Today’s Bible Reading: Genesis 39-41:16; Matthew 12:46-13:23; Psalm 17:1-15; Proverbs 3:33-35
We continue our story of Joseph today. He is now working, as a slave, in the house of Potiphar, captain of the guard of Pharaoh who ruled over Egypt. Despite his difficult circumstances, God is with Joseph and caused him to succeed. Notice that Joseph’s success is attributed to God, not to Joseph himself. And his good work leads him to get a promotion – he becomes Potiphar’s personal assistant and is in charge of everything Potiphar owned. Although the situation we may find ourselves in may not be ideal, God is with us and will prosper those who honor Him. I often think of this when I am at work. There have been times when I have not liked my job. Either I didn’t enjoy the work, or my coworkers, or my salary, or the culture… or all of the above. But I know that if I honor God while at work and while at home, He will lift me up. This is one of the reasons why I love this story of Joseph. It is so practical. We can see God at work in Joseph’s life.
I sometimes wonder how Joseph adjusted to being a slave in Egypt. He had a good life back home with his family. His father loved him more than any of his other children. But Joseph had gotten arrogant and had alienated his brothers. There really was no future for him there. So God allowed him to be sold into slavery. This must have humbled Joseph tremendously. It apparently caused him to cling closer to God, deepening his relationship with his Creator. That is really what God is after and He will often allow us to go through difficult trials in an attempt to bring us closer to Him. People who don’t know God often think that turmoil means that God isn’t present. But that is not the case. God is always present. And He is always trying to use every event in our lives to get us to create and/or deepen our relationship with Him.
Everything is going well… Joseph is treated special in Potiphar’s house like he was in his father Jacob’s house. But then he is faced with a trial when Potiphar’s wife tries to seduce him. Joseph rejects her, despite her repeated attempts. Considering that Joseph is only 17 years old at this point, I find this admirable. It would be easy for him to give in. But He does not want to sin against God (Genesis 39:9).
After Potiphar’s wife falsely accuses Joseph of attempted rape he is thrown in prison, but God is again with him there and soon is put in charge of the other prisoners (Genesis 39:22-23).
One day while in prison Joseph interprets dreams for two other prisoners. This must have seen like a trivial event in Joseph’s life. But it turns out to be very significant, even though it will take over two years for the significance to become evident. That is exactly how God works. Little things in life often lead to big things, but only after time has passed. God will prepare us for some future, big event without us ever realizing it until we look back over our lives. We’ll see just how significant all this was as we continue reading Genesis over the next couple of days.
Interesting words from Jesus today in Matthew 12:46-50. Here Jesus tells us that earthly families are not as important as we think they are. Of course God has put us all in families for a reason, but that reason is only temporary – while we are here on earth. Jesus is more concerned about His eternal family – those who will join Him in heaven. Note that “anyone who does the will of my Father” is Jesus’ family. What is the will of Jesus’ Father (God)? John 6:39-40 answers that. The will of God is to repent and believe in whom God has sent (i.e. Jesus). So only those who “believe” and make it to heaven are considered part of God’s family. We often hear that everyone is God’s child. That is not what the Bible teaches. I was surprised to learn this several years ago myself. But we are born outside of God’s family. When a person is born-again s/he adopted into God’s family. This will be a recurring theme as we keep reading the Bible this year.
In Matthew chapter 13 Jesus begins teaching in parables. His disciples ask Him about this and He explains that He does so so that only those who are “permitted” to understand can understand. Jesus has already explained the core of His message: His is God and He is the way to heaven. But His message was rejected and now the Jewish leaders are plotting to kill Him as we saw yesterday. Jesus is a dead-man walking. So He has to train His 12 disciples (really 11 as Judas was never really a believer) to carry on His message when He is gone. So He begins to train them in “secrets” that were not revealed previously (in the Old Testament). These secrets are only available to those who believe in Him. Those who rejected Him are not eligible to receive this extra information. If you are a believer in Christ you have extra information available to you that non-believers do not. How cool is that?
Jesus’s first parable is one of my favorites: The Parable of the Sower. Here we see that a farmer (God) spread seed (the message that Jesus is the way to heaven) that falls on four different types of soil. Some seed fell on the footpath. This was land that had been traveled on for years and was hard and dry. The seed never germinates and is eaten by birds. Some seed falls on shallow soil. The seed germinates but quickly dies because it has no roots. Some seed falls among other plants that prevent it from living. Finally, some seed falls on “fertile” soil and produces an abundant crop. Jesus explains that these four soils represent four types of people:
- Those who have no interest in God’s word
- Those who hear God’s word and get excited about it initially but who fall away just as quickly
- Those who hear God’s word but are too distracted by worldly things to be of any use
- Those who not only hear God’s word but also take the time to understand it.
Notice that all four groups hear the message. But only one group tries to understand it. God’s message is available to everyone. But you must take the time to think it through and understand it. God will help you do so. But you need to have an interest in doing so first.
In Psalm 17 we read a plea from David while he is under much duress. He appeals to God to save Him and points to his own integrity in contrast to the wickedness of his enemies. I really like verse 8 in the NLT which is translated “Guard me as you would guard your own eyes”. We can all imagine how tragic it would be to lose our eyesight. Guarding our eyes is of the utmost importance. David requests God protect him in a similar way. Verse 15 reminds us that the righteous will see God. David was a human being who clearly had faults. But in God’s eyes he was righteous because he had faith. We are saved by faith, not because of our deeds. And I’m sure glad that is true because my deeds don’t warrant residence in heaven.
Proverbs today tells us that the wicked we see more trouble because of their wickedness and those who do right will be blessed. God doesn’t send trouble upon us to punish us. We saw this a few days ago. God is never out to get us back. He’s always out to win us back.
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