Joseph Hero of the Faith (3)

This week we are looking at the story of Joseph and from the comments, Joseph is one of our favourite bible characters. His story inspires many of us on so many levels and gives us hope.

Today the question is- Why did God choose Joseph to fulfil His plans out of all the sons of Jacob.

There were 12 sons of Jacob after all to choose from. Plenty of choice. Joseph wouldn’t have been the natural choice in the culture of the day. He was the 11th in line, one of the youngest sons. In the natural pecking order you would generally start with the eldest male child. Any position of blessing, responsibility or favour would usually be assumed by the eldest son as the heir apparent.

However, God’s ways are not our ways. We see through the bible that God calls unlikely people to be heroes or heroines of faith because God always looks at people’s hearts and their character. God demonstrated this when it came to choosing a King for Israel.

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

Don’t discount yourself from being used by God because you might think there are more qualified people around. It could be you God is looking for. Are you willing to answer the call? To say like Isaiah – Here I am send me.

Let’s look at the other candidates alongside Joseph. God knew what manner of men they were and would become.

There were Leah’s 6 sons – Reuben was Jacob’s eldest son. The heir apparent. He had not shown good character. Reuben slept with his father’s wife. This was wicked in God’s sight and extremely disrespectful and dishonouring to his father, Jacob. Reuben gave in to lust. By his actions Reuben lost his father’s blessing. Reuben appears to be someone who wanted immediate satisfaction. Jacob said Reuben was as “unstable as water”. A double minded man is not reliable. However, Reuben was the one who stopped Joseph being killed. He persuaded his other brothers to put Joseph in the pit with a view to rescuing him later.

Next in line were Simeon and Levi. These two men showed themselves to be violent, cruel vengeful men who also exhibited the deceitful characteristic sometimes seen in the family. We know that Jacob had deceived his father Isaac, encouraged by his mother Rebecca, by pretending to be Esau to receive the blessing of the eldest son. Laban who was Rebecca’s brother then in turn deceived Jacob into marrying Leah. Rachel then deceived her father, Laban over the stolen idols. Later we see Jacob being deceived by his sons into thinking Joseph is dead.

Simeon & Levi deceived Shechem (the man who had disgraced their sister Dinah) and the men of the city into being circumcised. They pretended to make a covenant of peace with them. They then killed the men whilst they were recovering and could not fight back. Jacob was angry at their actions because he feared reprisals. They both lost their father’s blessing as well.

Next we have Judah – who failed to honour the promise which he had made to his son’s widow, Tamar. He did not keep his word. Judah was supposed, according to custom, to provide another of his sons as a husband to her. Both of her previous husbands had died but through no fault of Tamar. When she realised that Judah did not intend to keep his vow she tricked him into sleeping with her. Judah thought she was a harlot but left two tokens with her. When Judah heard that Tamar was pregnant he ordered her to be burnt because of her sins. However, Tamar revealed to him by the tokens that the baby was Judah’s and exposed his hypocrisy.

The bible doesn’t tell us much about Leah’s other sons Issachar and Zebulun so it’s not clear why they didn’t find favour in God’s eyes at this time.

Next we have Dan, Naphtali, Gad and Asher who were the sons of Bilhah (Rachel’s maid) and Zilpah (Leah’s maid). We are not told much about these sons either but there is one telling verse in the bible which tells us that Joseph “brought a bad report of them to his father”.

We are not told what they did to deserve a bad report but Joseph must have believed that Jacob needed to know what they were doing behind his back. Joseph demonstrates a moral code and a sense of right and wrong. He was not afraid to confront bad behaviour and expose it when necessary. That takes courage. Joseph was not someone who would look the other way whilst others did wrong.

In the body of Christ we are not to sweep habitual sins and wrongdoing by each other under the carpet either. To pretend it’s not happening. The bible teaches us how to deal with sin and wrongdoing amongst believers in a Godly way. How to confront the sinful behaviour in the right way, in love and in order to restore. If someone chooses to keep on wilfully sinning though without wanting or desiring to change that is wrong. If we allow that sinful behaviour to continue unchecked then it will become a shame and a snare to us.

The youngest son was Benjamin – Joseph’s brother by Jacob and Rachel. Joseph loved Benjamin but God didn’t choose Benjamin either. He may have had all the qualities of his brother Joseph but it wasn’t his time or his place in the story.

God saw something different in Joseph. God looks at the heart as we know and Joseph’s character and heart must have pleased him.

Brewing in the brothers’ hearts already was envy, jealousy & hatred towards Joseph caused by his being their father’s favourite. This was exposed even more when Joseph told them his dreams which inferred that one day he would be over them and they would all bow down to him. This enraged them and incited them into a plan to kill him, their own flesh & blood.

As believers in Christ we are one family. We must not fall into the trap of envy and jealousy (see my previous post Beware of Jealousy). The bible teaches us that all manner of evil dwells with envy and jealousy. There is no place for envy or jealousy amongst us.

If someone tells us their vision, their testimony, or are being used of God, being blessed, their ministry is growing, developing their giftings – what does it provoke in us. Joy for them and thanks to God or feelings of envy, jealousy, bitterness, resentment, inadequacy, life is unfair etc. We must be honest with ourselves and God- it’s a necessary place of healing and restoration to acknowledge those feelings so we can bring them into God’s light. Repenting of them and asking God through His grace to develop in us the fruit of the Holy Spirit instead. God wants to refine us so that we can truly be “in unity” with one another and with Him.

The wonderful news for us is that God’s mercies are new every morning. Through faith in the redeeming work of Jesus Christ, none of us are disqualified because of our sins and wrong choices from service to God. We are all uniquely qualified through God’s grace for God’s work through us by the power of the Holy Spirit. Let’s get to it.

Don’t discount yourself from being the person God is calling.

Stir(red) hearts

Do you experience times when you read something in the bible and it’s like “wow, I never thought much about that before”. I had one of those moments today.

I was reading in the Old Testament about the time the Jewish Exiles were allowed to return to Jerusalem and their homes after spending 70 years in captivity in Babylon with the purpose of rebuilding God’s temple which was the fulfilment of the prophecy given by the Prophet Jeremiah.

The bible simply says “He (God) stirred the heart of Cyrus”.

“In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, the Lord fulfilled the prophecy he had given through Jeremiah. He stirred the heart of Cyrus to put this proclamation in writing and to send it throughout his kingdom: “This is what King Cyrus of Persia says: “The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth. He has appointed me to build him a Temple at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Any of you who are his people may go there for this task. And may the Lord your God be with you!” 2 Chronicles 36:22-23

It was God who stirred the heart of the King, Cyrus to bring His Will to pass and for prophecy to be fulfilled. God planted the seed of the idea into Cyrus. Now Cyrus still had a choice when he felt that stirring. He could have deliberately hardened his heart against it. He could have refused to follow through with what God had planted in his heart as Pharaoh had when it was time for the Egyptians to let Gods people go. God had to show through His miraculous demonstrations of power to Pharaoh that His people were leaving and nothing was going to stop it.

God not only stirred Cyrus’ heart but He also stirred the heart of His people, the leaders and the Priests to respond and want to return to their homeland. Perhaps the people also needed God’s stirring to get them moving. Perhaps some of them had grown comfortable where they were now and accepted this was to be their way of life, their place. God had different ideas. He wanted to bring them back to their inheritance. The land He had promised to their fathers.

Then God stirred the hearts of the priests and Levites and the leaders of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple of the Lord. And all their neighbors assisted by giving them articles of silver and gold, supplies for the journey, and livestock. They gave them many valuable gifts in addition to all the voluntary offerings” Ezra 1:5-6

I believe God is still at work stirring hearts in those in authority over us in these day whether, Kings, Queens, Presidents, government officials, bosses or others. God is also still stirring hearts amongst His people to get us moving and serving and doing in order for His purposes and plans to be fulfilled. He uses His church to show His love, grace and mercy and declare His salvation and power.

As a bird stirs up her nest to get the chicks to leave, I believe God is stirring hearts to move out from the comfort zones and into unfamiliar territory.

Perhaps God has been stirring your heart to lead you into something new. A new journey, a new opportunity or a new mission. Perhaps, you have had prophetic words or a dream from God and God is stirring up other hearts to enable that to come to fulfilment.

Lord stir up our hearts today according to your holy purposes so that your plans may be achieved through us your holy people. Amen 🙏

Feed My lambs, Feed My Sheep

These were the instructions which Jesus gave to his disciple Simon Peter, when he met him again in Galilee after His death and resurrection.

This was the same Simon Peter who had denied knowing Jesus in his time of trial. Jesus had told Peter that he would deny Him but Peter had protested that he was ready to go to prison and even death for Jesus. It wasn’t to be the case, but Jesus knew that.

It must have been really difficult for Simon Peter to face Jesus again after letting him down so badly, to believe that Jesus would still want him, Peter, to be involved in His ministry and to trust him to look after His flock. What a responsibility. What a calling.

Jesus did trust him though. Even when Jesus knew that Simon Peter would deny him, He comforted Peter by telling him that even after his denial Peter would return and be restored to relationship with Him.

Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.’
Luke 22:31-32

Jesus had a task for Peter to do..to strengthen his brothers. The other disciples would need Peter’s support, faith, encouragement and example of humility. I can imagine it was a different Peter who met with his brothers again after his experiences.

I was reminded today of a picture which was shared by a dear brother in Christ at one of our Sunday morning services many years ago. He saw in his vision a long banqueting table. On the table were bowls of soup ready to eat.

The guests at the banquet (members of the church) took their seats facing each other ready to eat. However, when they picked up the spoons they were far too long. It was impossible to get the spoon into the bowl and into their mouths.

Somebody then realised that their spoon could reach the bowl of the person seated opposite them. They started to feed the person opposite them. The others watched their example and started to do the same. Everyone worked together to feed each other.

Jesus has appointed different ministry roles within His church and has equipped His body of believers with every good gift so that His followers can be discipled and fed. Apostles, Prophets, Pastors, Teachers and Evangelists. We have the Holy Scriptures, the Word of God. The Holy Spirit has also come to us. We have the gifts and fruit of the Spirit to help us and to help others.

It’s love for Jesus that is to be the motivation and reason for our service to our brothers and sisters in Christ. Loving obedience to Him our Lord and Master. Jesus asked Peter 3 times if he loved him when He gave him these instructions. Peter replied that Jesus knew that he did love him. Jesus then replied “Feed My Lambs and Feed My Sheep”.

It was Peter’s love for Jesus that was to be the motivation for service. Jesus restored Peter in love and forgiveness so that Peter did not have a wrong understanding and reason to do what Jesus asked. Jesus wasn’t asking Peter to serve him out of duty or penance in mistakenly thinking he had to make it up to Jesus for denying him. A pure love for Jesus will lead to a pure love for the brethren and pure motives for service.

I believe that there are those within the body of Christ who have not taken up their ministry roles or have laid down their roles and gifts for many different reasons. There will be so many different reasons but Jesus knows them all. Jesus wants to restore us just as He restored Peter. There is a way back to Jesus and there is a way forward to serve Jesus in love as He has called us to do.

As Satan wanted to hinder Peter and to sift him like wheat, so satan does not want any of us to take up our God given callings within the body of Christ. Don’t let Satan deceive us or rob us and the body of Christ of our service to each other.