Genesis 44 and 45 As 21st-century believers, we are more apt to study the NT over the OT but hidden in the OT are the truths that the NT reveals. Take, for example, the life of Joseph. His faithfulness in the times of suffering without complaint but seeking to understand the why is ever-present. Perhaps that was on James’ mind when he wrote: “the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect effect so that you will be perfect and complete, not deficient in anything. But he must ask in faith without doubting.” [James 1:3-5]
In a time of intense temptation, God did indeed provide a way of escape. [1Cor 10:13] We may not have called false imprisonment the way out, but God used that time to hone Joseph to be a master organizer and leader. Who would have thought? Joseph’s faith was tested, and his words attest to that: “How could I do such a great evil and sin against God.”[Gen 39:9] In and out of the prison-house, Joseph honored God before his fellow prisoners and Pharaoh as he testified, “don’t interpretations belong to God?” [Gen 40:8]
When you are facing suffering or a trial, cling to these verses of comfort, knowing that God’s truth is “all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”[Rom 8:28]
Gen 41 and 42 Jacob had 12 sons; one was sold, the other remains at home. Christ had 12 disciples, one sold the Savior, and one lied to save his skin. The family dynamics continue. Yet, God in His providence guided each family group to lead others into His saving grace even though they would traverse the hard paths of life until God refined them until they shone like gold.
If we only see Joseph in prison, we have failed to see the hand of God’s providential care for him. God raised Joseph that he might be a savior in times of famine. In a similar way, we can see God’s providential care for the disciples through thick and thin that they might be prepared to share the good news of the gospel to a lost and dying world.
As you look back over your life, can you name the times God providentially protected you and then used you in the lives of others? Do you give God the praise when you can see His hand at work? “You have not seen him, but you love him. You do not see him now, but you believe in him, and so you rejoice with indescribable and glorious joy” [1Pet 1:8]
Job understood that truth: “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.” [Job 23:10]
Ge 27 to 29: Isaac and Rebekah were praying parents, yet they seemed to have become impatient in their old age. Much like Sara and Abraham, they decided that God wasn’t doing things on “their” timetable, or surely God had forgotten the “plan.” Jacob is to receive the blessing according to the prophecy yet the seeds of deception which began in the Garden are still alive and well. “Isaac loved Esau…but Rebekah loved Jacob.” [Gen 25:28]That set the stage for the enemy to continue his web of deception and lies; hoodwinking us into thinking this is really what we should do. “Is it really true that God said…” [Gen 3:1] And so, Isaac and Rebekah took matters into their own hands. Surely God must remember that the firstborns are to receive the family and covenantal blessing, right? There is a warning here: God’s plans are higher than ours. [Is 55:9] Isaac’s plan to deceive will soon be circumvented by Rebekah’s, and the pattern will continue for years to come. What a tangled web we weave when we first set out to deceive.
How often are you and I, like Isaac and Rebekah, saying yes to God but later thinking God needs our help to complete the plan. How easily Satan can deceive us to follow his plan and not God’s. Isaiah reminds us that God’s plans are superior to ours. He tests us to see if we will wholly trust both the timetable and the plan! [Is 55:9-12]
Job 29 to 31 Today we see many homeless people here and there. If you take time to talk with them, you may hear some of the same dialogs that Job was having with himself, his friends, and God. Like Job, they begin the age-old “why” me and “why” this. Some will admit to their past sins, but others, like Job, can recount their lives and not see the answers. James reminds us that when we are in a trial to ask for wisdom and that is what Job is doing. May you be encouraged to know that just as Job wondered, he still trusted God. You can as well. When in a trial, look at the past and then ask: Has God been faithful? If you can answer yes, then why would He not be faithful now? That is why God can be trusted even if you never learn the reason until eternity.
Although Job has been through the fire and continues to feel the heat, one thing he knows is this: God knows the end from the beginning. “Does he not see my ways and count all my steps?” [Job 31: 4] Therefore, no matter how bad life has become and how despondent Job is over this strange set of circumstances, he will not walk away from his belief that God is God and He knows the reason.
The bottom line is this: If Job or we fail here, Satan wins. TRUST GOD so you can say you passed the test.
From the peace in the Garden to the shining sword to keep man from re-entering after he sinned to facing the ultimate trial in man. It is here that we find the man Job. God knows Job, and God knows us. God describes him as blameless and upright, but even more that he is God’s servant. When we face a trial, whether by the hand of God or Satan, are we seen as the servant of God? God knew, but Satan did not, how he would face this trial. We may face the battleground but know this: we are God’s servants, and He knows how we will face each trial.
Beloved, we are in a spiritual battle. Paul describes it as: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Therefore: Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. Paul tells us later in the 6th chapter of Ephesians that our armor includes the belt of truth; the breastplate of righteousness, shoes of peace; the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
What trial are you facing this day? Will God announce to Satan that you are His servant?
We often relish the creation story and teach it day by day so we might see the beauty and majesty of God at work. Moving on, we come to the second chapter, where we see the beauty of God’s creation of Eve and Adam’s response in poetic language. God allowed Moses, the writer, to share some thoughts as to how this relationship should operate. “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and unites with his wife, and they become one family.” [Gen 2:24]This is an argument to dispel the transgender movement underway in our nation and worldwide. Adam knew his place as the head of the home just as Paul understood: “For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy, because I promised you in marriage to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.” [2Cor 11:2]
And then abruptly, we are brought into the scene where the evil serpent enters and the new family is tested. Our ears hear Eve’s response, and we witness Adam’s silence. What are we to learn?
Over and over we are taught; be holy as God is holy and resist the devil and he will flee from us. God wills that we obey Him yet neither followed those steps. How often we are disobedient to: “be quick to listen, slow to speak,..” [James 1:19] Heed these words: Put mind in gear before opening mouth should be our self warning.
Application: Seek the Lord while He may be found; surrender to the Holy Spirit. Resist the Devil!
As I read this, I am reminded that I have the Holy Spirit to be my teacher, and I should surrender myself to Him.
Matt 8 to 10 One question Jesus asked those who came seeking healing: Do you believe I can do this? They and we may respond with an affirmative, but it is the action behind our answer that proves whether we believe or not.
Jesus asked the leper: Do you believe I can do this, but even without an answer, Jesus responded with instant healing. How great is His mercy! Then the centurion came and sought healing, but responded that Jesus’ healing powers were so powerful that He could heal without even seeing the afflicted one. What great faith! Seeing his daughter die, the synagogue leader came and asked Jesus to lay his hand on her and restore her to life. Why would he take that step unless he believed in His power? While a storm raged, the fearful disciples woke Jesus up and heard him ask: “Why are you cowardly, you people of little faith?”
Jesus tested all of these with one question: Do you believe I can do this? Is our faith in Jesus so strong that we believe with a word, in his presence or not? We say we believe, but our actions prove whether we are just answering or responding in faith.
Matt 5 This is the first in a series of “Heaven on Earth 101” class, where we will learn how to make the gospel relevant to our society. One of the things we learn from Jesus is that He always took advantage of the opportunities God the Father gave him to “go and make disciples.” So in the chapter on the Beatitudes, we see him using this time to fulfill what we are called to do: “go and make disciples, baptizing them and teaching to obey.” As the master teacher, He used real-life examples to show them that to “just” know the gospel is not enough. The test is demonstrating what we have learned in “real-life.”
Jesus also places some warnings so that we should not hesitate to do what He has commanded. The first is if we break one of the least of these commands to be salt and light, to be meek, and yet do not mourn over sinful habits, then we are no better than the experts in the Law who knew God’s Law but did not live by it.
Truly James was right; the world does not know us and therefore does not know the one we call Savior because our walk and talk don’t harmonize. Beloved, “heaven on earth” is to not just live by the letter but by the heart.
Isaiah 36-37 In the 1930’s Al Capone ruled Chicago. He taunted those who did not want to pay him for protection, and if they didn’t, he took note and sent his thugs to “take care of the problem.” Sennacherib was the Capone Hezekiah faced. His thugs were Rabshakeh and his contingent. They mocked God and repeated “Capone/Sennacherib’s” words: “what is your source of confidence….in whom are you trusting.” Capone thought he could play the game of chess with Hezekiah. They surmised that Hezekiah would then be shaking in his boots and succumb to their threats as he had done previously. Hezekiah’s advisors Eliakim and Hilkiah indeed returned to Hezekiah with their clothes torn as a sign they were demoralized just as Rabshekah had hoped.
In the last encounter, Hezekiah did not entrust himself to the Lord. We see that this time Hezekiah went up to the temple and laid the letter before the Lord. The prophet Isaiah told Hezekiah that he would put hooks in the jaws of this “Capone” and send him packing back to his home country because Hezekiah sought God’s help.
God gave Hezekiah three principles that teach us truths about living in a “Capone” world. [Is 37:31]: remain steadfast—Paul said much the same in [1 Cor 15: 58], “be ye steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.” Secondly, take root where you are and remain firm in your faith; [Col 2:7]. Thirdly bear fruit that proves your repentance; [Matt 3:8.]
Ecclesiastes 7 to 9 The book of 1 Kings tells us that Solomon loved the Lord, and at Gibeon, as he was dreaming, God tested his heart. “Ask what I shall give you.” Just as God tested Peter, so God was testing Solomon. Who did he really love? Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved him, and each time Peter responded with the “phileo” type of love. That was Solomon’s problem too. Until we have an “agape” type of love, our heart is just as Jeremiah said: desperately wicked. In some ways, that is the same question God asks of us. He essentially asked Solomon to determine the answer to that question, and his life is an open book for us to see. Study his life in the books of 1&2 Kings and then Proverbs and Ecclesiastes.
Although it seems that his answer is true wisdom, we only have to look at his last book to see that Solomon loved himself more than God. He struggled with integrity and having a devoted heart for God.
The test of our heart comes in situations and circumstances over which we have little or no control, and Solomon is not the only one who failed that test. We can study the lives of Noah, Moses, and Abraham and others to see their responses.
God puts everything on his scale. Solomon knew that the Lord weighs the heart, do we?