes such administrative gifts!
Go to Joseph, do whatever he says! Well of course! Where else could we find such a compassionate ruler? Despite the temptations and slavery he did things that only benefitted Potiphar and even his wife. In the jail – even with the agony of being unjustly imprisoned – he still goes so gently to his fellow prisoners and says, “Why are you upset?” (Genesis 40:7). Their interests outweigh his own. Even after being forgotten, all he thinks about is preserving the Egyptians from death (Gen 41:36).
Go to Joseph, do whatever he says!
And yet of course, Joseph is just a picture of the priestly king Jesus, who made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow (cf. Genesis 41:43), in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:7-11)
Jesus is the one who is the compassionate prince of all the earth; go to Him, do what He says! Imagine then, Joseph being just a pale shadow of the effective administrator that is Christ. Imagine then, Joseph just having a small fraction of Jesus’ compassion and passion for the well-being of others. If the whole earth could go to Joseph and trust him, how much more then should we not go to Jesus!
Why are you hesitant to go? Do you fear He does not know what to do for you in your situation? Fear not! Even in terrible temptation, in cruel suffering and in death He has kept a steady hand! Why are you hesitant to turn to Him daily? Do you fear that He will not understand, He will not sympathize or empathize with you? Do you fear He may be harsh to you? Fear not! He has such tender care for those whose faces are downcast and weary, nothing but gentleness for the heavy laden – a bruised reed He will not break, a smoking flax He will not quench. Fear not! Expect nothing but tender care and total provision for all our needs from Him – yet we must do whatever He says!
Mary, the mother of Jesus knew this well when, during that wedding at Cana, they ran out of wine, and she said: “Whatever He says, do” (John 2:5). And what happened when the servants did what Jesus said? Wine came – abundant wine, 210 litres of the finest wine – and there was joy, there was feasting, the once dry party sprang to life! That’s what happens when we go to Jesus and do what He says: blessings overflow to all – all are richly blessed! In Him and only in Him do the blessings of Abraham spread to all nations! Just like at Potiphar’s house, just like in the prison, just like for ancient Egypt and for that clever old Pharaoh who saw that “in this one is the Spirit of God” (cf. Genesis 41.38).
But our old friends, Jacob and sons, have yet to learn this lesson. And so the story continues…

Monday, 24 February 2014

Gen 41a Devotional

Isn’t that a question that we ask from time to time… especially when things aren’t going our way?
I should be in charge of things – I’d make things better.
Yet that is the very identity of the children of Abraham – they were meant to be the rulers of the earth. Jacob was given this very specific promise:
And God said to him, “I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply. A nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come from your own body. The land that I gave to Abraham and Isaac I will give to you, and I will give the land to your offspring after you.” (Genesis 35:11-12)
God’s people are destined to rule the land. And yet when the 11 sons of Israel were in charge, we’ve already seen that they were more selfish tyrants than kindly princes.
Indeed all too often, when we are given ‘power and wealth’, we tend to use it for personal gain and benefit at the expense of others. One man did that very thing during Jesus’ time….
“The land of a rich man produced plentifully and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:16-21)
Joseph on the other hand, since the very beginning seems to have been seeking the welfare of his brothers (Gen 37:14). After he was sold into Egypt, he suffered – but he brought prosperity to the whole household of Potiphar (Gen 39:5). Even when this innocent servant was betrayed and thrown into the prison – still his primary concern was for the wellbeing of others (Gen 40:4-7).
So then, what then would this man do if he could rule the world?
Now therefore let Pharaoh select a discerning and wise man, and set him over the land of Egypt….so that the land may not perish through the famine.” (Genesis 41:33-36)
Even the country that had caused him nothing but slavery and discrimination – he still seeks their welfare, their benefit, their blessing. The rich man in Jesus’ parable built storehouses for himself and was destroyed. Joseph plans to build storehouses for others and is exalted.
Yet in all this Joseph acts this way not just because he’s a ‘good person’ or a ‘gifted administrator’ but, as Jesus interprets, he is ‘rich towards God’: he is fiercely loyal to who God is and vehemently trusting upon His promises – that is the sole cause of such generous and servant-hearted behaviour.
Truly if any man deserves to rule the world, it is this one.
And yet, as we have well seen, this is a picture of Christ. And Christ is the Man who not only sympathizes with those who suffer, but ends up ruling the nations seeking only the welfare and blessing of all – even those who once despised Him. He is our benevolent King.
If we believe that – what then should our response be, especially in times of difficulty, trouble or confusion?
Moses will tell us very soon…

Gen 40 Devotional

Joseph had been destined for royalty since he was 17 years old. The two dreams of ruling and reigning over his family (Gen 37:5-10) still continued to play in the back of his mind. He never lost sight of them, and as far as he was concerned, this was a prophecy given to him by the Living God (Gen 40:8).
Yet when he first went to his brothers to seek the welfare of those wayward shepherds (Gen 37:14), they could not accept the fact that he would rule over them. Why would they? He was just their annoying little brother.
More than that, the current sons of Jacob were all utterly selfish in their nature. They lived according to the flesh. When Judah had opportunity, we can see that all he desired was his own welfare – selling his brother for money (Gen 37:26), leaving his brothers and mourning father to fend for themselves (Gen 38:1), marrying a wife explicitly condemned by the previous patriarchs (Gen 28:1, 38:2) and sleeping with what he thought was a prostitute after his wife died (Gen 38:15-16).
If Joseph would be the same, then he would be a horrible king. No wonder they didn’t want anyone ruling over them!
But as Joseph gets carried away into Egypt to become a slave, his character is revealed: wherever he goes – first into the household of slaves – he seeks the welfare of others. All he does blesses all those around him (Gen 39:5). Secondly he gets thrown into the pit – the innocent is punished for no reason (Gen 40:15) – and yet still he seeks to serve his fellow prisoners.
When two of his fellow inmates look troubled (Gen 40:6), look at his compassion for these Egyptians – the race that had so unjustly treated him.
In the midst of his suffering, this future prince learns two things, as Pastor Steven mentioned: he learns how to be a faithful administrator of households and peoples in all situations; and secondly, he learns how to empathize with the weak – for he himself is beset with weakness. He learns to be a merciful and compassionate priest to others – ministering to their needs, caring for their wellbeing.
He never seeks to serve himself, he never desires to pursue his own fleshly interests (think of what it took to resist Potiphar’s wife day after day as a teenager!). Surely one could excuse him for being tempted to do so after two betrayals (one by the brothers and a second by Potiphar’s family) – not to mention one more to come when the cupbearer forgets about him for two years (Gen 40:23)! But even then he does not ever seek his own interest but continues to put the interests of others as priority. And most importantly, he continues to put his faith in God’s providence and promises.
…Joseph, who was sold as a slave. His feet were hurt with fetters; his neck was put in a collar of iron; until what He had said came to pass, the word of the Lord tested him. (Psalm 105:17-19)
His faith was tested. It never wavered but grew stronger in the midst of continuing affliction and betrayal.
One might say that this future prince became perfect through suffering.
Now, Joseph is truly ready to rule as a compassionate Priestly King, who can bring blessing to all in the midst of their weakness.
What then would be an appropriate response if one such as this came to seek our welfare? Came to rule over us? Well… Moses will give us an answer in the coming chapters.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Gen 39 Devotional

Blessed to be a Blessing?

In our last meditation, we considered that God was going to bless the nation of Israel, starting with Abraham so that they could be a blessing to others (Gen 12).

Yet as we noticed, Judah and his brothers seemed to utilize the blessings and privileges given to the fledgling nation of Israel and abused them for their own selfish gain – turning more into wild animals (Gen 37:23) than benevolent princes.

So how do we solve a problem like Judah?

Well, Moses gives us some clues, pointing at the end of Gen 38, once again to the birth of the promised seed (Gen 3:15) – the one who would break out against (or into) this decaying race, not to destroy them – but bring the dawn (Gen 38:28-30).

And then immediately, we are told of Joseph’s descent into Egypt (Gen 39:1). Unlike Judah, he is forced into this descent and becomes a slave – a servant. That is his new identity, no longer the royal son.

But yet through his service, Joseph becomes a tremendous blessing to everyone around him (Gen 39:2-6). In fact, as Tze-Ming mentioned, ALL benefit when Joseph is in charge. ALL benefit through the suffering and humiliation of this son, who was beloved by his father (including Potiphar and wife!).

Ironically, Joseph’s continual faithfulness to God and Potiphar only leads to more pain on himself. Joseph’s life continues to get worse – he gets harassed, tempted, thrown into jail, left to rot. Yet it is THROUGH his betrayal, his temptation, his trials, his wounds - that others benefit. Each level of his descent leads to greater levels of sustained blessing to others.

Joseph is not blessed to be a blessing. He is cursed to be a blessing.

Strange as it seems, God is in the background of all this, God is the one who orchestrated his descent, his suffering service, his humiliation. It is God that chooses to afflict him – and it is God that channels the blessings to others through his misery.

So then, how will the nations be blessed? How do we solve the hypocrisy of Israel?

The two questions are related. It is all found through this One – the Suffering Servant. And so Moses’s biography of Jesus Christ continues…

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45)

If you wish to be blessed – all you have to do is be under His Rule, His Household. The primary application here is not that God will make you suffer to the extent that Joseph did, not that you have to resist temptation to his level, but rather that the Chosen One will suffer and resist on your behalf. Trust Him, let Him rule your life and you will be blessed – God will work in all things for your good.