Sunday, August 30, 2009

Satan Intends to Harm God Intends for Good

Photos by JennyEBurr 

Genesis 50: 20 NIV

"You intended to harm me but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives."

This morning driving into church a minister on the radio reminded the listeners of Joseph's words which I have quoted from the NIV Bible. It's not the first time that I have pondered Joseph's words to his brothers. I have thought about these words many times over the years.

The thing about getting older is you also hope (at least I do) to be getting wiser. Yet the wisdom in the words which Joseph spoke to his older brothers, and one younger brother, Benjamin goes beyond his years. It's a wisdom based on experience, hardship and submission.

Experience: He was sold by his brothers into slavery because of their jealousy and their hatred. He was falsely accused by his boss' wife. He was wrongly placed in prison. Joseph was forgotten after helping the cupbearer, until a couple of years later.

Yet despite all of these terrible experiences he didn't develop into a bitter, angry, resentful, vengence seeking man.

Hardship: To be separated from his family when he was a teen never to see them again until years later. He was taken away from a father that doted on him. He was an excellent worker yet still placed in prison because of a dishonest, adultress woman.
Prison life couldn't have been very pleasant, yet the captain of the guard left Joseph in charge.

Submission: Joseph submitted and accepted the circumstances in his life. When he tells his brothers that although they intended to harm him but God intended it for good he was being honest. By this time in his life and probably a few years before that he realized that God had a purpose for him in Egypt and that was to be second in command to Pharaoh so that lives could be saved during the famine.

Grace, obedience, forgiveness, and love are intertwined in Joseph's life. Plotting, planning to seek revenge and to make peoples' lives miserable who had wronged him, could have been his life's ambition, but it wasn't. He chose good, not evil. He chose God's way of life, not Satan's.

Can I say these words,"You intended to harm me but God intended it for good." Can I lay aside all of my feelings and say those words to the people in my life that have wronged me? I hope so.

Can you?

We have so much that we can learn from Joseph's wise words. If we allow God's grace and forgiveness to work in our lives we too can be excellent examples of God's love and grace to others.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A Little Bundle of Joy

Genesis 2:1-4
Now a man of the house of Levi married a Levite woman, and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months. But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him.

If you aren't familiar with this Bible passage the reason that the Levite woman had to hide her baby was due to the fact that the king of Egypt had commanded that all Hebrew boys were to be put to death while the Hebrew girls were allowed to live. This order came about because the Hebrew nation was growing "too large" in Egypt.

God's grace abounded in this little bundle of joy. He is Moses and he grows into the future leader of the Hebrew nation. God's grace is abudant in all of our lives.

The difference is some of us see it and some of us don't. If we don't happen to see God's grace in our circumstances it doesn't mean that it isn't present we just seem to be blind to it. His grace exists for all of us but it is a gift. We either accept it or reject it.

I don't know about you but there aren't many people today who haven't experienced some rough times in their lives. Some people live very bleak and dire lives all over the world. I would think that being told that your baby would die if it was a boy would be a devastatingly, heartbreaking time for both parents.

A terrible family life such as being moved from foster home to foster home, being adopted but rejected by your adoptive family, drug addiction, alcohol addiction, all forms of abuse, persecution, poverty, etc. are as prevalent today as they were in history and in Bible times.

What prompted the Levite couple to hide their little boy? Their love and their hope in God's grace and promise of a better life.

God had a plan for this baby, just as He has a plan for each and every one of us. He has a purpose for our lives. Just as He had a purpose for the baby, Moses. He does expect us to give to others. Whether we have a lot or just a little, we are to give because this is what grace is all about. Giving without the expectation of something in return. Just give.

What can I give? The most life changing giving that you can do will come from within. It will change not only your life but the lives of others. Showing compassion, sympathy, understanding, caring, listening. Food, clothing, physical labour, and money are important gifts too.

When we offer gifts is our heart in it? Is our life being changed? Are we living God's grace and helping to change someone's life for the better?

The poet Christiana Rosetti sums it up beautifully in this poem.

"What can I give him,

Poor as I am?

If I were a shepherd,

I'd give Him a lamb;

If I were a wise man,

I'd do my part;

Yet what can I give him

Give my heart."

Friday, August 14, 2009

Oh No, Now We're in Trouble!

Genesis 50:15-17

When Joseph's brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, "What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?" So they sent word to Joseph, saying, "Your father left these instructions before he died, 'This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly. Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.'" When their message came to him, Joseph wept.

Joseph's sibliings prepared for the worst. They believed that after burying Jacob (Israel) their father, that Joseph would now likely take revenge.

Did they have a good reason to feel this way? Yes, however Joseph's actions so far never revealed any hint of anger, hate or resentment towards them. Joseph treated them with favour, graciousness and forgiveness.

I absolutely love the response Joseph made to his brothers after he heard their request of forgiveness. It's a response that all of us would do well to take to heart and to utter when we are in a similar predicament.

Genesis 50:19-20 But Joseph said to them, "Don't be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives."

Only someone who understands God's love, grace and forgiveness can truly say...You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good.

Joseph lived for many years separated from his family. He had a long time in which he could carry a grudge and be unforgiving. He was also wrongly accused and put in jail: another grudge he could carry around with him.

God never abandonned Joseph. He worked in his heart so that Joseph grew into a man with a desire to serve His Lord and a desire to love and forgive unconditionally. Everyone that met Joseph could see God's hand on him.

Do our friends and family and strangers notice the same thing in us? Do they see God's hand on our lives as we display grace, love and forgiveness? Or do they see calculation, anger, resentment, revenge and unforgiveness?

If they see grace, love and forgiveness, they will likely be interested in letting God take control of their lives. If they see only hate, resentment, unforgiveness, etc., they will not take any interest in God.

We too can take the words from Genesis 50: 19-20 and apply them to our lives. The evil that Satan sends our way can become good. Only God can do this.

Are we willing to allow God to take the harm and hurt that is inflicted upon us and allow Him to create good from it so that lives are saved? If Joseph could forgive his brothers can we forgive others? This is part of what we pray when we say The Lord's Prayer, "Forgive us our tresspasses as we forgive those who trespass against us."

I pray that we allow God to work in our hearts and that we allow Him to lead us to forgive others who have wronged us. We need to forgive in order to truly understand and be apart of God's grace.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Dreamer

Genesis 37:3-11

Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more. He said to them, "Listen to this dream I had: We were binding sheaves of grain out in the fild when suddenly my sheaf rose and stodd upright while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it."

His brothers said to him, "Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?" and they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he ha said.

Then he had another dream and he told it tho is brothers, "Listen, " he said, "I had another dream, and this time the sum and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me."

When he told his father as well as his brothers, his father rebuked him and said, "What is this dream you had? Will your mother and I and your borthers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?" His brothers were jealous of him but his father kept the matter in mind.

God's grace is written all over the life of Joseph and his family, just as God's grace is written all over our lives. Although Joseph and his family didn't realize it at the time, Joseph's dreams were prophetic. Years later, Joseph's brothers did bow down to him and yes he did "rule over them."

Jealousy, resentment,and anger drove Joseph's older brothers to their next set of actions. These events eventually placed Joseph second in command to pharaoh. His brothers had originally wanted to kill Joseph but Reuben convinced them to throw him into a pit instead. While Reuben was gone, Judah had convinced his other brothers to sell Joseph to the Ishmaelites. They took the coat of many colours that their father had given to his favoured son, Joseph, and tore it and dipped it into the blood of a goat that they had slaughtered. When the brothers returned to their father they showed him Joseph's torn and bloodied coat. They let Israel believe that a wild animal had killed Joseph.

Families today also suffer from resentment, jealousy, anger and misunderstandings. Our decisions and choices today lay the groundwork for our future. God had a plan for Joseph and his family just as He has a plan for our families.

Did God immediately tell Joseph what His plans were for him? No, but as the days turned into years and one good or bad event turned into another, it eventually became apparent.

Does God immediately tell us what His plans are for us? No, but like Joseph, in time we realize and can see how God's hand was on our lives all along.

Forgiveness is very much apart of Joeseph's story of grace. During the years he was separated from his family he learned how to forgive his brothers for selling him. He learned to forgive them of their hatred, jealousy, resentment, etc. He was able to forgive them because he could see God's plan.

"I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. ...So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God..." Genesis 45:4-6

I pray that as events unfold in our lives, either good or bad, that we may see the evil that Satan intended has turned into good because of God. Compassion and forgiveness are components of God's grace.