In today’s passage in Genesis Joseph tests his brother’s one more time to see if they have really changed over the previous 20 years. They showed no remorse when they sold Joseph into slavery. They had an “us” versus “him” mentality. But they show no signs of that this time when Benjamin is found with Joseph’s silver cup. Instead they act as one and don’t abandon their father’s youngest, and probably most favorite, son. They also show genuine concern for their father whereas 2o years before they were willing to lie to him. This time they don’t even consider lying. They are aware of their past mistakes and don’t want to make the same mistakes again.
We should evaluate ourselves along these same lines. God understands that we make mistakes. But if we keep making the same mistakes over and over then we aren’t really acknowledging that they are mistakes. God is looking for real repentance (i.e. turning away from what is wrong) manifested by changed behavior.
Notice how Joseph handles the revealing of his identity. He orders all of the people out of the room so he can be alone with his brothers. He did not want to embarrass his brother’s in front of the Egyptians. There was no reason for the Egyptians to know what they had done especially since Joseph wanted them to come live in Egypt. Joseph also told them not be angry with each other for what they had done. Unforgiveness of self is just as damaging as unforgiveness of others. We can see that Joseph is a very mature man who knows how to handle and lead people.
Notice also how Joseph sees God’s hand in all that had happened. God knew, 20 years earlier, that there would be a famine. So He used the evil of the brothers to place Joseph into a position where he could help his family when the famine came. God is great at doing this kind of thing. He can take our sin and turn it into good. That doesn’t justify sin in any way. But it goes to show how powerful and intelligent God is. Not to mention that He is always looking at the bigger picture. If we understand that God is involved in every thing that goes on in our lives, we will someday look back at the difficulty that we are going through right now and be thankful for it.
I thought it was pretty cool that Pharaoh, the ruler of Egypt, blessed Joseph’s brothers by giving them provisions for their journey. I think it reflects on just how loyal and competent Joseph was in his job. If we do the best job we can right where God has placed us, He will bless us.
There are two great miracles in Matthew today. The first is Jesus feeding over 5,000 people with just 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. The people had followed Him to a remote area where there wasn’t much food. There wasn’t a Starbucks on every corner back then. The people were hungry and since it was getting late, it would be some time before they could get home to prepare a meal. I see so much compassion in Jesus here. He is concerned about even our most basic needs. We should do the same. When we see someone in need we should help them, just like Jesus helped those in need. This not only includes physical needs, but spiritual needs. So many people need to be told about Jesus. There is no time for us to be watching hours of television a night or wasting our time in other ways. Our focus should be on meeting the needs of the people who are around us.
After this Jesus sends his disciples on ahead in a boat while He remains behind to pray. It appears that He prays for several hours. I would guess that most of us don’t pray enough. One of my New Year’s resolutions in 2013 is to pray more. So far I’m doing a pretty good job, but I still don’t think it is enough. There is so much to pray for. Every day God is showing me something new that I can pray for whether it is a need of my own, or for someone I know, or for my country. I could probably pray 24/7 and never finish.
The second miracle in this passage is Jesus walking on water. Of course Jesus was God so walking on water isn’t that surprising. But the cool part of this story is that Peter gets to walk on water too. Peter is the only person, besides Jesus, to walk on water. How would you like to have that to brag about for all eternity?
It took faith for Peter to step out of the boat when Jesus beckoned him, especially considering there were “heavy waves”. He took at least a few steps — he “walked on the water toward Jesus” (Matthew 14:29). I can just see Peter talking baby steps while looking straight at Jesus the whole time. But at some point he switched his focus off of Jesus and onto the waves. It was then he started to sink because he started to doubt.
What is Jesus calling you to do? Whatever it is, you can do it. It just takes faith. Not in yourself. But in Jesus. Jesus wouldn’t have called Peter to walk to Him on water if he (Peter) could not have done it. And God isn’t going to ask you to do anything that can’t be done. But just like walking on water, you will only be able to do it through faith in God. Don’t focus on the obstacles (waves). Focus on the One who can do miracles.
Today’s passage in Psalm 18 tells of how God helped David (the author of this Psalm) defeat his enemies. God gave David the strength and courage to overtake his enemies (verse 37). God gave him complete victory (verse 38) after preparing him for battle (verse 39).
God is willing to strengthen you in your battle against your enemies too. Whether your enemy is another person, or maybe even yourself. Or maybe it is an addiction or fear. God wants you to be victorious. God is willing to deliver you from whatever enemy you are facing (verse 48).