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There Is No Middle Ground With Jesus

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cropped-nymph-in-argentina.jpgToday’s Bible reading: Genesis 37, 38; Matthew 12:22-45; Psalms 16:1-11; Proverbs 3:27-32

Today begins what is my favorite Old Testament story: the story of Joseph. Joseph was one of Jacob’s sons, one of only two born to Rachel. Since Joseph was the first son born to Rachel, the wife Jacob loved the most, I’m sure he got some special attention from his father. By the time Joseph is 17 years old (where our story begins) he is not very popular with his brothers as we see in Genesis 37:2 when he tells on his brothers. Not a popular thing to do with your siblings, especially when most of them are older than you are. Verse 4 tells us that the brothers “hated” Joseph because they knew that Jacob loved him more. How sad that a parent would love one child more than the others not to mention that the parent would be obvious about it.

Joseph has a couple of dreams in which his brothers and his parents bow down before him. By this age Joseph is very cocky and goes and tells his family about these dreams. This only makes him less popular.

One day Jacob sends Joseph to check on his brothers who are many miles away pasturing their sheep. Jacob must know that his sons hate Joseph so it seems somewhat foolish to send Joseph alone to check on them. Jacob apparently forgot how much hatred Esau had for him when they were both younger. Jacob had done some things that made Esau want to kill him. Joseph’s attitude and behavior doesn’t seem much better.

Joseph at first travels to Shechem but his brother’s are not there. He encounters a man who tells him where his brother’s are. Now at this point we may wonder why God let Joseph encounter this man when God obviously knew what the brother’s were going to do to Joseph. The reason is simple: God allowed this encounter (maybe even orchestrated it) because even though trouble lay ahead, God was planning on using the evilness of Joseph’s brothers for His (God’s) own good as well as for the good of Joseph and his entire family.

Soon a caravan of Midianites comes along – just in time to spare Joseph’s life.  Rather than killing their brother, which was the original plan, they sell Joseph to the Midianites who take Joseph to Egypt where he is sold into slavery. God allows all these things to happen for a purpose which we will see in later readings. So many people today look at tragic and difficult situations and wonder where God is. He is right there, working through all these situations to bring about His plans. Sadly, many people blame God and refuse to see Him in these desperate times. God never promised that life would be easy. But He does promise that He will be there with us throughout it all.

At the end of today’s passage Joseph is working in the house of Potiphar, one of the officers to Pharaoh. God has Joseph right where he needs to be.

In Genesis 38 Judah, one of Jacob’s sons makes the mistake of marrying a Canaanite which was expressly forbidden. The result is more trouble. Apparently Jacob had not raised his sons to have a reverent respect for God. Judah has 3 sons who each demonstrate more ungodly living.

Judah ends up making a terrible mistake by sleeping with his daughter-in-law (although he didn’t know it at the time). Through a series of events his infidelity is revealed. In Genesis 38:26 Judah repents and recognizes his mistakes. In the end that is all God asks of us. He doesn’t expect us to be perfect. He knows we can never be. We should do our best to live godly lives. But when (not if) we mess up, we need to admit it and ask for forgiveness. One of my favorite sayings is “the amount of maturity a person has is inversely proportional to the amount of time it takes him to apologize”. A mature person will apologize sooner than an immature person.

The Pharisees are at it again today – trying to find Jesus doing something wrong. They accuse him of working with Satan since He casts demons out of people. But Jesus points out the ridiculousness of their argument. Why would one of Satan’s helpers cast out Satan’s demons? And evidently the Pharisees performed exorcisms. So they too were casting out demons. Again, the Pharisees arguments against Jesus fall apart. This reminds me of when I was an atheist. I had many arguments against Jesus and the Bible. But when I actually took time to think them through, I realized my arguments had no validity. So many people today refute that Jesus existed or refute who He was (He was God on earth) but they haven’t taken the time to really think their “evidence” through.

Matthew 12:30 is very sobering. Notice there is no middle ground with Jesus.  You are either with Him or against Him. There is no abstaining. Where do you stand with Jesus? If you aren’t sure you are 100% with Him, then please take time to examine your arguments against Him. I can guarantee you will find them lacking.

In verses 38-40 Jesus foretells that He will spend three days in the earth. This will come true when He is crucified and buried. Notice that the Pharisees wanted a miracle from Jesus to “prove” His authority. They had already seen many miracles. One more wasn’t going to change their minds.

What a great psalm Psalm 16 is. God is my refuge. Every good thing I have comes from Him. One of my goals in 2013 is to thank and praise God more often for the good things He has provided me with. Health. A job. A home. I found Psalm 16:3 interesting today. Who are the heroes we have in our culture today? God says that godly people should be our heroes. Sadly, in America at least, godly people are not heroes. They are ridiculed and labels “extremists” or “crazy”. But those who chase after other gods (money, sex, fame, power, etc) will multiply their troubles (Psalm 16:4).

God is always with me. There is no need for me to be shaken (Psalm 16:8). This correlates to our story about Joseph. Despite the trouble he went through, God was with him the entire time.

 

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